The child went forth

Hi friend. I hope you are having a good day and that beauty finds you. There is a Walt Whitman poem at the end of the post, so if you read to the end, that will certainly be the case.

The biggest question I have going into this daily blogging thing is – what will I write about. The Red Letter Year posts had an immediate structure. I divided the Gospel into daily readings spread over a year and everything I wrote (well most of it) was in direct response to the reading for each day. But there’s no easy layout here. Just a wide open expanse of days facing the blank computer screen. There is a lot going on in the world. I could spend my days reacting to all that. But I’m pretty sure that violates my other New Year’s resolution to layoff theological arguments online. I am working on a few essays on important topics and I’ll post them here when they’re ready. But this daily thing isn’t about that. It’s not about presenting what I think so much as figuring out what I think. Sort of like I’m journaling in public. Except I’m not extroverted so I’m not going to think of it like that again. Yikes. But I am letting you, dear reader, into my process because I’ve come to think that this is the most important thing. More than sharing with you what I think, I want to share with you how I think.

One thing I’m becoming more aware of over the past few years is how deeply how I think has been influenced by all the components and experiences of my life, and, by extension, the lives and experiences of those closest to me. To give one example (that I might elaborate on some other day), my dad’s experience in Vietnam had a significant impact on my childhood and formation.  All of this really hit home the other night when I read my boys a poem at bedtime, Walt Whitman’s “There was a Child went Forth.” We go forth having become all that we experience. That seems both true and scary to me at the same time. I feel both a deep sense of gratitude that this is the case and a deep need to trust that God works this process for my best good. I also feel the weight of responsibility for those I am helping to make. If it’s true that we make each other (and I believe it is), that in itself is a high calling to make each other well. I felt a deep sense of conviction as I read this to my boys. I also feel it as I share it with you. Let’s commit to make each other well as the Spirit enables.

THERE was a child went forth every day;

And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;

And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.


The early lilacs became part of this child,

And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,        

And the Third-month lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf,

And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,

And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there—and the beautiful curious liquid,

And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all became part of him.


The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him;

Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,

And the apple-trees cover’d with blossoms, and the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road;

And the old drunkard staggering home from the out-house of the tavern, whence he had lately risen,

And the school-mistress that pass’d on her way to the school,

And the friendly boys that pass’d—and the quarrelsome boys,

And the tidy and fresh-cheek’d girls—and the barefoot negro boy and girl,

And all the changes of city and country, wherever he went.


His own parents,

He that had father’d him, and she that had conceiv’d him in her womb, and birth’d him,

They gave this child more of themselves than that;

They gave him afterward every day—they became part of him.


The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table;

The mother with mild words—clean her cap and gown, a wholesome odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by;

The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger’d, unjust;

The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure,

The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture—the yearning and swelling heart,

Affection that will not be gainsay’d—the sense of what is real—the thought if, after all, it should prove unreal,

The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time—the curious whether and how,

Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?

Men and women crowding fast in the streets—if they are not flashes and specks, what are they?

The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and goods in the windows,

Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank’d wharves—the huge crossing at the ferries,

The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset—the river between,

Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and gables of white or brown, three miles off,

The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide—the little boat slack-tow’d astern,

The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,

The strata of color’d clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity it lies motionless in,

The horizon’s edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud;

These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.

Happy New Year

Good day to you friend. It’s a new year. Some people make resolutions this time of year to improve on aspects of themselves and their lives. Other people don’t. Some of the dont’s go so far as to disparage the practice and sometimes those who do. But it seems to me that there is a basic cyclical nature to life, so regular seasons of renewal are part of the rhythm of our existence. I’m also inclined to self-evaluation and improving myself. Of course, I think what it is at work is more than self-improvement. I’m still a Pentecostal which means I think a couple of basic things:

  1. The Holy Spirit directs me to improve as a human being and empowers me to do so.
  2. This ‘improvement’ isn’t optional, it’s one of the main points of my life (we called it “holiness” back in the day)

So, yeah, I’m making a few resolutions for 2016. I’ve made a couple and I feel like one or two more will emerge from my consciousness (I think through things kind of slow and all the way). The first I announced on social media the other day:

New Year’s Resolutions often are for giving up bad habits, like smoking or cursing. I’m giving up theological arguments via social media. It’s a bad habit and I can break it.

This one’s going to be quite a test. I’m a member of a few online forums that engage in theological discussions and questions regularly appear on those that I do feel a legitimate need to offer an answer for. I think I can still do that and keep this resolution – if I leave it at my initial answer and not get into any back and forth. That’s what I’m giving up, the arguing back and forth, trying to defend myself against pushback and counterarguments. People can push back all they like. I don’t have to get drawn into all that. I may be splitting hairs already on this one and I’m sure I will slip up and get roped in a few times. But I am going to try because this is not life-giving for me. It robs me of my peace and focus and takes me out of the real world I am engaged in. (And I did have to leave one forum because arguing and drama was its only mode).

My second resolution this year is this right here: writing. I am a writer. It’s how I process things cognitively in the most concrete fashion. What I mean by that is I have to write to figure out what I think. Not an especially efficient process perhaps but there it is. The other way I think is to expose myself to something, research it, talk to people about it, experience it – and then let it bake in my subconscious. It will ruminate back there for however long and then, like toast popping out the toaster, the solution/what I think will jump into my consciousness and surprise me with what I think. Except sometimes I still have to sit down and write out the details of what that epiphany entails. I don’t think I’m at all unique in this mode of thinking but it has taken me years to come to terms with how my own process works. I was not very patient as a young man which made this sort of slow roasting intellect tough to deal with. But I’m learning to be patient with myself, more so as I write it out.

Part of what has delayed this process is I don’t always do the work of writing. Paying attention to my own history, it seems that I’m either writing a lot or none at all. 2013 was undoubtedly my high water mark. I wrote:

That’s a lot. And there were a few sundry things on the sides. I didn’t plan to do all that, it just sort of happened. Each project felt right or necessary at the time so I went with it. And I got them all done. I haven’t written nearly as much since then. The problem with that is, I’m not sure what I think since I’m not writing it out. I have books I very much need to write but they’re not getting done.

So here’s my second resolution for 2016: I’m going to write. A lot. Based on 2013, I’m thinking the more I commit to writing, the more I will write. I remember launching the Red Letter Year series and immediately feeling scared of that commitment. Write and post every weekday all year? That’s a huge commitment. And then people started reading them and liking them which was good but it also raised expectations and responsibility. Scary as it was, I think it set me in a writing mode that made all the rest come easier. You might call that a “flow state” but I’m still a Pentecostal and we shy away from language like that.

Well, there it is. I’ve spruced up the blog and I’ll be thinking out loud here everyday. I have no idea where this is going. Of course I don’t, I haven’t written it out yet. Thanks for reading and coming along for the ride.

Oh, and one more thing: AM Radio (the podcast I do with Amy) is coming back very soon. You’ll want to hear this next one.