Monday, April 19, 2010

greatest bio ever (from hugh gallagher's NYU application)

3A. ESSAY: IN ORDER FOR THE ADMISSIONS STAFF OF OUR COLLEGE TO GET TO KNOW YOU, THE APPLICANT, BETTER, WE ASK THAT YOU ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTION:

ARE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD, OR ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU HAVE REALIZED, THAT HAVE HELPED TO DEFINE YOU AS A PERSON?


I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I'm bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don't perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat 400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Exerpt from Colossians Targum

Let the beautiful testimony of God's grace pour out of you in all manner of artistic expression and thanksgiving. Write songs, sing, play music, make stuff, create, foster creativity in others, and do it all bathed in God's Spirit so that everything you make serves the dual purpose of pleasing and propogating God.

Do it all, make it all, for Jesus - the Center, the King, the Savior.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

finished!

after almost 2 full weeks of being holed up in my basement eating sour patch kids and drinking coffee strong enough to put chest hair on mark hamill...it's finished.

look for "bleached: hope for the desolate" in just a few short weeks, available on amazon.com

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

the cutting room floor

hemmingway once said that in order for a book to be perfect, you usually have to take out your favorite part.

i don't know that i'll achieve hemmingway-status, but i bounced my favorite part out of bleached tonight at exactly 2:31am.

here it is:



Some time ago I was at a gathering of pastors, informally, and found myself (as usual) playing the malcontent, going against the grain like I loved the ride. In this instance, I was getting pretty heated over a common leadership failing among ministers: friendship.


Pastors, as a rule, don’t have many friends. Usually this is because the friends we’ve had in the past have turned on us because of some situation or decision involving our leadership. We’re not perfect, and everyone gets that, but it becomes harder to overlook that when we find ourselves in specific situations where we have the power to do things others don’t like and we do them anyway. It costs you friends.


And we don’t usually do a good job of making new friends, because there’s always some little sin-sponsored voice in the back of our heads saying: Sure, make a friend. Jesus would have had another Judas if he’d stuck around longer…I’m sure this guy will be awesome.


Right.


So we get scared,

stay guarded,

and live alone.


Anyway, I’m often bolsheviked by the way senior pastors treat their staff members. We treat them like employees. Which, I get it, we have to to a certain degree – certainly our employees cannot help but think of us as their employers (especially at the beginning) – but I actually think it’s wrong for the church to run like a business. I mean it, I think running a church like a corporation is unethical. Corporations, after all, are hardly the paragon of morality and goodness in the world; so why are so many churches intent on adopting their model of government and hierarchy?


Beats me.


I serve King Jesus, who told his disciples I no longer call you servants, but friends.

Servant leadership is what every does

when they’re trying to imitate Jesus.

I want something more.

I want to incarnate Christ,

not copy him.


I want to do ministry with my friends – and if they’re not my friends at the beginning, I really want to become their friend over time. And this can’t always happen, but it’s always what I want.


Did I mention friends cost you something?


Right. Back to the pastor’s gathering…a bunch of my peers were talking about how hard it is to fire your friends. I sympathize. I once had to “downsize” several of my friends because of budgetary constraints. I cried like Shirley Temple. It was necessary, but awful. I’ve also had to terminate the employment of someone I thought was my friend, because he was acting immorally and refused accountability. That made me mad. He was my friend, and our friendship deserved better than what he gave it.


But I’ve never fired a friend because they weren’t corporate enough, or educated enough, or from the right demographic, or the right socio-economic status, or because they weren’t doing things in the precise way I wanted all of the time. I’ve never fired someone just because they weren’t “it.” But that’s what my peers were discussion – firing someone who just couldn’t cut it.


No option to retrain them.

No opportunity to hire over them.

No alternative but to sever them.


Who severs their friends?


Who can live with themselves when they do that,

in Jesus’ church,

in Christ’s kingdom in microcosm,

where the last shall be first,

where we no longer have servants

but friends?


It is hard, granted, to fire someone – to sit in judgment over them and decide their fate with the scepter of good management acumen –

but it’s far harder,

far more sacrificial to grow with them,

to walk alongside them,

and to love them as Christ has loved us.


And – just as an FYI – you’re going to get way more productivity, energy, and visionary leadership out of your employees when they know you’ll take a bullet for them.


We overstep our Christian ethic when we play judge and call it leadership. There are standards for employees, and they should be held to those standards, but if we want to lead the Jesus way we’ve got to leave them room to grow.


So as we grow, we’ve got someone to be there for us to.


So we don’t die alone.


So we’re not crying in our communion one empty Christmas Eve when our wife has left and we have no one to call, no one to comfort, and no one to speak hope.


There is a deep connection between the way we work and the way we live, but we miss that interconnectedness when we elevate ourselves above others, play God, and look down to pronounce judgment.


Don’t do that anymore.


God may be One, but we need one another.



a quick synopsis of ezekiel & the valley of dry bones (excerpt from "bleached: hope for the desolate" :: forthcoming, 2010)

what we have in Ezekiel 37

is the outlandish story

of an eccentric prophet

who gets yanked into Hell

by the Hand of God,

whereupon

he is compelled

to violate every personal religious belief he has

concerning holiness

in an effort to fill-in-the-blanks

for a cosmological census of craniums

and cadavers

and after

he is asked an impossible yet-somehow-not-rhetorical question

by the Author of Life and Death

which if he answered incorrectly

might not lead to his death

but most certainly would not lead

to the resurrection life

of thousands of wayward spirits

long separated from their bodies

after being annihilated

by their national adversaries

but fortunately he answers intelligently

and is then commanded

to prophesy to their skeletal remains

and watches them turn into

[first] zombies

and [then] dead bodies

before being told to prophesy again to the wind,

the wandering spirits,

God’s spirit,

the spiritual wind surrounding the altar

in a Temple that’s been destroyed hundreds of miles away

before finally witnessing

what has to be

the craziest miracle in history.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

the cue: easter prayer

Lord

we are walking wounded
the waking dead
dead to the world

we look to you for life

we need new life
we need to be animated by your Spirit

Risen Christ
rise in us
raise us up to live again

and we will live for you

amen.

the battle at al hillel (part 3 - final)

I am tired now, and the spoils of war have spoiled. I have spoiled.

The dragon-woman is still hucking curses and woe-begotten prophesies like spears. I want her to shut up, but I can’t be bothered to move. I’m ready for home and bed. I’m ready to stop.

Some chuckling brings me around, though, and I see three younger men – my kin – coming back to the woman. They think she’s funny, and they missed their turn for sport earlier and their blood has not stilled.

They begin to tease and blow kisses. Her resolve falters and they are on her like dogs.

I tell them to stop. They don’t. No one listens to me. But I am the bull again and I stand up – more aggrieved that they disrespect me than that they plug this woman.

They tell the bull to blow his horn, and I’m angry. I’m the angel now. The devil. And I add to the butcher’s bill one of my own. The other two pop up and there’s a new lust and a new anger. They mob me and I go down for some stupid woman.

After they’re done with me, but before my lanterns go out, I see them kill the woman. She’s thrown on top of me. I guess our bones will be here for the dying god when he finally feels like getting up again.

I ought to be angry – with myself, with my people – but what good would that do now. I’m here forever – cut off from my people, separate from my land. I am the cut flower, the bladed grass. I am a bull on the altar, the angel of death.

Make no mistake – this is the way of our god: take what you can, fight what you want, crush who you hate.

I’m tired of it, but as I slip away I think maybe it would have been better if I didn’t die here in this valley of judgment and war.

the battle at al hillel (part 2)

Even after they were dead, and we were sure of our victory, we rode our horses over the bodies. The men made jokes. Those who had listened to the eunuch made jokes about how impossible it would be to lust after these ‘beautiful’ boys now. Those who had listened to Nebuchadnezzar said Belteshazzar’s friends were safer in the furnace than these fools on the field. Those who listened to the priest decorated the ground in pinkish paint like the infidels had desecrated the temple.


With the bodies of the enemy soldiers, we filled the valley like grass. The pieces were like dandelions, littered and seeding the ground.


We made sport and- gave their flesh to the eagles and vultures to feed upon.


A woman was found watching from the hills and the men made sport of her. I watched her after. She was broken. She exhausted her grief, collapsed, and passed out. She came to an hour later, angry, spewing rage. She was a broken dragon.


She spoke of their god and His promise to look after them. I don’t know if she was angry with us for killing her god, or angry at her god for losing. I don’t know who she blamed, but it was a performance I had not previously witnessed. She vowed her god would avenge them. I guess maybe their god doesn’t die very well. Sore loser.


I got up to leave but was startled to see her bend over and begin digging. She was making graves.


I told her to stop.


She didn’t.


I told her again, and the dragon spewed. I spat and walked off. Someone else will kill her later, and maybe I’ll bury her if I decide to care.


But I don’t.


Like I said, these bones can stay here forever. Let this be the ruin and desolation of those who serve the god who keeps dying.

the battle at al hillel (part 1)

603 B.C.E. :: Babylon, Al Hillel :: It is noon, a Friday

I am tired of soldiering. I have walked too many times into the blood and muck and watched my fellows fall.


There is some exhilaration in battle, but it is just work – like bone setting or metal working. A job done well feels good.


But I have done too many jobs, and the goodness dims.


Across the field, in a valley, are some thousands…maybe more. They gleam, but quiver also. Fine armor over pretty arms. I think we’ll be done early.


We come at them, bulls shouldering metal bulrushes, and they fall. They are not soldiers. Not really. They are fine-looking statues. No. They are sticks. Toys. We should have sent our daughters to fight.


Our lines relax and the men begin to look for trophies to claim. I see nothing I like, but take fistfuls anyway to sell. As I reach, I see movement from the left, and twist to avoid a spear.


One survives.


He is wild-eyed. I note his wounds – many, but mild – he must have been caught under a horse or pile. He foams. That’s never good. His spear is quick, and I am a victim of age and tenure, so he sticks me in the gut. It is shallow, but deep enough to stoke my passions. He ends badly.


My father was a bull, a lion, a griffon, an angel. He brought death to dozens each day, and laughed after. In this moment, I was the angel, and I carved this thing in front of me like a sacrifice. He came apart, properly prepared, and I gave Baal his heart.


Still empassioned, I walked the valley and jabbed at the slain. None made a noise. Everyone died, and I was my father – the bull.


The valley was a meat shop now that the battle was over, a butcher’s board open for business.


I’m not sure why we came, I’m not even sure it matters. But we came. We fought. And we won. I killed a hundred men. Almost.


People think that a battlefield must sound like a forge, with clanging and shouting, but it’s different. It’s like a run through the mud. There’s a lot of panting and everything sounds wetter than you’d think.


Wet clothes.


Wet sod.


Wet meat.


The priest told us we came to fight because these men had defiled the temple walls and were the enemies of our gods. The eunuch told us we came to fight because these men were slaves who had stirred the queen’s passions with their youth. The king told us we fought because no Jew should worship Nebuchadnezzar – not after those three escaped the fire – but these did.


But who cares why? I’m a soldier. I fight. I see their carcasses as food for the birds of the air, and the beasts of the earth. I watch to endure no one frightens the beasts away.


This valley is full of dead men – soon it will be only their bones. Then only their dust, which will be the dry dirt of the valley floor.