Tag Archives: Story

Why Creative People Frighten Me

It all started with an image of  posing in an ad on .

It wasn’t so much that he was posing–but that look he had on his face…

And his body posture.

At first blush, innocuous. Bland. Marginally detached.

Nothing to cause alarm or concern. It’s just a photograph promoting .

But the thing got under my skin. In a low-grade BAD way. For days even.

The thing is, I couldn’t really put my finger on why it bothered me so much. It just made me go–ick.

And it wasn’t a dislike for Whittaker or his music. I knew that much. No, it went to the core of something else.

Something deeper. In my own being. Or our culture’s soul. Or both. I just didn’t know until the mystery started to unfold.

Disturbing Photographs of Disturbed Poets

I have a book on my shelf called .

It’s a slim anthology on Theodore Roethke, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg and James Merrill–poets who characterize the 20th century’s “second brilliant generation.”

[…the first generation being Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, Hughes,Stevens, and Williams…]

On the cover–as you might suspect–are photographs of each poet…all of them, except Ginsberg, staring at you.

It’s disturbing on many levels.

First, human eyes staring at you are strange things indeed. Photographs of human eyes staring at you even more odd. Photographs of eyes staring at you that belong to dead people–haunting.

But photographs of human eyes staring at you that belonged to dead people who, when alive, led very creative, but disturbed lives takes the cake.

These are such photographs. And it doesn’t help that I’ve got history with these poets. Let me explain.

The Powerful Impact of Disturbed Poets

Long ago as a moody, half-cocked young poet I fell for Sylvia Plath. Adored Anne Sexton. Admired James Merrill. Cherished Theodore Roethke. Envied Robert Lowell. And idolized John Berryman.

The only poet who I spurned was Allen Ginsberg and that was due to his pedophilic tendencies.

But the others I’d canonized. Bizarre since these poets lived and died tragic lives.

Three of the poets killed themselves–Plath, Berryman and Sexton.

Lowell made a career out of writing candid poetry about his multiple mental hospitals admissions.

Bishop lived the life of a recluse with her lover in South America.

Theodore Roethke endured crippling episodes of depression.

And James Merrill, who painted a candid portrait of gay life in the early 1950s, lived modestly despite great personal wealth and eventually died in Arizona from AIDS complications.

You wonder why I–or anyone for that matter–invested so much hope and emotional capital into such people.

But here’s the deal: These troubling writers powerfully shaped my mind. And drug me to dark places I’d rather not go. Which brings us back to Whittaker.

What Does This Have to Do with Carlos Whittaker?

When it comes to romantic poetry and rock n roll both are at their best when they come from emotionally raw places says Craig Schuftan in his book 

Take the former Smashing Pumpkins front man , for example. He said, ”And the more intense it was, the better, and we would probably have to suffer for that.”

Then there’s the British romantic poet George Gordon Byron who said about –perhaps his best poem–”I was truly mad during its composition.”

[Note: Before Byron the notion that you had to suffer to create great art seemed ridiculous.]

Unfortunately, this notion is leaching into the Christian culture. Whittaker is but a mild example.

So my question to you is this: Is this the least bit healthy–regardless if you are a Christian or not? Furthermore, does it belong in the Christian community?

Or is this just anonther example of our incumbent narcissism rearing it’s ugly head and placing the focus on us rather than Christ?

Understand: I am one of those creative people. And I have a bent for suffering. But I’m not sure the focus should be placed on me or my pain.

I’m also reminded of Keith Green performing beneath his piano so people would focus on God and not him.

My irredeemable love of obscurity likes that. A lot.

So what do you think: Is this a zero-sum game? Or can we strike a balance? I look forward to your thoughts. Brutal and all.

Why Did God Create Man?


Ever wonder why you are here? Why anybody is here?

I’m not talking about “what’s my purpose?”

I’m talking about why did God create us? Man? Woman? You? Me? Adam? Eve?

Creation? Anything?

Why did he create the universe and atoms?

Stars, oceans, continents, apricot trees, corn, squirrels, earthworms?


Did God lack anything? I mean: God’s not lonely. He’s a three-part being.

He’s not needy. He’s self-existent.

Neither Is This the Reason

Is he sadistic and perverted and gets a good chuckle when we suffer? No. The .

Was he a poor gardener and needed the help of a professional? No. He’s omnipotent and could manage the garden well on his own.

Then what is it? Why would God create us? Care for us?

Even the  over God’s concern for a creature who pales in comparison to the largeness and majesty of nature…yet is exalted as steward of that creation.

What gives?

This Is the Reason God Created Us

The  gives–just a little. It tells us that our chief aim in life is to worship God and enjoy him forever.

Does that mean God is egotistical and relishes human worship?

Absolutely not.

The issue of why God created man goes to the very core of God’s character and we must go back to the Genesis story to uncover–as best as we can–his purpose.

Here’s what we know: God planted the first man–Adam–in a splendid garden surrounded by a rich, robust world. Yet God saw that it wasn’t good this man was alone.

Enter woman.

And So Is This

Next, he told them to be fruitful and multiply. He told them to subdue the earth.

In other words, he blessed them. He gave them life, responsibility and freedom to care for creation.

And from this we can surmise that God gave freely because he himself is self-giving. That is his incorrigible character.

In return he expects us to bless the nations:

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us…that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 

But there’s something else we can surmise out of God’s creation of man and nature and that’s this: He created man because he is a creative being.

And since we are created in his image we also are defined by this same creativity so that the ends of the earth may know him and fear him through our works that proclaim him.

What are you doing with the life, freedom and creativity God freely gave you? Let me know what you think.

Got a Ridiculous Christmas Story? Here’s Mine

The following story never seems to surprise my wife.


If you lived with this chronic curmudgeon it probably wouldn’t surprise you either.

The Ridiculous Story

Peg me at five years old. Circa, thirty days out from Christmas 1976.

Bright blond hair. Thin as a ski pole. A hand on the hip and a goofy grin.

That’s me.

Dad walks into my room. Smiles. “Whatcha want for Christmas, Demian?”

I put the blocks down and slowly climb to my feet, hand to chin. “Box of mud, of course.”

“A box of-of what?”

“A box of mud.”

I sit back down to play with my blocks again. Dad finally backs out of the room.

Two days later he and mom drop the question at the dinner table. “Whatcha want for Christmas, sport?”

I stop chewing my mashed potatoes. “A box of mud, of course.”

“See,” my dad says to my mom.

Three days later I’m taking a bubble bath. My head is lost in a mountain of strawberry-scented Johnson and Johnson bubbles. Mom knocks on the door.

“Honey. What do you want for Christmas?”

I slowly pretend to paint the wall with bubbles. “A box of mud,” I shout.

She doesn’t give up. “Are you sure?”

I don’t say anything.

“Are you sure?”


“What did you say?”


Two days from Christmas. Dad is waiting for me at the back door. I push through, plop on the ground and start to peel off my boots.

“Still want that box of mud?”


Christmas morning. My sister and I charge downstairs in . We are told to march back up stairs to put on pajamas. We obey and run back down the steps.

Gifts are handed out. I finally get mine. It’s as heavy as an armored tank. Or four gallons of jet fuel. Or a rifle.

I massacred the wrapping and fling open the lid and find nothing but old fashion backyard mud.

In a box.

Rocking back and forth on his feet, dad says, “Whatcha think, sport?” He smiles.

Mom and dad say I went white. That’s true. What they didn’t know was that I’d also stopped breathing.  Broke out in a cold sweat. And was on the verge of sobbing.

Naturally mom couldn’t bear to let her son suffer so she pulled out my other gifts.

I unwrapped them in a complete stupor. To be honest, I don’t remember those OTHER gifts. All I remember is my box of mud.

And that I’d actually gotten it.

Your Turn

Okay. I’m looking for your ridiculous Christmas stories. They can be last years. Or from your childhood. It can be about somebody you know. It doesn’t matter. Just share it. Merry Christmas Eve, folks!

A Little Footnote to Your Personal History


Imagine this.

You are sitting in the pew of a church with a cathedral-high ceiling. Stain glass windows.

It’s lit with sunlight but a tad chilly.

Eventually the pastor approaches the lectern, sets his Bible down, reaches inside his wool sport coat and pulls out a pair of reading glasses.

He then cracks open his Bible.

He leafs through a few pages, anchors his finger on a text and then reads.

He reads the text with a sober, but soft voice. And when he’s finished, he removes his glasses and launches into his sermon.

Nothing out of the ordinary or cause for concern.

You listen, take notes, smile, laugh, look at your boots, scratch your elbow, stare at the stain glass window behind the lectern.

Then, with about ten minutes before his sermon ends, the pastor embarks on his own personal story.

His salvation story.

Quickly you learn that central to his story is a man. You don’t catch his name. But that’s own purpose. And, as you’ll see, that you don’t know his name isn’t important.

Not to his story. Or my story.

What you do catch is the role this man played in the pastor’s life. A significant role, to say the least, because it was this man who introduced the pastor to Christ.

Eventually he does name the man. And you’re shocked. But not for the typical reasons.

You’re shocked because you don’t have a clue who this man is. You’ve never heard of him before. And you feel…well, somewhat embarrassed for the man.

Why embarrassed?

Because the man is a nobody. He’s not a towering figure in history who the world knows.

He’s not a Theodore Roosevelt. Gandhi. Or Mick Jagger. In the world’s eyes, he’s a failure. Unfortunately, you toy with this idea that he’s a failure.

But to the pastor this obscure, unremarkable man is perhaps one of the most significant persons in his life.

Have you ever heard a pastor tell a story like this? Whether in your own church, a church you visited or at a conference?

I’ve probably heard this story told–in a variation of forms–four times in the last ten years.

[Could be more, but only four actually stand out.]

And I’m ashamed to admit that each time I heard the story…I frowned. Frowned because the “poor” man who led the pastor to Christ is unremarkable. Obscure.

He’s not a legendary CEO. A stellar actor. A current president. He’s just a man who introduced a person to Christ.

And that kills me each time.

Each of these men are footnotes in the lives of these pastors. But significant footnotes. Meaningful in the eyes of eternity. The only point of view that truly matters.

Why am I telling you this? Simple. I want to be a footnote in your life. A meaningful reference anchored somewhere in your life.

But not for my own glory. For Christ’s glory, of course.

This is one of the reasons I want to pour myself into this blog: To educate you and encourage you, to correct and condition you towards Christ.

I’ve got slim hopes that I’ll actually lead someone to the Lord. But if I can nudge you just a smidgen in the direction of Christ and the hope found in his grace…

If I can merely point you to the heavenly city where our omnipotent King sits enthroned…

If I can equip you to fight the good fight of faith or impress upon you the support and care you have from me in the form of constant prayer and supplication…

I’ve succeeded.

Whether you remember it or not ten years from now, I’ve succeeded in becoming a little footnote in your personal history.

Truly, the real reward will come when we sit together in the banquet hall with our bridegroom. Together, in adoration and zealous celebration of the only person who could have satisfied the justice and wrath of God–Jesus Christ.

But until then–and years from now–may you remember the tiny dent you got when you collided with Christ at Fallen and Flawed.

By the way, if you liked what you read please . Then share this post on Twitter and Facebook.

45 Miles on Foot and All I Get Are These Lousy Epiphanies?


Actually, the epiphanies aren’t lousy.

I’m just smarting over the low-grade but ruthless abuse I took to get them.

Yet I have no one to blame but myself.

I chose to hike 45 miles through the Smokey Mountains in 3 days.

Why? Because I love to hike. I love a ridiculous challenge. And I love hanging out with my friends.

The epiphanies, on the other hand, I credit to God. So, here are some lessons learned, thoughts stewed over and questions asked.

Never Trust a Downhill Hiker

Here’s the deal: Hiking etiquette demands downhill hikers yield to uphill hikers. This creates the perfect opportunity for uphill hikers to ask “How far to the top?”–the perennial question on every uphill hiker’s mind.

The answers always vary. “Half a mile. Half an hour. Fifteen minutes. You’re almost there.” The truth is, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Their sense of distance varies widely from yours. I eventually stopped asking.

Irreducible Complexity Remains Evolutions Biggest Stumbling Block

Hardly surprising that hanging out on the backbone of the Smokies drives me to think about evolution. Principle questions that I want answers to: Evolution posits that we have an instinct to survive, to reproduce. What is the origin of those instincts? What was it before complex organisms? What are the odds that organisms can survive the transition from cell division to one sex organisms to two sex organisms?

Swarms of Flies Sound Like Talking Humans

Don’t know why, but on certain stretches of the Appalachian Trail hordes of flies buzzed. Freaky, because you’re expecting to run into hikers but find yourself surrounded by tiny black winged insects.

Then, when you actually do hear humans talking, you’re not sure it’s not the flies. I can see why some people go AWOL on the Appalachian.

Ibuprofen Is a Good Over-the-Counter Drug

Thudding mile after mile up and down steep hills works ugly magic on your knees, joints, hips and head. Eventually the monotonous pounding deadens your motivation to keep hiking. Pop four ibuprofen, though, and a new, stout mad man emerges to finish the days hike.

Brotherly Love Ranks High on Pleasures of the Christian Life

I adore the unity of Christian brothers. The fellowship. The discussion. The accountability. The corporate worship around a camp fire. Brotherly love is evidence of God’s grace. And it is a means of grace I cherish deeply. Second only to marriage.

Stop Telling Unregenerate Sinners That God Loves Them

I’m guessing I mulled over this because of a few comments I’ve recently received that carried a tone of God’s unconditional love for sinners.

Yes,  does say that God so loved the world. And he . But  says that unbelievers remain under the wrath of God. And  declares that God’s anger falls upon the intentionally wicked. Nothing can deliver us from this predicament except Christ. Therefore, God’s love for unregenerate sinners IS conditional. It cost something. Dearly.

Here’s what I’m not saying: God relishes sending condemned people to hell. Jesus, in fact, . Paul said he’d  for the sake of his brothers. But neither skirted the issue of God’s justice. God’s love begins and ends with the cross of Christ, not the sinner.

Bears DO Fall Out of Trees

Less than four miles to go and I heard something scrambling in the tall trees. Not uncommon with chipmunks everywhere. Yet I looked up and saw a black bear–maybe 150 pounds–plummet 30 feet to the ground. He immediately charged downhill, crashing through brush and disappeared. I think I spooked him.

Forgot What I Looked Like

No mirror, no see self. For three days. Bizarre. But does that mean I bring a mirror next time? No. I quite like the absence of concern for self.

By the way, the image is a photograph of  under construction back in the 40s. Our hike ended on top of the dam. We started at . Total distance: 45 miles. Read more about the .

The Abusive Hike (A Short Story on a Fortunate Event)

Short story on how a man who four years ago would’ve stomped away in a subtle rage, managed to see beyond himself and care for other people.

If you’re interested in stories with classical happy endings, you might be better off reading something else…

Naturally, it depends on how you define “happy endings.”

The prince and the princess elope and breed a royal family inside the walls of a mammoth castle on a hill in England.

The fumbling Iowan outcast wins the school presidency, finds someone to play tether ball with and gets back the girl.

Or the restless penguin breaks free from domestic monotony to surf the biggest waves with his childhood hero.

Those, in the classic sense, are happy endings. This story, however, is not like those.

But it ends happily. I think.

This story begins one day on the Appalachian Trail. Five hikers who embark on a forty-six mile journey.

Our first mile was a dirty, abusive mile. The trail, like a rocket, rose rapidly in elevation. No one was prepared. It took us one hour to cover one mile. We were exhausted. AND we were in trouble. In many ways.

One, we needed to cover about two miles an hour to stay on schedule. Two, according to our stupid maps, the trail continued to climb. Three, one of the hikers was battling a nagging leg cramp.

That leg cramped turned into frequent stops. Eventually the hiker could no longer carry his pack. That meant that everyone else took turns sharing the extra load…

Yes, at times each of us had one pack on the back. One pack on the front. Other times we’d hike our packs to the top, run down and hike the other pack to the top.

Our pace was pathetic.

Competitive and selfish, I bristled that we were moving so slowly. And by the end of the first day we were four miles off target. At the end of the second day, eight miles off target.

At that point somebody mentioned the unmentionable: Maybe we should cut the hike short. Calculations determined we’d arrive at the end of our 46 mile hike about 9 P. M. on Monday. Not helpful if you had to immediately drive ten hours.

So, on the third day, we decided to do just that: Hike to mile 34 and call someone in to pick us up.

Often, during that day, I wandered far ahead of the pack, ambling on in the sunshine over the narrow dirt path. Often I contemplated leaving them behind. Pushing forward by myself. Knocking the remaining 12–or whatever miles–and accomplish the goal we set out to achieve.

But my conscience wouldn’t let me do that. In fact, I didn’t even feel it was appropritae to ask permission to finish.

As much as the thought made me want to vomit, we came in as a team…we leave as a team.

So, around 3 pm on the third day I climbed into the van that would take us back to the cabin. Climbed in smarting like hell that I couldn’t finish the hike.

The only reason I tell you this story is because, by the time you read this I’ll probably be on the Appalachian Trail, half way up Clingman’s Dome.

At 6,643,  is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park I’ll spend the next four days in. Trying to hike 42 miles this time.

And while you wait for me to get back on Tuesday, I thought it might do some good to tell you this story and the moral behind it…

How a man who four years ago would’ve stomped away–arms folded, chin into chest, teeth grit–in a subtle rage, managed by God’s grace to see beyond himself and care for the feelings and needs of other people.

That’s a happy ending via God’s gift of grace. Pray for that grace again. Happy Labor Day. And see you soon.

What Was the Most Dramatic Event in Your Life?


Okay, here’s what I need from you:

Describe an event that you would consider to be the defining moment in your life.

It could be a nasty break up. A botched fishing trip. A leaf fire gone awry.

What I’m looking for is a dramatic experience that towers like a mountain in the landscape of your memory.

I’ve got two defining moments in my life that stand large in my memory. One that concerns infidelity.

The other involves a fatal rock climbing accident.

The Most Dramatic Event of My Life

In July of 1998 I travelled to the Grand Tetons with my girlfriend, my step-father and our climbing partner.

After about 9 days straight of easy to moderate climbing, we decided to climb the , a 400 foot rock face east of the Grand Teton.

Symmetry is a good, beginner’s climb, but getting their is a slog. The hike to the base of the climb alone took us 2.5 hours of trail and 1 hour skirting a .

In fact, it was so rigorous, my girlfriend, exhausted from non-stop climbing, bailed before we got to the couloir.

One Thing You Have to Keep in Mind

The rule of thumb in the Tetons is “Finish your climbs by 2:30 P. M.” Afternoon thunder storms always roll in. And you certainly didn’t want to be stuck on the side of the wall when that happened.

However, that’s exactly what happened.

Midway through the climb, about 100 ft below the summit, it started to rain. Me, my step-father and our climbing partner debated finishing the climb but agreed rappelling would be the safest route. So, we did just that. I set the anchors and we started to descend.

I forget when–I think it was the second rappel–I slung the rope around a horn sticking out of the cliff face. I inspected the horn for cracks, didn’t see any, and descended.

I landed on a 10 ft by 10 ft ledge and removed myself from the rope. I yelled “Clear” and crouched with my back to the wall. That’s when the unthinkable happened.

My step father stood at 6 ft 4 inches and weighed 280 pounds. Big guy. Too big for the horn. The moment he weighted the rope, the horn snapped. And he fell, screaming.

He hit the lip of the ledge I was crouched on and dropped out of sight.

He fell 200 feet. And didn’t survive. Absolutely out of my mind, my climbing partner and I spent the next 11 hours methodically climbing to safety.

Something to Chew On

Whenever I look back at this event, I always feel like it occurred to another person. Like it didn’t happen to me. It’s like I’m fortunate to share someone else’s memories.

That ever happen to you?

This may sound strange, but I cherish this experience. Tragic, yes. But one of the reasons I cherish it is because during this trip my step-father–a man who grew up in Wyoming and always dreamed of climbing the Tetons–at one point leaned over and said that I was helping him live out his dreams.

The other reason I cherish this experience is because just months after this tragedy, I proposed to my girlfriend. And she said yes.

We’ve been married for 11 years. And today is our anniversary!

Your Turn

So, have at it. Describe that one unforgettable event that somehow defines your life. And then explain why it defines your life.

You can either do it in the comments section here or on your own blog. If you do it at your blog, just point back to this post.

I can’t wait to read your stories!

One Last Thing

I adore Abraham Piper’s because he elegantly gets away with a lot. His blog inspired me to ask this question. I only wish I had the chops to answer it in half the words.

Also, read an incomplete in the journal Accidents in North American Mountaineering.

What Is the Difference Between the Gospel and Religion?

In which the story lines of the gospel and religion are followed. To the end.

Do you know the difference between the Gospel and religion?

Both are stories. Both are narratives.

Lots of people who reject Christianity and Christ reject Christianity and Christ based on the religion narrative.

That narrative looks something like this…

The story of religion, one that is looked at from history’s standpoint, is one usually marred with persecutions and oppressions and witch hunts.

The story is one dominated by men who massaged the Bible so that they could manipulate the masses, men who exploited the poor through  and men who waged crusades comprising aggression, paranoia, nostalgia and wishful thinking in so-called .

The story is one of interrogation, torture and execution at the stake for anyone accused of .

That’s religion’s story.

The Gospel story is vastly different.

It’s a narrative about God redeeming a rebellious people to himself.

The story starts with the creation of those people. And their eventual rejection of their Creator. And the doom that awaited those people because of the justice that is demanded by a holy, just and righteous God.

It’s a story about how that penalty of rejection must be paid. And how utterly impossible it was for man to pay it. And how God came down as a man to redeem these people because of their separation from him.

And how He was crucified, a substitution for our sins, that his righteousness might be imputed to us. That propitiation bridged the unbridgeable gap between God and man that we may stand before God and be found righteous in his sight.

It’s not difficult to distinguish the Gospel from religion. One is the redemptive history of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The other is man distorting that history for his gain.

You just have to know what story to tell. What story are you telling?

**Part of the Curmudgeon’s Guide to Sharing the Gospel series.**