Monday, April 30, 2007

Squeaky Shoes

My wife and I went to Bible study last Sunday night, one of about five married couples to be there. En-thronged in the amalgam of wedded churchgoers was the assembled herd of children of said churchgoers. We consumed vast amounts of garlic potato soup, which, I believe, is mentioned somewhere in the dictionary as a food group, and we hiked amongst the New Testament finding verses about the fruit of the Spirit. In the middle of the studious part of the evening, the children were cooped up in a separate room watching Veggie Tales or some such. Come prayer time, they escaped, complete with the Squeaky Shoes.

Imagine with me, if you will, a quietly incorrigible boy of one-and-a-half, content to do whatever he will, because it’s ‘cute’. I suppose I am a bit bitter. My parents will testify that I was never ‘cute’. This creates a supreme difficulty in getting away with things, thus, I learned to argue my case. But, I digress…

Imagine further, that this boy comes factory equipped with tiny ‘cute’ shoes that squeak like dog toys with every step he takes. Every step. By which I mean to say, every step. Furthermore, as we are circled up, holding hands to pray, the children find it amusing to ‘London Bridge’ through our circle under our hands. Still yet, the parents found it ‘cute’. Now, if you’re like me, you have a hard time concentrating on that which you cannot see, namely Jesus, namely when you’re praying. You, being perhaps like me, have an even harder time if there are children and squeaky shoes.

So, let us arrive quickly at the conclusion, lest we too deeply explore my failures as a Christian, and lest I give more weight to my impatience.

The conclusion:

1) If you buy my children squeaky shoes, I will buy your children an air horn and a Pixie Stick.

2) If you give my children squeaky shoes, I will fill the kids with candy, and send them squeaking to your house. Thanks for babysitting, you’re so nice.

3) If you wear squeaky shoes, I will hew your squeaky legs off at the ankle.

4) If your children fly amok while I’m trying to concentrate, they will each receive a Benadryl, an Oreo, and a glass of milk.

5) If you invented Squeaky Shoes, look me up. Let’s chat.

6) If you make potato soup, be my friend. Also be my wife’s friend.

*Sorry about the blogging hiatus. There are many things going on at the Whipple house these days. More on that later, when the time comes.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Plans of the Heart

I opened the door of my shop, enjoying the quiet scent of sawdust and sunlight and old tools. The east window glowed with the light of dawn. Going to my bench, I picked up my work of several days - a small, hard sculpture intent on bringing to mind the poignance of the human condition. As if poignance was the bitter Water o' Tempus that we must drink, a tolerable taste, and a deadly poison. In gathering it in my hands, the wood seemed to live upon my fingertips. I could smell the old black walnut tree and hear its pungent leaves in the rain and wind.

I opened my eyes and drew a leaf of fine sandpaper from the shelf, beginning to polish the back of the tiny thing - the chuckling rhythm the only sound in the shop. It was a woman, sitting, holding her knees with her head down upon them. She was naked, revealing her indescribable woman's backbone - still the best sculpture in creation as far as I'm concerned. She did not show here face, and her hands were a bit large. It was rather too immediate for Hemingway, but I liked it, and was proud of it. It would sit soon in some old couple's house, bringing to mind the simple pleasures of all things created in our second-hand nature. Or on a young woman's dresser or windowsill, chasing her stricken mind with the epidemic condition of her solitary calamity. It was in my hands, and would soon, a product of my hands, leave to become useful.

So goes always the forming of my plans, like clouds between two meeting fronts, only to be tossed aside by a bold midwest wind. So go the plans of many, and yet when they are interrupted, as plans were during a recent shooting at a stricken campus, we find out that there is no such thing as tomorrow. But, that's a little oversimplified. This time around (and yes, that phrase is quite descriptive of our collective response to such actions), I think the one thing that has frustrated me the most, especially in view of the memory of the dead, has been the commercialization of grief. Grief can now be bought and sold in a ribbon, a donation, and a thirty-second TV spot. So, how are we to view this as believers? How, if it is as trite and shallow and unmeaningful as it feels to simply marvel at news coverage and bear the latest wristband, should we respond?

Friday, April 13, 2007


The best flowers open high on craigs, in tiny seconds of sunlight amid the busy breathing mist. They are solitary, like the spiritual revelation of a monk, alone in his cell, lost in prayer and fasting. The best songs happen when no one is looking, or listening. I didn't win the contest yesterday. I didn't even make it out of round one. Now that that's been said, let us not dwell or attempt to justify. But I must say that I was glad for the chance to share a couple songs with people in the audience, and a bit disappointed to miss the chance at sharing a couple more, having saved up all the trump cards for the final hand. But now I remember those moments when I've childishly intoned, "Watch me!" and then made numerous failed attempts to perform my circus-quality leap from the low diving board. No wait, that wasn't right. I need to do it again.

I always take two or three (or four) shots of the same thing when I'm out taking photos. The shutter clicks and I race to set it up again, fearful of missing the just-right lighting, the birds in the tree just so - all the while selfishly begging the Master that one will turn out to be the masterpiece I want to see on the other side. Partly so other people can share it, partly so I can claim some sort of bastardized responsibility for something great. But, let us imagine for a moment that all my efforts were not in vain. That, in fact, they were all great successes. Let us further imagine a boy who never had to grow up, a six-foot Christopher Robin, doling out hooks and lines to draw in every possible compliment.

Under three things the earth trembles,
Under four it cannot bear up:
A servant who becomes king,
A fool who is full of food,
An unloved woman who is married, and
A maidservant who displaces her mistress.

-Proverbs 30:21-23

But, however, the successes are sometime, and, most certainly, are not my own to claim except with the claim of a shovel on a hole.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Household Critters: Part 2

Thank you for your patience over the past few days. I would tell you that I've been busy, but I really haven't felt like writing. Not sure if that's good or bad or something else. The driving force behind me right now, however, is the solitary existence of a "Part 1", like an olive without a pimento, like an oreo with no middle, like Zan without Jayna (10 extra points if you get that one).

So, the other household critter on the menu? Me. Yep, that's right. Let me go ahead and let the cows into the cornfield here.

I judge you for the following: a bad attitude, a good attitude, the books you read, how much TV you watch, the music you listen to, the cosmetic condition of your shoes, your car, your diction, your obedience of the law, your disobedience of the same, the cleanliness of your house, the cosmetic condition of your Bible, your lack/abundance of jewelry and/or facial hair, your bed time, what time you get up, your diet, your approach to education, the color of your skin, the way you say certain words, the words you fail to say, the clothes you wear, and the amount of time I see you during the day.

That said, I am guilty of the following: a bad attitude, a good attitude, the books I read, how much TV I watch, the music I listen to, the cosmetic condition of my shoes, my car, my diction, my obedience of the law, my disobedience of the same, the cleanliness of my house, the cosmetic condition of my Bible, my lack of jewelry and abundance of facial hair, my bed time, what time I get up, my diet, my approach to education, the color of my skin, the way I say certain words, the words I fail to say, the clothes I wear, and the amount of time you see me during the day.

Alas! I am revealed to be the very hypocrite I despise. And yet, I would do you a greater disservice if I did not say, "Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ" for his sufficient grace!

Most of the men I go to church with have spent time behind bars for the pursuit of happiness. I can't say the same. My sins are unfortunately less obvious and more easily hidden. But, to tell you the truth, I'm glad that you know some of them. Let us now look forward to the reading and writing we shall do together, a little more known than before. Let us drink up, my friends, to the hammer-song of shattering pretenses.