it's not fair

Ok, the last post was started out of frustration with the idea of fairness and became something rather different. I'm still irritated by "fairness" though. So i'm trying again...

I just don't see fairness as a very biblical, God-like concept, at least not in most pleas for it. "It's not fair" feels like selfishness well-disguised. It is "i deserve better" dressed up in the false humility of tolerance and equality. "Fair" is a word more meaningful in this world's economy than in God's economy. It is the failed law of "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth" that need never touch the heart of the problem, the heart of us. It speaks always of shallow thinking or selfishness deeply buried.

Fairness is wholly empty of the sacrificial love and extravagant grace of God.

When i was younger, my siblings and i would whine, "it's not fair". My father's usual reply was the typical, "life's not fair." I, in the infinite wisdom of the adolescent, would always think, "but shouldn't we strive to make it fair?!" Now i know better. Fair would be a terrible thing for life to be, for in all fairness, we deserve nothing of the grace of God. The living root of true Justice is Love. Fairness is justice cut free of its living root. Fairness is a cold and loveless calculation. When we cry "it's not fair", we paste that calculation atop false assumptions about what we deserve to argue for the outcome we desire. And what outcome is that? Justification for our selfishness, either to share less of the bounty God has graciously and undeservedly given us or to covet what was graciously and undeservedly given to others.

Life is not fair. I am very glad for that.

phony shortcuts and cheap substitutes

seem to be all the deceiver ever offers
in the garden, in the desert,
in my head.
to Adam, to Christ,
to me.
One of us three always saw through it.
fairness is Justice writ shallow;
tolerance is nothing like Love.
self-glorification is but vaguely like Glory;
believing in oneself has never taught Faith.
power is only in what you will give;
what you can get will never plug the holes.
there is only one true Hope;
only Freedom in the strong grip of Grace;
only Beauty in the straight highways of the King.
the shortcuts are cliffs and mires;
the substitutes polished by the tyrant's slaves.
still, only One of us three always sees through it.



I just finished reading Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead". I cried at its end, not for its end, nor because it was sad. It was beautiful. I sat there on the toilet reading until my legs were asleep to finish, a ridiculous place to experience beauty that would make one weep.

The book is no master piece of poetry, no epic, not the brash offspring of sharp wit or forceful essay of vast intellect. I would not call the story or its players particularly memorable. No surprising twists. No strange quirks. No gimmicks. No cliffhangers or breathtakers. The landscape is plain, with residents to match. The story moves slow, even sluggishly along. If anything in it is foreign or new to me, it is the age of John Ames. But that, too, is not unusual, only outside my experience to date.

There is no escapism or novelty to grab interest in this novel. I can think of little to recommend it to you, except perhaps to say that it moves me. Its town is blessed in the end by the old man, "To me it seems rather Christlike to be as unadorned as this place is, as little regarded." As the town is to him, the like-named book is to me, a clear yet gentle echo of real beauty, humble enough to be thoroughly human. The very bones of it are composed of grace, the muscle faith, the skin a little regarded, dying man.

If you read it, do not be afraid to take a long time and let it sink in slowly. As one reviewer on the back of this library copy says, it is "a book to be savored." It is rich food, best not gulped down in a hurry.


to my Lord and Savior

please, please, come.
it feels like all is wrong because you're not here.
my heart is screaming, screaming.
i want to look in your eyes
and know you understand.
i know you understand,
but i want to look in your eyes and know it.
i want a hug.
oh God, for even a word my ears could hear.
like this world,
i'm such a mess.
i know you're working on it,
but there's so much to be done.
and i'm tired
of faith
of hope
of love only my heart and mind can feel.
you've given me so many other ways to feel,
i long to feel that love with every atom and every thought.
come, Lord.
rule here
in me,
in this place.
i've heard you are making me new
and this place too,
but the waiting is so hard.
and i'm scared of praying for patience.
i know you're not a microwave
or a vending machine,
but Daddy,
you said you give good gifts to those who ask!
i read that in a book i'm pretty inclined to trust.
you being here would be a very good gift.
why not give that now?
if the timing is so wrong,
can i negogiate for something less?
will you instead
give my son a kiss from me
and tell him his earthly father loves him lots.
that'd mean a lot to me.
i know you love him more than me,
but i still wish he were here.
of course,
i know you're a dad,
so you don't need a gift in exchange
for the ones i'm asking of you.
you already gave me all i have
and don't need anything anyway.
so i guess i'll just remind us both that
i'm yours.
whether you come now or later
or even never (please not never!),
i love you.
even when i don't know why.
i just do.
i guess that's a gift from you too.
so, thanks.
a lot.
i mean that.


to remind and remember.

i have to live with this
most often below the surface


i want to live with this
it is that or forget

i will not forget.

there is a hole in our lives now
that was not there before

our son has gone.

don't mistake me for a sad man
joy is not in bluer skies

Love holds and molds us.

know where my treasure lies
candle lit and waiting on

the King of kings.

the waiting means there is love
that's what the lonely is for



Phineas "Fyn" Bubna - March 15th, 2008 to March 16th, 2008

so many places to begin at this end.
i must write while the words are mine.
and i must write.
grief has always flown from my fingers
far better than joy.
giving birth to these words
like all birth
means letting go
of some safety
some control
that was probably never really ours.

he is already in my dreams,
just hours gone
and i see his face in my sleep
and feel his soft skin.

the end of one day saw his birth
the beginning of the next his death
one sweet, precious hour.
one sweet, precious hour.
he tried so hard to breath.
his heart was good and strong.
i could not be more proud of my son
or his mother.
at the end of such a day,
how she looked so beautiful,
how she was so tender and strong,
i may never understand.
miracles surround us here.

i would have torn down mountains for just that hour,
but You gave it, You just gave it,
the most beautiful gift,
the last thing i wanted,
so much i was afraid to ask.
but You knew.
oh my God, You knew!
that fear i had,
prowling about my heart,
terrifying in its strength and closeness;
that beast you slayed for me
when they placed him in my wife's loving arms
to die so near the hearts of us
who loved him most and knew him best,
save only You.

we sang that lullabye...
the terrible beauty of it
so fraught with joy and tears.
it took us both to sing it
louder than the sobs.
neither alone could have sent him off so well.
i didn't know those words could mean so much.
good night, my love.
i have seen the glory of the Lord,
even as we groan inwardly,
wait eagerly,
for the redemption of it all.

in the peace of my son's face,
the warmth of his rosy cheeks
and tender little movements,
so few.
in the love that sobbed
and ripped
and clawed
through our hearts.
yes, grief,
the most awful face of love
in this fatal world,
and still so beautiful.
this is holy ground.
we must leave changed forever.
such a terrible blasphemy
it would be to reject the power here.

it may be some time
before i can sing that lullabye again
without sobbing.
but i will keep singing it.

i thought i would be so angry,
but anger wanted from me
a pride my desparation
could not allow.
will it now?
i don't know.
but i feel no obligation to feel that or not.
only love demands life and voice here.
only love can.

"it is love who makes the mortar
and it's love who stacked these stones
and it's love who made the stage here
although it looks like we're alone
in this scene set in shadows
like the night is here to stay
there is evil cast around us
but it's love that wrote the play...
for in this darkness love will show the way"

i don't just believe that.
i don't know how not to believe it.
i never have.

so goodnight was goodbye once more.
i already miss him so
that it is hard to envision life without him.
don't read that wrong.
i mean forgetfulness seems
as impossible as it is undesirable,
which is a lot,
my heart will tell you,
but is not totally so,
my heart knows.

we do not grieve as those who have no hope,
even as we may grieve much more than they.
for our grief is the parting of lover and beloved,
and everyone who loves is born of God
and knows God.
my heart knows.
that, another miracle,
my God your grace is so unfair,
how can i bear the weight of this glory?

grief feels so like fear,
for it asks of me faith
that the end is not the end,
for it's not what He has planned.
goodnight, my love,
we will meet again.

i do not understand the joy in my heart
such a strange bedfellow for this awful ache
for all that is not and will not be.

before he was born,
i knew this as the worst day of my life.
never such pain before, never.
every muscle in my face hurts,
for sobbing is such an effort,
such a hard-won gift,
from the body to the soul.
but then my first son was born.
that was one of my best days.
"i have come that you may have life
and have it to the full"
it was a full day.

the sadness comes in waves.
reality is, as usual, so surreal.
how obvious that this is not our true home.
this is not how it was meant to be.

every person who visits,
every hug and kind word or silence,
these are mirrors to me.
i see our grief in the eyes of those who love us,
and it makes me cry all the more.

and i am still so glad we sang to him
that he died in our arms,
near our hearts and ragged breath,
hearing our voices,
feeling our touch,
not alone, never alone.
and then he slowly grew cold.
my son is gone. my son.
my son, i love you so.
i will trust your heart knows.
for our love comes from God,
who alone could speak and you understand.
what tongues do you hear now as you sleep,
waiting for the revealing of a
new heavens and a new earth.
your new body will have lungs that work well.

palm sunday.
how i long for Christ to come
and gather us beneath his wings.
shelter from this fatal world.
i will greet Him alone as my king.

in a few days, Good Friday,
what it will mean now
that we too have lost a son.
so too our hope is in the resurrection,
and i bitterly long for that day.
when there is no more hope,
no more faith,
only love remains.

come Lord Jesus, come.
and while we ache,
come Spirit,
be our comforter.
with your many hands and feet and tongues, yes,
but most with peace in our hearts.
and we cry.

my son, Phineas Bubna,
was born yesterday, March 15th, 2008.
my son, Phineas Bubna,
died in the arms of his incredible mother
as we sang one sad lullabye,
today, in the early hour of March 16th, 2008.
one sweet, precious hour was all.
one sweet, precious hour.
Lord have mercy on our bleeding hearts.

Phineas, we will miss you,
and we will not forget,
for you are very loved.
thank you for being our son,
and you always will be.

we will keep singing.


physical is spiritual

today, i'm thinking the physical is only the subset of the spiritual that presents itself directly to our meager five senses. i think the gnostic heresy goes further than wrongly calling the physical evil. i don't think it is sufficiently rebuked by biblical and theological defense of the good of physical creation. i think that still oft leaves the assumption that the physical is by nature not spiritual. i didn't even really realize i was groundlessly making that assumption until recently (which likely shows how embedded in western culture the assumption is!), and now, after some thought, i think the opposite is true.

the physical is inherently, intrinsically, thoroughly spiritual.

of course, there is also spiritual that lacks the nature of being physical; the spiritual is not in the least limited to the physical. but the thought that the physical is also thoroughly spiritual seems increasingly sensible and biblical to me. and it's a real paradigm shift for me,
overriding questions about how the natural and spiritual interact and undoing reflexive devaluation of mundane physicalities. it was a first step to realize that everything can have spiritual implications and eternal repercussions (however little i still live like i believe that). now, i do not see how anything could NOT have such importance.

we'll see how the idea holds up, though it's new to me, i'm sure not the first to have it.


what is love

in early 2003, i grandly opined to myself...

"what is true love but a selfless obsession?
to put the best honor and benefit of the beloved
always and irrevocably above, beyond, and before
any love or hatred of self,
to be wholly rapt and unaware of one's own existence
in the presence of the beloved,
to be concerned only with the desire and interest of the beloved,
are not these things the only true evidence of true love?"

as ideas about love go,
i figure that was chivalrous, simple, eloquent and wrong,
closer to idolatry than love.
love does put the other before any love or hatred of self,
but it is no selfless obsession, unaware in rapt awe.
obsession, sure, but not selfless.
adoring, yes, but not unaware.
to tango, it takes at least two who can tango.
love is not love if its object is an object.
and love is not love if the lover is annulled therein.
such loves are idolatry, love's evil twin,
another sick, sad surrogate for the Real.
the idolater naively abrogates himself
in a feigned relationship with the temporal others:
stone and wood, money and fame, image and fantasy.
all dead, all dead.
the lover knowingly gives himself
in true relationship with the eternal, immortal others.
and i'll take it further.
love is not agnostic.
love is of God.
every love finds it source in Him.
there is no other.
we cannot speak of true love without speaking of Him.
for the second commandment is like the first,
it cannot stand on its own.
we cannot truly love our neighbor without in some way loving Him.
when we find true love,
He must have some part of it,
however obscured or impure,
else it is merely idolatry,
beautiful, in clever disguise.
This is no encouragement to doubt your loves;
look for Him in them and praise Him for his part,
that it may grow.
anyway, i wonder how much of this i'll disagree with in five years...