Sunday, February 20, 2011


On Spiritual Practices, a Dream Journal, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Things Left Unfinished and Hermione Granger in a Porn Flick!

Homework last week in my seminary class on the history of Christianity gave me the option of keeping a dream journal as an experiment in a spiritual practice.

(Other options were "communal worship" [what other kind is there? LOL, the idea here is to be intentional and deliberate in worship, rather than just showing up at church], fasting, a retreat, and meditation).

I kept a dream journal: "Over time, with the help of an experienced spiritual director or a therapist, see if you can understand yourself better and understand what God is saying." -- Bradley P. Holt, in Thirsty for God: A Brief History of Christian Spirituality, 2d ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), 77. ("ER Recommended")

My journal! My report to the class follows.


Thursday night
Don M. and I are at the Daytona 500. We are as close as you can get to the track without being on it, standing against a rail. We can see only the straightaway in front of us and the first turn, to our right. The cars are lined up at the starting line. I looked behind me; we are on the ground, under some grandstand seating; there is nowhere to sit where we are, just people standing around. I see a friend of mine from my undergrad days at Oklahoma State in the 1980s.

(For years, I have wondered about him; we were not best friends but pretty good buddies; I can’t remember his name! I keep meaning to get an old yearbook out and see if I can find him. He grew up in Stillwater and could still have family there, if he is not there himself).

He sees me and I want to speak to him but just then the race starts and the cars are roaring by, so I can’t. The race goes into caution before all the cars make the first turn, which is just to the right of where Don and I are watching the race, when one of them spins out and scatters the pack, with cars bumping into one another. The car that spins is an old ... Oldsmobile or something, and I notice that the cars are not modern NASCAR race cars but street cars. ...

My old friend is suddenly at my side. He has barely changed, just a little fading to gray of his red hair and mustache. I just soak in the fact that there he is for a minute.

(It hits me just now: I think his name is Don ... he was my first introduction to mainline churches; he attended a United Methodist Church; I went with him a few times; it was the first time I had heard the doxology, first time I had experienced corporate reading of a written-down prayer, first time I had heard any hymns not in the Broadman Hymnal or a country gospel songbook. One of my favorite memories is of us good-naturedly arguing over infant baptism; I grew up Southern Baptist. Once, when I honestly thought I was giving in considerably, I said, “Well, I guess it really doesn’t matter if you’re sprinkled or baptized.” It was a long time before I realized why he was still so exasperated with me.)

With the cars quiet, I tell him, “I just wanted you to know, I’m going to Such and Such United Church of Christ, I’m a former deacon. My Southern Baptist and (can’t remember what I said) days are behind me.” I let him know that I had wanted to get in touch with him for years. He mentions two females’ names. “They were in my book. I wrote a book and gave you a copy,” he said, as he starts to walk away, back to where I first noticed him under the grandstand.

I’m thinking: What? When did you give me a book? “I wrote a book,” he said again. I turn and look toward the track. The race never restarts. People in the seating above us are throwing trash and emptying ice chests onto the track, and some people on odd-looking machines are riding them around the track cleaning it; they remind me of Shriners on their four-wheelers in a parade.

Suddenly the place where Don M. (he is gone now from the dream) and I are is airborne, and it’s cool; I hear a helicopter and I realize that it is carrying us; it flies around the track; I can see the rest of the track, the garage area and two places that look like small strip centers with gift shops, bars and restaurants. The cars are off the track, parked on some grass; the drivers are standing around in twos and threes; but Dale Earnhardt Jr. is by himself, looking through some tall hedges toward one of the strip centers.

The helicopter starts to fly faster and I am clinging in a panic to the rail in front of me, I am afraid I will be slung off. The helicopter lands at the strip center that is closest to where the dream began. I walk into a couple of the bars but nothing interests me. I get back on the ... whatever it is the helicopter is carrying us in. Off we go again, around the track, and again it starts going so fast, I am afraid for my life, clinging to the rail in front of me.

We land again, at the other strip center, close to where the drivers and their cars are. I walk into a restaurant and to the back, looking for a restroom. I guess I’m going into the kitchen, though; a kitchen guy stops me, and turns me around and pushes me out toward the restaurant. I walk through the place and outside and back onto the thing. There are several guys already there, drinking beer. Off we go again, into the air. The dream fades.

Friday night
I am escorting two young women to the last apartment I lived in in Texas. There is nothing suggestive. I don’t know who the women are, in the dream; they were indistinct, in casual dress, adults, but younger than me. We enter the apartment; one of the women goes to the right and sits on a couch in the living area. I take the other one into the kitchen to show her something, then back to a bedroom that I use for storage and an office.

Then I wake up, in the dream. I immediately go to the dining table and sit down with a notepad and pen to right down my dream — which is everything above: I dreamed that I was dreaming and woke up. I write down one word (can’t remember what), and at the second word my pen runs out of ink. I find another pen and the same thing happens.

Then my dream starts to fracture and lose coherence, but through it all until I really wake up, I am trying to write down my dream and being thwarted — and then I really wake up, and it takes me a few minutes to realize that no, I do not have to jump up and find a paper and pen to write down the dream. In my dream. But actually, I do — because that’s the assignment, although I type it up in Word rather than write it in a pad with a pen. But in the dream, I never got to write about my dream.

Saturday night
I’m tidying an apartment with a plain-Jane 1970s décor, but it is spotless, so I’m really just fussing around with things: moving a lamp here, scooting the couch over a foot there. I am getting the place ready for a party where Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the guest of honor.

No guests have arrived and Earnhardt hasn’t arrived either and is late. I call the airport to see if his flight has been delayed, but can learn nothing. I call someone else, and am saying “Earnhardt said (can’t remember)” and “Earnhardt did (can’t remember)” -— and out steps Earnhardt from the kitchen. He says, “I said what? I did what?”

I grab him and “man hug” him and thump him on the chest and say, “Do you know how much you look like we could be kin? I mean, to part of the family?” I tell him about the branch I’m talking about, which is my older sister and her sons, all of whom have the reddest hair in the family (Earnhardt is a redhead); her sons, my grown nephews, also have light complections, like Earnhardt. Earnhardt and I talk and cut up for a few minutes and the dream fades, no one ever having arrived for the party.

Another dream Saturday night: My nephews and maybe some others are at a lodge; our room is one of several along the exterior walls of the lodge building, opening up to a large central common room/restaurant. The place is packed. We put our names in for a table. We wait in our room to be called and told our table is ready; it actually isn’t a “room”; the beds and furniture are open to the common area.

We just hang out, each of us lounging on a bed. On the far wall of the restaurant is a TV; I spend quite some time making my way through the crowded restaurant, easing by tables and dodging wait staff, to get close enough to the TV to see what’s on. It’s Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) and the other girls from Hogwarts, in a porn movie! I am shocked and return to our “room.” I must have fallen asleep, in the dream, because I wake up, my nephews are asleep on their beds, and the restaurant is dark. We never got called for our table.


This will go long because, frankly, I don’t know how to relate anything of substance about three seemingly lengthy and complex dreams. So, apologies in advance for the length of this post.

I kept a dream journal, which I found inviting since I regularly have provocative dreams (which I usually attribute to eating spicy food too late at night). I’m glad I did, because maybe I have picked up the habit now of writing dreams down. I wrote down a description on Friday (851 words), Saturday (258 words) and Sunday (395) mornings. I did so on my laptop computer, not a notebook, which seems odd — but I take notes on paper; I do not write in longhand, and I saw this exercise as writing from notes in my head.

(A seeming aside, but not really: Dale Earnhardt’s death at the Daytona 500, which was 10 years ago, Friday, Feb. 18, hit my immediate family hard; he truly was our family hero; his death and this weekend’s Daytona 500, and Dale Jr. have been on our minds this week as our grief has rekindled during this anniversary.)

Dale Earnhardt Jr., the racecar driver, had a cameo in my dreams Thursday night, which, although it had a race track for a setting, was very specifically about my return to church, seven or so years ago, my leaving the Southern Baptist Convention and falling in love with the United Church of Christ and joining a UCC church in 2005. In the dream, I told an old college friend who initiated my first exposure to mainline churches (United Methodist) back in the 1980s, and who I have not seen or heard of since although I miss his friendship, about it all. Key to this dream, as it turns out, I think, is that the race never finished because it never restarted after a wreck sent it into caution in the first lap.

Friday night: In a nutshell, I dreamed that I had awakened from a dream and had sat down to write it out — and my pen ran out of ink. I spent the rest of the dream trying, and failing, to write down the dream in my dream! In other words, I never finished.

Saturday night: In a nutshell, I dreamed that I was supposed to host a party where Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the guest of honor; he was late, but finally showed up; I told him I thought we could be kin, and why; but then no one else ever showed up for the party. In other words, I failed as a host. Another dream Saturday night: In a nutshell, waiting for a table at a lodge restaurant, then falling asleep and finding the restaurant closed; we never got our table, something else left unfinished.

So, there is a theme, and I did not set out looking for one, to these dreams: Failure, or at least not finishing. A lot to mediate on.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


No, heh-heh, ER did NOT ...

... defend the medieval worldview of the Great Chain of Being in a seminary class, History of Theology, led by a lovely but squishy po-mo-post-colonial-feminist prof of the female persuasion.

Did not. Did not, did not, did not.

But might a come close. ;-)

"Appalling," she said.

"Well, yes, by our own standards. But every level was responsible for, not just 'over,' the levels below him," I said.


Sunday, February 13, 2011


What I HAVE gotten myself into

Settling down amid storms as they rage.

My prayer is for the peeps that I have so angrily tangled with here, and probably will again at times, the past SIX years -- and for myself.

Peace! If not that, then there is NOTHING.

PTS rocks.


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