Tuesday, June 17, 2008



I know what you're thinking, and you're right. What the heck does quotidian mean? If you already knew, you are a thoroughly impressive literary type. I just found the word myself. (Thank-you, Dashboard Dictionary). It means “of or occurring every day; daily; ordinary or everyday, esp. when mundane.” I'm glad I found this word (quite by accident I might add), because it perfectly describes the kind of beauty I was struck with last night.

I purchased a bicycle a few weeks ago, a nice one. At least to me it's pretty nice. It's not a Wal-Mart cheapocycle anyway. I don't have a vehicle, so I often depend on our giant Ford E-350 diesel ministry van, affectionately dubbed Van Diesel. Diesel is currently floating around the $5 to $5.20 a gallon mark right now, so I'm trying to curb my use of the van.

I've been enjoying getting around on the old bike. It's only a bit of a pain when I feel like I'm riding through Oklahoma (you know, where the wind goes sweepin' down the plain?). What I like about riding a bike is that it's a nice pace at which to see the world. It's fast enough that it doesn't take an hour to get to the office (only about 15 minutes), and it's slow enough that you can actually experience the environment around you. Sometimes I just plan on getting a little lost, and follow the canals through the orchards, taking the little side roads and paths here and there. Trees all over. Hawks screeching when you approach. The occasional beer bottle.

As I rode around last night I was struck by a different kind of beauty, a variety that's easy to miss. A quotidian beauty, if you will. I took a ride through the suburbs. Did you know that people still do things in their front yards? It was so refreshing just to ride through the neighbourhood, catching glimpses of people's lives. A man peacefully watering his lawn. A woman working in her flower garden. A family sitting by their front door, listening to mariachi music on the radio. I rode by the park, and there were kids playing basketball, a family playing football, and people just smiling and being together. It was truly delightful.

I was recently reminded of a quote from Thomas Merton. As he sat observing people one day, he reflected on how they were all walking around, not knowing that they were “shining like the sun.” I believe we're like bluebirds sometimes. Flying around, completely unaware of how beautiful we are, how fearfully and wonderfully created.

I'm watching that happen even now, as I sit with my laptop in a book store cafe. There's a man across the room sitting with a frail man in a wheel chair. He's flipping through magazines, letting his elderly friend look with him, not saying a word. Guns & Ammo, PC Gamer. I don't think the old fella is all that interested in PC Gamer, but he's here with a friend, and that's beautiful. Guns & Ammo/PC Gamer Guy doesn't know it, but he's sitting there, belly filling out his red, double-XL shirt, shining like the sun.

There are things that are easy to see as beautiful. Mountains and oceans and sunsets. But mountains and oceans and sunsets are of greater pleasure to God when he watches us watch them. Remember, he didn't merely speak people into being as he did the moon and sun. He made us by hand, and kissed us into life. We are his glory, and the whole world is filled with quotidian beauty.

Monday, June 09, 2008



“What do you get for the man who has everything?”

This is what Chris said about our homeless friend Arley. Well, not homeless homeless, but homeless. He lives in a “hobo shack” in his sister's back yard. It's set by a tree in the back corner, a high, wooden fence on either side. He's made two walls of scrap wood, a roof out of blue tarps, and a curtained entrance. Inside is a bed he's assembled from a few pieces of foam, a little TV, a microwave, and a coffee table made from a camper's table-top and a couple of milk crates.

He has guard dogs, too. They keep his place safe, and scare off intruders. Sometimes they scrap with each other, but are generally good-natured. One wears a hat and smokes. They are 6 inches long and made of plastic. Also, they are dinosaurs.

He reads a lot, and likes to watch King of the Hill.

He has everything he needs, and all that he wants.

Say what you will about Franciscan simplicity, this man's got it. This, however, makes it fairly difficult to select a birthday gift of some kind. He really doesn't want much, if anything. I knew he could use some new shorts, but that doesn't feel like a proper Birthday Present.

So I gave him one of my old books, Under the Overpass. It's a little memoir by a college kid who decided to be homeless for six months. I thought he might appreciate it. Chris's son Joshua sent along a Toy Story dinosaur, sure to be a good friend for the guard dogs.

We thought we'd take him to lunch, with his choice of fried chicken or Hometown Buffet. He chose the buffet. Let me tell you, it's really something to see this man work The Hometown. Why go back for another plate when you can just load up two from the start? Why not try dipping your hot dog wieney in chocolate milk? And why can't a man put jalepeƱos on his ice cream? He's not insane or anything. He's a hobo. They're free spirits.

We asked him what the best memory of the last year was for him. He thought for a long time. Finally, he said, “Well it's any of those days of the week that I get to spend with you guys. With my Christian friends. With people that actually love me. I see other people through the week and talk, but nobody treats me like you guys do. I enjoy that more than anything. I really do.”

Arley often says things that make me get all quiet inside, and look at the floor for a second, and then look up at him with my bottom lip putting a little extra pressure on my top lip. You know that feeling? The feeling of such affection and humility that someone so full of these qualities can illicit? Anyway, he's really good at that.

I suppose that's what you get for a man who has everything. Honour. Affection. Love. It's the only thing you can give to the poor in spirit. Heaven already belongs to them, so just give them your presence.