Saturday, December 31, 2016

First Look at the Ocean

I finally got to show them the ocean. 
Photo by David Mercer, 2016

I promised a long time ago I would show it to them.  The older one was in first grade. The younger one hadn’t started preschool yet. I had wanted them to stand next to this mysterious organism to feel its rhythms and consider its unseen depths. 

It took a long time.  School, work, meager finances, and fatigue got in the way. Getting time off, driving hundreds of miles and securing lodging along the way was difficult. It had to be backburnered but I never forgot. It took two decades, two plane tickets, and a journey that included letting go of a career, a marriage, and my religion. But I didn’t forget my promise, even if they didn’t remember my making it. 

I took pictures of them when they first saw it, like when they were kids at Christmas and I wanted to capture their reaction as they opened an especially delightful gift.  I took one from behind as they surveyed the beach and the waves for the first time. 

Photo by Sylvia Kirkendoll, 2016
There’s another of the three of us. The happiest looking person is me. My sons’ facial expressions are minimal as they typically are at big moments.  I don’t know how they felt but that’s okay.  My goal was to get them there. What they do with their moment… well they may need to take some time to unpack all that. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

It Doesn't Have To Be Pretty

It doesn’t have to be pretty.

    as long as you got the job done.

    as long as you’re still standing at the end of the day.  

Merry Christmas. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

I Whisper

I cannot speak too loudly.

I’m too weak and tired, too sick to raise my voice.

I’m ashamed that I still need you so.
Will you leave me if I make you angry?
Would you hurt me if you heard me?

Yet I also whisper because I have nothing more to prove.
Hear me or not. Believe me or not.
I will not beg you to listen anymore.

I am afraid, tired and lonely
But I continue to speak.
I must.

If only in a whisper.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Breaking the Silence

"When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long." (Psalm 32:3).

I’ve never voiced my opinion over the outcome of an election but I will this time. 

I’m disappointed and upset. 

I have spent my entire professional life practicing restraint in regard to politics, except to say that whatever the outcome we are supposed to give support to our elected leaders.  I said it even when the person I voted for didn’t win.  And even though I am bitterly disappointed at the outcome of this presidential election, I still feel that way.

I have decided I will express my support by stating my views clearly, including constructive criticism of our political leaders because this democracy guarantees my right to do so. It’s part of the system.  The President of the United States takes an oath to defend this right.  I expect, even demand, our President-elect to do no less. 

Over my lifetime, I have run the gamut.  In my younger years, I was very conservative both in religion and politics.  But now that I am gray and my eyes have dimmed, I see things differently and I have become quite liberal (if that word means anything anymore) in all areas of our culture.

As a minister, I  focused on moral and spiritual issues and I never criticized the nation’s leaders from the pulpit or in any public forum.  But I have taken leave of my ministerial post. 

On an even more personal level, I have friends who range from uber conservative to extreme liberal, and I have held back because friendships are precious and I don’t want to lose them.  But as respectfully as I can, with the hope they’ll continue to accept me as I accept them, I’m speaking up. 

I do not intend to be hateful, hysterical, or insulting.  But I ain’t holding back anymore. I must speak my truth or I will die. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Below the Surface

Here’s what has happened in the last six months.  My children grew up and moved away.  I was separated and then divorced. I quit my job. I drove a thousand miles to begin a new life.

Now that you’re caught up, we can move on. 

The pressure is off. I can rest. I have enough to eat and a place to sleep.  I’m surrounded by lush vegetation, beaches, and cultures rich with music, history, and art.  Best of all, I have someone new who loves me. For the first time in years, I have quiet and freedom to think and write my thoughts.  It’s time to release the muse so they can fan the flames of my creativity. 

Except….  I’ve got nothing.

Well, that’s not exactly true.  I’ve got a headache. 

And my ears ring.  My heart pounds. My stomach churns right along with the emotions that have yet to settle.  My friends say it will take some time.  

Whatever.  I intend to start my new life even if I stumble a little at the beginning. 

Perhaps it's ironic that in the midst of this tropical land, my brain feels as empty as the plains of West Texas, where the land is dull, brown and flat.  

Yet having grown up in that barren land, I know that West Texas has more to it than one might realize.  Tough mesquite bushes hold fast, never giving in to the elements.  Huddled in their shade are jack rabbits, deer, armadillos, coyotes, and skunks. Underneath bleached rocks are snakes, centipedes, and scorpions. Dig down a few feet into the soil and you find a diminishing water table.  Dig further down and you could strike oil. Overhead, the sun burns hot and the wind is dry, sometimes kicking up huge whirlwinds that we call dust devils.  Angry storms occasionally lash out with lightening, hail, and tornadoes, but most days you can look up to see the endless blue sky.  At dusk the sun exits with a splash of colors. Then night takes over and the sky fills up with a billion stars and galaxies. 

Maybe it’s not so empty inside of me, either.  When I take a moment to look behind the dull headache, I can see that my stubborn passions remain. There are still memories, music, tears, hunger, love, friendships, hatred, laughter, loneliness, sexuality, and scorn. 

Is there any courage left?  Maybe.

What about spirituality?  We’ll see. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Elusive Creature

I’m divorced. Just like that. After nearly thirty-five years of being married, a judge signs the paper. And that’s that.

There was more to it, of course. Sparing the dreary details, I had wanted out for years but did not want to face up to it. I remember the day it became clear to me. The counselor sat next to me with her arms around me while I shivered and wailed that I wasn’t the kind of guy who left his wife. “I’m the guy who never quits! I’m the one who HELPS people. I don’t HURT them!”

It took a long time to follow through. I waited for the youngest to graduate high school. We separated a week later, and now as fall begins, we’re divorced.

I’m sensing a presence that has been out of reach for a long time.
Yet in recent days it has allowed me a glimpse, almost by accident, as if it were an elusive creature of the forest. I’m not even sure it has a word, but I’ll call it this for now:


A Bornean Bay Cat

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Why Do I Write?

Photo by David Mercer

I Write

To fumble for unseen truths

To discover the secrets of my heart
Make harmony in my soul
And share it with You

I write to resonate with Your heart

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Dog's Wedding

So I performed an outside wedding for a lovely young couple. The handsome young man was in his tuxedo and the bride was beautiful in her long dress. Not lavish, just nice. People sat on hay bales and the family dogs roamed about. 

It was the dogs that stole the show. They followed the woman down the aisle and then nuzzled her legs at the beginning of the ceremony. I was going to shoo them away but they said they wanted to include the dogs. So they stayed. They eventually parked themselves just behind me and looked at the audience. One was a little poodle mix and the other was a basset hound with soulful eyes.

I kept an eye out to make sure one of them didn't hike a leg over my foot, or that they didn't start humping each other while I said my words, "Do you solemnly take this man...." 

But the dogs behaved well. So did the groom and the bride and their attendants. In fact, they were all beautiful to the eyes of this gray haired pastor. At the end of the service, the bride and groom donned sunglasses and danced up the aisle to the song, "I Feel Good!" with the attendants following suit after them. 

I felt good too.

Monday, May 9, 2016

What It's About

This is what I’m thinking before the General Conference of the United Methodist Church:

It’s about right and wrong. It’s about good and evil. 

It’s not about the decline of the church nor its financial welfare. 

If we must choose between goodness and the preservation of an institution, even if it’s the church, then choose goodness.

When all the anger, shouting, abuse, scripture hurling, threatening, fear mongering, hateful confusion is swept aside, I want it to be clear that I said this:

Anything less than love, respect, dignity, and full recognition of rights for the LGBTQ community is wrong.   

Sunday, April 24, 2016

What's next?

I'm on a roll. Let's see what else I can do.

My two sons are legal adults now. Next month the younger one graduates high school with honors, and the older one graduates college Magna Cum Laude.  I’m full of pride that hovers between sappy sentiment and obnoxious bragging. 

I remember when we were expecting our first child I felt a an overwhelming responsibility to make the world better for the next generation.  But when the children arrived, I was even more overwhelmed with my fierce love for them and the state of the world took a distant second place in my priorities. 

Now as they grow up into young men , I find myself looking around and asking the question, “What's next?” I may have another three decades within me… or maybe a lot less. However much time I have, what will I do with it? 

The world is still a mess and still needs cleaning up, and I have rediscovered the feeling of obligation to make things better. It's daunting but I see my boys’ success, and I think, I’m on a roll. Let’s see what else I can do. 

I think about how I haven’t really helped anyone in the LGBTQ community and it’s time to become a fiercer ally.  I'm also horrified about human trafficking and I want to be a part of the solution that does away with the buying and selling of persons. I am also more conscious of how many people are marginalized—poor people, minority cultures, the elderly, the children…. There are plenty of people to whom I could lend my support.

Where to start? What to tackle? Who to help? I need to make some choices and go to work.  

And you know what? I expect to make a difference.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Finding My Way Back

Live music can be wonderful.

In a spring concert the high school jazz band where my son plays opened their first piece with a brass blast that filled my ears and rattled my rib cage, and I was taken back to the place where music is air that fills and surrounds the soul.

It takes a long time to find this place. I remember my high school days in choir how much work it took.  People have to learn new music, and rehearse together many hours, and while the entire process is good, there are only the few moments where it all coalesces to take people to that spiritual plane.

Most of the people in the audience were in the moment with me.  I’m often amazed that some can be occupying space, but not really present, actually missing the magic as they talk to each other or look at their phones.  I want to touch them and urge them to stop whatever they’re doing because these moments don’t occur often and they don’t last long.        

I was grateful that my son participated in this moment.  He has been playing for many years, developing his skill, finding his inner music.  Here at the end of his senior year, he got to play improvisational solos for almost every song, which gave me pride as well as joy.

Josh Mercer, photo by David Mercer

I wonder if he’ll see this as one of the very best moments of his life. When I was his age, I hadn’t known how few of them there would be, and at one point I had begun to wonder if I would ever find the place again.

My son found it, though, and shared it with me.  

Monday, April 18, 2016


Photo by David Mercer
A life waits for me. 
Where the talk isn’t gossip, music isn’t country,  
And humor goes beyond the scatological

Love is made with word and touch
To allow a sharing of spirits.
Somewhere prayer is more than a wish in the night,
Waiting for more than an imagined response,

Somewhere Someone answers back to whisper I am not alone.