Ashen Thoughts, Hoary Words

Is it gray or grey? How do you spell gray? Grey?

I love gray. Hate grey. Or visa-versa.

No, really, it'll be clear soon. The gray, er grey, fog will lift...

While “hate” may be too strong of a word, I’ve been into gray-bashing for a number of days. Here it is: I weary of fog . . . low clouds . . . Valley gunk. Morning after morning: grey. Afternoon after afternoon: gray. Maybe the sun burns through in the late afternoon, or maybe there’s a brief sliver of light in the west as the earth spins out the end of another winter day, but for the most part . . . yup, gray or grey, it’s all the same.

The weather page of today’s newspaper is another demonstration of language frustration:

  • Sunny, patchy fog…
  • Partly cloudy…
  • Low clouds and fog…
  • Clouds will give way to some…blah, blah, blah.

Each day could just read: gray. Grey!

And the thing is, I’m a gray kind of guy. Being grey is one of the joys of my life.

There’s little finer than the color of granite—which is quite gray—as the sun works its magic at sunrise or sunset on alpine ridges. Granite explodes with pink and orange; a veritable light show of wordless wonder against a grey backdrop! And what of Ansel Adams, the grand master of the world of gray!

Many of my most precious values are tinted in tones of gray. Take a controversial issue like abortion. I could talk a blue streak about how terrible abortion is, how it should never have to happen, and how it is almost always a reflection of a more complex tragedy. And yet that does not lead me to be “against” abortion. With strident grey-ness, I am a loud and proud advocate of “choice” for a woman’s right to have an abortion. While every abortion is tinged with tragedy, no abortion can be so neatly defined and categorized that we humans can uniformly say that one is right and another is wrong.

And some of you, reading this, will vehemently disagree with me. And we would have a grey-based argument. Indeed, much of the tension in this country right now, whether with people or faith or in the political arena, is often with gray-based vs. black & white-based points of view.

I like gray and the many colors it has for companions: silver, smoky, or stone. Or how about grizzly, mousy or dove-colored? From ashes to zinc gray, grey is great! Pearls can be gray. There is a color of grey in crystal.

But in these gray days, it’s hard for me to truly celebrate grey. How much I like to live with the challenge of my gray-based ways of thinking and believing. How uncomfortable I am with people who are so “black & white.”

Still, as the days of grey grow in number, one on another, I long for the end of gray. As the local weather wags continue forecasting their dull-witted verbiage of cloudy-foggy-blah-blah-blah, I desire grey’s demise.

In my Christian tradition—as with other great religions—the metaphor of light is essential and abundant. From Christmas Eve candles to Easter’s sunrise through Pentecost’s flames, light defines the best of our faith. Grey is cast aside.

So, clinging to my faith, I await the earth’s rotation, the flow of the seasons, and trust in the light to come. The grey will end. The days will lengthen. Alleluia. Be gone dull clouds and dreary fog!

But, is it grey or gray? In my Webster’s all the fancy gray definitions are found under “gray” and at the word “grey,” Webster’s merely says “grey” is a variation of “gray.”

Harrumph. Grey or gray, it’s a problem-child word. Red isn’t “red” or “redde.” Blue isn’t “blue” or “bleu.” Green isn’t “green” or “grean.”

Poor grey. But it’s no surprise to me that gray can’t make up its linguistic mind.

Regardless, have a grey, er, great day!

As Is

Mark 1:14-20 – for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany – January 22, 2012

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near…” (Mark 1:15)

It's what's on the inside, ever so briefly, that matters most...

It could be said—only jokingly, of course—that if the New Testament is the Internet, then Mark’s Gospel is Twitter.

The second Gospel (and first written) starts with a gallop and races toward its conclusion. No frills, lots of thrills. Jesus’ comments come with the urgency of someone screaming “Duck!” because an errant ball hurled by Tim Lincecum is headed your way.

  • The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.
  • Follow me and I will make you fish for people. 
  • Be silent and come out of him!
  • Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.
  • I do choose. Be made clean.

Those are the first five comments—couldn’t they easily be tweeted?—by the Nazarene in Mark. Brevity? You bet! These sayings, if you count all the tweet-ready words, punctuation and spaces are, in order: 101, 46, 30, 120 and 27. Tweet on, Jesus!

Some scholars suggest Jesus’ first words in Mark represent his ministry’s essence. Those 101 words—in English, able to be tweeted without substituting “&” for “and” or deleting commas or periods—are as abrupt as they are clear. This scholarly claim could be frustrating if a New Testament expert desires to write an insightful bestseller for the masses. After all, who could make money on a book that doesn’t have to be much longer than a few paragraphs? God is near. Transform your lives. Believe in the good news. That’s all, folks!

Brevity has also underscored the best of my private life and public ministry . . . Continue reading →

H is for . . .


My video version of the Faith Mutters word wonders a bit about “Holy.” And several weeks into doing these videos I’m already thinking: is it time to get my hair cut? With this vast media exposure, I’m fretting about all kinds of new grooming pressures.

(If you need to see the video introduction for this exciting series of mutters about faith…try here.)