Archive - September, 2010

Someday

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Many of us have spent a considerable amount of time thinking, dreaming and praying for someday.

Someday I’ll be old enough to drive
Someday I’ll move out and get my own place
Someday I’ll have my dream job
Someday I’ll get these bills paid off
Someday I’ll meet my soul mate
Someday I’ll be happily married
Someday I’ll have children
Someday I’ll be married (again)
Someday I’ll get into shape
Someday I’ll stop smoking (drinking, using, etc.)
Someday I’ll stand up for myself
Someday I’ll say I’m sorry
Someday I’ll say I forgive you
Someday I’ll forgive myself
Someday I’ll believe that dreams come true

There are some somedays that are just that–Someday. Now’s not the right time. Just don’t let someday turn into I wish I had. It takes courage and perserverance to make Someday a real day.

But you’ve got it in you.

I just know you do…

Someday (by Rob Thomas)

You can go
You can start all over again
You can try to find a way to make another day go by
You can hide
Hold all your feelings inside
You can try to carry on when all you want to do is cry

And maybe someday
We’ll figure all this out
Try to put an end to all our doubt
Try to find a way to make things better now and
Maybe someday we’ll live our lives out loud
We’ll be better off somehow
Someday

Now wait
And try to find another mistake
If you throw it all away then maybe you can change your mind
You can run, oh
And when everything is over and done
You can shine a little light on everything around you
Man it’s good to be someone

And maybe someday
We’ll figure all this out
Try to put an end to all our doubt
Try to find a way to make things better now and
Maybe someday we’ll live our lives out loud
We’ll be better off somehow
Someday

And I don’t want to wait
I just want to know
I just want to hear you tell me so
Give it to me straight
Tell it to me slow

Cause maybe someday
We’ll figure all this out
We’ll put an end to all our doubt
Try to find a way to just feel better now and
Maybe someday we’ll live our lives out loud
We’ll be better off somehow
Someday

Cause sometimes we don’t really notice
Just how good it can get
So maybe we should start all over
Start all over again

How do you define art? (Repost)

Lady of Shallot, image courtesy of photobucket.com

Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King:

How to Draw a Picture (Part 4)

Start with what you know, then re-invent it. Art is magic, no argument there, but all art, no matter how strange, starts in the humble everyday. Just don’t be surprised when weird flowers sprout from common soil.

How do you define art? Whether it’s painting, sculpture, music, writing – what separates the very good from the very great? Do you rely on an expert opinion? Or at the very least, does said opinion influence your objectivity?

If you agree with Mr. King’s assessment that “all art…starts in the humble everyday”, then to some extent does your emotional attachment to the familiar, to what you know, color your opinion of what is beautiful or even what is not?

Even though we all share one planet, we each live in our own separate worlds. The world I see through my eyes is different than yours. It’s colored and shaped by my own regrets and successes, my own dreams and hopes. Because of this, we are all separated from each other in a small but important way.

Art is the means by which we bridge that gap. It’s how we shout across the expanses between us and seek understanding and fellowship. It’s how we reach out of the deep holes we dig for ourselves and grasp the hand of God. Through art we turn the chaos of our lives into order and give what cannot be explained meaning. Often it isn’t the answers we’re after, but better questions.

To create something, whether a painting or a poem, is to sacrifice a part of ourselves so that we can grow. It’s to voluntarily feel the pain of hollowing out our hearts so we can feel more happiness later on. It is the ultimate risk, and the only one worth taking.

Irony

Yesterday morning I sat down with my notebook and my pen and began to write a blog post. With the ever-present sounds of large consruction equipment tearing up the pasture behind my house, I began to pen my thoughts about how for the past eight years I was fortunate enough to live on 2 acres smack dab in the middle of bustling suburbia and yet I was insulated from it by this huge stretch of land behind my house. For eight years and many more before we moved here, that pasture was home to cows and an array of ducks and other water fowl who had found their way to the water tank used to keep the cattle watered as they grazed.

I wrote as I wondered how often I have taken for granted this peaceful view, how many times I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to sit on the back patio with a cup of coffee or glass of iced tea and simply enjoy the scenery and appreciate that it was there. Sometimes you really don’t know a good thing until it’s gone, especially those things you assume will always be there.

But back to the point of this post–irony. Typically when I write something out in longhand, I’ll type it out sometime during the day, let it sit for a little while and then edit and post it here in the evening. I prefer to schedule my posts to publish at the same time every day–12:01 a.m. That didn’t happen today.

Why? Because just as I was sitting down to type up what I had written out in longhand, I lost my Internet connection. What was the reason behind the lost Internet connection? Yeah, that would be the giant backhoe that dug up our phone lines along with the pasture behind our house. Ironic? Yes, I tend to think so. But maybe not. Irony, by definition, is incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result. So maybe my situation wasn’t so much ironic as it was unfortunate. Sort of like this song I posted awhile back…

As a public service, I have decided to add some words to the song, thereby making it ironic. (You’re welcome.)

An old man turned ninety-eight
He won the lottery and died the next day (because he accidentally poked himself in the jugular vein with the pencil he used to fill out the winning ticket)
It’s a black fly in your Chardonnay (that happened to be an albino fly, so it was white)
It’s a death row pardon two minutes too late (because the electric surge caused by the execution resulted in the phone lines going out two minutes earlier)
Isn’t it ironic … don’t you think (no, not really)
Chorus

It’s like rain on your wedding day (in the Sahara desert)
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid (for the bus)
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take (from Bernie Madoff)
Who would’ve thought … it figures

Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids good-bye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
‘Well isn’t this nice…’ (Okay, that actually is kind of ironic)
And isn’t it ironic … don’t you think
Repeat Chorus

Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right
And life has a funny way of helping you out when
You think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up
In your face (and that is very unfortunate, but not ironic)

It’s a traffic jam when you’re already late (for your job as the head of public transportation)
It’s a no-smoking sign on your cigarette break (at the Marlboro plant)
It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife (to cut open the boxes of spoons)
It’s meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife (who works as a pharmaceuticals rep for Ambien sleep aid)
And isn’t it ironic… don’t you think
A little too ironic… and yeah I really do think… (no, not really)
Repeat Chorus

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out
Helping you out (which is nice, but not ironic)

Here’s some irony for you: Angry, white Canadian girl becomes international singing sensation with a smash hit called “Ironic”, which isn’t.

Roger’s questions (by Billy Coffey)

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You wouldn’t know by looking at Roger Willis that he’s one of the best Christians the world has ever known. I always thought that was his secret. You know, being meek and lowly in spirit and all. Jesus said blessed are those. And that’s Roger.

He’s not tall—five-foot-seven, five-foot-nine in his boots. A scraggly gray beard juts out almost perpendicular from his chin. Aside from the occasional trim, it’s sat untouched for the last fifty years or so. Just there, jutting out and seeming to defy gravity, as if daring the world to hit the man behind it.

And the world has been happy to oblige. Roger hasn’t had what most would call a good life, and what’s worse is that he’s innocent of making it that way.

Things started off well enough in that true, Southern way. Roger was born to a farmer and a school teacher soon after Hitler called it quits in ’45. His childhood was the perfect blend of innocence and dirty hands, and he was kept free from the realities of the world until two weeks after his tenth birthday. That’s when his father was killed when his tractor rolled on the back forty of their farm.

It was just Roger and his mother then. The two made due well enough. Roger’s mother kept him in school until the ninth grade, at which point she bowed to his wishes to devote himself full time to farming. By then, there wasn’t much choice.

Roger’s mother joined her husband just after his nineteenth birthday. That was a tough time from what I’ve heard, and understandably so. But God was looking out for his favorite Virginia farmer, because right around that time was when Mary Booker walked into his life. Roger remembered her from school way back when, remembered how pretty she was and how nice. The two of them met when Mary began attending the Methodist church where Roger had been born and raised. Their first date was for ice cream down at the Dairy Queen. They were married six months later.

Things turned around for Roger then. The farm was producing everything from corn to cows in abundance, and the Willis family grew to include a son and daughter. I think there are seasons in life much like there are in the world. If I’m right about that, then the next twenty years or so was Roger’s spring, when everything grew and blossomed and the winds were all soft and smelled like new life.

Then came Vietnam. All that kept Roger’s son from volunteering was knowing his father would have to run the farm on his own, but then came the draft notice. His son left Virginia in the summer of ’69. He died in a rice field eight months later. Roger’s spring was over then.

You could say the autumn of his life arrived twenty years later, when his daughter died of what he called “The woman cancer.”

Winter came last year when Mary Booker Willis, Roger’s wife of nearly fifty years, passed on after a stroke. Roger lost the farm soon after. The corn and the cows stopped growing, and he was too old and too tired to start over.

I’ve told you all that just to tell you this: you would not know Roger Willis has suffered such loss. No. Speak to him and you will hear a song in his words and see the brightness in his eyes. Sit near him at church, and you will hear his voice singing above the rest. Listen to him pray, and you will know that Jesus is more than his Lord, He is a friend. Pass him in the store, and you will walk away happier than you were. Roger will make sure of that.

Amazing, isn’t it?

How could he have such faith after such suffering? How could he not simply continue, but thrive?

I asked him the other day at the hardware store, and his answer surprised me.

“I doubted,” he said.

When his father died, Roger doubted. Same with his mother and his son and his daughter. Same with Mary. When he lost his farm, too. He doubted God, doubted His love and even His very existence. He doubted aloud in the darkness of an empty house and an empty bed, calling out to the great Not There. He doubted an answer would come. One always did.

I’m going to remember that. Because I’m often fooled into thinking my faith is made stronger by my answers. It isn’t.

It’s made stronger by my questions.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at his blog What I Learned Today and follow him on twitter at @BillyCoffey

Captivating

I have a confession to make, which will probably come as no surprise to anyone who knows me well: I’m not a big fan of women’s bible studies. I know, that sounds horribly un-Christian of me, but most women’s bible study books just leave me feeling either angry, inept or both. And the Proverbs 31 Woman? Sheesh! Talk about an ego crusher! What woman could possibly attain that kind of virtue? It’s discouraging for me to have studies centered around the woman I should be instead of the one that I am. But when my friend Tamara (pastor’s wife) mentioned a women’s bible study, I knew it would be different than most, as she has the same aversion to most women’s bible studies as I do.

For the next several weeks, the guys at C3 will be discussing Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul and the gals will be studying Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul. Wild at Heart was written by John Eldredge and Captivating was written by John and his wife Stasi.

I’m looking forward to diving into this book and this study and I hope to share more with you in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in reading it, here’s a brief excerpt from the intro:

The mystery of the feminine heart was meant to be a good thing, by the way. A source of joy. Yet it has become a source of shame–women almost universally feel that they are “too much” and “not what they should be”. And men tend to pull away from the deeper waters of a woman’s soul, unsure of what they will find there or how to handle it. And so we have missed the treasure that is the heart of a woman, missed the richness femininity was meant to bring to our lives, missed the way it speaks to us of the heart of God.

Rest assured–this is not a book about all the things you are failing to do as a woman. We’re tired of those books. As a new Christian, the first book I (Stasi) picked up to read on godly femininity I threw across the room…In the 25 years since, I have only read a few I could wholeheartedly recommend. The rest drive me crazy. Their messages to women make me feel as though, “You are not the woman you ought to be–but if you do the following ten things, you can make the grade.” They are, by and large, soul-killing. But femininity cannot be prescribed in a formula…

Sometime between the dreams of your youth and yesterday, something precious has been lost. And that treasure is your heart, your priceless feminine heart. God has set within you a femininity that is powerful and tender, fierce and alluring. No doubt it has been misunderstood. Surely it has been assaulted. But it is there, your true heart, and it is worth recovering.
You are captivating.

Katdishionary, Part 10

That’s right, people! This is the 10th installment of the never-ending series of blog fodder known as the katdishionary. As I mentioned in my last installment, all previous katdishionary words are compiled for your convenience on the tab marked “katdishionary”. Um, except this one.

But I’ll get around to it eventually…

And now, on with the katdishionary:

IEEKEE (pronounced EYE-EEE-KEY)

Definition: A international home products Dutch corporation that designs and sells ready to assemble furniture, appliances and home accessories.

Origin: The pronunciation is from my Japanese mother, who despite living in the US for over 50 years, still calls IKEA I-ee-Kee. I’ll probably share some more interesting pronunciations with you in future posts, because chances are pretty good she’ll never read this. She never uses computers, unless you count slot machines and ATMs.

Katfight (pronounced kat-fite)

Definition: “The consequences of one’s being a stupid @$$ and being found out by a Kathy. Theses consequences include more verbal violence than physical, but if it comes to it, the Kathy will hurt the perpetrator.”

Origin: A comment from my friend Jake Lee from Very Much Later who offered this new entry into the katdishionary after reading my post Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Selling ARCs for fun and profit. Thanks, Jake.

Prostitot (pronounced pro-sti-tot).
Definition: A popular form of dressing young girls incredibly inappropriately, made more convenient by major retailers who seem to sell clothing intended for tiny pop stars and groupies

Origin: Comments section of my post Super Skanktacular Saturday Giveaway! where I gave away a priceless set of Bratz dolls bearing a striking resemblance to the Kardashian sisters:


The competition was fierce, as there were many good entries into the contest, but commenter Erin was chosen by the judges for introducing us to a new word, prostitot:

“Great giveaway! Here is why I want my two year old to have them. I’m a bit overweight so I’m not properly able to display for my prostitot the styles and fashions that will attract all the boys and girls in her youth group. These shameless hussy dolls give me the chance to properly model for my sweet innocent little girl the way modern tweens dress and act!”

(Thanks, Erin. Don’t you just love educational toys?)

This concludes this addition to the katdishionary. Keep those cards and letters coming!

Story ’10

My blogging buddy Brian C. Russell, Awesomologist has asked me to do a little PR for a mission’s conference happening December 28-31 of this year. (You may have noticed the little “Story ’10” square on my sidebar. Check out this video he put together:

Story’10 is a missions conference from Pioneers which invites you to be a part of God’s story among the unreached peoples of the world. You’ll hear first-hand accounts of how God is moving in the world from missionaries fresh off the field from areas like Thailand, Central Asia, Indonesia, Europe, South America, Africa and more! There’s even a track specifically for kids! For more information check out pioneers.org/story!

You know, I love a good story, especially when it’s part of God’s story. If you’d like to help spread the word, please visit Brian’s website here for more details.

I’ve personally never been on a mission trip abroad, have you?

Stay Hungry (Repost)

Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King:

How to Draw a Picture (Part 3)

Stay hungry. It worked for Michelangelo, it worked for Picasso, and it works for a hundred thousand artists who do it not for love (although that might play a part) but in order to put food on the table. If you want to translate the world, you need to use your appetites. Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t. There’s no creation without talent, I give you that, but talent is cheap. Talent goes begging. Hunger is the piston of art.

For those of you who are blessed (or cursed, depending on your perspective) with the desire to create, what drives that desire? What do you hunger for?

It is the ultimate luxury to be able to make a living doing something you love. Sure, there are parts of every job one might consider drudgery, but such is life.

As I’ve mentioned, I am a painter. And while I can’t say with a straight face that it’s a living, it is a job I love. While I certainly utilize my creativity in my work, most projects are hardly art. Murals are the exception to this, but they do not represent the majority of my work.

I often hear leaders in business and ministry stress that you should not take criticism or rejection personally. While I agree with that to a certain degree, I guess I’m hard wired to believe differently.

How can you pour your heart into a creative endeavor – writing, creating music, painting, poetry, etc., and then NOT take it personally when your work is criticized or rejected? Especially when it is rejected by the so called experts?

I’m learning only the bravest of souls dare to subject themselves to this type of abuse.

Hunger is indeed the piston of art.

I still don’t dare consider myself any type of serious writer, and my limited exposure to the world of publishing has temporarily put any personal aspirations on hold. But then I remember one of my favorite quotes, and it gives me a bit of courage. Hope it does the same for you.

“What you really have to do, if you want to be creative, is to unlearn all the teasing and censoring that you’ve experienced throughout your life. If you are truly a creative person, you know that feeling insecure and lonely is par for the course. You can’t have it both ways: You can’t be creative and conform, too. You have to recognize that what makes you different also makes you creative.”

– Arno Penzias, 1978 Nobel Prize winner for physics

Renovation, Part 2

At the end of last year, I wrote a post entitled Renovation. You can click on the link if you’d like to read it, but in a nutshell, it was about a older house in our neighborhood that was a bit run down. It was sold, and the new owners came in and started clearing up the overgrown trees and shrubs, and basically gutting the house. Here’s how the house looked then:


I’m sorry I didn’t do a follow-up post sooner. Had I done so, you would have seen pictures of what I thought was going to be a renovation which turned into the entire house being completed demolished. The only thing left of that little blue house two weeks after these pictures were taken was the concrete slab, the driveway and the garage.

Fast forward a few months. It didn’t take long before I realized the house which would replace the little blue one would be quite a bit bigger and quite a bit more expensive than its predecessor.

Building continued in earnest for a couple of  months, then all of the sudden, everything stopped. This is how the house has looked for the past several months:

Those last two photos? The one of the travel camper and the garage? That’s where our neighbors have been living for the past few months. It seems they have their own business, and some clients have not paid some pretty sizable invoices. They counted on that money to finish the house.

This could be a story about how you shouldn’t spend money you don’t have, or how not to count your chickens before they’re hatched. And I’ve often thought those things privately as I’ve walked by their property. But there’s a better story here.

Because this family, despite moving from a very nice house in a nice neighborhood into a garage and a travel camper for the foreseeable future, seems to have a wonderful attitude about the whole thing. No, they’re not happy about what’s happened to them, but they always have a smile and a wave for everyone. They went from having a 20 man crew working on their house to the father, son and friends doing what little carpentry work they can. Never complaining, never with sour dispositions. They don’t seem to make excuses or lay blame for their woes on other people, even though I’m sure that’s tempting.

No. They’re learning to appreciate what they have–a roof over their heads and each other. This situation might have torn some families apart. This family seems to have rallied together because of it.

My other neighbor told me that the owner of this house (who, if I had to guess, I would say is in his 50’s) had drawn up the plans in high school; that it was the house he had always dreamed of living in some day. Today, he’s still not living in his dream house.

I’m pulling for them. I hope those clients come through and pay them what they’re owed. In the meantime, living in the shadow of their broken dream house, I’d like to think they’ve still found their home. And they’ve discovered that the best things in life aren’t things at all.

This post is part of the blog carnival on Brokenness, hosted by Bridget Chumbley. To read more, please visit her site.

Four rules (by Billy Coffey)

cal ripken

image courtesy of photobucket.com

I’m usually good for one awful, please-God-kill-me bout of sickness per year, but the last time I actually threw up was Christmas Eve 1995. I am of the opinion that there is no worse feeling in this life than when…that…happens. I’ve heard people say they’re not feeling well and wished they would just go ahead and do it, as if the after would be worth the during. They lie. Throwing up helps no one.

I remember that last time because of the irony involved. Christmas has always been my favorite time of year—of joyful blessing and peace on earth and Hosanna in the Highest—and yet there I was in the bathroom with my head against the porcelain god saying “This can’t be happening this can’tbe happening thiscan’tbehappen—”

And then it did.

Just so you know, it was horrible. Merry Christmas to me.

That was the day I vowed to never throw up again. I didn’t know exactly how much of a say I had in that, but I thought I’d give it a shot. It’s been tough a few times. I’ve had flu and strep and colds and infections and viruses. I’ve had moments of thiscan’tbehappen—. But I am proud to say that as of today, my streak is unbroken.

I’m proud of that. I’m the Cal Ripken of not puking.

Just in case you’re interested, I’ll tell you how such an impressive feat is accomplished. It certainly isn’t something as mundane as a proper diet (my breakfast this morning? Deer jerky, a bowl of Frankenberry, and coffee). No, I’ve kept my streak through more esoteric measures.

Not puking is a mental thing. A mindset. But it’s also following a few commonsense steps when things go from good to uh-oh.

Like step one: pay attention. Be mindful of that little flutter in your gut. Stop what you’re doing and take stock. It may be a fluke, yes. But it may be something more, also. I’m convinced the vast majority of puking happens when people fail to heed the warning signs and only act when it’s too late.

If it isn’t a fluke and it really may be something more, then it’s on to step two: breathe. Nice, deep, even breaths into and then out the nose. Never through the mouth. I cannot emphasize this point enough. The last thing you want to be doing at that moment is opening your mouth.

Once your breathing is under control, you can move to your thoughts. That’s step three. The mind is an amazing creation, and whatever goes on in there affects the rest of you. Start thinking about peaceful things—mountains and flowers people laughing. Don’t think about oceans, though—too wavy. And for the love of all that is holy and good, don’t think about what might happen. That will ruin everything.

If you’re at step three and still feeling like the wave is building and the end is nigh, it’s time for step four: pray. Pray hard. Steps one through three have failed me through the years, but step four never has. God has always been my Pepto-Bismol.

I say all this because I was sick last week. Not please-God-kill-me sick, but more like you’d-better-slow-down sick. And even though things didn’t progress into a downward spiral of almost-yarking, I decided to follow the above guidelines anyway.

And you know what? It worked.

I’m thinking now of expanding those four rules and including them on the days I feel fine, too. No use to waste them when I’m sick.

I’m going to pay attention more. And when things start going from good to uh-oh, I’m going to stop and breathe.

I’m going to keep the good in my thoughts and not dwell on the bad.

And I’m going to pray. More and always.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at his blog What I Learned Today and follow him on twitter at @BillyCoffey

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