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Taking yourself seriously by Matt Appling

I’m excited to have Matt Appling from The Church of No People guest posting for me today.

Many of you already know Matt, especially all you folks who found your way over here via some snarky comment I left over at Stuff Christians Like.

For those of you who don’t already read Matt’s blog, I would highly recommend it. He blogs about the Church, culture and how the two often clash–always with a healthy dose of sarcasm, humor and intelligence. I appreciate Matt’s ability to act like a jerk even though he’s not. I think you’ll see what I mean…

Here’s Matt:

Hey everyone, I’m really excited to be a guest on Kathy’s blog today. She’s been a dedicated reader and encourager of mine for three years, and writing for her is way overdue.

So when she and I decided what I should write about for her, we thought of the most serious, solemn, amazingly mind-blowing topic we could think of…


Lots of people like to take themselves rather seriously. Most of us think pretty highly of ourselves, even if no one else does. And when you’re as drop dead awesome at everything as I am, it’s really hard not to take yourself seriously.

But, taking yourself really seriously has a few drawbacks. If you want to stroke your own ego at all times, there will be a few things you will have to give up…

Religion, Politics, and Pretty Much Everything

Everyone likes to toss around controversial topics and have some friendly banter, whether it’s politics, religion, scandals, philosophy, diets or whatever.

If you want to have a conversation, or blog about controversial things like I do, you’ll probably have to have some facts or logic up your sleeve. Facts and logic come naturally to me because I am a genius. If people agree with me, great. If I encounter the rare person who proves me wrong, I am eager to congratulate them.

However, if you lack the necessary mental skills needed to have an intelligent conversation, there is an alternative. You can just be a big fat blow-hard, barge into a conversation and assault everyone with your overwhelming belief that you should be taken seriously.

People like this are stuck in a vicious cycle. They groin-punch everyone else’s egos. People give up talking to them because they cannot be reasoned with. Thus, they feel they win every argument they start, so it encourages their behavior. Then they get a talk show contract with MSNBC or FoxNews.

You Got Served

In olden times (why it’s “olden” and not just “old,” I don’t know), it was a point of honor that once a conflict started, neither man backed down until they had dueled and one of them was dead.

Even though most gentlemen don’t duel with pistols anymore (fortunately) or wear handlebar mustaches or mutton chops (unfortunately), many of us still go through life thinking that it’s a point of honor that we never back down from a disagreement.

I’m pretty sure the first qualifications for landing a spot on reality TV is a big, fat ego, a propensity for starting conflict, and a complete lack of ability to resolve conflict. Oversized fake boobs are the second set of qualifications, because they always help people take a woman as seriously as she obviously thinks she deserves.

Of course, the more seriously you take yourself, the more impossible it is for you to back down from a conflict…even when the likelihood that you are right becomes more and more remote. Go ahead and keep insisting that you are “winning.” Everyone else knows the only thing you are winning at is being an ass.

Being In On the Joke

The funny thing about taking yourself super serious is that it’s a zero sum game. The more serious you are about yourself, the less seriously others will take you. People don’t make jokes about funny people. They make jokes about Americans, Asians, Polaks, Mexicans, Christians, Muslims, Al Gore, Charlie Sheen, and anyone else who thinks a bit too highly of themselves.

Rather than being respected, you will be alienated. Rather than being offered constructive advice, people will talk about you behind your back. Rather than laughing with you, people will laugh at you. The more seriously you want to be taken, the funnier you will be to others. The less you laugh at yourself or admit your mistakes, the more others will do it for you.

You can be serious about yourself all you want, but you can’t ever make other people be serious about you.

Tell us about someone – a boss, a friend, a relative you know who takes themselves way too seriously.

To read more from Matt Appling, head over to his blog The Church of No People and follow him on the twitter, @MattTCoNP.

In praise of the inbred hick (repost by Billy Coffey)

It’s been a very busy week in the non-virtual world for me with no time for writing. Here’s a post Billy Coffey wrote for me back in 2009. It’s a good ‘un:

image courtesy of

There are better things to be called than “an inbred hick,” and I had been called worse by many, but I had to admire the originality. And I wasn’t mad. The phrase was uttered with a sense of good-natured mockery common among friends in general and mine specifically. Especially the one who was not only a liberal, but also a Red Sox fan. I never said my friends were perfect.

This friend’s name? Dan. A truly brilliant man despite the fact I would never admit it to his face. Chair of the Asian Studies department at the college. Prolific author and lecturer. World traveler. Highbrow. All of which paints a pretty stark contrast to me. My only chair is the one in the living room, I am prolific only at spitting and shooting a bow, most of my travels are on dirt roads, and I am the very definition of lowbrow.

We have our differences, to be sure. And whenever we happen to bump into each other, we spend most of our time arguing over whose differences are right.

Like yesterday, for instance.

Dan brought me a souvenir from his latest trip to Japan—a fan with “Hanshin Tigers” printed on the front, along with a pretty ferocious looking cat.

“You should go with me one time,” he said after recapping his adventures. “Japanese baseball is great, and the Tigers have a good team this year. You need to see the world. You’re stuck here in this valley missing everything.”

“You’re only stuck if you can’t move,” I said, “I just don’t want to. And I’m not missing much. The world’s a crazy place. At least around here the crazy’s familiar.”

“There’s nothing here,” he said. “It’s all out there. The world’s passing you by. Your family’s been here how long?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I think we came with the Valley.”

“Exactly. Generations. As long as people can remember.”

“And that’s bad how?”

“You’re the product of centuries of people who refused to better themselves. Your life is no different than your great-grandfather’s and his great-grandfather’s.”

“So?” I asked.

“So you’re just an inbred hick. You could make yourself into a lot better person.”

The thought of making myself into a better person had never really crossed my mind, mostly because I’d always been pretty content with who I was. Then again, I’d never considered myself an inbred hick.

But my family has occupied this valley and the mountains surrounding it for centuries. Staying put in one place for so long tends to give you a sense of belonging. Of home. And though I would trade my mountains for the ocean any day, this place would always be home. There are a lot of my kin buried here in the Blue Ridge. I could wander away from those bones, but not for very long and not for very far.

So the inbred thing? True.

As for the “hick” part of that little insult, I’d have to say that was something Dan and his fellow urbanites just couldn’t understand. They’d never lived in the sticks, never spent much time with country folk, and so allowed their stereotypes to rule them.

Then again, all stereotypes are grounded in some semblance of truth.

It’s true, for instance, that one of my best Christmas presents last year was a bag of deer jerky and a jar of peach moonshine. And yes, some country folk live in trailers. By and large, “dressing up” means trading our faded jeans for dark ones. We are not generally well-educated. We do hunt and fish and ride four-wheelers. We live vicariously through Ric Flair and consider “Freebird” the real national anthem.

True. All true.

But there is more beneath the surface to life in the country. A lot.

Because to us, a trailer full of love is better than a castle full of discord.

And we’re not nearly as impressed with the clothes a person wears as we are with the person wearing the clothes.

We might not be able to split the atom, but we know what means much in life and what doesn’t.

We hunt and fish and grow our own groceries because food straight out of the dirt and the woods, sweetened with sweat and labor, tastes a lot better than what you can get at the store.

Our churches aren’t big, but they’re full. Our words are few, but they’re meaningful. We don’t want more of this world. We want less.

We are plain and simple people. People who will go hungry before letting our neighbors starve, drop whatever we’re doing to help a friend, and roam among the wild places to get a better glimpse of God.

The best people. My people.

Inbred hicks? Absolutely. Who could possibly want to be more?

To read more from inbred hick and writer extraordinaire Billy Coffey, visit him at

Lunch after the tsunami (by A Simple Country Girl)

image courtesy of A Simple Country Girl

For those of you who don’t know, Darlene aka A Simple Country Girl, is taking a break from posting at her blog Aspire to Lead a Quiet Life in order to recover from a back injury and concussion. She did, however, manage to write this short story and has been kind enough to allow me to share it here. Please pray for continued healing and REST for my dear friend. Thanks again, Darlene.

Lunch after the tsunami

I mix frozen apricots with honey, spices and the morning’s leftover oatmeal. I slide the pan into a preheated oven as split pea soup simmers low. Cabbage, red bell pepper, celery, tahini paste, olive oil, and teriyaki sauce marinate cold in the fridge. For lunch I eat this food with thanksgiving and guilt. I find that the two opposites coat my tongue as if I had shaken them in a jar like I do my homemade vinegar and oil dressing.

As I eat my flavorful, nutrient-dense meal, I wonder what nourishment, beyond that of calories, is found in rescue-worker handled, Japanese rice balls. I sip very hot soup from a small spoon. Do the tsunami survivors drink water that is lukewarm? If it’s not from a bottle, but perhaps from a swimming pool like I saw in that on-line image, do they drink it anyway?

How dare anyone, anywhere, complain about food too bland and then have the audacity to ask for Tabasco sauce when across the ocean blue a black-haired mother tries to remember her daughter’s face, the very smiling face she gently cupped in her hands as they touched noses. That beautiful face is one that the mother tries to remember before the earth broke loose and waves swallowed her kin wholly away. Who dares think of hot sauce while countless mothers heave with unimaginable loss?

image courtesy of A Simple Country Girl

I swipe at my face with a folded cloth napkin and I watch my son soak his bread heavy with split pea soup. As he crams his mouth full over and over again with lunch, I wonder how many people in Japan are saying prayers of thanksgiving over sticky balls of rice. Do they know the God of heaven and earth? Have they met Him on bended knees? Will they see miracles in the madness that will lead them to the cross of Calvary?

I pull the bubbly dessert from the oven and as the door snaps shut I doubt hard about having lead anyone to Christ.

Then I think of the mother whose grip slipped and I wonder, would I, a Christian woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, would I have tried to outrun the tsunami? Or would I have turned and faced it with screams of delight as it launched me into eternity? The taste of my apricot dessert soon fades because the flavors of thanksgiving and guilt are way too strong.

And I need a glass of water.

image courtesy of

Peace on Earth (by Sherri Murphy)

I’ve met a lot of wonderful people through blogging and social media, but there are a handful of people whom I’ve known almost as long as I’ve been blogging. This small group of “imaginary friends”, as Candy Steele’s husband Ron Burgandy calls us? Well, they are extremely special and very near and dear to my heart. Sherri Murphy is a charter member of this group. I tease her relentlessly, but only because I know I can get away with it. Also, she knows I love her.

Sherri is a motivational speaker and freelance writer. She is wife to Big Al and the mother of three very manly sons. Which I find incredibly ironic, since she’s probably the girliest girl I know. She once told me her sons would have preferred to have me as a mother. But I know that’s nonsense; they have the best mom they could hope for in Sherri. Also because, unlike Sherri, I’m way too young to have grown children. Snort! (I’m sorry, Sherri–I don’t know what it is. I just can’t help myself.) Anyway, here’s my friend Sherri with a beautiful Christmas story I hope you will all take to heart.

Peace on Earth
“Sherri. I need to talk to you…..Jordan’s joining the Army.”

My husband said this to me calmly, avoiding direct eye contact, merely looking in my general direction. He continued. “Now don’t get upset…he’s thought this through. Actually he’s been looking into for quite awhile. He’s smart-he’s not going to sign up officially until the position he wants is available…”

I think he continued to talk and tried to convince me that joining the Army was a good idea, but my mind immediately went to battle fields, and funerals and other horrors that war brings to the doorsteps of otherwise peace-loving families. I don’t remember his words after the initial statements. They really weren’t important. I began focusing on my words–the words I was planning to use to convince my son NOT to sign on the dotted line and allow Uncle Sam to dictate the next several years of his life.(I hated to even refer to him as “Uncle” because I did not want Sam to be considered a part of my family.)

My husband and I have reared three boys, and I will admit, it has always been a secret fear of mine that one of them would fight in a war. When those smooth-talking recruiters would call our home and ask to speak with one of them, I would kindly thank them for their service to our country, but would inform them that I would not be forwarding the message on to my son. I don’t think they really knew how to respond to me, but I was not concerned. I tried to block their attempts of reaching any of my sons and luring them in with promises and grandiose offers that would be too good for an 18 -year- old boy to refuse. It worked… For awhile anyway.

Unbeknownst to me, my 23 -year -old son, a talented photographer/graphic artist who also loved to compete in Mixed Martial Arts (“cage fighting” for those who aren’t familiar with MMA), was feeling very unfulfilled, and had been exploring different avenues for his future. One particular position in the Army was appealing to him, as was the the desire to become a part of something larger than himself. He waited until the position came open, and began the process to fulfill his heart’s desire; to serve our country and use his gifts at the same time.

We threw a big shindig for our middle son, to honor his departure from life as a civilian into the life as property of the US Army–we invited his friends and our friends and family, as we gave him our “blessing” (mine was a bit forced) and offered prayers, and hugs and words of encouragement.

It wasn’t until later that evening, as the guests had said their last goodbyes and he was standing proudly within a small group of his closest friends, that it really dawned on me–my world as I knew it, was about to drastically change. I walked over to give him a hug and I began crying uncontrollably. He held me even closer, and offered a tighter hug of consolation, but even he knew there were no words–not his, nor mine that could ease my mind. We just stood there holding each other.

I finally dragged myself to the car and went home. As I walked inside my house, my legs were as heavy as my heart and I found it difficult to climb the top of the stairs to my bedroom.

When I finally was able to lay my head on my pillow, I began what would become a daily ritual–a prayer for peace. I prayed for peace for Jordan- that no matter what he was asked to face, endure or accomplish, he would feel peace inside- that powerful peace that only God could give. Peace that has nothing to do with the circumstances surounding him. I asked for peace for my own soul that knew I could not live in a state of fear and panic throughout his time in the Army. And peace for the troops already serving in various parts of our world- some in the line of danger, some protecting the peace that has recently come to an area. That word continued to return to my lips—PEACE.

The following day we traveled to St. Louis to witness his “swearing in” and we were allowed to take photos and enjoy a nice lunch and conversation before leaving him behind as he later traveled to his destination, Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. to begin his 10 week basic training. I gave him a letter with several prayers that I would be praying, beginning with a prayer for peace. I told him I would write to him everyday.He smiled. He knew I would keep my word. We hugged him, held him, told him how proud we were of him. He smiled and assured us that he would be fine. Then he left.

The ride home in the car was nearly silent, as his Father and I were surely playing out different scenarios in our heads. His were more than likely full of pride with a bit of reservation – mine filled with much reservation and a bit of pride. I didn’t have much of an appetitie over the next few days as I knew a child I loved would soon be experiencing the wrath of angry drill sergeants that would be bound and determined to make an ARMY STRONG man out of my son in just a couple of months. I feared he would be homesick, or have regrets or get hurt.

I continued to pray. “Peace to Jordan- God, let him feel your presence. Whatever he is going through- let him feel your peace.”

I knew from my own experience, that if I could feel peace, I could handle anything. And often, the mental anguish I would experience was sometimes much worse than anything I was asked to walk through. So I asked, pleaded, and yes, begged God to allow him to feel that peace for himself.

One of his very first letters home was a literal gift to this mother’s soul. I tore open the blue-grey Army stationary and while my heart beat wildly anticipating his words, I felt a calm come over me that really has not left in nearly two months. In his letter , he wrote about his experience in the gas chamber. The dreaded gas chamber. It mattered not if they were the strongest in the platoon,nor did their age or gender become a factor, the gas chamber had no mercy on its visitors. They all dreaded this visit. The gas burns the eyes, nose, mouth and skin, and causes extreme nausea.. No one exits this building without the same effects. As I read the words he penned, I cried…but this time, they were tears of joy.

“Mom, you know that peace that you pray for me to receive? Well, I have received it. Even before I went into the gas chamber, I felt totally calm and collected. I think it was good for those around me to see someone like that. They needed to see someone with courage. I think it helped them.”

He went on to share his excitement in learning new things including firing many different weapons, including a bazooka and grenades, that he had only seen in movies. He described treacherous obstacle courses that he excelled in completing, ranking as #2 in a battalion of 200. He told many stories of the devotion and camaraderie of his fellow members of the WARLORD platoon-stories that made my heart swell with gratitude. He also shared about his sore feet, sore throat and aching body, however, he assured me that the good far outweighed the bad. As an artist, he even sent a funny cartoon of his experience of three drill sergeants at once screaming in his face while he was only allowed to answer “Yes, Drill Sergeant!” while never making eye contact. He even likes the food!

I can sense the pride in what he has been able to achieve in such a small amount of time. I can also recognize the growth–the transformation from a young man into an Army Man.

“I love who I am becoming as a person. My buddy and I always talk about how this is making us better people. Inwardly, I am growing and strengthening daily, and the Lord is more evident than ever. I am so glad I followed my heart on making this decision. ARMY…one of the best things I’ve been through.”

No other words could have been more comforting to this mother’s heart. God had heard my prayers. He sent His peace to earth again. Just as did over 2000 years ago.

My prayers for peace will continue to be offered on behalf of my son regardless where his Army service takes him, and I know how powerful that peace will be. I will pray for the peace of all the soldiers serving their country in many areas around the globe, and also for their families whose hearts weigh heavy with worry and fear regarding their safety.

As I read the Christmas story again this year, yet another meaning will spring from the pages of the New Testament from the pen of the disciple Luke. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, PEACE, goodwill toward men.”

This is my prayer. May one and all find the peace of God.

Have a wonderful peaceful Christmas.

To read more from Sherri Murphy, visit her at her blog, Matter of Fact, follow her on twitter @gabbysherri, and check out her Facebook page Murphy’s Law.

How to Write a Book This Year (by Ed Cyzewski)

Yesterday I linked a series of posts by Ed Cyzewski. Today’s guest post was written by Ed. I didn’t plan it that way, it just sort of worked out. For those of you unfamiliar with him, Ed Cyzewski is a freelance writer in Connecticut of all places. He is the author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life, and he blogs on Christian living and theology at and on writing at You can also follow him on Twitter: @edcyzewski.

He’s also written a book about writing and publishing, and he’s been kind enough to share some of his insights on my blog today. Here’s Ed:

How to Write a Book This Year
After the streamers are cleaned up and you’ve discovered that flat champagne doesn’t do much for orange juice in the morning, you’ll have a new year on your hands come January first along with that nagging thought at the back of your mind: Is this the year to write that book?

Perhaps you’ve been toying with it for years. Maybe you have it outlined but haven’t dared to start writing. And then again, it may be your dark secret.

I may be biased because I write for a living, but I think that now is the perfect time to start writing that book. In fact, why not make it your resolution for the new year? Whether you self-publish, target a small press, or take the plunge by submitting your book to an agent, here are some tips on tackling that book project in 2011 and persevering to the end.

Manage Your Expectations
Don’t expect a New York Times bestseller to tap its way onto your keyboard the first time you sit down to write. Writing is a process that requires a series of drafts. Just focus on defining your book’s main idea/story line, creating a simple outline, and then starting with what you can.

You may imagine scowling literary agents or have visions of huge advance checks dancing into your bank account. Neither is typical for the majority of writers. Just make sure you love what you’re writing and remain open to whatever good things come as your book develops.

Set Realistic Goals
Every writing project requires small, manageable goals, and this is especially true for a book. Whether you’re writing a 50,000 word nonfiction book or a 100,000 word novel, plan to write for set periods of time with specific word count goals.

If you have a day job, aim for 500-1,000 words during weekdays, and then set a more ambitious goal for one of the days during the weekend, such as 3,000 to 5,000 words. Without setting too furious a pace, you’ll be able to pound out a complete first draft in a few months or at least by the time December 2011 rolls around.

Create New Routines
The key to sustaining a high creative output is determining when and where you write the best. If you can’t find a quiet corner at your home, seek out a library where you can focus.

In my own case, I need to leave the house early in the morning and stake out a spot in a cafe where I can sit among other creative types. The noise of the crowd serves as a welcome backdrop.

Though there are a few exceptions, most writers work best in the morning or evening, but rarely in the afternoon. Unless you’re one of the exceptions, avoid this creative black hole at all costs.

Seek Accountability
While writing is generally a lonely pursuit where you and you alone are responsible for shaping your story, there is nothing more motivating than a writing group. When you need to share with others, you’ll be far more likely to persevere through dry spells, even if each sentence isn’t coming out perfect.

However, there is another option, especially for nonfiction authors: blogging on a regular basis. Most books pass through a number of revisions, if not major overhauls before they are published. A blog is a great place where you can develop your voice, learn to write for a specific audience, test ideas, and find the accountability you need to write daily.

The second and third drafts are where you can make your book shine. After finishing your first draft, take a week or two off from working on that particular book. I suggest picking up the latest issue of Writer’s Digest or a book on how to improve your craft such as Writing Fiction by Gary Disher or On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

When you do sit down to revise your book, ask hard questions about your main ideas, storyline, and characters. Make sure your scenes or main ideas build upon each other so that each new chapter fits with the one preceding it.

Improve your word choice, especially your verbs, and analyze the ways you both begin and end chapters. This is the time to make sure your book doesn’t have any holes that could throw off your readers.

Celebrate Milestones
Whether you’ve completed a first draft, received your first rejection letter from an agent, or inked a book deal, take the time to savor each accomplishment along the way. Writing a book is demanding, but there are few better feelings than typing the last word of a long, long journey.

I could share a lot more about writing a book, and in fact, I did just that. You can read more about publishing in my book: A Path to Publishing: What I Learned by Publishing a Nonfiction Book.

“I haven’t seen a single more helpful resource for writers hoping to enter the publishing fray”Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent, WordServe Literary Group

On Perspective (by Tony Alicea)

Today’s guest post comes from Tony Alicea, who I connected with on the twitter.

Tony is a budding writer that loves technology, grandiloquent words, long walks on the beach and freshly ground Guatemalan coffee. His passion is to tell others about their identity in Christ.

Not only is a he wonderful writer, but based on his writing and my interactions with him, it’s evident that he loves God and loves people. Besides, he’s a fan of Seinfeld and The Office. Clearly he’s a man of refined tastes. I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I have.

Here’s Tony on perspective:
Perspective is an ever-changing reality. It frames our picture, adjusts our lenses and it creates our filters. We use it to define everything from relationships to space and time.

Sometimes a minor shift in perspective, will open up a completely new reality. Adjusting the lens just slightly, opens up an entirely different view. What looked impossible, now seems possible. What looked uninteresting, becomes fascinating. What sounded like noise, becomes melodious.

Blessed is she who clearly sees the wood for the trees.
To obtain a ‘bird’s eye’ is to turn a blizzard into a breeze. ~Brandon Boyd

Perspective does not define truth, but it will shape how you receive truth. Your perspective is limited to your experience. Your experience determines the level of truth you can comprehend.

You can take a concept such as grace, for example. You can believe in grace. You can quote the definition. You can tell others about it. But if you never receive it from another person, your perspective on the scope of grace is limited to an abstract concept.

It takes an experience to shift your perspective. You cheat. You lie. You fall. You fail…miserably. Then the result you’ve encountered up to that point (condemnation, disappointment, abandonment) doesn’t come. You receive words of hope. You receive forgiveness. You receive something you don’t deserve. You experience grace.

You are pulled back and you see a larger part of the picture. The unending trees open up to a clearing. The fierce whirlwind becomes a gentle breeze. Despair turns into hope. All due to a shift in perspective, an experiential alteration of your entire paradigm.

Every time I put God in a box, He shifts my perspective. It doesn’t mean that the truth of who He is changes; it just means that my limited comprehension of truth gets enhanced by a new experience. It is an enchanting mystery of an ever-expanding reality.

I am now wary of explaining God succinctly. I don’t box Him into a theology that defines exactly what He will do and how He will do it. That doesn’t change the fact that His truth is constant. It simply provides room for the mystery and recognition that I haven’t and won’t experience every aspect of my prodigious God.

Perspective is realizing that possessing the truth doesn’t mean you have all the answers, but knowing that you can trust in the One that does.

To read more from Tony Alicea, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @TonyJAlicea.

Trainy’s possums (by Kely Braswell)

Hey y’all! After a break from my regular Wednesday guest posts, I’m bringing them back starting today.

Today’s guest blogger is Kely Braswell, aka @kelybreez. Kely is a husband, father of 6, church planter, writer, reader, runner and sports enthusiast. He lives in Eastern Tennessee, but is originally from Texas. While his blog Dangerous Breeze is relatively new to the blogosphere, don’t let that fool you. He’s an experienced writer who knows how to tell a story. I suspect you’ll be hearing much more from him in the future.

In the following short story, there is mention of a ferret in a dishwasher. To read the rest of that story, be sure to visit Kely’s blog today.

Trainy’s possums

image courtesy of

I was sitting in the living room chair, the one with flowers all over it in a hundred and twenty colors, except the whole thing had a distinct tan hue to it – from me sitting in it every day when I got home from running, no doubt, just like right now.

“Truman Able, I told you a thousand times not to sit in that chair after you run. You’re drippin’ sweat and you’re ruinin’ my chair!”

I got up and laid on the floor, which I hated to do, because the carpet left three inch green fuzzes all over me. Plus, it smelled like carpet that had been around for twenty-five years, which is exactly how long it had been around. Which is why it smelled that way.

The back door popped open, and there stood my brother Trainy. Two and a half years younger and six and a half inches taller than me, a baby possum on top of his head, and another standing up on his shoulder, getting a grip on the hair at the side of Trainy’s head, what was left of it. Trainy loved that about those possums. You could put them on your foot, and they would slowly scratch and claw the full reach of your body until they were resting contentedly on top of your head.

“How’re the possums, Tra?” He looked at me. He didn’t talk much, ever. But even less now.

“Fine, Stupid.”

“Trainy, don’t call your brother Stupid.” Mama said, that resigned sound in her voice, knowing another remark was coming, more than likely.

“Okay,” Trainy smirked. He looked back at me as he walked past. The possum on his shoulder got two fistfuls of hair and began ascending to join his sibling perched on top.

“Fine, Doofus.”

Mama rolled her eyes and sighed. It wasn’t fair that she had to raise two smart alecks and an accidental menagerie at the same time. Nothing was fair. “What am I gonna feed those stupid possums you found, Trainy? Why do you always bring home more animals?”

“Don’t call them stupid, Mama,” he said as he disappeared into his room.

Mama looked at me and sighed, yet again.


The next morning I went running again. I went running every morning.

It was cool, but I was still sweating buckets when I walked in the back door, shirtless, one embarrassingly short pair of vee-notched running shorts the only thing between me and indecent exposure. I was training for the State Track Meet.

But I wasn’t training in CPR for possums.

All I heard when I came in the back door was the saddest tone in my mama’s voice as she plaintively wailed out, “Oh, Tru!” The light was on in the hall bathroom; that’s where her voice came from.

I began to see the tragedy as I turned the corner. Mama’s back was to me. One baby possum was backed up in the corner between the wall and the bathroom, hissing at me.

“Truman, did you forget to put the lid down?”

“I don’t know, Mama, I was asleep when I left this mornin’. It’s dark this time of year.”

“Truman, you’ve drownded him, sure as thunder in April! Look at ‘im, so pitiful in there.” The sadness in Mama’s voice kind of rattled me.

In the commode was a small, gray body floating face down in the water, its little limbs splayed out flat on the surface of the water, its tail lying in a curve up the side of the bowl. His long snout was submerged.

I felt terrible. What was Trainy going to do when he found out I had killed one of his new possums? He’d only had them a few days.

“Move over, Mama, you’re standing there like a goldurn mule in front of the first row. I gotta get ‘im outta there.”

I reached in and put my hand around the little body. I was shocked at how firm his little belly felt. He must have swallowed a lot of water as he kicked and swam and fought to scramble up the slick sides of that bowl.

I knelt down there, and I laid him on his side in the bathroom floor, between my knees, and I said, “Mama, now you pray, just like you did the time you realized you’d washed the ferret in the dishwasher.”

“My prayers didn’t work that time, Tru. I don’t think they work for anything.” But we didn’t have time for theological oppressions right then.

“I know, Mama, but pray anyway. We got another animal casualty on our hands, and with Trainy slippin’ away a little more each day, I don’t want him to have to face this grief.”

Mama prayed and I turned the miniature marsupial on his side. I began to stroke, massaging from the bottom up, along his belly and chest, in a repeated, rhythmic motion designed (hopefully) to accomplish something. I picked him up by the tail and shook. I laid him back down and started chest compressions again.

We waited, and Mama looked heavenward.

And the little thing moved, almost imperceptibly. A whole bunch of water came flowing out his nostrils, and a little possum cough escaped his throat. I kept up the lifesaving massage for a few seconds more, while he regained the use of his legs. He turned his head and looked at me, I swear he did, and then he sluggishly walked over to my foot and began to climb, using the hair on my leg, until he reached the top of my head.

Mama laughed and laughed, and big tears streamed down her face, way more than were absolutely necessary for the salvation of a possum. “Oh, let’s don’t tell Trainy anything about this, okay? Ya hear me, Tru? Not a word. He don’t need this.”

Trainy sure loved his animals.


Those two possums entered the lore of our family. We still tell the story of the day I performed Possum CPR and saved Boaz’ life. They were with us, Boaz and Jachin – Trainy named them as a joke one night when we were reading in the Kings out loud together. We kept them for several months.

But we couldn’t keep Trainy. He quietly slipped away from us in the middle of the night. Like I said, he was always quiet. We didn’t know he was gone till I got back from running that morning and turned on the light in our room to wake him up for school. And there he was, just lying there in his bed, looking for all the world like he was asleep, a possum under each arm.

I finally just took those possums one late afternoon and set them on top of his headstone. I figured, with as much time as they had spent on top of his head when they were babies, it was an appropriate place.

I watched as they skittered around on top for a minute, sniffing. Finally each fell off onto the ground, and unceremoniously disappeared into the woods at the edge of the cemetery.

Pride will literally make you fall (by Michael Perkins)

Today’s guest blogger is Michael Perkins, who is a self-described ordinary guy who serves an extraordinary God. To read more from Michael, you can read his blog, Untitled and follow him on twitter @MichaelDPerkins

While in high school, I was recruited heavily by pro and college baseball scouts. I desperately wanted to impress these scouts because I desperately wanted to play professionally. If I knew a scout was going to be at the game, I would do my best to look cool and try hard. Because I was prideful.

The summer going into my senior year was a busy one. I was playing in tournaments all across Ohio. There were a lot of scouts at these tournaments. At one tournament, we played a team whose pitcher had at least 15 scouts watching him pitch. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to shine in front of them. When it was my turn to bat, I literally strutted up to the batter’s box, making sure that everyone saw me. Once in the box, I waited for the pitcher to throw something I could hit hard.

Well, I did hit a pitch hard. As I was running to first base, I thought about the scouts watching me. I wanted to impress them, so I ran harder and tried to look cool doing it. This was not a good combination. I literally fell right on my face in front of a stadium full of people, including the 15 scouts. I was so humiliated.

Jeremiah 50:32a says, “The arrogant one will stumble and fall and no one will help her up;”

I read that verse the other day and was immediately reminded of trying to impress those scouts.
Because of my pride.
All through my life, I have tried to impress people.
Because of my pride.
I have tried to impress them with my athletic ability.
Because of my pride.
I have tried to impress people with my intelligence.
Because of my pride.
I have tried to impress people with my charm.
Because of my pride.
I have tried to impress people with my sense of humor.
Because of my pride.
I have tried to impress people…
If there was anything that I could try and do to impress someone, I am sure that I have done it.
And when I try to impress people instead of being humble, I typically fall on my face.

Have you ever fallen down because of pride or arrogance?

A Simple Country Girl (by Darlene)

If you knew me in high school, you would know not to ask what group I hung out with. I actually pretty much hated high school because everyone felt the need to belong to a group and not venture outside the confines of said group. I don’t like groups of people, I like individuals. But I’m pretty sure if Darlene and I had gone to high school together, we’d have been great friends, and probably gotten into all sorts of trouble together. Because for me, the best character trait a person can have is honesty–with themselves and with others. For those of you who don’t already know her, I am very pleased to introduce Darlene, a simple country girl:

If you don’t recognize me, I am the one who creates a lot of gray space in the comment sections here. Meaning I have a tendency to ramble on and on. Katdish just does that to me. I can only imagine that had we been friends in my small town, north Idaho high school, I would not have been alone climbing out the window during Spanish class. I mean really, the room was packed like fish in a can and oftentimes smelled like it too. Sometimes a girl just needed some fresh air…

Like the freedom I inhaled once I escaped the confines of an overcrowded classroom, Katdish (unknowingly) has helped me break loose of self-imposed blog mould I used to confine myself to as a writer, a storyteller, a patriot, and a child of God. Thank you for helping me be the wiggly blob of Jell-O I always knew I could be. She shares in ways that are real, biting through the fluff and fancy. And in doing so, she reminds me of me.

It can be a bit daunting when perusing in the Land of Blog. Over the last couple of years I have discovered some wonderful writers and so many refined and intelligent Christian women who really seem put-together, both spiritually and technologically. Uh, I am just a simple country girl who drives a beat-up Dodge pick-up truck and I used to live in a trailer, not once, but twice. Besides that, I wasn’t born into a Christian family and I don’t know the order of the books in the Bible. In fact, I struggle daily with dying to the very sin-filled self I made for the thirty-one years prior to meeting the Lord.

In addition, I have a really sorted and stained past…in school I wore mini-skirts and had really short, spiky hair. I had a potty mouth that would make a sailor blush. I used my fists to get my revenge after someone popped me in the face. And I did the same to the boy who abused my sister, plus I spit on him. I used to walk into a bar and come sliding out on my lips. So, what do I have to contribute in a place filled with personalized web sites, accounts that tweet, and blogs with followers? Truth be told, the answer is “not a whole lot,” unless God is holding my hand and showing me the way. His way.

My walk with the Lord began about seven years ago while pregnant with my son. Like most adults, I came into a relationship with Christ, not empty-handed, but holding tight to suitcases packed full of mistakes, regrets, and despair. Up until December of last year I had a story that wasn’t aired. Folks just don’t hang out their dirty laundry for the entire town to see, right? But when God handed me the basket of clothes that He washed Himself, I had no choice but to grab the clothespins and dangle the garments from the line. And to stand in my driveway with a sign, welcoming others to do the same.

Healing Hearts, Renewing Minds is a place inspired by God out of a very wounded woman’s past. My past. I spent twenty-two years heavy-laden with guilt, pain, and shame due to a teenage abortion. Oh, I never really expected to be healed of that wrenching heartbreak and the deep-rooted pain, shame, and unforgiveness. Actually, it all practically strangled me. Thankfully when I started walking with the Lord, He had other plans…

Friends, if you have any dirty laundry that you keep tucked into the hidden compartment of your life suitcases, I pray that you would meet God at the cross and hand it all to Him. His washing machine is really big and He guarantees complete sin-stain removal. If you just want a place where you can soak in some waters of Truth or some hearts to join yours in healing, stop by. I would be honored to hang your clothes next to mine.

Oops. Sorry. Scooch over just a bit, please. I need some room for my soapbox. I urge you to get out from behind the bushes and take a righteous stand in the political arena. Despite what any current bigwig says, men of God built America’s foundation upon Biblical principles. Folks, in these corrupt and challenging times we need more righteous men and women to stand-up, speak out, and yes, thump God’s good Word. After all, in Psalms 82 in the New King James Version, God calls us to “Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy” (v. 3) and to “Deliver the poor and needy; Free them from the hand of the wicked” (v.4). Our Creator most certainly doesn’t call us to sit on our phone-dialing fingers or stuff our letter-writing hands deep into our pockets while our God-given life and liberties are twisted into a moral-less mockery. Please do all you can.

I will continue to cut the fluff and share bits and pieces of my simple country life, even if that means airing my laundry on the Land of Blog’s clothesline. Thank you miss Katdish for showing me that is okay to be tough and gentle, that it is fine to be serious and funny.

Finally I know the Truth, it is best to be a real woman and a forgiven daughter of God.

* You can find more of A Simple Country Girl at Aspire to Lead a Quiet Life where she writes and posts photographs. She is also the founder of two ministries. Healing Hearts, Renewing Minds, a post-abortion ministry site and For the Least of These, an international photography ministry that financially supports orphans in Uganda. But what really floats her boat the most is being a child of God, a wife and a mother. Do be careful though because she also likes to laugh until tea spurts out of her nose.

Going deep (by Kirsten Nilsen)

I am very pleased to introduce today’s guest blogger. For those of you who haven’t already happened upon her blog, Nilsen Life, I would highly recommend it. Many of the folks I’ve asked to guest post for me have been writing most of their lives. Kirsten, like me, has only recently discovered a love of writing. But you’d never know it by reading her work.

She’s good, y’all:

Kirsten Nilsen has long called herself a traveller, an observer, even a thinker but only recently figured out that she could also call herself a writer. She looks for meaning in the mundane, sometimes uses gratuitously big words and loves a good Wayne’s World quote. She loves a good joke, a powerful image, a precise phrase, and regularly finds examples of all of these in the amazing & often overwhelming world that is the Interweb. She fell into blogging by accident, and has been working her way backwards ever since.

The water simmers in the summer heat, so when you wade in, the first few steps through the murky pond water feel uncomfortably swamp-like. But just as you reach the point where your feet lift off the muddy bottom, you begin to feel the delicious swirls of cool dark water, mixing with the squelching mud. You strike out for the middle – alternating strong crawl strokes with sneaky head-just-above water breast stroke – until you reach the very center.

Far away you see your grandfather squinting out at you, wondering if he should call you back, but somehow aware that his twelve year old granddaughter knows her limits. The powerlines hum and crackle overhead, and the heat shimmers over the treeline of the mountains around you.

Once you are as far as possible from the shore, the trick is to jackknife your body and dive straight for the bottom – you know you can’t reach it, but know also that diving down…..down…..down you’ll finally reach the icy currents at the bottom of the pond.

In the water, your senses are assaulted by the sting of almost-freezing temperatures on your toes, even whilst you look up and see the rays of hot July sun pierce the green water. It feels like hours, spent diving and floating, floating and diving. Snatches of conversation float out over the water – someone asks the grandfather if he isn’t worried, worried about the girl floating in the water all the long hot afternoon. No, he laughs. No – that girl knows exactly where she is.

At twelve you haven’t grasped the the symbolism of suspending yourself in the depths. At twelve you can’t articulate the magnetic draw of the water – the elemental appeal of submersion. But what you do know at twelve is that you have struck out on your own – you’ve been given the freedom to go to the depths, with unwavering confidence in your ability to return to the surface.

Perhaps an indulgent grandfather had no way of knowing the profound memory he created that day. But never once has that swimmer entered the water without remembering the day she was allowed to go deep.


To read more from Kirsten Nilsen, visit her at her blog Nilsen Life and follow her on twitter at @NilsenLife

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