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The bucket (of rocks) list (repost)

This post was originally published here on April 9, 2009.

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The following was written by my friend and pastor, Jeff Hogan. He shared this story with us yesterday morning.

The sun was shining, and I was surprised at how warm I was getting. It was not particularly hot, but my load was heavy and awkward. About halfway up the hill, we paused for a moment on the gravel road and I turned to take in the view behind me.

Looking out past miles of pasture and grassland, my eyes met the horizon and fixed on the mountains that stretched out as far as I could see in either direction. Turning back to our burdens, we started again up the hill.

When we had gone as far as the road could take us, we negotiated a small culvert and continued on across country. The buckets made it difficult to traverse the steep incline of the hill, but by now the destination was only a few minutes away. As we neared the top of the bluff, I thought about the objects I was transporting.

I had only chosen a few rocks, but they were significant. Most of them were pretty close in size and weight, but had specific physical characteristics. For example, one was really rough and abrasive- like sandpaper. Another was quite attractive on one side, and black on the other. Every new rock caused me to consider the instructions that were given concerning their selection: “Each should represent a deep hurt someone has inflicted on you; a wound that you continue to carry.”

Every new rock made the lesson sink in more deeply.

My final selection was unique. It was a wound that I had carried around for a very long time. No, it was actually several wounds that were all joined together with the common thread of one relationship. I knew it as soon as I saw it. Large, angular and sharp, this rock was as awkward and unattractive as the hurt that it represented.

“That thing doesn’t even fit right in your bucket,” Tamara said. “Are you sure you want to carry it all the way up the hill?”

She was right. This one rock was as heavy as all the others combined. And since the diameter of my 5 gallon bucket wouldn’t accept all of the lopsided mass, adding it made the whole load awkward and top-heavy. But that was precisely the point. I didn’t want to carry its weight, but I already was.

It was perfect.

We arrived at the top of the bluff, set our buckets down, and peered over the edge of the cliff. The path we followed on our ascent had circled around so that we could see the mountains again. We could also see where we had begun. Ironically, although we now stood 40-50 feet above it, we really weren’t too far away from our starting point. Had we not been carrying the stones, we could easily have made the same journey in less than half the time.

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22 NIV).”

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:24-26 NIV).”

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12 NIV).”

We just stood silently for a few minutes, looking at the mountains and enjoying the cool October breeze.

Then one by one, we took turns throwing our rocks off the cliff.

With each toss, we expressed to God that we had forgiven the one who hurt us so deeply, and surrendered the burden of the wound to Him.

When I got to my last rock- the big one- I stopped and prayed, “Lord, I’ve carried this burden around for so long that it feels like a part me. But I don’t want it, and I never did. I am surrendering everything about the situation to You, including the person.

After hurling it over the side, I watched as my rock landed on an even larger one at the bottom of the cliff and was broken.

When we can’t forgive, we load ourselves down with burdens that can be much heavier than a bucket full of big rocks. If you’re carrying a weight like this around, take it to the cross and let it go.

Life is better with an empty bucket.


In Him We Live,


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One Word Wednesday: Swagger

Okay, y’all. Just for fun…

TV Characters with Swagger (in no particular order):

Jack Bauer (

Sawyer (

Seely Booth (

Raylan Givens (

Peter Bishop (

Shawn and Gus (

Michael Weston (

I can’t define it. I just know when I see it.

Who’d I miss?

So, you want a blog makeover?

Last Friday, Peter Pollock and I announced that we are giving away 3 fabulous prizes:

3rd prize: One year of free blog hosting + a standard license for Standard Theme

2nd place prize: One year of free blog hosting, a domain name (.com or .net) and a standard licence for Standard Theme

1st place prize: One year of free blog hosting, a domain name (.com or .net), a standard licence for Standard Theme plus site design by @Katdish and Peter Pollock

Total value of all prizes: $775

For those of you who missed it, you can enter here and here.

For those of you who REALLY would like to increase your chances of winning, here’s another opportunity to do so. Write a blog post on your current blog and plead your case, then link the post back here by February 27, 2010.

For your efforts, you will be given 5 additional entries into the drawing.

Best of luck to you all. And as with all my giveaways: Please, no wagering…

Yep. I’m posting this again…

Because someone will happen across my blog today that desperately needs to hear what Brennan Manning has to say here. Even if you’ve seen it before, I invite you to watch it again. You may even believe it this time.

Brennan Manning said:

The Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question and only one question: Do you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day? That I longed to hear the sound of your voice?

The real believers there will answer, “Yes, Jesus. I believed in your love and I tried to shape my life as a response to it. But many of us who are so faithful in our ministry, in our practice, in our church going are going to have to reply, “Well frankly, no sir. I mean, I never really believed it. I mean, I heard alot of wonderful sermons and teachings about it. In fact I gave quite a few myself. But I always knew that that was just a way of speaking; a kindly lie, some Christian’s pious pat on the back to cheer me on. And there’s the difference between the real believers and the nominal Christians that are found in our churches across the land. No one can measure like a believer the depth and the intensity of God’s love. But at the same time, no one can measure like a believer the effectiveness of our gloom, pessimism, low self-esteem, self-hatred and despair that block God’s way to us. Do you see why it is so important to lay hold of this basic truth of our faith? Because you’re only going to be as big as your own concept of God.

Do you remember the famous line of the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal? “God made man in his own image, and man returned the compliment”? We often make God in our own image, and He winds up to be as fussy, rude, narrow minded, legalistic, judgemental, unforgiving, unloving as we are.

In the past couple of three years I have preached the gospel to the financial community in Wallstreet, New York City, the airmen and women of the air force academy in Colorado Springs, a thousand positions in Nairobi. I’ve been in churches in Bangor, Maine, Miami, Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle, San Diego. And honest, the god of so many Christians I meet is a god who is too small for me. Because he is not the God of the Word, he is not the God revealed by it in Jesus Christ who this moment comes right to your seat and says, “I have a word for you. I know your whole life story. I know every skeleton in your closet. I know every moment of sin, shame, dishonesty and degraded love that has darkened your past. Right now I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship. And my word is this: I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are, and not as you should be. Because you’re never going to be as you should be.”

Do you believe that He loves you?

The Rainbow Fish revisited (Part Two)

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In my last post, I gave an abbreviated version of Marcus Pfister’s classic children’s book, The Rainbow Fish, and mentioned that there was something about that story that never sat right with me. If you don’t know the story, you can read it here.

Today, I will share my version of what the rest of this story might be…or not.


As the Rainbow Fish was swimming around with his new friends, he noticed a blue fish without a shining scale. “Who is that fish?”, he asked one of his new friends. “Oh, that’s Seymour. He didn’t get a shiny scale from you.”

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Rainbow Fish frowned. “Perhaps I should give him my last shining scale”, he said.

“If you give away your last scale, there would be nothing special about you. Besides, Seymour said he didn’t want a shiny scale. He’s happy being a plain, old blue fish. Come play!”, said the blue fish with the shiny scale.

But Rainbow Fish was confused and curious why Seymour would refuse his gift of a shimmering scale and the chance to be beautiful like all the other fish. He left his new friends and swam towards Seymour.

“Hello, Seymour. My name is Rainbow Fish. Little Blue tells me you didn’t want a shimmering scale like the others. Do you not find them beautiful?”

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“Oh, yes”, said Seymour. “They are quite beautiful. I often admired your beauty before you gave them away to the other fish. Now I am wondering why you chose to give them away.”

The Rainbow Fish replied, “Those beautiful scales made me miserable and lonely. None of the other fish would play with me. So I took the advice of the wise octopus who told me to give them away. Now I am happy.”

“Was it the scales that made you miserable, or was it your vanity?”, asked Seymour. “You seemed to be happy until the other fish shunned you for not sharing your scales. Your beauty’s reward was the attention of the other fish. Once that was gone, you could no longer find worth in beauty alone.”

“But when I gave my scales away, I gave the opportunity for all the fish to be beautiful, and they loved me for it.”

“Do you think the other fish would be your friend if you hadn’t given away your scales to them? Is their friendship based on what you provided for them?”

“That I can’t answer”, said the Rainbow Fish. “But I’m happy I gave them my scales. Now we all are equally beautiful. But I still don’t understand why you refused a scale for yourself. Don’t you want to join us? To be beautiful, too?”

“To be honest, I did want a scale. Who would refuse such a beautiful gift? But as I was waiting my turn to receive a shiny scale, I observed each of the fish after they received theirs.

Little Blue, who had always displayed leadership and a quick mind, seemed to abandon his role as leader, so enamoured was he with his new found beauty. Mariel, who once filled the ocean with her beautiful voice, stopped singing and instead joined the shiny, shimmering dance of the other fish. Each fish, who had something special to offer forgot about their own gift in pursuit of what someone else possessed that they did not.

I may not be beautiful, but I am very agile and fast. This is my gift, and I am grateful for it. Your gift was your beauty, and while you are still beautiful, no more so than anyone else. What sets you apart now?”, asked Seymour.

“I suppose my generosity sets me apart.” said Rainbow Fish.

“You gave away your scales in return for friendship. You traded your vanity for acceptance. True friends would not require payment for their friendship”, said Seymour.

The Rainbow Fish was sad, but very grateful for Seymour’s honesty.

“I am going to talk to the other fish. I will not ask them to return my scales, but I am going to ask them to remember all the ways they are special and encourage them to use the gifts they have been blessed with. Thank you, Seymour!”

Seymour watched as Rainbow Fish swam towards his new friends, each of their shimmering scales reflecting the light. As the fish gathered around Rainbow Fish, the wise old octopus came out of her dark cave.

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Living in darkness all those years had made her eyesight very weak, and catching her meals had become increasingly more difficult.

But now that all the fish each had a bright, shiny scale, she was able to pick them off quite easily.

She was, after all, a very wise octopus….

The Rainbow Fish revisited (Part One)

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In 1992, Swiss author Marcus Pfister wrote and illustrated the award winning children’s book The Rainbow Fish, which was translated into over 80 languages and sold over 15 million copies. The moral of the story was “Love is giving a gift, not receiving gratification. Where the rainbow fish realised that giving of itself is better than being praised for its beauty.” (from Wikipedia) Pfister went on to write a series of books that addressed other topics: fear, acceptance, modesty and arguments.

While I do agree with the intended message, something about that book never sat right with me. So I decided to read it again. The following is an abbreviated version of the book which I feel hits on all the major themes:

In the deep blue sea, there lived a beautiful fish–the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean, with scales every shade of blue, green and purple with sparkling silver scales among them.

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The other fish were amazed at his beauty. They called him Rainbow Fish. “Come on, Rainbow Fish! Come and play with us.” But the Rainbow Fish would just glide past, proud and silent.

One day, a little blue fish asked him to give him one of his shiny scales. “They are so wonderful, and you have so many.” said the little fish.

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The Rainbow Fish refused. “Who do you think you are? Get away from me!” Shocked, the blue fish swam away. Upset, he told all his friends what had happened. From then on, no one would have anything to do with Rainbow Fish.What good were the dazzling shimmering scales with no one to admire them? He was now the loneliest fish in the ocean. One day he asked the starfish why no one liked him. The starfish told him to seek the counsel of the wise octopus, so the Rainbow Fish goes to visit the octopus in the dark cave where she lived.

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“I have been waiting for you”, said the octopus. “The waves have told me your story.” The octopus told Rainbow Fish to give away a glittering scale to each of the other fish. “You will no longer be the most beautiful fish in the sea, but you will discover how to be happy.”

The Rainbow Fish didn’t think he could give away his scales. He felt he couldn’t be happy without them. Just then, the little blue fish returned and asked again for just one scale. Rainbow Fish wavered and gave one small, shimmering scale to the blue fish.

The little blue fish thanked Rainbow Fish and tucked the shimmering scale among his blue ones. A peculiar feeling came over Rainbow Fish as he watched the blue fish swim back and forth with his shimmering scale in the water.

Before long, Rainbow Fish was surrounded by other fish, each wanting a shimmering scale. Rainbow Fish began giving away his scales. The more he gave away, the more delighted he became. When the water around him filled with glimmering scales, he at last felt at home among the other fish.

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Finally the Rainbow Fish had only one shining scale left. He had given away his most prized possessions, yet he was very happy. “Come and play with us, Rainbow Fish!” And the Rainbow Fish swam off happily to join his friends.

In my next post, the REST of the story…

On email chains and blessings

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Sometimes I think I’m contrary for the sake of being contrary. I received one of those emails that encouraged me to pass on its wisdom, and I just didn’t want to. Mostly because I really never do that, but also because its message didn’t sit well with me. As a matter of fact, I found it a little offensive. Here’s the content of the email:

To realize
The value of a sister/brother
Ask someone
Who doesn’t have one.

To realize
The value of ten years:
Ask a newly
Divorced couple.

To realize
The value of four years:
Ask a graduate.

To realize
The value of one year:
Ask a student who
Has failed a final exam.

To realize
The value of nine months:
Ask a mother who gave birth to a stillborn.

To realize
The value of one month:
Ask a mother
Who has given birth to a premature baby..

To realize
The value of one week:
Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.

To realize
The value of one minute:
Ask a person
Who has missed the train, bus or plane.

To realize
The value of one-second:
Ask a person
Who has survived an accident.

Time waits for no one.
Treasure every moment you have.

You will treasure it even more when
You can share it with someone special.


Hold on tight to the ones you love!

Maybe I’m just getting curmudgeonly in my middle age, but I don’t like the idea of finding comfort in the discomfort and misfortunes of others. I do want to treasure every moment, but not at the expense of someone else’s difficulties. It’s been my experience that people desire compassion, not pity. I am very grateful for the life that I have. Compared to many people, I am rich, healthy and happy.

But God forgive me if I ever say:

“I may not be rich, but at least I’m not homeless.”

Instead let me say, “Because I have so much, let me help someone who is struggling.”

“My teenager may be rebellious at times, but at least he’s not on drugs.”

Instead let me say, “Because children learn more by what we do than what we say, let me set a better example and pray that they will be a good example for their friends.”

“My marriage may not be perfect, but at least I’m not going through a divorce.”

Instead let me say, “Because I am married, let me be sensitive to those who are not. Whether it be by choice or by circumstance.”

“My faith may not be as strong as it should be, but at least I know that this life is not all there is.”

Instead let me say, “Because I’ve been given the gift of eternity, let me share this gift with anyone God puts in my path who is searching for hope.”

What do you think? Do you think I’m being overly sensitive because of my disdain for email chains, or do you think gratitude can be expressed in a more positive way?

Happy belated birthday, Abraham Lincoln!

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February 12 was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It’s also my mom’s birthday. Today is February 14, known in some circles as Valentine’s Day.

I myself don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. Oh, sure–I purchase the mandatory 22 or 23 valentines for my daughter’s classmates. I don’t want her to be outcast from her classmates. But that’s the extent of the festivities. I suppose the fact that my wedding anniversary is four days before February 14 has something to do with my non-celebration, but then I purposely planned a February wedding so that our anniversary would overshadow Valentine’s Day.

Why the disdain for this most romantic of holidays? Because in my experience, it’s always felt manipulative. You may have wonderful Valentine’s Day experiences and memories. I think that’s wonderful. I’m not trying to poo-poo on your fun. But I spent 29 Valentine’s Days as a single person, and these are some of the observations I have made:

  • If you’re single, February 14th may make you more painfully aware of your singleness.
  • Valentine’s Day typically means much more to women than it does to men. It’s sort of a litmus test for men to try and prove their devotion to their significant other based upon how much (or how little) thought went into selecting the gift. I think we put too much pressure on the guys in our lives. Especially on Valentine’s Day.
  • Having worked in an office for several years, it’s been my experience that the majority of my female coworkers would prefer flowers be delivered to the office than have them presented by their husbands or boyfriends at home. That always bugged me. It’s like it’s not enough to show the woman how much she is loved. A man is expected to show everyone else as well.
  • People spend millions of dollars each year on flowers, cards, candy and other gifts meant to express our affection for those we love. I just think that money could be better spent throughout the year.

Yes, I’m horribly unromantic and jaded when it comes to Valentine’s Day, and I know it doesn’t have to be all about romantic love, but all kinds of love. I just hate how commercial it is. Having said that, I do adore a handmade card made with love. Regardless of the occasion:

Thank you, my friend! You made my day.

So to all you hopeless romantics out there, Happy February 14th! Don’t let me spoil your fun! And to all my single friends out there, I send out this long distance dedication:

The Giving Tree I’d like to read (repost)

There are days here where I will tell you a story and attempt to convey an important lesson or biblical truth.

This is not one of those days.

If you’ve been following along for more than a few months, you are well aware that I am NOT a fan of Shel Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, here’s a animated version of the book as read by its author:

The following is not an attempt to address what I feel is a warped and self-serving view of God. It’s just me being snarky…

The Giving Tree
By Katdish

Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy. And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat apples. And they would play hide-and-seek. And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. And the boy loved the tree…very much. And the tree was happy.

But time went by. And the boy grew older. And the tree was often alone. Then one day the boy came to the tree and the tree said, “Come, Boy, come and climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and eat apples and play in my shade and be happy.”

“I am too big to climb and play,” said the boy. “I want to buy things and have fun. I want some money. Can you give me some money?”

“I’m sorry,” said the tree, “but I have no money, I have only leaves and apples. Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in the city. Then you will have money, but don’t be fooled into believing that money will make you happy, or that it’s okay to simply take from one who provides for you without any sense of gratitude. Because while I give you these apples as a gift, how you use this gift will speak volumes to me and the rest of the world about your character. And so the boy climbed up the tree and gathered her apples and carried them away. And the tree was hopeful.

But the boy stayed away for a long time…and the tree was disappointed. And then one day the boy came back and the tree was happy to see him and she said, “Come, Boy, climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and be happy.”

“I am too busy to climb trees,” said the boy. “I want a house to keep me warm. I want a wife and I want children, and so I need a house. Can you give me a house?”

“I have no house,” said the tree. “The forest is my house. What did you do with the money you made from selling the apples? Did you squander that money away on yourself? Did you do anything with that money to help anyone else?…I will take your silence to mean that you did much of the former and none of the latter. Had you given freely to someone else as I have given freely to you, I was prepared to offer my branches to you in order that you might build a house for yourself. But clearly, you have learned nothing about gratitude and are still the selfish little boy that I knew so many years ago. So sorry – you’re on your own.” And the boy was not happy, but the tree had had enough.

And the boy stayed away for a long time. And when he came back, the tree said, “Come, Boy. Come and play.”

I am too old and sad to play,” said the boy. “I want a boat that can take me far away from here. Can you give me a boat?”

“CAN I GIVE YOU A BOAT?!? What have you been doing for the past 60 years? Have you spent your life as a human parasite living off the generosity of others while offering nothing in return? And finally, at the end of your miserable existence when everyone else has refused you, you have the audacity to come here and ask me for a boat? A boat my ASS!”

And the boy hung his head. After all of those years he realized how he had wasted his entire life trying to make himself happy. Thinking the world revolved around him. And he realized what a complete tool he had been. And he hugged the tree and thanked her for all she had done for him. This time he was truly grateful and truly remorseful. And he asked if she would be so kind as to allow him to be buried underneath her so that he could be close to the only one that had ever loved him.

And then he died.

The End.

Through a dirty windshield

Before I get to my post today, I wanted to announce the winner of last Thursday’s giveaway of Neruda’s Memoirs by Maureen Doallas.

And the winner is….Jason S! Congrats, Jason. Thanks to Maureen for allowing me to share some of her beautiful poetry here and thanks to all of you for participating.

In the spirit of encouraging the inner poet in everyone, I thought I would try my hand at a little poetry myself…


Through a dirty windshield

Winter weather, winter sickness
Has kept me in distress
Short trips on wet, dirty roads
Have left my car a mess

On cloudy, cold and windy days
the dirt blends with the gray
But then the sunshine comes again
to reveal a brighter day

The sunny day restores my joy
Spring awakens from her sleep
But soon I feel the shame of driving
a dirty, filthy jeep

I tell myself I’m not to blame
I’ve more vital things to do
Like taking care of fevered kids
And getting me better, too

But yesterday was beautiful
and everyone is healthy
I should have gone and washed the car
That thing is really filthy

Instead I went and shopped for food
then made a pasta dish
And now the rain is back again
My clean car is still a wish

Oh, winter weather, dirty jeep
You weigh heavy on my mind
Come out, o sunshine, show yourself
Don’t leave me in a bind!

(Hey–I didn’t say it was gonna be good poetry. Snort!)

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