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Beautiful

Eight women sit together Sunday evening
I know all by name, but most not much more than that
Tonight’s topic? Wounds.

We watch the DVD.
I see women on the screen as they share past hurts
And while these are real women with real hurts
I am largely unaffected
These are strangers to me

I wonder if I’ll be willing to share any part of my story
when we turn off the DVD.
I’m expecting awkward silence

But instead, the woman in the group I know best
shares something I never knew
I marvel at her courage
because knowing her as I do
I understand how difficult the sharing must be

One by one we each share something painful from our pasts

I see my own past hurts mirrored in other stories
Not the same scenarios so much
as the weight they’ve carried
because they’ve seen themselves
as damaged goods
unworthy somehow
of their heart’s desires

I say a silent prayer
I ask God to help them see themselves
for who they are
caring
strong
kind
worthy
beautiful
and worth fighting for

Dare I ask Him
to help me see
the same in me?

Bring me to life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ John 10:10

Conflicted

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I’m a big fan of words. Not individual words per sea, but when words are strung together in such a way as to affect us deeply. Whether the results manifests themselves in a good laugh, a good cry, a call to action, or some combination of all of the above. Words are powerful.

Two forms of word play I have particular affection for are quotes and song lyrics. I don’t know why. I’ve just always admired a good quote. A small collection of words that conveys a powerful concept. As for lyrics, I think there’s something magical about combining thoughtful words and music, especially when it seems as though the songwriter has somehow peeked into your heart and found a piece of your own story.

Yesterday, with a song that’s been playing in my head for the past several days, I came across a quote that was in opposition with said song. It left me feeling conflicted, because I tend to agree that the words in the song and the words in the quote were both true, even though they were at odds with one another. Here’s the quote:

“It’s better to keep grief inside. Grief inside works like bees or ants, building curious and perfect structures, complicating you. Grief outside means you want something from someone, and chances are good you won’t get it.”
~ Hilary Thayer Hamann (Anthropology of an American Girl)

As I spoke these words aloud though, they felt bitter in my mouth. Grief outside often does indeed mean you want something from someone, and the stiff upper lip side of me tends to agree. “Stop whining,” it says. “Don’t burden someone else with your problems.There are certain things that must remain unsaid. Bury them deep and no one gets hurt,” and on and on.

But those aren’t the words I want to believe. The words I want to believe are these:

Say (by John Mayer)

Take all of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all of your so-called problems,
Better put ’em in quotations

Say what you need to say [x8]

Walking like a one man army
Fighting with the shadows in your head
Living out the same old moment
Knowing you’d be better off instead,
If you could only . . .

Say what you need to say [x8]

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for giving over
You’d better know that in the end
Its better to say too much
Then never say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open

Say what you need to say [x24]

I’ve thought about both the quote and the song quite a bit. Maybe it’s just me, but I think the quote comes from someone who builds walls around herself. Walls built in an effort to insulate her from getting hurt again. I understand that. But I also think those walls don’t really insulate you from pain. They just keep others out, and by doing so, allow you to focus on yourself almost exclusively. (A sure recipe for misery.) They’re also pretty painful for those who are trying to get through them to reach you. And sometimes words left unsaid are every bit as painful as the ones that are. Sometimes moreso.

Are you holding back words you need to share?
“I’m proud of you.”
“I believe in you.”
“You make me smile.”
“Thank you for being there for me.”
“I know this is difficult, but I’m here for you.”
“I wish things could be different.”
“Things are going to be okay.”
“I love you.”
“Hang on.”

I think I’ll vote for reaching out and saying what needs saying. It just might be exactly what someone needs to hear today…

Is there a solution to bullying?

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Recent media reports have once again brought the nation’s attention to the age old problem of bullying. It’s nothing new, it just seems the consequences for the victims are so heartbreaking and severe these days. There are cries for new laws and legislation and for better education of our kids about the consequences of bullying.

My 13 year old son came home last week and informed me everyone at his school signed a “No bullying” contract. He also said it was a worthless piece of paper. Kids signed their papers and went right on being horrible to one another.

To exacerbate the problem, we have a generation of kids who have been raised on the self-esteem bandwagon. They’ve been told by parents and teachers that they can be anything they want to be. This is nice in theory, but it’s simply not true. When you teach a child they are entitled to anything they want, their needs and desires become their priority. Is it any wonder so many think so little of their peers? Especially the ones who they deem of no value to them? So those who bully feel entitled to bully and those who are victimized feel entitled not to be victimized. Please don’t misunderstand–I am not blaming the victims of bullying, only suggesting that their tolerance level may be lower because they’ve been taught that respect is something to be given and not earned.

So is there a solution? The short, unfortunate answer is no. There will always be bullys and those who are bullied. But I think the kids that are rarely mentioned in these scenarios are the ones who can help change the tide–the kids who are neither the bullys nor the victims. We need to encourage our kids to stand up for the underdog, to stop minding their own business and get involved.

The following clip is my favorite scene in “A Few Good Men”. I think Lance Corporal Harold Dawson has the best line in the entire movie:

At 1:40 in the video the following exchange takes place:

Pfc. Downey: What does that mean? Hal, what did that mean? I don’t understand. Colonel Jessup said he ordered the Code Red.

Lt Commander Galloway: I know…

Pfc. Downey: Colonel Jessup said he ordered the code red. What did we do wrong?

Lt. Commander Galloway: It’s not that simple…

Pfc. Downey: What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong!

Lance Corporal Dawson: Yeah, we did. We were supposed to fight for people who couldn’t fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willie.

May we all find the courage to fight for Willie.

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.” 
~ Dante

Thanks to my buddy Mike Ellis, whose post Bullying Sucks inspired this post.

#SnowDayBook day!

FINALLY! You ever felt like time has flown and dragged on forever at the same time? That’s sort of the way I’ve felt since I found out Snow Day was going to be published–especially that brief period of time when I had to keep my big, fat mouth shut about it. But I did, so anything’s possible. Billy has written a perfectly eloquent allegory about today. I invite you to hop on over and read it: Message in a Bottle

And then come back here and watch the video, which will make more sense. Or not…but it’s been in my head ever since I read the post…

The wonderful folks at Faith Words have been kind enough to throw Billy an online party to celebrate the official release of Snow Day. Hope to see you there sometime today!

Visit their Facebook page here.
And follow them on Twitter here
Watch for the #SnowDayBook hash tag on Twitter for updates, trivia, giveaways and more surprises.
Updates will also be posted on Billy’s new Facebook page here.

Message in a bottle (performed by The Police)
Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, oh
Another lonely day, with no one here but me, oh
More loneliness than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair, oh

I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world
I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah

A year has passed since I wrote my note
But I should have known this right from the start
Only hope can keep me together
Love can mend your life but
Love can break your heart

I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world
I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah

Walked out this morning, don’t believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone in being alone
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home

I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world
I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah

Sending out at an S.O.S.
Sending out at an S.O.S.
Sending out at an S.O.S.
Sending out at an S.O.S.
Sending out at an S.O.S.
Sending out at an S.O.S…

Speak to us of Religion

An excerpt from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

And an old priest said, Speak to us of Religion.
And he said:
Have I spoken this day of aught else?
Is not religion all deeds and all reflection,
And that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or tend the loom?

Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?
Who can spread his hours before him, saying, “This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?”
All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.
He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.
The wind and the sun will tear no holes in his skin.
And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.
The freest song comes not through bars and wires.
And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.

Your daily life is your temple and your religion.
Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.
Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute,
The things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight.
For in revelry you cannot rise above your achievements nor fall lower than your failures.
And take with you all men:
For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.

And if you would know God be not therefore a solver of riddles.
Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.
And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.
You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees.

Recipe for misery

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“If you want to be miserable, think about yourself, about what you want, what you like, what respect people ought to pay you and what people think of you.” -Charles Kingsley

Last week I wrote a post about why I hate writing. In a nutshell, I wrote that I hate writing because sometimes writing hurts. Self examination and reflection can be very painful at times, and seeing your shortcomings right there in black and white can be pretty ouchy. But writing (or any other creative pursuit) doesn’t always have to be about self-reflection, and I would go far to say that if that’s all your writing is about, it makes for self-indulgent and narcissitic reading. Redemptive writing comes when you allow yourself to relive the pain so that others might be healed by it, or at the very least, know that they are not alone in their struggle.

As my bloggy pal Sharkbait pointed out so well in the comments section of the aforementioned post:

I think part of the problem is that writing often usually leads to truth. And truth is often not pretty, and can be painful at first.

But as a (bad) writer, I often find that one of the biggest misconceptions is that writing is supposed to hurt. People seem to think that writing leads to depression, alcoholism, anti-social tendencies, suicide and poverty. At some point in history we stopped giving artists permission to be fulfilled and happy with their art.

I fight this in my writing class, I fight this in my writers groups, I fight this every time I try to convince someone that writing is not selfish and pointless, and to give themselves permission to try it.

The writing we do, often is about “piercing a vein to let the poison out”. And thus often is painful, and necessary.

But it is dangerous, I think, to start thinking that because it is painful and necessary, that the pain is necessary.

*Editor’s note: Sharkbait is NOT a bad writer. He’s actually quite good. He challenges me and makes me think. I dig that.

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

Billy Coffey versus the grocery store (by Billy Coffey)

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My wife and I have always divvied up the household chores according to a two-color system of Pink and Blue. The things she can do much better than I, things like cooking and washing the clothes, are known as Pink things. Things that involve dirt, grease, and any sort of electrical motor or hand tool—Blue. My responsibility.

We came up with this ourselves, and with utter agreement. My wife does not typically enjoy Blue things and would rather not take part in them. And though I can do many of the Pink things, not doing them seems to keep everyone happy. Myself included. The Pink and Blue has never failed us. Not once.

Until now.

Due to a collapse of schedule, she called me last week to say she could not go to the grocery store.

“Can you go after work?” she asked.

I will say here that grocery shopping is a Pink thing in our home, and best left to her. Mostly because I hate going there and cannot understand how coupons work. But because I love her and because I was really hungry, I said yes. Of course.

My wife was kind enough to dictate a list, which is always half the battle when going to the store. But she neglected to include on said list the exact location of where everything was. This is important.

Why? Because grocery stores are stupid. Because I’m now convinced the people responsible for deciding what goes where do so with the intention of making men look like idiots.

That thought first occurred to me while trying to find the milk. I wheeled my shopping cart toward the big sign on the back wall that said MEAT/COLD CUTS. Guess what? No milk. Why on earth would the milk not be with the meat? It’s all cow.

After much wandering about, I found it all the way on the other side of the store next to the orange juice. Completely logical. You know, because one comes from a cow and the other comes from a tree.

The remaining items on the list were all fruit—bananas, apples, applesauce, grapes, and a watermelon. As I had passed through the fruit section on the way to MEAT/COLD CUTS, I at least knew where I should go. No problem there. And the bananas and grapes and watermelons were all in plain sight and clearly marked.

So were the apples. Not, however, the applesauce.

I looked at the list again—Mussleman’s no sugar added was written. Cinnamon was scrawled beside it.
I looked everywhere for it. Beside the apples, above the apples, beneath the apples. I even wheeled my shopping cart around the apples. Nothing.

Why in the world wouldn’t the applesauce be with the apples? Were they out? Had there been a sudden run on Mussleman’s no sugar added with cinnamon?

I took a swing around the store again. Thought of asking someone who worked there, but didn’t. All of the employees I saw were men. I’d decided by then that these were likely other husbands who had been sent to the store by their wives and never found their way out. Employment was their only option.

Know what struck me the most? The fact that I was surrounded by literally thousands of things I could want but not the one thing I needed. There seemed to be a great spiritual point to be made there, but it was one I wasn’t able to grasp at the time.

I tried calling my wife—voice mail.

My only other alternative was to turn to the world of social media. I tweeted for help.

The response was both instantaneous and very confusing. Several people (all of them women, of course) directed me to the canned fruits and vegetables aisle.

What?

That was on the other side of the store. Why in the world would the applesauce be on the opposite side of the store from the apples? Were some apples more important than other apples? Were they better or fresher just because they were packaged a little differently?

“This is how racism starts,” I said to a lady who passed by. She nodded and smiled and quickly walked on.

I found the canned fruits and vegetables aisle. Found the Mussleman’s no sugar added with cinnamon, too. And I got out of that store. I doubt I’ll ever go back. Grocery shopping is a Pink thing for a reason.

But to you ladies out there in Twitterville, I say thank you. You saved me. Not just from a future job as a stock boy looking for applesauce, but for teaching me this:

Sometimes you have to look hard for the things you need, and it’s easy to get lost and turned around in that looking. It always helps to have someone around to point you in the right direction.

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

The sphere of humiliation (Oswald Chambers)

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The following is a devotion for October 2 from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers:

“If Thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” Mark 9:22

After every time of exaltation we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they are where it is neither beautiful nor poetic nor thrilling. The height of the mountain top is measured by the drab drudgery of the valley; but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mount, but we never live for His glory there. It is in the sphere of humiliation that we find our true worth to God, that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at the heroic pitch because of the natural selfishness of our hearts, but God wants us at the drab commonplace pitch, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship to Him. Peter thought it would be a fine thing for them to remain on the mount, but Jesus Christ took the disciples down from the mount into the valley, the place where the meaning of the vision is explained.

“If Thou canst do any thing . . .” It takes the valley of humiliation to root the scepticism out of us. Look back at your own experience, and you will find that until you learned Who Jesus was, you were a cunning sceptic about His power. When you were on the mount, you could believe anything, but what about the time when you were up against facts in the valley? You may be able to give a testimony to sanctification, but what about the thing that is a humiliation to you just now? The last time you were on the mount with God, you saw that all power in heaven and in earth belonged to Jesus – will you be sceptical now in the valley of humiliation?

Why I hate writing, Part 3

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Back in July, I wrote two posts, Why I hate writing, and Why I hate writing, Part 2. Lots of responses to those posts, mostly because I think I really touched a nerve with so many writers. But those posts didn’t really get to the heart of why I truly hate writing.

Do you know what I really about hate writing?

Sometimes writing hurts.

Unlike many writers, I’m not an introvert. I love being around people. Always have. But writing requires a significant amount of time alone. I don’t mind being alone. As much as I love people, I enjoy solitude as well.

But the process of writing is different. What is it about putting your honest thoughts on a page that is so intimidating? As I typed that last sentence, I felt (still feel) physically exposed, afraid to share too much of myself with you. I consider myself a confident person, but writing strips away my confidence to a great degree. I think it’s because writing requires a good amount of self examination. And honestly? There’s a lot of hurts that haven’t healed and a bunch of ugly crap I suppose I’ve never really had to examine until I faced a blank page.

Is it any wonder many writers suffer with bouts of depression? A friend of mine put it this way, “Ignorance of your state of being and all that is bliss!!! But it also seems to be unacceptable.”

True. It is unacceptable. So we keep going. We pierce the vein with our pens and hope whatever poisons flow out can help the healing process–our own and, should we be so fortunate, those who read our words.

Am I out in left field here? There is great joy in writing, no doubt. But does writing ever make you feel sad?

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