Category Archives: 250 words

Cleansing Dirt

MushAs I write this, I am grimy, sweaty, and mostly filthy. Want to come join me? Figured not. No one does. Oh well. Thought I would ask.

Of all the things to cleanse the soul, though, dirt is the best. It’s about the most honest remedy for fixing a hurt, smoothing over difficulties, and making things feel not quite as bad as they seem to be. Mix in some sweat and aching muscles and now you have a cocktail that heals almost anything. The perfect solution. The absolute pill. The best remedy.

Hard, honest work is what can keep a person headed in the right direction. Lazing around, nomming on frou-frou delicacies, being glued to a TV or phone screen, and interacting with the world in 140 or 160 bursts of words is a recipe for physical, mental, and spiritual disaster.

I think it has something to do with focus. Working requires focus – all your senses work together to accomplish something. Hands, eyes, brain, ears, breath, and everything else is working together to make it happen. There’s unison, harmony, and rhythm. It works and feels good when it is over – something has been accomplished.

On the other hand, sitting around is all about not having any focus. Eat this, think that, text this, feel that, watch this, listen to that, and so forth. Bumming around certainly doesn’t take any physical effort so your body is being wasted. Thinking isn’t required. Some call it multitasking – I call it being a mushroom.

Liven up! Instead of wallowing in your pity and angst, try putting on some healing dirt and sweat.

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New Opportunities

newopSitting recently with a friend and hearing things that would shock most people, I struggle with what to say and do. It’s easy for me to give advice – which I don’t do very often now anyway – but I’d rather listen. The problem is that advice doesn’t fix deep, serious, systemic problems in a person and most of my advice has gone out the window anyway. Instead and over some coffee and eggs, I listen and wonder and pray and listen some more. How can things get this hard for my friend? Why have people abandoned my friend? Why isn’t there a community of people my friend can identify with to find some comfort and understanding? How come it hurts so bad that even the tears have dried up?

As I sit and write this, I wonder what is going to happen. I’m glad we were able to talk for a long time but I am also at an end to figure out how to help. This is deep, dark, and difficult stuff that sources from multiple places – physical, spiritual, mental, relational, sexual, psychological.

My point in mentioning this is that I have been getting into these kinds of conversations lately with different and separate people in unexpected ways. In feeling helpless, I am also taken that I am somehow being given opportunities in confidences with things that I would have thought unimaginable a few years ago. It is daunting but also something that I now am more than willing to deal with.

I feel like a little dog paddling in an ocean.

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I Think

rultyTo me, it’s not an issue of there being a God or not as much as it is a matter of choosing to believe in one thing or another. Let me try to explain.

To believe in something suggests that, for one reason or another, I agree to adhere to a set of concepts and expectations of whatever the belief system expects of me. Perhaps I believe in myself as the core truth of the universe. To do so and in this belief system, I acknowledge that my opinion is the centerpiece of my existence, that my motivation is driven almost exclusively by what I think, and that I see others and their actions through my own self-described filters.

Likewise, if I believe in, for example, science as being the core truth of the universe, I will assume that all and everything in me and around me can be answered by science somehow. My decisions can and will be greatly influenced by the sciences – logic, cause and effect, evolution, etc. My worldview will be filtered through what I believe are the laws of science.

And finally, if I, for example, hold to a political or social movement’s set of tenets, I will depend on the principles of the movement to shape my take on the world, people, and social interaction. Everything I see, say, or do will be motivated by and filtered through my belief in the movement’s propositions.

Bottom line – any and every idea about anything and everything is dependent on a belief and faith system. Regardless of what we adhere to as our personal set of defining core principles, we are all faithful believers in one sense or another. In a technical sense, there is not such a thing as a non-believer.

Oddly or not, we are all creatures of belief and faith.

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Maize Maze

maze2014How hard can it be to get through a corn maze? In the dark? With drizzle? In 50 deg weather? (Click on the photo to the right to see an enlarged photo of the actual maze. But don’t cheat if you plan to go through!)

Well, actually, pretty hard. This year’s version of the Maize Maze at Belvedere Plantation was awesome in that it was tough tough tough. Getting through Phase 1 was no problem – it’s meant for little guys. Phase 2 took an hour or two. And Phase 3?  Couldn’t do it! After being wet for several hours with the rain picking up in the dark and going around in circles for what seemed like forever, that was it. It will take another trip back out to Belvedere to complete Phase 3. But oh so cool to wander around trying all the different options and trying to remember which paths had already been tried and which ones hadn’t.

Seriously, walking in is easy and how can this be hard? But literally after 20 min or so, reason and logic goes out the window. It is the most amazing feel to actually feel lost in what otherwise looks like a simple and easy exercise. You can see across the maze, there are some spotlights shining to help out, there are several large bridges in the maze that can be used as markers, and it simply can’t be as hard as this! But after wandering and testing and trying over and over and over…it actually gets maddeningly frustrating. It really is a test of stamina and sticking to it, for sure. But how cool is that?

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Lazy Isolation

isolationI read Kafka’s The Castle years ago. The isolation I felt for the character K. (the main character in The Castle, as in Araby by Joyce, isn’t given a name) is the same as what I feel for the character in Araby and for Prufrock from Eliot’s story.

The thing about isolation is that it is selfish and it really is lazy. It takes little or no effort to be isolated. On the other hand, caring for others and being in community takes effort and self-will. This is, if we are talking about truth and morality, what is different between isolation and community. It is a conscious choice to desire and will to be either selfish or selfless.

Deciding to be and act like a noble hero of ancient literature or a self-absorbed nobody of modern literature is a conscientious and deliberate decision. In large part, our decision has to do with whether we chose to believe and have faith in a Creator who instills beauty and grace in an otherwise broken universe, or we chose to believe and have faith in ourselves with a hope that we can find happiness and contentment in our own minds and hearts.

In my faith, I believe that we find beauty and grace in a community of faith in God. It can take some effort and it can be difficult, but when I compare it to the desolation and isolation of those who attempt to find happiness in themselves, I see no comparison.

Of course, we all were once desolate and isolated, yes? But God in Christ gave us direction on how to escape the loneliness of self by learning, in faith, to be invested in others. Jesus is our example.

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More Endings

Space warp travel trough universeIn wrapping up another session of school this week, I reflect on just what I am attempting to do with all of this education. It takes lots of time, it’s expensive, it takes work, and it is sometimes hard to do. Several ask why I do this. I think my best answers are that I want and need to be busy with something that might matter, I think I might want to actually get back in the work-force somewhere at some point (but on my terms!), and I think I crave for information that seems to be something that I can use to help others either professionally or just as an individual.

This has been a long session. Not so much because of the literal classes but because of a number of things that have happened during this session. I’ve had to do a lot of reflection, re-prioritizing, meditating, and wondering what next. I’ve been able to keep my studies up but my personal life has gotten a bit more challenging and the challenge leaks over into my study life. Maybe I’m just normal again. Is that possible? I don’t know.

Anyway, I’m glad that things are finishing up. The classes were a handful but, thankfully, the professors were here to help and I managed to get through them with flying colors. As each class finishes, I can taste the end more and more. But is it also some kind of countdown to who knows what? That is what kind of makes me wonder.

Where is this going?

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Hand Cross

Greg and Mary introduced me to Wayne, an older but sprightly and vigorous gentleman. Though I have yet to meet Wayne in person, I feel I know him quite well due to the discussions I’ve had with Greg and Mary about Wayne but, also, because of something we share in common. More of that later. Anyway, Greg told me that Wayne has been hand-making hand crosses for a long time. He has made, perhaps, thousands and thousands over the years to give to friends, work mates, chaplains, hospitals, schools, churches, and many other people and organizations. He doesn’t charge for these – or if you do decide to give something to him, he will make a donation to a worthy cause.

If you don’t specify a wood, he will make your hand crosses from whatever stock he has about at the time. If, however, you have a special piece of wood or lumber, he will gladly craft a hand cross for you from your piece of wood.

I have seen our hospice chaplains carry a form of hand cross. They aren’t exactly like Wayne’s and, in fact, don’t appear to be wood at all. They sometimes carry them when they are making their patient visits in hospitals and facilities. I like the hand crosses because they are fairly small, they’re designed to fit in the palm of your hand, they might be used to start a conversation, and they are something that might be comforting in stressful times for one reason or another. I carry one in my hospice visiting bag.

The craftsmanship, care, and story behind these crosses make them special to me. Note that Wayne signs each one of his crosses with Faye & Wayne. He has been doing this for years. The one you see in the photos is a right handed cross. He (and I have a few) makes left handed crosses, too. If it is a left handed cross, Wayne puts a small “(L)” after the signature. Signing with his name and his wife’s name makes these pretty special in their own right. The ones recently delivered to me are very special, as you will read underneath the photos.

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The rest of the story is that Wayne’s wife Faye passed away a month ago after over sixty years of marriage. He is in mourning, of course, but continues to putter, work with his local church, volunteer for several local service organizations, and still finds time to make his hand crosses. He made ten for me a week or two ago and signed each one Faye & Wayne.

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Extent Essence

590_ugly_vultureIn beauty, there is extent and there is essence. If observing beauty, the question arises as to how much – to what extent – do I like the beauty. For example, if I hear music, how much do I like it? Is it amazing and wonderful and moving or is it not much more than a shrug of the shoulders and a meh? If I see a picture or a painting, does the beauty in the form take me to other places and make me wonder about other times or lives? Or does the picture do nothing more than make we want to look at the next picture? The point is that, in beauty, there is extent – how much do I prefer or not prefer the beauty.

But then there is essence. I argue that all things have an essence of beauty in them even if, at first glance, it appears grotesque or poorly done. It might be hard to identify the essence, but all things have an essence of beauty. A beautiful person – it’s not hard to see the essence of beauty in him or her. But a landscape of war strewn with bodies and destruction? It takes some doing but I believe there is beauty even in such an evil thing. Consider what the scene was before and what it can be after. Consider the essence of beauty in the silence and holiness of the location. Wonder about the beauty in the sheer rawness of the emotions before, during, and after the destruction.

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Opinion Right

ooineIt’s too bad that most people think they have a constitutional and human right to voice their opinion about anything and everything whenever and however they want to voice it. The idea of having an opinion and then telling everyone about it is tightly weaved into our core and being as a culture and society, isn’t it? With social platforms like Facebook and Twitter and texting (to name a few), we are each given an uncensored, guilt-free, 24 hour a day, international medium to spew, vent, spout, and shout our opinions about anything and everything with little regard for consequence. (This, by the way, is why I cancelled my Facebook account years ago and I will never open it up again!)

Maybe more to my point, I’m tired of opinions not because they are your opinions, but that you feel inclined to voice your opinions without any due consideration at all for what others will think. I understand that this is a slippery slope discussion, but I am truly sensitized to statements and comments – while certainly consisting of honest and open opinions – that are obviously made by a conversant who is neither considering the interests and sensitivities of others nor is the opinionator inclined to consider the long term effects of badly phrased or poorly intentioned words.

It’s like passing out sticks of dynamite to a bunch of convicted pyros, giving a $1,000,000,000 to a person with no money, transferring the ownership of a sports car to a person who can’t drive, or offering an unlimited ceiling credit card to a person with a poor credit rating and saying, “Well, express yourself in ways that best suit you and your character. Go on. It’s your right!”

In my perfect world, everyone will have a right to voice an opinion conditioned on the expectation that they have fully taken into account the sensitivities of their audience and after considering the repercussions of saying what is intended to be said.

(Even as I finish writing this, a tweet shows up on my feed from one angry individual to another angry individual that reads like this: “That is true.. Look it up and u don’t own twitter.. I can tweet what I want FO!” Opinion? Yes. Highly insensitive and incredibly selfish? Very yes!)

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Black White

ignorOh how I wish sometimes that things were black and white. As a person of faith, I think the only thing that truly is black and white is the answer to the question “Am I faithful to God or am I not faithful to God?” I don’t think there is a gray answer to this question.

But when it comes to a relationship, are we ever truly on safe ground when we say absolutely positively that something is the way it is? Of course, we spend much of our lives looking for relationships premised on honest fairness, open values, and transparent sensitivities. And, thank goodness, there are some people who are generally like this – most of the time. I say mostly because we all are fallible and, in my experience, those who claim the high ground – either implicitly or explicitly – seem to be the ones who often fall the hardest with the biggest splash or fall the furthest with the loudest screams.

And how often do we look for innocence? I think that except in young children, there is not innocence. Saying this, even the “innocent” party in a relationship can be held culpable in some way or for some reason. Along these lines, we sometimes like to play the ignorance or “didn’t know” card – the victimization thing. Now I want to be careful here. There are victims in this world due to circumstances beyond their control. Yes, there are legitimate victims so don’t get me wrong.

But I prefaced my discussion as being within the constraints of a relationship. And in this area of humanness, I think that ignorance is more often the cause for relational failure and less often an appropriate excuse. Ignorance is not bliss in relationships.

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