That Reminds me

On this second anniversary of my first blog post…

This date reminds me.

The electronics aisle in Target reminds me.

The sign at Luther’s Barbecue reminds me.

The birds in the trees at Kroger remind me.

The loud intercom at Office Depot reminds me.

The parking lots at Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, and Applebee’s remind me.

Books and movies remind me.

Past writings remind me.

I am reminded in my waking and in my lying down to sleep, and in my dreams as well.

Signs on my drive to work remind me.

Songs on the radio and on my iPod remind me.

I am reminded by sights, sounds, smells, and tastes.

Reminders bring both joy and tears.

But can I truly say that I am reminded?

Does a thought have to be absent first, before remembrance can occur?

If so, I’m not sure that I am reminded at all, because you are always there – not just in the back of my mind, but as the constant companion and participant in all my thoughts.

And I imagine that for which I have no memory. So even in new situations you are present.

I cannot forget. And I have no desire to.

Thoughts on Divergence (pt 3): next stop – Erudite

(part 1),

(part 2)

“Study to show thyself approved…”  ~2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”

~Henry Ford

Beatrice Prior, and her brother Caleb, who was less than a year older, both found themselves at the end of a school year – both 16, and finishing the same grade in school. In the dystopian world of Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” series, this was the end of their formal education in society as they knew it. It was time for them to take the aptitude tests that all 16 year olds take at this time of year, which would determine which of the 5 factions they were best suited for. They were not to talk to anyone about the aptitude tests, or their results, after taking them. And the following day (not much time to consider the results) they would gather in the Choosing Ceremony and publically (and ceremoniously) announce their choice. They would leave the ceremony for training with the faction they chose without the opportunity to say goodbye, or offer an explanation to their family for their choosing. The rest of their education would come from their faction leaders. And, as good obedient Abnegation children, neither Beatrice not Caleb spoke to the other about their results, or impending choice, after their tests.

On the day of the ceremony, the Prior family (Beatrice and Caleb were the only children to 2 Abnegation leaders.) arrived together and took their places in the room where the Choosing Ceremony would soon take place. Beatrice was already a bundle of nerves as she contemplated the possibility of switching factions (though she hadn’t entirely made up her mind). She knew that her brother Caleb was Abnegation through and through. She, on the other hand, felt herself to be too selfish to be content to stay in the faction in which she had grown up. Although she was unsure, even as she stood waiting for her name to be called. As they called each “chooser” in reverse alphabetical order, Caleb would choose first. His choice, it would turn out, would make hers all the more difficult.

“Caleb Prior,” the announcer called. Caleb walked to the center and grabbed the ceremonial knife. He ran the blade across his palm, and walked to the bowls laid out before him. Each faction had a bowl containing something that symbolically represented them. He passed his hand over the bowl with gray stones that represented Abnegation, and held his hand over a bowl of  water, letting the blood that had pooled in his palm drip into the bowl. Caleb had chosen Erudite.

By now, at the age of 50, I have taken several aptitude assessments over the course of my life (some legit, and many just for fun). But there was only one that I recall taking in high school. And, if my memory serves me well enough, I didn’t find it encouraging. I don’t know what test it was (That was over 30 years ago.) but I do remember not being encouraged to go to college. This didn’t surprise me, as neither of my parents finished college, and they didn’t encourage me or my siblings to go.  I never planned on college. I didn’t see the value. I had world-changing stuff to do, and didn’t want to waste another 4 years of my life just so I could have a degree to validate me.

Sidenote: I’ve always been a bit idealistic and stubborn (My friends will not be shocked at this revelation.)

To this day, I have no idea what my IQ is. I do know that I am a Melancholy-Phlegmatic, and a C/S (in the DISC model), and an INFJ. I have taken all 3 of these type assessments multiple times over the course of the last 20-something years. And, though I grow and change, I always get the same results. Only the percentages may vary slightly. And according to the test on the “Divergent” movie’s website, I am Divergent. And after reading the books, who wouldn’t want that result?

I was not an A student, or even a solid A-B student. School to me was just something I had to get through before I set out to change the world. My last 2 years of high school I got out at noon to go to work. I only excelled in classes that intrigued me. I did NOT consider myself to be very intelligent. But I was curious about many things.

I am grateful for a few people in my life that did encourage me to go to college. Even though I never really considered going until a year out of high school when I realized that I wasn’t exactly turning the world upside down, and wanted to go to school for what they could teach me, and not for the piece of paper. And it was another 2 and a half years before I actually went. It was more difficult going to college as a young, broke, and married, student who had to work while attending school in order to pay for it.

The Erudite faction believed that conflict was caused by a lack of knowledge. Therefore, conflict could be resolved by finding truth through study.

I am very grateful that my mother was always (and still is) a reader, and that she read to me as a child. I learned very young the joys of reading. That, combined with an insatiable desire to understand the world, eventually drove me to higher education. After Caleb declared his move to Erudite in the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice recalled seeing a stack of books in his room the night after the aptitude tests.

So…what leads a person who lives a simple life of service to others, to choose to complicate their life through study?

It’s one thing to embrace the simplicity of life in the sense of not accumulating stuff, or debt; or not stretching yourself too thin with duties and responsibilities; or not making mountains out of mole hills. It’s quite another thing to accept something as true just because someone has said it is. I’m convinced that we all have doubts. The difference is that some people will believe that the cure for doubt is faith. Just believe it even if it doesn’t make sense. Some things are just beyond our ability to understand. I have no trouble believing that my cognitive abilities are limited, but I refuse to impose those limits on myself or others. I believe that many people leave the faith of their childhood because they are not allowed the room to wrestle with their own doubts.

What makes some people continue believing in the “Great and Powerful OZ” even after the curtain has been pulled back. Why would someone take the blue pill and consciously choose to live a lie after they’ve seen the world that has been “pulled over our eyes”?

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” ~Morpheous (from “The Matrix”)

Many people will refuse to read books by people they disagree with, or listen to contrary information to what they already believe, because it upsets their ordered world. Ignorance is often chosen in preference to the illusion of order, over chaos. Many people find comfort when everything can be placed into a black or white category. And they are willing to accept the variety of colors in the spectrum as illusory to maintain that comfort.

But I can’t unsee, unhear, unfeel. I cannot ignore. For some, doubt is like a barely perceptible sliver of something that can be swept under the rug. For me, it is the sliver that get’s lodged under my skin while walking barefoot. If I try to ignore it, it becomes  infected and causes a great deal of discomfort and dis-ease. It simply must be dealt with.

Caleb had somehow been exposed to information that challenged him. As much as he loved the life of Abnegation, he simply couldn’t ignore that voice within him that told him there must be more. Black and white categories wouldn’t suffice. There are very few questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. He just could not accept something on faith without a diligent search for understanding. He was not turning his back on the life of service and self-sacrifice, or the people he loved. He just had to surround himself with the people that could help him find the answers he sought.

True Erudite should never be elitist. They should be known by humility and hunger. Never forget your prior ignorance (because you still have much) and get puffed up because of your new understanding. You believe what you believe because it makes sense to you now. But don’t get too comfortable. Chances are…you won’t stay there either.

Thoughts on Divergence (pt 2): first stop – Abnegation

“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”                ~John 15:13 (KJV)

 For some reason (other than the usual issues that cause procrastination) I’ve had a difficult time getting back to this “series”. Note to self: At least have a working draft of the entire series before posting the first blog to introduce it. I’ve thought a lot about it. I’ve wrestled with what to say, and how to say it. But, until now, I haven’t just made myself sit down and type it out. To be honest (like Candor) I would probably scrap the idea for this post if I hadn’t announced a series, because it is not very timely anymore. I did that on purpose, you know. It’s how I push myself to do what I truly WANT to do, but have a tendency to put off because it won’t be perfect enough. If I tell you I’ll do something, then my integrity is on the line.

So here it is…the next installment.

We begin our tour of the Divergent social landscape with the Abnegation faction. We start here, because Veronica Roth began her trilogy here. Our protagonist, Beatrice Prior, grew up in Abnegation. And our introduction to the social structure that drives the story, begins with this, the selfless-server faction. And, beside that,  Abnegation is the group with whom I most identify.

Abnegation, as I described in my introduction for this series, “Thoughts on Divergence” part 1, is the faction that countered the selfishness of the world by denying themselves all but the basic necessities in life. They dressed simply, and modestly. Beatrice was only allowed to view herself in a mirror once every 3 months when she got her hair cut – and then, only in short glances. They were not to spend time thinking of themselves. They had no need for large homes, or closets, or dressers to keep their stuff. They didn’t accumulate things. The simplicity in their lives and dress might be analogous to the Amish or Mennonite communities in the American North-east. They were often mockingly referred to as “stiffs”.

Abnegation had the charge of governing the land, as they had no personal or political aspirations, but simply a desire to serve. Yes, there really are people like this. Although no one is completely immune to the draw of power or money, some are pretty close. Think of Mother Theresa. It’s just that, in our world, these people seldom get elected to anything, as they have a disdain for the political machine. Real-life Abnegation is more likely to work quietly (even secretly) behind the scenes to be agents of change.

Children born into Abnegation are raised in what might look like poverty to those on the outside looking in, but would likely be richer in relationships, and have a better understanding of the interconnectedness of all people. But all Abnegation children have the opportunity (and responsibility) to choose to remain Abnegation, or choose another faction, at the tender age of 16. They may choose to remain Abnegation for fear of the unknown, discomfort with change, loyalty to family, or because they believe it to be the best choice for life. Those that choose another faction after having grown up Abnegation, may do so because they feel that another faction may hold better promise for righting the world’s wrongs, or they could be disillusioned with their parent’s faction. It may be an act of outright defiance, or just a search for belonging and meaning.

It might be a stretch to say that I grew up Abnegation, but I can identify with it fairly easily. We were not a poor family, but we were not a family of means either. We didn’t celebrate much. We ate out very seldom. I remember 2 family vacations my entire childhood. Both were short, and cheap. Our get-aways consisted of a trip to see grandparents for Christmas, or occasionally in the summer.

But most true to Abnegation was that my parents were (and are) servers. They modeled service to me with neighbors and members of our local church. Even now, my 77 year old father will drive his little John Deere riding mower down the road to cut someone else’s lawn when they are not able. And he does it at his own cost. He pays attention to people, and perceives when they have a need. And he is a driving force to the benevolence of his church congregation.

As I learned of, and fell in love with, the example and teachings of Jesus, as a young person, I committed myself to follow his example in my own life. What I found was that Jesus didn’t only “lay down his life” in his death, but in life also. To lay down our lives is to put the needs of others ahead of our own. It’s to defer, to give up personal rights at times, to live sacrificially that we might benefit others rather than ourselves. It is to give ourselves in service to others. You might say that the goal is to take care of the needs of others and trust that our own needs will be met. Life is lived in pursuit of equity, not in competition.

One of Beatrice’s issues is also one of my own. She had a love for the Abnegation way of life, but struggled with her own selfish desires. She wanted. She had a need to experience more in life. She wanted to be a little more dauntless and carefree.

One of the battles I’ve had to deal with in mid-life, is the feeling that I gave up too much. I had a long list of “I have never…”s that I may have even been proud of. And, as I stood at the middle of my life looking back, I felt cheated, to be honest. I felt like I prioritized others’ needs so much that I found myself depleted, and wanting more. I focused on the cat’s comfort, when my legs were going to sleep. (see Why Disturb the Cat?)

I’ve come to the realization, though, that selflessness and selfishness are not polar opposites. You don’t have to be one or the other. Actually, though you may be able to be completely selfish, it is not possible to be completely selfless. At least I don’t think so. We all have desires, whether or not we act upon them. And it is possible to have selfish desires that you choose not to act on, out of deference for others. One of the reasons I’ve been pushing myself to get this entry written and published today, is that today is Mother’s Day in the U.S. It is a day that we celebrate the mothers who selflessly give up their own time, resources, and energy to care for their children. They often do without new clothes, so their quickly growing children stay clothed. They give up their rest to keep house. They sacrifice time with friends to wipe noses, read nursery rhymes, and rock their children. They invest themselves in their kids.

It’s not that they have no wants. It’s not that they don’t want to have nice things, go out, have fun, and be pampered. They keep wanting those things and more. That is, in a sense, selfishness. However, their love for their children cause them to repress their “selfish” desires for themselves, and focus on serving their children. Is that fair to say? I’m not a mother, and feel a slight trepidation to assign these feelings to such saints. However, I know these things are true of me. I wish I weren’t so selfish, that I had no wants but to serve others, but I am, and I do. The best I can do at times is to repress those desires, to ignore them if possible, and to defer my wants for someone else’s.

Like Beatrice, I love Abnegation, but I have some Dauntless longings.


(part 3 – Erudite)



Thoughts on Divergence: taking a road less traveled (part 1)

I went to the movies a couple of nights ago. It was my first since “Interstellar” (which was a good one, by the way). I missed some great ones over the last 6 months or so. I missed the first part of “Mockingjay” and the final chapter of “The Hobbit”. And I missed “Selma” too. I will definitely see those soon, but I missed seeing them on the big screen. I don’t go to movies often, as I usually go solo. I’ve had people offer to accompany me, but if I go at all, it’s usually a last minute decision. So I go alone.

I read the Divergent series last summer and I liked it a lot. The first movie was a bit of a disappointment, but I was hopeful that the second installment would redeem the series for the big screen. And, though still lacking for me, it reminded me of some of what captured my attention in the books. Besides the fact that there was a good love story between the major characters, I found the idea of divergence, as seen in the story line, something I could greatly identify with.

The “Divergent” series is a dystopian story of a post-American future where the current middle-American landscape is split into five factions, based on personality (somewhat). Each faction was born out of the premise that society is lacking something, but each has a different idea of what it needs more of. Abnegation is the faction of the selfless servers, because the problem is that people are too selfish. Candor practices unrestrained (even brutal) honesty, because the problem is that people cannot trust each other if there is any deceit. Erudites are constantly seeking more knowledge, as ignorance is the enemy. Amity is the peace-loving faction, who would probably agree with John Lennon that, “All we need is love,” because there is too much enmity in the world. And, lastly, the Dauntless – because people live in fear and are afraid to take risks.

Everyone is born into the faction of their parents (and both parents belong to the same one). Once a year, all the youth who turned 16 over the course of the last year are given an aptitude test to determine what faction they are most cut out for. But no matter what the test determines, they are free to choose their own faction. A ceremony takes place where all the 16-year-olds, in the presence of their parents, choose a faction by coming to the center of the ceremonial room, taking a knife and making a cut in their palm, then dripping their blood into the bowl of their chosen faction. Most often, the youth choose the faction they grew up in, and are most familiar with. But not always. After the selection is made, the youth leave the ceremony with their fellow initiates, for their chosen faction’s training facilities, without the chance to explain their choice or say goodbye to their families. The initiates then spend weeks in training, with tests to see if they make the cut. Those that don’t, wind up factionless. Misfits. Considered unfit for any faction.

Now, I’ve often referred to myself as a bit of a misfit. And I have a heart for other misfits. I like people who don’t fit into neat boxes. Actually, I don’t really understand those who do. I don’t like boxes. Or cages. Or imposed limits.

In the story, there are people who have aptitudes for more than one faction (and only one can be chosen). If there is too much ambiguity as to their fit, they are deemed divergent. Those in power dislike divergents, as they can’t be controlled. Divergents are raised with a set of beliefs and practices that are assumed to be best (just as everyone is). And if one somehow sincerely doubts that worldview, he feels there is something wrong with him or his world. He then feels the need to go and find himself. So he tries on another faction for size, often unaware that he belongs to none, and possibly, lives for the sake of all.

It’s difficult growing up in a world where you feel you don’t fit in. It seems that there are those who decide at a young age what they want to be, and set out on that journey, never to look back. People who never seriously question the axioms of faith that were passed off to them by others. And then there are people like me who…well…don’t, …and do.

Some of us have that Erudite hunger to learn, the Abnegation desire to serve, the Candor need to be authentic and honest, the Amity love for people, and even the Dauntless quest to feel alive.

I hope to look at each of these factions (or worldviews) over the coming days (speaking optimistically) and at what good can be gleaned from each view. It is my great HOPE, and perhaps my true calling in life, to help people to learn to see the best in everyone, and to realize that the world can look very different from another perspective (and all perspectives are limited). And perhaps we can only truly understand the world by getting pictures of it from many different angles, and placing them alongside each other for study. A good friend of mine, who passed from this world just over 11 years ago, used to say, “I don’t have to agree with your view to get up and walk around in it for a while.” Perhaps if we try to learn why someone else sees the world differently than we do – I mean, really try – instead of thinking anyone who doesn’t see it as we do just doesn’t get it, we will ALL see the world more accurately. And possibly, in comparing understandings, some of us may need to choose a better path. A divergence, if you will.

Join me if you dare. First stop…Abnegation (part 2)

And comments are always welcome.


From the Darkness

There are times when all seems hopeless. Darkness and despair have us in a choke-hold. The earth itself groans in pain, and it’s inhabitants join it in a discordant chorus, like wounded in a M.A.S.H. unit at the front lines – victims of heavy artillery fire. Simply breathing takes all we can muster.

Where is our hope? Where is our salvation? Does anyone hear our cries? Does anyone care that we feel such pain?

My sister’s two oldest daughters discovered this Spring that they were each expecting their first child. The first was discovered to be a girl, who was due at Christmas; the second, a boy who was due shortly after the New Year. A combination of exciting anticipation, and anxiety, accompanies news like this. What will it be like raising children in these troubled times?

I imagine that every generation asks the question, “Do we really want  to bring a child into this wretched place?” Life gets easier and harder at the same time. Technology is amazing. But how can we protect our children from all the evils that exist?

I don’t get cable, or satellite, television channels. I haven’t for over 2 years now. All I can pick up are a few local channels by way of an antenna. Therefore, I don’t watch the news. And I don’t miss it. I also dread public waiting areas where I have to endure a long stretch of “news”. All the negative weighs on me. There seems to be no lack of arrogance as those “in the know” tell the rest of us what we should be mad about. It would be too much for people to think for themselves, I suppose. And what we should be mad about depends on the network we subscribe to.

However, in this manic-media age, it is nearly impossible not to be exposed to a great deal of ominous information as to what is transpiring in our world, whether real or imagined. Shootings have become commonplace in our neighborhoods, schools, and homes. Not even churches are exempt. There seems to be more devastating storms, industrial accidents, terrorism, and wars too.

Worse, though, we seem to be short on compassion, and high on vitriol. I see Jesus dropped like an A-Bomb on the “enemies of Christianity”. I see people claiming that everything that happens is racially motivated; and people denying their own racial prejudice. I see people on the left and the right, firmly entrenched, lobbing verbal grenades at each other, leaving a vast chasm between them where the “sellouts – who won’t take a stand” protect each other from shrapnel as they try to prepare a table for all who will join them for a meal.

People in pain and frustration act out in ways that will never heal their brokenness, but instead send more broken in need of repair. They will not bring justice to those denied it, but deny it to many others instead. They cannot end their grief, but cause it for many more. Their actions are counter-productive.

Often-times they act out because they feel oppressed, and feel that no one hears their cries. We fail them when we refuse to acknowledge their pain simply because we cannot feel it from the safe distance from which we stand. No, we don’t grant permission to act uncivilly, but we should at least acknowledge that our experiences limit our ability to empathize with them. They (and we) need someone capable (and willing) to walk with us, and share our pain.

While considering the events of Ferguson, MO today, and the tone of opinions being expressed in social media over the last few days, I saw a post on Facebook from one of my nieces. She had been in and out of the ER for the last few days, and they had decided to bring her daughter into the world about a month early. Thankfully, my sister (grandmother-to-be) continued to update the thread. My nieces baby was born by C-section at 1:00 PM today, and weighed in at 5 lbs, 6 oz. Mother and baby are both doing well.

As we enter into the madness of the Christmas shopping season, and consider the chaos in our world, let us reflect on this…

When those who were oppressed and hurting, and despairing of hope, cried out in their pain and frustration, wondering if anyone heard their cries of anguish…, a baby was born.

Oh, and my new grand-niece’s name?


As I wrote this, I was reminded of a scene in the movie, “Children of Men”. Humankind had been unable to bear children for about 20 years, when a woman was discovered to be pregnant. A group of people hid her and kept her safe. The child was born in the midst of war. And the baby began to cry. As the child’s cries were heard, the gunfire began to cease. Soon, the battle quieted, and only the cries of “HOPE” could be heard.


I describe my blog on my Facebook page as a place for “random writings…”. As I seek to find myself as a writer I am finding that sometimes an idea gets stuck in my head and needs to get out. This is a result of one of those ideas. The thoughts expressed in the following “passage”  were birthed in my mind over a year ago. I then attended a poetry reading last Fall that made me feel like my thoughts would be best expressed in that forum. Words and phrases rattled around in my head for months before I ever wrote anything down. Then I wrote and rewrote several incomplete versions over the next several months. It wasn’t till late this summer that I “completed” this work. I had hopes of sharing it this summer, and also felt like I couldn’t really concentrate on writing anything else till this was finished. However, since I’ve not shared it, I keep going back to it and editing. So, it is still stuck in my head. That’s the curse of perfectionism. And I know it’ll never be perfect enough.

Here’s a warning though: It’s longer than my normal blog posts (Just over 1400 words) and it was written to be read aloud, so my punctuation serves that purpose (I’m already comma-happy and I know that).

This is not a poem exactly. It isn’t a short story, or any other known genre’ that I can think of. It’s just something I had to write. Maybe it’ll be incorporated into something else I write later. Who knows?  If you find it in any way inspiring, then I’m glad I took this chance.


“Hello Beautiful.”

Those were the first words he said to her as he entered the room.

She turned her head and lifted her eyes in the direction of the voice that she now found so familiar, offering the phrase that she had almost come to expect from him, as it was his favorite greeting for her, whether spoken or written. Though the attribution to her was still something she struggled to understand, and the title difficult to wear with confidence, she had come to believe, at least, that his words were an honest appraisal of the value that he held for her.

As her eyes met his gaze, and she took steps in his direction, she felt a strangely comfortable discomfort. There was a comfort in being in the presence of one who cared for her so deeply, and held her in such high regard; who would cross Heaven and Hell to be with her. But there was an uneasiness as well. She knew the pain of broken trust, and she could not allow herself to trust too quickly, or too completely. He made her feel as though she were safe to let her guard down as he’d done with her, but she wasn’t ready for that level of vulnerability. Not now. Not yet.

She tried to mask her disquiet with a little laugh, not quite able to look directly into his eyes, and said to him, “Ha! So you think I look hot? Like this? In this sweater, and with no makeup?”

Not taking his eyes off of her, and closing the gap between them more, leaving only enough distance to allow them to see one another fully, considering the difference in height; reaching forward he took her by the arms, with a hand gently behind each arm, just above the elbow. Then pulling his hands forward, he let her arms slide through his loosely held grip until he held her by the hands; and answering her he said, “For the record, I didn’t call you hot. I called you beautiful. To call you hot would just be to recognize the way you cause my heart to race when I see you, or hear your voice, or receive a message from you; the way my pulse quickens the closer I come to you; or the electricity that passes between us when we touch; or the way my imagination can run wild if left unchecked. It would be to admit that I am a man who desires you in every way, and that you possess all that I crave.

“And I am.

“And you do.

“But when I call you beautiful, I mean so much more than that.

“Beautiful is the early morning sunrise after a stormy night, that greets you as you begin the new day; that reminds you that no matter the darkness that comes, the sun will always rise. It reminds us that there is something or someone out there beyond our daily existence that provides for us, and cares for our needs, and wants us to feel. Beauty grabs at our senses, causes us to pause and pay attention, and it inspires awe.

“Beautiful is the newborn baby – a mother’s firstborn – cradled in her arms, held closely against her body, feeling the familiar rhythm in her mother’s heartbeat and breaths, listening to the tune that she hums, and without opening her eyes, smiles…just smiles, as if she is wrapped snuggly in a blanket of peace, safety, tranquility, and love.

“Beautiful is the little boy, standing before his mom, freshly bathed, with his hair neatly combed, though still wet, dressed in his Sunday best, clean except for grass stains just below the knees of his pants, with his hands hidden behind his back. He looks up at her with a look that says that the woman standing before him is his whole world. Then a smile covers his face entirely as he presents to her the fresh bouquet of wild flowers that he had hidden behind his back, looking to her face for signs of the approval that he had gone to such great lengths to earn – a smile from the one who gives light to his life. And in that moment, unable to conceal the mist that now challenges her vision, she kneels down to his level where her arms can envelope him fully, smelling a blend of soap and little boy sweat, and she and he both know in that moment that the world is indeed a wonderful place.

“Beauty is apparent for those willing to notice. And It cannot be ignored without losing something of ourselves. It is a gift freely given and received in love. Beauty changes us in all the best ways.

“Beauty is the wild flower that pushes up through the crack in the sidewalk, bringing life where life was thought to have been choked out. It’s butterflies and lightning bugs. It’s full moons and great big starlit skies. It’s random acts of kindness. It’s an embrace and a kiss.

“Beauty connects the human race.

“When I say that you are beautiful, I am saying that you make my world a more wonderful place. I see in your eyes a compassion that makes me want to be more compassionate. Your smile – not the polite one that you sometimes use to conceal your true feelings– but the one that lights up your entire face when you laugh – brings me a joy that even I can’t comprehend. I find your voice soothing, your presence comforting, your insights thoughtful. Your existence makes me want to be a better man.

“I imagine this scene in my mind…

“In the courts of Heaven, the Creator stands before you. He looks upon you with the softness of a father who is looking upon the only offspring from his beloved, whose arms he can no longer feel around him, whose kisses have only lived in memory for some time now. He looks upon you with wonder, and with a love and compassion as would be reserved for the only living memory of His one true love.

“He brushes your hair back away from your face with His fingertips, so he can look into your eyes fully. And He lovingly tucks the stray strands behind your ears. His smile is genuine and fatherly as he looks upon you with pride, as His eyes trace each line on your face – the lines caused by laughter and tears, and those simply caused by the passing of years – all of which only add to your beauty. Much like battle scars, they are earned, and tell a part of your story.

“The moments pass, but time seems to stand still. The angels stand and watch in silent wonder of this intimate moment between Creator and created, between Father and daughter. It’s as if the world had paused, and all present lived only in that moment.

“He cups your face with both of His hands, letting His fingers rest along your jaw, His palms against your face, His thumbs brushing your cheek bones. His eyes are like deep pools whose waters are barely contained.

“I see His chin tremble and His lip quiver. As He starts to speak, no sound escapes His lips. He swallows hard against the lump that has formed in His throat. Heaven stands silent in awe and anticipation. Clearing His throat, He finds just enough air to utter but one single word. As a tear, no longer able to be contained, spills over from it’s reservoir and hits hard upon His cheek; without any other sound to compete for hearing in all of Heaven, He simply says, ‘This!,’ as if to say that you are the pinnacle of His creation, and the final word for beauty.”

Now, having said all these things to her, he stepped toward her. Letting go of his grips on her hands, he moved his hands up her arms and pulled her toward him. He pressed his lips to her forehead. Then wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her into an embrace. With his right cheek against hers, he said to her softly, “And THIS is how I see you. And THIS is why I call you beautiful.”

After holding her close to him for a moment, he pulled back, with his hands firmly on her shoulders, till he could once again look directly into her eyes. With his eyes now glistening, he added, “Because I can conceive of no greater beauty. You are to me, beauty defined.”

What Makes You Think You Can Do That?

It’s been a year now since my inaugural post. I still struggle with the discipline of writing consistently, but I feel that I’ve come a long way. The fact that this blog even exists borders on the miraculous.

I’m not a risk taker by nature. I have a tendency to play it safe. Risks can produce some really wonderful things that we might never know without taking a chance. However, the flip side is that they can cause great embarrassment, shame, and/or other long-term negative consequences (like debt) if they don’t pan out. I’m not saying that I don’t take risks. I do. They just have to be well calculated. Or I’ll act on the advice of someone I trust. I don’t trust myself to weigh the risk in a stock purchase, for instance. But, I do trust my cousin-in-law Ed enough, that if he tells me where to invest my money (Let’s pretend for the moment that I have some.) I would do so. I would, because I trust his financial savvy, as well as his care for me not to lead me astray. I’ve cared too much about what people think of me for most of my life, but I put much more stock in the opinions of people whom I feel care most about me, who want to see me succeed.

I suppose I should have realized it much sooner. I have always loved to read. My heart has often been captured by a well-turned phrase. I do remember being praised by Mrs. Bennett, my third grade teacher, for a story I once wrote. Although I don’t remember anything about the story itself. And I really hadn’t recalled that fact in a very long time. And Mr Bender, in the seventh or eighth grade, looked at me with genuine astonishment when I actually wrote and delivered my persuasive speech assignment on why I thought students should be able to chew gum in school. He asked me where that guy had been for most of the semester.

Through most of school, including college and graduate school, I really didn’t like to write papers. I say I didn’t like to write them, but actually I think I’ve always been scared of using incorrect form in writing, or that my writing would not be interesting. This is still true. I have perfectionist tendencies, and a bit of a lazy streak when it comes to writing. I think it’s because I don’t want to expend a lot of energy on something that won’t be good enough anyway. But…I did have a few successes in writing through the years – when I actually did my assignments.

I also have a tendency to find my way to the office and school supply sections of any store I go to. And I can kill as much time in Office Depot as I can Best Buy. What am I usually looking at? Pens. And journals, or stationary. I often spent no money. But other times I would find a good buy on a journal, or a pen that felt good in my hand and wrote smoothly in my tense grip. Some of my favorite gifts have been pens, as well. But I didn’t realize for a long time why I had an “obsession” with writing tools.

I was always very quiet when I was young. Some of my newer friends might find that hard to believe. And I have often been accused of over-thinking things. Guilty, as charged. And, as I have said, I am a recovering people-pleaser. Therefore, I have taken way too much direction in my life from the opinions of others.  Looking back, I realize just how little I believed in myself. But, then again, my low self worth came through conditioning. I don’t remember much praise in my life – though I’m sure there was some. But I can recall all too well when I was told that I didn’t measure up, and would never amount to much. I think some of my accomplishments were simply to prove them wrong. However, it was the few people that I knew truly cared about me, who would give me affirmations, and point out things that I did well, that had the best effects in my life. I suppose this is why I like teaching. I see kids that have been emotionally and verbally (if not physically) beat up by peers, parents, and life. Somewhere inside them, locked away and buried deeply, are gifts the world desperately needs to see, hear, experience. And those gifts will never be experienced until someone cares about that child enough to see what they can’t see, and lovingly and patiently draw it out of them in a safe way, and help them see their own beauty. That’s the most important thing an educator (or any other human) can do for another person, in my opinion.

As a teen-ager, one of my dreams was to be a singer. I sang in my church’s youth choir, then young adult choir. But there were people whose opinion mattered to me because of my relationship to them, rather than because of any expertise that they had, who would tell me that I sang flat, or gave me other negative criticisms. Always negative though. Never encouraging. It wouldn’t matter later even, when I took a chance and sang a solo at my church when I was in college, and a music teacher told me that my voice had a nice resonance. It didn’t matter because other opinions had more weight for me. After a while I pretty much stopped singing altogether. I was even leery of singing alone in my car out on the open road, for fear of judgment and the feeling of shame. I’m still working on this.

I realize these things about me more now. I spend a lot of time processing the whys of my life. I gave way too much power away to those who should not have been trusted with it. It may take me a while to learn some things, but once learned…they’re pretty solid.

So how do we know that we’re good at something? Or how do we know if we have the aptitude, or gifts to try? Don’t we rely on some outside affirmation? I realized that there was something in me that wanted to write. What I didn’t have was the belief that I could; or that anyone would want to read what I wrote if I did.

Then it happened. And it all started to change.

In catching up with a long-lost friend, we were exchanging parts of our stories electronically. We were casual in writing, but trying to cover years of personal history. In the course of exchanges, she told me that I was, “an amazing writer”. Of course I thought (and think) that she was being kind, but it was like the planets had aligned in that moment. Though her words were kind, I also felt that they were the most genuine compliment that I had ever received, that she actually believed what she said about me. In many ways, I believe that was the beginning of a rebirth for me. I am convinced that this blog would never have happened if she hadn’t seen something in me that I couldn’t see in myself, and if I didn’t trust her as I do.

Pens and paper, and even education, did not make me a writer. Neither did (or do) my laptop or blog (although the blog allows me to fulfill a legal definition). They are merely tools. If I have any ability to write, it is because someone, whose opinion I value, and whose word I trust, said I was a writer. And that’s what makes me think I can write. And that’s what makes me strive to be amazing at it. I feel I have a ways to go, but this chapter in my life is still developing. Thank you for the part you play by reading.