“If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change. ” Michael Jackson
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” –not Ghandi, no matter what the memes say
It sounds like good advice, doesn’t it? Actually, it is good advice.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking other people should change. In reality, what we usually mean when we say that is that we think other people should be more like us. They should think like us, behave like us, hold the same values we hold, embrace the same belief systems we embrace.
Our lips may say “diversity”, but our behavior often says “affirm me by being like me”.
It’s a slippery slope. From there you can pretty much figure a sloppy slide into judgment. It may be in the name of justice. It may even be in the name of humor, a sarcastic and snarky slap at a people group that is different from you. But it’s judgment, nevertheless, and it builds walls and shuts out the very people we believe should be like us. As in…on the INSIDE of the wall, thinking as we think, behaving as we behave. But the truth is that you won’t have a place of influence in the lives of those you’ve judged and alienated, whose dignity you’ve assaulted, even if you believe they are behaving without dignity already. So if that’s important to you, you may find you have some positions worth reconsidering.
Think of it this way: for the sake of being right, looking smart or clever, or having a laugh, who is disposable in your sphere of influence?
People with a different sexual orientation than you?
People of a different race than you?
People on welfare?
People who’ve committed crimes?
Kids who have their faces in their phones?
People who disagree with you?
The list could go on and on, you know. We humans are very complex. There will always be someone drastically different from us, someone we vehemently disagree with and don’t understand.
But hear me clearly: you can have a relationship with people you disagree with. You can have influence in the lives of people who are deeply different from you. You can have a relationship and influence without having an agenda.
In other words, you can have a relationship without trying to convert the other person to your way of thinking or behaving. That’s manipulation. It smells bad and nobody likes it.
Love isn’t an emotion. Love is a power. People who live lives of love, kindness, and respect are powerful people, and they are attractive safe havens for important conversations that aren’t contrived to meet an agenda.
God loves people. He loves all kinds of people, even the rascals, miscreants, and rapscallions. In fact, I think He loves them a little harder, because they need it so much. He would like them to love Him too, but He’s not interested in “love” produced by manipulation. He is willing to love them where they are, as they are. He knows that one of the things Love does best is transform hearts. It doesn’t have to manipulate to do so. It need only be the power that it is.
Make no mistake: I’m a Jesus freak and I believe the world would be happier if everyone in it knew how awesome He is and how much He loves them. But Jesus in me is willing to let people be who they are. He wants me to represent Him in the way I love, not the way I manipulate or shame those who either don’t know him or have messed up and are afraid He doesn’t like them anymore. And if they decide they don’t want to love Him, He doesn’t excuse me from a relationship with them.
You are an influencer. Wait—you read that too quickly. Slow down and let it sink in.
You have a sphere of influence. You have a world view. You have a guiding set of values. You are influencing people whether or not you believe you are. The behaviors and attitudes you model are the ones you give your sphere of influence permission to adopt and demonstrate to their own spheres of influence. This works whether you choose positive, kind, loving thoughts and behaviors, or negative, violent, dismissive ones.
Use your powers for good, not evil. Refuse to throw rocks at the bad, and instead BE the good.
I’ve never understood the weather
or how it is that a day of brilliant sun
can suddenly swirl with violent storms
The birds go silent as
thunder vibrates the atmosphere and
lightning streaks across the darkened canopy
When the ground shakes under an angry sky
there isn’t always time to take cover
and wouldn’t you know it
I’ve left my umbrella
on the floorboard of my car
and I’m not sure where I parked
What I really don’t understand
is how the person next to me
squints behind dark glasses and
slathers on sunscreen
while I drip the fury of the heavens
all over the kitchen floor
I suppose I should have seen this coming
but I didn’t
The sky was so bright when I woke up
that I couldn’t fathom
the blackness of the afternoon to come
I’m a little embarrassed about that
and also about ruining the suede
on your shoes when you stopped
to hug me and tell me
you liked the rainbow over my head
I didn’t have the heart to tell you
that the rainbow is only visible
from the sunny side
and I haven’t seen it yet today.
I have some interesting living area furniture. And by interesting, I mean that it’s been far too loved by decades of spitting up babies, grimy toddlers, grungy preteens, dirty-footed teenagers, sharp-clawed cats, and Jake the Jerk-Faced Dog as well as his greyhound Dingbat Brigade predecessors. We won’t even discuss the fact that it was last in style sometime in the mid ’80s. It has served us well, but we’ve already had to drag one hopeless piece to the curb, and another probably isn’t far behind. But for now, it’s what keeps us from sitting on the floor.
As I was thinking about what we could do with what we have, my thoughts turned to a well-worn little table thingy that we first used as a TV stand (remember when small TVs were the size of dorm fridges?), and then used as a coffee table. Except it would better be described as a Fruit Roll-Up table, or a dirty sock table, or a bobby pin table, or a what-is-that-and-who-spilled-it table, because it’s really not seen much coffee in its years. It’s not fancy. But it’s still pretty sturdy.
The wheels started turning.
Maybe I could paint that table. I bet I could paint it. But hand painted furniture often ends up looking all rescued, in all the wrong ways. Except people are painting a lot of furniture these days and it looks great. Maybe I could paint furniture that looks great, or at least better than it does now. But what if it doesn’t? What if I make an ok-ish piece of wood furniture into a truly terrible eyesore? Wait—what about that chalk paint stuff people rave about? I see a lot of nice furniture painted with that. Of course, it wasn’t painted by me, and my furniture painting skills or lack thereof might actually be the issue. But I could start smaller because we’ve got those wooden bar stools that I keep thinking would look so much fun if they were red. I could try chalk painting one of them and if it turns out terribly, I could stop and quietly put things away and pretend nothing happened here, nothing at all.
And then I started googling chalk paint, and the next thing you know there was this:
It’s not perfect, but it’s not too bad for a first attempt with no real guidance.
I decided to try me another bar stool, one with a slightly more complicated design, and maybe experiment with a different technique. Chalk paint is cool because you don’t have to sand or prime, but you do have to clean the surface because nothing wants to stick to where your greasy orange Cheetos fingers surreptitiously wiped, except maybe staticky cat hair. So I popped another bar stool up on the table and started washing.
Here’s the thing: until I started scrubbing at that stool, I would have sworn it was pretty clean. But when was the last time I picked it up and really scrubbed at the lower legs on it? When was the last time I considered that maybe the color of the wood should be a little lighter? When did I last actually look at the underside of the seat?
Funny how you can think something is in pretty good shape until you go to spruce it up, confident in how little effort it’s going to take, and then you discover just how much dirt has been hiding in plain site.
“Sometimes, quiet is violent.”
-Car Radio, twenty one pilots
“I miss my words.”
This is my 1200th post. What in tarnation does anyone write 1200 posts about? And after that many posts, why am I still using a preposition to end a sentence with?
I’m about a month away from hitting the eight year mark from the inception of this blog. I wonder how many words I’ve used here on these pages? Maybe there was a limit. Maybe I used them all up, and that is why I’m now sitting in silence, missing my words.
It’s a nice idea, this business of using up my word quota. It’s all neat and tidy. It’s total pish posh, too. But we like neat and tidy answers even when they’re pish posh.
- Let’s shake hands and go for ice cream now
See how easy that is?
Pish posh, wish wash, polly wolly mish mosh.
Sometimes quiet really is violent. It leaves space for thoughts to roll around in my mind and get wedged into uncomfortable places. It echoes so loud it hurts my ears from the inside, and that is why I make that face, in case you were wondering.
I used to be driven to write. I still am, to be honest. The difference is that I used to have words to actually set to paper or screen.
- Drive to write
- Words to write
There. See how neat and tidy that is? It works beautifully. When it works.
But when it doesn’t work…
- Drive to write
- Sit in front of screen for hours, unable to think of any words or any reason to use words
Not so neat and tidy. It makes my chest ache, and it’s really hard to laugh when your chest aches.
And I really like to laugh.
I’ve tried harder. I’ve prayed harder. I’ve lectured myself harder. I’ve even given up harder, because sometimes you gotta just stop the madness and back off.
This is just one little blog in a giant sea of blogs. You never know what you’ll find here. There’s a lot about Jesus, and a fair amount just about life and Jake the Jerk-Faced Dog and squirrel crimes and other general nonsense that gets cooked up in my noggin. But somewhere along the way I got this wild idea that my voice is important, and that I was given this ability to express my quirky thoughts for a reason.
There’s a sense of responsibility that comes with that. A responsibility for, and a responsibility to. I can’t help but take it seriously, even when I’m being a dork.
And somehow, I think the Sparky Nation, if any of you are left out there, knows that.
“There are things we can do
But from the things that work there are only two
And from the two that we choose to do
Peace will win
And fear will lose
There’s faith and there’s sleep
We need to pick one please because
Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think”
-Car Radio, twenty one pilots
I’ve heard it said that
the eyes are the windows to the soul
and I think this is probably true
I don’t know what the ears are
but I love that when the eyes are closed
the ears are still open
Your ears hear me always
When nobody else is listening
your razor ears never miss a thing
When I am shivering soundlessly
you hear every word I’m not saying
every decibel-less word I’m screaming
every choked syllable lodged in my throat
You never mistake my quiet for silence
When I sing for you
the notes arc through space like falling stars
and you catch every one
and call them beautiful
even if they’re wet with tears
even if they’re sticky with blood
even if they’re fragile and broken
Your ears hear with grace
that which would repel any sane eye
But I think the best thing
is that in the middle of it all
the outrageously ugly
your ears hear the laughter
that is yet to come.
The line was long but still I waited
I had other things to do but nothing better
Some folks chatted to pass the time
But I was lost in the breath of the wind
I avoided eye contact with the ground
I pretended I couldn’t see the fractures beneath my feet
Maps of history and maps of conjecture
I closed my eyes and the breeze kissed my face
Stolen songs swirled around me
I wondered if anyone else could hear them
I wondered if anyone was missing them
Or if they knew the wind remembered every note
A barking dog interrupted the melodies
As barking dogs are wont to do
The chatting folks heard neither dog nor music
But the wind and I heard it all
I gotta tell ya, it’s been a few of months of the crazy.
I left my retail job in early June, after six years at da panty sto’. In late June we were finally led to a new church home, after a year and a half of home-churching and “shopping”. Life rolled at breakneck speed through the summer, and in late August my life was turned upside down and I spent nine days in the hospital. Three weeks after I left the hospital I had my feet on the ground in Brazil for a ministry trip with Randy Clark and Global Awakening, and three weeks after that I was back in Florida, trying to block out the chaos of an increasingly vicious political climate ramping up to the impending elections.
I won’t lie…about every ten minutes I feel like I’ve got whiplash. I no sooner get my feet back under me again, take a deep breath, and the ground beneath my feet takes a hard lurch to the right.
It’s a lot to process in a short period of time. What does it mean for me to no longer be working the job that brought both blessing and inconvenience for six years of my life? What does it mean to have a new church home and to be the new kid on the block in a new church family, still unsure where or how I fit? What does it mean to now live life with a scar over a little computer implanted in my chest that is in charge of jolting me if my electrical wiring starts doing a bad boogie (I’m praying it remains underutilized…as in never!)? What does it mean for this capable, independent person to be dependent on others for transportation anywhere and everywhere…and to not know for certain if I’ll be released to drive again? What does it mean to have even more pieces of my heart strung across Brazil as I’m praying that my spiritual investments there will bear lasting, transforming fruit, and what does it mean to have my heart broken by some of what I experienced while I was in that beautiful country? What does it mean to live in a nation that has left me uneasy about every possible option for new governmental leadership?
I’m not saying I feel anxious over these things, although sometimes they’re really hard. It was late December of last year when He started talking to me about doing a new thing. Isaiah 43:19 nipped at my heels like a sheepdog. I keep wondering if this is really what He meant, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. He can leverage this or anything else for my good and His glory. I don’t have to be comfortable with it for it to be good.
This is where I am so deeply grateful for the past years where He has taught me that His presence isn’t something to achieve, but something that’s always with me, waiting to be called up to tangible reality wherever I am. I needed it in that hospital room. I needed it in Brazil. I need it anytime I give two seconds’ worth of attention to any kind of media, social or conventional.
His presence is key to everything. It ushers in the kingdom. It manifests His power. It transforms atmospheres. It holds us in perfect peace when the world has gone maniacally crazy. I think one of the most amazing things I’ve learned is that because He is always in me, I can quiet myself and become aware of Him in an instant, without working myself into it. I have the potential to be held in the power of His presence at any moment…and when I’m held there, those around me sense that I’m carrying something unusual…even the people who have never met Him. Oh, that I would remember this every moment of every day!
So yeah…it’s been a few months of the crazy. I wouldn’t have purposefully chosen it, but it’s what I’ve got, and He’s been present in it all, and He’s shown me that it’s worth the battle to be present to His presence. Even in the crazy, because He’s there, too.
Might need Jesus to get me a neck brace and some Dramamine, though, at least until the crazy decides to chill out a little.