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Of thin places

April 6, 2017

I stepped out of the storm

and found myself on an unfamiliar shore

The calm waters before me

unfazed by the violent roar gnashing at my back

the serene blue gently kissing

the sand and pebbles inches from my toes

while lightning still reached for my heels

I closed my eyes and shivered

and told myself I was safe

My head knew it was true

but my heart still pounded

as the thunder echoed in my ears

I was soaked to the bone

dripping with a fury not my own

and as I lifted my face

rivers ran down my cheeks and

I could not tell if they were made of

rain or tears.



Armed and dangerous

March 2, 2017



It was war

and I don’t know how I found myself in the battle

but once I saw the enemy advance

I could not turn my back on my comrades

guttural screams

metal against metal

the grinding sound of combat

close enough to feel

the breath of the adversary

And yet I seemed to be hidden

as I grabbed an arrow and swiftly aimed

and released it

watching it hit the mark while I reached for another

and another

and another

a steady rhythm of







so swiftly yet

so calmly

that it felt odd to consider this fighting

And yet the deadliness of my aim

made it clear that this was not play

and that sometimes we fight battles

that are ours only because

we are a we.



When Crazy turns into Amazing

February 28, 2017

Six months.

A lot can happen in six months. It can feel like forever, and it can feel like the blink of an eye. It can also feel like both at the same time. I can’t explain that; I just know it’s true.

About six months ago a Big Can of Crazy opened up in my life, one I barely survived. I’m not being dramatic when I say that. I had been a person of relatively few health issues, and out of the blue the electrical system that makes my heart work properly went on the fritz in a really bad way. You can read about it here, or a bit about the post-processing here. It’s a wild story. I’m still amazed.

A month ago I had a visit with the electrocardiologist who took over my care when I was transferred to the hospital in Pensacola. It was the first time I’d seen him since I left the hospital.

“Ok…what was THAT?” I asked him.

He just smiled ruefully and shook his head. “With as far as research and technology have come, we’re no closer to being able to predict who this will happen to than we were when I was in residency fifteen years ago.”

So strange. Apparently if it’s gonna happen, you want to be in an airport (defibrillators installed all over the place), a casino (cameras installed all over the place), or a hospital (medical personnel installed all over the place). I was, of course, in the latter.

The specialist did an EEG at the office and he also did a read on my ICD.  Both showed totally normal function, and the ICD showed no history of wackiness since it was implanted. The doctor took me off the one medication I was on to help keep the heart calm. It was never a long-term solution anyway, and we were all glad to get me off of it.

In the big picture, I had a normal heart before this happened. Then it happened, and nothing was normal and my heart kept going into lethal rhythms (which is pretty much the same as stopping, because there’s no real pulse and it can’t actually pump blood during those rhythms, and death is imminent without intervention). And now…I have a normal heart again, albeit with a few burnt spots from the ablation and a computerized watchdog sitting a few inches away in my chest.

Big picture: The visit delivered even better news than I knew to hope for. Everything is really good. I’ll have occasional follow-ups with a cardiologist and the electrocardiologist, but that’s because something happened and not because something is happening. I don’t have to take any medications for this.  The Long QT Syndrome that showed up after this happened is no longer present. I will always have an ICD in my chest as a safety net, but the battery on the one I have is currently projected to last 12 more years. There are certain medications I don’t care to ever take again because they may have played a role in setting this off (I’m looking at you, Zofran), but otherwise there are no hard and fast rules about what I can take, although I’m pretty conservative about that stuff anyway.

And hey…I still have my gallbladder! It’s not bothered me a bit since then.  Just one more thing I can’t explain, but for which I am grateful.

God has been so incredibly good and faithful to me. So many people have prayed, checked in on me, driven me places, encouraged me, reminded me of the good future before me. It is humbling to be so cared for.

This whole event, the entire six months of it, has raised many questions and also many answers. I don’t know most of the whys. I probably never will. But I know a lot more about Who, and about His heart, and the hearts of His kids.

And really, what more could I ask for?



A better mousetrap

February 26, 2017

How I shop for a vacuum cleaner:

Consult Consumer Reports magazine. Read articles and study ratings. Pull up Amazon and research the results of Consumer Reports’ most highly recommended models, and compare them with the most favorably rated models listed by Amazon.  Narrow Amazon search filters to only show vacuum cleaners listed 4 stars or better.  Thoroughly read all the information about each model, as well as every question asked by shoppers about it. Study consumer ratings for consistent positive or  negative feedback, as well as what the most recent shoppers have said about their experience with the model. Pull up website of the models consumers like most, looking for more information. Narrow contender list by adding the most promising candidates to a secret “Comparison Shopping” wish list I’ve created on Amazon so that I can find them easily later. Google said promising candidates to price-compare. Make trips to any stores to look for any sister models or great sales or rebates.

How Mr. Sparky shops for a vacuum:

“Hey, look what I got! I was in the base exchange and this was $100 off! You’d been complaining about our vacuum and this is a different kind!”

And that, Sparky Nation, is how we came to own a Dyson Multi Floor vacuum cleaner. It sucks, which is a compliment for a vacuum cleaner, and more than I can say for the old Hoover that’s about to get the heaver.

Make a circle, make it wide

January 26, 2017

“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?

Angry people?

Depressed people?

People on welfare?


People who’ve committed crimes?




Kids who have their faces in their phones?

Pro-life people?

Pro-choice people?

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.

It matters.

The elements of atmosphere

January 19, 2017

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.



How did that get there?

January 4, 2017

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.