Preparing

The most memorable Thanksgivings in my life were the ones that didn’t follow the traditional script. The ones I remember most are the ones that don’t come even remotely close to resembling a Norman Rockwell scene, with a mother in an apron placing a golden bird in front of a sweater-vested father eagerly wielding a carving knife in one hand and serving fork in the other while an excited, beaming family looks on with anticipation. Continue reading

Communion and Community

“Why am I here?”

That’s what I was thinking as heavy iron doors thunked shut behind our group. Pastor JT Burk and I, along with a few other members of Mount Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church, and our neighbors down the street, The United Church, were following Pastor Chris Ode, the pastor of Living Stones Prison Ministry, deeper into the bars and barbed wire of the Washington Corrections Center near Shelton. I’d never been in a prison before; the closest I’d ever been to incarceration was a field trip to the Tacoma Police Department with the Cub Scouts that included a brief look at empty holding cells. Continue reading

Racist

I’m racist.

I almost typed “I’m probably racist” but using “probably” felt like a crutch: a qualifier to give me an escape route in the conversation. “Probably” gives me or someone else an opportunity to interject and say “no, probably not”.

But I am racist. I’m certain of it. Continue reading

Imagine

Imagine.

Imagine living with the certainty that you are fully and completely loved.

Imagine living without any doubt about your worthiness.

Imagine living know you are not only acceptable and accepted but cherished.

Imagine living with the certainty that when hard times come, and they will, that you will be consoled, supported and healed.

Imagine knowing that all of this is true, not because you did anything in particular to earn it but is true simply because you are.

Just because you are. Continue reading

FOMO

FOMO.

I saw this acronym recently and didn’t know what it meant, but from the context of what I was reading it seemed as if it’s commonly used now. I looked it up and found that it means “Fear Of Missing Out”.

Fear of missing out. I can understand that – who wants to be left out? The picture that springs into my head is that of a youth standing on the sidelines of a gym, waiting to be picked for a team and dreading the possibility that they’ll be the last one chosen, or, even worse, not chosen at all. Continue reading

Quote

I believe

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge,

that myth is more potent than history.

I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts,

that hope always triumphs over experience,

that laughter is the only cure for grief.

And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

— Robert Fulghum, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”

I Got You Babe

“I got you, babe…”

There aren’t a lot of movies I can watch over and over, but Groundhog Day is near the top of a very short list of ones that I can. Which is silly, of course, because a core component of the movie is that the same things repeat over and over and over.

I’ve been thinking about the movie quite a bit this past week. Continue reading

Called To Change

The Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday has stirred my heart more than any other national holiday. Presidents Day is easily forgettable, other than being inspired by words from George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day are powerful, but the tone is more on remembrance and thankfulness. Independence Day is mostly a party. Columbus Day? Well, I don’t see many people making much of a fuss about that. Continue reading

A Mighty Fortress

I love to tell stories but I have one story that I’m reluctant to share.

I’m reluctant to share it not because it’s embarrassing or because I would feel too vulnerable.

I’m reluctant to share it because it is about a powerful moment. A moment that was so powerful I can still easily recall it today, but it was the briefest of moments and I long to do it justice.

But I’m going to try. Continue reading

Homework

A few nights ago I was helping my son with his math homework. It had a lot of fractions and word problems and he was really struggling with it. The frustration was building and it was beginning to boil over into tears, anger and expressions of “I’ll never get this -maybe I’m just dumb!” and “It’s not fair – why is my teacher being so mean?”. As we worked through it I could hear underneath all of that a message of “maybe I’m just not good enough” and a sense of remorse for not being able to get past the emotions and just focus on the task. I’ve been on this planet long enough to know that this is nothing unusual – I can recall having many similar episodes when I was in school as a boy, particularly with algebra or chemistry homework. Continue reading

Gunner

“GUNNER – COAX – TROOPS!”

Thirty years ago I was an Army Reservist. Most of my weekend drills and two-week annual trainings were at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, a small base just a few miles north of the border with Mexico.

I was a tank gunner on an M60A3 Main Battle Tank and heard the phrase “GUNNER – COAX – TROOPS!” frequently. It was the command my tank commander would call out when we came across the simulated infantry targets scattered throughout our tank gunnery practice ranges. Continue reading

Prepared

I was prepared.

In 1992, when I was 24 years old, I could take apart, reassemble and do a function check on a Colt M1911A1 .45 caliber pistol in less than 45 seconds.

I was prepared.

I had qualified as an Expert shot every time I went to the range with the Army, even knocking down my targets while wearing a gas mask. When I pointed a pistol at targets they went down. Continue reading

Losing It

I had a very simple task to do yesterday.

All I had to do was stand in front of a staff meeting and invite them to visit a few of our locations for an Awareness Tour.

No big deal. I stand in front of this group all the time. I’ve known most of them for many years so there’s no “stage fright”.

And I completely lost it. Continue reading

Good News

When I was a young boy we went to a Methodist church in Phoenix, Arizona every Sunday. And although we were there Sunday after Sunday, pretty much every week, without exception, I can’t tell you with any certainty anything the minister ever said except for a joke he told one day:

“What do you get when you cross a Methodist with a Jehovah’s Witness?” Continue reading

Division and Faith

25 years ago a white Army van dropped me off on the corner of Division and Faith.

I was 25 years old and had just come on Active Duty with the military after experiencing the most difficult year of my life. In the previous year I’d lost my father, a marriage and my job and I was looking for a fresh start. A new direction. A rebirth. Continue reading

Seeds of Caring

One of my earliest memories is of my father taking me out of class early one afternoon. He had our Y Indian Guides gear with him and we drove over to the newspaper building in downtown Anchorage where someone stood me up on a chair in front of a wood-paneled wall and took our picture. If I ever knew why we did this I don’t remember it now, but I remember the day well because it’s one of only a few times I can recall he and I doing something where it was just the two of us. I have three older brothers, so most events were group events. I remember this day well, though: I remember the dark striped wood paneling; I remember him laughing and smiling; I remember feeling so important and practically famous to be in the newspaper. Continue reading

Free

I just finished filling out my ballot for this year’s election.  It took me nearly an hour to fill out but it feels like over a year’s worth of effort.

 Like many others, I’m sure, I’ve felt like this has been the longest, bitterest election ever.  It’s challenged so many of us in so many ways: beliefs, identities, customs, friendships, to name a few. Continue reading

Silent Night

When I think of the Christmases of my youth there are few presents I can remember receiving. A gallon of pickles when I was about 10 or 11, because I really loved pickles. A remote controlled airplane that I crashed and destroyed on the playground of my elementary school on its first flight. An electric typewriter, when I was 15 or 16, which I learned to type on while listening to a cassette tape of Sting singing “We Work the Black Seam Together”. To this day, if I’m really in the groove, I type to the tempo of that song. Continue reading