My wife and I like to ride our bikes through Oakwood Cemetery. I am not sure how it started, it is only a block from our house and it provides some unique scenery. It also provides a stark look at life. I am exercising when I really don’t want to be, amongst people who I would not normally hang out with, so it might be at the pinnacle of awkward and uncomfortable.
We like to see the tombstones and the unusual things that people leave at their gravesite. Recently, we saw a tombstone with helium-filled balloons strewn across it, they were floating along in the air with their various bright colors.
Those balloons represented, most likely, a birthday that was never to be. Somehow they aided in me realizing what a gift that my life really is. I am not promised tomorrow, or even the next minute. For some reason, I have survived some intense situations and came out wiser from it.
The mourner could have lamented over the grave and shook their fist at God, which undoubtedly that most likely happened. They moved on from that moment into a place where they purchased helium balloons at a local store and concocted a plan to fly the balloons above the grave. I am so glad they did and I am pretty sure they are glad about it, too.
I have seen a lot of people posting about our need to “Bring Prayer Back to our Schools.” I don’t really think is all that necessary. I know some of you agree with this sentiment, so let me explain myself…
First a little history on this subject:
From theblaze.com –
The ongoing contention started when Steven Engel, a Jewish New Yorker, came together with other parents in 1958 to sue New York State over state-endorsed prayer that was being recited in schools. The Supreme Court inevitably sided with Engel and the decision was issued on June 25, 1962 — a day that lives in infamy in the minds of many religious individuals and free-speech advocates.
Many who I see who post the call to bring back prayer in schools, have not stepped into a public school in years. I personally don’t want prayer in school. At my school, it would take precious instructional time and it would mean putting children into at least ten different groups to say a prayer, as not to offend someone. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of prayer, I pray often in my classroom to myself.
Prayer does not require a production. Students can pray to themselves whenever they would like. No one has taken that right, no one has taken any of their religious freedom. Our country was founded on religious freedom, we did not want to have to be a country that was ruled by a religion. Let’s not bring prayer back into schools, let’s bring it back into other areas of our life first. Bring it back to the living rooms of our homes and the everyday locales, but let’s let kids choose at school.
Have you ever had one of those nightmares where you are in a place that you never expected, nor wanted to be? You wake up in a stupor, not sure if it was actually happening or not. This happened to me, except I was awake, wide awake.
I grew up in the expansive state of Kansas, home to the world’s largest ball of twine and famous for being named in the Wizard of Oz. I came by this whole nightmare phenomena honestly, see Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, has a troubling journey just to get back home. She notices other people in her dream, which represent others in her real life. She is nostalgic as she dreams her way towards Oz and the hopes of getting back home.
I had a dream. A dream where I make relationships right that I have wronged. I apologize and really mean what I say. In this alternate dream which has now became my reality, I have become a bit more jaded than I ever intended on. What was my journey? To find the relevance of Jesus in my life apart from being the paid ministry.
So as Dorothy sleeps in the movie, I have toiled through most relationships, trying to drag out my positive and infectious self, that used to pop out so easily. I see him come out once in awhile, but the cynical and maniacal takes over more than I would like. It makes me even more angry when this darker side of myself comes out. This nightmarish, raging personality comes out and quite frankly scares the living shit out of me.
I keep falling asleep, hoping to reset, but it never happens. I never arrive to Oz, and I never really feel back at home. Granted, there have been some really sad moments in my life, but I don’t know why it excuses me to flip into the raging machine I am at times, appearing more and more often.
Early one morning I was walking on a street nearby, I noticed a neighbor, Ken, hugging the most crooked tree in a nearby park. It sounded like he was talking to it as well. Ken was always kind to my dogs, Lucy and later Shadow. He knew my wife from the dog park, but he never remembered my name. I saw him more often in his later months, as his memory was on the decline.
He passed away a few months later.
When I walk by his house nearly every day, I remember his calm spirit and I remember most that he hugged the tree that day. I found it initially strange, but later I thought it might not be a bad practice to embrace nature literally.
To everything there is a season. Check out my friend Gareth’s blog. It is well worth your time, every single day.
Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee
Tonight was the last night of the Third Wednesday Open Mic. It had bounced around to different venues and traded hands with hosts long before I started going a year ago. I saw one host and two venues. We’d been reading for a few months at Fig then Fig closed. It was a sign that none of us wanted to see but we all recognized: like a divorce, you can’t force it.
No-one read tonight. Instead, we sat around a table telling stories. I was between a poet from near Fayeteville and a teacher from all over, most recently Chapel Hill. We talked about the way the South has changed. There’s a lot of new construction in the triangle. They’re tearing down malls and selling off property. Every street in Chapel Hill is becoming a canyon with the sky-rises. Meanwhile, down…
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Don’t be a Religious Weirdo
Who can forget the famous Flanders. He is a religious nut who lives next door to Homer.
He says things like, “I’ve done everything the Bible says – even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff!” He accidentally pokes fun at the religion which he is very serious about. I think when I first became a believer in Jesus, I followed a lot of what other people were doing around me. Many of the “rules” were probably beneficial for me, but some seriously limited my exposure to the world.
Over the years, I still have a very deep faith in Jesus, but it looks a lot different than it used to. I am not sure how to explain it to others, except that it looks so much different than when I was a bible college student. A lot different.
I went to bible college for a year in Missouri and a few of the rules are below:
- You may not go to the movies at all.
- You may not wear shorts on campus unless you are playing sports.
- You will attend chapel daily.
- You will keep yourself to the highest level of morality.
There were a ton more, but I did not last more than a year there. I realized that even in American Christianity, it mattered less about who you were than it mattered who you knew. I saw minority students kicked out of school for marijuana use on their first discipline referral. I also saw students who were clearly not following morality rules, yet they were speaking during chapel. It really rocked my world, especially when I started dating a young lady who came from a pretty troubled past. I made my share of mistakes that I regret.
I ended up leaving bible college to never continue.
I still ended up doing ministry off and on for eleven years. I wanted so much to be in the crowd of ministers. They would tell me I was gifted for the ministry and would often work me to the last ounce of my energy. Ultimately, I gave up on vocational ministry in 2012, and I have never felt so faith-filled and authentic in my faith.
My faith has always been integral in my life, but I see it more evident now, just not in the way that many people would count it. Now my faith means the most when I am teaching my middle school students. I want them to find a way to make sense of their life.
I am glad I am no longer the Flanders of my neighborhood.
I am pretty sure my fascination with including special guests in a show started with Scooby Doo. I will never forget the episode with The Harlem Globetrotters. Although Scooby Doo only aired with 24 episodes, this is a trend that started in cartoons.
The Simpsons obviously has a lot more episode, currently at 654, but they also have used a lot of special guests to change it up on their program. You can see a complete list here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Simpsons_guest_stars)
The list of people on The Simpsons is filled with everyone from celebrities to scientists, athletes to comedians. I think that I learned a lot about being around different people growing up. My parents and grandparents always had a unique mixture of friends and family. They always worked pretty hard to get us around different people.
I will never forget the time that my Dad had a friend of his take us back to our mom. He was a younger guy who drove a Monte Carlo, he was seemingly pretty normal, except for one really horribly awful habit. He drove laid back in his seat with his bare left foot hanging out the window. He was a really fun guy, but I never could understand that. One other thing that was different for me was that he really liked to build stuff in his apartment, again not strange, but his building materials were old Coors Light cans. That was the interesting part.
My grandfather had a couple interesting friends, but I was intrigued most by his friend Chet Fisher. Chet was one of only a few African Americans in his small town. Chet reminded me of Bo Diddley who was famous to me for singing Sixteen Tons. Chet visited at least once a week to chat and to come in and make some trades. Grandpa traded him for so many different things, a Ruger pistol, many guitars, appliances, and tools. Chet was always a kind and considerate person. He was a local celebrity, but we found out as time went on that his daughter was a pretty famous traveling singer. My grandpa showed me that people are not as different as we sometimes think, and for me growing up in 78% caucasian state this was helpful.
As a young pastor, I met John Brookfield who was an evangelist and strongman. I had him come and speak to our students and we struck up a friendship. Over the following years, I helped produce a lot of different videos to help him teach others how to have amazing hand strength. John was on numerous tv shows including The Today Show, Regis and Kathie Lee, he is a Ripley’s Believe it or Not holder, and has some pretty amazing feats of strength. John had followed his dreams and for a long time. He is the picture of perseverance for me. He is still doing it all these years later.
It is important to have varying, different people in your life. They will help you dream, learn, and sometimes loosen up a little bit to accomplish something you thought you never could.
Growing up, we had a hall closet that greeted you as soon as you entered the door. It was used for coats, board games, and holiday decorations. I remember feeling excitement, for every season that we would take out the decorations for each of the different seasons. It was like this closet held a lot of our traditions in one place.
The Simpsons have always been good at this. Opening nearly every show with the Simpsons sitting on the couch together. Every Halloween there is a Treehouse of Horror episode for Halloween. There are a few Thanksgiving episodes, St. Patrick’s Day, and Christmas episodes.
In fact, the very first Simpsons episode was a Christmas special, you can watch it here…
They started The Simpsons with traditions, not just because it is a family show, but because I think they believed that this show was going to be going for awhile.
Tradition is important to kids and should be to adults as well. My Grandma Lois always made every holiday so special for us. She worked at a Pharmacy that also was a Hallmark store, so she scored some pretty amazing decorations. She loved to dress up on Halloween and even was the Hallmark Bunny for Easter a few times.
I remember her hosting a lot of different events for the whole family. One of my favorite events was when we would celebrate New Year’s Eve, we would play board games, bingo, and invited our Great-Grandmother Bessie over to celebrate. We would have sparkling cider and would toast at midnight.
I have always tried to build a sense of of tradition into my classroom as a teacher, but I will say without having kids, it is more of a struggle to want to do traditional things at home. We have traditions as a couple, but they increasingly have less and less to do with over doing it, as my Grandma used to do for us.
Tradition is important, but more important is showing everyone in your family that you love them, no matter how you do it. The love is ultimately she left us, not the traditions. I suspect that this love is what Homer and Marge wanted to show in their traditions as well.
I was really touched by this post. Gareth is a talented writer, check this post out on death. Gareth writes a post every day and I really enjoy it.
Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee
I found out what death was when my parakeet died in 4th grade. I think it was 4th grade. It might have been earlier. But the bird did die. I walked out on a weekend morning to his living room cage. He was on the floor of the cage with his wings splayed out. He chirped twice and fell over. I called my mom. I ran to my room. I buried my face in my bed. She came to tell me he was dead. I cried, but not so much for the bird as for what slippery thing he’d invited into our house. When Death comes, it never goes away.
After Beak – that was his name, the parakeet – we rushed out and got a cockatiel named ‘Tealy.’ I loved Tealy. He was bright and neurotic. He sang love songs to his…
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