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.