commanded

The rain asks a question from the heavens

Not for man to answer but for man to live

If there is happiness, may we enjoy it

How strange to beg permission from the world

When the question rains from heaven. 

When our work here completes will we know the validity of a heart

Or merely tally checked boxes 

Wife kids house job 

Was she loved with a passionate strength

Did they go freely into the world 

When did house become home

A job is not identity.

If you were only commanded to be happy, 

Could you do it? Go, and be happy for there is only joy.

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For the love of

Why do we do it to ourselves? Why do we tangle up our happy with someone else’s heart? It’s so weird. My dog doesn’t care about any of that. He has his little buddy and a good life and he’s the happiest damn goofball we know. 

His heart is fine. 

A friend of mine struggled a bit in a new relationship and my best advice? Sometimes boys are dumb.

I felt ashamed of myself, for not offering something better as a balm and for stereotyping a whole gender. Ashamed. 

I’ve always tried to maintain that we are all just people. People with thoughts and feelings and scars and sunshine we scatter when we walk. 

Yeah, some guys are jerks. And some girls are plain mean. But most of us are out here doing the best we can. We make our lives our own. 

We get to create our world every day. For some reason, we want someone to share in our creation. Someone to write the whole middle section with us. But it gets messy. Our happiness begins to rotate around someone else’s axis. We invite them into our sunshine and sometimes they make it rain. 

But hell if I don’t know you gotta take a little rain with the sunshine. Because sometimes you don’t know just how good you feel until you’ve been clear down. 

Baby love is a good thing. But you gotta be your own sun and moon and rain. Another heart won’t control your weather. You make your world. That’s what makes you beautiful. 

So invite someone in if you feel like sharing the sun. Bring them home with you, lay next to them under the stars. Make them laugh for days and days and days. And when the rain comes, and it will come, open the umbrella of shared time. 

We can’t get anywhere alone. But don’t seek someone else’s sun for your own because you don’t know how to make your own joy. There’s such a difference between being alone and being alone. 

So if I had to tell you something to help with the boy trouble, just do what makes your heart sing. Loudly. Boys aren’t dumb. Nobody is good at love. Except dogs. So my best advice is to love fiercely and let go lightly. We will make sure you shine.

In Imitation of Hemingway

See the man letting in the remote stars. He stands in the timber frame of the doorway. Bark peels along the hinges. A springer spaniel the man calls Kaylon cocks his head at a squirrel, silky ears hanging past his chin. An ax clutched against his palm fits the wrap of his fingers. The other arm dangles at his side handless. Cold air seeps through the door frame, brushing against the twine fibers of his gloves. Nothing moves across the moonless landscape. Only snow jumps free from the branch of a fir, suddenly. The dog nudges his calves. He inhales the sharp air. The exhale frosts his bearded cheeks. The deep cold of December invades the spaces around his body stealing firelight from the room behind him. It’s a tundra cold, freezing man or beast down to the ground cartilage of rusted joints. The phantom nerves of the missing hand ache, despite the time passed since he lost her. With another inhale, exhale, he crunches into the night. Heavy work boots leave the porch to split firewood that means heated blood. The dog bounds one joy woof across the drifts. Crusted over –melted, frozen, melted, frozen –the surface shelf breaks beneath paw and boot. He thinks about his work –written, erased, written, erased –breaking beneath the heft of talking. “Though there is one part of writing that is solid and you do it no harm by talking about it, the other is fragile, and if you talk about it, the structure cracks and you have nothing,” the trees silently absorb his thought. They call him pretentious, for knowing more about the feel of words than they did. He likes the way the words slip through the spaces of the page, each lingering a moment to be pressed into the ink by the keys. The poetry he writes sits warmly inside a locked desk drawer. He never takes it out. He adds a printed sheet on Sundays. He never takes it out. No one told him writing poetry defines a man’s masculinity in ways no ax or forest or muscle can. The thump of steel striking wood splits the night. Bark flies onto the snow. Sap beads the blade. Heat pours from his chest. His body arcs to compensate for underdeveloped shoulder tendons. The spaniel snuffles the wood chips, as their piney scent wafts silently on the frigid air. A stack of firewood mounts. He rolls the logs up the good arm with the stump, pressing them into his chest. There was a woman once who pressed –but no, he will not think of her now. She’s gone, too, with the hand. Kaylon rushes to the doorway, eager to tend the fire. It’s just a man and a dog before the flickering embers. Oxygen rushes upon the coals as tender tree flesh catches flame with a hiss. Somewhere beyond the sky rim, a timber wolf howls.

And the stars seep under the door.

too high

let’s write the words that float

a boat for green shoots

singing different melodies through

the succulent on her desk

the shades of ever never the

same

one sails lyrical, the other prosaic

shan’t be bored by any one

chord come on mama let me

hear you come alive because

a mountain needs moved from under

to over

so lungs don’t fail me now and they

will ask no more.

On Conversation

A friend recently asked me about my goals in life. I said, “To be happy and healthy and whole. To live in love and to be always seeking the face of God. To be kind and honest.”

Funny how my goals in life revolve around the kind of person I want to be, the character I hope to cultivate rather than a timeline of accomplishments. I suppose it stems from a reluctance to formulate a 5 year plan.

You plan. God laughs. Every time.

There is absolutely zero chance of my five year plan going according to plan. My time is more wisely invested in self-discovery and curiosity about the world and people around me. We seek relationship. Which means I think we need to have better conversations through all mediums.

Texting makes it easy to take the surface approach, hey how’s your day, what’s you do. (Side Note: “Yep” is a conversational ball that throws it back into your court. I’m not going to carry the burden of the conversation alone if your effort lacks.) Face to face we become concerned the things escaping our lips are held in judgment, examined and manipulated. That sort of filter frustrates me. Yeah, it’s great to think before you speak, but you shouldn’t have to edit yourself to suit your audience. I discover myself censoring my speech more and more since I moved to a small town, where it seems everything you say runs the odds of being run through the rumor mill. (Learning how to be an adult in the town you grew up in…. another post for another time.)

Sometimes at the office we discuss a social experiment involving online dating and how people present themselves. What would happen if we were completely honest about who we are as people? The theory is that if we were completely honest, the algorithm would work perfectly. So often we find ourselves presenting a version of ourselves, rather than being true to who we really are. So what if my current favorite movie is Frozen? So what if I believe in Jesus? So what if I go to bed early? Editing ourselves to make someone like us feels wrong – like we are ashamed of certain parts of ourselves.Granted, there’s always room for improvement. I could be a little more adventurous and care a little less about dirty dishes in the sink. But if I just say what I think you want to hear, are we really connecting on a meaningful level?

We seem to be a surface generation, concerned with appearances and filtering our experiences. There’s something to be said for putting a positive spin on a situation and looking for the good things, but we must be careful not to always live here.

Most of me yearns to feel life more deeply. I suppose it stems from a desire to seek the face of God for if God lives in us, the world cannot harm us and we are free to experience the art of His brush as He meant it to be felt.

Ultimately, we all carry the same story. We all feel joy and grief and heartbreak and hilarity. These are the things that make us who we are. The theme is common but the paragraphs feel unique. When we realize this, then will we have truly accomplished something so simple, but so important.

We shall be free

Why must death teach us how to live?

For we are only hosts of the Holy Spirit. The moment we ascend heaven, we become merely flesh and marrow. It seems we should spend all our days in the sunshine, to live among the things wild and free, peaceful and wild when the weather changes.

When I die, I pray to leave the way he did. On a nice sunny day, the chance to say goodbye to the ones held in my heart, drifting toward the Maker. To leave without fear.

We cry for the ones left behind, who feel the absence of a steady presence. For the one who has died, we feel joy for a life well lived. For ourselves, we enter a period of grief.

But though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall feel no fear.

As we are born into this world, so we must depart. In between we must learn bravery and exhilaration and love. To buck on a snowy morning. To run wild when the rain clouds gather. To bask in the life rays of the sun. To seek death with understanding. To know God as life.

The Road

Sunday morning travels peacefully with coffee and French toast and snow and hay and scarfs./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f3/39909602/files/2015/01/img_0037.jpg A poem by Robert Frost and an excerpt from Psalms.

Sometimes we must take the road less traveled, move away from the familiar. It gives us perspective, allows us to define ourselves on own our terms, removes the constrains of small town judgments.

Sometimes we must take the road back home. To feel solidly on the ground where our roots first grew. We must be strong of character to live in a microscope of the familiar.

For each man must choose his own path to joy. There is no single road to unearthing the self. For each pair of shoes carries the same scuffs and well worn love as the heart that walked those same miles.

May we seek only to encourage, never to condemn. May we nurture relationships that bring us joy and slough off the ones that prove less. May we comport ourselves with class and stand securely in the strength of our character. For whether anonymous in a big city or back on old stomping grounds, may we always act in grace and kindness. Your choices are yours – own them as such.