Thursday, April 22, 2010

Joo Joo Eyes on You*

John Lennon said it this way: “I know you, you know me. One thing I can tell you is you’ve got to be free.”

Jesus said it better: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Although Lennon’s view of freedom may have been some spiritual ‘joo-joo eyeball,’ he had a kernel of truth.

The truth can set you free in a lot of different ways. But one sure way to remain bound up tightly in a little bundle of ‘yourselfness’ is to hide the real you from the people close to you.

Here’s why I like the way the Beatles sang it. If I let you know me, I don’t have to hide. That sets me free from the cage where I’m hiding my secret self. I can’t keep my secret self locked out of sight without the rest of me being stuck in there too.

It works better, of course, if you let me know you too. It sets your secret self free from its little cage as well. Two uncaged souls getting to know each other, now there’s some freedom.

But while Lennon had some trippy ways to describe his view of knowing each other, Jesus had a simple if-then. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you…then you will know the truth.” And knowing the truth about each other is simple, but not easy.

It’s not just about dumping all your junk in somebody else’s lap and going home. It’s about opening the door to your junk room, and giving someone you trust a pass to go in, snoop around, and ask questions.

Seeing all your issues, all your ‘junk’ through the eyes of someone you trust, is often enough to start the process of dealing with it. Inviting that friend to regular inspections of your ‘junk room’ helps you keep it clean.

Then when that friend gives you a pass to his junk room, it gives you the grace to deal with that friend’s stuff gently, humbly. You can’t act ‘holier-than-thou’ when all you are is forgiven.

Come together. Be accountable.

Previously posted at

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mourning Christmas

There’s a misty drizzle turning the dried winter scum on my truck into a gross gray slime. I might say it’s unseasonably warm for January, but in this corner of the North Coast, there is no unseasonable. We had snow and ice. One day we even had sunshine. Now we have slush and rain.

But today is not a day for sunshine. Today is a day of mourning.

I put Christmas to rest today. I peeled the last of the clear lights from the three birch trees in the front yard, and stuffed them in the attic. All the gifts are no longer gifts, simply possessions. And my Christmas CDs, which I listen to surreptitiously long after December 25th, have been buried on the back of the shelf.

But it’s my soul that closed the door on Christmas today, I think. Because what I really love about Christmas is the mood, the spirit. All the lights, decorations, music, gifts, are simply enhancements to the heart of the season; the sense that during this time it’s okay to care about others, to love and to give. Joy rules.

Until today.

Today I walked by the guy playing guitar on the street without a nod. Why?

Why not? Did I ask him to sit in my path and play his guitar? No. Do I like the mushy folksy stuff he’s playing? No.

Would I have ignored him a month ago? No. In December I would have dropped something into his case. Smiled at him, told him it sounds good. Not today.

Today I put Christmas to rest. Today I mourn.

* The mood is fact. The events are fiction.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Perfect 10?

Ten. Not the Commandments or a gymnast’s perfect score. Not the old Dudley Moore movie or the backdrop of Hamilton’s picture.

Ten is the New Year. At least, on January 1, 2010 it was. How will yours rate?

So we may call it Twenty Ten, or out of a decade’s habit, Oh Ten. But to me it’s simply Ten. It sounds so clean, so perfect.

But a new year can be like a new car. The minute you drive off the dealer’s lot, your brand new year is a used year.

So what’s the minute for you when the shiny New Year is, well, just a used year? Is it the first time you break your resolution; when you light up, pig out, blow up, veg out, drink up, pass out or shoot up? Or when you simply fall flat on your face with a self-proclaimed challenge?

Maybe it’s more gradual, when old habits slowly weasel back into your life. When exciting new commitments become old and worn, and pushed further back in the closet.

Is it when you realize, it may be a New Year, but it’s the old you?

Change, true change in our lives rarely happens suddenly. We know this, and yet pretend not to. Lasting change is a process, like putting miles on your new car. It may be used, but you pull into your driveway for the first time, and the odometer is still mostly a long row of zeros. You have months of new car smell to enjoy.

Can we see the New Year that way? There’s three hundred sixty five days in this New Year.

Change a little every day, and next year – next year you’ll look back and see. It was a New Year all year long.And on a scale from one to ten, you’ll see this year was, definitely, a 10.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Discovering Wishes

A Frothy Fable

Once upon a time a charming young lady rode in her gaily decorated carriage to the nearby village to visit the liquid confectionary shop to indulge her desire for a chocolate potion of such deliciousness that it made the harrowing ride quite forgotten.

She arrived at the shop rosy-cheeked and quite eager for the sweet liquidy goodness she was about to enjoy. As always, she ran in the door as the jangly bell announced her presence. She looked for Genevieve, Nana Viv as she liked to call her, to concoct her signature potion in her own special way.

But Nana Viv wasn’t beaming over the counter. In her place was a pleasant looking lad with a cherry-chocolaty smudge on his chin and a misplaced spatula tucked into the pocket of his over-sized apron.

“Good afternoon, young lady.” He was all polite and proper and not Nana Viv. “What’s your pleasure this fine afternoon?”

“Where – What – Why isn’t Genevieve here?” She was quite flustered. This afternoon was not what she was expecting at all.

“Miss Genevieve was called to City for conferral with the Mayor’s council on sweetness. But she left me with all her recipes, if you would be so kind as to tell me which one you want.” He stood with the Giant Red Recipe Book at the ready.

The charming young lady sighed impatiently in a quite uncharming manner. “It’s. Not. In. Your. Book.” She stabbed at his tome superciliously.

“Fine,” he was unperturbed. “Just describe it to me, and I’ll make it just like she did.” His smile remained unaltered.

So she impatiently rattled off the list of ingredients, involving copious amounts of chocolate in every form, spices local and exotic, milk fresh from Nana Viv’s dairy cow, several fresh fruits, and one I dare not mention. This she followed with a staccato recital of the steps involved in the preparation of her concoction.

Pleasant lad bustled about the counter and cabinets, gathering and assembling and mixing and stirring and blending with remarkable efficiency. Shortly he paused, surveyed his work area carefully, and took a deep breath. Taking the gleaming pitcher in hand, he poured with utmost care into the tall, graceful china mug, spooned fresh whipped cream from his bowl, and finally executed his coup-de-maitre, hand-shaving dark chocolate curls on top.

With a big smile, he lifted the mug to present to the young lady, only to see a frown on her face.
“You did use the candied ginger from Nana Viv’s kitchen, yes?”

He gestured to the row of glass jars on the shelf behind him. “I used Genevieve’s own blend of dried ginger. It’s the best in town, I assure you.”

She rolled her eyes at his obvious ignorance of her wishes. “But Nana Viv always uses her personal store of candied ginger in my concoction.” She pouted her well-worn pout. “I guess this will have to do.”

“No.” His smile was pleasant, but his tone was unyielding. “This will not do. Miss Genevieve is quite insistent. I will make exactly what you want, even if you don’t tell me what you want. It’s my pleasure to discover your wishes.”

The well-worn pout melted from her face, and she watched quite entranced at the zeal with which he returned to work. Without another word, pleasant lad repeated all his steps with the same enthusiasm (except for a quick trip into Nana Viv’s kitchen to retrieve her candied ginger) as he recreated the wonderfulness charming young lady was expecting.

This time when he lifted the steaming mug, she was waiting with an eager smile. She took the mug from his hands, lifted it to her lips, and first inhaled deeply.

“Ahhhh, the aroma is enticing.” And then she sipped. Her eyes closed in bliss as the warmth slid down her throat and warmed her from the inside. She sighed, deeply, and sipped again. Pleasant young man watched with quite the bemused expression on his face.

Finally, charming young lady opened her eyes, and lowered the mug briefly. She smiled the biggest, happiest smile he had seen all month. “It…is…sensational. It’s…just…perfect.”

So charming young lady never strayed from her faithfulness to Nana Viv’s confection. And pleasant lad finally understood what Miss Genevieve meant when she said, “It’s my pleasure to discover your wishes.”

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Don't Be Herd

If you want people to listen, don’t be ‘herd’.

When you look and sound like all the other animals, nobody pays attention. But become the ugly duckling, or the tenor sax in the string quartet, now people sit up and take notice.

If you’re part of the herd, you won’t be seen. When you look like everyone else, you become the wallpaper, not the icon.

In many fields, there’s an accepted way of communicating with your clientele. A fast-food restaurant doesn’t talk like an insurance company. That’s great, since you don’t want to hear about your homeowner’s insurance in terms of 99 cent specials.

But what do you do when you (and thirteen other guys in town) are selling furniture, and everybody talks about quality and service and free delivery? You’re in the herd. And you’re not being heard.

Now’s the time to find your own voice, to uncover the qualities that make you ‘you-nique’. Not a cookie cutter sound from Marketing 101. Not ‘louder is better’. What makes you different?

If you've not yet discovered what’s unique about your enterprise, get busy. If there’s nothing distinctive about you and your business, if you have no personality, get busier. Or settle for being part of the herd.

Cuz you ain’t bein’ heard.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Camels in the Streets

Wisemen and camels plodding through the streets -- in Bethlehem they searched for a King. In Village Square it means a parade.

Main Street in Village Square is a festive blizzard of lights, music and shoppers. Crowds line the street in anticipation of the event. But this is not a 'holiday' parade, not in this village. With shepherds and their sheep, singing angels, and Mary, Joseph and the babe in the manger, this is very clearly, Christmas.

This really is smalltown, so it's a really short parade. But it's unabashed in tone. The music, the parade entrants, all center around the Bible story of a God who became a baby. It's quieter than most parades, and many of the several thousand spectators follow to the manger scene, for community caroling and candlelighting. This is a celebration in honor of the birth of the Divine Son to a human family.

In a community known for living a peacable lifestyle, this hardcore Christmas parade may seem a quiet act of rebellion against the sanitized and secularized holiday season. But it's really just a people celebrating what they believe: A King is born. He brings peace to the soul.

For wise men and women plodding through the streets of Bethlehem, Times Square, or Village Square, that's worth celebrating.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Facebook Thanksgiving

Today was my first ever Facebook Thanksgiving. Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing?

"It's a family Thanksgiving dinner. I'm not taking my laptop." That was my bold declaration at 11ish as we left the house with our collection of foodstuffs for the two get-togethers we had planned.


At the stuffing ceremony that afternoon, we discovered my new camera takes videos too. (who knew?) So we recorded a holiday greeting for an absent nephew (stateside) and an absent niece (an ocean away.) Of course, this had to be posted on Facebook immediately.

And the floodgates opened. It seems laptops run in gangs. Or they like to gather on Thanksgiving like other families. Within an hour I was staring at maybe half a dozen Dell, HP, and Asus logos perched smugly on their owners' laps. A little crowd hovered around the first person to pull up the just-posted video of the dinner we had just engorged, I mean enjoyed.

Not that it ruined our family time. Half an hour later the dining room table was crowded with a card-playing group. The guitars came out later for some home-cooked music. And before the day is over, family from hours or days away gets a glimpse into our day.

No, it wasn't a Facebook Thanksgiving. It was a family day with a new wrinkle in our rhythm, a wrinkle that served to expand the borders of our family along with our waistlines.