Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Wall

 I used to go to this little area in River Rouge growing up. My mom cut the hair of a blind woman who lived there and we went to this little sweaty Baptist church like 5 times a week for church and my mom's singing rehearsals. There is this cool little wall there that wraps around the back end of Zugg Island (A factory town on the Rouge/Detroit border). It was one of my favorite places to be, we would play on that wall all day. I would climb under and over the barb wire and into the factory grounds and climb the huge oil tankers and stand on the top. Sorry mom, I realize now this wasn't a safe thing to do. But it was fun. Over the years, a broken neighborhood became an abandoned one. We went back last night and looked as all of the houses on this street were boarded up and spray painted. The grass waist high, the streets broken to small pieces that kids have picked up and thrown through the windows of the homes that once belonged to old Ford workers and steel millers. Somehow though, for whatever reason, people have been going back to this wall and updating the cartoons. Some of them are new ones that were not there when I was a kid.

It shows that no matter how dilapidated the world becomes, there will always be those that appreciate cartoons and innocence. There will still be the people that won't just let everything go. Even if they are little things, they can mean a lot. Like in the place that the old Tiger Stadium was, there is a guy who at his own expense and time has been cutting the field grass and pulling the weeds so kids can go out there and play in the same place that Al Kaline and Sweet Lou Whittaker played. Of course the city is giving him problems over it, I guess because it is a union job that the union is neglecting. Just like so many other things that people have let die, some flowers still grow through the cracks in the cement.


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Friday, June 25, 2010

The Bite

People choose different ways of expressing themselves. Some cut themselves off and pretend they are no one, and others choose color. Life is black and white or color. Black and white has it's advantages: You can be anonymous. You can live without intense pain. You can be safe from those preying on whom they believe is weak. On the other pole, you can be transparent, even if the colors are running together and don't make much sense. Ask those who love me, I do not make much sense unless probed.  The question is: Do we choose to live in black and white? Or do we choose to gamble on the color that life, joy, sorrow, death, and joy bring? Life is beautiful. Just watch a birth of a child as they taste air for the first time. We hold them so carefully, rocking them back to sleep...hoping nothing will disturb them. Not yet at least. Life can happen later.  Then there is death, who is beautiful in its own way, even when it is violent and disturbing. We live and we die. This is the nature of being human. We have to go away from here. There must be something better for us to look forward to. If you don't believe that, your life is full of regret and sorrow. Be glad you aren't a queen bee. She does so much work to produce the hive and then she disappears as if she had never been there. However, beware, she can sting as many times as she wants without dying.

What will your legacy be? What will you do to remind the world of your existence?

Life is precious. Never, ever let anyone convince you otherwise. But it is fragile. We bruise easily and walk away wounded. Sometimes our wounds make scars that pester us for our entire lives, sometimes they heal easily. Whatever the bite the world has given, we can overcome. In God, we can overcome.


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Thursday, June 24, 2010


We sit in front of the river at lunchtime. A line of scattered cars watching the seagulls swoop into the water, pulling up food. We watch them compete for the solitary piece of bread that is laying on the ground. We sit in parks and watch the birds because birds are art; an expression of God. We watch the way the wind blows through the trees and the leave's reactive sway like music. We watch everything moving around us, going somewhere with purpose and we stand perfectly still. We don't know what keeps us here or what brings us back, but every day, these cars line the pier. We live busy lives too, but find our peace in the quiet hum of the wind pushing across the surfaces; in the hair lifting off of our foreheads as it joins the sway of the leaves. 


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Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Ever pay attention to the lengths people will go to to avoid any contact with each other? We try to keep status quot and not make attention for ourselves, unless we are attention hungry and in that case, the opposite of everything I write on this blog will be true. In the sixties, proxemics was created and it was the study of the distance between people during interaction. There was personal space, 6 inches to a foot or so. Social space, 2 to 4 feet, and crowd space, 10 to infinite feet. It studied the distance different cultures needed to maintain a comfortable interaction. Here are a few examples of common proxemics violations:

Face Talker: Usually had a gallon or so of milk that morning and seems to have kept it in his mouth the whole time until speaking to you unusually close.

The Toucher: This one insists on making physical contact with you every 7 seconds or so. They usually grab for the elbow or slap the arm. Some are way too intimate, they are the gropers.

The Groper: They are your distant aunts you never see. When you do happen upon them, they kiss you right on the mouth. Not cool aunt Mertle.

The Shifty ones: They spend most of their time looking at anything but you. You speak to them, but are really speaking at them. They are somewhere else completely and are not going to pretend they are listening to you.

The Creeper: This one is only looking at your cash and prizes. You catch them at least 5 times before you inform them that your eyes are up here.

There are hundreds of violations, but I think we notice them because we are so closed off to people. Why does The Toucher make you feel uncomfortable? Were you not hugged enough as a child or hugged too much by an abusive person? Maybe neither, maybe you just don't like to be touched and never did. We decide really quickly how each conversation is going to go usually depending on the person's body language or distance and bravado. We try to avoid anything intrusive.

I think this is a problem.

I am commonly not liked by people the first few times they meet me. It depends on my mood sometimes, but usually the other persons willingness to put up with a person who hates small talk and will engage in something personal at any time. Often, I have been rude and insensitive and those times I am wrong and should be disliked. I have tried to alter with my maturity the lengths I will go to challenge someones personal space or thoughts.  But in the end, I just don't have a need for general, in-passing conversations. They are useless to me. I want to know about you, I don't want to forget I ever met you. Life isn't supposed to be lived that way. You are supposed to care about the person that pours your coffee or the new person at your church. You are supposed to speak to each other with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making joyful music to the Lord. Not try not be remembered; that makes you an automaton or droid. We have experiences and personality for a very good reason, for this reason we are all different.

It is hard to reach a world that avoids real contact with each other, if we aren't willing to put ourselves out there, to invade a person's little cocoon. If we can't stop being cool and proper, we will never begin to really be memorable. If you are different and don't act as they feel comfortable, you are eccentric, which many translate as crazy.

I picked up a friend from middle school that I saw stranded on the road with a broken car. I haven't seen him in years and really never knew him that well to begin with. I don't know why, but within 5 minutes, he was telling me about his alcohol problem and his struggle to get himself together. Usually not the impression one would want to leave after not seeing a person for 10 plus years. But he left it all out there. I won't forget it.

What if we tried to be this way with each other and those wandering through our daily paths? What if we tried for a while to notice them and exchange our thoughts with them. Our real thoughts, not just hellos and goodbyes. They may resist you, but keep it up and something will start to happen, they will open up sometimes. They won't forget you. You will have made an opportunity to share what Christ really is to you, and maybe they will see Him too.


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Thursday, June 17, 2010


If you are Christianese, I love you but leave me alone. If you have a culture of Christian friends and don't associate with sinners, I love you, really I do, but please leave me alone. If you hate television and movies and music because you think they are evil, and judge me for liking them, I love you still, but leave me alone.

Not everything has to be the end of the world. Relax. Take a breath and remember that we have freedom in Christ. Not to rebelliously sin, but to make mistakes and be forgiven. Some things are just fun. They make you smile and promote quality time with your family. Some movies have bad words. Some are innocent enough and others are gratuitous. Know the difference as God's Spirit shares your eyes.

Not every person who swears is ignorant. If you have had a baby outside of marriage, it doesn't mean you are to be cut off from the Church. If you struggle with any addiction, it doesn't mean you aren't worthy of respect and love and should be treated as an outsider.

Just because you give to charity or do really noble things, it doesn't make you righteous. You can't earn that, ever, so please stop trying to make people believe you are holy, because you're not, none of us are. We all sin and are sinners, hopefully saved by the grace and power of God.

If someone likes different things than you, it doesn't mean they are lower than you, it just means they think differently. If you disagree, it doesn't mean you are right and they are wrong just because you say it. If you live a life without grace and forgiveness, you live a life apart from what God is trying to do in you. Stop it right now. Rethink. Remodel. React. Go back and clean up your mess. An apology goes a long way and can show another person the love of God.

We should look different. But not because we don't watch TV or listen to secular music, but because we love those that no one else does. That is the difference Jesus taught. Please speak a language the world understands. Love.


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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Origin

There was a time when I thought all I needed was two people. Will and Joe.

The first time I really met them was just after Sunday School at the church we all went to. They invited me to sit with them during the service. They had the greatest games on them. Hand held ones. Things I didn't even know existed. I sat there and marveled at their skills on them. Remember, this is 18 years ago.

I have always spoke loudly. My mother does too, so I can safely bet where that came from. On the upside, the louder your are, the more people can here if you have something good to say. Anyway, I spoke very loudly during service. Jo Ann would keep looking over to me as if to say, "You, little guy, are a very loud boy and will never sit by me again." I still spoke loud throughout the service.

Her and Jim invited my family out to lunch that week to Chinese food. I hated it then. I didn't know yet what I was missing. I ordered a hot dog or something stupid like that and they all took note. What is wrong with this kid? A few years later, they looked at me as a son. I looked at them as family.

We used to smoke on their back porch, peeing on their grass every few minutes. Later, the grass would grow faster than the rest. We would talk about things that mattered to us and didn't mean a thing to the rest of the world. In time all I needed was them.

They would have if asked, stepped in front of a train for me, and I for them. Joe even did. I have always believed, no matter what the circumstance that God had put me in this family, both for me, and for them. I would still step on front of a bus for them.


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Monday, June 14, 2010

In The Quiet Lights

I sit in the quiet of my backyard below and surrounded by a fluttering of fire lights that claim to keep the mosquitoes at bay.  It is quiet except for my ipod and the soft hum of my central air unit. Behind me, my wife and children are sleeping, the neighbors to the right and left have no idea I am out here, they are in repose. In the quiet, it is overwhelming; the feeling that life is beautiful. It isn't perfect, but it is beautiful. Every little detail, if given some effort can be recorded and you can bring them back anytime you want to remind yourself that amidst all of the storms and fear and disappointment and loss, there is still so much beauty. It exists even if you haven't felt like smiling in some time. It exists for those who walked away from happiness long ago. It exists for those who have only seen heartache. It exists in the days everything is art.

 The smoke billowing from the stacks of a polluted factory town. The streetlights that pass overhead while driving at night. The way you can make yourself laugh by making faces in the mirror or pretending to cry to see what you look like crying. The sound of a passing train miles off. The smell just before it begins to rain. The white of fresh snow before the salt melts it away.

Problem is, most beauty melts away. I don't know if it is because we let it, or if it just goes. You have to look for it most days. Times get fast and we get really busy being busy. We forget that some things we do on the day-to-day are meaningless. Read Ecclesiastes, it makes sense. Life is better lived enjoying the beauty of the things that salt cannot melt away. We get road weary and hardened because we work so hard to forget time. Time was never meant to be wished away or taken for granted. Time is what we have here for a very short period before everlasting beauty. Why spend it in endless, monotonous numbers? We have senses to experience what it really means to be alive.

 We have the ability to smell because God wanted you to remember your grandma and her faith when you come across moth balls or old quilts. We have the ability to see, because God wanted us to relish in the beauty that man cannot harm. We can hear because God can reside in the sound of a French horn or a piano. We touch because contact with others shows us we are all the same in some ways and never really alone. We can taste because food is delicious.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Weary Willy

 My other mom, Will's mom, Jo Ann gave me this clown a few weeks back. To most it just looks like a really cool Emmett Kelly clown, to me it means so much more than that. It was Will's grandmother's that she saved for her children and grand children. Will liked it, for reasons we do not know. When asked if there was anything of his grandma's that he wanted when she passed, he chose this, but asked his mom to hold on to it for him so the kids wouldn't break it.

I helped Jo Ann with something that any decent person would have helped her with and she was looking for a way to say thank you. She woke one morning a couple days later feeling she should give me this clown, for reasons she did not know. She did some research.

This clown's name was William (Weary Willy). Like Will. He worked on a railroad and was a mechanic. Like Will. He put his mark on everything, even his tie. Just like Will. The number 25 is written on his jacket pocket. The day Will died 12-25. And he totes a cross on his shoulder. Like Will.

 This amazed all of us. It is weird. Makes us wonder why he liked it so much.

 But what makes it really special for me is that I have always had a thing for sad clowns. I used to paint them on my walls when I was suicidal. I felt like a clown trying to fool everyone. I wore the make-up, but sported a frown.

 I don't claim to know the significance, but it makes me feel joy nonetheless. It is one of the most precious things I have. And I could not be more thankful.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Letting Go

My hands hurt. I hold this rope, despite gravity pulling me toward the fire below. It burns, the rope. Lactic acid races to my arms and sits brutalizing every inch I try to move. It's just these hands. They hurt. They burn. The skin is peeling. I look down to the pit below. It is too terrible, so I turn my head  and close my eyes without peeking. Afraid of what I cannot see. We all are afraid of what we can't see.

I have been so comfortable in the way I have felt and always been that I have hesitated to look down. What if I let go? What if I did the natural thing and let go? It is never a natural thing to hold on to the point of torture. So we let go. And we fall into whatever is below because sooner or later we cannot hold on to that rope anymore. It doesn't even matter what is below, or if the fire is too hot to endure. Whatever is down there is more honest than what sits in our stomachs now. At least we aren't lying to ourselves. Honestly is a centerpiece of what our lives should look like. If we hold on to what is killing us, we are choosing a lie over the truth. We are choosing darkness over the light, even if that light is the scariest thing you can imagine. So you let go. You fall for decades, but realize that you weren't alone in your descent. Sometimes hurt breeds courage and loss gives way to love. Sometimes that fall is the one thing you need to make your life what you always wanted it to be. But you have to let go. I have to let go. I have let go.


Friday, June 4, 2010


"When she gets home, she'll laugh a while. She gets paid to smile." The Lemonheads

We are conditioned from infancy to smile, even if we don't feel like it. Mom pulls out the camera and tells you to do what? Smile. Why? Because no one wants a picture of an angry kid. No one wants to see a pic of a tantrum. It reflects badly on us. When we cry, there is always someone there to tell us to stop and calm down, maybe try to get us to smile. It is good to smile. It is better to smile and mean it. Otherwise, you begin to feel like a clown. I did. I even painted them all over my walls next to the eyeballs just after high school. I felt stupid. I felt fake. We take that conditioning we learn as children and put on these faces as adults. We want to be someone else sometimes, so we just be that person, even if it isn't who we really are or how we really feel.

"You think you know someone."

We hear this a lot. Usually when a person shows their true colors or at least their darker shades. Suddenly everything we thought about that person is dashed and the trust is gone. Usually this is when we reconsider a friendship or relationship.

It isn't easy to take off the make-up. It feels like you are taking your own flesh with it. But I bet, once you get it all off and try living in your own skin for a while and confront your demons with the strength of God, you just might be able to really smile.


Thursday, June 3, 2010


Been having bad dreams for the past few months. Hard to tell if it is a side effect from anti-depressants or if it a normal casualty of grief that happens to most people who have lost someone. Doesn't matter the cause, they difficult to bare. The mornings are hard enough without having to find your way out of being disturbed by your night of sleep. I am usually appalled by the morning any ways.

Will is almost always there and he is always back from the dead and always right back on Vicodin. That is the worst part because for a few moments, I believe I have him back and then always realize that he isn't really back. It will end up just like it did in reality. Last night's was hard. I have been missing him all day. It bothers me that he took the liberty to decide something that would change everyone else's lives as well has erasing his own. Can't stay mad at him for very long.

Today, I was moping my way to school and when I got there, a friend asked me. "Look's like you just lost your best friend." I laughed. Not because it's funny, but because rarely do things really apply. Like when someone calls me a bastard. I laugh. It's funny because it's true.

Tell me what other things are true that people say to you.