Come to Him as Children?

Ok, I haven’t posted for a bit.  My brain was tired and I didn’t want to fake something just to blog.  I was even wondering if I really had anything to write that was worth reading.  Still not sure. Read on at your own risk. (By the way, my Mormon friends sure have a good looking image of Jesus.)

Last night I was thinking about the wonderful Christmas time we just enjoyed, especially with our younger generation.  I sat in my comfy chair and I watched the cousins interact with each other.  Leading up to the Big Day, our living room was magical with a miniature village, which we uncreatively call Christmas Town, twinkling lights on the Christmas tree, and Christmas knick knacks spread throughout the house.  Somewhat invisible, but always present is the spiritual spirit of Christmas – Jesus, the child, and his ministerial relationship with children.  Didn’t Jesus say,  “Come as children.”

The brain is a funny thing.  While I was reflecting last night, I thought of someone I knew for most of my childhood.  He was always tall for his age.  When we played competitive sports together, such as American football, we always held him to a higher physical standard… and he never could live up to it, in our minds anyway.  He just wasn’t tough.  He was just big.  However, he carried himself as if he was better than the rest of us and he had a real need to be seen as an authority figure.  This didn’t make for a very endearing combination. As still developing young people, my friends and I were not very kind to him. Long story short, many years later, as a middle-aged adult,  he was arrested for inappropriate behavior with teenage girls.  Apparently it was not the first time either.  (In a very weird twist of fate, he reportedly had previously served in the military in Iraq providing security for 8,000 prisoners in Abu-Ghraib.) I don’t know how his case ended up, but  I did wonder if I could go back in time might I treat him with more compassion and understanding?  Would a peer being kinder in his past help him in his future? I think I might have a savior complex.

Then immediately another person came to mind.  I won’t use her real name, but it was a doozy. Her parents had a real fondness for iambic pentameter. She was not popular in our 6th grade except among a small group of like minded followers who also did not like me.  Her physical appearance was challenging too.  In my mind,  she was a young witch in training and she was going to be a good one too.  All 6th grade year, the animosity between us could almost create a fog that hovered around our feet whenever we were close to each other. However, other than that relationship, I loved 6th grade for reasons I will share in a future blog.  That is why I took it so hard when my father told me we were moving out of town, 10 miles down the road, to the countryside  where I would attend a very small school with cows that wandered the playground and there was only one class per grade. It might have been the first time I cussed out loud saying “shit” as I laid in my bed contemplating my future in education.  Trying to find a bright spot I finally stumbled upon the fact that I would never have to see Ms. Iambic Pentameter again.

The summer passed and soon it was time to attend the first day of 7th grade at Hillbilly U.. Oh boy, was it different.  This was a very poor part of the country and folks lived out there so they could live lives unaffected by the expectations of the town folks including routine dental care.  As I looked around at my new classmates, and most of them had known each other since they started school, I once again said “shit” but thought to myself,  “Well, at least no Iambic Pentameter.”

I was wrong.  On the other side of the classroom, staring at me with the word “shit” still coming off her lips was Iambic.  The look of disappointment on her face actually made me feel a little sorry for her because I knew just how she felt.  The chances of this all happening, in my mind, were at least one million-to-one.  For the first time in my life, I understood the phrase “bad luck.”  Simultaneously, we both shook our heads and lowered our eyes to the floor.  Both of us were defeated as if in a boxing match we had both connected our right hooks to each other’s temple at the exact same time and both got knocked out…. for the count.

Come as children, my ass.  There was nothing pure or gentle about most of our childhoods and I can’t blame the adults either.  As I watched those cousins on Christmas Day, I thought of my own very best cousin in the whole world.  We were closer than brothers, loved every moment we could get with each other.  Yet, he wanted to kill me at least once.  I guess my bossiness had gotten the best of his brain’s emotional control center.  He took a hammer and was going to pretend my head was a nail.  Fortunately, my grandfather came around the corner and grabbed the hammer as it was descending.  As the story was retold for years in my extended family, somehow I became the antagonist in the story because my cousin was so even mannered. “But he was going to f#&king kill me!” “Yes dear, but you probably deserved it.”

We all have these types of stories from our childhood lives, I hope.  If not, Jesus loves you, but might not be too fond of me. “Come as children, except you with the big ears.  You are a twisted little nut.”  Nah, maybe children were just nicer 2,000 years ago?  I doubt it.  For now, I am going package up these wonderful recent Christmas memories of the cousins around Christmas Town and go lock up my hammers.

Check out another couple of my favorite Soundclouders.

Liz Dicker is just simply incredible.  Her composition L’Histoire d’une Marionette makes you feel like a child again. Liz Decker – L’Histoire d’une Marionette

Lawrence Farr does a cover of Secret Love that is really cool.  This  track reminds me of John Fogerty a little bit.  What I really like about this song is Lawrence recorded it for his mother.  Read the track notes.   Enjoy Lawrence Farr – Secret Love

See you in 2016, if I can think of anything to write about!







Mixed Signals

Ok, let me come clean right at the beginning.  I should not be confused about this topic.  I am, after all, someone who gets paid to mentor, advise, teach, and supervise college students. I am not new to the job either.  Some  would  say that I am pretty good at my job too.  However, the truth is… I am sometimes as confused as many of the students are, maybe even more so, about the big questions.  The questions are like, “Should I go to college to study what I really enjoy or study a discipline that will allow me to make more money when I graduate?” (By the way, research shows that the advice given will vary depending on the person’s stage in life. Our perspectives change.)

Another question is related to the two objects in the photo at the top of this post. They are both on my desk at work. I bought one last summer in a hippie store in Boulder, Colorado.  I purchased the other one at a corporate bookstore, Barnes and Nobles.  They were bought about six months apart and when both were purchased, I thought, “How true!”  It wasn’t until I put them side by side, I discovered the problem.  I believe in both.  I wonder if I could arrange for some type of metaphysical debate between the two authors?

Live in your strength seems to me to be very wise advice from a very wise person.  I have watched many people spend time trying to improve in areas that, at best, they would be mediocre.  They spend their precious time pursuing mediocrity all at the expense of doing what they are really good at doing and also love doing.  I have seen more than one college student fail out of college because they selected a major that they were not prepared to pursue, they didn’t particularly enjoy, and they had little aptitude for it. I was one of those myself when I was guided into computer programming when they were still using punch cards to feed the programs at night. It was not my strength and I chose to spend my class time swimming in the American River in Northern California.  I got a very nice tan that was complimented with a 0.00 grade point average.

In my creative life, I LOVE the sound of a guitar.  I spent considerable amount of time trying to learn how to play the instrument only to never reach a level of competence that would be worthy of the time of a non-family member listener. In the middle of a guitar lesson a couple of  years ago, I told my guitar instructor, “You know, I am not progressing very quickly here.  I love to write songs.  Could I play a few for you?”  We now have spent our time together recording those songs and many others.  If I say so myself, my songwriting is much better than my song playing.  It has opened a new world of companions, worthy challenges, and an opportunity to think a little deeper about the connections of life.  If I hadn’t stopped the formal lessons, I would still be trying to learn a scale or how to grip a barr chord or how to play that dang fangled F chord with one finger on the first two strings. I never would have spent time at what I really like to do…write story songs about observations and feelings.

But,… life begins at the end of my comfort zone so says another wise person. Oh, where is that guitar? I need to practice, push myself, and stop doing what I am so comfortable at doing.  I am limiting myself.  Well, wait a minute…I did sing those songs that I wrote after years of being too self conscious and too self critical to sing in public.   I still cringe when I hear my voice on those tracks, but I made myself do it.  Why? I think because I believe life begins at the end of my comfort zone.  Singing is not my strength Lao Tzu, but I really needed to do it.  (By the way, the very same comments hold true for my golf game.)

So here I am, still confused.  Could they both be right?  Another wise person is quoted in the New Testament as saying, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return.”  I guess this might be part of a solution to my dilemma.  Take your talents, take your strengths and commit yourself to fulfilling your possibilities in life.  Let someone else do what you are not good at doing. However, that doesn’t give us a free ticket to a life of mediocrity. That would just be laziness.  In fact, I think it holds us to an even deeper, maybe even a spiritual, commitment to our lives and supporting the lives of those around us.

I think I will keep those two sayings next to one another on my desk for awhile.  Maybe I need to learn more from the wisdom of the two.

Brielle DePatra is one of those incredible artists on Soundcloud.  She has posted some wonderful Christmas songs on her current page including Brielle DePatra ‘The Gift’.  I would recommend listening to all of her songs and then continue to follow her as she post her new tracks.  She seems to be spending her time using her strengths and getting out of her comfort zone which brings a lot of joy to people like me.

Take care,