Conehead

Last week our dog ‘got fixed.’ I’m not sure why we call the sad procedure that… I’m sure if dogs could talk they’d quip, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”

Anyway, he got fixed. Now he’s running around our house with one of those goofy cones around his neck, bumping into every wall, table, and person in our apartment.

He has no idea why his parents dropped him off with some lady in a white coat who proceeded to poke him, drug him, cut him, and stick a big plastic bowl around his neck.

Stacie and I wish we could make him understand that the discomfort and pain is only temporary. His wounds will be gone in a week, the stitches dissolved, the annoying cone disposed.

We wish we could explain to him that the procedure serves an ultimate good, and that the annoying cone is the only thing preventing inadvertent self-harm.

Perhaps God has an annoying—or even agonizing—cone around your neck. Perhaps you have no idea why. And perhaps he has a good purpose that you don’t quite understand at the moment. Trust Him.

Advertisements

Celery & Suffering

My dear friends,

Thanks for joining me in this sacred blog space. I know that only my closest comrades read this, so I thought I’d ask you faithful few for help with a personal issue I’ve been having.

It’s not easy to talk about, but I really need some advice, resources, prayer, or whatever you can offer in this time of desperation. I’m sure you’re wondering what’s going on. Well, let me just lay it out there:

I’ve had a strand of celery wedged between my back molars for over an hour.

We’ve all had food stuck in our teeth at some point, but this occasion is especially irritating—actually, tormenting is the more accurate word. No matter how hard my wiggling tongue investigates the tortured junction, I cannot liberate the foreigner. I’ve even resorted to jamming my fingers back there, blindly pinching and plucking around the scene with no success.

If I were eating a more notorious food then I wouldn’t be so upset. I mean, one assumes the obvious risks when they munch on corn on the cob, and so they’ve had a chance to mentally and physically prepare–to be sure, if I’m hiking in Montana, then I’ve got bear spray handy. But this is celery we’re talking about. I don’t carry bear spray if I’m just strolling through a quiet neighborhood. Obviously, I have underestimated the evils of this fibrous green stalk. It’s my fault, really. I should have known it was too stringy to trust.

Before you suggest a toothpick, floss, or any other oral hygiene apparatus, know that it will be hours before I can acquire any of these life-saving instruments.

I need immediate relief, but I see none in sight. Alas, I shall endure the suffering until I enter peace, whenever that may come.

Send Floss,

Cody

Squirrel in the House

This morning, I walked out of my bedroom to find a huge squirrel, frozen in fear, perched on the blinds of my living room window.

After blurting out an explicative (I’ve an irrational fear of rodents and a propensity to curse when I’m startled) I informed my still sleeping wife that we had a squirrel in the house.

I spent my whole childhood trying to catch squirrels. Of course, they were too fast. I wouldn’t know what to do if I had actually caught one… Now I had one and it freaked me right out.

My first instinct was to lock myself away in my bedroom, pretend the infestation didn’t exist, and go back to sleep. Thankfully, my wife insisted I get it out immediately (she’s the reasonable one), so I grabbed a laundry basket and a couple of nerf guns I had lying around, and went out to face my foe.

Before my assault, Stacie erected a barricade of furniture making sure the pest was contained.

He only flinched at the shock of the nerf bullets, and refused to vacate his territory on the blinds. So I charged with my laundry basket, producing some sort of primal-war-cry-hiss I didn’t know I was capable of.

He leapt down from the blinds onto an end table, knocked over a vase of flowers and scurried down the stairs, out the open front door.

If you’ve got a squirrel in your house, don’t pretend it’s not there. If you’ve got a problem in your life, address it. Find someone you trust and tackle that squirrel together.

100 Word Story

Growing up, I had lots of cravings. I craved acceptance, attention, and intimacy with others. I searched for satisfaction in drugs, grades, sex, and athletics.

In college, I stumbled into a community of Christians. Craving their admiration, I adopted the persona of a ‘good little church boy.’ But the whole time I was secretly sleeping around, smoking, and drinking–total fraud.

Then I encountered real Christianity: not a set of rules, but the person of Jesus Christ. He exposed and humbled me. Then healing began.

My relationship with Jesus is more satisfying than anything I’ve ever craved.

Are you satisfied?

A Word on ‘Black Panther’

You may have heard of a phenomenon called Black Panther. Marvel’s most recent craze hit theaters last week and has the world buzzing.

As a superhero movie, Black Panther ranks among the finest Marvel has released thus far–in my opinion. The action sequences are stunning, the Wakandan setting is mind-blowing, the conflict is multidimensional, and the characters are magnetic. But the reason this movie is a phenomenon has more to do with its dramitization of race identity than being just another flashy contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Like anything popular today, the movie is polarizing, causing an explosion of obnoxious criticism and unqualified, ingenuine praise. Being that the movie dealt with racial issues that I haven’t experienced firsthand, I don’t feel the need to offer too much of my opinion (the internet offers an excessive amount of opinion for you, if you like). More than my own narrow views and reactions, I am intrigued by the questions the movie asks.

Like any great work of art, the film asks more questions than it tries to answer: Does one risk personal safety for the good of distant others? At what cost? Do we cause social change by brute force or active patience? Who decides? Given the horrors of history, how ought African Americans come to terms with the scars of slavery? What is the potential for achievement of people from supposedly “s#!@hole countries”? To what are you enslaved to?

Admittedly, I don’t know how to talk about race. I have black friends that have felt the pain of prejudice and bitterness of oppression, but hearing this freezes me. I am terribly afraid to say something foolish or ask a question that is hurtful or ignorant. So, I often just keep my mouth shut; it feels like the safest thing to do. But asking questions, though uncomfortable, can lead to productive conversations that heal wounds, open blind eyes, usher in justice, and deepen love.

I am thankful for the visionaries behind Black Panther for creating something that ignites public conversation about racial justice and identity that is more nuanced and thoughtful than the unintellectual hatred that usually dominates the media.

Keep listening, friends.

 

 

A Piece of Quiet

Each week, I get one day off from my job as a college minister. That means I don’t have to answer my phone or emails or texts of any kind. I have the entire day to myself. Uninterrupted time to rest, have fun, be refreshed, and do whatever I want.

Sometimes it feels like this is the hardest day of the week for me.

Without the usual busyness of life to keep me distracted, my mind wanders to deep, unsettling corners of anxiety and fear. In the quiet of my day off, a loud, screaming flurry of mental distress emerges.

I worry about my family, health, faith, career, bank account, faults, shortcomings, marriage, country, friendships, and when Tom Brady will just retire already. I worry about everything.

The daily tasks of a typical workday are a numbing agent, and without them I am forced to face the anxious thoughts I’ve buried all week. In these moments of uncomfortable silence, I run to noisy things like social media, Netflix, video games, and other forms of screen-escape to distract myself, to cope with the general pain of reflection.

I’m afraid I’m not alone in this. It seems that a piece of quiet is a haunting thing for many people today that are so distracted and ‘connected’ that they’ve forgotten how to live with themselves in a moment of stillness.

One of my friends recently told me that going to bed is the hardest part of his day. When he sets his phone down for the night and tries to close his eyes, he is met in the darkness of his room with a storm of worried thoughts.

Another friend told me that as soon as he wakes up in the morning, he turns on music because he can’t stand himself. He needs to be around other people, or he needs to have loud music going, like a psychological band-aid. He falls asleep every night with his mind cradled in the arch of blaring headphones.

When is the last time you just sat? No phone, no background music, no people around you, just nothing. Try it. Go sit somewhere quietly for 20 minutes. I suspect this seems like a strange request to the modern person. I find it more strange that we find it strange.

I don’t need a degree psychology to know that this unrest is unhealthy. Why is a piece of quiet such a daunting thing to step into? And where can we go to find peace in our quiet?

*I can’t in good conscience end the post here (though I almost did), for it would be like a starving man in a starving community stumbling on a marvelous feast and keeping quiet about it. I cannot keep quiet about the peace offered by Jesus Christ:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Remembering Gord Downie

Gordon Downie, the frontman for the legendary Canadian rock band “The Tragically Hip” passed away a few days ago–as any of his fans are already well aware. His passing was not a shock, given his terminal cancer, but it still hurts.

But why is that? I didn’t know the man personally, so why does his death sting so badly?

Though I didn’t know Gord personally, I felt like I did. His music was personal in detail, yet vast in scope, linguistically-rich as any poetry, yet rough as rock, soft, then furious. He used music to humanize people, to teach, and to create remarkable art.

I was fortunate enough to witness him perform twice. The first show I saw at the waterfront in Buffalo, NY got rained out–the image of Gord screaming into his mic, leaning into raging wind and torrential rain won’t soon leave my mind. Since they’d only played a few songs before the weather drove them back to Canada, Gord agreed to come back and play another Buffalo show, free of charge. I showed up the next month and made it to the front row this time. They played for hours. Gord was an absolute madman on stage. It was unequivocally the best show of my life.

As far as his artistic legacy, I’ll always remember him for his lyrical genius. Successful rock lyrics only need to be decent as long as you provide adequate instrumental support. You can have a great song with only mediocre words. Gord’s lyrics, however, are poetic and thoughtful enough to stand alone on the silence of a page–the music was just an added bonus.

By all accounts, Gord was a wonderful husband and father; he loved his country and his friends and his fans. When I found out he was sick, I prayed that he would love the Lord. Now I pray that he’s at peace.

Crawl: A Poem

Crawl

 

Beads of rainwater slip down

the veins of a sturdy spiderweb; the

silky steel pattern spun and deserted

in the same spring morning. An

ornery shopkeeper spins

broomstick bristles into

cob-webbed corners, like

twirling spaghetti around fork

prongs–sharing wasted meals. Bundles

of protein, wrapped in web, plastered

and trapped in the maze of

broomstick straw, used to

 

Crawl.

Spoiler Alert: New Spiderman Movie is Excellent

My wife was working a night shift at the hospital and my friends had other plans, so I couldn’t find anybody to join me. That didn’t stop me from going, though.

I had been wanting to see Marvel’s Spiderman: Homecoming movie for months, but hadn’t gotten around to it. You know, life.

Well I finally had a free night and found a theater that was still showing it across town–the place didn’t have those leather reclining seats, but the movie was so good that I didn’t even notice.

When I found the perfect seat–near center, not too deep as to strain my eyes but not so close as to strain my neck–I plopped my feet up, cracked open the soda I smuggled in, and settled in for a couple hours of cinematic bliss.

I was not disappointed.

Aside from the captivating action sequences that Marvel seems to crank out with apparent ease, the movie also presents an emotionally conflicted protagonist in Peter Parker, whose simple and innocent desire to use his great power responsibly clashes with every other area of his young life. He also comes off as a legitimate teenager, something that recent renditions of the character failed to do.

Whether he’s shooting a clump of webs into some guy’s face, or awkwardly asking a girl to prom, he’s an easy dude to root for.

At this point, I need to confess something.

I saw Spider-Man starring Tobey Maguire when it hit theaters in 2002. I walked out of that theater wishing somebody would mess with me. At a whopping 65 pounds, I was confident that I could beat down any thug that threatened me or my family. I was inspired.

When we got home from the movie, I went into the dining room, alone, and legitimately tried to climb a wall. Guys, I stared at my fingertips, firmly pressed them against the drywall, and tried to crawl to the ceiling.

I was unsuccessful.

(Before you judge me too hard, bear in mind that I was only 8… or 9.)

The reason I decided to write this piece is because for a brief moment as I walked out of that theater the other night, I felt like a kid again.

When was the last time a good story did that for you?

 

Books

Some people call me a bookworm. Some people think I’m smart because I have a considerable amount of books in my library at home. I assure you, owning a bunch of books doesn’t make you smart, but reading them might.

Ever since my wife pointed out the fact that I collect books way faster than I actually read them, I tried to read more. It was hard at first because it felt like I was doing work, but the more I read, the more I enjoyed it. At least for me, it feels healthier to crack open a good book rather than binging on Netflix or scrolling through a newsfeed–don’t get me wrong, I certainly plan on watching the new season of ‘Stranger Things’ when its released next month, but everything in moderation friends!

That being said, allow me to recommend some cool books I’ve read that you might enjoy:

  1. “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg – For me, this was a paradigm shifting book that stands out among a vast sea of forgettable self-help books. Understanding how to systematically break bad habits and develop healthy ones could brighten every corner of your daily life.
  2. “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck – So I know that you’re english teacher assigned this to your class in school, but did you actually read it? If you enjoy poetic imagery, mastery of the english language, and epic storytelling that can bring even Chuck Norris to tears, you should read this novel. After all, there is a reason they call them classics.
  3. “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis – I am not the first to recommend this book and I won’t be the last. Lewis has an extraordinary mind, and it shines on the pages of this philosophical milestone. Whether you have followed Jesus for 50 years or if you’re convinced religion is a falsified fairytale, I urge you to read this book.
  4. “Political Psychology” by David Patrick Houghton – I had to read this for an undergraduate class, but the duty of homework quickly became pleasure as I soaked up this pointedly written introduction to human psychology as it pertains to politics. The nuanced analysis of competing theories in this book not only taught me about the subject matter, but it taught me how to think about thinking (it might even shed a bit of light on the nonsense currently going on in our nation).
  5. “How Does Sanctification Work?” by David Powlison – If you have any interest in Christian theology or ministry, I consider this an essential read. There are loads of important Christian books out there, but–aside from the Bible–I have not yet read anything that dismantles oversimplified teachings and sayings as well as this one. Powlison is brilliant, and his nuanced understanding of walking with Jesus will knock your socks off.

That’s enough for now. Shoutout to my homies Mike, Wes, and Tim for recommending some of these books to me.

Many of you might feel like you want to read more, but that its too much effort or mental energy. I get that. Perhaps try reading just a bit before you go to bed at night, even for just 10 minutes. Soon it will become a habit (see #1 on the list), and you will very soon, I suspect, enjoy reading books.