Spring Chickens Have Sprung

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Rural King, April 2016.

A chicken is one of my favorite animals. There is just something about them that makes me happy.

Perhaps it is because, when Spring arrives each year, one of my first thoughts is of the baby chicks my father would bring home from the Farm and Fleet store in the early part of the March and April. We would put the chicks in a big cardboard box with paper lining the bottom. We would locate the box in the summer kitchen and hang a heat lamp from the open rafters to keep the chicks toasty during the cold spring nights. I would sit in the summer kitchen by the hour, holding each bird and watching them scratch at the floor, drink from the watering bowl and eating their feed. I was mesmerized.

In a matter of a couple short weeks, awkward and stiff feathers would replace their cute downy fluff and we knew it was time to move them in with the other chickens.

I realize chicks are not as lovely as a bouquet of brilliant daffodils or as stately as a mound of proud tulips, but to me, they are just as beautiful as anything else that arrives in Spring.

And for each little chick I see today, I am very thankful.

Paint

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“Fading Light” a study in honor of a friend’s mother who is losing the battle against Alzheimer’s Disease.

I am grateful for pigment, suspended in a semi-liquid base that is applied to canvas, board, or slate and dries to a solid color. This medium allows me to tell stories. It provides an outlet for my emotions. It gives voice to my thoughts.

I am so very grateful today for something as simple as paint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Family

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m not sure what I ever did to deserve such an amazing, loving, talented, caring group of people in my lives but I am so very grateful for each one.

They all care deeply about injustice.

They like being around smart people.

They have creative corners of their souls.

They are all really loud when they get together.

And I wouldn’t trade a second of time I get to spend with them.

I am truly blessed.

Small World, A Funeral & Art School

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Several decades ago I was a young man spending many hours at the Ball State Art Building, getting my hands dirty with printers’ ink, lithography pumas, and sulfuric acid. It is still one of my favorite periods of my life as I had the opportunity to be creative without limits beyond the cost of supplies and my very small budget.

So imagine my joy when a few weeks ago, in one of the most unexpected places (a funeral), I had the opportunity to reconnect with some fellow Ball State artists who shared my passion and many memories of professors and fellow students!

We reviewed the current status of those who taught print making, photography, ceramics and sculpture. We laughed about mutual friends. We mourned the loss of others. We celebrated great artists who were our colleagues and friends.

It was a true gift to spend time with these old friends. And I am grateful.

Mondays

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Another beautiful Monday morning in Indianapolis.

I know many people hate Mondays. They represent a new work week, another 40-hour grind. Mondays mean that the weekend has ended and that the break, so needed, is over. Mondays equal responsibility. Telephone calls. Meetings. Emails. Tension. Frustration. Expectations. Disappointments.

It’s true…Mondays are all those things and more.

But Mondays can also represent a new start; another opportunity to make things right. I kind of like Monday’s. I’m as rested as I’ll ever be. I’m as ready to face the challenges as I can be. I’ve disengaged from the problems of the week before and am ready to step up to the plate and hit a home fun.

Monday might not be everyone’s favorite day but it can be the day that is most anticipated rather than the day most dreaded. It’s all in how you look at it.

But Do NOT get me started on Thursdays!

 

Forest for the Trees

20161112_082939The saying goes that sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees, meaning that you can focus in on the details and miss the bigger picture. After spending countless hours in the woods this fall, I can verify that this saying is absolutely true.

To see for yourself, I would invite you to spend some quiet time in the woods. Go early, before sunrise. Go when it is pitch dark. Sit quietly on a stool, bucket or tree stand and then wait. Your entire field of vision is flat; nothing but black. As the sun begins to rise, you start to see tall forms in the gray of dawn but still, there is no clear vision of your surroundings. If you are lucky, fog will lay low on the forest floor, giving you a wonderfully magical view.

As the sun slowly rises, you will see that trees begin to stand out. Some are beautifully light while others are nearly black. Some stand proud and tall and others lean precariously to one side, as if about to fall.

My experience has been that I can spend hours looking at each tree, at every branch. Some are nearby and others are dozens of feet away. However, I often forget that I’m sitting in a forest that stretches for hundred’s of acres. I see a bird on a tree, a squirrel on a branch, a raccoon on the forest floor, and fail to appreciate the hundreds of trees, the millions of branches, the multitude of squirrels, the flocks of birds that are sharing this space with me.

The same is true in life. I have my own struggles at work and often forget that many others are in the exact same forest. They might be hanging out in another tree but they share the woods of life.

I’m grateful for my time in the woods. It’s a humbling reminder that the woods is big and the forest life is vast.

Warts & All

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This might come as a shock to you, but I have warts. It all started about six-years ago when I scraped my arm on a tree branch. This opened my epidermis to pathogens that took root. They started as little bumps and then turned into big bumps, from my wrist to my elbow.

I went to my family doctor who labeled them as “those itchy bumpy things”. Case solved. I paid a couple hundred dollars and left.

However, I wasn’t completely satisfied with this detailed medical diagnosis, so I went to a dermatologist, who took three minutes to examine me and report with 60% certainty that they were warts. He pulled out a can of frozen nitrogen and in another three minutes had burned them to the core. He then charged me a few hundred dollars and sent me on my way.

Six-months later the warts were back with a vengeance. I returned to the dermatologist who was now 75% certain that they were warts. He pulled out the frozen nitrogen, his favorite tool, and really gave them a good blast. Satisfied, he charged me a few more hundreds of dollars and thanked me for coming to see him.

Six-months later the warts were back again, bigger and better than ever. I returned to the dermatologist because I like suffering pain and paying good money for no results. This time, the doctor’s confidence in his diagnosis had dropped down to 50% certainty. Rather than freezing the mysterious growths on my arm, he whipped out a scalpel, cut off a section of my flesh and sent it to a lab. He then charged me hundreds of dollars, the lab charged me hundreds of dollars, and then he sent me out the door.

Imagine my relief when his office called a few weeks later to tell me that my disfiguring scabs were “non-cancerous growths requiring no further treatment”.

Not medically trained, I asked, “What does that mean?”

The nurse scanned the pathology report, found the laymen’s section and stated, “You have warts.” I’m not sure how much that call cost me.

I’m a generous guy but this was enough. Doctor’s had proven baffled by my skin disease and so I did what was only prudent; I reverted to wearing long-sleeve shirts and pretending the bumps didn’t exist.

And then my wife bought Tea Tree Shampoo at Trader Joe’s. I’m a nut for clean hair and so I used it. As I scrubbed, the bubbles flowed down my arm covering the warts. It also got into my eyes, burning like the dickens. But after a week of personal hygiene and burning eyes, I discovered that my warts were quickly vanishing. Within a month, all but one of the warts were completely gone.

Look, I’m no herbalist but this stuff worked. I know doctor’s have their place and as Seinfeld reminds us, dermatologists save lives. However, two years of doctors visits and nearly a thousand dollars in medical bills were unable to find a solution, yet a $4 bottle of soap fixed the matter in a few short weeks.

And because of that, I’m wearing short sleeves again, returning to the public events with confidence, and oh, so very grateful.

 

 

A Little Help from Friends

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We have photographic evidence of my wife’s father assisting with candle blowing.

Let’s be honest, we all need a little help from time to time.

There are single candles that just won’t go out…they need that little extra breath.

There are cars that won’t start…they need that little jump.

There are children that just won’t stop crying…we need grandma.

There are careers that continue to flounder…we need coaching.

There are hearts that remain broken…we need love, care, and sometimes therapy.

Weakness is not found in the problem, but in failing to ask for help. The struggle is not in the issue itself but our wrong-minded determination to address the problem on our own.

What do we gain from standing alone when we could stand side-by-side or arm-in-arm?

I’m grateful for the challenges of life and even more thankful for those who come alongside to make the task that much easier.

 

Telling the Story

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Another opportunity to tell the story: Grace Community Church, January 21-22, 2017.

The body of a 3-year-old Syrian boy named Alan washed up on a beach in Greece. It was a horrific image. It was a terrible story, and we couldn’t shake it. We knew we needed to engage this global crisis but how? What would we do?

Then our friend named Shane told us that he was already working with refugees in Sicily. He was meeting people in the camps and on the streets; men and women from places like Somalia, Ghana, Eritrea, Gambia, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leon. He invited us to come to Sicily and see what was happening there. He invited us to meet refugees, hear their stories and offer love.

And so, last October my wife and I found ourselves walking the streets of Catania, Sicily, late at night, in the red-light district, talking with refugees, hearing their stories, telling them how glad we were that they made it safe, and getting to know them.

In the mornings we would travel to the camps and build relationships with young men, boys really; some as young as 11, who traveled thousands of miles on their own, across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean in search of safety. Along the way, they watched people die terrible deaths and witnessed things they still cannot talk about it. They need someone to come alongside them, to love them, to hug them, to play soccer with them, to laugh with them, and sometimes, to cry with them. Their faces and names are burned into our memories. Their stories are burned into our hearts.

The entire week was heartbreaking, but God has given us joy despite it. We came home with more questions than answers, and yet we still have peace.  Despite the terrible pain experienced by so many in this global event, we know that we doing exactly what we are to do.

We’ve told friends and family about the experience. We’ve told coworkers and neighbors. We’ve shared with church staff and pastors and this weekend I had the chance to present our story to the main campus of Grace Community Church. Over the course of two days and four services, I was able to share a brief snapshot of our trip and a little of our experience.

I’m so grateful for those who have helped us tell the story. I’m so thankful for those who have been interested in the problem and all who are willing to help.