God our Mother, overcome thy father

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To be a Mother is to suffer;

To travail in the dark,

stretched and torn,

exposed in half-naked humiliation,

subjected to indignities

for the sake of new life.

 

To be a Mother is to say,

“This is my body, broken for you,”

And, in the next instant, in response to the created’s primal hunger,

“This is my body, take and eat.”

 

To be a Mother is to self-empty,

To neither slumber nor sleep,

so attuned You are to cries in the night—

Offering the comfort of Yourself,

and assurances of “I’m here.”

 

To be a Mother is to weep

over the fighting and exclusions and wounds

your children inflict on one another;

To long for reconciliation and brotherly love

and—when all is said and done—

To gather all parties, the offender and the offended,

into the folds of your embrace

and to whisper in their ears

that they are Beloved.

 

To be a mother is to be vulnerable—

To be misunderstood,

Railed against,

Blamed

For the heartaches of the bewildered children

who don’t know where else to cast

the angst they feel

over their own existence

in this perplexing universe

 

To be a mother is to hoist onto your hips those on whom your image is imprinted,

bearing the burden of their weight,

rejoicing in their returned affection,

delighting in their wonder,

bleeding in the presence of their pain.

 

To be a mother is to be accused of sentimentality one moment,

And injustice the next.

To be the Receiver of endless demands,

Absorber of perpetual complaints,

Reckoner of bottomless needs.

 

To be a mother is to be an artist;

A keeper of memories past,

Weaver of stories untold,

Visionary of lives looming ahead.

 

To be a mother is to be the first voice listened to,

And the first disregarded;

To be a Mender of broken creations,

And Comforter of the distraught children

whose hands wrought them.

 

To be a mother is to be a Touchstone

and the Source,

Bestower of names,

Influencer of identities;

Life giver,

Life shaper,

Empath,

Healer,

and

Original Love.

- Allison Woodard

Yet, when we think of Power, we emulate the father

When we think of Strength, we look to our dads

and envision God with a penis.

Yesterday I posted a few thoughts on boxes. Then, this morning, while walking to work, the podcast God our Mother took those simple thoughts, doused them with gasoline, and then, with the smirk of deep understanding, sent a spark flying through the barren darkness. 

When the box exploded, I had to step back, almost

run

Because the flames that licked and snapped and grew in the darkness

scared me.

 

And the box was gone.

 

To Be a Mother is perhaps unfair and probably incomplete

but no more so than the decades and decades and decades of thought

on the father.

And we've swallowed and followed those 

like wine and bread

and must-covered hymnals

all the way

to war.

 

To Be a Mother is perhaps unfair and probably incomplete

because how does one define a mother?

Simply? 

Succinctly? 

Fully?

 

Like God.

 

Who oversees the dirt and molds the clay

into the perfect and complete image

of Them. 

 

He and She

Both and They

 

Strong. Fierce. And ever more and equally God-

the Source,

Bestower of names,

Influencer of identities;

Life giver,

Life shaper,

Empath,

Healer,

and

Original Love.

 

The box slayer.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Open Thoughts  :  Other Inspiring Podcasts

 

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Where the People are.

If you're in a corner, or in a box, it's not because somebody put you there, it's because you've agreed to be in that box.

 

I stay outside. Because that's where the people are.

 

When I first watched this, I thought of my classroom and getting out in the hallways to be with the kids as they pass and walk by. Because even though I want to stay in my room, out in the hall is where the people are. And they want high fives, waves, fist bumps, and sometimes even hugs.

Then, while getting a Fat Tire from the frig, I thought of other boxes, bigger boxes, and more restrictive boxes. Boxes of religion, family, and politics. 

But mainly religion.

Maybe yours is something else.

Whatever it is, we've both agreed to be in that box. Isolated, Insulated. And safe. 

Because stepping out is entering into the unknown, and to where the people are. People who think different, look different, act different, and are different. Like kids in the hallways.

In the hallways, I lose much of my control and influence. I'm no longer the centerpiece but an outside observer. In the hallways, kids curse, make out, swap cigarettes, and fight, and I stand on the sideline, unable to do much of anything but correct what I can and say hello to those who pass. 

Sometimes though, kids want a high five, fist bump, or short conversation.

And somehow, when it happens, in the hallway, on their turf, it seems a bit more genuine because truly, they don't have to say a damn thing. They can walk by, cursing under their breath (which some do, no doubt) or ignore me completely. But they don't - not all of them anyway. They wave, smile, and sometimes stand with me and talk. And I love it because, often times, I learn things about them that the classroom can't teach. 

Like the student whose father was just arrested for dealing meth. Or the one who's having surgery on Thanksgiving day because she might have breast cancer. 

Sometimes though, they don't say a thing. They just high five, fist pump, or nod. And when it comes from the kid that I get on every single day to do some work, to turn something in and stop dropping F-bombs in my class, well, that too means a lot to me. 

And after watching this short clip, I began to wonder what would happen if I stepped out of other boxes, engaged and mingled with other people, different people, and started talking and listening and learning from them? Where would that take me? Take us? 

Probably to where the people are.

Which is just where I want to be.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  #eattogether :  Humanity  :  A Heineken commercial that inspires more than a drink

 

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Pat Tillman : A Life of Character

So much about this story is challenging. And because I don't want to steal away from Tillman, from his character, his loyalty, and his overall Person, I will stay very far away from anything political. 

Like many, I came to know Tillman's story when he walked away from football to serve his country. Since then, I'll admit, I've kinda idolized the man as best I can through books, documentaries, and daydreams. Because in so many ways, like Jake Plummer says, I wish I were more like him. 

As devout.

As loyal.

As confident. 

Because I can't help but watch this short clip and want to be a better person, to teach my sons and daughters about Tillman and hope they grow up as such, and to align myself with men and women of his stature, conviction, and joy of life.

He is a man of intense and genuine character, a man guided eulogies virtues, and although his death was a deep and devastating shame, his life was not. 

Because he lived for something much bigger and better than himself. He lived for others. Which is why he's still around. Why he's bigger than his name, than his stats, and his service. 

Which is why he' be remembered for as long as history can tell the stories of heroes.

Which is why he's a "fucking champion."

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Sports  :  Character

 

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180 Degrees South : Conquerers of the Useless

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"My whole life I've been drawn to open country. I always come home a little different."

Recommended by one of my favorite friends, Eric Beard, this film has become one for the top shelf. 

"If you compromise the process {of adventure}, you're and asshole before you get there and your an asshole when you get back."

and

"The word adventure has been overused. Adventure is when everything goes wrong. That's when adventure starts." We paused the film at the point and my wife added in, "When fear overcomes the excitement and you start to doubt. That's adventure."

Love that. 

"It's easy for us to blindly consume when we don't see the effect it has on other places. The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It's easy to make it complex."

So good. 

The soundtrack ain't bad either. 

Neither is Jeff Johnson's photography.

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Kinda makes me want to pack up and head out on some great adventure.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  The Mountains have a Way  :  Get Out More

 

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This Is the Hand: A Response to Recent News

By Carolita Johnson October 26, 2017

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This simple cartoon truly struck me, on several levels. The first is perhaps the most obvious, and that is, what the hell is wrong with these men and other men and all men who do this kind of shit to women, kids, people!?!?!

The second thought is a bit more complicated.

Why? 

Because, as Sherman Alexie says when talking about a man in his tribe who was known to have raped and murdered and why he was never accused was because "he mimics proper human behavior . . . Because he speaks a little bit of the tribal language. Because he genuflect and prays in front of large crowds. Because he wears beads and feathers every day of the year. Because he plays the role of traditional Indian better than most. Because he proclaims himself holy and is superficially believed" (pg 178).

We want to believe the best in people, to hope in people, even when we know better, because we want to believe and hope in ourselves. That our faults and sins and terrible mistakes won't define or restrict us. We want to believe the best in others because we want others to believe the best about ourselves. So we gloss and paint and cover up our sins and allow the monster of superficiality to live and breath and grow and finally devour. 

One of my new favorite podcasts, The Liturgists, says this about themselves, "We believe that beauty is the heart and perhaps primary truth of the Gospel. If it's not beautiful, it's not worth speaking of or working on." And although a large part of me wants to embrace this way of life and living, another bigger part of me rejects it. Because it seems a bit superficial.

In Arthur Miller's, The Crucible, John Proctor states, "We are only what we always were, but naked now." This seems accurate for today as well.

In the coming weeks and months, we should expect many more accusations of a similar kind towards politicians, athletes, comedians, church leaders, community leaders, CEO's, parents, extended family, neighbors and from every nook and cranny of this dark and complicated world because although life and humanity are beautiful and absolutely worth celebrating, it is also hard and cruel and absolutely broken.

Cutting off the hand of the man that reached and touched won't cloth and cover the sins and devastation of the world. Neither will silence. 

As Sherman Alexie says, "victims have learned, on the reservation and everywhere else, that is is more painful and dangerous to testify than it is to silently grieve." 

Because, "on the reservation," as it is everywhere else, "testifiers are shunned and exiled."

"On the reservation," as it is everywhere else, "silence become the tribal ceremony that everybody performs" (pg 178)."

And so the hand reaches. Because it knows it can. Because it knows we'll be silent. 

But not anymore.

And may that be the new proper human behavior.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  On Living  :   On Tolerance 

 

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I Will Go Back Tonight : A Documentary by Kara Frame

When was the last time I was in Vietnam? 

It was last night. It was this morning. It was five minutes ago.

And I will probably go back tonight.

A Veteran's Story, as told by a veteran's daughter, Kara Frame:

I first knew my dad, Tom Frame, was different when I was young, but I didn't know exactly how. Every year when he marched in our Memorial Day Parade in Doylestown, Pa., I stood on the side of the road waving my tiny American flag with so much pride.

He was my dad, my veteran.

As a teenager, I began to learn about his time in Vietnam during the late 1960s. I heard about fallen men, fierce battles and something called post-traumatic stress disorder. I still didn't fully grasp at that time what my father was living with, and it wasn't until my late 20s that I was ready to dive into a project about my dad's PTSD.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 30 percent of all Vietnam veterans have suffered from PTSD, and the effects can last many years.

When I began this project in 2014, I knew it would give me insight into my dad and his experiences in his early 20s, when he was fighting in Vietnam. I never anticipated the depth of understanding it would offer me into my mother and her life — standing by a veteran with deep-rooted trauma — and the role PTSD has played in their marriage.

The documentary project follows the lives of my father and several other Vietnam veterans from his Army unit, the 1st Battalion, 5th (Mechanized) Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, who served together.

The veterans recount a terrible ambush at a rubber plantation in Ben Cui on Aug. 21, 1968. And their wives open up on how PTSD has affected their marriages in the decades since (via).

You know what I think PTSB is, at root? I think it's a spiritual wound, and I don't think it can be treated with medications necessarily. I think it requires some spiritual healing with people. Some meaning making again. Some reconnecting with your values and your morals and your ethics. 

Now that you've sort of seen the other side of life.

I love that, "spiritual healing with people." Not alone, not in prayer, and not alone in prayer, but with people.

And I love that. 

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  WWII Vets, "Former enemies now friends" Oldest Living Vet

 

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The First Lady of ISIS

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Tania Georgelas, the ex-wife of the highest-ranking American member of ISIS, reckons with her extremist past and attempts to build a new life (via).

This is her story.

And in many ways, it's ours too.

The dual transformation of John and Tania is the most American part of this story. What is America, if not a promise of infinite possibility, and ability to transcend one’s origins? John grew up wealthy, Christian, and patriotic; now he is poor, Muslim, and full of hate for his native land. Tania’s metamorphosis has taken the precise opposite form, as if the universe demanded symmetry in their stories, and decreed that she resume the prosperous suburban life that he left behind. They met in the middle, trading fates. His ending is probably already written. Her life, if she’s lucky, is just getting started (via).

What stuck me most about this story is the assurances of truth. John and Tania, on either sides of their transitions, are so very confident in what they know and how they know it, allow it to guide and direct their lives, even to the point of radicalism. 

Which isn't all that different from so many of us. We may not be joining ISIS, but we are just as confident in our truths and way of life - we too have certainty in what will happen when we die, and it guides and directs our daily lives, even to the point of radicalism.

What we know can change in an instant, shifting the ground beneath our feet and bring our fortresses of faith and understanding crumbling to the ground - SMASH!!!

Then nothing. 

But the chance to rebuild.

Because truly, no one really knows anything for certain. And it is that understanding, that weight of uncertainty that should encourage us all to talk less and listen a whole lot more. To be kind and patient and less judgmental, and to truly consider the holes in our damns because really, we don't know, even when we think we do.

And for many of us, the damn is about to beak.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Real People After 90 years, a Jewish woman eats bacon for the first time

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The taking of a buddy

With yet another horrific shooting, we turn, again, to the topic of guns and rights and gun rights, skimming over the simple and horrific truth that many people are going to bed tonight, and every night hereafter, without their husband, their wife, their son or daughter, their friend, and their buddy.

I think of what happened at my trial. His father got on the stand. His father called this kid his buddy.
That was his buddy. I took his buddy away from him.
Me?
How does that sit with me?

I showed this video to my students, and for the first time all year, they were silent. Until the "One voice. Your voice. Is powerful enough. To stop. One Kid. From picking up. One gun." flashed across the screen. 

Suddenly, they had an opinion, a voice, and something they needed to argue - guns.

Instead of discussing the answer that the man cannot answer, "How does that sit we me?" instead of dealing with the man whose tears fill his eyes as he pleads to the camera, "There is nothing you can do to make it right," the students started talking, passionately, about guns and rights and gun rights.

Because that's the easier conversation to have, even though it's the wrong one. .

So I drew a line down the center of the board. On one side I wrote, "Get rid of guns" and on the other side, "keep them." Then I allowed a brief pros and cons discussion of both. It went about as shallow as I had expected. 

"You can talk forever on either side" I said, showing the breadth of each side of the argument, "Because they're huge. But what we need to be talking about is this," and I pinched my fingers around the line that divided the two groups, "this is where the problem is because this is where humanity is." It's where the heart is.d

John Steinbeck, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech proclaimed that,

Humanity has been passing through a gray and desolate time of confusion. My great predecessor, William Faulkner, speaking here, referred to it as a tragedy of universal fear so long sustained that there were no longer problems of the spirit, so that only the human heart in conflict with itself seemed worth writing about.

In all of our gallantry, courage, compassion and love, we are also fully weak and full of the worst this world has to offer. Man has, as Steinbeck states, "become our greatest hazard." And when we reduce the pain and sorrow and loss of loved ones to an argument of gun control, we exchange communal empathy for individual rights and ensure another shooting.

Inmates crying and struggling with regret over the deepest mistakes of their lives shouldn't lead to battles over gun problems. Rather, it should invite discussions over people problems. 

Somehow, though, we aren't even talking at all.

Trevor Noah is right, when planes crash, we talk about plane safety, and when bridges collapse, we talk about infrastructure. But these discussions are different because although they may have to deal with human error, they don't have to deal with the ugliness of the human condition, and that makes them easier. 

Require longer training hours, and the problem is solved. Add a few million dollars to a budget and we can build better more high-tech planes. Problem solved. Or, at least, improved.

Yet after a mass shooting, a mass shooting, a mass shooting, a mass shooting, a mass shooting, we are not. We are not improving and we're getting worse. And we're getting worse because when it comes to discussing that thin line of humanity, we'd rather talk about guns or Muslims or black on black crime or white supremacists or hotels because they're easy to talk about. 

In an age of supreme technological advancement, when we have more information than we've ever had before and faster than at any time in our human history, yet, we are dying. Kids are committing suicide in gross numbers, mass shootings are common occurrences, and war (seemingly) is everywhere. 

We're in an advanced technological age that is killing our humanity because we're so averse, so scared, to discuss the thin and terrifying line that divides every argument: humanity, and the human condition. 

Churches claim to have the answer, so do teachers, parents, and science. Yet none of them do because all of them do, they're just too busy arguing over differences and sides and forgetting about the line, about us, and about what makes up the best and worst humanity has to offer.

In a recent podcast about creativity, the host spoke about the practice of getting thoughts out on a consistent basis so that when an opportunity comes along, we know the next step we need to take. We may not know what step to take after that, but that's okay because that's what the creative process is all about.

The same can be said for discussing the dhuman condition. 

I don't know how to solve the worst problems of humanity, but I know the next step: to talk about it. After that, I'm not sure what will happen, but I think that's okay because that is what life is all about - sharing the human being stuff with one another, allowing for differences and struggle, and affirming in one another that we're not alone. That we're not going to take sides, but rather, grab hold of the line. 

We need to talk about the best and worst of humanity and hope, believe, we might be able to prevent a kid from picking up a gun - not because he can't, but because he or she doesn't want to. Because they know the pain and sorrow of taking someone's buddy, as well as the finality of never being able to take it back. We need to talk about what it means to be human, to struggle with hate and sadness and the fear of being alone, about our struggles and doubts and deepest, darkest nightmares. Then, instead of giving answers or promising prayers, we need to love, forgive, and shower each other with empathy and grace.

Because that too is the human being stuff. And it’s the kind of stuff we long for, live for, and are made to strive for.

But first, a step.  

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  On Living  :   On Tolerance  :  Hatred in America

 

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Poems my wife sent me

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After last night's postings, I asked my wife if she thought I was beginning to pigeonhole myself - that I was always writing about the hardships of relationships and beginning to lose sight of the good and beautiful.

She shrugged. "Maybe," she said, "But if that's where you're at, maybe it's okay."

"Maybe," I said, still uncertain.  

This morning, she sent me these three poems. And they boosted my spirits.

All we can control

in this silly

and wildly perfect

life,

is the love

that we

choose to give out

without any regard

to ever

getting it back

in return.

-Tyler Knott Gregson- 

Perfect and yes and fully agree. I don't even want to say anything about it, for fear of ruining it.

 

Goodbye is a shaping word,

a lathe to the wood around us,

skilled hands to the marble

we once were.

I am carved, and I

am smoothed

by the losses, by the sound

of walking away.

I heard them say it, all of them,

and all the while,

I thought of home,

I thought of home,

I thought of

home.

-Tyler Knott Gregson-

I don't know what all the goodbyes have carved in me, and I'm pretty sure some have left me splintered, not smooth, but they have brought me home. To my front porch after a long day's work, eager to hug the giggles inside. They've brought me up the stairs, to cuddle and tickle and read with my kids at night, and they've brought me to my wife. My sweet and patient wife who shapes and sands and loves my rough and splintered edges. 

Because of home, we can choose to love without any regard to ever getting back in return. Because of home.

 

Run. For your life, for your joy, for your calm and peace of mind. Run. because your legs are strong and our lungs are aching for the taste of air. Run. Because what's the point of life spent walking in the middle?

-Tyler Knott Gregson-

More then ever, I sense the race set before me, and it is time to run - for my life, for my joy, and for the calm and peace of mind that comes with running toward a good and perfect prize. 

Run.

Away from the guilt and shame and burdens I can no longer carry or do anything about.

Run.

For purpose and excitement and love, with home in my heart, and life in my mind.

Run. 

Run.

Run.

Because my legs are strong and the road is long and there is much to do and little I can control.

It's time I get started.

 

Thank you, my good wife, for the poems you sent.

Thank you.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Poetry  :  Inspiration

 

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