Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You Be Mr. Han

A little under a year ago, one of my 7th grade students and I went to see the new Karate Kid, starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. Sitting in the theater together, my heart went out to this kid beside me--a young man who has energy, joy, and hope, but who also seemed to be constantly misunderstood.

I kept hitting his knee--a bad habit of mine when I watch a movie with someone--saying, Wow! Check that out! See what he just said there?! I don't know why, but it's like when I watch a movie, I want to constantly tell the other person what amazes me, and I want their eyes to glimmer and glow and say, You're right! So cool!

In any event, we watched the movie and I loved it. Now, I am completely against male bravado. I hate the idea of male toughness. And my all-time most noble example of what it means to be a man lies with Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

So what I love most about Karate Kid is not, in fact, the karate. Instead, it's the relationship of a boy who doesn't have a dad and a kind, wise, older man who society sees as something to laugh about. But their relationship infuses a sense of purpose in each and, eventually, love.

A month ago, Jennifer had surprised me with the UK DVD of the new Karate Kid--the same version I had seen with my student--for my birthday this past December. Like his Dad, Tyler started enjoying watching a clip of the training scenes with the karate kid and Mr. Han--his mentor and father-figure.

Tyler loves it. He loves watching the breathtaking clips of China in those training scenes, and the way the karate kid falls asleep on Mr. Han's shoulder on the train ride home from their day training in the countryside.

Before Jen left this morning, she helped tie a swath of toilet paper around Tyler's head. "Now, you are karate kid!" Jen told Tyler with excitement. His reply: "I karate kid!"

Then, Tyler walked over to me and said, "You be Mr. Han."

Now, readers of this blog will already know that my heart jerks around far too easily, and this moment certainly provided a wave of emotion through my heart. Tyler then went back to Jennifer and said, "You be Mr. Han too, Mommy."

Before long, the three of us sauntered around our home wearing swaths of toilet paper on our heads: one karate kid and two Mr. Hans.

And this morning--now that T man is sleeping peacefully after a bit of a rough go of it to get into the nap-stage--one reason why I love the Karate Kid story so much crystallized in my mind: because it's like Mother Teresa.

If you're still with me, you're probably saying, Hey Luke, buddy, I know you titled this whole blog-thing Intersections so that you could make connections between all kinds of stuff. But Karate Kid and Mother Teresa? I don't think so, bro-ster.

But here's the thing: Mother Teresa said, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love." And in this new version of Karate Kid, there's a great scene where Mr. Han makes his mentee practice taking off his jacket, dropping it on the floor, picking it up, then hanging it up. he practices it thousands, hundreds of thousands, of times. Just when he starts to lose it, calling Mr, Han and his methods stupid, the great teacher shows him what, in fact, he has already learned: powerful methods for the art of karate.

A small thing. Very, very small thing. With the jacket. But its effect was to teach, through repetition, a beautiful ability.

I wonder how often I refuse to do small things with great love because I think they are insignificant, or because their worth seems infinitesimal. Mother Teresa always did the small--the tiny--things, and she did them with great love.

As Jennifer and I chatted last night, so many of us claim that we want to do big things. BIG things. If we're following faith, then we change it a little and say, we want to do big things for God.

But Mother Teresa's plea was different. her goal--her only goal--was to "do something beautiful for God."

It's not about the size of the result; in fact, it's never about size at all. It's about the great love that propels any tiny thing we do in this life. And the only actions that ever change hearts--whether one heart or a million hearts--are those actions that are done with great love.

However infinitesimal they may seem.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Way How

You fear the sun will never rise--
You sleep beneath covered skies
And your mind rages with love's loss, the lies.
Child: be.

Open your eyes where they have not opened before.
Will your heart to see the shining all around.
Stand and speak aloud against
Every despair that crowds
Like an angry leech, like the thundering leak.

Your words can call forth
The most humble of all glories:
They can paint the sunrise
God first gave us.

Woman, Man: tell your stories.
In so doing, cast darkness aside.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dreaming after Dreaming

In early morning mumbles,
Before reason asserts its measurements,
Allow your heart to playfully tumble
Upon its miasmic sentiments.

Walk softly where the ground has cracked;
Kiss the feet of those who weep.
Their laughter, one day, resembles
All the sleeping visions your soul keeps.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Broadway All Around Us

The other evening, I ran across the street to the Co-Op, the little grocery store where we get those last-minute-whoops-we're-almost-out-of-baby wipes-apples-or-coffee supplies. A man named Ian with a kind face and a longish gray beard was at the register. This time, I happened to be buying some Calpol for Tyler (essentially the equivalent of Children's Tylenol in the states).

Ian and I chatted about when his daughters were young--now 23 and 25--and he used to give them Calpol when they were sick. I asked him if the time went by fast--going from two years old to 23 and 25.

"Faster than you can imagine," he told me, with a small smile and a wink. As he moved on to the next customer, I found myself thinking this as I walked out of the store: Ian is so...well, he's so Ian. He has an uncanny Ian-ness about him that no one else could possible show.

I'm not sure why my mind started thinking this, but then it started saying: No one could ever act the part of Ian better than Ian himself could. He plays his role perfectly--better than any Broadway actor could perfect it.

As the evening closed, and the next day opened, I found myself still thinking those same kinds of things--though not about Ian only. When Tyler and I passed a lady walking her dog--as we sought out dog poopies to look at and say, Whoa! More dog poopies!--I found myself thinking: That lady, too, plays her part perfectly--better than any Broadway actress could perform her role.

And on and on.

Granted: I have a lot of time to think during the day while Tyler and I gallop around the Fulford area of York, searching out dog poopies, building Gruffalo-Snow-Men, hugging Lightning trees, and jumping around like we're kids. (Well, technically, he is a kid. I consider myself an honorary kid. Maybe one day, universities will hand out "Honorary Kidships" the way they hand out Honorary Doctorates. If so, throw me on that list, Home Slice!)

So, some of this "thinking time" has been devoted, lately, to recognizing that it's kind of like there's this Broadway show happening all around us. And every day, we get this chance to see actors and actresses playing their parts perfectly--to an utmost precision that even the best performers can never quite muster.

These people aren't winning Academy Awards for their work, and they're not receiving rave theater reviews in the New York Times, but nonetheless, they're perfecting their roles--speaking their lines and communicating their movements with grace and hope and fear and anger and joy and love, all the same.

How will your life--how will my life--interact with these other Broadway stars today? What lines will we recite? In what scenes will we find ourselves?

When we walk into the grocery stores and down the sidewalks of our lives, even though no audience leans in to hear our words, may they still be laced with all the passion, verve, and hope which imbues the lines of our greatest performers.

And may we keep learning to be more, well, more us than ever before. After all, isn't that what the Great Director of our stage asks of us in Micah 6:8?: "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." By playing the Broadway roles we've been given--however humble, however loud, however soft, however fearful we are--we give to the world a part (yes, albeit a small part) that no other human being could ever play. No matter how talented they are.

The part is yours, and yours alone. Play it with everything you've got.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

We Can't Keep Them All (On Writing as Practice)

Tonight, as I walked into the University of York to do a nighttime writing session, I passed by a well-lit soccer field and watched four guys doing intense goalie drills. Two of the guys would kick soccer balls to the two guys opposite them, who would catch the balls, roll them back, do a foot-fire drill, then change locations and do it again.

It looked riveting.

It looked exhausting.

It looked like it probably felt: grueling without recognition or reward.

But when gametime arrives, those hours spent drilling at night when everyone else was watching TV or eating cheese curls (nothing against cheese curls here--I actually ate a bag myself earlier today, as did Tyler), these guys were practicing.


In sports, we don't find it odd to think that athletes spend countless hours practicing something that they do, in real game situations, a relatively small percentage of the time.

In music, a similar fraction holds. An orchestra might spend hundreds of hours rehearshing for a single, two-hour-long concert.

Yet in writing, many of us convince ourselves that we've got to have the perfect words, the perfect lines, the perfects plots all in place or else the idea isn't worth birthing into reality.

But the truth is, those athletes and musicians can't keep those countless hours--those are all preparation. And in writing, neither can we keep all our words. We need to free ourselves to start practicing.

Have you ever sat down and said, "Okay, today I am going to write A LOT. And I am going to write a lot that will never see the inside of a book or a magazine or even a blog. I am simply going to practice"?

Ever wonder why we don't let ourselves think this way as writers?

I'd venture that it's because somewhere along the way, we learn that writing is supposed to be different. It doesn't play by the same rules. If it's worth writing down, then it should already be perfect. It should be clever, witty, wise, worthwhile, and all without taking too much work.

But this kind of thinking gets us into massive amounts of trouble. It makes us think, Who am I to write? A thousand people can do it better than me!


Because you're not letting yourself practice.

You're holding that violin in your hands, then jumping onto the stage and visualizing the crowd wince when the notes won't dance the way you want them to.

If you can teach yourself that it is okay to practice--that it is okay to write and write without any of it being publishable--then the lines you write when it's gametime will be that much more honed, clarified, and strong.

The words you craft in the light will hold power and meaning because of the practice you allowed yourself to conduct in the dark.

So come on. Open up a new document. Crack open your notebook. Write something without worrying who will see it. Write something for no other reason than to strengthen the muscles in your fingers, and the muscle in your heart.

In time, you'll live along the lines of practice into the game. But for now, allow yourself to believe that we can't keep all our words. In fact, the only way we imbue them with beauty is, indeed, when we let them go.

Holding the Moment

The confirmation of a call cannot
Be known in the outcome alone--
Not in reactions,
Not in hungers or satisfactions.

Uncover more soil.
Peer below and roll the roots
Across your soul's fingers.
Imprint the image of a larger view
Upon the sky that blankets you.
Contentment never breathes within perfection,
But dances in what is far more real, true.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

From Verizon or God?

Tyler loves getting the mail when our postman, descending from his red Royal Mail bike, saunters to the door and pushes a few letters through the mail slot each day. Tyler's two-year old feet pitter-pat themselves to the floor where the letters fall, and he picks them up with glee, commencing to rip them open with joy at the hope of finding a cool picture, the letter "O," or, at the very least, various colors.

His love for the mail began with Christmas, when picture cards from people began arriving. Tyler loved learning the names of these people, and helping us decide where to tape them up on the wall. We even had to tape up a brochure sent to us from our bank because, after all, there was a picture of a man on it, and surely, that man from the bank would want us to have a Merry Christmas (as well as notify us about added security measures for online banking).

Today, a letter from Verizon flitted through the mail slot, and Tyler ran to retrieve it. Ripping it open, he cried out, "OH! OH! Look at 'dis one!"

He then put the letter on the ground, traced the words with his finger, and smiled.

"What does it say, T-Man?" I asked him.

Without hesitating, he began again at the top of the page and read aloud to me, "Dear Jesus, Thank you fo' Mommy-Daddy-Tyler...Gruffalo...Blue's Clues...Bob Builder Ball...O...O right here...THE END."

I laughed, and saw that the letter actually came from Verizon, alerting us to the fact that our American phone lines had been disconnected satisfactorily, and that, when we should need American cell phones again, would we please contact Verizon?

Hands-down, I like Tyler's version of the letter far better.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Don't Think; Begin!

If you're anything like me, beginnings can be tough.

I am unashamed (okay, I am a little bit ashamed) of my bashfulness when I first knew that I wanted to date Jennifer (and eventually, marry her!). I had been visiting her, and at every turn, I planned romantic moments where I could tell her how deeply I cared for her. I took her to a beautiful lunch where we clinked glasses full of Chardonnay.

Even though the sun streamed through large windows across her face, urging me Come on, buddy, I'm doing my part...Tell her already, won't you? I had trouble getting the words out.

Then, as we walked beside a pond, skipping stones and watching light reflect on the shimmering water, my old pal the sun spoke again, Alright, man, I am really working hard here to give you some major opportunities...Tell her buddy! Yet I still had trouble getting the words out.

Finally, I was able to blurt out a (fairly) non romantic and harried "I like you" -- probably making Jen wonder if I was still in middle school rather than a 22 year-old high school teacher myself.

But I recognize something that I couldn't see before: beginnings are tough. It's hard to really put ourselves out there, say what we feel, what we believe, what we hope for.

I sometimes fall into that pattern where I start thinking a whole heap about ways to begin something, without beginning it. This is a dangerous zone, because thinking is, in fact, a good thing.

It's a great thing. We would save ourselves a whole lot of foot-in-mouth moments if we thought a little before we spoke or acted. But there's a lot in life that doesn't follow the notion of thinking for long, long (way too long!) periods of time before we begin.

Writing is like this. When we sit at our computers, staring at that white screen with it's tiny cursor flashing repeatedly before our very eyes, then we need do only one thing: begin.

We've got to write something--\anything--to get us going. Because writing is like running. You can't stand on the side of the road thinking about how exactly you're going to move your legs, what strides you'll make where, and when exactly you'll turn a corner. (Well, I guess you actually can do this, but you might look fairly odd dressed in your running clothes, standing outside for an hour, then going back inside without sweating.)

No. We've got to sweat, and with writing, that sometimes means sweating over some fairly awful prose.

I recently began a new novel, and the vision of this book in my head was remarkable. I smiled whenever I thought of the book's premise, givign myself imaginary pats on the back for thinking up such a cool idea.

Then I started writing it.

Part of me almost didn't want to write the thing, because keeping company with Premise was such fun! After all, Premise was a pretty non-demanding buddy. Premise even suggested I grab a bag of chips (or crisps, as I'm learning they're called here in England) and put on a great film clip whjile Tyler naps. Premise often told me, Hey, Man, aren't I enough for you as I am? Why you got to go and try and make me, like, 40,000 words long or something? The relationship we've got now is pretty sweet, right?

Sadly, I had to tell Premise to beat it. It was fun hanging out with him for a while. But I knew I needed to begin.

And so I threw up words and sentences onto my screen and winced as I wrote them. I felt like some very mean-spiritied doctor was continually poking me with a Hepatitis A vaccination, then hiding the needle quickly when I took a sidelong glance.

But I kept writing.

I wrote through my halthing, confused Chapter 1.


Then I started another halting, albeit-less-confused Chapter 2.

Ouch. (But less ouch.)

Finally, I made it to the end of Chapter 2, where I found one line I had written, and I leaned back in my chair and I said out loud, "Thank you, God. Thank you for this line. This one line."

Because, see, that was the line.

The line.

I had written many pages, but most will probably be chucked when all is said and done. But I will keep that line. That one line.

Living, too, is a lot like this. I wonder how often we stop ourselves from doing anything because we're so afraid we're going to get it wrong. We're so afraid that we don't have it just quite right, so we counsel ourselves that it's okay--better, even--to wait it out. Think some more.

The sad part about making little choices like that every day is that it leads to one rather big choice: we never do the thing that makes our hearts beat fast. We have a vision--a dream, a hope, a cool idea--but we don't allow ourselves to just begin it and make mistakes along the way.

Yesterday, as I was doing my morning devotion on the porcelin potty (well, I think ours may actually be a very, very hard plastic-type material that only looks like porcelin...in fact, is anybody's porcelin? If you're still with me, and you know for a facvt that you have a porcelin potty, send me an e-mail at LWReynolds@gmail.com as I'd love to hear about your porcelin potty. If you don't have a porcelin potty, but you have factual knowledge of your potty's substance, e-mail me and let me know what it is), I came across the book of Jonah in the Old Testament.

I said to myself, Hhhmm, I've heard a lot about this Jonah character, but I don't know that I've ever actually read the book in the Bible.

So I read it then and there.

And I was blown away by it. I was blown away by a lot within it--but two things really hit me like something heavy and big (but something that doesn't leave any pain or aftereffects).

Two verses, really, which said, essentially: "God changed his mind."

Whoa! So God had planned on one course for the Ninevites, but their repentence provoked his mercy, and he changed his mind!

Jonah was pretty bummed about this whole God-changing-His-mind-and-having-mercy-thing.

But hey, the point is that if God can even change His mind, then why do we pretend we can't?

Why do we so often walk through our lives telling ourselves that we must get it exactly right on the first try, every time and all the time? That's a pretty high and impossible standard that, essentially, accomplishes one thing only: it prevents us from beginning something that could be really good, really beautiful, really important.

So, since my son Tyler is waking up from his nap, and our local library is calling both our names, I'll end with this question today: What dreams are bouncing around in your heart right now? Have you dreamed of starting a non-profit to help reform schools? Have you dreamed of doing the Peace Corps? Have you dreamed of writing a novel, running a mile in six minutes, or visiting all 50 states? Have you dreamed of living abroad, telling people that you love them, learning to play the gutiar, or writing your own song?

Whatever the dream, begin it.

And don't think too much about it; just start.

You'll find that when you begin, the pace is plodding, and the voices that seek to nag you back into inertia are loud. But keep going. After a while, I promise your heart will start to beat a little faster, and the excitement that leaps around inside that central organ of yours will slowly but surely crowd out the fear, criticism, and worry.

Begin. Now.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Francisco X. Stork has written that "Faith is this two-chambered heart of giving up and going on."

He's right. When I read those words (check out his piece here), I had one of those moments where you sit back in your chair, maybe touch your forehead, exhale, and say, Yup, that's it, man. That's what it's all about. That's the deal, right there.


Faith involves giving up because faith trusts. Believing in something also means that we're able to say, with honesty, "I'm not in total control. It's not all up to me, and it's not about me." That's a tough thing to say. It's tough to admit that we can't always manipulate experiences and people to work together to produce the results we'd prefer.

I learn this lesson anew almost every single day.

When Tyler doesn't want me to change his diaper, or put away a toy, or leave the library (which we never would, if it didn't close...), he listens to what I tell him to do, then gives me a pretty good eye-contact stare-down for a two-year old and replies, "How about..."

What comes after his "how about" is always the exact opposite of what my "how about" was originally all about.

And I see the truth: I can't always get Tyler to think he really wants to do what I want him to do.

Grown-up people with hair on their faces and legs and other various parts are like this, too. We can't always get them to do what we want. So that's where faith comes in. We've got to let them go. Love them, care for them, but we can't control who they are and who they want to be.

But we always give up our dreams when it comes to faith. If we never release our dreams--those visions of who we could be, what great things we could accomplish--they become stagnant and selfish and prideful. When we release our dreams, we often find that they return to us, then whack us upside the head and say, Alright now, while I've been away getting free, what have YOU been up to? Not just sitting there watching television, I hope...or else we are going to have some major words.

When God calls us to something, it's seldom about results. More often, He's calling us to journey somewhere--whether to some new physical place, or some new place inside our hearts. He's calling us to take a journey that involves risks, uncertainty, and a whole lot of hope.

So when we let go of our idea that we control others, and when we loosen our grip on the dreams and visions we imagine ourselves the protagonists of, we actually find the faith that allows us to carry on.

It's in walking that we find the strength of our feet, after all, not in visualizing the journey. Believing can live when it moves.

It's probably fitting that I close this little ramble with a link to Mary Oliver's powerful poem, "The Journey." her words fit well with Stork's in that they both suggest a way of moving through life that allows us to keep faith and use our voices--not to overpower others, but to find out who we really are. I leave you in the capable hands of the great poet herself: Mary Oliver's "The Journey."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Getting Back to Play (Or, On Using Different Voices as Coolness Personified)

Having the chance to spend tons of time with Tyler, I find myself regularly employing four different voices, pretending to be an alligator, Bob the Builder, Baloo the Bear, or any number of uptrucks (commonly referred to as "diggers").

It's hard to imagine what life used to be like before this kind of playfulness--before it became 100% acceptable to talk about poopie in public constantly, to shout to the moon in the sky, and to pretend that a lady bug has a mission that Tyler and I need to help her accomplish.

So it was with joy that I read Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovitch's recent contribution to the Spilling Ink website, entitled "Playing Ourselves into Wide Open Spaces." It is a beautiful piece, filled with awesome ideas for writers and artists--and people who want to live life remembering that's it's still important to play (which is all of us). Check out her this incredible treat by the author of 8th Grade Superzero here! I promise you'll feel wildly inspired to live better after you finish it. (And, you may even find yourself dancing to the music in your head.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hard to Say It Any Better

My wife, Jennifer, recently wrote a remarkable blog about the need for all of us to fight more than the daily frustrations of our lives--and instead to fight the oppression that exists in the world. She focuses on human trafficking, but provides a powerful call to do what we can in any avenue. Check it out here: it'll knock (and rock) your socks off.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Seven Poopies

At the risk of writing yet again about poop, I begin this blog.

See, in our home, we have a quote up on the wall by Marianne Williamson which says, essentially, that one must write from the deepest truth of who they are--"from the pulse"--or else it's not worth writing.

So, as Tyler now naps and I sit in the study-not-much-bigger-than-a-miniature-closet, I must write about poop.

Seven poopies, to be exact.

Late this morning, right before I was set to put Tyler down for his nap, my thought process went like this: Hhhhmm, Tyler hasn't pooped yet today. He normally poops right when he wakes up--like me--but today, no dice. When he doesn't poop in the morning, his naps are somewhat sketchy--seems his tummy has trouble resting peacefully when there's waste to be excavated from the intestines. And Jennifer did just get that gloriously blue new potty-training seat. Maybe time to have a go before his nap?

So, we crawled into the bathroom together, grabbed his gloriously blue potty-training seat that Jennifer has recently ordered from amazon.co.uk, and Tyler hopped on.

He had gone poopie once before on the potty--a joyful occasion when Jennifer and I were there to cheer him on and laugh and celebrate--and so I was hoping luck would strike twice. We began by clenching our faces. We closed our fists tightly, then furrowed our eyebrows.


Tyler hopped off, and we checked the bowl.

Clear, clean water.

"Try to do more poopies?" I asked Tyler.

"Yes, I do BEEEGGGG poopies on blue potty," he replied.

(Which, I might add, struck me as a highly detailed account of what he was going to do.)

This next time up, we both heard the plop. Our smiles cracked at the same moment.

Tyler hopped off, and we both peered over the lip of the blue potty seat to see one small poopie floating beautifully in what used to be the clean, clear water.

I began applauded with reckless abandon, and Tyler's smile grew wider.

"I do more BEEEGGG poopies on blue potty!"

And up he went again.

Round two came and went fast: the clenching--hands on our faces this time--the eyebrow-furrowing, then the plop.

This time, the poopie was even bigger, and as we both peered over the lip of the blue potty seat yet again, we were both kind of proud--I of him, and he of what his body could produce--something you could actually see with your own very eyes!

Tyler began to reach into the potty to attempt to touch this second, larger poopie. I caught his hand in time.

"Yucky, dirty...but YAY! You did BEEEGGGG poopies! Two BEEEGGGG poopies!" I said, with joy in my voice.

Tyler hopped on a third time. Yes: same result,. with the size of the poopie growing, seemingly, exponentially with each successive round.

Lest I bore you or supremely gross you out with each step of the process, allow me to bring this story to its beautiful close: Tyler and I standing, peering into the toilet, watching seven uncanny poopies dancing amidst the murky water.

"I do it! I do it!" Tyler shouts.

"Yes! Yes! YES!" I shout in unison.

His wide smile is like some beacon on light, and as we both stand there, dirty, spots of urine covering both of us, I feel cleaner and fresher than I have ever felt stepping from a shower.

Now that he sleeps soundly, I wonder what it was that sent such rivets of elation through me, and through him, as well.

And the answer rises up inside me like--well, I'll spare you the analogy that first danced in my mind--though it rises up fast. Teaching.

The reason the seven poopies were so miraculous to me is the same reason I love teaching. It's that moment--watching a student, when you see that something is beginning to clear in their minds, something is starting to click for them. It could be a grammatical rule, the motivation for why a character has been hurting others so deeply, or something about their own heart, but it happens.

And when the plop sounds in a student's mind, and the path opens up, the teacher, for that momentary explosion of insight, becomes unimportant. In that single moment, all that matters is that the student has glimpsed a part of what life is all about, in whatever small way, and the student is filled with pride, joy, excitement, possibility, and gratitude.

Tyler had that moment today.

Granted, it came at the hands of seven ever-growing poopies.

Nonetheless, I'd still be lying if I didn't say that, as I was saying goodnight while he started his nap, I started to tear up.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Not Exactly a Snowman

Last night, a coating of snow crawled across the grass in our backyard (and everyone's backyard in York, for that matter). So, this morning, after Tyler and I had eaten our Fruit 'N Fiber cereal, done a few puzzles, and practiced a new dance he affectionately called The Uptruck Dance, we layered up and went outside to build a snowman.

Well, not exactly a snowman.

Me: T-Man! Let's build a cool snowman!

Tyler: No, no, no, no, build, build Gruff-a-lo!

Me: You want to build the Gruffalo instead of building a snowman?

Tyler: Yay! Build BEEEEG Gruff-a-lo!

And so, we set to work, rolling three large balls that would make up the body of our Gruffalo. In case you're reading this entry, wondering what in the heck a Gruffalo actually is, then you're in for a treat.

A real treat.

I'm talking about the kind of treat that makes your mouth water.

Your knees tremble with ecstacy.

Your jaw plummets in wonder and awe.

Your arms flap wildly as if you were a bird trying to fly far far away from wherever you are, now.

Your legs bounce rapidly as if you were a kangaroo, bounding across the terrain of sheer beauty, while a light rain drizzles softly on your cute kangaroo-head. (You cutie, you.)

See, we were introduce to an amazing little picture book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, entitled The Gruffalo. (Check out the book here.) We hadn't heard of it until we moved to England, but when we first read it, it was all Tyler wanted to talk about, think about, read about, or consider. Indeed, the Gruffalo became a close confidant, and helped us navigate the meaning of life for at least a month.

the phase is now passing, but this morning, as we heading into the new snowfall, Tyler--for whatever reason--longed to bring the Gruffalo back to life again.

Maybe he missed that old purple-prickled, green-warted monster; or maybe the snow inspired him to ask himself, What truly amazing thing can we build? A snowman is too easy! Far too easy! let's make it a Gruffalo!

Whatever our two-year-old son was thinking, as we rolled those large balls of snow, he was excited. He relished the chance to build something with his mittened hands. And when we took a short break to kiss his mommy and the love of my life goodbye as she headed off to work, it was hard not to smile and think to myself, Isn't this a small part of what it's all about? In life, we create things that, hopefully, keep creating. And we sometimes stand back and say, sweet.

Granted, the snow-Gruffalo we built this morning looks basically like a glorified snowman with two large feet attached the his bottom ball.

But in Tyler's mind, it's one heck of a Gruffalo.

Okay, fine, you got me: it's a Gruffalo in my mind, too.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The End of Anxiety

It sometimes seems that our society has been built upon one single, driving-like-stinging-rain, relentless, underlying principle: BE ANXIOUS!

About everything.

Is your hair too fizzy?

Is your belly too flabby?

Is your belly feeling fizzy?

Is your hair flopping flabbily?

Do your flip-flops feel frumpy?

Does your face look fat?

Do your feet feel frictous?

Have your foes gotten friendly?

Have your friends become too familiar?

And, of course, [most importantly] how much money do you have?

The endless cycle of anxiety is played according to these following steps:

1) Be convinced you are not good enough

2) Buy products to help you become good enough

3) Do what other people tell you that you need to do to become good enough

4) Worry about whether or not you are (finally) good enough

The truth is much simpler--yet a heck of a lot harder to hear. It's this: the whole thing isn't even about being good enough. The anxiety we feel when we wonder whether or not we're good enough comes from images to which we compare ourselves, others to whom we compare ourselves, and messages under which we allow ourselves to be crushed.

Instead of playing the games which are constantly garnering new support, why not make this year your END OF ANXIETY year?

Just this morning, Jennifer read a sentence aloud from a sweet book, Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman. The line, essentially, said that the beginning of anxiety is the end of faith.

I can see how that's true. Once we start believing the limitless messages we're told about who we are supposed to be, and what we should be doing, we stop believing in ourselves, God, hope, love. We instead turn to find some kind of reason to exist which lays outside of the real pulse.

Our conversations with our souls, and with one another, should we be willing to enter into real dialogue, might begin more like a game of charades. (For a beautiful rendition of how Jennifer and Tyler had a charades-like conversation, check out this blog post of Jen's here.)

But the more we try to really listen to one another, and really talk, we find that we don't really want to mimic the advertisements we see, or the idea that buy, buy, buy! is what it's all about.

No, I think we're all after something a little more authentic, a little more profound,and a little more natural.

We're after people who will look us in the eye and see us as we are:no more, no less. Then, we'd like to laugh with those people, cry with those people, dance with those people,l hope with those people.

In fact, there's no better definition of life that I know of.

So as this new year gets rolling along, why not pronounce anxiety's funeral, and try playing a game of charades or two while you look into someone's eyes? If nothing else, you'll save a butt-load of cash.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

When Words Mean

Words without roots
Sometimes flower.
They may pass from
Mind to mouth and back
With all the splendor
Of an hour.

But they carry no power.

In silence, should you
Plant the seeds of action,
The words that grow
Do more than birth faction--
Like food, we feel their weight,
Warming us against despair, hate.