good stuff

I wrote this for church several years ago. I still agree with the sentiment. And I’m better now.

In terms of serving other people, I do what I can, for whom I can. I try to respond to the call of need of those immediately around me. Not just those who attend my church. I try to pay attention. And I do it because I want to. Because it brings me joy.

And if it doesn’t? Working on it.

We can start there. That’s a good start to good stuff. If everyone did that? We’d have a better world.


Altruism /æltru●ĭzǝm/ n. a concern for the welfare of others without any benefit to one’s self.

AKA-doing good stuff for other people and you don’t get nothin’ for it.

Many cultures and religions prioritize this concept of altruism. It is certainly a key tenet of Christ’s teachings (the words that came out of Christ’s mouth), even if some Christians don’t follow.

Interestingly though, many people are skeptical of completely selfless service. True altruism can in no way satisfy the giver. It must be an act of sacrifice in which the giver receives nothing. Educated opinions differ as to whether pure altruism even exists.

I believe that we are created with an innate sense of concern for others. I do. We are built for doing good. We are, after all, made in the image of God. But as with all divine design, we can pervert, mangle, void and totally destroy God’s gift with our own skewed perspective. We’re not perfect.

PLUS! We are imprinted with tons of distorted viewpoints by the age of reason. We are taught to be cautious, self-protecting, guarded, skeptical, closed. Instead of running naked (emotionally!), open, arms stretched out to total strangers embracing each other in love. Get outta here, Hippie!

Your life should bring you J-O-Y!


I was taught, from a very young age, that one could live life in an extremely simple, specific way and espouse this value above all others, JOY.
It’s easy, your priorities will fall into these categories:
1. Jesus
2. Others
3. You

I learned this lesson early and for the most part, I have lived my life this way. Sometimes, the letters got jumbled along the way. And sometimes the letters were missing, altogether.

Even so, I have usually put others’ feelings and welfare above my own, but the reasons were borne of fear and selfishness. There was no J-O-Y in it. My thoughts were these:
If I don’t put God first, He will be angry with me and punish me.
If I don’t put my family and friends first, they won’t love me.
If I don’t put myself last, I am selfish and lazy.

I didn’t do good for goodness sake, I was wrapped in negative motivations. I was simply trying to avoid the bad. Over the past decade, however, I have tried to put others first out of an idealistic will, to take the selfishness out of serving, to do good for God. I wanted that desire to fill me up and bring me joy. That desire has landed me in an unexpected place. I am still struggling with the same negative motivations.

Whenever I am asked to do something, I complain, out loud or in my heart. I am still wrapped in fear. My thoughts have developed to these:
If I don’t put God first, I’m not truly a Christian.
If I don’t put my family and friends first, I do not love or I’m not truly a friend.
If I don’t put myself last, I have failed.

In the past few months, I have come crashing down. I have staked my value in service and it has failed. I have tried to do more, serve more, give more than ever before and it has not brought me any closer to God. My marriage is suffering, my child is neglected, my heart is grumbling and dark. When you get to the root of it, I am an incredibly broken, screwed-up failure. My strategies for life are just as twisted as someone who only looks out for number 1. I am fooled and tricked by my own misunderstanding. I wish I truly cared for people the way Christ did. I wish that I could wrap my arms around the whole hurting world. I wish that my actions reflected a pure love for God.

I’ve been trying to define altruism for myself or letting others define it for me when I should look to God’s definition for my life and look at myself through His eyes.


For several years, my husband and I served at our local church, we were on the drama team, served in children’s church, wrote stories, scripts, essays and lesson plans. We unloaded fireworks, made movies, cooked, cleaned, listened, directed and an endless list of tasks. And others did even more than we did.

But. Our salvation. We were just as much in need of salvation on the last day of our time there as our first.

Salvation. It’s not a game. You try to put points up on that board, but somehow it never measures up to Jesus’ sacrifice, does it? I need to stop keeping score. Jesus zeros the board every single day. And that’s always in our favor. How many times do I screw up in a day? Let’s just say, I keep the statisticians busy.

Salvation is not about earning points on our way to heaven. It’s about letting heaven come down to take over the game, our will and desire: our heart, mind, body and soul. When we do that, the definition for altruism will simply read:
/æltru●ĭzǝm/ n. see God.

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Crash

Crash.Crashing.Crushing.Crushed.

I stagger here crushed, crashed into by God,
Crushed by the weight of his mercy and grace,
My sin gone without a trace.
And it feels like…heaven.

A flash.
Flashing.
Hit by lightning, the wonder of his coming,
Saved by his dying,
Crying at the moment I see his glory
And he is revealed to me.

This world is full of:
Head-on collisions,
Rear-view visions.
Hurt may appear
Closer in the mirror.

Hitting, hurting, burning,
Scratching, fighting, scarring.
And we don’t even know
Who we’ve struck on the road

With our carelessness. Our thoughtlessness. Our inhumanity.

Though–we are saved.
Without reason or cause.
Captured and raptured.
In spite of our flaws.

Made by his hands,
Made for his plans,
Made just like him.

Built for relationship.
Desiring fellowship,
Asking for love and loyalty–
Our trust in His royalty.

Our undivided attention.

And when he crashes into us,
It doesn’t hurt.
But you know that you’ve been hit.

Crash.

He crashes into us.
He leaves a mark.
Stunned mind, ears ring.
A mark made by the one, true king.

Crash.

He came on a star.
He left on a cloud.
Here but a brief second.
A drop in the bucket.

But he changed man’s heart forever.

Hit and run.
Hit and stun.
Crash.

Crash.Crashing.Crushing.Crushed.

Crushed by his glory, stick around for the story,
The story of Love.
A story of grace.
God came to earth and showed us his face.
The face of a child in such a lowly place.

Eternal spirit become flesh.
Forever and finite, in a sense,
Wisdom clothed in innocence.

Power in weakness,
Eternity from meekness,
He does nothing but seek us.

He came here to this dangerous space.
A tiny member of the human race
To save.  The.  World.

He crashed into history.
He flashed into being.
Everything changes,
Believing is seeing.

The story gets better.
The story is a letter.
A letter from me to you
By Him.

Read it from beginning to end.
And read it again.
And again.
And again.

Brace for impact.

Take Heart

Psalm 61:2 (NIV)
From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

OR this version which is much cooler and grammatically correct (LOL):

GOD’S WORD Translation
From the ends of the earth, I call to you when I begin to lose heart. Lead me to the rock that is high above me.


So, like, bring me to a higher place, a higher ground. Right? High above me. Like, way up there! Pull me up!

But about losing heart. Losing nerve. Losing courage.

It’s hard to be brave when you’re playing chicken with job satisfaction and basic human needs. Right?

Justification upon justification says, “Pay the rent. Enjoy air-conditioning. Eat food.”

And Jesus said to the rich man, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.Mark 10:21

Gulp. He didn’t say anything about A/C and paying the rent.

But this was the rich man’s stumbling block. The thing that kept him from God. The one thing he wasn’t willing to do. Walk away from his most precious accomplishment. His most closely-held ideal.

Jesus knew that. He knew the man’s heart, the core of what drove this man every day–get money, things, wealth and power. And Jesus challenged that. Like he does!

The man was rich. You don’t wake up rich, I’ve tried. You have to really bust your hump to get it. You may even have to screw someone else to get ahead. In fact, most definitely.

The passage ends with sadness. The man is deeply sad because his eager heart is confronted by his unmotivated flesh. The account reads, “…the man’s face fell.”

So, his face was all “Yes! I love you Jesus! *SMILES* I’ll do anything for you, just tell me, ’cause I don’t know what to do with all this intention and I’m so excited by you!”

Jesus: Give it all up! Walk away from everything you hold dear. Be like me. Live on faith.

And then, his face was all “That’s the worst news I’ve ever gotten.”

I’ve been there.

This is hearing from Jesus:
To a porn addict: Just come on over to church when you get that whole porn-sex thing figured out.
To an overeater: Stop eating so much and I’ll see you over here!
To a gun collector: Yeah, sell all those things that make you feel safe and powerful and then follow me into a really bad neighborhood.

Uh. What?

Yeah.

I don’t think Jesus was telling the man do this or you can’t hang out. He was saying, “Oh, you want the answer? You won’t like it. It’s not easy!”

He was explaining. “The road I choose for you and the path you’re on don’t merge. Getting to my road isn’t going to be easy. It’s complicated. And you’re going to have to let go of everything that is materialistic. Can you do that? Are you still happy and eager?”

It’s like hearing about this job that you can have where all the best versions of life come true and you have everything you’ve ever wanted emotionally, financially and physically. But you have an hour commute. Or the job is on the other side of the world. The neighborhood is rough. Or there’s no neighborhood…on the other side of the world!

Have everything you ever wanted, but here’s the price: giving up everything that ever made you feel comfortable.

It’s like losing your heart. Losing the very thing that you thought made you tick, motivated you, drove you, inspired you. And you find out, all along, you were ticking to another machine. A greedy, oily machine that disgusts you. But you can’t live without it.


It’s much harder when you’re making decisions for 3 people and not just yourself. I’m married with one child. That’s a decision I made a long time ago and didn’t even have to think about. Yes! A thousand times, yes. Give me those choices, over and over, and I’d give the same answer–yes! Yes, to my husband. Yes, to my baby. Yes, to a lifetime of laughter, love and fulfillment.

But I have wandered this lonely planet for years in search of the right “job” for me. Because wife and mother doesn’t pay very well. 😉 I would love to be a writer who gets paid to spit wisdom on paper. I would love to work from home doing graphic design, photography, acting, writing, creative stuff. But nobody pays you for that. Or if they do, it’s not enough to pay the bills.

I would actually love to serve a mission before I die and help others. Live in a hut. Roll around in the mud. Haul water. Build things. Take showers outdoors. Not take showers at all. Meet people. Love on people. Stinky people.

I know that comes with many challenges. Sickness, loss, difficult physical conditions. No luxury! And how can I choose that for 2 other people?

But if I know anything, those moments are the ones we live and die for, the ones where we feel most connected to other humans. We don’t clean and count our possessions. We see and touch and talk to other humans. What are we living for if not God’s people, each other, our neighbor?

Things are nice. Things are really nice. Comfortable. Secure. Reassuring. Downright luxurious. But I don’t think God created us to be comfortable. Right? Idk. Most of the time, following Christ has moved me out of my comfort zone. Which I hate. But what does a person accomplish in their comfort zone? Even internally?

I’ve never truly loved another person inside of my comfort zone. My husband regularly pushes me into Uncomfort Zone. Being a mom isn’t always comfortable. High rewards in both relationships, but I am often challenged to love without limits. But I don’t want to!

Loving cute little babies and sexy husbands is easy. It’s when they aren’t so attractive that makes it a challenge. “Hey, Babe, do this thing I know you hate just because I like it.” or “Hey, Mom, drop what you’re doing and come help me.” Sigh.

OR

My husband said to me the other day, “Triggered!” Which is our shorthand for, “Leave me alone, I can’t deal with your issue, get off my back! Back up off me, Bro!!” And I hollered back, “Me triggered!” And he just softened so much. His eyes changed to deep compassion and empathy for me. At the drop of two words. He was way outside his comfort zone and loved on me. That’s marriage. That’s being outside of your comfort zone and loving.

Dropping your life, your issue, your house, your car, your bills, your ego at the door and following Jesus. Loving without limits. Driving to the bad neighborhood and helping. ‘Cause where else do they need help except the bad neighborhood? Doing the crummiest jobs because who else is doing them?


I have a chance for a job and it’s everything I always wanted. High emotional satisfaction, working for a nonprofit that espouses Christian beliefs, helping poor people find housing, using my graphic design skills, photography and other creative talents. 100% health and dental benefits. But it’s in a different part of town. It’s a drive for sure. But exactly what I want. Probably very rewarding. But I haven’t been offered the job. I’m in the initial stages of interviewing.

BUT! I have a job offer on the table. Office work. Part-time. Nothing glamorous. Not really in my field. A little, but it’s mainly answering the phone, scheduling rides and data entry. Some social media perhaps.

What do I do? Hold out for the perfect job? Or take the first thing I can get? I feel confident that I will have a job before the end of this month or next. (Unless I become famous for blogging, retire early and eat coconuts. LOL) Do I wait? Do I take the okay job and then quit when offered the full-time dream career? The okay job made it clear, “People come in and then leave me in a lurch, and I just need someone who’s gonna stay.” In light of that very explicit detail, I don’t want to start and then bail when I get something better.

I have been out of the traditional job market for so long, I don’t know what to do. Ethically and idealistically, my gut says don’t take okay and wait. There doesn’t seem to be a clear answer. But we need the dough. The perfect job isn’t so perfect either. There are drawbacks. But it’s my field of graphic design. I’ve waited so long to do what I went back to school for. Ugh.

What do I really want? What do I need to do for my family?


I’ll figure it out. But this is hard. Deep breath. Don’t spiral.

Take heart, be brave, find courage. Follow Jesus. Get dirty. Love without limits today. It’s just that easy!

LOL No. It’s hard.

But try it! It’s like climbing a rock. 🙂

You can be lead to that rock.
But you have to decide to climb it.
But you don’t have to climb it alone.

Lead me to the rock that is higher than me!

 

Domestic Violence

So, I’m writing a play. I’ve written two plays so far and this is my third. I started this really cool piece about domestic violence and shelter living for women. I had planned to offer as a charitable fundraiser for local DV shelters. Then I got derailed, the project stalled on the other end and I haven’t been back to it. I was hoping to share here for some feedback. Here is an excerpt, let me know your thoughts.


WOMAN 1: Yeah, even her husband acts this way. (Referring to WOMAN 2)

WOMAN 2: (Lights go down on group, WOMAN 2 comes down front) It’s true. She’s right. I mean, I don’t know if all men act this way, but my husband does. The only difference between her husband and mine is that he buys me a diamond ring to apologize. We never know what people are going through behind closed doors. I don’t wanna be here, but I have no place to go. My dad is gone, my mom is in assisted living. My kids are at college and the house is in his name. Everything is. Bank accounts, cars, houses. I don’t want any of it anyway. I never did. I only wanted him. And I wanted him to want me the same. The first time he hit me, we were in college. He was drunk and I was mad. He’d been flirting all night with our friend’s new girl. Kissing her on the hand?! Laughing at all her dumb jokes. After we left, I complained the whole way home. I’d never been so mad with him before and he did not like it. He didn’t say a word until we got to his apartment. He shut the door, it was dark, he cornered me and whispered, “Don’t you ever talk to me that way again.” He waited for a few seconds. I thought he was walking away and then he turned and knocked me silly. I never questioned him again. I’m not sure why I didn’t leave that night. I know I felt guilty for thinking the worst of him. That was the first time, but for sure not the last. When I said nothing at his flirtations and when I said nothing about his business dealings and when I didn’t interfere with the kids, he’d still find a reason to hit. Or choke. Or…humiliate. All alone, at night, in private. In our room. In bed. I don’t keep this ring because I love jewelry or I like how it looks on my finger. I keep it because I’m not ready to give up on love. And I feel safe with it on. That’s ridiculous, I know. But you know, I earned this ring. I had to take a punch or two…or ten…to get it.


So that’s just one of the women I’m writing for. The idea is that they are in group therapy in the shelter and one by one, between dialogue, we hear each individual story over the course of the play. Really minimal set. Also, flashbacks of a woman from the 70s, winding up in the hospital for the umpteenth time, finally able to go to the new DV shelter that just opened. Her name is Hope.

I’d love to hear ideas, stories and feedback. Thanks for reading.

Deep Calls To Deep

I just read an article online about this verse:

Psalm 42:7
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

The article, which I won’t link to here because I’m about to disagree (LOL), states that this could be David lamenting about his troubles. Watching a waterfall spill on top of itself, churning up bad memories and events.

I disagree.

This verse calls to me. Calls to the deep. Are you deep?

Meaningful calls to meaningful. Intelligent calls to intelligent. Known calls to known. God calls to those who seek Him. And those who seek Him hear His voice.

At the beginning of the psalm, David is talking about his deep yearning, thirst, for God. Deep calls to deep as thirst calls to water. Connected. Deep connection. One must satisfy the other. God must satisfy our desire. You cannot slake thirst with anything but water. Deep calls FOR deep.

The article did hit on one detail. They talked about the metaphor of water. The bible talks about water many times. The flood of Noah. The punishment of Egypt and the salvation and ransom of Israel with the parting of the Red Sea. The direction of Jonah. The baptism of Christ. Jacob’s well-the well at which Jesus met the woman. The spring of eternal life bubbling up inside. The thirst that is quenched with the words of God. Jesus as the fisher of men. The boat saved. The storm stilled. Water was used over and over in the bible as a cleansing, a washing away of sin and fear. Life-giving, life-changing water.

The article said that the use of water in this instance is a mighty force. Yes. I agree.

That force here is God. IMO. Deep calls to deep. God calls to holy? He calls us. The roar of your waterfall. The fall of your grace down upon our sin and it is washed away. Your mighty power pounds away at the rock of sin. And we don’t sink. We bubble up and float away with the hope of a full and deep river. All your waves and breakers have swept over me.

If you’ve ever been in the ocean, just at the shore, the waves crash and agitate relentlessly. The water is constantly churning the sand and shells to break over and over on land. It’s a washing machine of sorts. And so is our daily-renewed relationship with the Spirit. Grinding down the broken pieces. Smoothing out the rough edges.

The tide of the Spirit comes in and offers up treasures and fruits of the sea. Shells of patience. Drops of love. Foamy, soft breakers of joy. Rolling push-pull of generosity. Sweeping kindness. Salty spray of endurance. Permanence of self-control.

Yes. Water. God is powerful. His waves and breakers have swept over me. He calls to me. Softens me. Renews me.

His love is deep. Deep calls to deep. Love calls to love. It is not trouble I picture. It is mighty power sweeping over, overwhelming my sin. Rescuing me from trouble. Calling me above my weakness. Raising my sunken body from the floor, floating to the top of good. Calling me close. Calling to my depth. Bringing hope to the dark, still bottom that nothing but Water can reach.

Trouble and sin cannot exist where the Water and Light can touch. He has swept away trouble with His power.

His “…power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Or–His function is used in our shortcomings. Does that make sense?

These are just my thoughts. I’m no theologian. But I love this verse and it means so much to me. God calls to my inmost being. The person he created and knew before my parents gave birth. He calls to my soul. He knows me. He has power over me. He rights my wrongs. He is my help. He is within me. And I am made from Him. Deep calls to deep. Kind calls to kind. And I have been swept clean by His mighty force. I have been refined by Your constant loving water.

 

Paterfamilias

That’s a snap of my dad. I’m the little red-hooded halfling almost cropped out, just behind him. Nice jean jacket, Dad.


My dad didn’t give me much. What he did give me though is everything. A sense of humor. Learning to laugh at yourself is so important. When you have nothing else, e.g. talent, ability, grace or aptitude; if you have a sense of humor, you can endure all things.

My dad used to say things like, “I work my country ass off!” And, “Give me hell, I’m the devil.” LOL

One day, in a mood of silliness, my dad tied two brightly-colored balloons to his ears. They floated high above his bald head as he walked out of Wal-mart, greeting each new customer, “Thank you for shopping at Wal-mart.” I was humiliated on the outside, but inside, I was screaming, “Yeah, my dad’s a fuggin’ freak and that’s friggin’ awesome! Let your freak flag fly, Daddy!” LOL I wish I had been brave enough to show him my approval. It might have comforted him to know that he wasn’t alone.

My dad was also abusive. Verbally, emotionally and sometimes, very rarely, physically. I forgive him for that. I have forgiven him for a long time. I remember the abuse, but I choose to focus on the positive things; the love he gave, the tenderness he showed, the loyalty he displayed.

Another memory that I will never forget is the day my father showed me the greatest amount of tenderness. I asked if I go could run an errand with him in the old Ford pickup we used around the farm. Typically, he begrudgingly allowed me to tag along, but sometimes not at all. But this day, he was excited to have me.

I hopped up in the cab with him and he laid his giant hand on the well-worn bench seat. “Are you my pardner?” I grabbed his meaty paw and said lovingly, “Yeah, Dad.”

We didn’t say much else. Just smiles and camaraderie.

No other memory of him was as meaningful and sustaining. He’s gone. 27 years he’s been gone. He’s been gone for longer than I had him in my life. But his closeness is nearer than ever before. I hope that he looks down on me with approval, but the truth is, I’m sure he’s too busy enjoying paradise.

I love you, Dad! Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for my sense of humor.


And Happy Father’s Day to the best dad I know, Guy Maggio. You’re an amazing example of love, grace and acceptance. Even if you don’t always know what to say or do, you’re here, you care and whatta sense of humor! You make life more than bearable. You make it exciting. Worth living. Love you. Thank you for being my baby-daddy.

Swimming, Drowning

Swimming through the past. An ocean of negative feelings and tremendous waves of guilt, doubt, hurt and resentment pound you against the sand of time.

I swam in several oceans. Just this morning.

If you can read this, it’s because I trust you.

No.

It’s not.

Well, sort of.

It’s because I’m willing to give you one chance before I don’t. So I trust you. For now.

It’s funny because I trust this online group of fellow writers more than I do my own flesh and blood. I trust you more because you and I are the same.

You understand the tiny intricacies and intimacies of out-loud emotion. Sensitivity to environment and relationships. You observe life and tell it again. Live it again. An editor said to Susan Weidener, “Writing is living twice.”

Writers are brave enough to live, even the bad parts, twice. Suck the marrow.


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”  Henry David Thoreau


YOU (Reader/Writer)=Preservationist. Historian. Testifier. Guardian. Lover of words, people, experiences, life.

I understand. Mad respect.

This morning, I crushed a tiny flying insect between my index finger and thumb. Without thought. It continued to fly around my face and it was extremely annoying. S/he landed on my shirt and I took my chance.

Somehow, now and again, I feel just like that bug. Crushed without thought by some annoyed acquaintance.

I’ve mainly felt that way around certain creative types who have enormous ego and too little time to care for another. Improv actors. Improv actors are good at one thing. Thinking up jokes on the spot. Otherwise, adulting is just too hard.

The trouble is impulse control. They have none. I should know. I married an improviser. Ironic, I know.

The same impulse that tells them to say something funny or true on stage? That’s the same impulse in life that gets you socked in the gob by a gnarly stranger. Most of us learn to control that impulse to blurt out something ridiculous. Improvisers are rewarded for such behavior with laughter, slaps on the back and applause.

My husband’s improv friends for the most part were a tightly-loomed clique of quick-witted attention whores who constantly tried to one-up each other. If you couldn’t hang, you were just a hanger-on.

I’m damn funny. But not an improviser. I’ve tried. I’m not an improv-er mainly because I have strict impulse guidelines and fear rejection. Plus, my brain just does not work that fast. My judgment slows my reaction. I can improv. Just not at the same level as my husband.

For years I tried to fit in, be supportive, hang on. But it is wholly unsatisfying to be surrounded by adult toddlers most of the time. It’s exhausting.

No one ever seemed to be able to hold more than a five-minute conversation. Never about anything real either. It was usually a 5-minute joke-off/caffeine/smoke break. And they certainly didn’t care about your personal details unless it benefited them in some way. Exhausting.

Most successful improv-ers IMO have compartmentalized lives. Improv is over here. Family, life, job is waaaay over there. And that’s just not me. I want to be fully integrated. Real. Whole. And I want my husband to be, too. He’s working on it. Doing really good. But we haven’t seen that whole improv crowd for years.

I mainly swam around in regret for a few minutes this morning because I just finally deleted most of those people from my LinkedIn page. Seeing all those faces again just made me sad and mad all over again. The rejection of my true self, the rejection of my ability, the rejection of my offer of genuine friendship. Tears came fast and hard without warning, without rationale.

But, I’ve written about it and I feel okay now. Plus, I am too busy to tire myself in this choppy ocean of feelings. I’m sure you understand. 🙂