I’ve been thinking about getting my ear pierced. I’ve been contemplating it for years now, but finally, I think I’m ready to do the deed. I don’t want one of those tiny little shinny studs that most men get either. If I’m going to do this, I want to go big.
I recently saw a picture of a guy who turned his face into a tiger. When you see that, all you can say is, wow. Now, I’m not ready to commit on that level, but if I’m going to do this thing, it’s got to stand out. What’s the point in doing it half heartedly? It has to make a statement, right? Not the, I turned my face into a tiger statement that screams, “Woah, you got issues dude,” but something a little more subtle yet profound.
Now, I know everyone’s thinking; “this is just like that time you wanted to get ‘courageous’ tattooed across your forearm in Hebrew.” No, this is different, but for the record, I wanted to do that long before it was cool. I’m pretty sure I was the originator of that trend. I think I shared my idea with Al Gore right before he started the internet, and the idea spread like wild fire. That was all me!
No, this is more than a passing thought. I’m really going to do it.
The fact is I already did. And, so did you.
Right about now you’re probably thinking I’ve lost my mind. You would remember getting the top of your ear run through with giant piece of metal, right? Well, perhaps I need to explain myself.
You know when you read a verse, and no matter how much you try to juke it (yes, I just used the word, juke), it sticks with you? This is a concept that’s been with me since college and recently I ran across the verse, but it’s been marinating in my soul for quite some time now. The concept comes right out of Exodus. Picture this; you’re a slave. I know, stinks huh. Well, now imagine you’re a slave 4000 years ago (wow, this story just keeps getting worse). You weren’t always a slave. You used to be a farmer, but one year the crops dried up and you had very little options to keep your family alive.
By now you’re thinking, “wow Tom, you’re a depressing story teller.” Just stick with me, it gets worse.
So, in order to feed your family, you go to the wealthiest man in town and sell yourself as a slave (bummer).I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to conceive of a scenario in which I have to sell myself and my family into slavery in order to survive. Crazy! But something else happens that you didn’t expect. You actually like the master.
After spending years experiencing the goodness of your master, the time comes when he by law has to set you free. Finally, freedom is at the door. This is where you and I would do an awesome little jig just like that guy Matt who travels around the world doing a stupid little dance. You don’t know him, well, look him up. Where In The World Is Matt Dancing.
Okay, back to you being a slave. You’re about to be free. You would be elated, right? What if you had nothing to go back to? What if times had become worse over years, and now your freedom meant certain death. What would you do and would your new freedom be as great as imagined? When you begin to weigh your options, you begin to realize how good you have it. Your family is cared for. There’s food on the table and a roof over your head. Most of all, you love the master.
It’s at this point you realize you have another difficult choice to make. You have to choose a pill to swallow. Do you want the red pill or the blue pill? Sorry, I just got all Matrixy on you. You can have your freedom, if that’s what you want to call it, but there is a price you’re going to pay. If will most likely be the death of you and your family. Slavery’s starting to look pretty good, no? But, there’s a catch. If you decide to stay with your master this time, it’s not going to be for just seven years, it will be for the rest of your life. This is where the ear piercing thing comes in.
If you decide to stay, it will mean forever, and to solidify your decision you will be given a mark. This isn’t just any mark. It’s a mark that will be visible for all to see. It’s not only a testament to your decision to be a lifelong servant, but it’s a testament to the character of the master. Then, your master is going to take a metal awl, which is like a giant nail, and drive it through your ear. Ouch!
“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 then his master must take him before the judges.[a] He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
Do you realize, you and I are the slave?
I don’t know about you, but this is a good reminder that my life is not my own. We have been bought with a price. Our ear has been pierced.
Who do you know who needs their ear pierced?
Ever had the nagging feelling that something big was about to change in your life? You can’t quite put your finger on it, and if you had to explain it, you couldn’t. You walk through your days with a sense of feeling like somethings just not right. That God is about to pull a 180 on you. To compound things, when you ask God about this feeling, He becomes the God of vagueness. You pray desperately for clarity, but clarity turns out to be nothing but smoke and mirrors. Right when you think you have it all figured out and you know what God is doing, everything vaporizes before your eyes.
A few months ago I started my day like any other. I slid out of bed while simultaneously grabbing my phone. I checked facebook on my way to the bathroom (sad, I know) only to find out all those alerts are from someone inviting me to join Slotomania. (Side note: if you want to get hid from my wall, send me a request from Farmville, Slotomania or to add my birthday to your MyCalendar). I hopped in the shower and start scrub a dub dubbing when out of nowhere comes a voice as plain as day with a message as clear as mud. “Tom, i’m not going to move until you step out.”
What are you supposed to do with that? At this point, a few things started going through my mind. First, I was completely excited that God was speaking to me. Not that I thought we weren’t on speaking terms, but when the God of the universe speaks that clearly I’m always blown away. Of course the second thing I was thinking was; What in the world does it mean to step out? It’s odd enough that the most transformational times I have heard from God in my life have been in the shower, but from personal experience, when God talks in the shower something Big is going down.
Conversations with God like this are kind of like dating; it’s 95% excitement and 5% sheer terror. You can’t stop thinking about all the possibilities. You remember, right? Does she like me? Should I text her? Should I hold her hand? The possibilities of what could be make you soar, but, at the sametime, you are freaked out beyond belief that everything could come crashing down. Nobody likes that kind of train wreck. Once you get over the fact that God is talking to you, you then realize what He’s asking. “Hey Tom, I want you to step out of this boat. Don’t worry, you’ll float.” Very reassuring, right?
This little phrase, “I’m not going to move until you step out,” haunted me over the next couple of weeks. It followed me everywhere I went, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what in the world I was supposed to do. Finally, after being moved to action after hearing that same little phrase in an episode of Monk (Yes, the OCD detective), I knew I had to do something. Nothing like an episode of Monk to heighten your spiritual recepters. After using all the brain power I could muster, which isn’t much mind you, I determined to go to my boss. I figured, if I tell him about this nagging suspicion, wheels would be put into motion and something would have to happen. I mean come on, when you go to your boss and tell him that you want to do something else with your life, something is bound to happen, right?
Well, I met with my boss and the conversation was nothing short of amazing. We came up with a game plan of looking at a more missional role for me over the next year or two. Bam, I did it! End of story, right? I had figured it all out. I was so proud of myself for deciphering the shower riddle. I’m sure I was strutting around like a peacock, wings spread, chest out, totally inflated by my newly discovered gift of shower interpretation. That’s a spiritual gift, right? I’m sure I was concocting a plan in my head as to how I would use this new found gift as an international ministry. The website in my mind was crazy good. Very Apple-ish. Just one word tag lines with revolving phrases proceeding them. Everyone knows how cool that is.
A plan was set, and the wheels were turning, but I could have never prepared myself for the fork ahead. It was a regular dinner at our house with regular people (no offense Ryan and Kelly-I mean regular in the best sense of the word of course), when God sprang his shocker on me. The funny thing about God’s shockers is that you often don’t know their shockers when you first hear them. It’s not until you act on them that they lead you down a road you could have never expected. It was after a long game of settlers (which I can’t remember if we actually played or if it’s just my imagination, but for the sake of my story lets pretend we did. For that matter, lets pretend I won.), that Kelly out of the blue said, “Hey, there’s a job I think you should apply for.”
Fast forward a bit. I got my resume ready, updated my LinkedIn profile (Rick Warren’s in my network, so you know, gotta play all the angles), and applied for the job. The next thing I know, I’m sitting in the presidents office after my interview sweating bullets because the realization hits me, I got this job. So, to make a long story short, mainly because I have to go to work, I now have a new job. I’m now working for the Luis Palau Association and loving it. So, if you’ve been wondering, “Hey, where are the Mueller’s?” Wonder no longer. There’s a lot more I could tell you, and eventually will, but until next time, remember-God speaks in the shower, Mr. Monk can change your life, and it’s in the little things that God does big things.
His heart felt like it was going to beat out of his chest, and he knew if he didn’t act soon, he might not act at all. He counted to three slowly and then jumped up shocking the ducks like he was a human jack in the box with a gun. The sound of fluttering thunder filled the air as the ducks fled for their lives. Eaner’s legs wobbled slightly as he lifted his gun and took aim. Nervousness told him to shoot quickly before they were gone, but his dad’s reminder of the time he had steadied his trigger finger while he took aim. He flashed back to the round clay disc as he locked in on the bird letting his gun move a steady trail just ahead of the ducks projected flight pattern. His finger squeezed as he felt the instant impact shock his shoulder quick and powerfully, but not letting the force detour the guns pattern of motion until he saw the duck flutter and nose dive towards the golden brown ground. Just thinking back on it all lifted his countenance and brought a large grin to his face, but it slowly disappeared as the realization hit him that it would never happen again. His dad would never be able to take him duck hunting, or fishing, or too his favorite thing ever, a St. Louis Cardinals game.
The Trouble With Poetry
The trouble with poetry, I realized as I walked along a beach one night–
Cold Florida sand under my bare feet, a show of stars in the sky–
The trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry, more guppies crowding the fish tank, more baby rabbits hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.
And how will it ever end?
Unless the day finally arrives when we have compared everything in the world to everything else in the world,
and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks and sit with our hands folded in our desks.
Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorry
an I shrink like a chain flung from a bridge.
but mostly poetry fills me
with the urge to write poetry,
to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame to appear at the tip of my pencil.
And along with that, the longing to steal, to break into the poems of others
with a flashlight and a ski mask.
And what an unmerry band of thrives we are, cut-purses, common shoplifters, I thought to myself as a cold wave swirled around my feet
and the lighthouse moved its megaphone over the sea,
which is an image I stole directly from Lawrence Ferlinghetti-to be perfectly honest for a moment–
the bicycling poet of San Francisco
whose little amusement park of a book
I carried in a side pocket of my uniform
up and down the treacherous halls of high school.
By Billy Collins
Excerpt from: The Trouble With Poetry And Other Poems by Billy Collins
The other day as I was ricochetting slowly off the pale blue walls of this room, bouncing from typewriter to piano, from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor, I found myself in the L section of the dictionary where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist could send one more suddenly into the past–a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake learning how to braid thin plastic strips into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard or wear one, if that’s what you did with them, but that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand again and again until I had made a boxy red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts, and I gave her a lanyard. She nursed me in many a sickroom, lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips, set cold face-cloths on my forehead, and then led me out into the airy light and taught me to walk and swim, and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard. Here are thousands of meals, she said, and here is clothing and a good education. And here is your lanyard, I replied, which I made witha little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart, strong legs, bones and teeth, and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered, and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp. And here, I wish to say to her now, is a smaller gift–not the archaic truth
that you can never repay your mother, but the rueful admission that when she took the two-tone lanyard from my hands, I was as sure as a boy could be that this useless, worthless thing I wove out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
While out shopping today I was struck with an odd thought. Chalk it up to the fact that I’m currently getting my oil changed and that kind I boredom can spark interesting thoughts a you wait for the pushy salesman to come back and tell you of all the other fluids your car needs. Along with wipers, a vacuum, and a radiator flush. So what’s the random thought you ask? I’m betting the suspense is killing you. Well, here it is, How in the world do people go with out meat? So, I came up with five reasons why I’m not a vegetarian. I could come up with more no doubt, but five sounded trendy and cool.
1. Costco-Have you been to Costco lately? Being a vegetarian at Costco must be the most depressing thing EVER! It’s like going to Diary Queen and deciding to just get a water. Going to Costco is all about the samples, and the best samples are always meat.
2. Bacon-I take pride in the fact that I’m a bacon connoisseur. I can still remember the two best bacon experiences I’ve had. One was in Seattle at this dive in Queen Ann Hill called, Cafe Mecca. My mouth still waters at the thought of that thick salty goodness. The other was on a mission trip to Africa. The whole time we ate really skinny chickens without salt, hot sauce, or any other flavor. After weeks of suppressing your tastebuds like that anything would taste good, right? It was on a tour of the Zambezi river that I tasted the most delectable meal I’ve ever encountered. I still wake up longing for those slabs of fatty meat. To become a vegetarian would be to deny that inner voice that colors my life.
3. Starbucks-This one doesn’t really have anything to do with meat, but I really love coffee and I just had to let the world know. I guess I could spin it to make it work. I don’t want to be a vegan either, so that counts right?
4. Bacon Cheeseburgers-Need I say anything else? Who doesn’t love bacon cheeseburgers. I have a philosophy that I live by; never trust anyone that doesn’t crave a good bacon cheeseburger every once in a while.
5. Jesus ate meat-this is the single biggest factor in me loathing being a vegetarian. Who doesn’t want to be like Jesus. It’s what we all aspire too, right? Well, at the end of the day, Jesus at meat.
“Over here.” Eaner exclaimed jumping off the side of the stairs next to the secret storm drain as Henry followed close behind. “You’re going to get a little dirty,” Eaner warned, “but it’s totally worth it I guarantee.” “That’s okay; I don’t mind a little dirt.” Henry stated, watching Eaner lower himself to the ground next to the entrance. “Follow me. There’s a little bit of a drop off, but it’s not bad.” Eaner told him. Henry just nodded and lowered himself to the ground as well, as Eaner disappeared into the hole. Henry landed just as Eaner flicked on the flashlight, revealing the spectacular hidden world before them. “Whoa! What is this place?” “It’s an underground storm drain that runs underneath the whole town.” “This is so cool.” Henry exclaimed. “You haven’t seen anything yet. Wait till you see my secret place.” Eaner said, gesturing for Henry to follow him down the tunnel. They approached the massive metal red door as Eaner grabbed his stashed tools out of the tin can, and began jimmying the door open.
Eaner had the door opened in a matter of seconds in usual fashion as he pulled with might exposing his sacred chamber to unsuspecting eyes for the first time. Eaner watched Henry’s expressions of delight and awe like a proud parent on Christmas morning as he took in the magical sights and smells revealed to him. He was speechless for a few moments as he took in the endless possibilities of adventure presented to him. “This place is so awesome!” He said dumbfounded as he watched Eaner grab the lighter on the table next to the door and begin lighting the candles placed around the room. “I told you this was the greatest place ever!” Eaner replied. “There’s more down here as well. I’ve found so many amazing things. Maybe you can help me gather more stuff for our fort too?” “Yeah, that would be great! We need some more furniture down here, and then we could just live here forever.” Henry replied excitedly. “Yeah, no kidding,” Eaner chuckled as he walked over to an old faded orange metal cabinet. He twisted on the long slender handle jolting the door back and forth as it refused to relinquish its stubborn grip as Eaner put his full weight into the effort. The bending door finally surrendered, sending Eaner shooting backwards from the sudden release.
Last night my wife and I brought our 1 year old over to some friends house for dinner. As new parents we are always freaked out about other peoples things since our little girl could careless about stuff and just wants to put it all in her mouth or throw it on the floor. Thankfully, last night was the perfect house to bring her since their living room was showcased with stuffed animals, Build-A-Bears to be exact, and a small wooden rocking chair placed in the dinning area just for her riding enjoyment. As my daughter man handled ever animal she could get her grips on, we soon discovered that every bear came with a story. Most of the animals were gifts, and after further conversation we realized they were anniversary gifts at that. Now, as a newlywed, I’ve discovered that the term ‘anniversary’ has a very loose definition that no man on the planet can define or fully comprehend. Remember that time in sixth grade when they separated the boy’s and girl’s to give you the ‘big talk,’ and each gender was wondering what in the world the other was hearing about. Well, I ‘m convinced that in that class all little girls were informed of anniversary dates that should be adhered too in a marriage relationship. These are not dates that will come up until after the wedding bells, so don’t try to figure them out before the big day. Remember these dates or suffer the consequences.
1. The First Date: I decided to start with an easy one. The first date is a no brainer, right? Well, this would be the case if you knew the first date. The fact is, you only think you know the first date. In her mind the first date actually started two days before the actual date. Why, you might ask? Well, remember that time you and her were out with a bunch of friends. You didn’t classify it as a date, but believe me, she did. If you don’t remember this date, which you won’t because you don’t even know when it is, you will be in the dog house. Good luck.
2. The First Time You Met: I bet you didn’t realize this was an anniversary. It is. Don’t make the mistake of over looking this crucial day, because if you do, you’ll be sleeping on the futon in the kids room. In your mind, this date ranks right up there with the first time you guys ate spaghetti together, but to her it’s the beginning of it all. If you don’t remember this date, find out quick.
3. The First Gift: One day you’re going to walk in the door from work and she is going to hand you a present. Panic will immediately set in because you’ll know you forgot something, and then she’ll remind you of the first present you ever gave her. It’s in this moment you’ll realize this is a special anniversary date you have forgotten. At this point it’s to late to do anything, but by now you’re starting to realize there are a lot of dates you don’t seem to have marked down. If you’re smart you’ll buy a couple presents, wrap them, and keep them in your car. This way you can always say, “Oh, I forgot your present in the car.”
4. The First Time You Met Her Parents: Remember this awkward day? This event is one of the official markers of commitment in her mind, so don’t forget it. The day she invited you over to meet the parents was actually the day you proposed and didn’t know it.
5. The First Time You Talked Marriage: Remember that time you were watching the Princess Bride, and that funny look guy that say’s “Mawage, is what bings us togeber today?” Well, that was your first official conversation about marriage and you totally missed it. I can only pray you don’t forget this while she’s pregnant.
6. The First Time You Talked About Having Kids: This one will be a challenge for you to remember because it wasn’t an actual conversation. You were at Best Buy getting ink for the printer and you saw a cute little kid and said something like, “Wow, that’s a cute little guy. I can’t wait to have kids.” She won’t even have said a word, but that date was just logged into the database in her mind as a new anniversary date you are now expected to celebrate.
7. The First Argument: I know what you’re thinking; why in the world would she remember this day? In her mind, the first argument marks the day your relationship went from being a surface level relationship to one of depth and true love. Forgetting this day is the equivalent of taking off your ring and stomping on it. Don’t do this.
8. The First Time You Didn’t Die: Remember that time you were driving home from her house and you got caught in traffic? You usually always call her to let her know you’re home, but that day you decided you didn’t need too. Well, the second you made the decision not to call was also the second she started thinking you were dead. With every passing minute she planned your funeral and her tragic life without you. Once she had figured out every last detail is when you finally got home and made the call. After an outburst of anger she then book marked that event into her mind as a day to remember forever. You forgot all about it, but she has immortalized the fact that you didn’t die.
9. The First Picture Together: Here is a day no guy remembers. In our digital age, the first picture was likely taken on your iPhone at Chipotle’s, but in her mind is was as significant as any wedding photo. You probably have guacamole on your lip, but she was mentally marking that photo as a day to celebrate.
10. The First Prayer: There is no doubt this was a significant moment, but once again she probably remember it differently than you do. You remember asking God to bless your burrito’s, but she heard was a quote from Pride and Prejudice. “Elizabeth quietly answered “Undoubtedly;” and after an awkward pause, they returned to the rest of the family. Charlotte did not stay much longer, and Elizabeth was then left to reflect on what she had heard. It was a long time before she became at all reconciled to the idea of so unsuitable a match. The strangeness of Mr. Collins’s making two offers of marriage within three days was nothing in comparison of his being now accepted. She had always felt that Charlotte’s opinion of matrimony was not exactly like her own, but she had not supposed it to be possible that, when called into action, she would have sacrificed every better feeling to worldly advantage. Charlotte the wife of Mr. Collins was a most humiliating picture! And to the pang of a friend disgracing herself and sunk in her esteem, was added the distressing conviction that it was impossible for that friend to be tolerably happy in the lot she had chosen.” Scary stuff, but that’s the significance of the first prayer.
11. The First Time You Hurt Her Feelings: This day will never be forgotten because you’re a big jerk. End of story.
12. The First Time You Made Up: Need I say more.
13. The First Time Of Her Parents Anniversary: I know, right now you’re saying ‘what?’ Yes, at some point you’re going to celebrate the fact that her parents fell in love and got married. It’s going to confuse you, but go with it. It’s not that you don’t want to celebrate things like this, but you just don’t know what is celebratory and what isn’t. At this point it’s time for you to throw out an anniversary date of your own just to switch things up a bit. This is an opportunity for you to celebrate something like the first ball game you took her too. Once you tell her of the date, she will then inform you that you have the wrong date, and then she will go grab the ticket stub to prove you wrong.
14. The First Time You Made Her Laugh: This is a day she celebrates because once kids come along there is just a lot of crying and sleepless nights. The fact you don’t remember the first time you made her laugh will make her cry though, so be prepared.
15. The First Time You Did The Dishes: Before getting married we only did the dishes once, and that was just to wash off the mold growing on the side of our coffee cup. We probably didn’t even use soap to get it off. So you can appreciate the fact she celebrates this day. The day represents the day you as a man were domesticated and transformed from a disgusting bachelor to a well mannered family man.
16. The First Diaper You Changed: She celebrates this day because of the comic relief involved in it all. For most of us men we had no idea our babies could poop on their heads, let alone poop a sticky paste that is impossible to wipe off. This is the one date you don’t need to remember. She is celebrating this one all on her own.
17. The First Time You Touched: This one isn’t what you think. Remember that time you took her to Starbucks and ordered a triple grande four raw sugar soy latte for her, which she takes to sips of, and when you handed her the cup your fingers brushed. You didn’t think anything of it, but she immediately went to the bathroom and tweeted sixteen of her friends about the encounter. I hope you enjoyed that touch because during pregnancy her favorite words will be, “Don’t touch me.”
18. The First Time You Held Hands: Finally, a day you can understand, kind of anyway.
19. The First Time You Danced: 90% of men try with all their might to erase this moment from their memory, but she won’t let you. She might even make you dance in the living room. No doubt you have forgotten the moves you learned for your wedding, but don’t worry, she’ll remind you.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve celebrated?
“Whoa!” Henry Thomas exclaimed at the sight of lightening bugs. “Come with me,” Eaner said, leaving two of the eight positions in the outfield vacant as he and Henry Thomas scurried off to the grassy lot adjacent to his house. “Take off your hat Henry and use it as a net and I’ll show you something really cool. My sister hates when I do this because it’s a little gross, but you have to see this.” Eaner waved his hat into the night sky, snagging unsuspecting fireflies in mid-flight. “Here’s what you do,” Eaner said fingering an innocent bug. “You see the light at the end here?” “You mean the butt?” Henry snickered. “Yeah, the butt I guess.” Eaner replied. “Take the butt and tear it off.” “That’s disgusting!” Henry protested. “Just wait and see. I told you it was kind of gross. So once you rip off the butt, as you call it, you squeeze the juice out of it and onto your hands.” “I’m not squeezing the juice of a bugs butt onto my hands. That’s gross!” “You haven’t seen the cool part yet. You see, you squeeze the juice out and smear it wherever you want it to glow, and then wa la, you have your very own light saber.” Eaner waved his hand leaving trails of light behind wherever it had been. “That’s so awesome!” Henry gawked. “See, I told you.”
Quickly, Henry caught a bug and repeated the act. In a matter of moments the two boys were glowing warriors battling the forces of darkness with bug juice and boyish energy. “I forgot to tell you one thing,” Eaner said, putting a pause to the galactic battle. “What?” “Smell your hand”. Henry lifted his hand toward his nostril and let out a putrid holler as the scent registered in his senses. “I was so excited to show you it that I forgot how bad it smells.” “It’s horrible!” Henry exclaimed. “There’s one more thing though.” Eaner said hesitantly as if he’d just snuck a quarter out of his mom’s purse and been caught red handed. “What?” Henry replied not really sure he wanted to know what Eaner was going to tell him. “This glow juice is really hard to wash off, I mean really hard!” “How hard, Eaner?” “Like, maybe a couple days to wash off hard!” Eaner replied sheepishly. “Awwwe!, Henry let out in a light hearted disgusted gasp of disapproval as the previous battle resumed with heightened intensity. Soon the two boys were rolling in oak leaves laughing and stinking the night away.
Excerpt: A Whistle In The Dark: The Adventures Of Eaner Pickernan