Puzzle Pieces – Where do I Goethe from here? (Part 3)

I piggybacked on that with this.

“That writing takes me back to the Luther Vandross song, ‘Little Miracles Happen Every Day,’ which came to me at the beginning of this new journey for me.”

One thing I would love to do
Is to talk to someone, wish I knew who
Sometimes the people who know the least say the most
Makes you wonder who you can trust
What’s gonna happen?

The first thing I learned, God is love
The next thing would be, He loves me
Sometimes I tire of waiting, for a thing or someone
Then I stop and see what he’s done
And I know good things will come.

Maybe today, anything can change
Noting stay the same
And maybe today – What’s tomorrow for?
No one knows for sure
Through it all, come what may
Little miracles happen every day

And so you go, strangely enough
Alone even though, addicted to love
You’re in and out so quickly, that it gives you a start
You’re waiting for a message, or a word
But you haven’t heard it from you heart

Maybe today, anything can change
Nothing stays the same
Maybe today, it’s for the love we need, I really believe
Through it all come what may
Little miracles happen every day

What is a miracle? Love is a miracle
Every time you love, a miracle it happens somewhere
So many miracles, even small little miracles
Just take one look around, it’s not hard to figure out.

Cause it might be today, anything can change
Nothing stays the same

And maybe today, what’s tomorrow for?
No one knows for sure
Thought it all, come what may
Little miracles happen every day.

And now, I take you to my horoscope for today, as I think it is relevant as well.

“An irresistible force meets the immovable object today. There is a lot of energy available for disciplined work, but push too hard and you may break something…..Later today, you have a chance to show off you professional talents. A brilliant idea may need more work, but will eventually bring you a great deal of success. Be determined to create an attitude of peace. Peace of mind is clearly an internal matter. However, it must be extended outward for it to continue.

So, apparently I need to get started on doing some writing. I have wanted to take a major step forward for quite a while now, but really have hesitated because I really haven’t had an outline of what I wanted to do. However, as I have read recently in a book published by Stephen King, On Writing, that isn’t really necessary. He says that many times, and I’m paraphrasing this, that writing is an organic exercise, and should be spontaneous. This is his opinion, but I see where he is coming from, and I tend to agree with him. In my experiences, some of the best things I have written literally came “out of nowhere.” I was not planning them or laying them out. I just needed to be ready when the words started flowing out of somewhere in my mind, through my pen. I didn’t question the process, I just became a part of it.

The desire to write really started to become more constant last year, particularly after my grandmother passed away. As a matter of fact, I was kind of given an extra desire after we were going through some of her belongings. We found different things that she had written, mostly poetry. I was not aware that she had done this, but from what I could see, a vast majority of it came either before I was born or not too long after that. I’m not sure what took her away from it, but it is obvious that she didn’t do it nearly as much during my lifetime as she had prior to that.

As I look back through my journal from that time, I can see how apparent the desire to write was becoming. As a matter of fact, I found an entry that explained what I was feeling then, and I’ll share it with you now. It was written on March 9, 2013.

I am thinking a lot about it. I wouldn’t say at this point, that I would describe it as “all consuming,” but is seems like I am heading in that direction. The desire is most certainly there, but the content isn’t quite there yet. This may seem odd, or not make sense, but it does to me right now. The other day, I had a thought come to me as I thought about this. To me, right now I’m comparing myself to a volcano before it erupts. It may seem like an odd analogy, but here is what I mean.
Before a volcano erupts and spews molten lava to cascade over its crown, where it flows down its sides, scorching and engulfing everything in its path, as ashes jettison miles into the air, wreaking havoc in the atmosphere as it diffuses away from its source, hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away from its core before it settles back to earth, the inner earth is rumbling around, generating the energy that will facilitate the inevitable explosion.
I experienced this once before, but I didn’t characterize that episode then like I am now. That time it seemed to come out of nowhere, much like a tornado suddenly appears and travels an unpredictable path, disappearing back into the sky, mysteriously vanishing from our sight. We can see storms coming in, but never know if they will simply nourish the land with some life sustaining rain, or whether or not countless items will need to be picked up and pieced together at a future date, or maybe never for that matter.

Well, it appears that the time is now for me to officially begin on my path to a dream of mine. Have I always had it? Not that I can remember, but looking back with a subjective eye, I can see that the seeds were planted long ago. How? Well, I have always been a stickler for spelling. I’m far from the best speller around, but I do pretty well. I have always tried to use the correct grammar and punctuation, where as I see many who could care less. I had a teacher tell me that a paper I wrote was the best one in the class (despite the fact that I got a poor grade on it), but it make me feel really good because there were some pretty impressive students in that class that I felt at that time that I was not up to par with. Also, when I finally decided to start going to school, the first class I took was English 101 (Essay Writing). I aced that class, and was quite frustrated with the instructor, despite the good grades I was getting. I wanted feedback, but she gave very little. When I asked her about it, she said, “Well, you have to remember that my job is to make sure that you know how to write, and obviously, you do.” I have always remembered the structure of an essay that I learned back in tenth grade, and with that being said, whatever I have written seems to flow from that initial time of learning how to piece not only my words together, but how to effectively structure the essay so that it made sense and flowed nicely.

The above paragraph (yes I realize it is a bit long and drawn out…) encompassed basically the first 36 years of my life. Here and there I would put something together, but nothing really very consistent. However, that officially changed ten years ago, this month. To be exact, it was June 6, 2004. That was the day that I went out and purchased a journal and made my first entry into it. Why did I start then? I’m not really sure, except that like now, there was just something telling me that I needed to do it. I can tell you this though, it was around that time that I experienced a big shift in my spirituality, and despite the fact that I went to church for so many years in my youth, it was at this time that I really started to “get it.” It was during this time that I went from what I would call being “religious” and instead became a person that had a personal relationship with Christ. The rumblings had been stirring for a while, but it was in February of that year that my life began to change. I was in a place in my life that I realized that something needed to change, and I figured the best place to start was getting myself right with God. I can say with all certainty that my life has changed a great deal since then. There have been many struggles, but he has brought me through each and every one of them, and I’m a stronger person because of it. He has given me direction to act out what he wants me to do during my time on this earth. Sometimes I have pushed back, but inevitably, I relent, and realize that sometimes I just need to “Let go and let God.”

I remember specifically back then thinking what I was going to do in certain aspects of my life, but it wasn’t long after that I discovered that God had other plans for me. By the way, do you know how to make God laugh? Tell him your plans…. 

Many seeds were planted in 2004. Some of them I realized immediately, some not until later. Some of them I was trying to make grow right then, but found out later on it wasn’t the right time yet. You see, I was trying to make things happen on my time, but eventually figured out that I needed to get myself on God’s timeline, no matter how frustrating it was at times. If I have learned anything over the past ten years it God’s timing is perfect. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I killed some of those seeds, but cultivated others. Thankfully, there is no waste in God’s economy, and through allowing him to “run the show,” some of those seeds were allowed to come back, but in a different time and place, and I am very thankful for his grace that has allowed all of this to happen.

I know that this entry has been very long, and I hope that I haven’t lost any of you along the way, but I will now wrap it up with a prayer, called the Saint Francis Prayer. It actually comes from my first journal. On the cover, there is a picture of Jesus standing on a hill at sunset (or maybe it’s a sunrise….I’m not sure), with some sheep around him, and a few birds flying in the sky, along the horizon. At the top of the journal, it says, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” Then on the inside of the cover is the entire prayer, and it says…

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in dying that we are born into Eternal Life
Amen

I hope that anyone who reads this can see how everything fits together. If not, you all may think I may be missing a marble or two. But in my mind, I can very clearly see how pieces of this puzzle are now starting to fit together so a clearer picture can be seen. There are instances of things that have happened over a ten year period that fit together perfectly, and there are themes that flow through the entire story, and words like: dream, love, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, and peace. Are these all coincidences? I say no. I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe that God has a plan for each one of us, and it is our job to figure that out with as little or as much prompting as it takes. He could tell us, but in the mean time we would miss out on building our faith that we will need along the remainder of the journey. Regardless, I’m excited that I am on this journey and I am anxious to see where it leads me. I really have no clue right now as to where that will be, but I’m trusting that it will happen and I will be wherever I am supposed to be.

I will leave you with my horoscope for today…

“An irresistible force meets the immovable object today. There is a lot of energy available for disciplined work, but push too hard and you may break something…..Later today, you have a chance to show off you professional talents. A brilliant idea may need more work, but will eventually bring you a great deal of success. Be determined to create an attitude of peace. Peace of mind is clearly an internal matter. However, it must be extended outward for it to continue.

And, with this my friends, it is my intention to extend that peace, however it looks or feels to you, as far outward as the Good Lord will allow me.

Thank you for taking the time to walk this path with me and I hope and pray that you will continue along with me on this journey!

Puzzle Pieces – Where do I Goethe from here? (Part 2)

As I was looking at the date (September 9, 2009) I posted the Goethe quote on Facebook, I was also noticing what was going on in my life at that point. It was right around then that I had a couple job interviews that ended up resulting in employment, after a time of searching and transition for me. It was then that I started getting into the schools as well as starting to do my mentoring.

Looking at those dates, the thought crossed my mind to look back in my journal. Unfortunately, I have been anything but consistent in utilizing that to record my feelings, experiences, or whatever. But, I thought I should look back in there at the dates that I posted the quote. I didn’t find anything from that precise day, but I did find some writings that preceded that exactly by a month, and them some more that began three days after that (9/12) and continued through 9/17.

Well, do you think that I found anything on those pages that made any connection to what is happening today? You betcha! I completely believe some of it does directly, but some indirectly as well. I will go ahead and put parts of it in here to tie things together. Although I believe the message is still very apparent, the context in which it was written almost five years ago has changed slightly. Back then, I was very burdened by what I interpreted as a lack of focus on the youth of our denomination, and I wanted very badly for that to change. Do I still feel that way today? Sure, but it isn’t something that runs around my brain every day like it did then. But here is the main part that I feel ties in then and now…

First off, I went to church today, and Rev. Jim was gone, so Rev. Josephine Manns delivered the sermon for today. She entitled it, ‘The Price of a Dream.’ As soon as I saw that, I was pretty certain that there would be something in there for me, considering the part that dreams have played a part in my spiritual journey the past several years, and also how some important things have come to me in the context of someone talking about dreams or book titles or other things like that.
There were two scriptures listed in the bulletin today, but as it turns out, one of them was incorrect, but the funny thing is, there ended up being some significance, at least as far as I am concerned. The first one was Genesis 27: 1-4, 12-28, which really was supposed to be chapter 37 instead. Chapter 27 talked about the story of Jacob, where he tricked his father Isaac into giving him the blessing that should have gone to his brother, Esau. So the premise we were supposed to take away was that things aren’t always as they appear, and we need to have faith, even thought what we see may seem to be right. We need to live by faith and not by sight. When in reality, Jo wanted to talk about how Joseph had dreams and how that impacted his life, and how his ability to interpret them also played a major part in not only his life, but for all of Egypt eventually.
The second scripture was Romans 10: 5-15. This passage talks about how salvation is for everyone, but unless everyone hears about what Christ did for us, how can they be saved? I will write verses 8 through 15 here, because that is the part that spoke most to me. In talking about the laws Moses gave us, it says: “In fact, it says, ‘the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.’
“And that message is the very message about faith that we preach. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the scripture tells us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’ Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring the good news!’”
I understand exactly what his scripture is saying, but in my current place I’m at, I’m actually getting a little bit of a different message. The part that really grabbed me was in verse eight, where it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.”
…I talked to Jo afterwards and asked her why she chose to speak on this subject today. She told me that she had been studying it, but more than anything, God laid it on her heart to talk about it today. She even told me she said to him, “Why this?” But when I told her what has been going on with me, she felt validated. She basically told me that I need to do it, but it won’t be easy, but not to get discouraged when it gets hard. But I already knew I was going to be in for a battle. To me, this all just reinforced what I came away with last week. But I just need to have faith and stand strong.
On my way home, I was checking my Facebook, and Bill Ballenger had posted a message saying, “Stick out your neck today and believe in what you can’t see…” Could that have been any timelier? As I see it, that is just another prompting for me to get started now.
…Speaking of change, a phrase that has been in my mind more than once during the past week has been “change agent.” During Jo’s sermon, she quoted some works form a speech that Jesse Jackson spoke in New Delhi, where I guess they were honoring Gandhi, and he said that dreams are change agents, that they swim upstream. He also said that we are all beneficiaries of the legacies that dreamers such as Gandhi started by following their dreams.
She also said that Joseph trusted his dream, because it came from God. Something else mentioned in the sermon asked, what happens to a dream if it is deferred? That made me think about what was said last weekend in the Carrie Newcomer song…”If not now, tell me when we may never see this moment, or place in time again, if not now, tell me when…”
Could it be any clearer that this is something I need to get started on now? It appears that when my horoscope last week said, “You’ve never been so on track with your mission,” that is was very true! God has given me a very important mission to work on! Or two, actually, this and the music thing!

That was all written on 8/9/09. The following was entered on 9/12/09. It was actually a poem entitled “Inside Out,” that I had written on 3/1/07. But, it seemed to fit at the time, so here we go…

My life before was lived in a haze
Looking at life though a blurry gaze
Living for myself is how I spent my days
Not seeing the error of my ways

On occasion I’d lend a helping hand
Careful not to compromise where I would stand
But living this way didn’t let me expand
Keeping me prisoner within my own barren land

Then came the day I figured it out
My life, though mine, me it is not about
God placed his Spirit within me, and without a doubt
Changed who I was, turning me inside out.

With God at my core
I yearn to do more
I’m not sure what he has in store
But I want to become what he created me for

You may ask what’s different in me from before
Well, God changed my heart when I opened the door
Giving my life to his son, whose flesh was torn
He gave his life, erasing my sins, in him I’m now reborn

My focus now is not on me but others
He’s using me to help my sisters and brother
Placing on my heart the plight of those without fathers or mothers
And those with nowhere to turn, forsaken by all others

God’s taken me to a place I never thought I’d be
Because of his Spirit dwelling within me
Using me as an example, so others can see
How serving others instead of ourselves, brings him glory

How I remember that day I figured it out
My life, though mine, me it is not about
God placed his Spirit in me, and without a doubt
Changed who I was, turning me inside out.

The following is a poem written by Rachel Scott, who was killed in the Columbine shootings. It was taken out of a book published by her parents, and it is about a time she felt she missed an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. It was written as if God was speaking to her. It says:

“You lost. You passed up the chance to gain something. You just let a wonderful flame go past you into the hands of another. Let this be known child. When you do not follow through with the boldness and knowledge I have given you more than one person is affected by it. You as well as they.”

I copied this down on 9/17/09, as I read it out of Rachel’s Tears. The book tells about Rachel’s life, and particularly how her faith carried her through her life, especially in the time leading up to the shootings. It has even been reported that the shooter asked her before he shot her if she would renounce her faith in Christ to spare her life. When she didn’t, he pulled the trigger.

Her father also said something in the book, which really struck me. He said, “It is true that there is a spiritual battle going on. It is true that there is a spirit in this world that is hostile to Christianity. But the weapons of our war are love, compassion, forgiveness, and kindness. These are hard to resist, even by the hardest heart. Rachel challenges us to start a chain reaction through acts of kindness. I encourage you, dear readers, to stop being “religious” and reach out to those around you in love and watch the amazing grace of God perform miracles.”

I’m stopping here for the end of part 2.  Please come back for the final installment to see how this all ends 🙂

Puzzle Pieces – Where do I Goethe from here? (Part 1)

I woke up this morning and it wasn’t really any different than any other day. When I opened my eyes and saw the amount of light that was entering the room, I took a guess as to what the time was. This may seem a bit odd, but I do not look at the time when I wake up during the night, and often, not in the morning either. The reason being is that I hate it when I may wake up at say, 3:00 AM, get back to sleep, but then when I wake up later to my alarm, it only seems like I slept for a few minutes as opposed to maybe two or three hours. Today I didn’t have my alarm set, so as I explained, I didn’t look at the clock until after I saw the sunlight. Not that it really matters, but I initially woke up around 6:15, but I didn’t actually get out of bed until around 7:00.
I had not exercised in a few days, so my major decision this morning was what I was going to do to burn some calories. I thought I could go out and walk/run in the neighborhood, or I could go to where we have been working out and try one of the programs we had not tried yet (it is called Fit & Flex). Well, I have two softball games tonight (weather permitting), so I decided I didn’t want to be too sore from lifting or anything like that, so I opted to take my normal route throughout the neighborhood to get my exercise.
Just as I do any other day while traveling this route, I listen to music on my phone that actually is tied into an app that tracks my progress. Well, as I turned the corner towards home, covering the final few yards to the finish, I took my phone out of my pocket, and instead of it being on the app, it was on a webpage, which has not happened before. Glancing down and looking at the web address, it turns out it was on The Goethe Society of North America. I have never been to this website in my life, so obviously I was a bit perplexed as to how it could have showed up on my phone. I glanced at it, but didn’t delve into the content of the site at that point. I did keep it up though, because I figured that I needed to take a look at it later. I have had strange “coincidences” occur in my life, and usually when they do, I have learned that I need to pay attention, because there is usually some sort of message in it for me.
So anyway, fast forward a couple hours, and I am on Facebook. For whatever reason, I had the inclination to look back to see exactly when I first signed up on there. Not that it really matters, but it was in July of 2007. So as I am perusing some of my initial posts, I move on through the timeline, and I come across a quote I posted on September 9, 2009. It said, “Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.” I do not remember posting this quote, nor do I honestly even remember reading it. I love quotes and words of wisdom, and I often write them down when I find one I like. Anyway, once I read that today and looked to see who I credited it to, the name jumped right off the page at me. It was penned by none other than Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Well, well, well, isn’t that interesting…Within the span of a couple hours, this man who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, has shown up in my world twice in one day. So, now I’m intrigued! What does this mean for me? Well, amongst all of the talents this man had, which were many, he was best known for his writings, in particular his poetry. He work encompassed more than poetry. He wrote dramas, he wrote about botany and anatomy, and he also was famous for his memoirs and his autobiography.
As soon as I found out he was a writer, I knew that I had to dig deeper into the events of my day. Why, you may ask? Well, the answer is simple (well, maybe not that simple, but in my mind it makes sense), because over the past decade or so, I have experienced a great deal of change, and part of that has been that I have discovered a passion for writing. During this time span, there was a stretch of a couple months that I could not stop writing. There were words coming at me constantly, whether I was at home or at work. I literally had to start carrying around a notebook with me because I knew that I had to write it all down. A vast majority of what I wrote, I had no clue as to why it came to me or who it was for. I didn’t know if it had something to do with my life, or if my words were meant for someone else. Most of it had a Biblical bend to it, often with bits of scripture sprinkled into it. Even today, looking back, I still don’t know what the purposes of some of them are.
Back to today. So, the page that my phone ended up on today had to do with quotes, and in particular, commitment. The writing being discussed here has apparently raised questions over the years as to if Goethe had actually written it. According to the Goethe Society, it certainly seems like something he may have written, but the authenticity couldn’t be verified. The main part of the quote in question (the closing) said: “What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it! /Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” That ended up being part of a larger writing, and here that is…
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back – Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
A researcher dug into the final lines, and believed that it was attributed to John Anster, in a translation of Faust, from 1835. Apparently it came out of Prelude at the Theatre. The lines were spoken by the “Manager,” and these are the five lines he spoke:
“Then indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting over lost days.
Are you in earnest: Seize this very minute;
What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic to it.”

Finally, we have a passage paraphrased by Anster, out of Faust, 214-30, that says:

The altercation’s gone on long enough,
it’s time I saw some action too!
While you are polishing fine phrases
something useful could be going on.
What’s the point of harping on the proper mood?
It never comes to him who shilly-shallies.
Since you pretend to be a poet,
make poetry obey your will.
You know that what we need
is a strong drink to gulp down fast,
so set to work and brew it!
What’s left undone today, is still not done tomorrow;
to everyday there is a use and purpose;
let Resoluteness promptly seize
the forelock of the Possible,
and then, reluctant to let go again,
she’s forced to carry on and be productive.

So, as I am reading this, I am thinking there is something I need to get off of my butt and start doing. The first thing that flies into my mind is that I have been saying for several years that I wanted to write a book, but wasn’t completely sure of what it would be. As time has gone on, there have been a few ideas, but it didn’t ever seem like there was enough “meat” to what my ideas was.

Most recently, it has been on my mind to write a book based on my grandmother’s life, mainly focusing on the out of body experiences she went through at different time in her life. Actually, after the last one in the 1980’s, she had written about some of it in a spiral notebook, but I don’t know where that is now. I have looked for it since her passing, but have had no luck. I even remember thinking back a couple decades ago that it would be neat to write about her experiences, and this was even before I knew that I could write, and do it well. There have even been a couple exchanges recently with co-workers about this, and there have been some validations (at least in my mind), that this is a direction I should take. Also, there has been a movie out recently about a young boy who experienced this, so this has been something else that has been in my mind. So, is this what I’m being told today by these two “random” Goethe sightings? Hmmm….

Let’s dig into this a little deeper.

(This ends the first part of Puzzle Pieces.  Please come back to read the next entry)

Today is Father’s Day 2014.  I got out of bed this morning and did what I do every day.  Before I start in on all the tasks and everything else that has to be addressed throughout  the course of the day, I grabbed my phone, checked my email, a couple of media sites, and then jumped onto Facebook.  I would venture to say that maybe 70% of the posts i read this morning had to do with Father’s Day.  Everyone was wishing their fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, fathers-in-law, uncles, and even some soon-to-be new fathers, a happy day.

Some of the wishes were for the ones who are still here with us.  Many lofted their wishes upward, intended for those who have transitioned out of what we know as the physical world.  My father and father-in-law don’t have Facebook, so they will get calls later on today.  Both of my grandfathers have passed on.  My maternal grandpa has been gone for 21 years now, where as my Grandpa Ord, who basically raised me, left us ten years ago this coming August.  I have a step father, but since I’ve been an adult, our communications are few and far between.  With the exception of when he and my mom were first together, we haven’t really spent time together.  He did a lot with me way back when, but as I got older, we basically grew apart.

Looking back, I had four men that had the opportunity to be a part of my life on at least a semi-consistent basis at various points in my early years.  As much as I hate to admit it, none of them were quite what I would have picked if I were able to script out my relationships with the older men in my life.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want to take away from what they did do, and I don’t want this to sound like a pity party, because that’s not my intention.  I’m basically just laying the groundwork for what I want to say a little later on.  Although they were all there in one capacity or another, none of them were quite where I wanted them to be.  With that being said, I have tried to take that and turn it around in regards to my own son.  I have been very involved with him and his activities.  If you ask him, I’m sure there are probably things that he wished I would have done differently, but none of us are perfect.  Parenting is the hardest activity I’ve every had to undertake in my life.  Hopefully he appreciates my efforts, and will make the effort to do the same once he is blessed with children of his own.

The focus of this writing, however, isn’t really about me and the men in my life.  As I’m witting here today, I’m heartbroken at the thought of the countless young men and women in our society who are unable to leave a Facebook message, call on the phone, or even simply able to give their dad a hug, and wish them a Happy Father’s Day.

I read a post on Twitter a few days ago that said:  “43% of US youth live without a father.  85% of youth in prison grew up in a fatherless home.”  How tragic is that!   Almost half of the youth in our country don’t have a father around.  Those statistics tear my heart in two. I know what I felt like in my situation, but I can’t fathom the pain and despair these children experience.  I wonder what the percentage of those children is that don’t even know who their father is, or will ever even have the chance to look at their father face to face someday.

Daily, I see first hand the negative impact this has on our youth.  I work with several students who struggle with either not having the opportunities to communicate with their fathers, for whatever reason, whether they are incarcerated, deceased, or simply absent.  Then there are the ones who hear repeated promises of future time spent together, or of items promised, that never materialize.  The psyche of these children ends up taking a battering, much like a boxer being worked over his opponent, each time dad doesn’t follow through.  When instances like this occur, unfortunately the message these kids get is that they are not loved or cared for.  In all honesty, I’m sure there are times when simply a hug, a pat on the pack, or an “atta boy,” would have made the child’s day.  But instead, because dad “didn’t have time,’ or maybe “didn’t have gas money” to drive to see them, that fragile psyche was just pummeled again, likely leaving and invisible concussion on the child’s emotions.

The question is, how many of these blows can a child take before the harm is considered irreparable?  How long will it take before these children have built fortresses around their emotions, keeping everyone at a distance, because they can no longer stand to be hurt again.  Their trust in people who say they want to help them is minimal, because the track records of those that came before have made them leery, making them swear to themselves that they aren’t going to let anyone in again because they can’t take another disappointment.  And, the sad part is, in many instances, when these youth have children of their own, they won’t know how to be a dad (or mom) because they were never shown how to do so.  There may be teachers, counselors, pastors or coaches that fill in some of the smaller voids, but more than likely, they will not have seen it lived out and modeled in front of them.  So then, does the circle of despair continue, or are they able to disembark  off the merry-go-round of fatherlessness and climb aboard the Tilt-a-Whirl?  Sure, that ride travels in a circular pattern as well, but at least, when ridden together, those sharing the ride are slid together by the momentum of the ride as it spins along it’s journey, and as they exit the ride, even thought it may have been fast and jerky, the riders both come out with similes on their faces, laughing and carrying on about the joint experience they just shared.

Unfortunately, this analogy of carnival rides isn’t really a big stretch.  Initially, these “dads” go to the carnival, take a ride, then walk off, looking for the next ride, sometimes never to be seen again.  In other instances, they don’t disappear, but instead, call on occasion, promise to take the kid to the carnival, but don’t show up. Then there are those who do take them, but either go ride their own rides, or just drop the kids off, leaving whoever is there to entertain or monitor what is supposed to be their responsibility

As I said earlier, I see this in some form or another almost every day.  I do what I can to lessen the blows.  I work with many compassionate and giving people who are also doing what they can to make the lives of our young ones better, even if only for a few minutes.  The problem is, this issue is much larger than my colleagues and myself can tackle on our own.  I know we have all heard the African Proverb many times that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  This is very true.  Unfortunately, over time, as technology has continued to progress, particularly from the Industrial Revolution until today, our “villages” hve become “metropolis’.”  The family unit has become more and more fractured and we’ve spent less and less time with our families, both immediate and extended.  Relationships have changed, and become less personal.  Some people today would rather sit in a room and text someone (sitting in the same room), as opposed to actually trading dialogue with them.

Will we ever get back to the “traditional” village concept?  As a society, that is unfortunately very doubtful.  We can, however, make the effort close to home.  Now is the time to make a conscious, concerted effort to step out of our comfort zones and spend some time  reaching out to others..  That can end up looking very different from one person to the next, but the effort is necessary.  Forty-three percent of our youth in the country are waiting for someone to step up, and at least attempt to make a difference in their lives.  If we don’t. who will?  Sometimes a little effort will go much farther than we could fathom.  But, you (and the youth you will encounter) will never know the level of impact until you take the first step.  It’s too late today to change Father’s Day for this year for someone (unless you have a child of your own who you may need to get reconnected with).  But, tomorrow can be the start of something good.

I’ll leave you with a quote fr9om Confucius which ties together what I’ve been saying throughout this writing.  It says…

“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order, to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”

Although this saying was penned some two and a half millennia ago, it rings just as loudly and truly today as the moment Confucius moved his quill across the paper in front of him, leaving the final trace of ink, as he shared his wisdom, intended for those around him.  Thankfully, his wisdom has stood the test of time,  and has been shared through many generations.  After all, isn’t that what life is all about…Sharing our wisdom (and lives), with the generations that follow our own?

 

Happy Father’s Day…or is it?

Out With the Old, In With…?

Today is obviously New Year’s Day.  This is a day that people focus on, in order to either look back on their lives, or instead, put their focus on their futures.  Generally I do a little of each annually, but don’t spend a great deal of time on either one.  I know I can’t change the past, so why dwell on it?  Transversely, I may periodically set a couple of resolutions in place for the upcoming year, but not always.

This year is not much different, to be honest.  For me, 2013 was bittersweet, to say the least.  It started out pretty rocky as we helped my grandmother celebrate her 84th birthday on the fifth day of the year, and a tad over two weeks later, the Lord called her home.  Then, ten weeks later, our family came to the heartbreaking realization that it was the appropriate time to say goodbye to our beloved Cairn terrier, Rascal, who had been with us for over twelve years.

As an emotional winter transitioned into an uneventful spring, we all dealt with our sadness in our own ways, but we didn’t allow our sorrows to derail us.  The spring was basically a time of staying the course, so to speak.  Then, as the climate continued its progression up the Fahrenheit scale, the universe seemed to be making up for earlier in the year.  Opportunities presented themselves to me, allowing me the chance to not only continue working with at-risk youth, but also to add another to my caseload at Priority Youth Innovations.

I also used this time to venture out as I decided to take my photography skills out into the public, as I now have a business called, Brian Dean Photography.  (If some of you are puzzled by the name, Dean is my middle name.  I just thought it was a more marketable product than using my surname).

With all the aforementioned happenings, my life, to me at least, seemed to be settling into a groove, putting me in a place that I liked.  Despite the fact that the year started out in a less than desirable fashion, I felt like I was heading in the right direction.

As 2013 wound down and I began to look ahead to 2014, for the first time in quite a while I was actually looking at the upcoming year with a mindset that had me anticipating it with a certain eagerness.  I don’t know what this year will hold for me, but I just have a very strong feeling that when I look back a year from today, that I will see many blessing.  I’m not sure how or why, but for whatever reason, I just sense it.

Yesterday I had somewhat of a validation for this.  It may seem like a stretch for some of you, but in my mind, it makes perfect sense.  You see, yesterday we replaced the front  door to our home.  The lock on the old one broke, so we decided just to replace the entire door instead of only the lock.  Hope has never really been very fond of the original one.  It had a big oval glass in the middle of it that took up roughly 60 percent of the area of the door.  It wasn’t completely clear though, as it had etched designs in it, but even so, one could easily see into our home without much effort.

As strange as it sounds, we were both very pleased with the new door, and for some reason, it seemed to have a calming effect on both of us.  Although it is only a door, changing it made a noticeable difference (in our minds at least) on how the entrance to our home appears.

Once it was in, I ran a couple of errands, and then returned home.  Before I walked into the house, I snapped a picture of it (see  below).  My intent was to put it on Facebook and make some sort of comment alluding to the fact that us doing this on this day was fitting.  It was kind of “out with the old, in with the new,” and that in a way, it was a representation of good things to come.  We know where it leads, but don’t always know exactly what is on the other side.

When I came in, I showed the picture to Hope and she basically said to me, verbatim, what I had been thinking just a few moments earlier.  A coincidence?  Maybe, but I don’t believe so.  The older I get, the less I believe in coincidence, and the more I believe that things happen for a reason.

Phrases are spoken, people show up at “just the right time” in our lives, or opportunities present themselves at the “perfect moment.”  In all honesty, I believe we are all a part of something much bigger than just ourselves, and I also believe that to a certain extent, what you “put out there” has a tendency to come back at you in some form or fashion.  I firmly believe that the universe has its ways of maintaining balance.  Some may call this luck; others may call it the Ying and the Yang, while others simply call it “God.”  I have a tendency to lean towards the latter two, and here is why…I don’t really believe in good or bad luck (well, winning the Powerball jackpot is lucky).  But I feel that you make your own luck.  I say this because I believe that all our lives are way too intricate and are so intertwined with one another that I find it hard to believe that our lives come down to a “game of chance,” or simply put, luck.

Secondly, my spiritual beliefs, based in Christianity, are founded on the fact that God “created the heavens and the earth.”  I include the universe in this creation.  We are told that God created all of it, and God said that what he did was “good,” after he had finished.  So, the way I understand it, God created everything good, and nothing bad.  I may get an argument from some of you on this part, but the sum of all my life’s experiences has led me to this conclusion at this moment, and I feel very strongly about it.

So, does our new red door (well it’s actually closer to maroon) hold special powers?  I sincerely doubt it.  Will our lives be different because of it?  Not likely.  Will 2014 be a year to remember for the Stoddard ‘s?  Only God knows for sure.  But I do believe he planted the same thought in both of our minds for a reason.  I think that was God’s way of reminding us to keep our focus on him, let him carry our burdens, and trust that he will provide for us what we need, when we need it.

On a side note, on a hunch, I looked up the symbolism of red doors.  There are a few different meanings, depending upon their origins:  In colonial America, homes with red doors were a save haven, where travelers knew they would be welcome and safe.  Many churches now have red doors, which symbolizes the protection of God.  In Feng Shui, a red door says “Welcome.”  In China, red doors are a symbol of luck.

So here again, we are presented with another opportunity to ask, coincidence or no?  The symbolism I found goes along with what I had already written.  As I said, I looked that up on a “hunch.”  I know where this hunch came from.  What do you think?

With all this being said, who ever thought all of this could have come out of the process of changing the door to my house?  We can sometimes find encouragement and inspiration in what on the surface seems like something mundane.  When it’s all said and done, I’m glad that yesterday I “opened that door” and let Him in.

oor door