Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Coloring Wrong: Part 1 -- Education and teachers are evil!

My fourth grade teacher, for reasons that were never completely clear, made herself a nemesis of sorts. She didn’t seem to like me or much of anything I did. My parents were somewhat aware and they didn’t get it either. Their sole advice was, “Be respectful.”

Easier said than done.

Her name was Mrs. Aker, a fitting name given the circumstances. She was my cross to bear until I could move on to fifth grade.

Of the various issues, conflicts, run-ins – however these should be characterized – one really stands out. My memory is spotty on some of the details, but clear on the central event.

We were studying music with a side of art appreciation.

One afternoon she put on a classical record. I can’t remember the piece, but as we listened we were to draw whatever we “saw” and “felt.”

Now, somewhere in a moment of daydreaming or distraction, I guess I missed a specific instruction about how we were supposed to draw whatever we saw. More on this later.

Anyway, the music played and it was lovely. Almost trancelike, I began to draw with my crayons as the music poured into my ears.

It’s important to note that, at that age especially, I would have been 8 or 9, I really liked to draw. It was something that gave me great pleasure.

And I loved music. Any kind of music. From bluegrass to gospel, from Earl Scruggs to Mantovani, from you-name-him-or-her to you-name-whatever-style, I loved music. Still do.

Although my passion for drawing faded.

Hmmm, I wonder why.

Anyway, back to my tale.

So, I was in a very good and intense place as I colored.

I don’t have the original drawings, but what I can remember is that I drew a large rainbow. Above the rainbow, I put birds as curvy “Vs” in flight. I may or may not have added a sun and clouds. I think I did.

At the bottom of one end of the rainbow, I drew a door, as if one could go through (as opposed to over) the rainbow, into a different reality. Standing at the door was a slightly more than stick-figure me. (Because I liked drawing doesn’t mean I was great at it!)

As we worked on our art, swallowed up in the music, Mrs. Aker paced up and down between the desks, whispering approval to each student.

Until she came to my desk.

She stopped. Stood there. And then asked loudly, “What are you doing?”

Everyone stopped drawing, looked up at me, and waited to see how she would pounce.

“I’m drawing like you said to,” I mumbled, surfacing from my reverie and feeling more than a little baffled by her question.

She pointed disdainfully at my drawing and proclaimed, “That’s not what you’re supposed to be drawing! You’re doing it wrong!”

The heat of my embarrassment pulsed up my neck and overtook my face. My heart beat hard and fast. And in my head I was struggling to understand what it was that I was doing wrong.

All the while doing my best to hold back the tears that desperately wanted out.

Totally confused, I muttered something along the lines of, “But I thought we were supposed to draw what we felt and saw as we listened to the music.”

Mrs. Aker, with a disdainful glare, ungraciously gestured around me at the drawings on the desks nearby. “Look at these! Can’t you see what they are doing? That’s what you’re supposed to be doing!”

As I glanced from desk to desk I was stunned.

Each student had taken a black crayon and drawn a random bunch of overlapping loops. They were filling in each gap with different colors.

Everyone but me was doing the same thing. Everyone.

And this was supposed to be what we saw as we listened to the music!

Mrs. Aker flipped my paper over and ordered, “Now, do it like everyone else.”

I felt totally foolish, thoroughly confused, and deeply embarrassed. Even now, and every time this episode comes to mind, the emotions return as well.

I was humiliated. Devastated. Invalidated.

“I must be really stupid,” I thought to myself, because I could not then, or now, recall whatever instructions she must have given that drove everyone else into drawing loops.

I was the only dumb kid in the whole dumb room drawing a dumb rainbow.

Somewhere, scattered among the pieces of my broken and shamed fourth grade heart, there also pearled a small grain of anger. After all, I was drawing what I saw as I listened to the music! And it was a good drawing!

But of course I didn’t say any of this out loud.

On that day in that moment, she failed me as a teacher. And “Education” let me down.

The educational system was awry in that place and time. But this wasn't an isolated example.

There was my sociology teacher in high school who marked points off a paper because he claimed I’d misspelled “tomorrow” in three places. I pulled out the dictionary and showed him that I had not. Still, he would not change my grade, stating, “Well, there are probably other mistakes I missed.”


"Education" is a bunch of hokum

Someone has possibly maybe allegedly said, “Although Education can be a comfort to some, it can also be very damaging and repressive, an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history. To this day, especially in the United States, Education is used to create support for war around the world.”

And there are so many different views as to how best to go about educating students. No one agrees and there's a ton of conflict that occurs among educators.

And teachers tend to be lazy, especially after they get tenure. Then they just sit back and mistreat their students.

And many teachers are predators. It doesn't take much searching to find another story in the news of male and female teachers who have preyed on their students.

And so many of so called institutions of “Higher Learning” are nothing but money machines profiting a small minority of those controlling them. Their focus is money and not providing quality educations.

So, as a result of my bad experiences with Education, I will have nothing to do with it or those who promote it.

I no longer believe in Education.

Frankly, I believe we should shut down all the schools, fire all the teachers, dismiss all Boards of Educations, remove Arne Duncan from office and disassemble the U.S. Department of Education, and just allow individuals to learn however they wish.

Education and teachers are evil. Period.

Have you ever had bad experiences with teachers or school? Do you think the Education system should be shutdown? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hard Rain (#PoetryMonday*)

"For he makes his sun rise on the evil
and on the good, and sends rain
on the just and on the unjust."
-- Matthew 5:45, ESV

"[H]aving a hope in God,
which these men themselves accept,
that there will be a resurrection
of both the just and the unjust."
-- Acts 24:15, ESV

The pre-rain gloom
glazes everything gray

all fall down
all rise up

flowers and weeds
by the same rain

fire and steel
bloom into
ash and rust

clouds clear to shine
the sun fades worn hope
warms faith

eyes-closed darkness
feeds despair
rotting soul and heart

life is hard for all and ends
but not all ends are the same

 It's PoMo! To learn about PoMo, click here and then scroll down. 

This one's not done, I don't think. What do you think? Any suggestions for improving it? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

This poem is included in this collection:

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The opaque insane spaghetti situation

Today's word is "frenetic."

As in, "Creating content stuff without a real strategy creates frenetic activity with no purpose" [italics mine] (Chief Content Officer, April 2014).

This is not a particularly revolutionary concept -- that strategy is needed to keep stuff on track. But it's one that gets regularly ignored in just about every context imaginable. And I don't think it's possible to have purposeful frenetic activity, but I could be wrong.

But it was that word "frenetic" used so close to "strategy" that caught my eye and like Proust's biscuit put me in mind again of a situation I'd recently been chatting with friends about.

Now, so as not to impugn anyone's character or cast stony aspersions, I'm going to be intentionally vague and continue to refer to it as simply "The Situation." And I'll be equally vague about whether "The Leader" was a he or she. And, just so we're clear, I could be referring to multiple situations, melding elements of many into one.

Just bear with me as today's word is "frenetic."

The American Heritage Dictionary defines frenetic as "Wildly excited or active; frantic; frenzied."

I guess there are some situations where these could be good qualities, but when you're talking about a business, ministry, organization, job, church, position, school, relationship, and the like, not so much.

The Situation was marked by three characteristics that drove the freneticism and that eventually did me and others in, pushing us out:

1. Spaghetti

I'm sure you've heard the "spaghetti on the wall" adage about how some go about selecting a "good" idea to pursue. The ideas (aka spaghetti) are thrown against a metaphorical wall to see which ones stick.

Now, if this was done once or seldom, a few ideas that stuck could be pursued and implemented. However, if this is the normal practice of trying to sort through endless ideas, it just gets really messy.

In The Situation, the leader was an idea machine. Spaghetti hit the wall like it was shot from a Gatling gun.


Any ideas that did stick were quickly knocked off by new ideas. Sometimes old fallen ideas that were left a-mouldering on the floor against the wall were picked up and tossed into the mix again.

Frankly, I got the idea that The Leader wasn't really serious about bringing to fruition those few ideas that did manage to persist. For this person, it was just about generating lots of ideas.

More than once solutions were offered for how to bring one or more pet idea to reality only to be charmingly pooh-poohed. There was always a reason the solution being provided wasn't the right one, really wouldn't work, was not the right time, or wasn't what The Leader really wanted to do.

And so, more frenetic spaghetti hit the wall.

2. Insanity

It's claimed that insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. That may not define insanity but it's a practice that will definitely drive most people crazy.

In The Situation, The Leader had developed training, tools, and processes he insisted needed to be implemented exactly the same way over and over. Eventually, it was insisted, they would work as intended.

However, the desired results of training, tools, and processes were never truly realized. Tweaking and change needed to be implemented, or new training, tools, and processes developed.


Just keep doing the same things over and over. Eventually the right result would be achieved, so thought The Leader, who claimed to always be happy to hear suggestions.

It's like being stuck on ice and spinning your tires trying to get moving. You just get more stuck and damage your tires.

3. Opacity

Often, since the leader of The Situation didn't fully share her goals and visions, we were never sure if we were getting close to success or not. And if we began to get a clue, the goals and visions seemed to shift.

You could say The Leader was transparency avoidant.

What direction we did receive was like getting a map with no route or destination marked and being told you'll know you're there when you arrive.

You could kind of sorta maybe get a possible vibe that perhaps you were more or less on target-ish. But never anything definite.

Work groups within The Situation were saddled with confidentiality requirements that prevented them from sharing information openly beyond hinting. When asked what was happening behind closed doors, the few answers offered were always vague and cryptic.

Plus, there was little to no central coordination of the workgroups. No one really knew what others were doing.

Vision, what there was of one, was proprietary to The Leader and communicated muddily if at all.

Plain tuckered out

While The Leader in The Situation, a genuinely nice person, was, technically, not doing anything wrong in the sense of illegal or immoral, there was a lot that wasn't right. Or at least not productive. And potentially unhealthy.

The combination of shifting ideas, tail-chasing, and lack of clarity around goals, left The Situation marked by endless frenetic activity. It was unstructured and chaotic and always in motion. There was purpose but the pursuit was pointless.

This meant it could feel like progress was being made because stuff was happening. Lots and lots of stuff. But not real progress. Mostly everyone was just getting tuckered out, emotionally and otherwise.

Statistics could be derived from all the activity and plunked into a PowerPoint slide or annual report that gave the impression progressive stuff was happening. But trying to pin down exactly what that stuff was was like seeing something move in your peripheral vision that disappears when you try to look directly at it. Kind of ghostlike and foggy.

As a result resources were regularly squandered by the chaos. Good people with great talents and generous spirits would come along, get involved, and be totally misused and wasted.

Let's get strategery-ish

In the article I referenced at the beginning, the author claims that all a frenetic situation needs is a little strategy worked into the mix.

Yes and no.

Strategy can be a good thing when it's developed correctly, embraced by leadership, and implemented intelligently.

In The Situation, none of this was the case.

Some years prior some work toward strategy had been done. However, The Leader did all the facilitating, controlled what was a convoluted and complex process, and resulted in a strategy that fit whatever was in The Leader's mind.

In fact, many who were present at those strategy sessions admitted it was all very confusing.

To remedy this, another strategy development session was held with a different facilitator who, oddly, really didn't know how to do strategic planning. The result was the addition of even more obfuscation.

In fact, The Leader even admitted to me more than once, in a self-effacing charming manner, an aversion to anything strategic-like.

Charmed I'm sure

Many raised questions, some very pointed. Many expressed frustration, some very deep. The Leader would gently swat them away with a sincerely humble smile and a gentle non-answer.

The Leader would listen carefully to objections or issues, make very sure you felt you were heard, apologize for any unintended slight, and then go on as if nothing had happened, unfazed and unchanged.

You were heard. You were acknowledged. You felt momentary hope. You were ultimately ignored, albeit very sweetly.

Occasionally, when faced with especially pressing questions or critique, The Leader would react with melodramatic emotion, claim to feel attacked and misunderstood, and feign defeat. Then, once consoled, again get up and walk away as if nothing had happened.

But lots of stuff was going on! Good stuff! Happy stuff! The stuff of dreams!

While a core group of people were able to endure The Situation, many eventually moved on, burnt out, frustrated, dizzy from the freneticism. A lot of resources were squandered, great talent lost.

Getting out to move on

So what could save The Situation?

In a word, nothing.

At least not with all things remaining equal.

If you feel this is the kind of situation you are in, you may need to think about moving on before it does you in.

The Situation could change if a less controlling leader were put in place, a few of the best and most achievable ideas were focused on for implementation, processes were revamped with needed changes, and transparency became the norm.

But this was not happening in The Situation and so I had to get away from it. If I hadn't, it would have been emotionally more damaging than it was.

It was tough because there were good people there and there was a lot to like about The Situation. Despite the challenges, I and others had been able to effect some small change. Some good was accomplished, but at great cost.

Frenetic activity was the rule. Chaos persisted. And that was not a good situation for me to be in.

Besides, I prefer my spaghetti on a plate and not the wall.

Have you ever been in a frenetic situation? How did you deal with it? Describe your situation in the comments!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Resurrection (#PoetryMonday*)

I tuck my sins
like brightly colored
rotting Easter eggs
into the dark, hidden
nooks and crannies
of my foolish soul.

The Holy Spirit
hops relentlessly through my life
finding each rotting one,
collecting them in a basket,
leaving them at the foot of the cross.

Miraculously they hatch out
bright yellow chicks of hope,
cheerily cheeping
of His tender

 It's PoMo! To learn about PoMo, click here and then scroll down. 
A short, new poem.What do you think of mixing the imagery of the Easter bunny, eggs, and chicks with sin, crucifixion, and forgiveness? What new insights have you stumbled upon this Holy season?

This poem is included in this collection:

Friday, April 18, 2014

OMG! (Flash Fiction Friday*)

"What's going to happen when I die?
If I met God in the unlikely event
after I died, the first thing I'd say is,
 'Which one are you? Are you Zeus?
Are you Thor? Are you Ba'al?
Are you Mithras? Are you Yahweh?
Which god are you?'"
-- Richard Dawkins

It was a beautiful, sunny day.

Godless evolution was hard at work making life grand, so thought Dick as he got out of bed and jumped into the shower, all the time humming, "I feel pretty, oh so pretty.... Hahaha!"

He, a noted faithless man of science burped from the ooze of notoriety, dressed and stood before his mirror.

As he combed and counted his hairs he chanted his personal mantra, "I love my random self and every day in every way I am evolving to become more god-like! Hahaha! Perhaps today I will be Thor-ish. Hahaha!"

His kissed his spontaneously generated and well-evolved wife good-bye and bounded out the door to catch his bus.

As he crossed the street toward the bus stop, a friend caught his attention, calling and waving amoeba-like, "So, Dick, which god are you today?"

"Hahaha!" Dick laughed, waved back, and shouted, "I think perhaps today I am Th...."


In a Big Bang instant, with the force of Thor's hammer, the unseen bus smacked full speed into Dick knocking him into eternity, leaving behind a bloody oozy awful mass of a mess on the asphalt. The universe did not blink.

At the exact pre-moment of his death, Dick's mind filled with the profound immense thought, "OMG!"

Then the great smooshed out of body soul of Dick was rent unquestioningly speechless in the revelatory presence of stunning, vast, undulating swaths of everlasting knowledge and absolute truth.

In the first instant of his death, Dick's eternal awareness was subsumed by the grandeur, immensity, and massive beauty of the God of the Universe, Jehovah, the Alpha and Omega, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, even small him.

Dick knew God. Knew the love of God. Knew that he, slimy Dick, had been so, so wrong. Knew he was in abysmally deep doo-doo of his own making. Knew there was a heaven. Knew that he would not be in it.

In the second instant of his death, Dick was painfully crushed by the intense awful awareness of his own puniness and the stain and stench of his dank, despicable, dark, and smelly sinfulness.

Dick knew he was lost. Knew that evil was real. Knew he had been the servant-pawn of Satan. Knew he'd known it but denied it all along. Knew hell well deserved was his next stop.

In the third instant of his death, Dick was inflamed with the knowledge of the widespread havoc he had wrought in the lives of everyone he had touched through his books, lectures, and general ill-designed seething blasphemy.

Dick knew he had led many along the wrong path. Knew he was culpable. Knew he had no excuse. Knew he had blood on his hands.

Dick became aware of a persistent, stinging, searing, crisping, stinking, sizzling burning that engulfed him and all that his helpless spirit could sense in the sudden, sweltering, cloistered darkness.

Dick knew he was in hell, knew he was a worm, knew he would dry-weep endlessly for his own loss but more for leading others to their destruction, knew he had no one to blame but himself, knew he would never be known by anyone again for as long as he never died, forever in this static, non-evolving, inextinguishable, always burning but never consuming cauldron of hell.

"OMG?" he thought cryingly, his teeth gnashing, "OMG?"

But there was no answer.

The worm turned and burned endlessly despite the absence of any earthly scientific evidence for its existence.

Then Dick awoke.

It was a beautiful, sunny day.

He had been dreaming.

He thought to himself, "My monkey brain neurons and synapses must be misfiring again. Hahaha! Probably more of gravy than of grave, what? Hahaha!"

He shook himself and stretched.

Godless evolution seemed still hard at work making life grand as he got out of bed and jumped into the shower, all the time humming, "I feel pretty, oh so pretty.... Hahaha!"

Dick dressed and stood before his mirror as a nagging sense of dread wormed through his simmering self-consciousness.

As he stepped outside a subtle scent of sulfur stained the sweet spring air.

'"It is written:
'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.'"
-- Romans 4:11, NIV

* It's flash fiction Friday! (To learn more about FFF, click here and scroll down.) Flash fiction is nothing more or less than a very, very short short story.
I'm not sure what seeded this story, but here it is, full-bloomed, created, by design, and, I think, funny and tragic.

And please remember, it's *fiction* -- a made up story/parody -- not fact (or reporting or editorializing or opinionating). Although, stories sometimes do a better job of communicating and illuminating truth.

Enjoy it. Hate it. Ignore it. It's your freewill-exercising call.

What do you think of short short or flash fiction? What interpretations do you attribute to my story? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Turkey in the Doghouse. Woof!

During many holidays a fair amount of turkey is cooked up and devoured. There’s a well-known element in turkey that makes us a bit sleepy. It’s called tryptophan.

The idea goes that after ingesting a goodly portion of the stuff with stuffing, the mind may be willing to watch a seasonally appropriate televised sporting event, read a book, or watch a movie, but the body says, “G’night all!”

In life, there’s something that makes turkeys of us on a regular basis.

You could call it “tripped-by-sin.”

I’m a nice guy! Really I am!

Generally I’m a pretty nice guy and try to be a pretty good husband. But, too often, like most living and breathing human beings, I have my lesser moments.

You know, those moments the wife puts me in a metaphorical doghouse.

The dullard effect of “tripped-by-sin” is especially potent when we’re stuffed and puffed up on self. 

As in, “Me Tarzan. You Jane. See me thump my chest! Here me burp!”

Well, isn’t that attractive.

The male ego is a prickly and gassy beast.

In our marriage, when I react to my wife’s bad-day-frustration-venting with less than patience, or when I really just want my own way, someone gets hurt. Usually her.

Okay…always her.

When this happens, she’s not too happy with me. God’s not too happy with me. And, in short order, I’m not too happy with me.

It breaks my heart when I break hers.

You’d think I’d learn my lesson and not do it, but this “tripped-by-sin” stuff is even beastlier than the male ego.

In these moments of brilliant failure, we husbands are glad the doghouse is nothing more than a silent chilly evening or, at worst, the couch overnight.

When I do something stupid that hurts the heart of my beloved, it makes me feel crappy.

I don’t mean to be mean or say mean things. But, stuff leaks out and stains us both just the same.

Thankfully, we eventually work through my testosteronal faux pas, she graciously accepts my fumbled apology, and my stay in the doghouse comes to an end.

Thank God for His grace, and hers, and yours.

Without grace we’d all be living in spiritual doghouses, or worse.

I am a grace junkie.

I desperately need it to live with her. And with Him. And with you.

I’m sure you could use some, too. Right?

How many times a day do we screw up and offend God, let alone those around us? And why does it happen so often and so easily?

As God warned Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7, NIV).

It’s all about choosing not to give in to that nasty “sin in our skin” that we inherited from the Fall thanks to Adam and Eve.

This is the stuff that puts us in the proverbial doghouse as it’s our inherent sinfulness that leads us into hurtful aberrations instead of good husbandly or neighborly behavior.

When we lean toward sin instead of toward Him, things get a little messy and relationships get a tad tense.

It’s a daily challenge and struggle.

A happy wife means a happy a life

Love is tough. And truly wonderful. But challenging. Yet very rewarding. It takes a lot of work. While yielding a lot of reward. Love requires effort. Especially in a marriage. Especially for the man.

Paul lays it out simply in a couple of verses:
  • “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25, NIV).
  • “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them…” (Colossians 3:19, NIV).
Guys, think about this for just a moment. Every time we want to do our “me-Tarzan-you-Jane” chest thumping, we shouldn’t. Instead, we need to take our prickly male egos and set them aside, extending gentleness to our wives.

In fact, not too long ago I heard a guy talk about how his dad told him when he got married that it was his (the man’s) responsibility to be the first to defuse tension in the marriage. No matter who was to blame!


What the world needs now is...

The idea captured in Ephesians 5:25 is echoed in John 15:13 that states, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends [aka BFFs]."

And who is a husband’s true BFF if not his wife?

But obviously this carries beyond the spousal situation into all of our relationships. The Apostle Peter rocks it like this:
“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?” (1 Peter 3:8-13, NIV).

If all of us lived this out every day, the world would be a much better place. And can you imagine what would happen if those elected peeps in D.C. lived this out?


But they don’t and neither do we as well as we should.

Why oh why do I do what I don’t want to do?

The erudite Apostle Paul knew all too well the challenges of avoiding “tripped-by-sin.” He details the struggle we all have with this persistent force that causes all creation to groan, but caps it with a point of hope:
"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." (Romans 7:15-25, NIV).
Robert Robinson captured the same concepts in his 1757 hymn, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," with this stanza:
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Out of the doghouse and into forgiveness

What’s the bottom line here?

Sin dogs us all through life, even as Christians, seeking to make turkeys of us daily.

However, through Christ and His grace we have a defense and a way out of the proverbial doghouse.

  1. Confess failure to God: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV).
  2. Admit fault to the offended: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, NIV).
  3. Bear with one another: “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12-13, NIV).
  4. Always be forgiving: “So watch yourselves. ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4, NIV).
  5. Reap what's sown: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15, NIV).
Giving and receiving forgiveness is not a once-and-done thing, but an ongoing cycle we must choose to participate in.

The extending and accepting of grace is the only way we can all avoid being turkeys in the doghouse.

Have you been in the doghouse recently? How’d you get out? Do you have tips for living a forgiving life? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Moonrise over the Poshed Planet of Fungo (Flash Fiction Friday! *)

For Vlad P.

Thongdropulus flustered out into the recently ancient, dust-possessed streets, looked up at the tri-sun-sheened azure blue morning sky, and wept. He wasn't sure why.

The tears just simply would not be held back.

He felt his ducts were held open by unseen sprites, goblins of weeping, and the chartreuse fluid drained down his face while his heart remained a parched desert of despair.

From dregs of muddied emotions, streams of endless tears plopped to their demise in the fine yellow dust at his feet leaving minute pockmarks that vanished in a whiff, blown dry by the relentless foul dragon’s breath wind.

The mother ship hovered overhead to his left, shading the end of an alley in deep midday shadows.

Scurrying figures could be seen moving in the near darkness, shadows of a slightly lighter shade, ghosts from the machine doing its bidding mindlessly. Automatons. Mutants. Wind-up toys. Robots. Hyper-ventilated rabid slaves with ears bent only toward one master.

Thongdropulus shivered, snuffled up the last of his tears, wiped his snouted face, and strode aimlessly out of town toward a distant, jagged horizon.

The hills.

He felt vaguely that in the hills he would be alive, find solace, comfort, a hiding place.

What drove his suddenly insatiable need for comfort, compassion, and rock cover? He didn't stop to ponder but rather set his face stonily toward the hills and plodded toward them heavily, his scaly head inflated with determination and stubbornness.

Nothing -- no shadowy slave, no mother ship jolt -- could stop him. He'd had enough.

The three suns set one after the other as Thongdropulus waddled unwavering on his webless feet toward the distant hills.

Days were short.

The gray glowing night oozed up from the glazed ground like thick ashy steam rising from a dowsed campfire.

He slipped down to all fours and skittered steadily on, the hills moving toward him and getting larger by the second.

Behind him the mother ship hummed and glowed and pulsed. He would miss it but would get over it, of that he was certain. The tears welled up in spurts and he tamped them down by force of will. Sorrow was a waste of time in the face of fresh joy to be harvested once over the ridge line.

He'd heard the stories all his green life and now was going to live one of his own. Perhaps he would become a legend beyond his own mind. He didn't care. He only wanted to get away, up and over, to the other side.

Behind there was a growl, a yawn, a loud breathy flutter as something wet, sticky, and elastic adhered and pulled him up and back through the dark moist air. He knew, and that was the last thing he knew as his neck gently snapped.

A big gulp sounded in the quick-fallen darkness followed by a grotesque burp. The mother, out of the ship, huge and awful and now fed, turned slowly, lumbering back to the ruining slurry of buildings, a reflexive tear forming in her lipid-lidded milky left eye. She blinked it away, uncaring, unfeeling, unfazed, her giant claws clicking in the streets, telegraphing to all that these were her streets, this her world, they bound by her rules.

Thongdropulus thoughtlessly dissolved in the acids of the mother's four stomachs, his small rebellion now nothing more than a mild case of indigestion that would eventually pass as all things pass. She felt sooner rather than later as her amphitilian bowels curdled and churned in digestive conflict.

Her tail disappeared around a final corner as the sweet awful stench of an after-scent clung cloyingly to the dank atmosphere. There was no escaping it. There was no escaping her. There was no escaping the beauty of the twin moons rising full and peachy in the close-minded sky marking the beginning of the long night ahead.

A slave darted out of the alley sweeping the dropped Thongdropulus off the street fretfully.

The mother ascended to the ship.

A pie-eyed two-headed moon cow jumped and brayed.

* It's flash fiction Friday!  

What do you think of short short or flash fiction? What interpretations do you attribute to my story? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Flash fiction -- aka nano fiction, very short fiction, micro fiction -- is nothing more or less than a very short short story. Reading or writing one is like putting on short shorts instead of long slacks; it gets the job done but makes a different kind of fashion statement.

There seems to be no blanket agreement as to how many or few words constitute a legitimate flash fiction story. They can range from 300 to 1000 words, more or less. I like the idea of the Chinese terms for them as "smoke long" or "palm-sized" stories (see the Wikipedia entry).

It seems many flash fiction stories are of the science fiction genre but not all. Any kind of story can be told very short.

Jesus told flash fiction stories when he taught with parables to illustrate non-fiction truths. When you think of it, many scam emails are a kind of a flash fiction. So are many of the stories we tell each other when we relate the happenings of an entire day in only a few minutes.

Very short stories are akin to poetry in that the story line is condensed and the writing is trimmed to essentials. There's not a lot of room to be flowery in 600 words or so. But they can pack quite a punch just as a shot of a distilled beverage can. I like this definition/quote attributed to Joyce Carol Oates: "The rhythmic form of the short-short story is often more temperamentally akin to poetry than to conventional prose, which generally opens out to dramatize experience and evoke emotion; in the smallest, tightest spaces, experience can only be suggested.”

So, above is my attempt at a flash fiction story with a sci-fi slant. It's a little weird, but fun, and open to whatever interpretation you want to elicit from it or impose on it (but keep in mind that sometimes a story is just a story).

I may do this again on some other future Friday. Should I? Dare I?

Here are some links to additional resources on flash fiction: