A Prayer for Everyone

Some days we just need to be encouraged. I'll get out of the way and turn it over to Paul...

...I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of Glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for Christians, oh the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him—endless energy, boundless strength.
Ephesians 1:16-19
(The Message)


Entry Ninety-nine: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is twenty-nine of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

The first thing he wanted to find were shoes, so he walked to the wall displaying all the different styles and brands and began to browse, for once in his life not limited by price or budget. His first inclination was to get running shoes only but, after finding a style he liked, he realized he might need more variety to accommodate different kinds of workouts. He was, after all, serious about getting into shape. He found a pair for cross training as well as a pair specifically for basketball, assuming, along with the running shoes, those three would cover the workout options he was apt to explore. He took the three sample shoes and started searching for the matching twins in boxes in the storage room at the back of the store. It was confusing at first because he was not familiar with the store’s system and there didn’t seem to be any logic to how the boxes were sorted. Once he found one match, it made more sense and he was able to find all three of his choices in his size.

He stacked the shoe boxes on the counter by the register and turned his attention to clothes. He needed shorts and shirts, and maybe some socks, so he started thumbing through the stacks of options randomly scattered all over the store. He found a pair of shorts he liked but was unsure of what size would fit his new doughy frame. He picked up a pair of large as well as a pair of extra-large and turned toward the dressing room. What stopped him he couldn’t say, but something in him pointed out how ridiculous it was to hide while he tried on clothes. He laid the shorts over the rack next to him and undid his pants, dropping them to the floor and stepping out of them as he began to try on the first pair of shorts. He caught a glimpse of himself in one of the full-length mirrors along the store wall and started laughing. The weirdness of the situation--standing in his underwear in the middle of a retail business, casually trying on clothes like he was at home—was amusing. If he had tried to do that one month ago he would have been asked to leave. “Time has a way of changing the rules, doesn’t it Mr. Mahoney?” His reflection didn’t respond but it looked like it understood.

All words and images ©2007/J. Colle


Paying Attention

Displayed on the first page of my current journal is this proverb:

Four things come not back:
1. The spoken word
2. The spent arrow
3. The past
4. The neglected opportunity

When I first read those words they were credited as an “Arab Proverb.” I don’t know if that is where it comes from or not—I don't always trust such a general acknowledgment—but the power behind it is universal. There is much there to dissect but I am drawn to number four. The first thing that comes to my mind is Ephesians 5: 15, 16: Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (NIV). I have always been challenged by those two verses, wondering how many times I was too wrapped up in some petty, narcissistic challenge that I missed a chance to share, help, smile, encourage, show empathy, laugh, pray, hug, listen or just be emotionally present for someone else.

And the people are out there. The situations are in front of us every day. But we need “eyes to see.” I can sit on a park bench and read or eat my lunch and notice how nice and quiet it is, not much going on. But if I put my book down and stare down at the ground and wait, within seconds I begin to notice the ants moving back and forth across the ground. And I see another bug working its way through the grass. And then another. The ground beneath my feet is busy, full of activity and bustling. But I would never see that unless I stopped, adjusted my eyesight, and attempted to see a step deeper than what I am trained to see in a superficial, customary way. I want to see those things around me that can only be seen when I pay attention—and then have the courage to act. I want to make the most of every opportunity. Does it mean having to slow down to notice? Not always but I don’t think it hurts.


Entry Ninety-eight: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is twenty-eight of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Adam stood in front of the sporting goods store, tire iron gripped tightly in his right hand, determined to get in and abscond some new workout clothes but unsure how. He had made his way to The Mall, a local misnomer for what amounted to two strips of store fronts facing each other, divided by a double sidewalk. It was as fancy as they had been able to generate in Grayson. It wasn’t large enough to crush the downtown businesses but it contained all of the stores usually found in fancier malls in bigger cities, so the business community was relatively happy with the arrangement.

Adam had hoped the back door to the store would be accessible, much like the grocery store, but when he checked it he realized it was solid and secured by deadbolts. He wasn’t going to penetrate that with a tire iron. Now, standing in front of the store, he was confronted with walls of glass and his only option was to shatter something and force his way in. He didn’t like the idea of destroying property but the displays of clothes and shoes through the window were motivating him to proceed. He swung the tire iron back over his head and brought it forward against the glass door with minimal force, hoping to do enough damage to gain entrance but not make a mess. The instant the metal bar hit the reinforced door it bounced back with surprising speed, barely missing his face on the rebound. He tried again using a little more energy but the result was the same; the door was intact and the clothes were safe. He took a deep breath, grabbed the tire iron with both hands, assumed the stance of a clean-up hitter and brought the metal bat across his body with full thrust and power, swinging so hard he lifted himself off the ground. The moment of impact was a glorious display of glass shards arcing through the air, showering Adam as he struggled to gain his balance and not fall into the ragged door frame. The combustion was accompanied by its own song, a musical escort, as the store alarm started screaming an awful combination of deep honks and staccato, piercing shrieks which caused Adam to panic. He quickly knocked out the large, remaining chunks of glass in the door frame and pushed his way into the store, frantically looking for the box on the wall that controlled the alarm. He ran to the rear of the store, assuming it would be in the back where the owner would daily enter and exit and he spotted a small, blinking box on the wall by the door. He started pushing buttons randomly, hoping some lucky sequence would stop the cacophony, but nothing worked. The noise was deafening and he was having trouble concentrating, his hands shaking as he tried to miraculously punch in the right combination. Frustrated, he hit the box with the flat of his hand which gave him an idea. He stepped back and swung down hard with the tire iron, smashing the box into several pieces, exposing wires and controls, all dangling from the wall. Yet the alarm was still alive and screaming. He continued to pound on the wall, creating holes all around the target until, finally, one swing met the mark, the metal rod snagging the wires and ripping them from their source. The alarm immediately stopped, the silence of the store pronounced and a relief. Adam sagged to the floor, dropping the tire iron that suddenly felt like it weighed 200 pounds. His hearing was muffled allowing his heart beat to pound clearly in his head, throbbing yet slowing, as he remained still, leaning against the store’s wall. “Damn, that was ridiculous,” he said as he struggled to pull a cigarette and lighter from his shirt pocket. The cigarette helped to calm him and after a second one, for good measure, he stood up and began to shop.

All words and images ©2007/J. Colle

Food for Thought on Casual Friday

In re-reading The Screwtape Letters, this passage gave me pause:

(Screwtape is teaching Wormwood about “Nothing”) It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
C.S. Lewis
The Screwtape Letters

It is a reminder to me to be diligent, to not get bogged down in dodging the big sins to the point of missing the slow layering of the little ones. Chew gently and thoughtfully as you work this around your molars.


Entry Ninety-seven: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is twenty-seven of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Chapter Eleven
Adam Mahoney was on his hands and knees, crawling in his closet, trying to locate an old pair of running shoes in the explosion of clothes and life leftovers that covered the floor. He was determined to begin his quest towards physical fitness immediately but finding the proper equipment was proving a detriment. “Maybe they’re in the garage,” he said and he pushed himself off the ground and started making his way across the house to resume his search. As he passed the living room he noticed the sofa and the disaster that was a visual reminder of his recent setback. He had not cleaned any of it and had successfully ignored the scene every time he passed it going to and from his bedroom. He sighed, the kind of resigned reaction when the obvious thing to do is the exact opposite thing in which you want to engage. As he moved toward the mess, he stepped on an empty DVD cover and thought about Blockbuster. He picked up an empty, plastic, liter bottle that had contained orange soda in earlier times and he thought about the fly-infested IGA. He glanced out the back window, saw the shed and thought about Phelps Hardware. He stood up straight and said, “Why the hell am I looking for my old running shoes when I can go to the store and get a brand new, top-of-the line pair for free?” He abandoned his cleaning task and looked for his keys.

All words and images ©2007/J. Colle

Jayservation: 005/2008

I am currently reading a really interesting (and very good) book by Pete Gall entitled “My Beautiful Idol.” It’s a memoir of sorts and the thing that jumps off the page is the honesty. It feels like he made the decision to write everything exactly as he thought it— no gloss, no PC editing, no adjusting to make himself sound like a better person. And I am surprised how many times I catch myself muttering in agreement or in raw recognition of what I am reading. Here is an example that jumped out at me just this evening:

I know that in the same night I can experience the failure of lurid fantasies concerning a married woman and also the immediate reality of a God whose love for me is greater than my ability to remain still and experience it. It is an exquisite torture, the evidence of heaven and hell mingled and foaming as ravenous fighting dogs within me. I can’t tell for sure which fighting dog I’m rooting for, and I couldn’t even begin to muster the courage to shoot the other.

Buy the book. There is more where that came from.


Jayservation: 004/2008

There is a lot going through my head right now and I really wish it wasn’t. I try to keep the valve barely open for fear that if I twisted the knob all the way to the left I would release a free form rant that would be scary and not make a lick of sense. So let’s keep it to one thing shall we? How about waiting? I realize that Tom Petty may not be officially recognized as one of our modern day prophets--at least in the Christian tradition--but he pretty much nailed it with the line “the waiting is the hardest part.” Right now I am in limbo about several areas in my life (i.e. waiting) and I told my wife that I am truly not concerned about the outcome of any of the situations. I am okay with whichever direction God deems to lead. What I am struggling with is this time of letting it play out (i.e waiting for the direction to reveal itself). All the platitudes, Bible verses and empty quotes from pillars of faith do nothing to temper my imagination from careening between every possible solution, constantly playing out all the “what ifs” and “just maybes.” Oh how I long to be content in the waiting. To rest in the unknown and let it play out in its proper time without the teeth grinding and churning stomach. To have the relaxed smile on my face generate from a real place and not be a plastered facade. I’ve been here before, eerily so, and you would think it gets easier. And if I am honest with my self analysis, I can admit I have gotten better over time. The angst is not as bitter, the fear not as crippling. And on that I will hang my hat. Progress, regardless how slight, is progress. At this rate, my prayer is that I will be a calm old man for my grandkids...

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part
--”Tom” Earl Petty


Jayservation: 003/2008

I was watching Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN tonight and the announcers were discussing Jose Reyes, shortstop for the New York Mets. He is the latest model of “Mr. Excitement” in professional baseball and they were commenting on how much fun he has playing the game (which is not too difficult when you make over $4 million to play a game but I will try to back off the cynicism for a brief moment). Then they told the story about how he was ten years old when he started playing baseball in the Dominican Republic and he used “an egg crate for a glove and an orange for a baseball.” My initial, obnoxious American response was to question the authenticity of the story, wondering if it was some Latin version of a Monty Python skit. All I could picture was a little boy asking to get in the latest pick-up game at the dusty, litter-strewn field only to be rebuffed by the other boys because his “glove” was too small—it was a 12 crate and not an 18. “You can’t catch a tangerine with that glove, Jose, much less an orange!” Oops, I forgot I said I would back off the cynicism. I suck.

Jayservation: 002/2008

Recently our pastor was leading us through John 11 which is the section where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. It wasn’t the usual high powered miracle that caught my eye this particular night (nor was it the famous “shortest verse in the Bible”) but something earlier in the passage. As you start your work week, remember this practical advice from Jesus of Nazareth.

“Anyone who walks in daylight doesn’t stumble because there’s plenty of light from the sun. Walking at night, he might very well stumble because he can’t see where he is going.” (John 11: 9,10 The Message)

Ain’t that the truth. May you have fewer bruised shins and stubbed toes as you move through the coming days.


Jayservation: 001/2008

I read a column (if that is what it is referred to online--or am I still holding on to old terminology in a new digital world?) yesterday by Dick Staub. He is a fellow who is constantly trying to draw people into a conversation about the intersection of faith and art. Obviously, that is something I am interested in so I try to follow what he has to say. (He also has a lot of interesting podcasts at one of his other sites called The Kindlings Muse. Give those a listen if you are so inclined. They are available directly from the site or through iTunes.) The column he posted yesterday listed a number of quotes from famous (or not) people who were discussing how the arts help people see God. Several were good, a couple were great but the one that hit me the hardest was by Julian of Norwich. She is considered to be one of the greatest English mystics and lived in the 1300's. Her quote was: "O God, please give me three wounds; the wound of contrition and the wound of compassion and the wound of longing after God. This I ask without condition."

Without condition. That is a tough prayer. To get beyond myself to the point that I can honestly leave it all in God's hands is a goal, but I cannot say with any conviction that I have achieved that. And why not? Who better to make those decisions for me? Who better can I trust than my Creator? Why is it so hard? Do we not truly believe? It makes it easier to understand Mark 9:24 when the father of the possessed child tells Jesus, "I do believe; help my unbelief." But we are stubborn. Instead of,"Lord, what is Your plan" we are prone to pray, "Lord, bless my plans." Selfish, male and so very American (forgive my redundancy). I pray that I can get to that place for everything. To trust completely and "be anxious for nothing," following the one entity in my life that loves me more than I love myself.

97 Posts, last published on Oct 17, 2007

It has obviously been a long time since I wrote on this blog. I will dispense with all the apologies and mea culpa’s (mainly because not writing here was a conscious decision so I’m really not sorry). But I think I am ready to dive back in. I realize all three of you that used to read this may not care anymore but I will proceed for myself. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Stay tuned.