Monday, December 17, 2012

The Downside of Advent - Mark Barrentine

Note: This reflection by Mark was written before the events last week in Connecticut and should not be taken as a response.

“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence...” Matthew 11:12

Just the other day, I was reflecting on one of the Advent readings from 2 Thessalonians about the “Man of Lawlessness” being revealed before the return of Jesus and considering the implications. I realized- to quote Dark Helmet from Space Balls, “See there’s two sides to every Schwartz.”- that the coming of Jesus isn’t all “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Silent Night.” Jesus coming, as a baby in a manger or a triumphant king, is accompanied by some pretty dangerous stuff.

After the Magi came to honor the new born King of the Jews, King Herod had all the baby boys in Bethlehem and it’s vicinity that were 2 years old and younger killed. Herod’s order and the death of untold number of children were pointless, as Jesus had already escaped, but that only adds to the senseless mess and suffering. I wonder how comforting it would have been, if anyone had even been clued in at the time, for a grieving parent to be told “Your son died so that the Messiah could escape to Egypt.” Of course those that believed would have been relieved to a certain degree, but the secular society would have been, “... very put out.” To quote Prince Humperdinck from Princess bride.

And what does the generation of believers that is alive when the Anti-Christ is revealed have to look forward to? We have statements like Revelation 13:10, “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of Gods people.” Matthew 24:22 says, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” To quote Daffy Duck as Robin Hood, “Yikes and away!”

Jesus Christ, the One and Only begotten Son of God, entering into the space-time continuum is a serious affair. We can lose some of that edge, even those of us who believe, when we get distracted by lights, carols, and “... but wait, there’s more!” consumerism. Advent is the time to remember that being a Christian is dangerous at worst, deadly at best and with Jesus Christ in us, our “hope of glory” Like Simba from The Lion King, we can “Laugh in the face of danger. Hahhhahahahh!”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Longing - Beth Morgan

As a child struggles to sleep on the eve of Christmas
While oppressed Israel lives for the Messiah's birth

As a family rounds the finish line of the third trimester
While a couple hopes to just make it past the first

As a groom looks for his bride to walk the aisle toward him
While a woman still dreams of ever one day being a bride

A world waits with expectant hope
While a world clings to promises, longing.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Letting Go - James Harrison

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep...that have taken hold." -Frodo

I love Frodo so much. If he wasn't your favorite in the "Lord of the Rings" movies, give him a chance in the books. He is valiant. He accepts his role. He is selfless, and he is lovable.  He lets go of the Shire, not once but twice!

I've said some tearful goodbyes in the last few years, and I've left some wonderful people. The reason those goodbyes were so tearful, and why leaving was so heartbreaking, was because those friends were so good, so wonderful! I wouldn't feel this way if I only knew jerks! But I am so grateful to know such quality people from different states, different countries. They point me to beauty.

And that's what we're looking for. There was a time where I didn't see a beautiful sunrise or sunset for months. The weather just wasn't right. But I didn't need those, because I had beautiful friends who cared for me, who insisted on the truth about me, and who were persistent to point out the good. We all need to witness beauty to be whole, and I am rich with what I've seen.

After experiencing these things, plus forgiveness and such satisfying redemption, I see the Father at work. Here and everywhere! And if that's true, then letting go isn't always easier, but it's possible. Because what we're letting go of is beauty, and that can be found Everywhere.

Frodo left a lot of things and people, but what he came to was a far country of white, sandy beaches, the City-Upon-a-Hill, the Timeless Shores... There's more beauty where we're afraid to find it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

How Randy Stonehill Saved My Life - Chris Whitler

I wanted to give an audio story a shot, so, if you've got 8 minutes, click the player below and enjoy or you can download and enjoy this on your media player later...

From a Stonehill concert here in Modesto last month

Thursday, November 15, 2012

One Wonderful Night Sky - Kathryn Hodge

This is Kathryn's first submission to the firebowl.  She has recently been staff for Youth With A Mission in Winnipeg, MB but is now setting off on new adventures to only God knows where and that's the truth.  I saw this story at her personal blog The Sometimes Interesting Adventures of Kathryn Hope and thought it would fit in well here.  Welcome Kathryn! -Chris

Two years ago I went to Mexico for a missions trip.  I was there for five weeks, and my team moved around a lot and did lots of different things.  There were pros and cons, but that’s not what this is about.  One place that we stayed was a migrant camp.  The people who lived there had almost nothing, and their homes consisted of one small, dirty room.  We had a room of our own to stay in for a day or two.  We painted some walls and helped dig/build an outhouse, and there were always kids about to play with.  
One delightful evening I went with a friend to one of our little friend’s house.  Not too surprisingly we were overwhelmed with her families generosity and hospitality.  We were offered cookies and beans and tortillas.  All delicious.  Her 2-year-old brother and I were fast friends.  It all started when he slyly looked at me out of the corner of his eye.  We shared treats and played with his toys.  For one reason or another my friend and I had to go back to our group.  He, of course, followed us.  We played chase all the way back.  He had quite possibly the best giggle I’ve ever heard in my entire life.  
We played until the moon and stars were shining.  At one point I picked him up and just held him.  We looked up at the night sky and just enjoyed it together.  He chattered on and on, pointing here and there to the different stars.  I wish that I understood him, but it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.  I still loved it all.  I loved his excitement and his little laugh.  That little boy, with his infectious giggle taught me something.  That night I learned how to just be.  It was just us and the sky that night.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Evening music and pictures - Will Barrow

Will is one of the leaders of Youth With A Mission in Pismo Beach, CA and this is his first submission to the Firebowl.  Welcome Will!  Will is a husband and father and likes surfing, taking pictures and is a great taco aficionado.  He sent in two pictures for your perusal.  I'm posting a Bruce Cockburn song for you to enjoy these pictures with...they just seemed to go together. Hit play and have a few minutes of beauty.  Chris

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Leggo My Eggo! - Aron Smith

Wow, “letting go” is such a heavy topic, particularly at this time of year when we head straight into the joy of the holiday season. I need to go out and buy Halloween candy, I’m trying to figure out which side of the family will be here with us for Thanksgiving and I just had my vacation days for Christmas week approved at work. I want to think about sharing my great-niece’s first Christmas. I want to think about what we’ll do for my parents’ sixtieth wedding anniversary, which is coming up on Christmas Eve. I want to think about drawing family close to me and showing them how much I appreciate them. So no, I do not want to think about loss, letting go, the steps of the grieving process or anything of that ilk. 

 And that, of course, is how it happens. Back in the Eocene era, when I was in high school, we used to say that life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans. I have found that death happens that way, too. 

About the scariest thing that can happen to us (aside from earthquakes, now that I live in southern California and have had a taste) is receiving that phone call in the middle of the night. It happened to us in February of this year. It was about 3 a.m. and I thought I felt my wife’s cell phone vibrate. I didn’t want to wake her up, so I turned over and tried to go back to sleep. That’s when my own cell phone went off. And then we had to run about like crazed chickens, throwing clothes into suitcases, making more phone calls and trying to decide who would do the crying and who would do the driving for the eleven- hour trip to my wife’s family in northern California. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were some handy dandy, magic words we could use to comfort someone close to us who is in so much pain in their time of loss? We get Psalm 23’d to death and nothing seems to help. After all, your mother and father do not teach you how to do this while you are growing up. Nor is it taught in high school. A part of our “adult education” is when we discover that being there for support is all you can really do. Hug everyone, sit down and eat Aunt Mathilda’s casserole. Find a kid to entertain. Offer to make a pot of coffee. Don’t answer that text from work. 

As bad as the days immediately following a loss are, still harder is saying and doing the right things after that, when the wife, become a widow, has to deal with an empty house, when the parents can’t bear to walk by the bedroom of their departed daughter or son, when the vacant chair is matched only by the vacant hole in our hearts. 

I think about all the ways this scenario has played out in my own family, as well as what we may be facing in the next few years as our loved ones, reaching their seventies and eighties, seem to age before our eyes. There was one who collapsed in the bathroom while visiting friends. Another who was found by neighbors who had not heard from him in a few days. Another who fell and broke her hip when no one else was home and never recovered. Some met their ends in hospitals, others in nursing homes. Some were taken from us suddenly, some were taken in their sleep, some were taken by ambulance, screaming siren piercing the night. Others endured a slow decline. 

 Aside from letting go of those who have passed on and helping others to do the same, there is also the matter of helping others to let go of themselves when “quality of life” wanes. The biologists will tell you that clinging tightly to life, even in extremis, is a matter of instinct. The medicos say there isn’t much they can do other than to keep him as comfortable as possible. It becomes harder and harder to drag ourselves to the nursing home or hospice. That’s not the person we know and love. That’s an empty shell. There seems to be no connection between the good memories we have and the fourth floor, north wing, room 258, bed 2. “Sometimes I just wish the Lord would take her,” I hear. I try not to show that I am horrified, instead putting myself in their shoes for a minute. What if it were my own parent? Don’t be so quick to judge. Think of those who can never seem to let go, who leave everything in the house just as it was for decades. Perhaps it is healthy, not horrible, that she is ready to let her loved one go. 

 But what of the patient in the aforementioned bed 2? We may be ready to let go of her, but is she ready to let go of us? I have heard over and over again of family members standing over hospital beds, holding a loved one’s hand and saying “It’s okay to let go.” 

 The cynical part of me thinks there is something very wrong with this. Let me be that person in the hospital bed for a moment. Did I ask for your permission? Did I raise my hand and say “Mother, may I?” I’ll go when I’m good and ready, thank you, or when the Lord sees fit to take me. 

 Whoa! Now I’m told that I’m being insensitive. Some say that giving a family member nearing the end “permission” to let go is an act of love. Perhaps it is. (Warning: Get ready for me to be even more insensitive.) But I wonder how I would feel about it if I were the one in that bed. Relieved? Maybe, if I felt that I had to hang on to the bitter end because my spouse or children needed me. But could it be that the family would simply find it more convenient to achieve some “closure?” (I hate that word). After all, he’s never going to get better and this is costing a fortune (that I could be inheriting). Why should he continue to be in pain for nothing? (I feel bad. When he’s gone, I’ll say “at least he’s not in pain anymore.”) I wouldn’t want to go on living like that. (I’m tired of getting calls from doctors and running back and forth to the hospital when I have a full-time job and a family to take care of.) 

 Now that I’ve offended everyone, think about the fact that helping someone to let go is intimately tied up with our own ability to let go of that person. Indeed, those who are preparing to exit this world often find themselves in the role of the comforter rather than comforted. It is not unusual for them to try to assuage the hurt of those who are about to be left behind. Being a fan of country music, I think of the lyrics of the Patty Loveless song from the ‘90s, “How Can I Help You to Say Goodbye?” 

Sitting with Mama alone in her bedroom 
She opened her eyes and then squeezed my hand 
She said “I have to go now, my time here is over” 
And with her final word she tried to help me understand 
Mama whispered softly “Time will ease your pain, 
Life’s about changing, nothing ever stays the same. 
How can I help you to say goodbye? 
It’s okay to hurt and it’s okay to cry 
Come, let me hold you and I will try 
How can I help you to say goodbye?” 

 In this day and age, however, much of the “letting go” that we find ourselves faced with has nothing to do with the death of a person. Often, it’s the death of a relationship. Divorce is so common that no one gives it a second thought anymore. Well, since I started working in the court system, I guess I do. At least on family law day when the judge stands out in the hall to talk to the children and all of them are crying because they can’t go live with their drug addict mother. It’s strange how I can watch the most badass criminals march into court in shackles for felony sentencing and not flinch. But the kids, man, they get me every time. 

 Letting go in the face of divorce is a tough one. At least when a family member dies, we are not offended; we know he didn’t do this to hurt us and that he would have lived on if he could have (suicide being a notable exception). Sure, there are times when divorce is a mutually desirable parting of ways, but it seems that most often it is the result of one party behaving badly. And that party is usually (but not always) the man. There are the beaters and the cheaters. One woman is shocked when her husband comes home from a business trip and announces that he doesn’t want to be married anymore. Another woman has finally had enough of the verbal, emotional and physical abuse she may have been suffering for years. However the story goes, the formerly married parties have to make new lives for themselves. The woman usually ends up with (I almost wrote “gets stuck with,” but that’s my own prejudice) the children and the result is often dire poverty. Letting go is a difficult proposition indeed when juggling a combination of done-me-wrong rage and too much month at the end of the money. So let’s make it even harder. Let’s add joint custody or visitation arrangements to the mix so that you have to see “that man” when he picks up and drops off the kids every other week. I am reminded of the scene in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire where Robin Williams is trying to feed his kids take-out Chinese food when his ex-wife shows up early to pick them up. The bile in the bickering is enough to make one vomit. I suppose there is no real letting go until the kids turn 18, at least not if there is visitation and child support involved. 

 There is another type of letting go that does not involve the severing of families, at least not directly. In the current economy, there are those who find themselves laid off from their jobs after working for the same company for 20 years or more. Even if it hasn’t been that long, losing one’s job often results in a loss of identity as well as of income. If I’m not a (fill in the blank) anymore, what am I? With the speedup of globalization in the past fifteen years, if your job takes off for China, India or Mexico, well it ain’t comin’ back, son. Oh, and unless you live in New York or Los Angeles, good luck finding another job in your field nearby. You may have to move hundreds or thousands of miles away, or, if family or financial considerations preclude a move, you may be out of work for a long time and then find that you have to reinvent yourself entirely if you ever hope to be employed again. Meanwhile, you may harbor anger at your former employer, anger at the economy, anger at your helplessness to support your family or even yourself. We know of one divorced mother and her three kids who recently lost their home and are now living out of their car rather than move and force the children to change schools. What would that be, letting go of one’s lifestyle? Turning in your membership card in the middle class and embracing homelessness? Some things I cannot come up with the right words to describe. 

 There are, of course, some lifestyles that we are much better off letting go of. I am thinking of illegal drugs, hateful substances that kill our children and have become such a scourge in my hometown. I want to take a big pair of clippers and cut down all those pairs of sneakers hanging from the power lines. And what do you say, can we start a big bonfire and burn all the methamphetamine in the world? Well, I can dream, and yes, Lord, I pray to You on this one, because it is going to take a lot more than my pair of clippers to cut us loose from the destructive habits that have been allowed to encroach on our society. But we are human, now aren’t we? The flesh is willing but the spirit is weak. Those caught in the web of drugs seem to have an awfully hard time letting go even when they commit themselves to regaining clean lives. No struggle with evil is ever easy. It really is true when we say that old habits “die” hard, as a little piece of us does die when we let go of modes of daily living that have helped to define our lives. Whether it’s giving up smoking, climbing on the wagon with friends of Bill W. or breaking ties with habits unrelated to substance abuse (such as committing ourselves to avoiding gossip or to speaking more kindly to our families), letting go of something to which we are used to clinging represents a sea change in how we view ourselves and how others view us. Habits quickly become crutches that at first appear helpful, then comfortable, then essential. Letting go means exiting our comfort zones; falling backward and knowing that someone will be right behind to catch us is truly a matter of faith. 

 Another reason to “let go” is the unnecessary stress that is added to our lives by the pursuit of foolishness. True, foolishness is in the eyes of the beholder, yet, as the Bible points out, we have run after folly and it has profited it us not. We have to keep up with the Joneses, run in the rat race to climb the corporate ladder so we can buy our kids the latest and the greatest instead of spending time with them. We can’t seem to let go of things, mere things, inanimate objects. Things become status symbols and we have increasing difficulty in distinguishing between wants and needs. Back in the 80s, I never put any stock in Reagan’s drivel about Welfare queens driving Cadillacs, but today I encounter very poor people sporting the latest iPhone. We have allowed our possessions, like our jobs, to define who we are. This makes it all the more difficult to let go and pursue instead things that are real, like family and community. In my teenage years, when frozen waffles were increasing in popularity, I used to laugh at a TV commercial in which family fights over the toaster ended with the refrain “Leggo my Eggo!” Even at the breakfast table, family harmony cannot prevail, for we must fight for what is rightfully ours, even down to a lousy frozen waffle. 

 I have heard it said that everyone lives in his or her own private hell. I believe this thinking reflects our culture of individuality and fails to acknowledge that, at bottom, we are all the same, all God’s children. All of us have basic needs and all of us want to be able to provide for our families. Another thing common to all of us is that every type of bondage can be broken, as difficult as it may seem. I don’t know if I will ever find the inner strength to finally bid adieu to my own bad habits. But I do dream of the day that I let them go like so many balloons and watch them float away into the sky until they fade out of sight among the clouds.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Insights from Dog-walking - Beth Morgan

Photo by Alanna Martin

At the moment, “letting go” looks like giving up control, trusting my Master to lead. For the last few months I have been fostering a dog (who's still waiting for his “forever home”) and wow, has it been an adventure! Riley is a coonhound+Aussie cattle dog who was a stray—used to wandering about, wherever his nose takes him. He wants so badly to be free to chase squirrels and rabbits which is certainly quite natural to his breed, but of course, he is being “trained” and this is not allowed. Besides, Riley doesn't really get the dangers of vehicles, so letting him run free in town would not be wise. Riley will pull and pull, even though it hurts his neck, and I will hold him back, as difficult as it is to do so. Sometimes he will try to run on ahead, sometimes he will go off to the side (especially to sniff people's recycling bins) and sometimes he will lag behind trying to scavenge something nasty from the earth that will probably make him sick. I often feel very frustrated and wish he would just listen more; his pulling can even hurt me, especially if we're going down a slippery hill or if he's all tangled around me. But then there are times, especially lately since he knows and trusts me more, when he will listen, when he will trot along beside me, ignoring all of the tempting things off in the distance. In these times I will tell him what a good boy he is and sometimes even give him treats.

I don't really know if God gets frustrated with me when I continually try to run on ahead, take control or create my own way. I do know that His words patiently continue to reach me and shed some light on the path.

“I could hold on to who I am and never let You change me from the inside...but You have called me higher, You have called me deeper and I'll go where You will lead me, Lord.” (by All Sons and Daughters, but here's my little cover version...)
Called Me Higher by Chris Whitler

Thursday, November 1, 2012

At Rest - Shelly Wason

Today is All Saints Day and a good day to introduce a new focus in the firebowl.  The next few posts are all about "letting go".  Thanks to Shelly Wason for getting us started with this image.  You can see more of Shelly's photography at

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gazing - Patrick Lowry

Can you remember when you caught a glimpse
Of the point between points
Where everything that is or ever will be
Was revealed in a sigh?
Can you remember when all of time and space
Were contained in a grain of sand on God's shore?
- and for a fleeting moment, you knew the truth
And it made you smile,
That we are each an intrepid sailor
On this beautiful voyage between eternities,
From our home across magnificent seas
To our harbor,
Only to find ourselves once again at home -
Made better by the journey.
You wept when you could not find the words,
You cannot explain the Alpha and the Omega,
But you know it,
And I will wait for you there.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Summer Shift - James Harrison

Last summer something changed in me. Something big. 

 I want to share with you a bit of my recreational life. I am a pretty easy-going guy most of the time, and I’m content to read here and there, play sports when the weather’s fine, and even ride my bicycle around. Now, if there’s a free or cheap place to swim, I’m in! But usually, when I’m not working, and especially if the weather’s not good, most of my time is dominated by video games. Be it PlayStation 2 or on my PC, I’m swinging a bat, shooting bad guys, or strategizing world domination all through my fingertips. The hours fly by in this way, and very rarely—if ever—do I laugh out loud or play these video games with friends. It is quite a lonely hobby the more I think about it. 

 See, growing up in the city I never had my own car (well, there was one for a bit that my brother gave me, but it broke down at least a dozen times) so I was pretty grounded if I wasn’t with friends. Outside of sports, my after-school time was spent playing video games. Video games are interactive and I found it much more preferable to watching tv for hours, since I could have control, creativity, and stimulation. 

A few years later I came to a 9-to-5 job in Alberta, Canada, where the weather is typical mountain weather—unpredictable; and the winters are excruciatingly long. The best winter remedy? Leveling up my Dwarf Champion, suiting him with armor, and gaining a legacy defeating digital foes! See, there was exploring, fighting, equipping, and even socializing; a recipe for fun. 

 When summer finally hit I was given the job of grounds keeper. This involved mowing the whole property regularly and making any improvements I wanted. Without any attempt, vow, or oath I simply stopped playing video games! For months! I was out of the office and in the sun; I was tired at the end of the day, getting hard hands, and learning how to change oil, fix and maintain a riding mower, and most of all, do what I deemed best. “Those trees are a pain to walk under—I’ll trim off the lower branches!” “These bushes are out of control—I’ll cut them down to height!” “Say, this basketball hoop is a joke—I’ll build a new one! I don’t know how now, but I’ll learn.” 

 Work became life-giving because I was being creative, stimulated, and I was exploring and learning the details of the property. I came to own something. That’s never happened to me before. I loved it! So without trying my recreation time became reading, writing, playing and creating songs on the guitar—things that give me life! I have the chance to be the grounds keeper this summer, and I know God will move in my heart again. Though I still play video games, last summer was the first time I’ve ever felt like I was spending my time, living my life, like an adult… like a man. I felt capable. There was a shift. I was changed.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ahh, Summertime - Tina Barrentine

    When I was little, my family would go camping at Big Trees State Park. It had a crystal clear river, large boulders that begged children to climb across their time-worn faces, and (as the name suggests) big trees. Really, really big trees. I know what you’re thinking: “Tina is very short. Even shrubbery would seem like big trees to her.” Wrong! I have stood at the base of trees that towered 200 feet above me and asked them how the air was up there. They had little to say in return. Big trees just don’t get my sense of humor.

    The list of cons for this summer wonderland was short, but significant.  I got two words for ya. Porta. Potties. I was cursed, even from a tender age, with impeccably high bathroom standards. The practice of collecting communal excrement horrified me then, and does still, to this day. The pungent aroma offended my delicate, six-year-old sensibilities to the point that I refused to use the facilities. For three days in the summer of 1982, I stoically held on to my principals and my bowels. In the interest of honestly, I suspect (though, don’t remember) that I found liquid relief in the no-longer-crystal-clear river.

    On the third day, the good Lord saw fit to ease my suffering and sent my deliverer in the form of The Maintenance Man from Heaven. He came down like an angel from above and cleansed the pit of despair, making it pine-sol fresh and fit for decent, God-fearing human beings. I marched boldly to that porta-potty, determined to be the first one to use it just as soon as the MM from H finished purifying it. And there, already standing in line, was my cousin Lori. She was a grown-up 13 year old, and I didn’t have sufficient seniority to bump her in line. I sent up a desperate plea to my creator and prepared myself for warfare. I pulled a knife from my boot and lunged at my opponent who had craftily hidden a pistol in her fanny pack. She dodged my attack, lowered her weapon at my head, and asked, “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

    The memory, I’ll admit has gotten a little fuzzy over the years. It either ended with Lori killing me in cold-blood in the mountains, or it ended when she saw the desperate look on my face and said, “You wanna go first?” 

Ahh, summertime.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Love Letter to My Wife - Aron Smith

How do I love thee?  Let me text the ways.

It may seem  like the most hackneyed, gaggingly syrupy sentiment to say that I love my wife, but I do.  Can you still be in love with your wife after thirteen years of marriage?  It must be against the law or something.

I could name many of my wife’s sterling virtues, but certainly the one I most appreciate is that she has somehow managed to put up with me for all these years.  Let me tell you, that is no small feat.  You see, it’s easy for me to love my wife.  She is a thoroughly delightful woman who it would be difficult for anyone not to love.  But me?  That is another story entirely.  So it amazes me that she loves me despite the fact that I’m turning brown at the edges and starting to rot like a peach that’s spent a little too long in the crisper.

How do I know that my wife still loves me?  By her texts.

Don’t laugh.  I didn’t even have a cell phone until a few years ago, so it’s not like I cut my teeth on texting along with my pablum.  I suppose I may have an increased respect for the technology because I experienced half a century or so of living before I came to it (or it came to me).  The whole reason I obtained a cell phone in the first place was to keep in touch with my many nieces and nephews.  It was easy to see that if we were going to have any kind of relationship, it was going to have to be on their terms.  And so I learned to text.

So do I ever hear from my nephews and nieces?  Very rarely.  But fear not, my little pocket phone has not gone to waste, and my texting is in top form.  So who do I text?  My wife, of course.

Unfortunately, my phone doesn’t hold a lot of messages, so I have to delete them and start over every few days.  I was about to perform this function today when I was stopped dead in my tracks.  I began reviewing my recent texts, and that’s when I realized that they hold the proof of my wife’s love.  I mean, you can tell we’re an old married couple.  Allow me to show you what I mean.  It’s in a foreign language, so I’ll translate as I go along.

Wife’s Text:
Leaving Albs.  Cart needed.

Translation:  I’m leaving the grocery store now and heading home.  Get out here and lug this stuff  inside.

Wife’s Text:
Appt for car on Sat between 8-9.

Translation:  Guess what you’re doing this weekend?

Wife’s Text:
Putting my eyes in.  I’ll text you when I leave.

Translation:  Yes, I’ll pick you up for lunch!  Crap, I gotta mess with my contact lenses first.

Wife’s Text:
Want me to bring you food?  I can go to Del Taco if you want.

Translation:  I have put a lot of time, effort and creativity into making a lovely dinner for you, which has long since gone cold.  However, I understand that it’s 8:00 at night and you’re still stuck at work.  Let me feed you, honey!

Wife’s Text:
Need anything?

Translation: I know you’re having a very hard day.  How can I make it better?

Wife’s Text:
I hafta complete this form.  Can you help me?

Translation:  I know I’m perfectly capable of doing my own paperwork.  But I want you to feel needed, so come rescue this damsel in distress, you big stud, you!

Wife’s Text:
Spent $65 at Smart & Final.

Translation:  I’m out spending your money, haha!  Having a good time, wish you were here!  You don’t mind, now do ya?

Wife’s Text:
People are waiting.

Translation:  Um, you’ve been in this public rest room a little too long and a line is forming outside the door.  They’re starting to adopt a lynch mob mentality and may be about to bust the door down.  Hurry up and flush!

Wife’s Text:
Did you hit the F key that turned off the Internet?

Translation:  You are so inept with anything technical!  Now quit being a whiny baby and pay attention.

Wife’s Text:
I’ll sell it on eBay.

Translation:  So what else is new, you’re bringing home another worthless piece of detritus.  Never fear, I’ll parlay even this thing into a couple of bucks for us.

Wife’s Text:
What are you doing?

Translation:  I’m having fun shopping with my mom and sister.  Do you miss me?

Wife’s Text:
How’s it going?

Translation:  I miss you!

Wife’s Text:
Gagging scho

Nonsense phrases, you say?  Not at all!  This just proves that we’ve married long enough that we have our own language that only we can understand.  Translation:  I’m waiting in the car for you and it’s hot as Hades!  Get your bohonkus out here!

Wife’s Text:
I love you.

Translation:  I love you.

Husband’s Text:
Me too!

Translation:  How on earth did I get so lucky?  God is good!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Beach Birds - Shelly Wason

Find more of Shelly's beautiful perspective at

Nothing says "summer" like hitting the beach
and soaking your toes in some surf.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Eternity - Dave Skene

 Ghost Dancin' 

 Rumblin', from across the street. 
Was that my old man or a train rollin by? 
One in the same I guess. 

The ghosts are restless tonight. 
Comin' and goin' like chronic malaria. 

Ghosts are free from everyday life where predictability is a chosen cousin to death. 

 Winter in Montreal, saw a ghost in the kitchen. 
Her words whispered through me, “transformation is linguistic.” 
I guess this dance is a prayer, every movement is conversation with eternity. 

 Ghost Dancin'

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Contemplating Eternity - Chris Whitler

With some editorial contribution (that made it way better) by Aaron Alford

It’s hard to contemplate eternity with bills on your desk
Difficult to philosophize when your lists are being pests
I’m supposed to think on infinity with the vacuum cleaner going?
I’m too distracted to ask about the nature of being or knowing.

Payments, measures, units, charts, accounts, passwords and numbers
Plastics, metals, poly-blended fabrics, concrete, oil and lumber
All hide the real that’s swirling there, those secret constellations
Beneath our falsities, attempts, and pitiful fabrications

But peel it back a little and our mouths would be agape
At Existence itself under all that’s known, full of light and weight
The song of a rose in a vacant lot, a door that’s found by a key
All around us, if we stop to hear, the sound of Eternity

Sharing, giving, friendship, time, people, conversation
Earth, water, health, paths and joy and recreation
Work, beauty, nature, rest and laughter, tears and blood
Infinitely upward, further inward: Eternity is love.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Preparing for Eternity - Shelly Wason

See more of Shelly's Photography at her photoblog

You pierce me - 
right through my veil of gossamer
weaving your strand of three,
fashioning what lies beneath.

This image speaks to me of the Bride's preparation for the greatest wedding ever that will kick off the rest of Eternity.

"Let us rejoice and shout for joy [exulting and triumphant]! Let us celebrate and ascribe to Him glory and honor, for the marriage of the Lamb [at last] has come, and His bride has prepared herself.

She has been permitted to dress in fine (radiant) linen, dazzling and white—for the fine linen is (signifies, represents) the righteousness (the upright, just, and godly living, deeds, and conduct, and right standing with God) of the saints (God’s holy people)."

Rev 19:7-8  Amplified

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Two Poems - Patrick Lowry

This is Patrick's first submission to the Fire Bowl.  Patrick writes poetry and essays, can be seen about town on his trusty bicycle and loves to reminisce about his time as a surfer in the 60's and his awesome childhood in Morocco.  Welcome, Patrick!


Joy doesn't count it's hours out loud
Or brag about it's girth
It claims neither color or weight
Joy is not proud
Yet it can make whole the broken
And break the door of Hell

My #1 Buddy in the 4th Grade

You might not even notice him at first
He's kind of quiet
And not very tall
On the shy side
He'll never make the team
Or be cool
But he can fix broken stuff
And he knows the way home

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Joy, I got nothin'! - Beth Morgan

I've been trying to think about this subject of “joy” for a few weeks now and felt like “I got nothin'!”. I'm pretty sure that one of the ideas behind this communal blog is for each contributor to be inspired by the offerings of another and, fortunately this week, James' post found itself a part of a stream of nudges from God; in my own present search for peace, hope and a dose of renewed faith, his words encouraged me that these are attainable in those moments when you feel that they are not. In those moments, I am not even thinking about pursuing joy, but, as I reflect on God's promises, I see how silly it is to NOT invite joy along. God's presence IS our joy; our strength IS the joy of the Lord; His joy is complete in us.

You know those times when you know truths like these in your head, but you're not sure how capable you are of taking them to heart in the present moment? Thank God for grace that still speaks through with these nudges through the words of others, or through song lyrics happened upon on the radio. Then you at least get to a place where you have enough “something” to get yourself to speak the truths out: God, you are trustworthy and I believe it. And to a place where you can pray beside others: God, you are faithful. I believe you are faithful. We believe you are faithful. You will guide, you will provide just like every time before. My faith is small right now, but you are the same.

Once a month I have the privilege of leading worship at my church and this Sunday, as another attempt of speaking out His promises in faith, I chose to do this little ditty, “The Joy of the Lord”.
When I am weak, He is strong and I can lean on Him.
No need to fear, I will have faith and I will shout for joy.
And when I stumble, He picks me up and I'm gonna jump for joy.
The Joy of the Lord is my strength.
Interesting that this song was taught to me years ago by Chris; hence, another roundabout way of being inspired and encouraged by someone connected to this blog.

Someone recorded the song with an iPod, so here's a humble offering of poor video and sound quality, but an invitation to Joy nonetheless.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)