The Song of Streams

This poem is an old one, which I posted here on my blog three years ago (it’s hard to believe the blog has been going that long). I am re-posting it today because most of you wouldn’t have seen it back then, and also because I’ve been thinking about these ideas a lot recently as I’ve worked on the manuscript for “Dream Small.” When the book comes out, you’ll see that one of the chapter titles uses a phrase from this poem—I’ve called it, “The Upside-Down Ladder.” I have to say, though, that the original inspiration for this poem came from a scene in “Hind’s Feet on High Places,” by Hannah Hunard, a book I highly recommend. 

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The Ends and the Means

When we bought our first house, we bought it as-is. We knew that included the broken glass in the back door. We just counted that as part of the price. But someone we knew gave us different advice: she said we should wait a little while, then claim the window as damage on our new home insurance. 

Clearly, her plan had advantages. It had taken everything we had to get in the place. It was a miracle that we had been able to cover the bare concrete foundation with cheep flooring. To say the money would have helped is an understatement. And anyway, insurance companies are rich, right? They could hardly need it as much as we did.

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The World Needs Your Story

“All dreams deserve to be seen, and all stories deserve to be shared,” said the Netflix ad. “The world needs your story. Show them!” But that wasn’t the real point—it was an ad, after all—so it ended with “Discover the world’s stories.” On Netflix, of course.

But Netflix isn’t showing my story among “the world’s stories.” They don’t have any plans to produce it, either (that I know of). So how will I get my dreams to be seen? How will I get my story to be shared? I need to figure this out. After all, Netflix said, “the world needs your story.” 

Does it, really? Another regular guy doing regular things in regular ways? That’s the story that the world needs? It isn’t as entertaining as the stories they already have. It isn’t as impressive, or interesting, or mysterious, or anything fun like that. There’s a reason Netflix hasn’t called for the rights to my story. Who would want to watch it?

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Being The Bad Guy

At our house, I’ve always been the bad guy. To be more precise, I’ve been a lot of bad guys. Sometimes it is just part of me, like when my hands became the Flying Tickle Spiders. Other times I’ve needed extra props, like the brown blanket for the times when the Muddy Hole Troll tried to trap my children in his muddy pit in a terrible plot to keep them filthy. In lightsaber fights, Sith Seth has always been the one threatening destruction and calling good little Jedis to join the dark side. Then there have been attacks from the electric Volt-ure who zapped children (disclaimer: no real electricity was involved) and the Alien Chef who has tried to make them into sandwiches between the beanbags. Our house has been a dangerous place. 

The thing is, all my terrible plots have ended in failure. I guess I’m not really that great at being an evil mastermind. Somehow, the children have always found a way to defeat me. Which is fine. Actually, I’m happy. I want the bad guys to lose, too. Yes, our house can be a dangerous place, but it is only silly danger, and my children can fight my evil plots with complete confidence of eventual victory. We just have fun together, and I hope they remember that. But I hope they remember more—I hope they hold on to that feeling of confidence, of knowing they will win eventually. They are growing up now, growing beyond the games and closer to the reality of the world, and here’s the thing: the world is a dangerous place.

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The Free Way

I’ve driven on motorways and interstates and highways, but my favourite name for big roads is freeways. It captures that windows-down-radio-up feeling better than the other words—the speed and freedom of four wheels and a smooth road combined. Freedom to travel. Freedom to move fast. Freedom to stop whenever I want to. It feels good to be free.

Of course, this freeway freedom does come with a few rules. A speed limit, for example, and lines on the road that mark my lane, and some lanes that go one way and some that go the other. Simple enough, but very important—without those lines and rules, the freeway would be a death trap. Imagine driving on a freeway with no lanes, no directions, no rules. In one way it would be even more free, in the sense that you could use the road however you wanted to. But with everyone using the road as they saw fit for themselves, no one would be able to use it well, and a lot of people would end up seriously injured. That’s why we accept the rules of the freeway. We know that these boundaries actually give us more freedom to move quickly and safely to our destinations. 

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Focusing On What I Can Measure

I got a watch recently that counts my footsteps. For my whole life I’ve never had a clue about the number of steps I take each day, but now I know, and all of a sudden I care. If I reach my goal number, I feel good. If I don’t, I feel less good. I do think my watch is good for me. It’s helping me be more aware of my level of activity, which helps me be more active, which I’m sure helps me be more healthy.

Walking is good, but there’s a lot more to my health than the amount of steps I get day by day. My watch can only measure certain things, and the most important aspects of how my body is working are beyond its ability to tell me about. I could have a severe underlying condition and still meet my step goal, and still get a little celebration on my wrist telling me how healthy I am. It’s even possible that an underlying condition could be made worse by more steps, not better. Thankfully that’s not true (as far as I know), but if it was true, I wouldn’t know it from the metrics on my watch.

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When I Lived In A Barn

I wasn’t born in a barn, but I did live in one for a while. My parents had bought some land in the country, and the barn went up fast. Construction of the house was slower, so we lived in the barn while it was being built. There was no insulation, and in most of the internal doorways we hung curtains instead of actual doors. I remember shaking my shoes out before I put them on in the morning to make sure there were no scorpions inside. I also remember being happy. Yes, we were roughing it in a lot of ways, living without a lot of normal conveniences, but life was good. When the house was finally finished and we moved in, it was nice to have fancy things like doors, but it didn’t change the basic dynamic that was already well-established: my parents had created a positive atmosphere, and that was the air I grew up in—it didn’t matter if I was breathing it in a barn with scorpions or a house with doors.

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Something To Give

It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true: a generous soul is a rich soul, while those who only look after themselves actually end up impoverishing the very selves they work so hard to look after. We simply were not made for ourselves. The sooner we can get our heads around it, the better. When our focus shifts upward to God and outward to others, a whole new world opens up—a world of happiness beyond circumstance, purpose beyond self-gratification, and real, genuine satisfaction. I’m not saying life becomes easier this way (it’s more likely to become harder), only that it becomes better, by far. I tried to catch a little taste of that in this short poem:

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God Doesn’t Get Tired Of Answering Prayer

Psalm 121 reminds us that God does not “slumber or sleep.” Isaiah tells us that “the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.” That’s hard to imagine for people like us who spend a quarter of our time on earth (at least) unconscious in bed. Even when we’re not in bed, a single day full of activity can leave us mentally and physically exhausted. Not God. He never slumbers or sleeps, he never flops on the couch and rests his eyes, he never gets tired at all. 

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The Blueprints I Haven’t Seen

The weather is warmer now, and that means the cranes have sprouted. Some of the fields near us are starting to bloom with new houses and factories. It’s always interesting to watch them grow, but I have to admit that sometimes the process puzzles me. The diggers come in first and push dirt around for ages in ways that seem pointless and confusing, and then there are pipes and concrete pillars and none of it looks like anything I would have expected until the walls start going up and then suddenly I start to recognise the shape of what the builders knew all along. None of it was pointless. Every pillar and digger was directed towards the blueprint of a final product that started in the imagination of the architect, and will finish in a tangible reality that people can live or work in. Just because I don’t see or understand the plan doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It just means that I’m not the architect. 

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