Journaling in 2018

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I’m making a renewed vow of journaling in the coming year, and I’m inviting anyone along who wants to join me. I used to be a daily, consistent writer of my thoughts, prayers and dreams, but somewhere along the way I stopped. It’s time to start, again.

fullsizeoutput_3d11   Why journal? I could mention a couple of things: 1) journaling helps with critical thinking and reflection, 2) it engages our mind and body, multiple senses working together, and 3) it helps us stop.

I’ve experienced all that in the past. Journaling helps me frame my thoughts and it creates a safe space to go deeper in personal reflection. I also like the feel of paper and a fine pen in my hand. It creates a quiet space, a refuge from all the hustle and hurry of the day. When I plan to journal and invest the effort to make a special space and time for journaling it becomes a respite, a place of healing and quiet in my hectic schedule and unrestful days.

   What to journal? You can always journal your thoughts and prayers. You can keep a record of your thankfulness. You can track and explore your plans and dreams. I’m going to be keeping two official journals in 2018, one for my thoughts & prayers and one for my plans & schemes.

   When to journal? When it’s valued. When it’s easy. When you can. That’s the reality we all face… journaling needs to be a valued practice, given it’s own space and an investment of materials. Pick a good journal, treat yourself with a trip to the bookstore and and get a good one. Do you like a fine pen? Do you not even care and keep $.29 ballpoints? It all works. When should you journal? Do have more time at the beginning or close of a day?

just abide   How to journal? Make it a habit, write daily. Write something: consistency. Look, I’m no recognized journaling expert, but this is what I have found in my experience: I need to do something every day to make it a habit and maintain it, and that means writing something, anything, each day. I will write something even if I’m writing the sentence, “Today, I got nothing.” 

Why two journals? You may only want to carry one journal around for the year, but I have a bunch of stuff on my mind. I have now been out of full-time ministry for two years. I didn’t expect to still be out after two years. God and I need some time to chat and explore stuff in the new year. That’s a journal all to itself. The other one? I’m feeling creative and I have some projects in mind for 2018. Projects are great, but I need a journal, lists and captured creativity to help me get some of them finished! Let me know if you’re journaling and how it goes! Hold me accountable and ask me how it’s going!

AMDG, Todd

Lift Them Up!

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Weekly Grace Jan 17 to 23 2016One of the uses or blessings of civility is it’s ability too turn things around, to take a bad situation and make it better, to help a person having a bad day begin to have a better day. An important part of civility is acting out of that civil impulse to positively engage and support one’s community.

Do you see someone around you struggling? Do you see someone who needs encouragement? Lift them up! Be a person who spreads joy and increases peace in the world with kind words, encouraging and positive contributions.

The proverb in our Weekly Grace is at once obvious and such a needed reminder. Our words have an effect, so let’s plan for the best effect possible. As children in Sunday School classes we often put our fingers over lips and sang “O be careful little lips what you say!” and I hope we never grow too old for that lesson.

AMDG, Todd

A New Website for Being Human

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Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 9.10.51 AMI launched a website today that I have pondered for a couple of years and worked on for the last week: showsomehumanity.com

The website is a hope and a prayer that we can have some deep conversations about being better human beings in the midst of our amazing diversity. It’s intended to be for everyone, people of any or no religion, of any and all traditions and backgrounds. It won’t be perfect, and it’s starting small, but I hope it grows and becomes a voice for good.

One aspect of the site will be exploring monthly human values. We’re starting off with January’s human value of kindness, and then in the coming months we’ll explore compassion, empathy and forgiveness.

Let’s get real. We won’t wake up tomorrow to find that we all suddenly look, think or want alike. You won’t wake tomorrow to be just like me, or vice versa. We will always have our dissimilarities just as we’ll always have our similarities. We will always be diverse and we will always be one human family sharing one earth. It’s time to recommit to showing some humanity. It’s time to affirm that we love this big human family into which we are born, and we’ll work to make it the best family it can be for all.

You’ll see a lot of my own DNA in the new website, but I hope that changes over time. My daily prayer of loving, learning and serving is being recast there as a “hope” for folks who don’t pray, or a mantra for daily action and life. I still believe in prayer, of course, and it is a prayer for me. But those words may not function as a prayer for everyone. Even deeper is my belief in loving, learning and serving. These are themes that transcend and surpass me and my experience. They are hopes for who I can be and how we can share life together. They are gifts for the whole species, and so however I come to them or you come at them, they are good and needed.

I appreciate your friendships and encouragement. I will appreciate your help and direction in the coming months as the new website is established and grows. I have some guides for making content for the site, and if you’d like to write something, I’ll check it out and help get it posted on the site. General guides are: 1) your writing needs to be brief and concise, as in 500 words or less, 2) if your writing includes a graphic, we cannot break any copyright laws, so don’t just grab a picture off the web; make one yourself or ask me and I’ll help make some orignial artwork, and 3) you should love the people you hope will read your words and write for their benefit. And past those guides, I ask that:  1) the website not become a place to share judgements, 2) that the website is not a place for competition between ideas, religions, traditions or philosophies, 3) that the website is a place to listen, and 4) that this website is a place to ask good questions.

If you’re interested in the way I am processing and thinking about these things, and especially if you’re thinking I’m moving away from spirituality and my religious faith, then I offer a past blog post about recognizing how some things are greater than and transcendent of our frameworks and words. For me, everything I do is religious. Everything I do is an act of faith and an act in faith. In the end, I’m going to be very vulnerable to an accusation of becoming a humanist in the contemporary anti-theistic application of the word. That’s ok, even though it’s not true. I like an older more classical understanding of the term which indicates a general love of humanity and belief in humanity’s potential and goodness. That’s where I am, as a human and as a human who is a Christian.

AMDG, Todd

trying to find some words #NaPoWriMo 04/15/2014

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hate be gone
hate be done
for we renounce you
we deny you

and the death
in which you revel
will never be

you have no hope
you birth
no future

we will
withstand you
we will
outlast you

when you are
a sick memory
a stain
upon our past

we will sing
a new song
your prison

because walls
of hate
will not stand
for long

and the peace
for which
we pray
will come

upon the strands
of the love
we share


dark hatred
will be scattered
weak and undone
before love’s flame


I always begin things like #NaPoWriMo with high expectations and lots of energy – but it’s never long before I run out of words. So I start to strain to make some poems and my frustration mounts. Usually I end up a bit indignant that I would so arbitrarily be asked to make a poem a day. But that’s just silliness. I volunteered to be part of the exercise, I just didn’t think I’d have so many days of dryness when no words come to me when called.

And then the news comes on, and I see things like the hateful shootings, the murder of our Jewish neighbors in Kansas, a hateful crime I suppose was meant to stain their holiday. I want to scream. I want to deny that this still happens. I want to deny that anyone can be so broken as to choose such hate and it’s bile, it’s loss, it’s theft, it’s shame.

Words came back to me, today, after a week or so of not answering my call. Today, I protest the hate. I deny the killing stupidity and waste. I renounce any and all of the ignorant paranoia and fear. I call out to the humanity that is buried under the weight of such darkness.

I pray for the families affected by that hateful touch. I mourn with them, though not as them. They have been broken apart and touched so forcefully by the killing hatred. May their peace be restored and love wrap them in the divine embrace.

AMDG, Todd



Facebook Etiquette: An Exercise for Us All

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facebook shotEveryone should write a blog on Facebook etiquette. It just makes sense that if we are going to use a social media tool as much as we do we should be thinking about how we use it. So right away, I want to say: I’m not writing this piece as only a corrective to some naughtiness I’ve noticed in others, but also as an exercise for myself.

I’m not writing out of any pet peeves about vague posts, TMI posting or vague posting, but just a simple frustration that so many people ignore basic concepts of civility and courtesy on Facebook. The nature of social media gives us a creative and powerful platform for misbehaving.

I’ll try to distill my thoughts into a few simple ideas, “best practices” as it were. These are ideas to which I personally aspire, even if I don’t always manage to hit the target. And though they would save me loads of frustration if more people followed them (and i did a better job myself), they would also help make some generally smart people look a lot wiser than they seem when posting. So here we go…

1. You’re Never Too Old to Do Some Homework

Since the dawn of the internet it has been a home to sometimes entertaining and often frustrating urban myths, fictional anecdotes and intentional misinformation. We are human, and so we are frail and prone to screwups. We all have our blind spots and we all have our prejudices, even if we are working hard to overcome those prejudices. Too often the false stories and alarmist anecdotes that circulate Facebook and other forms of social media strike at the heart of our seen and unseen prejudices, and finding fertile soil they take root and grow into annoying shares and posts.

So when something comes along that looks like a perfect stone on which to grind your political, religious or social axe, do some homework first. Check a story out before you post it or share it. Check the sources. Check the source on Facebook, and see if you can check other sources online or offline… did someone really say what is being said they said? When someone shares a quote from our President (Republican or Democrat) in which they admit to practicing Satanism to win elections and brainwash school children into becoming Duran Duran fans, ask yourself how silly you’ll look for posting it if they didn’t actually say it. If the photo or story was originally shared on Facebook by “I’m a Communist Donut on Steroids” or “Screw All People Who Don’t Think Like Me” you might want to rethink sharing the gem. I made those names up just now, but they probably exist and will troll me next week. Oh well.

Even if it’s a heart-warming story or feel-good anecdote about human goodness, check it out before posting. I have a theory that all the fake feel-good stories that circulate and make the rounds, just to be later debunked, are just adding more cynicism to the world. Then there’s the “God did this…” stories about atheist professors and beakers or chalk and the triumphant young Christian student… all not true. Falsehood and misinformation, even if intended to inspire, will only inoculate us to sincere and meaningful engagement with the true stories of human goodness and inspiration that come our way. A great resource for this homework is Snopes.com! We also have be to careful of parody news sites. Most of know by now that The Onion is all in jest, but I’ve recently seen people expressing genuine angst over stuff from Larknews.

2. Be Happy in 3rd Place

This really goes along with the first thought… we need to slow down and stop trying to be the first to post everything. This speed and haste is just making us sloppy and discouraging us from taking the time to do the meaningful homework. Besides, some jerky friend with more followers than you will just share your story or post it without giving you credit anyway, and they’ll look like the trendsetter. =) But the peer pressure to be first and fast is real as more and more internet sites prod us to be the “first of your friends” to like, share or recommend something. And who doesn’t like to be the first among their friends to get some laughs with the latest angry cat pic?

But really, let’s slow down. One of my favorite sayings from East Africa is “Haraka haraka, haina baraka.” It translates as “Hurry hurry, no blessing” and means, “Slow down, dude… hurrying only makes trouble for you.” We need to stop and think about what we’re posting and why. Is it a post I want to live with a year from now? Is it a true post, accurate and authentic as it’s represented? This is an important question when it comes to “re-sharing” many things that roll across our Facebook feeds. It might take time to find the answers.

If you take some time, reflect on something and refine the ideas you really want to communicate, you just might find that “third place” is actually a big win. When big news hits or controversial ideas start rolling around, and people immediately begin glutting our social avenues with partial, misinformed or inflammatory responses, you might find that a day later you have an eager audience for well-thought and well-worded reflections of your own.

3. It’s Called a “Meme”, Not a “Mean”

Yeah, I was trying to make a pun with that one, but I hope you’ll keep reading anyway. And I’m pretty serious… the mean memes that just want hurt people, ridicule others and divide us into us/them pockets of angst-ridden combativeness really suck eggs IMHO. Many of the mean memes I see are pics that started funny, but someone altered or redirected them to grind a political, social or religious axe. Yuck.

Does anyone honestly believe that a mean-spirited political meme is going to score some actual influence or alter another person’s view? It’s a meme, dude. My advice is that we keep the memes light and humorous. Let’s not try to get real deep, hoping to explain global economic perspectives with a one-frame visual and less letters than a 140 character Tweet. I’m raising my hand as one guilty of tying. A good rule of thumb might be that if my meme is going to attack or mock someone, it should attack and mock me. I mean, there’s just not enough self-deprecating humor in the world, but it’s usually the funnest if not funniest because of it’s obvious rooting in the truth.

This is a matter of civility. A mean meme attacks, but doesn’t offer any chance for a rebuttal, defense or dialogue. Because of this one-sided nature a meme is typically going to be grossly unfair in it’s attack. I’ve been told that I’m maybe just a bit too “thin skinned” when I talk about this stuff and I need to “man up” and “thicken my skin.” Thanks, but I really don’t want to. Why would I thicken my skin and pitch in with one-sided attitudes of attack and point-scoring when dialogue and civil exchanges accomplish so much more? Let’s just chose our memes wisely and with a bit more whimsy. I promise that this will be my goal.

And this is no just about moving away from meanness in memes, but I would say all meanness in our postings. A noticed a friend of mine recently on Facebook had to say something like, “If you keep using comments to my posts to attack [a particular religion] with nasty statements and meanness, I’m going to delete your statements and unfriend you.” It is so heart warming that we have to police our religious conversations with such justified threats, isn’t it? No, it’s pretty sad. Meanness sucks. Meanness doesn’t score points or win big in any arena of competing ideas and ideologies… maybe one day we’ll have a “Facebook Penalty Box” where we can send our naughty friends for a few days of timeout, so we don’t have to unfriend them.

4. Use Your Powers for Good

Social media has given us all a voice. Like never before each person can broadcast their best or worst, even if our respective audiences differ. We can blog, vlog, update our status in a hundred forums, tweet, post, like and share! Indeed, my friends… we have super powers. We have new strengths of reaching out with our thoughts, opinions, beliefs and reflections. So let us remember the great medical axiom, primum non nocere“First do no harm.”

We should use our powers for good. We must seek the good, own the good and advance the good. This is the higher calling of social media, beyond the drive to be first, be humorous and even be heard. Trolls know the lessons well. I can be crass, mean and vulgar, and draw a great crowd for my antics. I can be funny, at the expense of others, and be heralded and be made a superstar. Or I can add to the world what is needed most, a voice of peace, hope and good, even when trying to be funny, honesty and true.

Beyond what might be considered “basic etiquette” lies the green fields and golden hall of Social Media Valhalla, the expanse of glory that is being a voice which builds up, carries forward and makes goodness in a world in which no end of ill words and images can be found. Even super powers require effort. It’s no wonder that meanness and crassness come easier to social media than goodness and constructive effort. Choosing the brighter road requires strength and determination. 

Trolls don’t change the world. Heroes daily raise the world from the morass of darkness. Embrace the calling in your social posting and feel the difference. Be honest, be questioning, be true to yourself and be open to others. Be a woman or a man of convictions and hopes. Let your posts show this difference. Those posts may not garner as many shares or as many likes, as when posts play to the base prejudices and fears of others, but they are more powerful for it, and the brighter posts mean more to the few than do the darker to the many.

election day limerick (nov. 6 2012… tongue in cheek)

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My little election day limerick…

“election day is finally here
time for you to vote!
your side will surely win it all
or at least you hope

but either way you did your part
you braved the crowds, you stood in line
to guarantee for four more years
your right to cheer or right to whine

by midnight you’ll be a dancing fool
or letting loose that thousandth tear
so just be safe, and pack a bag
I hear Canada’s nice this time of year”

new notebook (a poem for november 3, 2012)

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Just some quick backstory… my dog ate my notebook. Yes, he ate the notebook in which I write my poems! But undaunted, I strode manfully to the mall and bought a new notebook. That notebook is the subject of a little poem I write tonight.

smell of the paper
feel of the grain
this notebook needs to be lettered
like the ground needs the rain

it holds my pen
steals my breath
i must dig into this paper
plumb it’s width, breadth and depth

something will be found
treasures yet unknown
despite all other gain
i shall have arrived home