Monday, February 28, 2011

Pastor Nance

I, personally, have two pastors in my life. I have the pastor I had when I was a kid, who I still think of as my pastor. And I have my pastor/friend/mentor, appropriately named Paul, who has been helping me for years to find my way and be faithful in what I do. I love them both.

Unfortunately, we found out last night that the pastor of my youth, Willard Nance, has passed away. I have to admit it’s got me feeling pretty down. It’s sad to see him go, but he was very ill, very old, and it’s good to know his suffering is over. He had a stroke a few years ago, and he was incapacitated by it. I went to visit him a few times and he became frustrated and agitated because he couldn’t communicate clearly and we couldn’t understand him. It was miserable and it made me feel bad for him, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

I could write a book with memories of this pastor. We went to church a lot in those days. Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. Plus, eventually, youth group things with our youth leader, a guy named Gary. It was a big part of my childhood and teen years. I remember standing in the baptismal pool and being dunked by Pastor Nance. I remember going to a Holloween party in the church basement, and finding a creepy person in a mask that all the kids were standing around, trying to figure out who it was. It was driving us crazy, and it ended up being the last person we would have guessed. It was our pastor.

A pastor who wears creepy Holloween masks to spook the kids. Or, just a pastor who will wear a Holloween mask in the first place. That’s my role model. And he was a great role model. We KNEW he loved us.

And there was never any doubt about how Pastor Nance loved Jesus. He loved the Gospel. He knew what the word “grace” means because he believed so much grace had been poured out on him. I don’t know the details, but we heard glimpses of stories over the years about how he had struggled with substance abuse in his younger years. We knew that when he presented the Gospel, he was sharing something that was very personal for him. It mattered to him, so it mattered to us.

He never had a mega-church. He wasn’t asked to speak at conferences. He didn’t do a lot of big, impressive things in the eyes of the world. He was a working class, working man’s pastor, and I loved him for it. He was a great man, but not for the usual reasons people might bring up. He was a great man because he had a great love for Christ and he acted on that love. He served faithfully for years until he literally couldn’t stand anymore.

He is one of my heroes, and he will be greatly missed.

Peace to the family and friends of Willard Nance.

© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pay Attention

 I’ve been paying attention lately to how hard it is for me to pay attention because it’s come to my attention that I’m not very good at this. And, by “this” I mean really focused attention that catches details and remembers them

Bear with me: I was recently watching Star Wars Return of the Jedi, and there is this moment where Chewbacca, the big dog like guy, is swinging on a vine with a little Ewok creature and, while they are swinging, Chewbacca (or the Ewok) makes the old Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan YELL. If you don’t know what that is it’s okay because that’s not the point. The point is, I’ve seen this movie more times than is reasonable in any number of universes, but this was the first time I noticed this Tarzan thing. I mean, it’s meant as a cute joke, it’s really obvious, and it stands out like a sore thumb. I have seen it countless times and I NEVER noticed it before.

It seriously, seriously makes me wonder what else I’m missing. This “event” has me thinking about this attention thing. I can be looking right at something and not really see it. I can be listening to something and not really hear it. And I think the problem is that I’m not PAYING enough attention.

When I talk to people or read books or watch movies, I often don’t get the details. I have this automatic thing going on where my mind is filtering, getting the gist of what’s communicated, and summing it up into main ideas. In the process, details are lost. I don’t do this because I don’t want to listen. I don’t do it to be mean or disrespectful. I do it automatically. I can’t remember not doing this. I sort of gather the big idea and the details float off into the ether. I think it’s why I can’t remember names and why I have to go back and get details when I need them.

Can you say, “ADD?” I knew you could.

I don’t really know that I have ADD. Or that I don’t. But it has me thinking. I’m ruminating on this in a distracted sort of way. I’m thinking that true, detailed attention costs us something. That’s why it’s called “paying” attention. It costs us time and energy and focus. To truly “pay” attention to one thing, I have to not be paying attention to something else – that’s part of the cost – and this is definitely not an easy thing for me. It’s not natural. I can’t even sleep some nights because my mind is going, going, going. When I ask someone what they’re thinking and they say, “nothing,” I hardly believe them because that has never been true for me. I’ve never personally experienced it. Unless I’m sleeping. And, even then, I dream.

So I’m practicing. I’m trying to tap into the “feeling” of detailed payment of attention. I’m trying to keep my mind from wandering while I do things. Trying to keep myself from thinking about something else. Focus. Like a laser. I am a cat. I am attention personified...

So far it’s not working, but if they find me unconscious, on the floor, with a little pool of drool under my head, you’ll know what happened.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


When I was in university, I took some philosophy classes and I enjoyed it. A lot. Everything just clicked. And one of my philosophy profs noticed my, shall we say, “acumen,” in this area, so he took me aside and suggested I become a philosophy major. He said I was a “natural.”

Well, after the swelling in my head went down, I kept trying to picture myself as a philosopher.

“So, Dave, what do you do for a living?”

“Who me? Well, I’m a philosopher.”

“No, seriously, what do you do for a living?”

“I am being serious. I’m a philosopher!”

“No really, I want to know what you do for a liv-ing.”

I just couldn’t picture it. The only thing I could envision was, perhaps, teaching philosophy, which didn’t seem very exciting. But, later, I realized that the issue was more that I was afraid to commit to doing anything that seemed too, well, I suppose “responsible” is the right word.  I was afraid to take my abilities seriously and put them to meaningful use. I was chicken.

And I see a lot of other people struggle with this same kind of thing. We doubt ourselves. We wonder if we’re strong enough or talented enough or smart enough, even when people affirm our strengths.

Moving forward isn’t so easy for some of us. To move forward, sometimes we have to let go of things we’ve been infatuated with for one reason or another. “I always wanted to be an astronaut but, for some strange reason, they just aren’t accepting 6 foot 7 English majors with no flight experience into the program!” And, ultimately, we have to be willing to try. As trite as it sounds, Yoda was wrong: if you want to do something, you need to try to do it. Maybe you aren’t smart enough or talented enough or responsible enough for some things, but you won’t know until you try. See what happens. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover that you aren’t cut out for some things. Big deal.

Then again. Maybe you’ll find out that there’s more to you than you thought.

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
Vincent van Gogh

1 Corinthians 14:12
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

Public Service Announcement

Sure, you’ve heard of the flu. You’ve heard of West Nile Virus. But I’m here to warn you of another, much more insidious epidemic that you may not be aware of. You should know that it can take hold of you at any time, for almost no reason, and be spread to countless other people without warning. And by now, I’m sure you’ve already guessed at what I’m talking about.


Yes. Laughter.

This stuff is dangerous, people. And unpredictable. Doctors have no idea why it happens to us, but they know it can be very contagious. You don’t even have to hear a joke. It can just . . . happen. Spontaneously. And if you aren’t careful, it could leave you short of breath and completely out of control.

I know, I know. You think I’m making this up. Obviously you haven’t heard of the Great Laughter Epidemic of 1962. Well, if you don’t believe me, just pause the music over there on the right and look at this:

You can see how serious this is. So next time you start laughing, just consider what you’re doing to others. Consider how you are spreading this horrid little phenomenon to the people you love. Ask yourself...

Is it worth it?

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Trust Issues

One year, when I was in Elementary School, there was a poster contest for a carnival in town. It was a thing the city was putting on, so they had the kids in each school make posters to promote it, and each school chose a winner for best poster. If you won, you would get free tickets to the carnival, yada yada yada. So I went home and drew up a poster. It was Donald Duck, telling the kids to go to the carnival because it was going to be so much fun. Yada yada yada. And it turned out pretty good. I won the contest.

So the posters go up on the wall of the school, in the big hallway near the office, and they did some little ceremony with me. I can’t quite remember the details, but the principal shook my hand and such. Which was all cool. But then this one lady, she was a teacher or a secretary or something, I honesty don’t remember why she was there, but she turned to me and asked me a question. She said: “The picture is really great, but why did you spell the words all wrong.”

I was a little dumbfounded because what I had done was obvious. Or, at least, it should have been. Donald Duck has his peculiar way of speaking. A kind of scratchy duckese. So I had spelled whatever it was I had him saying on the poster phonetically to reflect that. No one had questioned this, all the way to the victory circle. And that’s what I told the woman. “I just tried to spell it like it would sound if Donald Duck said it.” It was, let me say it again: obvious. But the woman seemed surprised. She said, “Oh.” Then she looked at the poster for a second and looked at me and said, “Well. I think it would have been better if you had spelled the words correctly.” She said the word “correctly” as if it was a word I would have a hard time understanding. I remember that the principal gave her a look, but he didn’t say anything. After all, she was a grown up like him. He just gave me a pat on the head and sent me back to class.

Now. I mention all this because, in a small way, it was a life changing moment. For the first time in my life I looked at an adult and thought to myself: This is a stupid person. I wasn’t thinking mean about it. I didn’t look down on her. I just realized that she didn’t get something that was simple. Something I understood, and I was just a kid.

Seriously. I thought about it all that day, and again and again over the years. Grown ups CAN be stupid. Grown ups CAN be wrong. Some grown ups MIGHT not know more than kids, let alone other grown ups.

Can you see how this could change one’s world view? Can you see how this one little incident could undermine a kids trust in the adult world?

I’d like to say that the adults of the world have regained my trust. You know, in general.

I’d really like to.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Small Things

Years ago, I worked at a factory making tubing for auto parts. Those weren’t the best of times.

It was a loud, depressing place, full of machines. Some were automatic, others you had to manually operate, bending different tubes into shapes that would somehow fit in the engine compartment of one car or another. It was hot, grueling work. The only real plus was the pay check, which wasn’t much of a plus.

But there were a few of us who became friends because we were stuck together on one of the machines. This machines was huge. And by huge I mean HUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE. It was practically as big as a small house. A team of operators would sit at different parts of the machine and do their piece, then send it along to the next part, assembly line fashion, until the part finally fell off the end into some big wooden box. Talk about being cogs in the machine. We were cogs.

But we were singing cogs.

Right about that time, the song “We Are the World,” came out. It was on the radio constantly, blaring through the factory. And this one group of us who were on the big machine, learned all the parts and began impersonating the different singers as we lip synched to the song. We did this and we laughed so hard. It was really funny. I mean, I suppose it was funnier because of where we were and all that, but it was funny. It was a relief in the day.

One of the guys was named John. He did the Joe Cocker bit. And it was a perfect fit. He really looked like Joe Cocker, but even funnier than Joe Cocker looks. It was hysterical.

And out of that little experience, we struck up a conversation. Then we started to hang out a little. Not a lot, but a little, here and there. And eventually I thought of him as a good friend. And we stayed friends over the years, long after I left the machine shop, mostly because of John. He would always call me to keep in touch, which. I wasn’t very good at. In my past, too many people had left and never looked back, so I kind of got used to the next thing being the next thing. I didn’t do a lot of looking back. I still don’t. It’s not easy for me. But John kept in touch, so we kept in touch. We’d talk now and then. We went out to eat a few times. We started going to a comic convention together every year. It was a blast seeing him.

We were friends up until his death a few years ago. He had a stroke. He was in his early forties and it was a great tragedy. But we had a good friendship. We shared life in common. He came to share my faith. And it taught me to appreciate the small things, the goofy little experiences that we share together in life. Laughing and singing and sharing things in common. These things are seeds for friendships and connections that can be meaningful and lasting.

Today, I thought of him, and I was missing my friend.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grow Up Already

Over the years I’ve become a much more serious person. I suppose it needed to happen, but I kind of miss the old me who would do and say really dumb things and laugh at whatever and not take everything so seriously. But growing up happens. And it should.

I found growing up a challenging thing from an emotional standpoint. I simply didn’t want to do it. Partly because it scared me, and partly because our culture encourages us to not grow up. It’s apparently something we’re supposed to avoid.

The commercials said, “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid.”

Walt Disney said, “Too many people grow up. That's the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.”

The Ramones sang, “I don’t want to grow up.”

Simple Plan sang it at the top of their lungs, "I don't want to be told to grow up."

And there’s plenty more where that came from. It’s a theme of living in the western world that growing up is about loss. Losing innocence. Losing freedom. Losing imagination and wonder.

But I think, in reality, what people are afraid of is losing our selfishness. After all, childhood is a massive exercise in selfishness. And we accept it from children, to a point, because they’re trying to figure out who they are and what their life should be about. But when this selfish, self focus, drags on year after year, decade after decade, keeping a person from growing and maturing, it gets plain ugly to see.

Growing up doesn’t mean giving up comic books or giving up dreaming about the future or losing your sense of wonder. At least it shouldn’t be about things like that. Growing up means realizing that the world doesn’t revolve around you, and being at peace with that reality. It means living for others sometimes instead of living every moment for yourself. It means learning to live out grace with contentment. It means learning to cope with the harshness of life without letting it eat you alive.

I love children. I adore my own kids. They are wonderful. There is much to be said for childhood. I miss my childhood in some ways. But here’s the truth: Apart from a very few child savants, children have not produced great art or films or accomplished great scientific discoveries. Children have not created medicines and vaccinations. Children have not built great cities or uncovered profound spiritual truths. They just don’t have it in them yet.

We should be like children. We can be child-like. But we should not be children forever. It’s okay to grow up. It’s healthy. And it should be expected.

1 Corinthians 13:11
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011


For the life of me, I can’t figure out people. People are chaos theory personified. Which is hard for me because I’m a figure it out kind of person. I like seeing how things add up to something. But people don’t add up. I’m constantly surprised by what people do. Sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise, many times it’s not.

People are just too complicated. There are too many factors involved. Too many experiences that shape a heart. And it makes us all so unpredictable.

While I was typing this, one of my kids started another argument with another one of my kids. Which is extremely predicable. You just never know when it’s going to happen or why. It’s completely unpredictable.

I like to read a few blogs, and I can’t predict what people are going to post. I mean, you can read a blog and say to yourself, “that was the kind of thing I expect from that person.” But you never know just what someone might say. And don’t even try to figure out what people are going to do. I don’t even know what I’m going to do five minutes from now. I mean, I have some ideas. But you never know.

Some people are more consistent than others. In fact, it’s nice to be around people who are more consistent because they seem less dangerous. It’s like a guy who might be violent at any moment. His family lives in terror, not just of what he will do, but of what he might do, at any moment, because he’s unpredictable.

I’m not the dangerous type. Not really. But I honestly believe I have some challenges relationally because people can’t figure out what I’m going to say next. When it comes to words, I’m very unpredictable. I mean, I could be talking to you and then suddenly

© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Life, the Three Stooges and Everything

I wonder sometimes if God is watching from on high, a little bored or something, and we make for some good entertainment.

We watch the Three Stooges. God watches us.

I’ve heard people (mostly women, but my daughters as well) say things about the Stooges over the years, things like: Why are they doing that? They’re not making any sense. That was kind of random and pointless, don’t you think? Why do they keep hitting and hurting each other? You don’t really think that’s funny do you?

These criticisms are fair. But it’s funny anyway. And in many ways, the Three Stooges are a perfect metaphor for the human race.

They are we.

I’m not talking serious theology here. Not really. It’s more about trying to get into the heart of God, which seems kind of inscrutable to me at times. But I imagine God watches us, and he gets tired of crying about it all the time. Wouldn’t you? There’s a lot to cry about, you know? The human race is very good at stupid. So, just from a love standpoint, it must get emotionally draining, all the heart break and sorrow. Even if it doesn’t make God “tired,” he probably still wants a rest from it all. Kind of like he rested on the Sabbath.

So I imagine God, turning the sound down on the earth, putting on a pot of whatever spiritual thing passes for coffee, and watching the chaos while humming the tune of Three Blind Mice.

He stops weeping, for a little while, and he laughs.

Psalm 2:4
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Keep Your Eyes On The Navel

I recently discovered this word: “omphaloskepsis”

Isn’t that great? It sounds like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Webster’s Dictionary says it means “contemplation of one's navel as an aid to meditation.” It comes from the Greek language (doesn’t everything?). “Omphalos” is "navel.” Without the “om” (a meditative vowel all to itself, for those who are into such things), the word sounds suspiciously like something else we won’t get into here. And “Skepsis” means "examination." It’s probably related to the word “skeptical.” Who knows. But what gets me is that there’s a word for the act of contemplating one’s navel. How cool is that?

I suppose there must be a word for everything, or at least we have the power to create a word for pretty much anything. I just love this, how we find ways of saying things that no one would ever really say, but we could if we wanted to.

The thing is, what I’m most concerned about here is the important issue of individuals who are omphaloskepsistically impaired. Consider how it makes a person feel who wants to meditate, but they can’t actually see their navel due to a distended mid-section resulting from hyperphagia.

Hyperphagia is a word for the problem of eating too much. Do you, too, suffer from this tragic, crippling disorder? Oh, the humanity! Perhaps we should start a foundation or a telethon or something to deal with it. A support group at the very least.

Hi. My name is Dave. And I’m a hyperphagic.

Frankly, I’m just happy that I don’t suffer from autocoprophagy. I would tell you what that is, but it might make you disgorge whatever your hyperphagia led you to recently consume.

I’ll just leave it to you to use what I’ve offered here as a starter for spending some quality time omphaloskepsising.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011


I have to admit it. Sometimes I’m fickle.

What a rotten word. It’s almost like a curse word, isn't it? Fickle. Sounds like something stuck to the bottom of your shoe that you can’t get off. Sounds like a sharp object sticking out of the carpet, waiting for the bottom of your foot.

But there’s no getting around it. There are a few things I stick with for the long haul, my wife and kids not being the least of them. Music is not a problem. Or reading. Or studying the Bible. But with a lot of other things I’m into it for a while, I’m full of curiosity and wonder, and then it starts to trail off into an occasional ho hum whatever.

Exhibit A: For a while I was into photography. I got an okay camera. I read books on it. I read articles. I started paying attention to photos, really thinking about what I liked or didn’t like about them. How they were composed. Here are a few images I shot:

I really enjoyed it, trying to get different kinds of shots. Especially with my cheap camera. It was a challenge. But now I have a hard time remembering to take my camera with me to anything. And I don’t really know why. Whatever the reasons, I lost interest.

And this isn’t the first time this has happened. I have picked up and sat back down: Baseball. Piano. Fishing. Roasting my own coffee beans. Drawing with colored pencils. Writing poetry. Basketball. Exploring my family history.

The list goes on and on.

It honestly, if irrationally, makes me feel at times like the bourgeois pig that inspired the misguided Karl Marx to write the Communist Manifesto. When I think about it over time, the ins and outs of one fascination giving way to another, it makes me feel like a petulant child who can’t make up his mind what toy to play with, the kid who is bored all the time and needs to be entertained.

Then again, maybe it’s just the way life goes when you have an inquisitive mind.


Psalm 63:3-5
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Doll's Eyes

When I was a kid, my sister had one of those dolls with the eyes that moved around in it’s head on some kind of spring or something. Have you ever seen one of those? The idea is to make them seem "real," but they’re kind of creepy. You turn the head, but the eyes keep looking at you. It makes me think of that Telly Savalas Twilight Zone episode...

“My name is Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill youuuuuuu.”

This “Doll’s Eyes” thing is what they use in hospitals sometimes to see how a person’s brain is doing. If your head is moved, your eyes should move in the opposite direction like these kinds of doll’s eyes. If the eyes move with the head, well, that’s not good. The eyes should naturally move in the opposite direction. If your brain is in good shape, when you’re looking at something and you move your head around, your eyes stay focused on the thing you’re looking at. Go ahead, try it. Look at your computer screen and move your head around a bit. Your eyes, amazingly, stay in place on the computer. (If your eyes couldn’t stay on the computer while you moved your head around, please see a medical professional RIGHT NOW!)

Anyway. To my point. I was just thinking about how amazing this is. The technical term for it is “Vestibulo-ocular Reflex.” Without it, we’d have a hard time reading a newspaper or a blog or pretty much anything else. Driving would be down-right dangerous. And you can test this too. I’ve done it. Just consciously hold your eyes in place while you move your head around. Things get blurry really fast. To focus you have to hold your head still. It's actually hard to NOT vestibulo-ocularize reflexively.

Imagine if your eyes had to move with your head. Imagine you didn’t have a vestibulo-ocular reflex. Now that would be a tough way to live. Imagine how stiff your neck would be all the time.

It’s a truly amazing thing that our eyes can stay focused on something while our heads move around. I mean, just think of the complexity of it. The way I understand it, your ears tell your eyes what to do in this situation, and a vast number of muscles and nerves all respond practically instantaneously to compensate for the movement of the head. It’s not that our eyes are weighted and are relying on gravity to stay in one place. No, it’s just muscles and nerves reacting in split second timing to the movement of our heads. It is a supremely amazing thing that I totally took for granted. And maybe you did too.

Until, hopefully, right now.

Psalm 139:14
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Getting There

I recently saw this picture of a family driving together on a motor cycle:

The baby in a bucket is obviously fake, but it gave me a flash back:

When I was a kid, we went on a few vacations. Nothing fancy, but they were still vacations. We went south to visit my dad’s family, and sometimes we would hit some other places on the way there or back. The Smokies or King’s Island, that kind of thing. We usually had enough money to get in the door and drink out of whatever water fountains we could find. Dad would do everything in his power to direct us away from gift shops and food stands.

By the time I was six or seven, my oldest sister had passed away and my oldest brother was on his own. Which still left four kids at home. Four little kids who had to fit in a car with two parents and a lot of luggage. We didn’t have a station wagon or a mini van. Did they even make mini vans back then? What we had was as big a car as my dad could find and afford. Dad packed the trunk as tight as he could and we headed out.

Seat belts? They were safely tucked up into the long bench seat, out of our way. People didn’t wear them back then. I didn’t wear a seat belt until I was in my twenties. And air conditioning? That was for rich people. My parents didn’t even get air in their house until long after I moved out.

I distinctly remember one trip, driving at night to avoid traffic. We all slept while dad drove. My younger brother was in the front between mom and dad, and I was on the floor of the back seat, with my older brother and my sister sharing the seat. I was slumped over the hump on the floor that covered the drive shaft, hearing and feeling the wheels on the road, humming beneath me. Somehow it was soothing.

It was good when we were asleep, because when we were awake, someone was usually fighting. It was mostly my older brother and younger sister, but we all got into the action. It’s what happens when you pack people into a car like sardines.

Now I have my own family. We have a mini van which, no matter what anyone tells you, is the greatest vehicle ever created by mankind. We only have three kids, but we’re still packed like sardines when we go on a trip. The kids manage to fill every square inch of the van. And they manage to fight about pretty much everything. But we have a great time, just like back in the day.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

But we do make them wear those newfangled seat belt thingamajimminies.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ode De Café

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height of
My cup and cream, when drinking dark, not light,
For the best of beans and ideal Sumatran.
I love thee for the gift of everyday's
Morning brew, aroma and roast.
I love thee freely, as men strive to wake up;
I love thee purely, as they face the day.
I love thee with a passion for single source
For my waking needs, not lame house of Maxwell or other cans.
I love thee with a love that needs not approval
of sinners or saints, I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! And, if God choose,
I shall but love thee forever after death.

With apologies to EBB

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011