Life Isn’t Fair!


I’d reached the sagely age of five and was going to school! Which was neato. But what was even neato-er was that I would finally get to cross the street by myself! I still remember the delicious terror of crossing for the first time. I’d been warned that if I attempted to cross a street alone, cars—hundreds of them—would swoop down and kill me over and over again. And yet, here I was crossing the street, and not being killed even once. Then I had an epiphany:

Cars only kill you if you cross the street without permission!

boy-tooth-fairy-119325That was when I realized there was a Law of Fairness that governs all of life. No one told me that. I just knew it. If we followed the rules, everything would turn out just as it should: If we ate our green beans, ice cream would show up on the dinner table. If we put our teeth under our pillow, money would appear! Heck, it would even be brought by a fair-y!

One thing I was nearly as proud of as crossing the street was my new artist’s smock! Mom had learned at Open House that we would be doing Art in kindergarten, and would need smocks. So she did what any mother of an Only-Child-Who-Happens-to-be-a-Genius would do. She bought the Simplicity pattern for an “Authentic Parisian Artist’s Smock,” and spent two weeks stitching it to perfection. She finished it off with a gorgeous monogram just like the ones the penniless impressionists in Paris wore during the early 20th Century.

The first day of Kindergarten went excruciatingly slowly. I blew bubbles in my milk, tapped my toes during nap time. But Art finally arrived! And then Miss Shirley spoke the fateful words, “Alright, children. Go to the closet and grab the first smock you see.”

By the time I got there, my smock had been snatched by a little cretin named Davey, who probably wouldn’t know an artist’s smock from a dress shirt. Which was, in fact, what all of the other smocks in the closet were—kid’s dad’s dress shirts. Mine was the only Authentic Parisian Artist’s Smock. I went straight to Miss Shirley, and pointed out her hideous error in judgment.

Her response dripped with unfairness: “We all need to learn to share, Mitchell.”


Mom called the teacher and begged her to reconsider: “I made that smock just for him. It has his initials on it.”

“Monogram, Mother,” I corrected.

No exception was made. And I was irrevocably scarred, becoming at last the shattered shell of a man you see before you today.

OK, so I got over it.

Only a short time had passed since I’d discovered the Law of Fairness, and already I’d learned it could be broken! However…

I’ve since discovered a larger principal: If we focus not on being treated fairly, but on treating others fairly, we end up with something even better:


Posted in Humor, Quips and Quotes, For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Take All of Me


“If (we) hope to produce work that will bear good fruit, we must draw our life from the true source – our living Savior. He is real. He is present. But all too often we reduce him to an abstraction, giving him intellectual assent, but not our hearts.” ~Michael O’Brien

Karl Barth, one of the great philosopher-theologians of the 20th Century, was asked after a lecture at the University of Chicago in 1962 if he could sum up his life’s work in a single sentence. “Yes,” he replied: “‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’”

Take all of me, Lord.

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Home is Where the Odd Is

“Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.” ~Charles M. Schulz

dude-80s-boomboxes-were-big-great-for-hard-rock-tooMan, those 80’s boomboxes were big! This real house in Fafe, Portugal has a built in sound system that exclusively plays…wait for it…hard rock (rim shot).

084-na.jpg“People who live in glass houses…” The completely transparent Fujimoto House Na is in Tokyo, Japan (as opposed to, say, Tokyo, France).

house-4-just-room-enough-island-is-one-of-the-famous-thousand-islands-that-straddle-the-us-canada-border-in-the-saint-lawrence-river-there-are-a-few-lawn-chairs-out-front-on-the-familys-tiny-beachJust Enough Island on the St. Lawrence River in Canada.  “Visit us sometime, eh?  Nah, just kidding.  Now, go away, eh.”

house-worlds-skinniest-in-keret-polandThe world’s skinniest abode, Keret House in Poland is just 36″ wide at its widest point. Adds new meaning to the term “sleepover.”

house-3-25-houses-were-built-illegally-on-top-of-a-local-shopping-mall-in-hengyang-hunan-province-today-they-serve-as-dorms-for-employees-from-the-mallIn response to rising property prices, this makeshift suburb was (illegally) built on the roof of a shopping mall in Hunan, China.

house-mushroom-house-cincinnatiThe Mushroom House in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I live (um, in Cincinnati, not in the house). It’s for sale, so share a doobie and make an offer, man. And stay mellow.

house-south-koreas-mr-toilet-sim-jae-duck-famous-for-beautifying-public-toiletsHome of South Korea’s “Mr. Toilet” Sim Jae-duck (a politician known for beautifying public utilities). Cleaning is a breeze. Just flush.

house-2-the-paro-taktsang-monastery-is-tucked-away-on-a-rock-face-in-bhutans-paro-valley-the-complex-has-been-around-since-the-17th-century-monks-who-practice-the-local-form-of-buddhismHome of the Paro Taktsang monks of Bhutan since the 17th century (they would have left long ago, actually, but can’t figure out how to get down).

house-church-2A home for God?  This “deconstructed church” was designed by California architect Michael Jantzen, but God said, “Thanks, I’m gonna pass on this one.”

house-summer-hot-meanwhile-inside-my-head-castle-neuschwansteinWe’ll be home for the holidays, so drop by, won’t ya? And bring the kids–we’ll make room. It’s cramped, but we love it.

“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr

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Doubt and Faith: Christmas Edition

untitled.pngPainting by Gari Melchers (1860 – 1932)

I struggled with my faith recently. I do that. Cyclically. Some proxigean tide will send a wave of doubt crashing over me, producing the impression of drowning. I’ll flail and gasp, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. Because my faith, or more accurately my response to my Creator’s love, is not just important to me–it’s everything. Then some quiet miracle of timing will remind me that this crisis, like all of the others, was caused by a darkened moon, not the calm light of reality.

The new moon that set me off this time was a romanticized nativity scene: a manly Joseph and ravishing Mary adoring a clean-as-a-whistle baby Jesus in a cozy designer creche, surrounded by adorable, scent-free animals and supermodel angels with chimerical wings. “That’s a myth!” I blurted, and suddenly began to panic: “What if everything I live for, the very purpose of my life, is a myth!”

Then I realized that of course the pretty Christmas scene was a myth (all pretty religious scenes are myths). But something transcendent really did happen. Something that probably looked more like this: Barely understanding the gritty real-time miracle playing out around them, a working class couple named Yosef and Maryam made their way to a temporary hovel in a tiny, disheveled village. Running on rough-hewn faith, they settled in as the frightened teenage Maryam, writhing in pain, gave birth to a real human baby. Not a preternaturally glowing cherub, but a skinny, screaming newborn.

And yet a miracle had occurred, nevertheless.

That insignificant baby grew up to be the most significant person in history, transforming the lives of billions. I know because I’m one of them. His words and actions have changed me as no other person—certainly no invented character or deluded Galilean demagogue—ever could. I’ve lived two lives: the temporal one that began like his as a bawling baby and ended when the second began, in response to his immutable love.

Sometimes I take disbelief for a walk. It’s the loneliest walk there is. It’s like visiting places I used to stroll with my wife, and now traversing them alone. Every step reminds me of lost love. At that point I’m reminded that if divorcing my wife would scar me, divorcing my Creator would shatter me.

He didn’t just fill my heart, he created it. Every part of me is his. And so, like the real, unglamorous Joseph and Mary, I push past my moments of doubt and uncertainty,

And embrace the miracle.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 40 Comments

The Holes in Our Reality

Holes in the Sky

The familial warmth and sentiment of Christmas can, ironically, obscure the real reason Christ came: to reveal the holes in our reality. Our world isn’t a natural one, he showed, but an unnatural one, a broken shadow place hidden from the noonday of God’s presence just outside. Jesus came to tear away the veil that separates us from that presence, and let the Light of the world shine through (John 1:5).

    “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.”  ~C. S. Lewis

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Santa Should Be On The Naughty List

My Featured Blogger this week is a permanent resident of Santa’s naught list, the splendidly snarky D. Parker of Darcy peppers her witticisms with colorful fonts and gifs galore (not “gifts”–that’s jolly old You-Know-Who’s department), so if the other blogs you follow are restful and easy on your eyes, bring them here to wake them up again!

Warning: Expect to chuckle, lol, and occasionally even snort cocoa (or other holiday beverage of choice) out of your nose (or other dual-chambered proboscis of choice).


I don’t want a lot for Christmas. There’s just one thing I need. Don’t care about the presents, shopping, or a Christmas tree – could we unblur the lines between good and bad? Make my wish come true, all I want for Christmas is less celebration of Black Hats (or Red Hats with Fur Trim), more celebration of White Hats (and cookies, definitely cookies). cheer for serial killers, drug lords, mobsters; glamorize celebrities and corporate fat cats – I hear they can even become President.’re allegedly repulsed by the violence, greed, self-absorption yet…we’re mesmerized.

  • Look at Santa. Or should I say: Santa Claus, Pere Noel, Father Christmas, SinterKlaas, St. Nicholas, Dun Che Lao Ren, Kris Kringle?Secret Santa indeed…he needs many aliases, with all the break and enters; sure, he leaves gifts but also a lingering sense of unease.

  • Some poor child still sings…

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The Ugly Time


I used to consider

late autumn

with its leafless trees

and sullen skies

the ugly time

But then I grew up

and came to understand

its barren beauty

how it saw the loss and longing in me

and sent its moons

to make tunnels through the clouds

and its shivering breezes

to whisper, Yes, we know

but Christmas is coming


Read the companion piece: Ever Green

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