Of faith and tattoos

These days, I wear my faith like a new tattoo. It came about through searing pain and lots of cursing. It's there and plainly visible, but by just looking at it you might not understand the full story. And it is a story - one that I'd be happy to share over a cup of coffee.

But it wasn't always like that. At one point, I believed that my faith was to be displayed by carrying around a bible like an athlete wearing a letterman jacket. I once believed that my faith was to be used like a megaphone in a public library. And for a short while, I was foolish enough to believe that my beliefs made me better than everyone else.

I will never pretend like faith is easy. If it was, churches would be filled to standing room capacity every Sunday. Saying that I've believed in God my whole life would not be telling the entirety of my tale. That would be like reading the first page in a Stephen King novel then assuming the every character survives until the end. I am not one of those "I grew up in the church and nothing bad has ever happened to me" kinds of Christians.

The pages of my book are filled with doubt and struggles. Mistakes and missed opportunities. Broken heart and wounded spirit. Yet, ultimately, it's about second chances - of which I have been given many.

So my faith is like a tattoo. Art covering an imperfect canvas. Something beautiful from something painful.



Feeling sad or lonely? Watch this.

Runaway from Paper Planes on Vimeo.


What's different?

Due to my audacious risk, there are some things that must change. If I'm going to get healthy, I will need to do things differently than the way I usually operate.

So, what's different?

Keep in mind, that I've set this ridiculous goal to not only improve my physical health by losing weight. My true end is a holistic perspective - to heal emotionally along with the physical aspect.

I've long had the opinion that everyone has five different aspects to their lives that are all interconnected and a lack in one will affect the others. If you're sick, you don't typically want to go hang out with friends. If you're struggling with self esteem, the will to exercise or eat healthy foods is weakened. Everything is connected.

So, what's different?

Here are those five areas with notes of what I'm doing different. This is my track to getting back to the person that I once was.

Physical: Exercise has become a priority. I'm spending more time outside, taking regular walks with increasing pace (might actually start running one of these days). No more elevator at work. I'm also doing yoga with the kids.

Social: Geekery. Some friends of mine host a bi-weekly (ish) event at their place for the nerds like us to gather and celebrate the fact that we're all geeks.

Spiritual: I've mentioned before how I've struggled fitting in - especially in a church setting. That's changing. I've returned to the church that I attended a few years ago - where I used to volunteer as a youth leader and was able to connect on some level with most of the church leadership. The kids and I go on Friday nights - which is also the night that the church serves ice cream sundaes after the service. In the few weeks since I've made that switch, I'm all ready feeling more connected and engaged.

Mental: I'm forcing myself to write more. Even if it's utter crap that no one will ever see, I'm putting words onto paper. My plans. My dreams. My fears. Random thoughts. It's making my mind work a little overtime so that it's able to handle all of the other stuff that comes up during the course of the day.

Emotional: This is all about rest. Finding moments during the day to take a breather - to mentally check out long enough to stay focused on what needs to get done. And since I'm going to church on Friday nights, I'm finally able to treat Sundays like a Sabbath. Sunday is my day of rest, the day that I do nothing. No church, no chores, no work. Just rest.

Disclaimer: I'm not claiming perfection in any area of my health. Reality shows I stil have a long way to go. This is just my start. Baby steps.


That pesky little headache

You know that feeling you get after your nose has been stuffed up for a couple of days and one nostril finally clears enough to suck in a sliver of air with each breath that feels colder than what you're used to and it gives you a sensation that's like an ice cream headache but worse?


That's me. All day today. 


From the soundtrack of my life


Really, I am. It's true. Lyrics available HERE.


Who I was. Who I am. Who I will be.

Earlier this week, I shared a bit more than I would normally admit. I've set some goals that are ridiculously absurd. Audacious. I'm investing my time to recapture the man that I once was. And it scares the crap out of me.

My first goal is to get skinny again. The reasons should be obvious.

But that's just my physical health. I need to do so much more than just lose weight. I need to rediscover myself. The man I was before I became the man I am.

If I could do that...


A new risk

Round two of Jon Acuff's Start Experiment began today. Round one spawned Coeur Creative. That will continue to be a thing, but I needed to have a different risk for these next 24 days. 

When I submitted the survey to participate in the second trip through the Start Experiment, I listed my risk as getting my health under control. 

My original thought was to lose a few pounds - something that I've tried to do over the past handful of years with dubious degrees of success. But today has made me think different. 

The thought behind the Start Experiment and Jon's book Start is to move from Average to Awesome. I made some awesome mistakes in the first round, but that's something to learn and build from. 

With round 2, average would be staying in the same physical condition that I am today. Awesome would be losing weight. I didn't even think up a goal weight as I'd consider anything less than where I am today is an improvement. 

Then came Jon's challenge for today. We're no longer shooting for awesome, we're aiming for audacious.

What does it mean for my health to be audacious. The only thing I can think of is to drop down to the size I was was Bekah and I got married. I was a skinny punk back then. 

That's audacious. 

However, if I'm going to fix my health, it's going to be more than my weight. I've not been myself lately. It's been a while, really. That needs to change. 

Losing a bunch of weight is audacious. 
Getting back to happy is audacious. 
Rediscovering my identity is audacious. 
Letting my geek flag fly is audacious. 

These next few weeks, I'm starting to do more than pursue better physical health. It's about my emotional health. And my spiritual health. And my social health. 

That's audacious. 


My empty room

About five years ago, Jon Acuff put together an event at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. He was prepared for a large crowd. Two people showed up. He owned it. He used it as a learning experience. Then he wrote about it so that the thousands and thousands of people who visit his blog could see what it felt like to be alone in a room you expected to be fuller.

Flash forward to the present. Jon has now published a few best sellers and regularly speaks in front of large audiences. Following the release of his most recent book, 'Start,' he put together the Start Experiment that I blogged about last Saturday. My risk was to start an artist's support network, and the first step in that risk was to stage a meetup event. Risk comes with fear; my greatest fear is that I would do this thing and no one would show up.

That first event was last night. What I feared the most happened.

That is a picture of me. Alone. My son and I hung out at Java On Sherman waiting to see if anyone would walk through that door looking for the 30-something with a fauxhawk and the 8 year old kid that looked just like him. No one came.

On the plus side, I got some awesome quality time with my son. I taught him how to use the camera function on my phone. The snapshot above is one of the couple dozen that he took in a whirlwind of photographic exploration. I won't complain about the time spent in Java on Sherman. The chips and salsa that we ordered were delicious. Java also makes some wonderful fruit smoothies.

I also understand the power of an empty room. It's time to dust myself off and keep moving.



K was our high school drama teacher. He also taught American history, but my fondest memories of K are from the MPHS auditorium. Under K's guidance and supervision, I learned much about the world of theater - auditions, rehearsals, and performances; casting and set building; improvisational games, sword fighting, and breaking props. With K, fellow stage crew, and cast members, we endured an unexpected natural disaster. On stage, off stage, or back stage, K remains one of the few teachers who has had the most influence in my life.

K wasn't the only aspect of theater that impacted my life. It was the room – the vast open auditorium. The auditorium was big enough for many occasions: school assemblies, beauty pageants, battle of the bands styled concerts, and so much more. I'm not sure how many people it seated, but when it was empty...

It's easy to feel small when facing such a grand empty space.

K often made us face that void; at times an awkward proposal. Long walks down the stairs, from the sound booth to the stage, ascending the few steps, and walking to center stage to introduce myself – my audience distant enough that I couldn't make eye contact. Monologues spoken to an audience of one lone observer. One year, I stripped the singing out of Steve Taylor's Cash Cow and preached the verses for an audition; only K and a few other students sat scattered in the auditorium. Simple words spoken to a limited (and sometimes imagined) audience.

At the beginning of many after school rehearsals, K would have us line up along the lip of the stage and recite our lines, or quote tongue twisters. (To this day I still can't get "you know New York, you need New York, you know you need unique New York" out of my head.) While we practiced our lines, K would stand at the back of the auditorium by the sound booth – the furthest distance away from his students.

Back then, I thought I was leaning lessons in theatrics. In hindsight, I recognize that it may have been more than that – what K taught us was academic, but his teachings were also life lessons. Repeating "New York is unique" wasn't just a daily practice in enunciation. K wasn't just teaching us how to talk, he was teaching us to be heard.

We can substitute quantity of speech for quality of content or use big words and never be understood. We can whisper, talk, or shout without notice. Our parents taught us to speak, but many of us have never learned how to be heard.

Maybe, K believed that if we could be heard in an empty room, we could be heard in a crowd.
If one distant person can hear what we have to say, we can be heard by dozens close by.
If we could face emptiness, we could face an audience.

Stage fright is equally paralyzing when no one is watching.

I have always thought of K as a gifted teacher. But now I wonder if he had a grander plan than we ever understood. That man behind the curtain not just preparing us for a performance, he was preparing us for life. In that simple lesson of being heard in an empty room, I am reminded of another lesson that I so desperately need to learn.

If I can be heard in an empty room, I can be heard by many.
If I can be trusted with little, I can be trusted with much.
If I can be content in need, I can be content in excess.

Sometimes we need to sit in an empty room; sometimes we need to face an absent audience.


What are you doing tomorrow night?

Friday nights in downtown Coeur d'Alene. There are several options. Tomorrow night, however, there's something new.

I'll be hanging out with my son at Java on Sherman from 5:35 until whenever for the first ever Coeur Creative meetup. If you're an artist in the Cd'A area - I've love to see you there.

Bring yourself.
Buy a Bowl of Soul. Or a panini.
Tell me what you do.
What inspires you.
What challenges you.
What you want to do with your art.
Eat. Drink coffee. Be merry.
Be you.
Be brave.


This is the soundtrack to my life.

Twice over the past couple of months, I've been challenged to pick out one song - the song that defines who I am or want to be.

The first came from a therapist. We were talking about using music as a coping skill. Yay! I love music. My iTunes contains the rhythms that my heart dances to. I have a soundtrack. Then she wanted to know what that one song would be - the one that defines me.

That's not a fair question to ask a music obsessive guy like me. I wasn't kidding when I said I have a soundtrack. There's a playlist on my computer called "My Soundtrack" that currently has 549 songs in it. Pick one? Is that even possible?

She bargained at a dozen songs so I went home and combed through that list - narrowing it down to 52 songs. Those 52 were culled further and I trimmed it down to about 20, which she said was perfect.

Then came the Start Experiment with Jon Acuff. He had been giving us daily challenges - some easier than others. 13 days in, he asked us to build our soundtrack. The reasoning is that "Every dream needs a soundtrack." He asked us to share one song with our group that would be ours. Again, only one? I call foul.

Luckily, that challenge arrived in my inbox the day after I posted the story about Steve Taylor's song Jim Morrison's Grave and the impact it had on my life. Task complete.

But my soundtrack is often revisited. It is the playlist that is currently on the iPod that I have playing at my office. For the sake of my emotional health, my sanity, my sense of peace and serenity, I listen to it regularly. It reminds me where I've been, who I am, and who I'd like to be. It is eclectic to the point of whiplash - a point a couple of coworkers have pointed out to me.

I thought I'd begin to share that playlist with you. Song by song. It won't be a daily thing, but you can expect it to pop up every now and then.

To start that off, I'm going back to a song that came out right before I graduated high school. Some of you might find this as evidence of my horrible and/or superior taste in music, but this song has always resonated with me. Perhaps now more than ever.

For those of you who know what's going on in my life, you probably understand why this is the first song I'm letting out as the soundtrack to my life.

I've never been so alone and I've never been so alive. (full lyrics HERE)


The delivery of a dream

An idea had spawned in my head: an artist's support network. I wasn't aware of anything like that in the Coeur d'Alene area and (at the time) did not realize that such a thing existed elsewhere. Like many of my ideas that have come and gone over the years, it stayed in my head for a while.

Fear told me it wasn't possible, or that I'd never be able to pull it off. The voices in my head kept telling me that I had no business helping people achieve things that I was incapable of doing on my own. While I enjoy singing or playing the guitar, I'm not proficient at either. I haven't acted on stage in 13 years. I haven't been able to draw anything more artistic than a stick figure since junior high.

But then an old friend contacted me to fill me in on some big life changes he's going though. We spent some time catching up with each other and in that conversation I eked out a semblance of my idea that sounded to him like an actual plan. He told me it sounded like a great idea - that it's something that's actually needed in Coeur d'Alene. We have an Arts Commission, regular art walks downtown, and several galleries. The annual Art on the Green event is happening this weekend. Cd'A is an artsy town. But most of what exists is built around showcasing art and put on large events. There is little behind the scenes support for the artist. Where do they go to get emotional support? To find resources that they don't have access to? To overcome roadblocks?

That night, as I drifted into slumber, the idea was given a name: Coeur Creative.

For a few weeks, I mulled that name around my mind. I pondered what was possible, what it would look like, and how to make it work. Yet, even then - with the vote of confidence from a friend - I was still too timid to do anything.

Until I saw a blog post asking if anyone was interested in a 24 day adventure. I read on. Jon Acuff - author of the blog (and some awesome books*) stated that the post would only be on his blog for 24 hours then he was taking it down. In that post, he offered a chance of adventure and surprises. He also warned that there would be risk and possibly dragons. If that sounded like something that interested the reader, he asked that we send him an email with our contact information.

I did something that the normal me would never do. I responded. Jon has a million people that read his blog. A little more than 2000 responded; I was one of them. As a result, I got an invite to join The Start Experiment. We were asked what we'd be willing to risk for 24 days. Some people set goals for health and weight loss, others wanted to launch a business or some other entrepreneurial affair. Many were looking at ministry opportunities. Several were artists, writers, photographers, or musicians. From there we were divided out into smaller groups to interact with - to share our dreams and seek support.

My risk was to to make Coeur Creative an actual thing. Get it out of my head and put it before others. To start helping artists take the next step in their dreams. With my risk announced to a group of 2000 people across the globe, and 20 others in my smaller group cheering me on, I've stripped the vocal chords out of fear's windpipe. I started doing something to make my idea a reality.

If I am to help artists along in their journey - the first step in my risk was to find out what artists need. I have some ideas of my own, but my own experiences could only scratch the surface. So I asked.

What would you like to accomplish with your art?

The responses blew me away. To get published. To create art that will be around for many years to come. To turn their part time hobby into a full time career. To make their art a primary, rather than secondary, source of income. To turn pro. To see a musical they've written performed on stage. To make people's live better. To help people tell their stories. To illuminate truth and inspire thought. To celebrate life. To make a difference and leave this world a better place. Bring hope to people, let them know they're not alone. To show others that they have a unique voice.


This is where I want to be, surrounded by people with those kinds of goals. The survey is still open. If you are an artist, I would appreciate your feedback. (It's only five questions, 4 of them are multiple choice, and there are no wrong answers. It won't take you long, I promise.)

We're nearing the end of the 24 day Start Experiment. The final step to getting Coeur Creative started is an actual event. I want to meet you - the artists in Coeur d'Alene area. Or you if you want to make the 5 hour drive over from Seattle or the shorter drive from Western Montana.

Friday the 9th. At Java on Sherman. Starting at 5:35 and lasting until whenever. Head downtown, get a cup of coffee and hang out. I'd like to meet you and find out what you want to do with your art.

If you need extra motivation, I'll have my oldest son with me. Honestly, he's the one of the most creative individuals I know.

* If you recall, about a year and a half ago, I was a part of the Quitter 100 to help launch on of Jon's awesome books.