I is for Impossible

One of the most poisonous words in the English language is "Impossible." It's often added to phrases that are uttered too often. You can't do that. You'll never make it. That's a stupid idea. You are not good enough. Don't be a fool.

I love those stories where the boundaries of impossible are defied. Where the target of such criticisms stand up and say, "Oh yeah? Watch me." That's what these kids from Thailand said when they were told that they couldn't be soccer players. Do yourself a favor and take five minutes to watch this.

What have you been told is impossible?


H is for Hole

David Bazan is one of my favorite songwriters. His songs are both masculine and vulnerable and have this confessional quality to them that makes it easy to connect with his lyrics. In 1997, his band Pedro the Lion released an EP called Whole that is still among the most played music in my collection.

There's a thematic feel to the EP - to fix what's broken, to fill an emptiness. In Nothing, he sings of not fitting in within rules and ideals and instead finding your own way. Fix and Almost There both deal with struggles of a recovering addict. I put the song Lullaby on both Zu's and Christian's MP3 player; it's a sweet song of finding healing through hurt. It's one of the songs I sang to them when they were little, replacing Bazan's name with theirs.

"Rest in me little David
And dry all your tears
You can lay down your armor
And have no fear
'Cause I'm always here
When you're tired of running
I'm all the strength that you need"

Through and through, the EP is a man desperately seeking wholeness.

But H is for "hole," right? Not Whole. That brings me to the title track. For one seeking to be whole, there's a recognition of a hole in our lives. To be whole, that hole needs filled.

And that's where I'm at. I've been listening to this EP a lot recently. "Mr Hole Fixin' Man, you fixed my friend can you fix me? ... I'm as broken as a boy can be, so how about fixing me?"

It's not just me. While I'm experiencing this process of holes being fixed, I'm seeing it in lives around me too. It's a beautiful thing. If you're in the process of healing too, celebrate it. I am. And I would love to celebrate it with you.


G is for Good Times

I took the kids to the park this weekend to play and go for a walk. While there we watch the ducks and took a bunch of pictures. And this conversation happened.

Zu: "Look, it's a mommy duck and a daddy duck. They're swimming together."
Christian: "That's because it's mating season. Right Dad?"
Me: "It is."
JJ: "What's mating?"
Me: " ... "
Me: "Uh, that's how mommy ducks and daddy ducks make baby ducklings."
Zu: "No Dad, ducks make eggs."

Well, technically she is correct. After that little science lesson we had a good time. And last night I discovered that we can walk to Riverstone with only one street crossing. That will be a great activity with the kids this summer.

Here are some of the highlights of our good time. First the ducks.

Christian was hoping that the mallard in that second picture was laying an egg. They refused to walk away until they knew if or if not a baby duck was on the way.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of Christian.

Some of my favorites of Zu.

And finally, the best shots of JJ.

JJ is a ham but he's a tough one to pin down long enough for a snapshot. But I won't complain. When he plays nicely with his siblings, it's a beautiful thing.

As for me, I spent most of the afternoon trying to keep up with them. More often than not my view was like this: watching them run off to play tag, chase ducks, or splash in the water.

We had a good time. And at the end of the day, I can confidently say that I have three of the greatest kids on this planet.


F is for Flipper

Several years ago, I met a guy named Flipper. That probably wasn't his real name, but it's the one he used when he introduced himself. It's what everyone called him. For the short time he and I hung out, he was one of the most memorable persons I have ever met.

Flipper was a big guy. He was six foot tall with a chunky build. And he was Chinese. But those two characteristics were not his most noticeable attributes. What made him stand out was his long multi-colored hair.

Aside from his nationality, his imposing height, and his unconventional hairstyle, Flipper found another way to be memorable. He possessed a personality that was bigger than his appearance. He was loud, but not obnoxious. He gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. He had a joke for almost any situation. Something about him was magnetic. Where his looks might have intimidated, his smile and laugh attracted people. He was also a hugger. He loved hugging people. It was his way of saying "hi."

There's no real reason that the two of us should have ever connected. Me, the scrawny white kid from a suburb to the rural north. Him, the six foot tall Chinese kid from Seattle proper. His family had money. My family was poor. His apartment had a view of the Kingdome. My house had a view of the four way stop at 51st and 80th. He could smell the Puget Sound from his high school. My high school smelled like cow pies. Yet, for some inexplicable reason - he and I became friends.

I had just turned 16 and was getting ready to start my junior year of high school. He was almost 18 and facing his senior year. Despite our differences, we both had the same taste in music. We also had the same taste in girls. We had a lot to talk about.

There were a few things I learned during our brief friendship. I learned that his boisterous and optimistic composure was really a mask to hide something more painful. While his smile was genuine, behind it laid a sadness that he was never willing to explain. The various colors in his hair was his interpretation of a clown.

We kept in touch for a few months and then lost contact. There are few individuals from my past that haunt my memories. Not often do I wonder what became of those friends I've lost. Flipper is one of those people. And today is one of those days where I thought about his fate.

I wonder because Flipper's opportunities were endless. He was likable and amiable. He was smart and a little daring. If Flipper was a character in a movie, he would be the goofy yet endearing type - the kind you hope receives a happy ending. Unfortunately, If fear the most tragic of possibilities were far more probable. I hope I'm wrong.

18 years. I have no idea where Flipper is today. I could not predict where his life brought him. But every now and then I wonder, and I hope it's the best.


E is for Encouragement

For a long time, I've existed in a bubble with minimal encouragement. The person responsible for this is me. I don't blame anyone else for this state of isolation. I've made certain choices to bring myself to that place. But things have begun to change and it is refreshing beyond anything that I could describe.

Last fall, one of the pastors at my church caught me in the lobby and told me, "There is a place for you here." Since then, I have become involved with his team and ministry.

In February, a writer I deeply respect and admire was talking to me about this blog. He said that I was one of the few that could truly write. He then surprised me by telling me that when he sees me post something, he pays attention. +2 for confidence.

A few weeks ago, a friend introduced me to his wife and in the process described me as "the Swiss Army knife of the worship team."

Little moments. Realistically, nothing more than passing comments with little thought to their effect.

There's a funny fact about language. Words have power. We grew up with the adage that sticks and stones can break bones but the other half of the saying is a lie. Words hurt. I know. I grew up with the sting of nasty and spiteful remarks that left deep wounds that have only recently begun to heal. Yet, whatever power words have to tear down and destroy, they also have the strength to lift up, to renew, to breathe hope, and shine light in the darkest places.

The three people I mentioned above? That's what they did. They may have only offered a heartfelt compliment. They might have thought their words were inconsequential. Regardless of their intention, the result was the brightest light in the darkness of my life. They spoke life where I needed it. They encouraged me to breathe a little deeper and walk a little taller.

But encouragement isn't just emotional boost for the encouraged, it's healing for the encourager too. In the process of rediscovering the man I used to be, I've challenged myself to be a ninja encourager. I am finding little ways each day to encourage someone to keep trying, to let someone know that they're valued or important, to drop otherwise inconsequential compliments. I don't know what affect my words will have in their lives, but I can testify to the impact in my life.

Truth is, I'm a flawed individual. My melancholic disposition isn't typically adept at seeing the good in all things. An odd thing happens when someone like me makes efforts to compliment and encourage others. The act forces you to look at the brighter side of life. It makes you see the best in others. You begin to see opportunities for joy. Do it often enough and it becomes habit forming. Second nature.

When you always look on the bright side of life (admit it you're whistling that song), optimism is easier. You feel more comfortable in your own skin. You become more content in all situations. +2 for mental health.

Give it a try. Find someone that you can encourage today. And if you're the type that would prefer to send that encouragement through the mail, a friend of mine has hand-made cards for just that occasion. Check out her site.

For those of you who natural encouragers, congratulations. People like you have been a blessing in my life the past few months. Thank you. This world needs more like you.


D is for Dreams

Dream big. Do it. It's worth it. Don't let anyone smash your dreams.

I've had enough dream killers in my life, so I am consciously making an effort not to be that person to my kids. They want to aim for the stars, I'm shopping for rocket fuel.

But it's not easy. In fact, it's not my natural disposition. My inner me wants to be a critic. To play devil's advocate. To say, 'that's silly.' To dismiss. Being the encourager of dreams means that I'm going against my inclinations. It means I'm having to change some habits.

My oldest son once told me that he wanted to be a pastor, an artist, and the president. He put the emphasis on the word 'and.' As in, if he couldn't be a pastor or an artist, then the option for being president was eliminated. Honestly, if anyone could do all three of those at the same time, it would be my kid.

Ask Zu what she wants to be when she grows up, she'll tell you she wants to be a horseback rider. Great - that is a fantastic dream that I can get behind. I'll cheer her on endlessly to achieve that dream.

So far, that's easy. When your kids have plausible dreams - even ones that border on audacious, supporting those dreams is basic. Minimal effort required.

JJ, on the other hand, not so easy.

There comes a point when every rational thought in my being wants to tell people that there should be a point when you must stop dreaming. You want to be an astronaut? Well, they shut down NASA but that's a worthy dream. You want to ride a surfboard around the rings of Saturn? Whoa there toughie... you and I need to have a talk about making your dreams a little more realistic.

And that's where JJ is redefining what I consider to be a realistic dream. It's not easy, but it's worth it.

A while back, JJ told me, "I want to be Iron Man when I grow up." I've shared this story before, but his reply to me is essential to the spirit of anyone who considers themselves a dreamer.

JJ said, "I want to be Iron Man when I grow up."
"Well, the first thing you'll need to do is get very very rich." I replied.
Without any thought to the challenges in my instruction, he simply answered, "OK."

As if becoming very very rich was something that is commonplace. So easy a caveman could do it. If you want to be Iron Man, first get filthy stinking rich. And he shrugged it off. Sure, no problem. I'll get started now. He won me over. I'll be front and center at his press conference when he tells the world, "I am Iron Man."

So dream. Even if it is ridiculous or impossible. Do it anyways. It's worth it.


C is for Chuck/Charlie/Charles

One of the members of my D&B group posts a #fivethings challenge almost every day asking us to list of five answers to various questions. Five favorite candies. Five most influential people. Five favorite quotes. That kind of thing.

A couple of weeks ago, the challenge was to name your five favorite fictional characters. I listed mine without much thought to a pattern. It was there though, and I didn't notice it until someone else pointed it out. Three of my five were named Charles - or some derivative of that name. Digging deeper, I recognize more Charles, Chucks, and Charlies that land in the list of my favorite fictional characters. They are as follows.

Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I've adored this story as long as I can remember. There's so much hope: the impoverished kid winning the chance of a lifetime through a stroke of luck? We all dream of opportunities like that. But more than being lucky, Charlie deserved this break. He was a good kid, and perhaps the most noble of all of the characters - including Mr. Wonka.

Chuck Bartowski (AKA Charles Carmichael) from Chuck. There are so many things that this show got right. The culture of big-box electronics retailers. The customers. The staff. The geekery. As a former Best Buy employee, that show constantly reminded me of days past. Except when they were fighting spies and blowing stuff up. That never happened at my store.

Charles Xavier (AKA Professor X): The leader of the X-Men was my fictional sensei. A mind reading Mr. Miyagi that looked like Mr. Clean. Through the comic books and the cartoon series, there was no doubt that Professor X was the smartest guy in the room. Yet he never lorded that superior knowledge over anyone. He was compassionate and endlessly forgiving. Qualities I always wanted, even without superpowers.

Charlie Brown from Peanuts. He was me. Insecure, melancholic, and awkward around girls. But also a champion for those that kept trying in the face of ongoing failure.

Charlie Pace from LOST. Charlie's story is one of the most heartbreaking in LOST. I might have cried when he died. But his story is that of redemption. A rock star by choice, a one-hit wonder by the nature of the recording industry. He was a heroin addict when the plane crashes. There he sobered up, rekindled his music dreams, became a surrogate father to a baby born on the island, and finally sacrificed himself to save his friends. One of my favorite scenes in all of TV history is him sitting on the beach with Rose. He was distraught and depressed. Rose sought to comfort him and told him, "It's a fine line between denial and faith. It's much better on my side." He asked Rose for help, but she prayed with him instead, knowing that there wasn't anything she could do. They struck the balance between loss and hope so perfectly.

Charlie Gordon from Flowers for Algernon. There is a bittersweet tone to Flowers. The sadness of Charlie's low IQ at the beginning of the story, his gained and lost love for Miss Kinnian, the realization that his friends were only interested in mocking him, the mouse's death, Charlie's realization that his intelligence will not last, the reversion back to being dimwitted yet knowing that he was once smart. There isn't a happy ending, but rather a challenging conclusion. This book was one of the more important stories I read while growing up.

Did I miss any? What's a good Charles that I've overlooked?


B is for Books

At the beginning of the year, several of the fabulous folks I follow on Twitter posted a challenge called The Empty Shelf Challenge. The idea is to empty off a bookshelf, as you finish reading a book, add it to the shelf. Hopefully, by the end of 2014, the shelf is full.

Well, I don't have any empty shelves in my house, but I have been reading. Three full months in and I think I've read as much now as I did in all of last year. What have I read so far?

Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell
City of Screams by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell
Alice in Deadland by Mainak Dhar
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl*
The Breach by Patrick Lee
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Currently reading:
The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America by Gabe Lyons
Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter*
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien+

Next up:
How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp
Zoo by James Patterson

*Read/am reading with the kids
+Read/am reading with Christian


A is for Awesome

Why awesome?
Because this is my 1000th post. That's a huge milestone, especially for a part time blogger like me. That's a lot of words.

Why awesome?
Because doing this for nearly nine years has improved my skill. I'm a much better writer today than I was nine years ago.

Why awesome?
Since re-branding this blog as The Faithful Geek, I've given myself an identity. I'm being true to my nerd roots and starting to find my tribe - something that is essential for all writers.

Why awesome?
Because I finally feel confident enough to describe myself as a writer.

To be honest, I didn't know what I was doing when I launched this blog. The first title was just Random Thoughts. It wasn't pretty. I started it for one reason: a coworker was doing it and I had that Cranberries moment of 'Everybody else is doing it, so why not me?'

Along the way, I learned some basic HTML, got connected with some other local bloggers through Hucks Online, and improved my typing speed. At some point, I added the words Rants and Raves before the existing title of Random Thoughts thinking that it fit my OOOH Shiny personality a little better. As I continued, I considered this to be an ongoing love letter to my kids so that they could someday look back when I'm no longer around and know what kind of man I was. I considered this an opportunity for my parents to keep track of what was going on in my life so that they didn't have to stalk me on facebook. I considered this to be nothing more than a place for me to get my thoughts out of my head. A creative outlet.

Then something happened. I wrote about Bricks and Springs. For the first time, I felt like I truly had something to say that could make an impact. That still remains my most visited post. A couple of years later, I wrote a seven part manifesto about the church to encourage us and say that we can do better. Finally, I had found my voice.

Last summer, I joined something called the Start Experiment to challenge myself to chase after some dreams. I began to recognize my passions and wrote about where it started. It is through connections I made in that group that I started to recognize a need to focus this blog and make it something that is uniquely my own thing and re-branded it.

First, an idea. Then a voice. Now an identity and an audience.

This has been a journey of the Don't Stop Believing variety and I am excited to compose my next 1000 posts. I declare that to be awesome.

Thank you for joining me in this adventure.