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Each of us is free

I have to admit to you,

I have to be honest,

I haven’t delivered,

I haven’t kept my promise,

I swore to keep it real,

I swore to show you my heart,

Then the moment it got hard,

I got up to turn around and depart,

I didn’t feel special,

I didn’t feel my words were worthy,

I didn’t think anyone would care,

I didn’t think that anyone heard me,

I lost sight of why I pen these words,

I forgot why I share my soul with these lines,

In the chaos and storm of self-loathing,

I lost track of myself and lost track of time,

I know I was blessed with this gift,

I know He has used it in great ways,

I know I need to wake up,

I know there is light in the coming days,

So from this moment on,

Believe I will share my soul,

No matter how painful,

No matter how tattered with holes,

I don’t know who will read these words,

I don’t know the story of your life,

I just pray you see in my words,

The reflection of The One who paid the price,

I pray you see the freedom you have,

I admit that I’m not a perfect being,

I can tell you that admitting that,

Can be perfectly freeing,

So whoever you are,

Wherever you may be,

This poem and collective are imperfect,

But more than imperfect,

Each of us is free.

Help!

Help.

Why is it often the hardest thing to ask for and do for others?  We don’t want to go out of our way, or we don’t want to ask someone to go out of their way in order to help. It’s a sad thing that we walk by so many people each day who need our help. We walk by so many each day who could help us. We don’t open our mouths or lift our hands. We remain stagnate. How dare we not be a blessing to others, and how dare we not let others bless us?

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Little Miss Muffet

There’s one thing you have to understand about me: I’ve always been pretty tough. I don’t like to admit when I’m scared nor do I readily admit defeat. Okay, so that’s technically more than one thing, but go with it.

I moved into my current apartment during the last week of September 2015. I was excited to start a new chapter in my life (man, that sounds just as cliche as I thought it might). Unbeknownst to me, I was in for one doozy of a time.

I moved in on a Sunday. I didn’t really have much. A loveseat. A bed. A TV. Wifi. A shower curtain. Pretty much all the necessities. But, the worst part of moving in on a Sunday was that I had to go to work on Monday. There was no chance to do a whole lot or get stuff situated. Everything felt disjointed.

I awoke the next morning as excited as anyone who wakes up in an unfamiliar place. It took me a second to gain the acceptance of where I was. I stumbled out of my bedroom and into the living room, then I made the right into the minuscule water closet just off the living room.

This would be my first use of the shower at this apartment, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Some showers are awesome, others not so much. A shower is my favorite part of the day. No lie, if the hot water tank would hold out, I’d be in there for hours. Water is also included as part of my rent, meaning I don’t have to see the water bill. So, there’s that.

Anyhow. I flipped on the overhead light and pulled back the new brown shower curtain and liner from front to back. I looked down at the new anti-microbial, anti-slip mat that, only a half day ago, I had suction-cupped to the recently cleaned tub floor and “Gah!” (That’s the exact sound I made, just fyi).

At the back of the tub, where my sleepy, and late for work, feet should have already been, was a ginormous spider. I’m sure it wasn’t as big as my brain remembers it being, but it was large. I’ve heard people refer to such arachnids as a wolf spider. Disclaimer: I don’t know if that’s really what they are or not. Regardless, if that doesn’t spark an image in your mind, imagine a spider that has a really big butt and an itty bitty body. Teenage Brandon would have described it in the words of his favorite rapper Nelly: “She got mo’ back than she got body, Eh!”

If even those descriptions don’t help, Google it. The internet is a wonderful thing. Actually, don’t do that. I just did, and now I won’t be able to sleep for a few hours. Sorry if you actually listened to my instructions. Now, back to the story.

We stared at each other for a second or two, him, to adjust to the sudden light shining down on him and me, to try to get my heart and lungs functioning in all normalcy again. Once those couple seconds passed, I reacted almost immediately. I spun around and rolled off a long series of toilet tissue squares. Charmin Ultra. Strong, yet soft. I judge people based on the toilet paper they buy.

I hovered the quilted pile over my spidey nemesis, anticipating it to scurry at any moment, but it just sat there as if he knew the inevitable was coming. The TP trap descended slowly and I was able to partially smash him and scoop him into the toilet bowl and send him on his last ride accompanied by his personal ferryman named Charmin. (Charon/Charmin. Get it? The underworld ferryman? Greek mythology… Nevermind.)

“That was it,” I told myself. No biggie. The apartment had been empty for a couple weeks prior to me moving in, so I figured that things like this could potentially happen. When there’s no human activity in a place for a while, non-human creatures can try to take over. I mentally prepared myself that this could happen again in the future.

And it has. And I’ve managed to not freak out and “Yah Mo Burn” this little yellow duplex to the ground. I just always check the shower AFTER pulling back the curtain and BEFORE stepping over the threshold into the warm, soothing stream.

∗∗∗

Working in the seasonal business that is the swimming pool industry, it is understandable that there should be a slow season. Like, really slow. Because of this, Burnett Pools closes on Sunday and Tuesday during the time period of October through April. This past Tuesday was our last one that found us closed for the season. It also turned out to be Election Day in PA.

As I was getting ready to travel the mile down the road to do my civic duty, I jumped in the shower after eating some Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Pop-Tarts. I was just about finished getting all squeaky clean when I turned around to wash the excess shampoo off of my back and looked down and, through my bleary water filled eyes, I saw a little black mass with a big butt and a small body scurry towards me from the back of the tub.

Now mind you, I had been in the shower for about ten or so minutes. That meant that this little dude had been in here with me for that period. I didn’t hesitate this time. I was out of that shower faster than you can say, “Ahhh Gahh.. Nnngghh!” I know that because I finished that sentence as I stubbed my toe on the terra cotta brown bar table in my living room.

I’m not sure how I got through the shower curtain as quickly as I did, because when I turned around the curtain was barely moved to one side. It was easy to get into the living room because the bathroom door was already open, because what person who lives by themselves actually closes the door when they’re in the bathroom? Show of hands? Seriously, if your hand isn’t up right now, you’re the weird one. Ask around.

I turned around and decided that I was going to be that brave guy that I said I was at the beginning of this story. I went back into that bathroom, grabbed a large chunk of Charmin and prepared to face my fear. I whipped back the curtain and looked at the place where big booty had been scampering toward and there was no sign of him. I turned toward the front of the tub and there he was.

I lifted the murder weapon and started to pounce…

∗∗∗

During my days of living on campus at Geneva, I roomed every year with my best friend and IC Editor in Chief, Seth. As he has discussed in prior posts, and if he doesn’t want me saying this he’ll just do his editor duty and take it out, Seth has Type I Diabetes. And if there is one thing you learn when you live with someone with Diabetes it’s that you will find blood glucose test strips everywhere. They will be in your clothes, in your bed, they stick to your feet… They are literally everywhere. 

The funny thing is this: Living with a Type I Diabetes patient is very similar to living with, or being, a guitarist. When you’re a guitarist you find guitar picks everywhere. In your clothes. In your bed.

And sometimes guitar picks stick to your feet. And sometimes when they stick to your feet you may not feel them. And then, when they stick to your feet and you don’t feel them, they can sometimes end up in your shower with you…

I guess the moral of the story is this: Don’t freak out over every spidery situation in life. Sometimes the big booty spider in your shower of life is just a dark brown celluloid medium thickness Fender guitar pick.

Solo Travel

My last post was about facing fears. I keep trying to face my fears and trying to overcome some of the anxiety that I feel.  One fear that I keep having to face is going places and doing things on my own. This was something that I could not have ever fathomed doing just a few months ago. I always thought I needed to have someone with me, even if it was just a friend. Traveling home by myself or visiting a city or event by myself never really freaked me out, but spending a weekend or day somewhere alone was tough.

Sometimes finding a friend to travel with me was easy. However, I’ve realized not everyone wants to go to the same places that I do nor do they have the time to do so.

Recently, I have started to travel and spend the weekends by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather spend time going places and having adventures with other people. I am always up for experiencing things with my friends and family. But I am not going to miss out on an adventure anymore for fear of being by myself. There is too much to see and do in this world. There is so much more outside this town I live in.

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Imperfect Cinema: Our favorite movies (we saw) in 2015

We’re officially past awards season, so I think it’s finally safe to talk about our favorite movies without inciting a riot over which films are superior to others. I reached out to everyone on our staff to hear which film they saw last year became their favorite. We aren’t saying these are the best movies of 2015 (a couple of them even released in 2014), or the ones that deserved the most Oscars, but these are the films that resonated with us and moved us the most. Hopefully, you haven’t seen all of the movies we have chosen and can get a good recommendation from this article. If not, well, feel free to let us know why you did or didn’t like the ones that you saw.

-Seth


Adam Shaffer – The One I Love – Drama/Comedy, rated R (for language, some sexuality and drug use)

This film holds special meaning to me because of the circumstances in which I watched it. My wife directs a travelling singing group, and is away for about 5 weeks each summer. As such, I basically “go stag” every summer. I experience a lot of ups and downs as I enjoy the freedom to eat pizza and play video games every night while also missing her companionship frequently. I was bored one night and started browsing Netflix when I stumbled onto this flick in the queue. I thought, “Hey, that’s the chick from Mad Men!” and I guess that’s all I needed to hit play. The movie starts off as an innocent little rom-com but quickly turns into a bizarre look at two people that were well past the “honeymoon phase” of their relationship. In Hollywood, we’re often given the chance to consider the stage of life where people fall in love, get married, and ride off into the sunset. But this movie mixes up the formula and makes us consider the complex psychology of a long-term relationship and all of the dirty laundry that comes along with it. Having now been married for about 4 years, it resonated with me on a very personal level and I found myself cherishing my wife and our complex relationship from 1,000 miles away. This is one of those movies that you should go into with as few spoilers as possible, so I won’t give anything away. But if you’re somebody who is in a long-term relationship and is into the more human side of filmmaking, you should give this one a whirl.


Kyle Dunham – Room – Drama, rated R (for language)

There are so many things out here. And sometimes it’s scary. But that’s ok. Because it’s still just you and me…

Room connects with me because it is honest, it is raw, and it is real. It makes you feel like you are on the emotional journey with the two main stars. I won’t say much about the plot line. I will say that I think it is a movie that most people should see. It is certainly not for the faint of heart. It certainly will make you feel high levels of emotion. There are times as a Christian that it will offend you, and it should. You should be offended. Not because they use words you may not agree with. Not because they present things in a way that you thing is wrong. It should offend you because things like this really happen in our world. It has the shades of reality that another movie staring Brie Larson does, Short Term 12. Another movie I believe everyone, especially every Christian, should see. These movies challenges us to  see the world as it is not as we wish it was.  I believe they can start conversations in the church that need to happen. Do you agree? Do you think these are the kind of movies that should challenge us to make change in the world? Watch and tell me what you think, I’ll be more than excited to have that conversation!


Seth Kuhns – The End of the Tour – Drama, rated R (for language including some sexual references)

With Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg listed as the leads for the movie, it’s difficult not to immediately assume The End of the Tour is primarily a comedy. It’s not. I’m still not sold on Jesse Eisenberg as anything other than your typical “Awkward White Guy” actor (though he has turned in a convincing performance as Lex Luthor in an otherwise mediocre Superman film), but Jason Segel showed some impressive chops in his portrayal of small-time-professor-turned-bestselling-author David Foster Wallace. Segel’s grown quite a bit from his Freaks and Geeks days, and he delivered a mature and nuanced performance as the insecure Wallace. Having never read any of Wallace’s work, the film’s exploration of his troubled genius piqued my interest. I didn’t dive into Infinite Jest, the subject of the tour the title is referencing, but I did read some of his early essays after I saw the movie. One writer interviewing another while traveling in the Upper Midwest isn’t the most enticing premise, but this film did an excellent job of showing a surprisingly deep story on how different writers handle varying levels of success.


Brandon Kauffman – Begin Again – Drama/Comedy/Musical & Performing Arts, rated R (for language)

That’s what I love about music… One of the most banal scenes is suddenly invested with so much meaning! All these banalities – they’re suddenly turned into these, these beautiful effervescent pearls. From music.

When we discussed starting this thread of posts that discuss our favorite films we saw in 2015, I asked if that meant we were limited to films released in ’15. I silently hoped not. If it was limited to that year, I’d have to either discuss the most recent Star Wars film or Spy starring Melissa McCarthy, because those were the only films I knew that I had seen from 2015. Yeah, my 2015 wasn’t that spectacular. I was happy when Seth confirmed that we could discuss any film we saw in 2015, because that meant I could look back on a film that I’ve actually viewed three or four times in ’15.

Begin Again, released in the US in July of 2014, has garnered average reviews from the “top” critics in the industry. While I’ve never seen Once, I imagine that the two are similar, but I believe Begin Again has less of the traditional romantic storyline. Paul (Mark Ruffalo) has a chance, and slightly intoxicated, meeting with Gretta (Keira Knightley) in a New York bar where Gretta reluctantly performs a heartfelt song that is mostly ignored by the crowd. This scene, when presented from Paul’s view, is the stand out scene in the film. At least for me. He, in his mind, crafts an entire musical arrangement of the song while she plays, complete with self-playing instruments, something that only the best music producers in the industry can do. From there, after a little prodding, the two venture out into the city of New York to create awesome songs in awesome settings. That may be a lackluster description of a wonderful story, but I don’t want to go too deep into it. There’s really nothing to spoil, but I’d rather you take the opportunity to watch the film, if you have the chance, without me giving away too much.

Facing Fear

Since I posted my last piece about living life to the fullest, I have been thinking about the topic of fear. It’s been on my mind quite frequently, for various reasons. I realize that it is what’s kept me from posting things on this blog and on my personal blog. It’s what’s kept me from opening my mouth and speaking up many times, when I know that the Lord was telling me to. It’s what keeps me from letting people in and keeps me from being vulnerable. It keeps me from going where I need to go and doing what I need to do. It cripples me. I’ve let it win more times than I would like to admit.

I wish that I could say that I have been brave and courageous every single time. I wish I could say that I have faced every fear of mine, but that is not the case. I have allowed it to consume me, and I have used it as an excuse to not do things.

Why do we let fear win? Why do we let it keep us from doing what we want and what we know we are called to do? I’m tired of giving in. It’s exhausting to keep giving into my fear and letting it keep me stuck and complacent. I feel as though it is keeping me from truly living life. This is part of what inspired me to write my last piece.

It also was the topic of a devotional that I led at work. This is one of the bonuses about working in a Christian environment: We get to have a daily devotional before starting the work day. Still, I was terrified out of my mind leading up to doing the devotional, which is why I knew I needed to talk about the topic. I couldn’t shake it. The Lord blessed me for obeying him and sharing about that. I’m pretty sure I came away from leading that devotional even more encouraged than my coworkers. Plus, I was praying so hard that day to get through each devotional. I was talking to God so much that day. I knew that I didn’t do it on my own strength.

I am terrified of speaking in front of large groups of people. I would much rather do something like this, where I can hide behind a screen and write. At first, this terrified me, too. I was scared of what people would think about what I was writing. I was scared I wasn’t going to be adequate enough or that people wouldn’t appreciate what I was writing. I was focused on me. I have been letting my pride get in the way.

Every so often I get the motivation to face a fear head on, and I get a bit of gumption. It’s exhilarating. I feel like I am experiencing life. I feel like I am able to do anything and then something brings the fear and insecurities back to the forefront of my mind. Sometimes it’s quicker to shake away than other times.

Recently, I have been able to kick it a bit quicker. But I realize it’s not me kicking it. Jesus is kicking it for me. I’m getting Lynn out of the way and letting Christ do His thing. Hence, me doing the devotions at work last week, me starting my blog, me applying for the mentorship I am part of, me stepping out of my comfort zone, and a great deal of other things.

There is no limit with Him on my side. He can do anything he wants. If He wants me somewhere, no matter what others may do to stop it, He’s going to make a way. It may not be easy, and it may not happen how I think it is going to, but he’ll make a way. But I had to get over me. I have to continually get over myself and step aside. I have realized that I can no longer let fear dictate my life.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7

My fears have kept me in this town, my fears have kept me in bad relationships, my fears have kept me from traveling, my fears have kept me from writing, my fears have kept me from speaking, my fears have kept me from meeting new people, my fears have kept me in my apartment, my fears have kept me closed off, my fears have kept me from loving, my fears have kept me from living…My fears have kept me from so much.

My fears have caused me to disobey God and in turn have kept me from growing in Him. They have kept me from experiencing His fullness and the blessings that He has for me. Thankfully, He is gracious, and in spite of my fears and shortcomings, He has still worked things out. However, I can’t help but think that Hewants to give me so much more.

My fears will continue to creep up, but now is the time to face them. I am sure that the fears will creep in for you, too. As for me, I’m going to try and face them one at a time head on. I will work to not let my pride or my insecurities get in the way. I will not let others talk me out of what I need to do and where I need to go. I can no longer worry about pleasing everyone that I meet, but instead, I will focus on pleasing the Lord. I will work to keep my eyes focused on Jesus and trust in His strength and guidance. And when I fail, because I am human and I will fail, I will not let it keep me from getting back up and moving forward.

It’s a blessing to start to face your fears. As I said, it was such an encouragement from everyone in my office after I shared my devotional. Large groups terrify me. One-on-one and small-group conversation are my preferences, but I did what the Lord asked me to do, and He blessed me for it. He blessed me in unexpected ways through unexpected people, and it was so encouraging. I can’t wait to see what the Lord is going to do next.

 

This Gift Called Life

Why do I write? Why poetry? Why?

I don’t write to strive.
I don’t write to thrive.
I don’t write to arrive.
I write because I’m breathing.
I write because I’m alive.

Those are simple words to explain why I have a passion for writing. At the core of it all, I write because I am alive, because it is something I feel that I have to do. There is so much that happens in my life that I would not be able to process if not for writing. It goes deeper though, back to a conversation with my oldest brother. Back to the day he told me I should try to write. In that conversation, with him telling me how much writing had done for him I knew that it could do something for me. So I wrote. I wrote some of the worst poems that have ever been written, but they were my poems. For the first time in my life, I had created something completely on my own, and I felt alive. I knew right away that there was something here –more than a passion.

I know I’ve been gifted.
Found gold in sand I sifted.
From my first words felt lifted.

Nothing brings me joy and good feelings about myself quite like writing. It is my escape to a world I control. I can be whoever I want to be in that world, and I can do anything I want to do. I don’t know where I would be in life right now if not for my writing. I’ve often been asked if I want to write books and have a desire that my name be known. To put it plainly: I don’t. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to write a book of poetry and have it published, but not to get famous. I want to write a book filled with poems that make me feel lifted up. My hope would be that just one person would read those poems and know they are special.

He made us all unique.
He gave us all a gift to seek.
Find it and reach your own peak.

So let me encourage you today, seek your gift and USE IT, whatever it is, because it very well may not be writing. It could be so many things. It could be painting, encouraging, athletics, music, technology; it could be just about anything. What it may be is less important than you finding it and using it. I am blessed to know so many people in my life who show this kaleidoscope of gifts.

Don’t think less kid.
Of the gift you’ve been blessed with.
No one gift is best.
Each one offers hope.
A hope you’re part of.
God’s great kaleidoscope.

I pray you walk away encouraged. I pray if you have not found that gift that you will take some time to seek and find it. I have no way of knowing exactly who will read this, but trust me when I say I am praying for you. You are special, and you have a gift that can change the world. If you do know what your gift is, stop waiting, get up, and change your world. One day at a time, one moment at a time. I believe in you, and God is ready to use you.

What are you waiting for?
Stand and walk out that door.
There is a world to explore.
You’ve been made for so much more.
Look for the God-given gift.
See the amazing things He has in store.

Depth of Hip Hop, Part Two: “Black Sugar”


“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so intense.”

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it’s the truth I received from my wife a few weeks ago. We were driving home on Interstate 78 in New Jersey, reflecting on my conversation with Beleaf Melanin after the Dream Junkies show at William Paterson University.

“You really talked down about yourself.”

Well, welcome to me. I can riddle this page with excuses about the lack of sleep I got the night before the show, but there’s no evidence on this planet to prove my words that night were any different from my usual thoughts about myself. The only evidence one could offer would likely confirm my low self-esteem.

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Living life to the fullest

I recently had a conversation with a woman at work regarding why we watch so much TV. She said she believes that it is because we are longing for adventure and I happen to agree with her. I have noticed it myself in my times of watching TV. I end up glued to the TV and wishing that I was part of whatever action and adventure is happening. I don’t feel that I need or want to watch TV when I’m out doing things and experiencing life (outside of work). But, why? Because I’m busy living and creating my own adventure.

We were made to live life and experience it as best as we can. When we get caught in the monotony of life, we miss out on so much. There is importance in going to work and doing our jobs but at the same time, there is supposed to be adventure. And sometimes your job is part of that adventure.

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Take a Look At Your Selfie

PhoneShe was always on her phone.

She never went anywhere without it. She saw the world through that five and a half inch rectangular screen. Whether she was snappin’, tweeting, vining, gramming, or using any of the other various social network apps, she was always live and in the moment with her phone. She walked around the local Kmart with her father, nose pointed directly at the screen. She often walked right past people she knew because she was so distracted by that screen. People usually thought her to be rude.

She got the last laugh, though, because that little piece of metal and plastic got her famous. Vine famous, that is. She was funny. She was serious. People could relate to her. Young men admired her. Young girls wanted to be her. She left the town she grew up in for New York. Then, in a few short months, she left New York for Los Angeles. She lived there for months gaining more and more popularity.

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