Red-Bull-Shizzle

‘I love mowing the lawn. I spend that time just thinking. I get some great epiphanies during those chores’… were the words of a handsome Red Bull Xtreme Athlete. I saw his stunts on a cool video this morning. The film faded from the benign steerings of his green John Deer lawn tractor, to a steep stark white scene. The steep mountain face was covered in snow and his skiing descent included the use of a mini parachute wing, for when the cliff dropped off several hundred feet…

Hmmm…..

There are many differences between myself and this gentleman. I don’t para-ski the world’s most dangerously exquisite slopes… and I don’t enjoy mowing either.

Funny idn’t it. I saw that clip this morning, and all through the day, I keep going back to my shocking reaction to his mowing statement. When he talked about loving those times to ‘think’ I couldn’t relate at all. Then again I couldn’t relate to skiing off the edge of a mountain either, we have certainly covered that.

Nope. I don’t look forward to mundane repetitive tasks that allow me the opportunity to ‘think.’ I put mowing in that category, and sadly exercise too, to an extent. I guess that I have always had a problem with those moments that allowed time to ‘think’.

I think plenty. Too plenty in fact. The thinking is so constant and such a barrage-like assault between my ears, that I don’t want to create chances for more of it. All day, and all night long too, a torrent of flashes of images, phrases, memories and concerns fly by the windshield of my mind. I can have whole exchanges of dialogue, filled with response and retort many times over, in a short couple seconds. I am not bragging, or believing that I am much different than other people in this way, but I do seem to be bothered by it.

I avoid tasks that will take a long time, with one repetitive action, happening over and over. At the restaurant, where I work, my favorite times are the most busy. I have a matched-up version of that mental barrage taking place in the physical world in real-time. I want those moments to happen. Time disappears, my mind can feel quiet, while the world is clash-banging all around. When people are speaking out requests, and I move quickly from one problem to the next, I enjoy the frantic-ness of that freestyling flow.

I have some epiphanies during those busy times. I do need to have all cylinders firing for something divine to slip through the usual mindjunk of mental spam. An inspired thought that arrives unexpectedly, is what the para-skier liked about his mowing routine.

In the last few years I have come to understand that I will be the receiver of those moments more often as a surprise in between my thoughts, than when I try to directly create my own answers. Even though I know this. I rarely try to construct the situations where these might occur with predictable or useful regularity. Instead I do what I know doesn’t work that well. I live in distracto land, until a crisis arrives and then punt. I fret and hope I made the right call. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t.

It seems that the guy who sails off of the mountains with a chunk of fabric and a couple fiberglass sticks on his feet, has found his own way to operate this machine of a mind we’ve all been given. Good for him. It seems to be working out.

My wife may read this an encourage me to reconsider my aversion to mowing. Maybe she’ll suggest that I too, could start to get epiphanies while shortening our grass. Eh, I don’t know about that. I would agree that discovering the methods to utilize our mental abilities for good, could change everything, for the better.

I believe that I used to enjoy alcohol for the same type of reasons. The mind could be numbed for awhile. I could let go more easily from the rip-snortin’ freight train of my brain. I did forget everything altogether on many occasions. It was counter-productive though. Even though many of my epiphanies sounded awesome while drunk, they weren’t.

So, here we are. Middle of the night again. I had some fleeting moments of calm flow while writing this mediocre piece for my blog. I guess this is one place where my mind can walk, while my fingers talk… and I ride the train, instead of being run over by it.

I appreciate your readership. I wish you a very Merry Christmas. I hope you too are like the para-skier, and know exactly how, to receive the best of blessings that the Holy Spirit lays upon our minds, and more importantly, our hearts.

God Bless,

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

I love Tripping, yes that kind :)

Ran into Smoke the other day. Hadn’t seen him in years. He asked me, “Been on any of your trips lately?”… Hmm… I said, “Not Really.” I did add that “This gas station is a great place to take off from though.” I smiled as I remembered filling up my tank in Princeton, KS, one summer morning, and saying goodbye, with a West Coast destination, arrival time, ‘whenever.’

Dang, that was a good day.

I guess my ‘A Shell and a Stone’ trip, is the one Smoke was inquiring about. I don’t know. Maybe he just meant those many country cruising trips, or dunes trips, or Ohio trips or canoe trips, that I used to do… As soon as he said, ‘trip’, my mind went West :)

This week on Netflix, I was reminiscing of that big adventure, as I watched the Top Gear (Original UK version) guys on their various special overland missions. I re-watched Jeremy, James and Richard, driving across Bolivia, and India and Botswana. They did an Arctic run to the North Pole. Their search for the source of the Nile river is laugh-out-loud funny at times. I couldn’t find the scooter trip in Asia though. Most of the specials involve on and off-road epic challenges made in cheaply-bought used cars.

Just like my own trip, they usually don’t have the biggest and best of vehicles, with all the outfitted gear. At least for the viewers they show plenty of real world problems and adversities of life on the road. Unlike my journeys, they have a support truck and production crew too.

Anyway, the fun of watching these episodes is to see the camaraderie and shenanigans these three friends enjoy and subject each other to, while crossing the beautiful and sometimes dangerous, third world locations.

Something else I found on Netflix is the entirety of the Top Gear series, back to the very beginning. Actually Season 2, that you can access there, is a ‘New’ version of it. I think that James and Richard were recent additions to the older original show at that point. These early episodes are not unwatchable, but they certainly are forced feeling. It’s nice to see that they didn’t always have the genuine friendship and connection, that now you can notice in every show. They started green, just like everybody does. With many repetitions though, they are now super popular and have spin-off shows all around the world.

The authenticity of their brotherhood is what really draws me to watch them. It is real, and took real time to develop.

My first trip to the West and back was probably just like their early work too. I remember it being an amazing moment in my life, but I was pushing too hard. I was trying for it to be something. I watched the scorecard everyday. I wanted to accumulate points and miles and present my accomplishments to my own little world back home. I created my first ever blog on that trip. I woke up each day with a serious drive in my mind. I wanted to devour the blacktop. I ate up miles, states at a time. I was running away furiously. I was running toward something deliriously. I don’t think I really had a handle on the truth at either end of the highway. I still don’t.

I was uncoordinated and raw. I hadn’t yet matured in my relationship with myself. I was probably un-watchable, from my own point of view, but I didn’t see that then. It is probably worse now :)

Last week during the Sunday sermon, our Pastor, Tim, relayed John the Baptist’s one-word message. ‘Repent’, he explained, was the action of an about-face. A 180 degree turn and motion in reverse of the previous direction. I think my 2010 Roadtrip came at a point of my development where I wanted to do just that. I needed it. This blog itself, has a tagline of “Making the Turn, and Proud of It.” Ha! Big words, from a little boy.

I remember my more recent trips to Colorado with my wife. On two of them, we traveled through the Rockies via serious off-roading. The Alpine loop near Ouray, and several difficult 4×4 trails outside of Aspen and Leadville challenged my driving skills. I had to ‘Repent’ in order to proceed up, and also back down the mountain.

The switchback roads are the only way up or down. You can’t go straight to the top. A switchback has a drop-off shelf on one side, the steepness of a sheer cliff face on the other. You are driving slightly uphill, and at a certain point, you have to turn 180 degrees. This moment is spooky. Turning the car directly up and back the other way, can take several tries. Sometimes you have to start and stop and reverse downhill, toward imminent death, in order to make this directional change.

I got that on Sunday. I think God’s mountains in our spiritual lives are just exactly like the physical granite ones. A Switchback is the only way up, or down. We have to Repent, and then Repent again. Again and again and again. The more comfortable we become, with turning and climbing, or turning and descending, the further we can go. But only so fast. We just can’t get to the top instantly. We just can’t return to sea level from a scary height, all at once. It takes carefulness and intention. When I feel safe and level, it is a short moment in between ‘turns’. If I stay that way for long, I’ve stopped. I am now subject to the weather, to storms, I cannot get away. If I rust in place, right there along the road, I only have my unwillingness to change, to blame.

I liked watching those early Top Gear programs. It is nice to see that even the best in the business, struggle at first. The way they started out, you would never have guessed they had so much potential within them. A couple dozen people stood around them in their hangar studio back then. Now hundreds come to watch and laugh and enjoy a show about relationships, with the pretense of being about cars, while millions view around the world.

It gives me hopes for myself, for everyone and everything around me. If we are struggling, there could be greatness in our future. To Turn, and to Repent, and to take a new direction in the opposite way, is a way out and forward, when none seems to be available. In my own world, I have chosen to drive off the edge, many times. I look back at 2010 as a starting point. My ‘trip’ really never ended. I haven’t returned. I may never again, be where I was back then. In many ways I hope I’m not.

I hope the best for Smoke, I’m glad that the one thing he wanted to ask me was about my Trips. That is what this whole thing we call life, really is, right? Just a trip. A short one. It’s a journey with a start and an end, that we get to navigate as we wish. I do hope I take John the Baptist’s off-roading advice, and keep turning and turning and turning. I hope I keep going forward, no matter how slow sometimes. In the end, the views will be absolutely spectacular :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

 

Last Call, and First Light

The lights on our Christmas tree are off at this time of night. 2:18 am and even our twinkling cheery decorations are sleeping. I should be too.

I want to wiggle up into this space and let something go. I see tiny hints of ideas flash quick and then release. My blog this week won’t come to me easy. Foreign fingers are moving before me, almost as if it’s the first time I’ve ever tried to write. Weird huh?

Whatever. I again am posting a ‘something’, a little bit to remind myself someday, where I was today. A long day at the restaurant has just ended. Finally, but without much fuss. The late crowd tonight, played nice. Chill and fun, everyone was in their little zones. I was too.

A younger couple chose good tunes in our jukebox. They weren’t the standard few. Sublime came on, and I was back in high school, and in college too. Dang I loved their music.

I got to talk and just hang out with friends, with family. Funny thing, that seems so foreign to me now too. I used to do it every single day. Now, not so often. I don’t choose to engage much, especially at the bar, while others are partying, I want no part of that.

It’s weird being sober. I don’t like it too much. Especially tonight, especially at night. The buzz would feel so good right now. I would laugh louder, I would talk more. I would make jokes and poke fun. I might actually have fun.

Who knows though, I might have more than that. I might have those things that I used to have, back in my serious partying days. I might have regrets. I might say too much. I might bring tears instead of laughter. Maybe.

I wouldn’t know then, till the morning time, how it all turned out. I might remember some of it. I might have to be told. The morning is the reason for sobriety, to me.

There is not too much I can say for the night, that makes this abstinence better than booze. Nope, at night, where I spend much of my productive time these days, the drinks seem to just want to flow.

I have to hold on though. The morning will be different. That morning and new day, comes with fresh breaths, when I awaken sober. I think back to the night before, and thank God and thank myself, for giving me one more day of resistance. That morning moment is pure sugar to the soul. I know for just a split second, that I am at inner peace with a demon I used to battle daily.

That split second doesn’t last very long. It is not sustaining through the day. I just have it for one fleeting blink of an eye. Then the chaos of normality sets in. I wade chest deep, and try to smile, but usually I am lost on my direction. Truly.

Even with God’s guiding light, I cover my eyes. I try to hide, and hold halfway onto the past, while dreading movement into my future. I wonder most days, If I have worked hard enough, and been on this drinking diet long enough, that I could be forgiven, if I want to slide back. I wonder what would really change, if I uncorked a nice red.

Only in that tiniest of an instant glint, when I wake up in the morning, do I know for sure, that I want to play sober for another day. That’s it. One microsecond. Then it’s gone.

Tonight, this is the message I wanted to tell myself. I don’t know why. I loved being at the bar, and I rarely rarely do. I almost always love our restaurant. However, living as a sober person at the bar, is hardly ever enjoyable. I smiled several times tonight. Real smiles. I wasn’t in a hurry to leave, or to call Last Call.

I need to now though. I need to send myself home. I need to find rest and look forward to tomorrows sober morning moment. I hope it comes again. I hope it keeps coming. I wouldn’t mind if it lasted longer. If it arrived and stayed awhile through my day.

I have let go of so much. I hope someday to begin to feel good about that.

My future is blindingly bright. I have the love of my life on the other side of the wall right now. She sleeps and dreams, and is a fulfillment of mine. I wonder why my inner mechanics direct my vision behind me, into the faded desaturations of dusty darkness, instead of forward, where all vibrant creative possibility lies.

My love, I am coming to you now. I want to see you in morning, first thing. When divine peace hits, I want to be with you :) I am so grateful for the gift you are to me, always :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

 

Mindblowing deals on Black Friday, you can’t miss!

I would have been a bawling baby watching the true story of Laura Dekker and her round-the-word solo sailing adventure, at age 14(!) if my wife wasn’t in the room with me! I  was choked up during the whole movie. What a story! This sweet and pretty teenager has a will like iron. She fought her government in order to be able to battle the sea, by herself. She had a vision and made it happen. She is the youngest person ever to circumnavigate the globe by herself. Wow.

Maidentrip is a documentary worth every second of your time to watch. I love true stories like this, I try to watch them whenever I can.

Even though I am so inspired by long distance sailors, or backcountry thru-hikers, or iceberg ice climbers, I sometimes feel convicted that my life could be so much more adventurous, but it’s not. I see other humans (like me) on the same chunk of rock in space as me (Earth), who seem to be squeezing the most out of the realm of possibility. I wonder if I am wasting my own little life, when I could be doing much much much more.

A friend of mine was visiting the amazing hand-built Bishop Castle in Colorado. He said that he was talking with the creator, Jim Bishop, who had done this entire amazing project by himself. He said that Jim told him, that we all build our own castles. Each one of us has one. We create things in our world every day. The only difference with him, is that he chose one project, just one thing, and did that nonstop for the last 40 years.

Jim Bishop is right. If any of us did just one thing for 40 years we could produce amazing visual results. People could see for miles around, the hard work the creativity and passion we each have for life. Sadly, sometimes I can get lost in the lie that my own little world is just bland and basic. I can forget the story of my own individual path and see it fade into a grey fog of normal-ness.

Yes, we did get a TV bought on a Black Friday deal. Yes, that is just as gut-wrenchingly ‘Merican, as it gets these days. I am aware that I don’t want my whole world to be about the next ‘thing’ I get to buy. It’s such a rotten pleasure. A quick flash of adrenaline when the new stuff arrives, then it sucks away our drive and any adrenaline. I sink back comfortably with pillows all around me and let life move by while watching someone else conquer the world…

Hmm…

It’s not too late. I am building a castle right now. I am circumnavigating my own globe of existence. It certainly hasn’t reached the depth and breadth of the playground I’ve been given. I hope I don’t lose that angst when I watch a 14 year old spindly girl and her Guppy sail around the world. I hope I don’t get lost in my comfortable living room for the next 40 years. I want to be Thankful, that I have some adventurous spark still left, and at least gravitate toward the creation of something amazing. Even in the smallest of ways.

Both of these stories started out so small. ‘A journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.’ I do intend to be taking that step. I see how possible it is. I hope I can keep remembering that… even when setting up my new high definition mindblowing timesucker… :)

Have a Great Day, A Beautiful Day, That God Has Made, For You :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

I will NOT blog about same-sex marriage… Oops!!!

The definition of Marriage, adjusted to include couples of the same sex, is an issue that I will go and place a vote on tomorrow morning. Our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has approved this change at our General Assembly. It is now up to the individual Presbytery’s to ratify (or not) the new version of the definition of marriage to the constitution of this church….

Why did I volunteer to go and make this vote?

I was caught up in the moment. The feeling was huge, decisive and emotional. No one else was really jumping at the chance to be in the heat of this flame. I said, as a ruling elder, that I would go… I have regretted this decision almost from the instant I made it.

I stated to our leadership group, that I did not have my mind set on how to make this vote as of 4 weeks ago. I had not put much thought into the issue at all. I was totally unqualified. I had done no research. I was a beginner to the process altogether. I didn’t know if I would vote for or against the amendment. I also said that if someone else who was more sure about it, someone who’s soul was set, then they should take my place and go vote.

It has been a loooong month since I made the commitment. I have been struggling and learning and trying to look at the issue from both sides. I have read our bible, another book and articles online. I have talked with people in our congregation, in Sunday School and a specific meeting of debates. I have talked with our pastor and the other brave soul who is also going place her vote. I have gotten emails and and texts about the issue in this last week outlining ideas held by my fellow worshipers at Westminster Presbyterian Church. My wife and I have done lots of late night contemplations on it too… And I have been telling myself NOT to blog about it :)

Anyway, as you are probably aware, this is a hugely divisive issue. This could be the death knell for many struggling congregations. It can tear people apart and set them properly on one side or the other of a deep canyon of belief. It is a big deal. I do not take this vote lightly at all. I also do not claim to do the issue justice in my dinky friday morning blog post. I am not going to detail the exact picture of my opinion as it sits this morning.

I have learned a couple really powerful messages in this process that I do want to share. Same-sex marriage is such an inflamed topic that there have been many conservative churches leave our denomination over it. In effect, the opposition to the idea has largely left the conversation. I was astounded to learn this. A formerly tight balance of ideas has now shifted to leaning much further in the progressive direction. This has not happened because of richly debated and keenly discussed compromising. It hasn’t come because one party’s reasoning and openness has melted the hearts of the other side. There hasn’t been new insight gained from the Holy Spirit that has washed the consciousness and left us all viewing the issue with fresh clear vision.

Nope.

The debate is largely over, because the balance is gone.

Hmmm…

I want to take note of how this has happened. I want to be aware of the greater lesson at hand. I want to enlighten myself to the real vote that is happening tomorrow and for the years to come within this denomination, and within society itself.

I want to remind myself that God may be asking us a greater question in all of this. Can we continue to work together, even with significant and deeply emotional differences of opinion? It seems we are answering this question with a resounding ‘No’ right now. It seems as though we are saying, ‘If I can’t have my way, then I am going to leave and find some place where I do get my way.’

Is this really possible as a long term solution to problems like this? I will tell you personally that I do see how big of a rift this issue can cause. I have seen the fire in the eyes of both sides. Yes, I have gotten your emails and facebook messages about it. I have not responded to any of them, but I have carefully read them and thank you for sending them. I am independent in my mind, as usual, and didn’t want to respond with any promises to vote your way or against. In fact, until just recently, I was still quite undecided and confused…

After lots of struggle and fighting with myself, God has laid my mind to rest. I do know right now, how I want to vote tomorrow. I do know that I have my own version of a loving and supportive answer to this question. God helped me see, but it wasn’t until I could really relate it to my own life, that any fogginess could clear.

The next thing that I know for sure, is that I cannot let the votes on this issue make me decide whether or not to continue to work within the church itself. I do understand both sides now. I see why both sides want what they want. I am not mad about it. I do not see a reason to be less than loving to either opinion.

It will be hard still.

Our family restaurant has been through some similarly tough problems. Although the guys in the back do make a bunch of tasteless gay jokes when they work together, that is not what I am talking about here. There have been two strongly opposite ideas at work since I became a full-time partner in the business. We have had knock-down drag out fights over opinions. I wanted so many times to be gone, or to have my opposition be gone. Just like those who have left the church denomination to detach from something they couldn’t work with anymore, I really get that.

In the most heated of our battles, my father-in-law (the Big boss) asked us to find a way to work it out. I wanted so badly to see his support and favor land on one side or the other. God could make this an easier fight too, if he could just silence every question on either side. We want that lightning bolt to come and show us his truth in plain sight, as long as it lands against our enemies. As much as I wanted it too, in our family restaurant squabbles, that strong opinion siding with me or against me, didn’t come.

Instead we were left to continue battling. We did and do still, day by freakin’ day. As I write this post, I still have not found perfect harmony in this business, or with the church either. Overall though, good work is being done. We are feeding people. Our continued effort to simply put one foot in front of the other has been key. Even with cussing and threats and rebellion and retaliation in the smallest and most subtly of ways, we have found the smallest reasons to keep going forward, and they have been enough so far.

I thank God for the struggles now, it is making some recent good moments that much sweeter. My brother-in-law and I are probably a stronger team now, than we ever have been, and yes we still have a long way to go. I respect the improvements he has made. I also am grateful for his resolution to keep working even though I have been super-duper ugly and angry at times.

It’s a small world after all. There is only so much room for us to move away. This spherical design brings us back to where we started, again and always again. All of us are in this crucible together. We have bigger issues at hand. I want to say today, that I will take my little teeny tiny stand on the same sex issue tomorrow. I will place my ballot and vote. I will have grown through this process.

Please pray with me, that we will all somehow find a way to keep working together within the colorful dysfunction that we have been blessed with. God could fix this all real quick, if His intention was to do all the work. I think He wants us to find a way, to make a way. Can we strengthen our character to look to Him up there, and yet keep things functioning some way, some how, down here?

Through Jesus Christ, The Way, The Truth and The Life, I pray so.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

This is a waste of your time… and mine

What’s the freakin’ point! Get to it already! We are vury vury busy these days and we don’t have time to dilly-dally around and spend precious extra seconds to hear what you have to say. I want to get the core guts of the idea right up front. I want to know if I can space out and move on to other things, or lock my focus in for more and more in-depth understanding… and then decide to bail out before the punchline comes anyway…

In this very first paragraph of my blog today, I express something that has been bugging me about my own writing or my own way of being as I have observed it to be, for awhile now. I notice that I spend a lot of words on here each week to unfold my ideas. I eat up several inches of digital real estate every Friday morning, with usually over a thousand words. I do try to have one main clear point in each of these blogs. I wonder why I employ so many letters, spaces and punctuation to do it?

There are three men that I read regularly in my email. Steve Chandler, Seth Godin and Dusan Djukich. All three of these guys send ‘blog’ style email messages that can improve or impact or at least cause some mental intrigue in my life. I get tons of emails, every day, spam mostly, yet I stop to read their words. They tend to write from the heart. They speak clearly and powerfully. They give useful information, that you can employ to author transformation in your own life. They use few words.

In the same amount of text that you have read from me so far today, these three guys might have each made a profound point, with little fuss. I recommend them to you.

For me though, I must enjoy the flowery arrangement of syllables and poetic rhythms. I seem to want to play with the language, and exercise my limited primitive vocabulary. I waste your precious seconds and beat around the bush. Sorry for that.

Truly some days, I don’t know what my point is, until I have written several hundred words. I sometimes need to clear out the mental junk, and let the rusty waters run before something fresh comes through the pipe.

Usually though, I am avoiding and putting off and trying to butter things up. It is weakness. It is excuses. It lacks confidence and clarity. I could just say, exactly what it is that I mean to say, in just a few words. I don’t need all this extra gar-bage in between.

What is my point? What purpose did I intend to convey? How powerfully will I chose to express this message?

You can measure these things by how quickly and deeply these words cut into the juicy idea I am serving up. Usually it’s a bunch of preparation, and very little main course.

The first step to making some changes in my world, are to notice and to be aware of the way things are. Then I can decide if I want to ever so slightly adjust my course of action. The tiniest movements today, can lead to colossal distances in the location of some future arrival.

If I am avoiding the inevitable, it is wasting everyone’s time. Get to it. Let’s get it over with and move on to the next challenge. Placating and being passive aggressive, is a rubbery and challenging existence. Boundaries set firmly, give us strength to exercise against.

Always the best path between point A and B, is a Straight Line, according to the most clear and most concise truth-teller I know, Dusan Djukich.

Maybe next week, you will only have one pair-a-giraffe to read instead of many. Maybe it will be even better yet. Maybe I’ll fail and flail around, making you endure lots of aimless words and not-so-fancy phrasing…

Till then, Take Care :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

In case my blog post today, didn’t help you or jumpstart any creative inner monologues, here are some from the fellas… And they won’t take you long to read :)

Steve Chandler:

Most people go through the day hoping nothing will be much different than yesterday. Especially inside themselves! They aren’t out to grow or stretch or learn (all the same thing), they are out to chill and maintain.

 The problem with that popular approach is that there is no true maintaining. If you are not going forward, you are going backward. Without learning to grow, you are slipping back down a slippery slope to powerlessness.

 I need to know how to learn….to learn how to expand what you can do. Learn how to get stronger and bolder. Lose face. Suffer humiliation, because that’s where true, true strength grows from. When I try something new.

 “Every act of conscious learning,” noted professor of psychiatry Dr. Thomas Szasz, “requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.”

Steve Chandler
www.stevechandler.com
Seth Godin:

Plasticity

Can you change?

Are you stuck with your habits, your knowledge, your weight, your fitness, your interpersonal skills? Is your future a slightly different rerun of your past?

We spend an enormous amount of time and money seeking to reinvent and upgrade ourselves, working to give up something, start something, build something or change something about who we are and what we do.

And we usually fail.

It’s tempting to say, “this is who I am, habits are hardwired, it’s in my DNA, I’m going to live with it.” Tempting, and an easy way out. 

Change is hard, sometimes nearly impossible. But if even one person as far behind as we are has dug in and done enough work to finish that marathon, to change that habit or to learn that skill, it means that it’s not impossible. Merely (astonishingly) difficult.

Knowing that it’s possible is 86% of the project.

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/

And the most concise “one-inch punch” you can read online, Dusan Djukich:

“Feeling bad about something is a waste of life. Change your behavior. Do what’s required.” – Dusan Djukich

“You can speak from ‘game changer’ or you can speak from cliques. The latter won’t make a difference.” -Dusan Djukich

“Constantly choosing comfort over growth is what creates most emergencies.” – Dusan Djukich

 

 

It doesn’t matter how much you give…

Anyone else tired of the hearing the same old message this time of year at Church? Stewardship campaigns usually start now and we will hear something about giving spoken each Sunday during worship. The talks will be about pledging our tithe and maybe increasing our offerings and tithes over the next several weeks. I will hear about it at our church, and you probably will hear about it at yours.

I have even been asked to speak on Stewardship during this season a couple years ago. I talked about how when I was going through a process to eliminate my own debt, that I wasn’t gaining real traction until I started to incorporate tithing into my personal financial plan. Blah blah blah… we’ve all heard it before, tithing ten percent is God’s plan for us to develop a character and an attitude about the money we earn and how to use it responsibly as He has designed…

Again, Blah blah and BLAH! I’m sure you don’t want to hear the same old story from me again. I wasn’t asked to speak this year, and that is fine.

I did enjoy a heartfelt speech from Mr. Wade Hepner. He used his stewardship speech opportunity to show us in detail, how our church and especially our Pastor Tim Soule has helped guide and support his spiritual walk through the darkest and toughest shadowy valleys of death. Man, I hear ya bro. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being so real. THANKS for not forcing us to listen to another textbook example of the definition of a tithe and some lukewarm encouragement to give…

I will use my mini platform here to share an idea that came to me during some recent mentions of stewardship…

IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MUCH I GIVE!!!!!

In my personal opinion, in my personal experience, in truth I want to tell you something I have exercised and profoundly come to expect.

IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MUCH I GIVE!!!!

Up until maybe five years or so ago, I had never even considered giving as something I would regularly do. I didn’t see it as something important. I did spend a lot of my own money in ways that lots of people could enjoy, but I didn’t really give it away for others to do with as they wished.

Now I do tithe ten percent, as accurately as my wife and I can figure. If more comes in, we give more. We do tithe to the church we attend, but I don’t believe that has to be the way everyone does it.

Again, I have noticed that IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MUCH I GIVE!

Along with our tithe we do try support other little fundraising things that are going on with people we know. If the Youth Group is doing something to help pay for their mission trip, we want to participate. If your kid is selling something in order that their team or their class or their group can do their work better, we want to give to that as well. I don’t want to buy their catalog items, but I do want to give to them, cash money.

Again, IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MUCH I GIVE!

If we are out in public and a waiter or waitress or carhop or hostess is serving us, we want to give a tip that is nice every time we are in that situation. Every time we can, we want to give a slightly unexpected amount. It doesn’t always have to be $100, but how fun would that be? Yeah!

Again, I seem to be noticing always that IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MUCH I GIVE!

If I am in line at the store, and someone is having trouble getting their card to run, or they are waiting next to me to pay, I like to go ahead and buy their snacks or drinks, or maybe gas too. I haven’t done the gas thing recently, but I would like to.

In case you haven’t heard me, IT DOESN’T MATTER how much I GIVE.

I am lucky that my wife smiles and says ‘That’s nice’ when I tell her that I have done one of these little things in the day. I want her to know where OUR money has gone. We pool it all, there is no hers or mine. So, when I give our money to someone or something, I am using OUR dollars to do it. I make that call, and she supports it. I am one LUCKY man.

She must also understand at a very deep level that, IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MUCH WE GIVE.

The funny thing is that, even just a year ago, we didn’t have much money to give. I had messed up my income stream and was struggling and only had my debt freedom as anything positive in our financial world. Income was low, lifestyle was minimal. Now we have more than enough. We did give back then too though. We tithed that ten percent. We gave enjoyed the way it felt to give when we had little. It feels even better then, when it is a bigger piece of the little pie.

We at one point asked prayers for our careers and in some ways, even twisted and ironic ways, those prayers have been answered :)

I do have a punchline for my repetitive quote about how it doesn’t matter how much we give…

When I am using my money, my cup to pour out and help fill the cup of another, I find that mine never goes empty. It just doesn’t. If I take stock and look at our numbers in our account, I find that more and more is in there, even though I give more than I ever have in my whole life. It is very strange. I find it fascinating. I don’t believe it sometimes. I think I should end up with less, the more I give away. Although counter-intuitive, it just seems to be soooo true.

It just doesn’t matter how much I give, because I can never outgive God. I can never expend more than he can replenish and re-bless me with. I cannot in all my mighty mouse little power, begin to let go of something that God can’t resupply. I don’t want to do this in order that I test him, or in order that I ‘get’ something that want to come to me. I don’t need to see God prove anything or even to prove to you, that this is true.

It does however seem to work, every single time, no matter what.

I just have not been able to outgive God. It’s like the reverse of casino gambling. If I am betting against the house, they always win in the long run. If I am betting, not with my own money, but with God’s blessings backing me up, I cannot lose.

There is my stewardship message in a nutshell. IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MUCH YOU GIVE. YOU CAN NEVER OUTGIVE GOD.

Have fun everyone. Enjoy being the blesser. Share with a light heart and you’ll find that you get more back than you ever gave out. Try it today :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

Scary! Dat’s what Art Do

Tell me about your consumering.  How is it going? Is your latest purchase delightful? Is a past one holding up swell? I am thinking about some future consumering and I am interested in talking about it now, so I can be more confident when the opportunity arises. Oh, you don’t have any recent purchasing to make small talk with? How sad. I am truly sorry. I hope your consumering returns to a frequent and active level soon, so we have things to discuss…

Hmmm… It may be just me, but I doubt it. Have you noticed how sometimes our conversations can be so centered around our purchasing life? Everyone would want to talk about their excitement over a new house or new car, sure. On a smaller level though, it seems that we’re always talking about where we chose to go buy dinner, or someplace we found for deals on tools, or gear or clothes.

There are very popular and prosperous folks on YouTube who make a living just talking about and ‘reviewing’ stuff they have bought. They show you the item, they tell you their opinions of it. They show you the product in action. I find myself watching these things, and I don’t even want the thing they are reviewing. I have no intention of buying a packable break-down survival bow, but I can tell you I have watched 2 videos on them in the last couple weeks… What!

Something is mesmerizing about purchasing. Like jumping from lilly pad to lilly pad, I spent my twenties making one fun purchase after another. I would look forward and say, yes! That next thing, is what I want to reach for on my next big purchase. I thought about it and yearned for it, over and over until I found myself hauling it home in the back of my truck. Or maybe it was signing the paperwork and driving the newer truck itself home.

This week I watched two documentaries on Netflix about artists. ‘Cutie and the Boxer’ shows struggling artists Ushio Shinohara and Noriko Shinohar. They have devoted their life to art, for half a century. Ushio has made profound works with his boxing gloves and giant canvases. Noriko now is expressing her art in deeply emotional autobiographical and even graphic cartoons. They struggle to pay rent in the movie. They live simply in an old apartment in New York. Noriko, the wife, wants to not worry about money. Ushio, the husband, just wants to make art. Art in this sense has not equaled money.

The other documentary was ‘Design is One,’ about Massimo and Lella Vignelli. This Italian couple has also been at work in the art world for over half a century. They have made a monumental impact on the printed world we live in today. They have designed iconic projects. Almost singlehandedly they introduced the typeface Helvetica to America and liberally used it to great success. This couple cares about simple solid principles of design. Watching them, they care about ‘stuff,’ but through the eye of a true artist. They certainly seem to have turned their art, their gifts, into monetary success.

Sometimes in our everyday world, here in the Midwest, in a small town, I have to look deeper and to pay close attention to notice the Art in people. Everyone is an artist. I care about the artwork you make. I care about the expressions, the liveliness, the bounce and the color in the vivid moving painting that is You. This is probably why I love being with my little nephew boys so much. They are absolutely free artists. They are all expression, all the time. Rarely are they holding back, probably only when forced to, because they have expressed a little too much and just about broken something or themselves.

Our consumering can be confused with the expression of our art. It’s not. When we pick and choose from the bajillions of choices of products out there, and combine them in our own unique way, that shows our ‘personality’ we have still just bought stuff. I have a hard time separating my combinations of consumer products from something I have ‘created,’ but really I just collected. Someday when I am dead and gone, the pile of stuff that was ‘me’ will spread out, it will go to people, and the dump. I will cease to exist in any formal way apart from being a link to future generations through children.

I could spend a lot of my life trying to acquire and ‘get’ things so that I have them. The joke would be on me, I never really ‘get’ them at all. I can hold an image in my mind that all my things are mine, but they ain’t. A tornado or fire, could have them all in almost an instant. I couldn’t hold on to them through that. So they aren’t truly mine.

A creation vs. a consumption however is something different entirely. A creation, is something that didn’t exist in this exact way, before I spent my undivided energy to make it. A creation, like this blog, or like the t-shirt designs I make at work, are things that I have made, instead of bought. Good or bad, successful or not, these things are truly mine. I won’t take 100% credit, since I think God is working through me, through this mind, these hands and the digital machine, to make this story happen on screen. Still, this set of words has only ever happened through me, through my specific point of the vast consciousness, He created.

My artwork, is something to be shared. It is only for others, besides a mild therapeutic effect. This blog probably causes as much stress on me, as it is soothing. Creations, Expressions, and Making something in this place is important. You create art. Some of it is obvious and painterly. Most of it is just in the picture of your life you have chosen to sketch for all of us to see. You have done amazing works of creation. You’ve conquered, you’ve quested, you’ve danced and you’ve adventured all through life to this amazing exact point right, Now.

We all have led such interesting stories. We’ve all made fantastic artwork. We’ve all been fueled by an almighty Creator, who designed us in his image. I hope we don’t spend the short amount of time in this place, just being fantastic Consumers. Just buying stuff, again and again, it won’t be enough. We will always want more. Living well is no sin, but only living to get more stuff is one.

I think we want stuff, because of fear. We fear that we’ll have to go without. We don’t want that.

Art is the opposite of fear. Art lets loose. Yes, it is risk. True art is ourselves not caring about the world. Sometimes, the world responds and acknowledges with rewards. Sometimes it does not. Everytime the art was worth the effort. Everytime, the expression is the importance, not the reward.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

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The not wise-crack of my plumber’s nightmare

Three thick and folded throw rugs didn’t soften enough of the hard cabinet’s edge as it dug into my love handles Sunday night. I had wiggled my way deep under our new kitchen sink and I was attempting to saw apart the existing drain stack. The hacksaw blade was dull. There was no room to move. My brow sweat was dropping among the random mouse turds. I knocked over my flashlight constantly. I was not enjoying this home improvement project.

Like all the plumbing fixtures in my little house, the old sink and faucet was originally purchased near the bottom of the price and quality scale. Everything was new when I moved in, a whole plumbing system installed by the BEST. The dream team of Mr. James Carpenter and the Ray Steanson did it all. Now, after too long of letting the cheap rotten kitchen faucet leak, I was attempting to replace it.

Why not put in a new sink too, while I’m at it? Sure, can’t be that hard… Right.

Anyway, as I was under that cabinet for the umpteenth time, and was hurting and sweating and throwing my back out, I wondered why I decide to try these things…

I am cheap. Yes. If I think I can avoid paying to have something done, I will try it myself. Usually, I wait too long. I wait till the problem is almost an emergency and then start learning and researching about the skills it will take to fix it. Maybe it’s a house thing, or a car thing, or maybe something random, at the restaurant. I do try things that are out of my comfort and ability zone…

Luckily Sunday night, my beautiful wife was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor. With only my lower half sticking out of the darkness, I’m sure she saw an ugly sight. I wildly flung around kicking the Clorox bottles, the orange carboard trash-bag box, and random pieces of PVC pipe while she attempted to hand me tools. Mostly it was just her smile that helped when I was wanting to cuss out the world. Her encouragement slightly adjusted my attitude, which did help my progress.

Eventually, after fitting and refitting, gluing, tightening and then disassembling everything again once more, I had the faucet hooked up and the sink set. I had rebuilt the drains to accommodate the deeper basins and the swap of the disposer position.

This project took me the whole day.

After one trip to DIY at 1:00, and then the first try at it, I realized I forgot sealant for the basket strainers… In grumpy protest, I sat in front of the computer for the afternoon and watched an episode of Ink Master on YouTube… That 45 min spent on mindless artist drama did not help with my sink install… Darn, I thought it might.

It was Saturday when I tore out the old sink. I purposely began the demolition part of the project to force me into the next step. On Sunday afternoon, after getting almost nowhere, I wished I hadn’t done that. Smartly, I tricked myself into making it happen, by starting without any plan on how I would finish.

Eventually, after another trip to town, after crawling in and out of the undercabinet tiny torture chamber a hundred times, I had it all hooked up. Water flowed in, the water flowed out. No leaks and the garbage disposal worked. One of the most important things was that I did manage to make the the little inner cross pieces of the strainer look squared up, and the Kenmore logo is not upside-down on it’s silver ring inside the sink…

After everything worked and we had cleaned up my many messes. My wife looked happy. I saw that she appreciated the completed result…

Funny thing though, it will take me awhile to think the same way. This was a hard project for me. I am not talented with handy-man skillz. Almost all of my family and friends are probably better at this kind of stuff than me. I truly was ticked-off for an entire day over this silly sink and new stainless spray wand. Even almost a week later, my back is still out of whack and I look at my accomplishment, noticing a tiny scratch by the three-hole cover plate instead of the overall functionality and improvement…

‘How we do some things, is how we do all things.” according to author Steve Chandler. This sink install is a perfect test sample of how I tend to do everything in life.

I wait too long to start. I procrastinate until I have almost no time left. I bite off more than I can chew. I don’t practice ahead of time, I don’t repeat the same things over and over. I usually try something that someone else would be much better at, and do it rather sloppily. I kick and whine and mope around. I don’t enjoy my projects while they are in progress. I wish I had never started them in the first place. I spend my energy in rebellious pouty-ness. I try to get sympathy and want everyone to see how hard what I have chosen to do is. I want attention and positive reinforcement. Overall, I act like a brat, yet I do continue on with the work…

Eventually, usually, I get the desired result. I get everything I want. I get to be cheap, trying to do it all myself. I get to jerry-rigg and invent solutions Macgyver style. I must secretly enjoy this self-punishing approach because it is how I do everything it seems…

At the end of the day. Usually I can look back and be proud of something I have accomplished. I do have abilities and skills that that I don’t trust myself enough with. I want to be a big baby about it all, yet I can make neat things happen when I try…

In in the big picture. From the birds eye view, or even from a higher spiritual perspective, I think all the whining and crying and negativity fades into the background noise. I’m not sure any of it really matters. I only lower my own enjoyment levels, I could let all that go. It isn’t what counts… I can throw a fit all I want… and really I don’t think anyone cares.

What matters is, what I end up with, not how I get there…

Have a great week Y’all :)

With Love,

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Fired Twice Today!

Twice today, live fire with bright yellow licking flames surprised me at work. At both of my ‘jobs’, the scary truth is that either one could have burned down down down. Twice today, when this hardly ever, never even comes close to happening, real danger showed up, and reared it’s fiery head. Twice luckily, the danger was averted.

The screen print shop is usually a relatively safe and harmless environment. Sure the ink from the bucket seems to jump out and stain itself on you, as you walk around or even look in it’s general direction. Normally it is an orderly and even quiet place of production. The action of the soft shirts and the squeegees dragging across the silken screens, isn’t very dramatic. Normally, everything goes like clockwork, albeit an overloaded and quickly running clock these days. We have been uber-busy for over two months solid now, at the t-shirt shop that I create artwork for.

No, most days aren’t like today. Usually, the faint smell of something smoky is no big deal. Sometimes the shirts in the dryer give off a grey puff of steamy vapor as they travel along the belt, while the fresh ink cures. Today’s smoke smell didn’t dissipate quickly though. Today that smoke meant fire. A single tee got caught and jammed up as it entered the machine it is supposed to moved quickly through. Going unnoticed for just long enough to get real real hot, it burst into flame, just as our Jaime, our screenprinter dislodged it by hand!

Whoosh! He came flying out of the back room, past my desk and headed out the back door. Caught in surprise, I jumped up and just ran behind him, not really knowing how to help. The tee started to fall apart right in the rear entrance. We kicked those flames out into the concreted breezeway. Back inside, there was more action. Roger had a baby floor fire to deal with and ordered me to grab the extinguisher. I pulled the pin and shot a couple little droops of puff powder down. It was only a couple small spots, that were lit. He almost had it beat with a water bottle already. Either way, we didn’t take any chances, we used the big guns.

Ha! How quickly our world can go from zero to one hundred miles per hour. I was just sitting at my computer, deciding on a font, or something, then all of a sudden it was go time. Emergency mode. Think quick, act quick! The flaming tee really didn’t cause any harm overall. In a short time period, there was no trace left of the danger, that almost was…

Only a few hours had passed when tonight at the restaurant, we had a real big crowd. Lots of people came out to eat with us, and we were in the thick of the weeds. I had been out front, trying to help people get seated. I brought menus, silverware, asked about drinks and apps. Also I wanted to tell everyone about our Customer Appreciation Week Specials. The doors kept swinging open with more and more people pilling in. Eventually the kitchen rail was racked with tickets. They hung side by side, jammed close and overflowed onto the heavy metal hood, stuck in stacks with thick round magnets. We were just slammed.

I was helping out in the kitchen by finishing off some of the plates. I grabbed little extras that people had ordered. I really just tried to do anything that may help our crew. I was cooking batches of steamed vegetables, and I had a cluster of a mess. My flash frozen asparagus and broccoli went into the pot, and came out quick, over and over. I thought I was doing a decent job. The lid was scalding temp, and so I had hot pads nearby.

As I was plating some sides facing the opposite wall, our waitress Hayley yelled, ‘Fire’!! One of the oven mitts had found the gas flame on the range. Again! Something caught fire and I was right there. This time it was my fault and I needed to handle it. I grabbed the thing, ordered our dishwasher Becky to step aside and dunked it deep into the big sink of water. Whew! Another close call, danger, real danger, averted. We were back to normal in no time and kept on rocking through the meals until we fed everyone in the place.

Now, as I look back on the day, it seemed overall like a normal day. Yes, I was plenty busy at both jobs. Lots to do, and lots to accomplish. These two scares, were so short and quickly snuffed out, that it didn’t really move the needle too much. I am not still shaking in response or worried right now at all.

I’ve heard it said that ‘Any idoit can face a crisis.’ And today (as an idiot), I did. I jumped to attention. Did something that needed to be done. Went toward the flames, not away from them. And all this was instinct and all of it overdramatized here for effect. Neither of these events were epic flaming battles, but they could have been, if left to develop on their own. Neither one caused any damage, but they could have destroyed everything.

What could I recognize for my life in general that these lessons can teach me? What else could I jump to solve and not quit until an answer seems clear? Why can I seem to know an emergency priority so clearly, and yet in the normal, non-on-fire moments of life, let my mind and imagination and action and potential do a whole lot of nothing?? The rest of that quote I started earlier, talks about ‘day to day living’ and how it wears you out. I don’t know about wearing out, but I can certainly see how the day to day doesn’t get the same attention or purposeful action as a crisis, an emergency.

I don’t take the time to connect with people, when there isn’t an emergency. I don’t jump to assist, when nothing is about to burn down. I don’t even usually move a muscle to help myself progress along my own path, until I have procrastinated my way up against a brick wall.

Are we just built and designed to handle problems, and when one doesn’t seem to show itself we go on autopilot? Or maybe it’s just me, and not you? Maybe you manufacture deadlines and track your projects daily, feeling an internally created heat blazing down on you to make something special happen?

I know that I do go on autopilot and just ‘get through’ most of my days. It’s a worm’s life, as Steve Chandler would say. Inching along, doing my minimum daily duties, never looking up and beyond the few feet in front of me. I have wings, I could fly any direction I want. I saw myself spring to action today.

Maybe I can visualize those jumping flickering and dangerous flames more often. Maybe I can superimpose that dangerous combustion onto more mundane moments in my world, and trigger the hero moments on my own terms…

Big ‘Maybes’… Or only they are big when I overdramatize them in my mind. Just like these two little fires today, they weren’t really a big deal. In the days to come, they will be all but forgotten. Let’s hope we don’t forget that everything can change in an instant, and we can be our best at any given time, just by deciding to be…

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

“Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.”

Anton Chekhov