Fixing the Fixations

Since I haven’t used shaving cream all week (and yes, I’ve been shaving) I thought I would mention my experience here. Several days ago, I watched a video that someone had posted to facebook about these gels and foams and creams being unnecessary. The video producer was very emphatic that we are wasting our money and even damaging our skin with this stuff, I thought what the heck, I’ll try it!

I haven’t used aftershave in years, and now no shaving cream either, sweet! My morning routine is quicker, cheaper and better than ever. This is just one actionable item, out of hundreds of things that I have learned from YouTube.

Earlier this week, at the end of the day, I was stuck to the computer screen and my wife mentions that ‘You may have a YouTube addiction’. My wife is right. My response was something about the fact that I used to have other addictions too, that I have now let go of. I used to like drinking and smoking and reckless living. I guess I have been addicted to things almost as long as I can remember.

Maybe instead of addiction, I could reframe the term and use ‘Fixation’. I can quickly sometimes choose to be fixated on an idea or a project or even the search for an idea, and all my other priorities fade into the background. Even though I may have been four and half years free of alcohol, or seven years free of cigarettes, I have not lost my ability to fixate in the least.

I have heard that at the AA meetings, people introduce themselves as an alcoholic, even when they have been sober for years. I guess this is a way to notice that fixation on a drug is possible, even after a long break from it.

Right now I am drinking from a colorful can of La Croix Curate naturally essenced sparkling water. I love these things. They are 0% everything on the nutrition label and refreshing to drink, now that I have become appreciative of the taste. When I first tried them, the sting of the carbonation was too strong for the ever so slight fruitiness of flavor. They are a ‘dry’ beverage, they aren’t sweet and a flavor that most people would pass on.

Actually, these little cans of hippy water remind me of my first experiences as a teenager of drinking beer. Natural Light or Busch or Bud or any of those things don’t actually have a good flavor. You could give a baby a sip of beer and their face will twist up in disgust. I remember having to learn to like the taste of beer because I wanted to drink it and be like the ‘guys’. Sure, once you’ve had anything in enough frequency and quantity, you begin to develop fondness and mental urges that suggest it’s good!

Good times with friends stir together with memories of beer, wine and music. Heck, I could go for cold mug of suds right now!

Buuuuut, I won’t.

Isn’t it funny, that a toxin and literal poison, can be so intriguing and beloved? I like drinking these little cans of La Croix in any flavor, like Pomme Baya or Cran-Raspberry, because of the tickle and burn. If I swish the bubbly drink around, it feels like a beer in the mouth. I reminisce with these silly sodas…

I guess I could say that I am Aaron Nichols and I’m an alcoholic… but whatever. That doesn’t seem empowering to me right now.

What I would rather notice, is that fixations can be positive or they can be negative. Fixation for a 12 year old boy could result in a life of major league baseball success, or of a life spent in and out of prison. Fixations like YouTube can overtake my free time. The computer is always on, another video is always suggested immediately. I miss moments right before bed to converse with my wife, and end the long day together.

But, I have now saved us tens of dollars per year, by giving up shaving cream! YES! The enormous value of this online video resource is staggering!!

Actually… uhhh… I guess I’d better get off this computer and back to my real life. Where my cute daughter will be waking soon and the real business that I manage is about to open for the day.

Till next week my friends be well, and may God Bless you.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Boring Moments at My Church!

I feel bored at church sometimes… sure! Sunday mornings are the tail end of my work week, I have spent a long couple days and nights at the bar (managing/not drinking!) and I can be exhausted tired during worship. My mind wanders just like anyone’s can, and last week it settled upon a 20 foot long piece of golden oak colored wooden trim.

The trim piece hangs horizontally above the choir area, there are two, but one is larger. I caught myself staring at it.

It is not the feature piece of woodwork hanging at the front of our sanctuary, that would be the Cross itself. No, this is just a decorative board that probably covers a sheetrock edging underneath the pipe organ pipes…

ANYWAY!!!!

The trim piece is quite long. I noticed myself looking for a seam, for a joint, for the place where two or more planks were expertly connected together. I found it. At least one of them was visible from my seat in the pews.

That one long clear rectangle of oak was made up of different parts. Maybe they were from the same tree, but probably not. They were two nice clear sections of those trees. They were not all knotty and blemished, but I’d bet other parts of their original trunks were. Those segments of wooden cellulose were planed down, made smooth and shaped. They were sawn and sanded. They were hand rubbed and brushed with the perfect lacquer.

An oak tree is inherently strong and beautiful, but the final look was achieved not by slapping a raw branch on the wall. It was crafted by the hand of a finish carpenter. Making custom trim is a fine art, one we see every day and hardly notice.

Did you know that there is a carpenter who’s hand can shape our souls. He can use the gnarliest knotted and twisted trunks to craft masterpieces. His touch slices away the brittle and ugly outer bark. His words restore and heal even the biggest cracks in our inner grain. When we have asked him to make us His project, He uses all the best pieces of us. He deftly joins together the past with it’s mistakes and regrets and the present moment with inner peace and our future with loving possibility.

The seams in the many sections of our lives can be noticed up close. He leaves them, so that others know we are not one perfect individual from start to finish. He allows the joints to remain, so that we can show others that all of our varied parts together can help make one continuous beauty.

There are pieces left on the woodshop floor. There are chunks and remnants and thin curled shavings that he removes for us. Thank God. We can want to hold on to all of our natural wildness sometimes, defending its earthy handsomeness. There are parts that we don’t need. There are extra appendages and growths of baggage that we are better off without.

The master carpenter is willing and absolutely able to sculpt with love, if we will let him…

So I guess that, is what the boring moments at church teach me.

Until next week, Be well my friends.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

Massking the Truth

“Name something that doesn’t have mass.” Was a deceptively tough question posed by my middle school science teacher. I can remember thinking how simple and easy the answer must be, but I just couldn’t come up with anything to quickly throw out there. My seventh (or eighth) grade mind was stuck on the material, and everything material has mass.

I wanted to name super light things like air or wind, but those are still things. They can inflate or move other items of mass, so they must have it too.

For some reason that one question has stuck with me over the years. I am now more aware than ever, of the spiritual vs. the physical world. The real things in this life that are completely powerful and yet free of any measurable mass are ideas, emotions, addictions, purposes or spiritual gifts. Our world is full of ‘things’ that can’t be defined with scientific measurements, yet have shaped all that we see and know as life in earth.

The spiritual effect is our motivation. The physical object or energy is our tool to access it… if we spiritually choose to do so.

I started this story today, wanting to speak about buying a CD. When I was young kid, we had cassette tapes, and tape players. We rewound and fast forwarded and could ‘tape over’ an old recording, with a new one from the radio, or a plugged-in microphone. I, of course, know that other people grew up with previous versions of music archiving technology, like 8-tracks and vinyl records. When I was in middle school, the shiny silver disc called a CD was introduced.

The music industry began to sell the ‘cool’ new way to buy it’s songs… right? Well, now we have digital media and again we have yet another option for an item of mass that holds a three minute pop song tune.

I am not going argue about whether or not an MP3 has a measurable gram of mass, but it does take up space on a hard drive, right? Too many and your drive is full. BUT, the songs themselves don’t have mass at all. The actual moment of listening is a spiritual experience. The bright emotions that spring up with the beat, or the rage that can be strummed out from darkness with a powerful base line are intangible, but real.

I missed an opportunity to see my favorite band this week. I would have paid for a physical ticket to be in their presence, but what I would have bought was a completely ethereal experience. The ticket itself has no value as a piece of paper with the band name printed upon it.  The moment where I could sit in their presence and relive memories and make new ones and support the guys who’s souls have composed songs I love, is worth waay more than the purchase price.

Just like the ticket, our slices of greenish paper called money, have no real value. They could maybe start a fire for you in an emergency, but their mass actually means very little in the whole scheme of things. The spiritual value of money is everything. This creation of God called money is power and security and danger and whimsy. The potential for the holiest of good or horrific bad is all in the spirit of the person who is using it. You could say that one of the world’s most powerful objects, isn’t an object at all.

That is why money still has meaning when we don’t have the paper to prove it.  The paper vehicle of money is under attack, and rightly so, it is anonymous and that means everything. The enemy wants to be like God, tracking you at all times, with power over all your earthly value. We need to hold on to our physical green paper cash, while we can.

God knows the value of our spirit, much beyond this physical world we inhabit. The enemy wants us to believe that our ‘stuff’ defines us. It don’t.

The enemy wants to sell you a new vehicle for your music, when the music hasn’t changed. God’s promises are the same today, yesterday and tomorrow, but the Enemy says this new way, is better, just buy into it. When we can start to see the difference, the contrast and open our eyes to the spiritual world, we see that the emperor (of the world) has no clothes. There is no way to sell or steal or even shake the spiritual steadfast called God. There is a torrent however of physical plastic junk that attempts to replace Him.  We cannot buy our way to heaven, when the price of admittance is free.

That, my friends, angers and torments the king of demons himself.

Know that the real you has no mass, no body and no stuff. All our investments that matter are in relation to our spirit.

Thank You ALL, for reading these words. I wish true immeasurable and intangible blessings upon you this day.

Sincerely,

Your Friend

Aaron Nichols

 

 

Life’s single-most important moment!

I’m glad to know that this blog post is the very most important thing in the world to you. Really, it warms my heart. I can’t believe that there isn’t something that is rating higher on your list. I do appreciate it though.

I often find myself at mini-mental crossroads, or mega ones, wondering about what is most important in life. I struggle with that question as I navigate each day. The scales of inner justice tip one way, then the other, while I quickly ponder issues at work, in my spiritual life and in relationships with other people. I often find certain value on both sides of the coin and get caught in the middle, trying to straddle two options at once. Commitment to a decision can be tough.

You are committed to reading this post right now. Of course, maybe you are simultaneously watching a YouTube video, or playing background music. Maybe you are supposed to be working and reading this instead. I really hope you aren’t checking out these words while driving! If so, put the phone down!

Ha, anyway I often am wondering about what is the true importance to the bigger picture of life. I want to really know if any small action, or big one is worthy of effort, or not… It bugs me that I can’t be sure of the whole picture ahead of time. I have noticed one thing however…

Whatever it is that I am physically doing, at any given moment, is the most important thing in my world. By default, it has to be. Although I may have a whole laundry list of items I find more critical or meaningful or significant, than my current action in the present moment, those other things have taken a back seat, to what I’m doing right now.

In fact, at this very instant, writing this blog post to you, is the most important thing in my life. I have a super cute sleeping daughter in the other room. I could just sit and watch her peaceful breathing, instead of this. I have a kitchen with dirty dishes that could be washed. I have a garden needing planted, and a lawn needing mowed. I have weak spiritual muscles that could use a healthy dose of the Good Book, to strengthen them. I have vacation plans to make for the summer. I have lots of work that could be done at our restaurant too. I am putting off so many important things, like even getting a few more minutes of sleep before a long day at work, to type out these very words.

(as another reinforcement to this idea, my phone just rang. It was a call that I had requested be made. I took the call, and then returned to the blog. For a moment, that call was the most important thing in my world, and it was about our Friday lunch special, that’s all…)

I don’t’ have to wonder and agonize about what are the most necessary and crucial moments of my life. I just have to look at what I am choosing to do, right now. There is a level playing field that we all share. 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, 12 months in year. None of us live outside the confines of those precious few minutes that I know of. However we are choosing to invest our snippets of time, is the vote we are casting as most important to us, period.

I would love to keep believing that I can be doing one thing, just passing the time till something more monumental comes along… Just like when  I am choosing to watch a silly facebook video, instead of seeing my daughter really learning to crawl… Hmm… I can’t defend that one.

Recently, Rabbi Daniel Lapin spoke about the secret to life. His words were about creating a wonderful life for yourself and the quote was near to these words, “A successful person does what he must do, when he must do it.”

I am really preaching to myself here, but maybe the message is for more than just me. I hope to realize and act upon the ideas God gives me to write about here. I want to walk this walk, instead of just talking this talk.

Until next week, be well my friends.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Playing like a Girl… A Baby Girl…

To our baby, everything is a puzzle. She has several toys designed as puzzles and some that aren’t. It’s fun to watch her curiosity at work especially since she has become so mobile lately. She can explore the room. She scoots around and squeals as she grabs and swats at any object she can reach.

Right now in fact, the wheels of the office chair have her attention. Usually though, she plays with something out of her pink fabric box of treasures. She has several puzzle style toys that she attempts to figure out. A stack of translucent plastic stars fit over a central peg, and she bangs them around, wanting them to slide on. There is a cartoony zebra with a channel built in to accept square plastic blocks, and she can sometimes make them ride all the way down.

Basically, she is constantly unceasingly learning to unlock the systems and mechanics of the world around her. For now, it may be just how a hard cardboard book opens and closes, or how the beads slide along a spiral metal rod. These are simple things but important to her. She wants to make them do, what she can get them to do. And taste every one of them too.

What is different about our 8 month old, than of me, or of you? Don’t we all just want to know the solutions to the puzzles we see around us in life? I sure do. I am racked with curiosity about how our world really works. I spend almost all of my free time playing with that question. It really is the same at my jobs as well.

I want to find out how a restaurant works best. I want to explore the possible options of managing our menu, our inventory, our systems and our people too. Working to design tee shirts, which I have done for 20 years, I still start with a blank page almost every time, working with the puzzle pieces provided to create something ‘cool.’ There is so much to learn everyday, and just like JoJo, I am banging around clumsily, just seeing what happens when I try.

There is nothing special about our baby, that isn’t inborn into each child on earth. I am positive that we all have innate curiosity woven into our very core being.

There are times of exhaustion or of frustration, where maybe we all just want to space out and veg. Playing hard and solving puzzles all day can tire us out, and we will want warm milk and a nap. It is interesting though, that our daughter can be so naïve about the bigger world around her, and yet completely content playing in the small space she occupies.

That is how I operate as well. I have a realm that I have crawled around. I have grabbed at it and pulled toys off the shelves that I could reach. In the bigger picture however, it is but the 5 x 7 living room rug. The wide universe of possibilities is much larger. Back and forth around the room, day in and out, I try to solve what I can see in front of me.  Rarely though, do I try to get out of the room itself.

There is a creator God watching me, knowing my little routines, my smallness. God is aware of my curiosities too. Every once in a while He provides an opening.  I’ll notice a new doorway as I pass by again. These opportunities if taken, are monumental shifts of the mind, some good and fun, but some challenging. Crossing new thresholds into the unknown can unnerve.

The curiosity though, of finding out more, about the depth and breadth and the keys to the puzzle of life itself are too tantalizing to pass up. Just like JoJo, I usually must explore, what I can explore, for my own good or not.

Joella may want to go back someday to the simplicity of playing contently with a small box of plastic toys on a sunny Friday morning at home with her Daddy. She may someday find herself far away from the peacefulness of a moment like this. I may want to return here too. It’s so awesome to watch her little mind at work. I pray that both our curiosities don’t take us too far away from here, but I think they will.

We’re all just trying to figure this ‘life’ thing out. We all can just see what we can see.  We can’t see the wider context that our observer can see us inhabiting. I am trying, and finding out by failing and failing again to whet the unquenchable thirst for knowledge that our Creator ignited within.

Until next week, be curious my friends.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Telling of Fortune

Because, I can’t perfectly predict the future… well… lots of things…

I noticed today, that I was looking at a stockroom and freezers that were cashed, almost emptied out. It was a heckuva busy Friday evening, the night before. I needed to scramble and work hard on replacing our supplies, just in case that same wave of customers arrived again tonight…

Because I can’t perfectly predict the future…

I had run down my grocery stock, because of it. I had to guess again to reload our shelves, because of it.

Almost all the management I do with our restaurant inventory has to do with not being able to accurately predict the future.

Overall, our evening went well. We had enough of almost everything to serve our guests with no hiccups.

Sometimes, it seems that I would really like to be able to predict the future… perfectly.

I could avoid a lot of headache and hassle. I could let anxiety and worry go, as I would be absolutely confident in the events to come. I would precisely plan, and execute efficiency on astronomical levels, if I knew ahead of time… everything.

Then again, where would any sense of accomplishment come from? What kind of skill or courage does it take to act, when there is no risk of failure?

I think that not knowing must be the gasoline, the fuel that explodes and turns the cranks of our internal motors.  Maybe the mystery that exists just beyond the hairline edge of the present moment, is all that drives us forward?

I don’t know what makes my mind want to dissect and examine a simple thought, like ‘I can’t predict the future,’ I just know it does want to do that.

Working to supply our restaurant with perishable items  to maybe sell to hungry guests, is just one simple task that ignites my personal passion for challenge. I take great pleasure in watching our plans unfold somewhat like we had hoped. I like seeing our customers happy.

All of life is more interesting, since we can’t perfectly predict the future. Usually though, ‘interesting’ can be a four-letter word. Today, I want to express my appreciation for this construct, built into the universe created by God Almighty. Even when I don’t understand, it must be good.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

 

 

 

 

You can call me Jack. Jack-Ass that is…

I’ve been called an ‘Ass’ more times than I can count. Really, that specific word has come up almost my whole life in certain circumstances. Usually, I’m in the middle of a snarky giggling guffaw, appreciating a clever remark I sent stinging in some friend’s direction. I’m ‘giving them crap’ and the common response is something like “You’re an Ass!”

Last Sunday, during church, I found myself thinking that being an Ass, isn’t such a bad thing.

It was Palm Sunday, the familiar scriptures were read. The Word showed us the triumphant entrance to Jerusalem that Jesus made to a jubilant throng of people. They lay down their cloaks.  They wove a lush green carpet of palm branches too. He wasn’t mounted on a white stallion, or strapped into a gilded golden chariot. Our Pastor Ron, explained it was quite possible that the little donkey that Jesus chose to ride in on, was so small that the feet of God’s Son may have been dragging the ground.

The colt, the foal, the small and immature Ass, that Jesus used to fulfill an ancient prophecy, can teach us a lot about the way He works in our lives today. I can sure relate, not to the King, not even to the worshippers along the road, but to that base animal, that Jesus mounted himself upon.

I have heard it said that the colt, could even be considered stolen, by some. The disciples were following orders. They took it and brought it back to their Rabbi. He is showing us the irony, that his power doesn’t arrive like a knight dressed for battle. It’s unarmed, it’s common-looking, and it’s the greatest love the world has ever seen.

I don’t ever feel like I’m ‘the type’ of ‘churchy’ person, that someone would expect to be a born-again Christian. I can remember growing up and seeing the men in suits and ties, leaders of the community, with stiff-combed white haircuts, as The Men of the church. I’m sure they were fantastic Christians too.

What Jesus is telling us though, is that He can use the unexpected to carry out God’s will. All of us are important to His grand masterpiece. Even the wild-stubborn, adolescent and raw jackass is integral to his arrival. You could conclude that he needed to show up on that animal to prove the might of his world-altering sacrifice. It puts an exclamation point upon beginning sentence of this Passion week story.

Today is Good Friday, the darkest hours, the humiliation, the pain, the death before the resurrection.

I’m assuming that same little donkey went back to his own world, and chewed some hay, while Jesus was bleeding for all our sins.

When we chose Him, and he rides into the world again, upon the back of an Ass, like me, I can’t really go back again. His touch changes and transforms. Life is never the same as before. It is still common and gritty and dark at times. There are plenty of moments where I feel untamed and immature. I want to stay stubborn as a mule. At the darkest hour though, when all hope seems lost and the flame is gone and only smoke is left… The candle relights.

Jesus is resurrected. Death is conquered. Easter is a state of the heart, implanted into every person who wants it.

We aren’t lost sheep. We haven’t been forgotten. We may be tied up with almost no prospect of something better. The disciples are on the way. They will steal us, and take us to the Teacher. He will use us, just as we are, in perfect fulfillment of prophecy.

Be thankful my friends. Our salvation is being earned today, not because we can ever deserve it, but because his love is beyond simple comprehension.

Until next week, may God bless us all, ay you be a vehicle for His will, may Easter live all year in our oh-so human hearts.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

And I took the road more traveled…

My wife and I shared a little sarcastic laugh on the way home from a quick Spring Break trip out of town on Tuesday afternoon. We were driving north again on that familiar two-lane between Garnett, KS and Fort Scott. I’ve been on it so many times. I don’t know its name or really care. I could drive it in my sleep, and probably have!

Lindsay had chosen us another fun getaway to the Ouchita mountain range on the Oklahoma and Arkansas border. We stayed in a little resort, right on Highway 59 and could see the ancient rounded-off peaks all around us. We visited family first, then spent a day cruising the Talimena Scenic Byway. That road was a new one for us, and fun to drive. Vista points and views of the valleys dropped drastically off both shoulders of the skinny asphalt strip.

I claim to enjoy driving through these types of interesting, technical and panoramic places. I claim to want to see mountains on every trip we take. I claim to enjoy four-wheel driving the backcountry and overlanding to quaint campsite destinations hidden high in the altitude…

Funny then, that I complained to my wife about driving out across the Kansan prairie on our way home. Funny that the long flat strap of black asphalt was boring me to death, heading back north out of Moran.  Isn’t it funny that I was bothered and just wanted the trip to end quickly and arrive home on that Tuesday afternoon…

That is ironically and maybe even sadistically funny because the roads I drive every single day of my ‘normal’ life here at home are as flat and as straight as any roads in the world. Besides one very short and shallow Ess curve, just north of Princeton, the highway I spend almost every day driving is pencil straight. You could lock your steering wheel with The Club, and just wait the 7 minutes out, till you track into the south end of Ottawa, Kansas.

Oh, Ottawa?? Yeah that is my hometown. I was born and raised there. Hills and mountains?? Hardly!! Nope, Ottawa is geographically non-interesting. We have a river and we have agricultural land all around. There are the Chippewa hills, but c’mon, they’re not very tall at all. Of course, Ottawa or Princeton can be a great place to raise a family, but for hiking and highland majestic views?? It can’t compare with even (Pough-Dough) Poteau, Oklahoma!

So then, when I claim to love the mountains and claim to want to explore the rugged heights where most cars and trucks can’t go, I am full of crap. If I really loved that stuff so much, I would make it a priority and a commitment in my life. I wouldn’t spend day after day after day, driving back and forth from P-Town to O-Town down the same ruler-straight stretch of flat road.

If I complain and roll my eyes when I speak of that ‘boring’ highway south of Garnett, I am poo-poo-ing the avenue and gateway to new adventures. I am actually reinforcing an untruth. I could actually express my love for that road, because it leads to higher places.

If I spend my inner-thought-life trying to convince myself that I am a high-mountain adventurer, it’s a bit of a stretch. In practice, I’m living the flatlanders’ existence 99.8% of the time. Really I must be enjoying these plains and prairies more than the peaks. I have to. If I was so uncomfortable with my two feet on level ground, I would do what it takes and move to a steep slope, up there among the pines.

This place where my world unfolds must be exactly where I want to be. It is where I met my beautiful wife and where we raise our daughter. It is where I worship God and where I make my living. I own a home and see my family and friends here every day. I have invested almost 37 years here in the Sunflower State. On Monday I’ll hit that number, just 8 miles down the road from where I started.

Coming home, down from the hills to drive this same flat piece of pavement, must be what I really want. If it wasn’t, then I would have just stayed up there, any way, any how. I know my wife would entertain adventure if I really really wanted it. She has an alternative mind like mine too. She must be a little crazy, to deal with me every day.

Just becoming more honest with my own truths, is an exercise worth doing. Finding out that it is okay, to really enjoy life, right now, exactly as it already is, has value. Settling into the fact, that all my commitments show up in the precise proportion to which I have decided to hold fast to them. If I want different things, I need only shift those commitments, but without a shift, nothing at all has opportunity even to change.

I have a someday list, like a lot of people do. It probably includes more mountain time. Right now though, getting my head out of the clouds and into the place where the rest of my life is actually occurring seems the better choice.

I’m glad to be home, and glad to be sharing again with you, some words that flow with vigor through these (still 36 year old) fingers. I believe that when I open myself up in this space that something happens, surely to help me and maybe to help you.

Until next week, Take Care and God Bless.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

The dark room on a sunny day

If my little girl is playing on the living room floor, or maybe sucking on a bink, about to crash out in her crib, I just go about my business in the house. I might be getting showered and dressed for the day. I might write a blog post, or (rarely) load up the dishwasher. Either way, I know that she can hear and sense, that I am knocking about the house.

Thinking about her current experiences, laying in the crib not quite asleep yet, brings me back to my youth. I can remember laying on the made bed at our babysitters house. I probably had a light blankie to cover me. It would be midday and the lights were off, but the room was still bright.

The long curtains bounced against the open window as the balmy summer air pushed in and out. I could hear maybe a neighbor nearby mowing grass. There might be shouts too as the kids on the block played outside. I could make out the clicked shutting of cabinet doors and clanking of dishes from the kitchen. Kathy, our sitter, was probably cleaning up from lunch, or preparing  a snack for after nap time.

I knew, that the world around me was carrying on, even as I was supposed to be resting and asleep to it all. I had an awareness that people were working or playing or up to something, and I was to be trying to nap.

Sometimes I can still feel that innocence of youth, almost a bewilderment to the workings of the world around me. I can seem to be in my place, doing my part, yet so blind and clueless to the bigger picture.

In the case of my babysitter, or of parenting to my own little Joella, I know that the sounds and senses she notices within the house are for her own good. She can rest easy, because her Dad is close by. I might be packing her bag for the day, or warming a bottle for when she awakes. I can’t say though, if she actually feels safe and secure. She seems to be content most of the time, but flashes of fear and anxiety show up too.

This brings to mind the Einstein quote

““The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

I don’t think that I have really been given reason to believe that I have been treated with hostility by the world around me. I wasn’t attacked as an infant or abused. I certainly didn’t like everything that happened in my life as a young person, like losing my Dad in an accident. However, that was not an event that stopped or cancelled my opportunity for making successful progress in my life.

Actually, when examined as a whole, I am sure that I have been quite blessed. I could embrace the idea that I live in a friendly universe, but I do find that difficult a lot of the time.

Whether discussing personal life challenges, or issues within our local community, or especially the nation and its political climate, I can find reasons to see great hostility. Going back to the quiet bedroom at naptime, I sometimes look at the small space around me. I notice every detail and almost quiver with frustrated anxiety about trying to relax. Indications come by sound, smell and sixth sense that activities are afoot, out of my vision. I can wonder about conspiracy or secret societies or the men in black.

These tensions grind on the mind. It is almost religious faith in reverse. The Enemy may be winning the war between our ears when we can be so sure that evil is plotting our demise, without even really showing its face.

So then, maybe a moment still can come, laying on the tightly tucked comforter of the babysitter’s bed. Maybe sleep does wash over and the scary noises of the world fade into fuzzy dreams. Maybe the things beyond my control will stay out there, and not slide into the room, under the door, while I sleep. A strong faith in God, creator of this universe, can help that slumber.

I am not promoting infantile naivety, just an understanding that we cannot control it all. It’s not our job to do that. We can construct and maintain the slice of the life, that we are blessed with, whatever its size. We can work on that, and then enjoy a rest from that work too.

The spiritual battles rage on, while we sleep, most likely unseen always right in the periphery of our limited human vision. I want to remind myself that Lord Almighty has not forsaken us. We are still children of a God who truly loves us. God’s love is real, in that it doesn’t feed us candy, just because we want it. He may not give us false hope that all will be peachy and wonderful, without some work on our part. “God is in the character building business”, I’ve heard it said.

We may need to feel some fear and tension too, in order to decide that we will do, what we can do, to bring the light. The darkness cannot survive that. In that truth, we can rest assured.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Poof! Is it gone?

Composition, Color Theory, Emphasis and Polish would be important for all of us to take into consideration, right? What about Contrast and Hue, Value and Visual Weight? These are fundamental principles, right? I use them every day.

Mostly, I am thinking about the basics of design, when I am creating artwork for tee shirts and other apparel. I don’t always just use them then, however. Holding my cell phone up to click a picture, I innately and almost unthinkingly square up the image or make a visually interesting angle, and drop the subjects somewhere close to the rule-of-thirds, while filling the frame.

If I have a simple picture, that I want to add some text to, and post it online for an ad for our restaurant, I use all the same building blocks of solid design there too.

I cannot create anything, even down to a grocery list, without wanting to make it visually appealing.

This is something I learned to do, long ago, and has become second nature to me.

Back in 2010, I was driving thousands of miles across the wide open western part of the country. I had a cheapie little digital camera, and I took tons of photos. On that trip, I created a blog post per day. I uploaded a bunch of pictures and people complimented them. I didn’t show them all the crappy pictures I took, just the best of what I had done. Because I knew the importance of an artistic eye, my simple camera was able to capture some really nice shots.

It’s hard for me, not to notice that most of the general population has been shown, much advanced design theory. I can scroll through facebook and see thousands of poorly pointed photographs. They may even be decent pics, but they need a waaay tighter crop. Of the millions of images posted online, there are few that demand your eye to study them. Sure, we look at a lot of pictures, but few make an impression on our soul itself.

Once learned, these principals become part of the person themselves. I can’t imagine that many artists can just browse a website or magazine or family photo album without noticing the successful compositions versus the awkwardly arranged snapshot.

And even if you haven’t had any formal training in design, you too can ‘feel’ the power of an image, or its lack thereof.

See, these ‘rules’ of design, aren’t just someone’s current hot opinion. Someone may attempt to be rebellious and flip some of the standards on their heads from time to time, and even succeed. But in reality, the human spirit is moved and excited and gripped by, great artwork.

Once you learn the differences, it can’t be unlearned. I cannot ever now, be unaware of a poorly kerned title, or cliché font combinations. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know the principals of good design at all, since so much bad exists in our world.

In the same way a highly trained chef, may lose the enjoyment of a simple greasy paper bag of drive-thru fast food. His taste buds have experienced another level of balance, quality and refinement of flavors. The blast of sodium and over-processed meat patty could be almost painful to partake of.

Be careful about what you learn. In the movie The Matrix, Morpheus offers Neo a choice between two pills. One would wake him up to the greater truths of the ‘real’ world, the other a memory eraser.

There are things I wish I didn’t know sometimes. Asking Jesus into my heart, only changed everything about the way the world looks to me now. It is sometimes harder to see things in our broken world, knowing His love and presence is available, but not wanted by all.

Some knowledge can burden the mind as much as it frees it. I know that I would never want to release the reality of God’s love that I’ve been blessed with. I do sometimes miss my pre-born-again, infantile moments. Back then, I thought I’d mastered the point of life: Just to party and plow through, only working for the perpetual weekend, away from it all… If we could just be rich and relax on a beach with a beer… forever… That would’ve been Heaven!

Now, I’m not so absolutely sure.

Anyway, there are real principals that guide and direct the universe. They were designed by God. Working with them, we create great art, great food, great lives and afterlives. Against them, all our creations are like fine flash-powder, gone in a loud poof, leaving behind nothing but a faint scorch.

Until next week my friends, be well. Notice and be proud of the chance you have to create greatness for yourself, on whatever scale, or to benefit whoever may be blessed by your work.

God Bless!

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols