Little Teachers

Old people and little kids have the most to teach us… Okay, maybe it’s just the kids.

This week I was delighted to spend 2 and half days with some little teachers at our church’s VBS/Day Camp. I was extra-lucky that it wasn’t just me. Lindsay and I shared this experience and tag-teamed our slot as Camp Counselor, until I left her the fun kids, while I was at the fun restaurant. So many cool things happened, and I want to save them to remember, right here. You may find yourself, or your kid’s story, hiding in these words…

Moments after we sat down Sunday night for dinner, and the room was buzzing with 50 or so kids, and their parents and other siblings. I was excited. Not the super fun happy kind of excited. More like the anxious and hyped-up, and not clearly calmly thinking type of excited. So as I saw one of our older kiddos leaned back in his chair right behind me. I pulled the old ‘Fake pulling your chair backwards, making you feel like you’re falling, Trick’… You know the one right? The one where the cool kid, leaned back in his chair, get’s spooked and doesn’t fall down, but remembers to keep his chair on the ground, right??


I did the ‘fake pulling the chair over’ thing, and Cameron, was spooked. But then an INSTANT later, another kid was wadded up on the floor, after his chair crashed backwards… WHAT! How did the little guy end up on the floor? Why is there now a new camp counselor, checking him to see that he is just fine, but she glares at me (kindly).

I didn’t pull That kid over in his chair!

Yup. Sure Did.

See, what these kids taught me, is this. They SEE and They Do, EVERYTHING I Do, almost instantly! Yeah, so another kid, at that same table, saw me ‘spooking’ Cameron, he saw me smiling and being a smart-alec, then he attempted the exact same trick on his buddy, but, he got a different result. Pulled him backwards to the floor. Ouch.

My first moments as a ‘Camp Counselor’, Big Tough Lesson. They are watching, they are Doing, every little thing.

Now, all you parents out there can laugh at me, Ha, Ha! He doesn’t have kids. He doesn’t know crap. He thinks it’s a big deal that this kid mimicked him and it’s some kinda big ‘Moment’. Sure. Yuck it up. BUT! Hear me on this. All, Week, Long, These kids, who I barely knew beforehand, listened, watched and repeated, over and over again. They really do soak up each word, each glance, each action, like little sponges.

The ‘experienced’ 19-year old camp counselor with us, was very careful with all her phrasing. She encouraged and redirected, she ignored the right things and right times, and answered truthfully honestly and creatively, just as deftly. She’s done this alot. I learned a lot from her, thanks Silly Sydney 🙂

So I had to ask myself. Do I want them doing, saying and being the things, I am doing saying and being? Because it was a literal lightning quick predictable result from them almost every time. Honestly, I can say that yes, I have grown in many ways, and I would like to be an example for SOME things, to little ones around me. Not Everything however, and I have a long long long way to grow yet.

That is a big deal. More than most other reasons. I wanted to be a better ‘Me’, so that they would be able to actively learn by example, from the best version of ‘Me’ I could give them.

Just to put an old dusty idea to rest. I did used to hear as a child ‘Do as I say, Not as I do.’ I must reflect on that here, as a complete and utter impossibility. It just doesn’t happen, no matter what we’d rather think. See the truth in this commercial below, that ‘coincidentally’ made it’s way to me also this week.

So something else that I couldn’t help to notice, is the pureness, the innocence, the cuteness and the quality of our little tribe of 14 kids. They just seemed so complete and so loving and curious and mischievous and funny and all the things that all people always are.

They showed us almost every emotion, in their tiny kid-sized portions. I could see excitement and glee, but also pain and worry. I witnessed flashes of disappointment and boredom. They sabotaged themselves and others. They made messes. They created cool art. They sung way way way louder than anyone in their ‘right mind should’. They were just exquisitely experiencing life, in tiny chunks of time and energy and activity. They couldn’t have been more amazing, or more normal if they tried. They sparked fun conversation for hours, between my wife and I, every evening this week. Wow, what a blessing.

I thought about how one little guy’s dad and I were in school together, about the same time and age as he was. It was like teleporting back in history. Others are kiddos of friends and some I see often at church, but never have spent this much time with. They are little people. They show me lots and lots of things about how they operate and how they think and what they like and what they don’t like and how they treat others and what is important to them. Wow, really? Yeah, big deal again right? Aaron has no kids, and now is amazed by every little kid. Whoopee. Yeah, Whoopee!

Here’s the thing. All these little activities and events in our Day Camp Day, seemed so big and ginormus and important to our little girls and little boys. They were 1st and 2nd graders, ya know. So each game, each song, each craft or snack was a big deal. Or it wasn’t, maybe it they were distracted and daydreaming. Anyway, from my perspective, I knew that really, really, this stuff is just a few hours of a few days of a big ol’ life of theirs. They will have tons more experiences. Tons more chances to win, or get it right, or behave better, or behave worse. In the BIG Picture, this Day Camp week, really isn’t the whole picture, it’s just a small part of the whole. I think it is a positive and important part, but just a part.

These kids could have acted almost anyway, they could have performed almost any way, they could have done just about anything. I just thought there is no way, they couldn’t have been loveable, through it all. I think for a tiny second, out on the grass, with water splashing around and some kids having fun, and some kids playing too hard, and some not listening and some a little banged up and hurt, they were all perfect. They just were. In all those moments, perfection.

And then I heard I heard that small voice. “This is how God see’s us all” We are all his little perfect children. We may think we’ve messed up the game, or misbehaved, or screwed up our chances with him, but God just sees our light. I’m not making a theological hard-line here, I’m just saying what my heart felt in a moment this week. Just like always here at weirdforgood. There was a moment I saw a universe of kids playing, and my heart said God loves us like little children. He sees the big picture. He knows the little games are just that. They aren’t the deciding factors on his love. We are full of perfection, and are the apple of his eye.

Now, inside of us, we won’t feel that way. Just like the crying kids, or the frustrated ones, or those that got warnings of consequences, we won’t always like how it feels to be us. To burn inside with embarrassment or shame or regret. We may sneak away from Him, and choose to ignore his guidance. We won’t like the feeling of that. BUT, overall, We are beings full of His Love. We cannot leave his sight, he won’t let it happen. We cannot completely survive on our own, and we are being given more Grace always than we realize.

Again, an opportunity to serve, through my church, through my Christ, teaches me to Thank God. The Thanks goes on too. To our Camp Counselors, To our Church Staff who set this whole thing up, and my Loving Lindsay wife. And, especially a Huge Big Ole Thank You to the littlest teachers of all…

Incredible Isabelle
Awesome Ava
Enjoyable Elizabeth
Ghost Grace
Foster the Fast
Caring Carli
Amazing Abby
Magnificent Maggie
Carpet Cayden
Bee Brandon
Banana Brynn
Crazy Corbin
Powerful Patrick
Creepy Cody


Artistic Aaron


Oh Pooh!

The narrator’s voice chimes in and tells me my own story, as it’s playing out, pretty much throughout the entire day. Do you remember the wise old grey-haired man, who read the Winnie the Pooh stories on the Disney channel? He sat in a rocking chair, started each tale with an introduction and would chime in throughout, putting in his British-accented ‘big-picture’ view of what was happening to Pooh and his friends.

He seemed so grown-up and wise, and important to the tale. He could really understand the whole situation better than the characters within the story.

I have a voice like that too. Wise and grown up sounding. It chimes in and ‘explains’ what is happening to me, and to the characters around me, or the world around me, throughout my life, pretty much all day long. This voice sounds apart, adjacent, or ‘behind-the-scenes’ from the kernel of myself. It really does seem like a narrator, enlightening me with the big picture view, of how people, things and even myself are doing in the world.

Yeah, it ‘tells’ me how things are going. It measures things.

Lately, it sounds like this:

  • You’re living in a blinding blur of activity, you have almost none of it under control
  • He or She, is really out of line here, ‘They’ ‘Should’ be treating you differently
  • He or She, isn’t doing things right, ‘They’ ‘Should’ be acting or even thinking differently than ‘They’ are.
  • This situation is complete nonsense, aren’t we just disgusted with this whole thing?
  • There is so much left undone. You haven’t taken care of so many things. You are behind, you have failed, you continue to fail, even when you know better, you’re not doing better.
  • Why can’t you just get disciplined and create what you want your life to look like. You know it’s possible, so why aren’t you doing it??

So on and on and on and on and on, the narrator goes… I hope this is new to you, and that you’ve never heard the narrator’s voice in your head. I really hope you think this whole thing is strange and foreign and un-relatable… Right??

See this narrator isn’t so freaking wise. He isn’t really all that insightful or seasoned or even looking out for your own good. Some would call this voice Ego. Some would call it the voice of Fear. Maybe it’s the Enemy? We’ve also called it the Croc-Brain, in blogs here at weirdforgood. This voice is actually quite harmful throughout my day, and I want to be aware of him, and very aware of how I let his words affect my thoughts and actions… VERY AWARE.

Michael Neil is a wonderful author and coach, and has helped me in my life. Why? Because I chose to believe and experiment with the principals he teaches. Interesting little sentence here. Because I chose to believe it. See Michael has some cool ideas. Like when that narrator voice, throws an idea up onto the picture screen of my mind, I at that point, can choose to believe that thought, or to NOT believe that thought. Just because it’s there, doesn’t make it true. Just because the narrator, says again, the same old line he’s said forever, doesn’t make it anymore true today, than I believe it to be.

So when Ego, or Fear, or Croc tell me something in my mind, I then could say in response. “I don’t have to think that.” (credit to Michael Neil, for these words)

Yeah, You and I and all of us could choose our thoughts, through a quick process of feeling if they feel crappy, then notice that I have a choice. Notice that I have possibility and more options, notice that the exact moment, that I choose to believe the thought thrown out by the unseen narrator, that is the moment where our responsibility begins. That is the moment that we create ourselves the re-action to that thought.

My narrator lately has been negative. My narrator lately is a judger. My narrator, has the ability to change, I would guess. I wonder if i quit listening to him, and chose a slightly better though for myself, if he’ll be inspired to dress up the story, and give myself some more credit, people around me more forgiveness, and see our little hundred-acre-wood, as a place where wonderful things happen all the time, and possibility abounds, instead of struggle and darkness around every tree.

I do have the light of Christ in my life. I do dip into the clear pool of refreshing living water, and experience the guilt and the shame and the fear washing away. These moments are mysterious and wonderful. Yet, there is a lot of life, where I am just a regular person full of junky thoughts and habits. I believe that God is helping me navigate my life, by giving me insights and teachers and messages for these moments. I can employ and practice ang grow, to help myself rise up, and not remain on bottom-level forever.

“I don’t have to think that.” is a powerful message. A powerful tool. Play with it. Use it. Employ words that can tow you out of a stuck-in-a-mudhole moment. It’s kinda fun. It may freak you out at first. But consider what could happen, if you could tell that old cranky narrator, to shut his trap, and you are going to choose what you’d like to think about the current moment. That will shape how you act, and how others react to you too.

There are tragedies in the news. A man killed a boy in some kind of fight. It sucks for everyone. No one wins. Can you see the moments, where both of them believed their thoughts? Can you see the places where their thoughts led to fatal actions? Can you see where the phrase “I don’t have to think that,” could have even saved a life?

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

King James Bible “Authorized Version”, Cambridge Edition

Words our powerful things. Words in our minds are powerful. In our mouths too. The origin of the narrator, I can’t tell you. The words I use to interact with him are mine. If he tells me something positive, I could choose to agree. If it isn’t, I can say thank you, but I don’t want to think that right now, it isn’t helpful to me, it doesn’t make life better. Thanks but no thanks. You can keep telling me this stuff, and I will keep discarding it.

I am the writer, not the character who has to react to every little thing around me. God has created the book, guides the story, has built-in opportunity everywhere. Will I take today, and write something I’m proud of? Or will I let the narrator again tell my little same-ol story as usual, keeping me penned up and afraid and disgruntled and small.

I doubt that God is fond of this narrator voice. His Word, enriches my life, always. Not the judging narrator’s. You must choose, but choose wisely.


Aaron Nichols

Plinko vs. Louboutin

As a child full of pain and disease and anger and a big nasty mouth, I remember yelling, during a fight with my Mother, “I just want to be NORMAL!” As if she could really do anything about that. In my middle school years, I experienced a medical condition called Juvenile Dermatomyositis, and let’s just say, it wasn’t fun.

As I’ve come to see now, my being at that age, was full of turmoil and trouble and it’s really no wonder that there was also a physical expression of dis-ease to go along with that. The skin inflammation, weakening of muscle, increased emotion, all came packaged together, as various components of the condition and the meds they used to combat it.

So, doesn’t every middle school kid, ‘Just want to be normal?’ Maybe it was just me? That was the age, where standing out, and being different, especially weak and sickly, seemed to ruin my whole world. It seemed that being accepted and liked and being a ‘cool kid’ was the whole point of life at that age, to me. Funny isn’t. I wonder how much of that sticks with us into adulthood? I wonder if I still carry some of that drive, even today, even after all this shifting and re-arranging of my priorities, and letting go of certain attachments?

Well, one thing I do understand more today than ever, is that I really did already have my wish all along, just like now… I am more NORMAL, that I really care to be!

Heck yeah! Normal in so many ways. Normal in my faults. Normal in my successes. Normal in my short attention span. Normal in my shortcomings. I am a very normal human being in so many respects… Oops… maybe I coulda’ wished for something a little different way back then 🙂

Earlier this week, I was watching Charlie Rose, he interviewed a man who designs shoes. He is a quite successful shoe designer. His shoes have made a real impact in the fashion world. He puts red soles on his shoes, makes creative works of art, and truly loves what he does. Christian Louboutin, gave a fantastic interview and boldly expressed exactly how not Normal his life is. His story is echoed by the few who have made it to the top of their game, and it usually sounds like this “As a young child, I only loved one thing. Shoes and designing them is the only thing I cared about, and ever really wanted to do.” (You can swap out the topic itself in each of these cases, but notice how there is One Thing, that this person loved ever since childhood.)

He goes on to talk about how he lives on top of his shoe factory, and that is exactly where he wants to be. He is successful enough to own a home in the country, to have nice dinners out on the town with friends, to enjoy the rewards of his work… But these people, these Weird, not Normal people, don’t seem to want that. He even said, in a brushing off the idea comment… ” I could sit with friends at dinner and gossip, but I don’t want that, I want to work on designing and adjusting and creating my shoes.” He has one thing he loves, nothing else.

Well, so far, I haven’t found my one thing. So call me Normal. Like a Plinko chip that the contestant laid flat against the big board, I have clicked and bounced from peg to peg, sometimes resting longer, sorta stuck for a second. That is what my focus has felt like. Not like Mr. Louboutin, who even said he never wanted to be in the fashion world, but he just wanted to design shoes. He had his ‘one thing’ early.

A couple years ago, as I turned down a drink among friends, I was told something like “Okay, whatever, I can never keep up with what your next ‘thing’ is anyway.” Or at least that’s how I remember it. It impacted me then, because I hadn’t really noticed that I switched ‘things’ that often. I felt like a passionate pursuer of personal growth, and I was constantly choosing new life adventures and new challenges, sobriety being one…

Truthfully though, this person was right. I do switch up my ‘things’. I do move from one ‘thing’ to the next. I do scatter my energy, instead of keeping it really laser-pointed in one tiny spot. So call me Normal. There, sixth grade me, we got our wish…

My career Plinko chip, has found a spot to rest for awhile recently though. This big search and battle to create my own coaching practice, has almost floated away completely. I haven’t much thought about it in weeks. This idea of sitting with someone and helping them talk and work, through major life transformations, is something that I was so invested in, yet now I’ve let it slip from my consciousness. Not to mention the Financial Coaching Practice, the Independent Marketing and Graphics firm, or the Website design businesses that I’ve built in the last couple years… I’m just as normal as I could be. Just like a new year’s treadmill gathering dust in the garage, I had big intentions and big dreams, then put them aside for something else, something easier.

I’ve chosen to step up at the restaurant, to be a version of my wife, as a manager, as an owner, a cook, a cleaner, a bartender and waitress. We tackle projects, we make improvements, we feed people real good food, we serve love. And, I love all that stuff. I have a ready-made workplace instead of one that I have to build brick by difficult brick.

I guess I am switching up again, my One Thing, and that isn’t ever as effective. That is what separates the really successful, the really Weird beings, from the Normal ones. Darn. I guess we need to be careful what we ask for, we may just get it.

Who knows though. It’s never too late, it’s never out of possibility, as long as we’re breathing, to do what we love, to focus ourselves in the tiny moment at hand. I do find myself deeply entranced in this work. My mind doesn’t wander and wish I was somewhere else. I have plenty of opportunity to be so very dang’d thankful, that I get to help make this restaurant business thrive, with my own two hands. It’s actually a dream come true.

So can a bouncing Plinko chip path bring us right to where we’re destined to be? How could it take us anywhere else? Also, I do own that I am driving that path, I’ve made my own choices. It’s not up to mere gravity. There is luck involved though. Recently, I’ve felt that I was that chip, headed straight for the zero slot, and at the last minute, hit the peg to land at $10,000. I’ll be glad to accept that prize 🙂

How long will this last? Will you get to finally relax and ‘know’ what my One Thing is? Probably not. I wanted to be normal, remember? I sit here typing on this screen. Writing my thoughts, when I could be up at The Iron. I choose this too. I choose to still nurture and foster these places where I have grown. I’ve learned to share myself here. So I will still. I hope you accept me, and like me, and think I’m a ‘cool kid’!

Ha! Just kidding 🙂 I can’t have that, and be me too, I will still be a weird version of normal, as long as I can hold onto it 🙂


Aaron Nichols


Independence Day

Laying flat backed, on a thick solid wood bench, in the cool of early nighttime, the chorus of insects beside the lake was enchanting. Green flashes of light popped and faded in my peripheral vision. The strumb-thump-strumb-thumb of the bullyfrogs’ conversation sounded like people, as they talked back and forth. Then I was buzzed.

Not like the old days of being buzzed at the lake. Not like the chorus of laughter of long-time friends and family united in a long weekend’s escape. Not like the strumb-thump of an electric guitar screaming out Stranglehold across the full campground…

No this was a different buzz. The vibration was unique. Not the papery flaps of a cicada, or even the high frequency feathery humm of the tiny humm-ing-bird. It was warmer, and more matter-of-fact. These flyers were on a mission. Zooming low altitude almost across my face. After I had been in real stillness and silence on my solitary bench, I became part of the landscape, I was gone as a threat. The world of Shadow Lake’s Nightlife came alive. The criss crossing aircraft with their meaty and muffled wings, where Bats. Their signals pierced and pinpointed the darkness. Sharp and quick, they proceeded a flyby, and followed it to. They were everywhere, the nightly feast was on.

I lay there, while back at camp, the dog slept soundly. In the CCC-built showerhouse behind me, Lindsay was finishing up her day. A full day, of driving and travelling, seeing new places, making new decisions, discovering the fun stuff, the unknown to us stuff, that can be found in almost any place.

That’s where I was the other night. In a campground, yes. In a remote, beautiful spot of the Ouchita mountains of Arkansas, yes. But I was also right at home.

I’ve been camping more times than I could count. Hundreds probably. There are crickets and bullfrogs and yes, even bats, right where I usually live. This orchestra exists always, it’s the real rhythm and busy-ness of real life. Most of the time, I’m not quiet enough to hear it. Mostly, I’m too loud, or too aware of myself, or looking too long into a backlit screen, instead of the real world’s more intense beauty.

This force of life can almost be forgotten sometimes. Although ,there isn’t any part of our world, that isn’t influenced by the force of creation that inspires that same cricket to sing, or frog to bellow, or bat to chase down it’s prey, all night long. This force is alive and well, there isn’t something in my day, or in my mind or even in my actions, that can do anything to stop it.

Doesn’t always seem that way though. Sometimes it seems as though the world has shrunk. It is only my tiny tunnel vision. It completely consists of an overheated transmission on the side of an interstate. The world can shrink to the moment and space I can percieve as I’m tempted by the old fools and tricks of alcohol. The world can transform into a flash of my wife’s eyes. Sometimes a blissfull moment. Sometimes complete hell. I put the meaning into it myself. It’s where I’m at, that I see mirrored in her glares or giddy-ness. Too much perception, too much awareness, too much focus, as a car alarm goes off in this quiet campground, and I can choose to hear nothing but it.

That’s my lessons, that’s my struggles, to have ability to be aware, and yet to let it go. My own deductions and analizations, leave me with all the options I have. Too few. Not nearly the truth. Using my own power, me as judge, I’m a weakling, always. Melting the ‘me’ away, into that chunk of solid wood, beside a lake built in the 30’s, by some tough ‘boys’ of the CCC, I was connected to much more than I could claimed to have created.

I let go, I was quiet, but I can’t ‘make’ that happen. I did let it happen. I wonder how often that current of smooth electrical grace and love wants to flow through me? I wonder if it’s as strong when I want to stomp my foot, and make a stand, and be a man of action. I wonder if it fades away, when I feel lost and wonder if my faith is for real. Or if I’m on some hiatus, from real life, and I’ll someday return to old ways. I wonder if the peaceful joy of being buzzed by bats, is always there, if I will just slow down and release a little more?

The chorus has changed in the last couple days. It was bugs and bullfrogs, on Monday night. Then it was gurglings and ripplings of a rocky river. Then it was hearing from the camp hosts, that they’d ‘hate to lose us, and see us go.’ but they know ‘we’re off to more beautiful places too.’ And they were happy for us.

That chorus has come and go over the last few days on this camping roadtrip with my wife. At nights, it’s been the coolness and dryness of this weather, perfect for our tent. The buzz and love of God, has ushered us, and cradled us, not in complete comfort, but in complete safety and trust. We got the one last open camping spot available for the fourth of july, in Arkansas’s flagship state park. It just opened up, right before we asked. The neighbors across this little road are actual angels. Two white haired sisters, one 69, one 71, who camp in their car. Mosquito netting magnetized to their open windows, we’ve talked, and cried and prayed together. This is the chorus of divine life.

All too often, I miss it. All to often, I’m locked into my mind, believing the thoughts that are projected on the screen in front of me. All too often, I see hell, instead of heaven. This trip is all of that. It is both, as is all of life. The chorus of good and love and God, exists, right along side of the darkness. Once relax into that light, the darkness can’t have me. I can even be in the light, and chose to blind myself. I do that tooo.

Not today, not right now. Andrea hugged me today, and said she was proud of me. I saw the vigor and energy of a life lived well in Christ. She’s 69, she’s bringing her sister, for ‘one last hurrah’… but she’s fooling herself. They’ll be out again, and soon. They’re too young, they’re too happy, not to travel together some more.

Just like my wife and I, and that old heap of black fur Rox-Dog. We’re too alive, to let a transmission failure, keep us from moving forward. We’ll adapt and adjust. We’ll growl and each other, and we’ll cuddle again soon. This whole thing, just suits us, apparently. This whole thing, this whole life, has gifts to give and lessons to learn.

I quite often find myself inside of my mind. Inside of my own intelligent brain. I can see plenty, I can be creative, I can dream and plan and make things happen. But as long as I stay in that space, I’m limited. I’m small and I quickly run into dead ends. I have only so many possibilities in my small, tiny, pea-brain. Rather, for more openness, for more freedom, for more life to enjoy, I remind myself this. Let go. God is bigger than me. Where I see no way, God sees every way. Where I am stuck, God sees my perfect opportunity. I remind myself today to release myself from me. The ‘I’-ness and ‘Me’-ness, takes me almost nowhere, only into my comfort zones. Old and dusty circular trails, worn deep from years upon years of treading and retreading.

Today, is Independence Day. I celebrate it, and remind myself to be Independent of Me. Opening and relaxing and letting those bats do their thing, and those frogs too. I can create Independence for myself, I can only allow it. It wants in, I just let it become what it already is… No agenda, no achievement, just the flow of river, as it knows the path of least resistance, always. It’s water, watch it run always, every time, smoothly back to it’s source…

I pray, dear God almighty, remind me that I too can be your water. I too can flow freely, independently, wherever your creation has me run. I have no personality, I can get dirty, I can freeze, i can be stagnant or rushing, but always, with you, I’m pure and clear, when I’m free of pollutants…

Independence is good. Happy Independence Day to You. God is good, to me and to you, and to the frogs and to the dogs who get to hike and swim and camp and ride shotgun in the river bus. Independence is here now, and always.

Thanks be to God.


Aaron Nichols