A friend on the doorstep, is a friend indeed

The wailing sirens of the ambulance and a couple patrol cars sounded closer and closer, one Wednesday afternoon at my house on the corner of town in Princeton. Just as the vehicles arrived at my street, they cut the noise, turned slowly past my place and parked across the street. I knew that something serious was happening at my neighbor’s house.

That day, my neighbor Gary, was out working in the yard and his heart gave out. I had just seen him driving around in Ottawa the day before. Two days before, he was walking through the parking lot of Wal-Mart. He couldn’t have known then, that his time was almost up, here on this earth. I want to express my condolences and wish blessings for his wife, Peggy, and family, some of whom may read this blog.

I wasn’t always a great neighbor to Gary and Peggy. The last few years around here though, I’m sure were more pleasant for them. There are no more late loud nights, or too-many trucks tearing up their grassy ditch.

It is quiet over there now. Peggy hasn’t been back home much, and she may not return, I don’t know. There is a void in the neighborhood for sure…

I have setup this story, not to tell you as much about my thoughts on losing a neighbor, but there is someone else who is missing him more. I was talking to his family who has been coming to take care of the house and the yard. I heard a story about the day Gary passed. As the family was coming and going that afternoon, people were in and out of the house. They were helping pack up some items for Peggy, so that she could stay with her sister.

All through the late afternoon and evening they had a visitor. The friend came over and just stayed there, at the front door. She watched people come in and out and according to the family, she appeared to be waiting to see Gary, and somehow maybe knew he was gone.

“My” big, black half lab/half shepard, Roxy, and my neighbor Gary, must’ve been better friends than I ever realized. Over the years, I can remember seeing her hanging out in his yard, and I would call her home. Eventually, I did notice that he would sometimes be petting her, or she might be walking along with him. He was out in his yard, working on it and working in his shops much of the time. Roxy is a loose dog, she too is out and around our yard much of the time. I wonder how much of her free time, and of Gary’s free time, they spent together?

The James family, who is taking care of the property, told me that Gary had a pocket full of dog treats, the day he passed away. I don’t think they were all for Roxy, but some surely were. I have since heard that he made the rounds and had morsels for several of the neighborhood canines. That late Wednesday afternoon, when Gary had moved on, to a better place, Roxy came by to get some of her treats. Since she stayed on his porch and waited for him, I think maybe she was just as much ‘His’ dog, as ‘Ours’.

I can get so caught up sometimes, looking only through the grimy and broken lens of my own little perspective. I am riveted and bound tight to the world, just as I see and experience it. I notice only the stimuli that are transmitted through my own personal sensory organs. I feel futile and feeble, as the center of my own small crumbled universe.

Lucky for me though, I am not the center of it. I am only one of the many cogs, and lots of other cogs out there are moving along just fine, with or without me. Roxy, ‘my’ dog, has a life beyond me. She does her own thing. She has friends and pals and adventures all of her own. Roxy isn’t even the name she always goes by. Turns out that my neighbor, Gary, called her Rolley. He apparently was following me down the highway, the very day and time, that she fell out of the back of my truck at 65mph and ‘rolled’ across the tarmac. Tough girl, she survived that and picked up a well-earned nickname too.

I am pretty sure she has another name too, down the street to the south. A business there called Sensor-1 has a group of employees who take breaks a couple times a day. I am almost certain that Roxy knows exactly when those breaks are. She visits those folks too. Treats? Well, I can only guess. She isn’t going hungry, I can tell you that for sure.

The whole idea, that I may not be her only ‘human’ that is caring for her, is comforting in a way. It reminds me of a story, retold often by Dr Wayne Dyer: “Carl Jung said at the same moment you’re a protagonist in your own life making choices, you also are the spear carrier, or the extra, in a much larger drama. You’ve got to live with these two opposite ideas at the same time”

Sometimes I’m just the ‘spear carrier’ in the background. Even to my own dog. Sometimes, like on the evening that Gary passed away, Roxy showed that she wanted to be at home, with her family. It wasn’t at “our” house. But it was at her house. She was missing her master, and maybe still is…

There is a big beautiful dance going on, far beyond what my own mind can comprehend. I got a glimpse outside of my own personal drama, when I heard the story about Gary and Roxy. I am glad they had their special relationship. I hope he helps keep an eye on his ‘Rolley’, from his heavenly views now.

God Bless 🙂


Aaron Nichols

Cutting it close

So what if I haven’t used aftershave in loooooong time. Maybe it has been 4 years, maybe 5. Is that really a fact worth writing about here tonight?

I do shave my face and neck every day. I do it in the morning, after a shower. I don’t completely cut away all my facial hair, I leave a *stylish* goatee and sideburns. I like the faux chin line and visual enhancement to my otherwise doughy face…

So, yes, I am a man who shaves and uses shaving products, like shaving gels and (too) expensive triple razor blades… BUT, several years ago, I ran out of aftershave lotion, and I just never bought any more.

I am sure the timing coincided with a super-strict budgeting routine. Back then, I was counting every red cent, and refusing to let go of even one, if I thought I could avoid it. I wanted to save a few bucks a month by not buying little plastic bottle of stingy stuff.

Sure it smelled good (which is how I prefer to smell). It also probably imparted some moisturizing skin benefits. Overall though, since I’ve quit using it, I really notice no major difference… at all.

I don’t know about other guys out there, but I can remember growing up and watching commercials for aftershave. They would show cool blue animations of little fresh spring raindrops landing on a male model’s face. The drops would spread and combine to form some sort of jelly-like moisturizing layer of protection. The guy would then look into the mirror proudly and smile, ready to tackle his day.

I’m sure I watched my grandpa use aftershave too. I remember being with him, while he would get ready for work in the morning. I probably was encroaching on his personal space, but I can still vividly recall the sink full of water he’d splash the razor back into, over and over. He had a small arsenal of shaving supplies. I would watch him and wonder when someday, I would get to stand at the sink myself, like a grown-up and use sharp objects on my face.

Well sure, lots of guys shave, and I do too… The thing about skipping the last step, as the commercials and I guess traditions would have me follow, is that I miss nothing, which I can really notice.

I do question what we truly need in this life. I do wonder about the list of ‘things’ that actually matter. I struggle and fight with myself over the truths that tradition has handed down. I can get sincerely scared when I turn my attention to the ‘supposed to’s’ of our consumer culture.

If making all the right purchases and avoiding all the wrong ones, is my life’s purpose, then I am truly a sorry sad sack. That grain of salt, may be losing it’s flavor. I wonder if there is a pervasive notion out in the meat of the American population, that we can make decisions and operate ourselves within boundaries and parameters set up by our own creative imagination. I wonder if the advertisers have truly won, when the context of our concrete-clad upper-middle-class stylish-strip-mall trips are the highlight of our week?

I may be just insecure, that I don’t own a mini-mansion. I may secretly want to have a pintrest-decorated commercial kitchen overlooking my backyard infinity pool and an ocean-view. I am talking about stuff here, yes, but also the lifestyles of celebrity and success. The tv can tell me that these houses exist. I can see that someone out there has achieved beyond my dinky imagination. I watch and wonder, I may want to partake in the smallest of ways, a material rich life.

See those smallest of ways may include my aftershave. Maybe I can buy a nice brand of it. Maybe I can wear a higher-end cologne than they sell at Wal-Mart. Maybe if I start with the small things, then I will be on my way to the big things… Maybe if I can get everything bought just right, life will be perfect.

Or not.

It is easy to see, here on this screen, that these concepts are silly-bo-billy. I have had them though. It has occurred to me, that if I can get this next ‘thing’ then my life will be better. If only I had ‘it’, then I could finally have ‘it’.

Truth is, I don’t really truly believe deep down, that any of the things in this world actually matter. I can’t even prove that things actually exist. I can explain my observation of these things. I can prove my opinions and judgments and like and dislikes. However, those ideas reside within the boundaries of my mind, within my own brain. They don’t exist out in the atoms or the matter of that object itself.

The stuff is neutral. Completely neutral. The companies who produce the neutrality are dying to inject the drama and the desires into their gray chunks of plastic and wires. Some flashy lights or the fake curl of a sliver of a chocolate bar can touch your senses. A tv commercial, viral video or a print ad can inspire your brain to make up stories about a product. The amazing grey-matter of your mind can convince you that these things possess powers. We can be sad without them, and remain hopeful when we think we may acquire it.

I know, I know. I am just as stuck into this mindset as almost anybody. I want ‘things’ I do. I want stuff and I want clothes and I also too, want the world around me to take notice and see what nice items I have acquired. Too bad, the spoils of my wars, are puny compared to many.

I have lived however without some stuff. We also are in the richest country in the world. We aren’t talking about basic human needs here. In America, we are blessed with safe drinking water, available food and a solid roof over our heads.

I know that going without some little extras is okay. I have decided to pass on many of today’s consumer creature comforts. A tingly-fresh aftershave is just one. I suppose that I could have had at least a bigger house, or nicer cars or maybe even a lake view with an above-ground pool. Maybe I could have had the best stuff too. Maybe that ocean-view mansion is still in my future…

These days I tell myself that whatever the stuff of our lives is… It really isn’t anything at all… I mean it just isn’t.  The stuff has nothing to do with our worth, or our contributions to the collective consciousness. The self-pleasing pile of plastic we obtain, from the first page of our life, to the last, is soo irrelevant in the big picture.

Just like the bottle of aftershave I didn’t buy this week. It makes no difference to you. My wife may have noticed another odor on my neck, but even then, probably not.

I can use it. I can skip it. I can decide what works well for me, completely apart from the cultural consumer conversation. I don’t need commercials to tell me what these little moments of life should look like.
I can decide. I can be happy with. I can be happy without.

Usually, I find that I fall between. I want the things I don’t have. I take for granted the stuff I do.

But that’s just me. That’s just a guy who doesn’t even use aftershave… And who could listen to anything this guy has to say J


Until Next Week.

With Love,

Aaron Nichols

My Preciousssssss!!

Protecting the pennies is a good way to ruin a business. True?

I do know that this week, I had run across some conversations about situations that seemed so petty. I was telling my stories, they were relaying ones they’d heard. Overall we were basically bitching about protecting our pennies.

In one sense, money is tender we trade as proof of a business transaction. In another sense, there is so much more exchanged, than just the loose change.

I was telling someone a story. Actually it was a rare little incident, that didn’t go well. He was telling me one similar that he’d heard of. We swapped stories of worries and ‘well it’s always sumpthin’s’. It wasn’t a constructive conversation, but it was friendly and cordial and we bonded over our small-business woes…

Small business?? Yes. Pennies are small. Smallest coin we got. I was looking at my pennies and pouting. So was he. Is it responsibility that contains our focus on these details? Are we being good stewards and noticing wastefulness where it lives? Should we be proud that we could maybe save a few copper-colored circles in the future, by complaining today?

Nah, I don’t think so.

I think we are both small business guys because we’re looking at the smallness of it. I think we’re fighting any growth of a fortune by dwelling on the piddly-diddles. I am king of seeing tiny minute mistakes. They infest the sphere of my vision. Swarming and mating even, they multiply and cloud the clear blue sky.

The pennies can poison.

Business is like life, life like business. ‘How some things work, is how all things work’, according the wise Mr. Steve Chandler.

There was a book called ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff” – I didn’t read it. Probably too busy, noticing my lack of motivation, or interest or (laughably) time to read, and complaining to myself about that. Instead of just opening the cover and starting.

I know some guys and some gals who dream big. They seem to speak into existence wide swaths of projects and grand illustrations of service. These life artists seem to endeavor to create beyond the microscopic. They do, and they keep doing. They don’t seem to salivate over succulent little stories of small delicious complaints.

I wonder when I will see that it’s the protecting of my pennies, that is slowing me down? I want to cherish all of the tiniest of troubles. I want to count and admire each one. I want to collect and preserve them, from the beginning of life till today. I couldn’t let my pets out of their cages. Where would they go? Who would care for them like I do?

What would I spend my attention on, if I didn’t have these little pests in my life? Oops! Did I just say that? I couldn’t have meant it. Oh no…

When we play a game of coed rec league volleyball, lots of little moments happen. The points go quick sometimes. The frantic juggle of a long volley can just continue on and on and on too… Lots of little mistakes are made. The point ends. We get one, or we lose one. Then we move on to the next.

I sometimes grip the tiny microsecond of time in which I get to decide whether to hold onto my failings of the last few moments, or let them go, start fresh, as the new serve sails my way. Usually, almost always, I let a twitch happen and a release. My brain blanks out. I play the next new point, from a loose and lively space, wanting to win the one point we are on, right then…

I do it in volleyball I said…

In our business, in my jobs, in my marriage and my spiritual life, I may protect my pennies too often. I want to worry and tend to them. I ache to see every one, shined up and sparkling. I ignore the blessings that bunches of them bring.

If a penny is a tiny fraction of the greater whole, then we have illustrated the duality of life. It takes tons of little pennies or little atoms or little moments or even mistakes, piled together to show us the bigger picture.

I can zoom out sometimes. I can choose to do it. I could see the greater possibility, the pictures yet unpainted on the massive blank canvas of the life in front of me. I could choose that.

I pray that today, I try it. I pray that today, I let the penny be tarnished and bent even too. I pray that instead of painstakingly processing the microscopic, I take a step back to observe the enormity of the blessings enveloping my soul.

I won’t ever forget the pretty petty problems, but I can get loose, shake them off, and proceed toward one next step, without totally slowing down… At least I want to give it a shot, today 🙂

With love and spiritual wealth in my prayers for you, I will speak to you again next week. I will then again share something that tugs at the inner-me, hopefully it touches the inner you. So that, we all know we don’t exist alone, as it can feel so often, when we pet and ponder our precious little pennies…


Aaron Nichols

This is a Jesus Post, on Easter, Don’t bother to Click Here

I took a picture every mile for a 5000 mile walk, and you can watch it all in two minutes! I shot a selfie at 1000 world landmarks, the journey lasted 3 years, and you can see it all in the next 90 seconds! I had a baby back in the eighties, and every month I took her picture, wearing the same dress. She is in her thirties now,  I put all the images together and you can watch her grow from an infant to a grown woman with children of her own, in just the next minute! WOW! You… Must… See… Thissssss………!!!!

C’mon, you know what I’m talking about, right? Just this morning Lindsay found a link online, where a man hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and shot a picture each mile. It is an amazing video, his journey was epic, and he took the time to make a quick easy presentation that I can watch in a flash. I experience a glimpse of hundreds of gorgeous vistas. I can see his face transform with exercise. I imagine briefly, the countless steps he took, the wear and tear on his feet and the smiles from the friends he made. All this action, and I don’t even have to hardly shift my comfy position within the fluffy folds of blanketry, nestled on our king-sized bed.

This week has been the first Easter in the last 5 years, that I have experienced without the spiritual shepherding of Tim Soule. Our former church pastor, always invested time to develop and flesh-out and reiterate the importance of Holy Week. We’ve been in transition mode at Church, and although there is work and activity and worship, I miss his guidance at this time.

I have felt my heart tugging my attention away from trivial matters at little moments though. Thursday night, I thought of the Last Supper. Early early in the morning on Friday, I was considering the Garden. I know that there is something so earth-shattering and cosmic-shifting about this week, that I just wanted to contemplate at times a sliver of a glimpse of the gravity of Jesus’ sacrifice for me, for you.

Truly however, I was tucked comfy in my bed. I walked my familiar paths of laziness and procrastinations. I laughed at the shortcomings of other people. I complained and gossiped. I let my eyes and my mind wander to darkness and lust and anger, probably greed too. I was just as base and rooted in my flesh as ever. Stone-cold broken. A sinner through and ever through.

I wanted to watch from afar, an amazing feat. I wanted to witness the profound, the unimaginable, and holiest moments to come, all in just a 30 second flash of thought.

I want to experience the breadth and depth of the the crucifixion and the resurrection, with the smallest possible investment of my time and my true engagement.

Back to my ‘regular life’ please! As quickly as possible please! Very very busy today! Lots to get done! I’ll catch up with ya later Jesus! Thanks for dyin’ for me, I do appreciate it! Redemption and salvation are awesome! Rock on, man! TTYL!

Well, funny thing is, even if I really wanted it to work that way, Jesus does not let me off the hook that easy. See, I have found that his impact on my life is grindingly difficult. The changes are complex and soul-shatteringly exhausting. Only everything transforms when you ask for his embrace.  He gave more than I ever will, but he’s asked that I give too.

I want nothing more than to return to my old ways. I want the false freedom and immediate peace that comes from living in this material world with it’s elementary rules. It seems easy now, looking back, to find a moment’s happiness in a bottle of wine. I could laugh and carry-on, scratching the itches of jealousy or insecurity, all while pointing fingers at other people. I can find camaraderie, friendship aplenty, speaking of imaginary limitations, and locking myself into repetitious cycles.  The hunger of our flesh is quick to satisfy.

If the finest feat we could accomplish would be to experience the greatest earthly gratifications, he would have shown us how. He could have had every earthly desire. All within easy reach, for the Son of God.

He asks us to consider a greater endeavor, by committing himself to the ultimate humiliations, betrayals and real pain. The one who can touch our lives today, is not just the king of the world, he’s the King of Kings.

His ways are plain and profound. He walks the countryside and talks to people. He asks men to leave their lives and follow him. He sits by himself and prays. He makes sure that people eat. He wants those that are sick to be healed and then go and sin no more. His truth is being beaten and laughed at. His life is given away in a terribly bloody black-comedy. They make him a crown of thorns to belittle him, and attempt to stomp out any possible dignity to his lonely Friday afternoon death.

A man like this has changed me. Both man and God. I am lost now. Caught in-between this world and His world. I want back into my old life so often. I hope tomorrow morning I want to want the resurrection, and the new covenant. Straddling and struggling, this week of Easter reminds me that I will always be a human. I am watching it happen and laughing too. I am not stepping in to help. I am adding to the pain. I act like one of the Roman soldiers slinging a whip. I embody one of the Jews who shout “Give us Barabbas!”.  I am a disciple hiding in fear of my own life, nowhere near him, not coming to help.

And he died in Love for me, and for you, and for the Roman and the Jew and the Disciple too. He did all this for us. I hope I remember to thank him today in some small simple Jesus-like actual action 🙂


Aaron Nichols

Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”  – John 18:37