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.


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.


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.


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!


Aaron Nichols