College Graduation: From the perspective of Steptoe Butte– By: Charles Westerman

You spend four years in college thinking about your graduation day… not once do you think about the day that comes after it. Saturday you’re finally putting on the cap and gown. You finally get that diploma in your hands and the wonderful weight of it makes you think you know what it feels like when hockey players hoist the Stanley Cup.  You hug your friends and kiss your mom. You order a pitcher of nice beer and for once don’t feel like your wallet is sinking its teeth in your keister as you put it in your back pocket.

Yeah. That day you thought about a lot. That day was what helped you bust out those last two pages when your brain felt like the toilet that was always clogged in your ever-to-authentic college house. That day had you signing tuition checks your ass wasn’t sure it could cash.  That unforgettable day of celebration was what let you tell yourself that all the forgettable, overscheduled, lonely days of college would be worth it.

Then that day comes. And yes, it’s great. But even after four years of overpriced learning, you wake up on Sunday and realized you never really learned the sun would still come up after graduation night. Such was the case for me upon graduating from Washington State University.

More than shaking President Floyd’s hand on Saturday, I’ll remember that feeling on Sunday morning better.  You wake up with one monotonous, terrifying and sobering thought: “So college is… over? Yeah I suppose it is. Right? Yeah… definitely. College is freaking donezo. Checkmate. Yahtzee. Gin. Kaput. So… I guess that makes me an alumni now huh? Oh shit. Alumni’s are supposed to have a decent paycheck. What’s that magic job website again? Monster.com? Why a monster? GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY… I’m about to get eaten…”

In high school you graduate and then you spend the summer with your friends sucking the juice out of the last of the good ole days. You don’t really get that in college. The last six weeks everyone is so strung out with keeping up with their big senior projects and looking frantically for a job that you don’t have a lot of time or energy to do much reminiscing.

So maybe you get done with your finals on Wednesday and then you graduate on Saturday. Most all your friends who are younger than you leave three hours after their last final, and by Sunday at 5 pm, three quarters of the ones you graduated with have finished taking down their Bob Marley posters and are halfway to Seattle. It’s a queer, sad feeling. I’ve never said the word ‘surreal’ so much in my whole life as I did in the weeks following.

I rolled out of bed with this feeling and said hi to my parents and older brother Mick who had come to celebrate the milestone. Then one of my best friends in college – one of the ones I will be friends with for a very long time – TJ called me and said she was about to head out.

This was the girl whose apartment was on my way home from campus. I’d get done copy editing for the newspaper around 10 or 11 at night and call her up to see if I could stop by. We’d always promise each other we’d keep it to a quick 15 minute chat because we had both school and sleep to catch up on… 2 hours later we were no more studied or rested, but it was sure good to get all of our deepest worries off our chest. That’s TJ. The girl I could tell anything to. A person who I could show a part of myself that I thought unlovable and she always seemed to love me more for it.

One time my sophomore year I played her one of the songs I wrote about what I thought my Dad went through when his first wife died of breast cancer. When I got done I looked up from my guitar (that I’d kept my eyes glued to the whole time because I felt so vulnerable) and she was crying. She’d heard every word. She can empathize and be okay with feeling pain like that, and above all, I think that’s my favorite thing about her.

I drove to her apartment to say goodbye. Teej and I are never short on words around each other, but there was just too much to say to capture it. I wanted to cry but was too shell-shocked and exhausted from all the goodbyes and the “last times” that had been occurring in the last six weeks. I was sick of “last times.” We shrugged and we hugged and just like that — Snap! – TJ was gone.

Then my buddy Max texted me and said that he and his mom needed to get on the road and wouldn’t be able to meet us for breakfast like we’d hoped to.  Max is one of those friends like TJ’s a friend… only he’s a dude. My junior year when I lived right across the street from him, he’d easily come over two times a week so we could get down on Madden 11 (a football video game for you girls who live in a cave).

We’d “start a franchise” and pick teams in the same division, then we’d do a fantasy draft and play each other. We’d debate matchups and I’d always tell him that one of his go to picks, Kenny Britt (a proud owner of a recent DUI at the time), was way too drunk to drive or catch the football. The stakes weren’t as high as competing in organized sports in high school, but we channeled all our pent up competitiveness into those four hours a week. We’d throw on The Black Keys or The Temper Trap (a couple of times I even threw my controller) and let the trash talk begin.

Max even conspired with Mick to borrow my car to pick up his “cousin” from the airport in Spokane the week of graduation. Next thing I know he and Mick are walking into the coffee shop I was studying at.  Having my brother at my graduation meant a lot to me, and having Max take three and a half hours of his last week of college to pickup that big smelly thing I call my brother meant just as much. And just like that – Snap! – Max was gone.

I could write paragraphs like that for at least 10 other people, but I’m depressed enough as it is right now having told you about just two. It was this day that Pullman taught me one of its last and greatest lessons – and it taught me a lot of them in four years – but this day it taught me that you can stay in the same place, but when the people that made that place important and meaningful to you aren’t in it, you might as well be in Nairobi.

Still, my family and I went to breakfast as planned. I told myself that I shouldn’t feel sad. That I should feel grateful for the time I had and that I would see these people again. I told myself I should feel more of a sense of accomplishment– for Pete’s sake I’d just graduated freaking college! But that’s not how my slow processing head or extremely emotional heart roll. They need a week to process getting a second date cancelled, let alone finishing up one of the most important four-year chapters of my life.

So I sat at the Old European with three people who couldn’t have possibly been more clutch with their presence. The Old European is one of my personal essentials of experiencing Pullman. Most all of the people who came to visit me from home got their appetite for pancakes ruined because once you sink your teeth into an Aebleskiver… well it’s like eating Kobe beef, then being offered Cube Steak. It’s where I decided I was officially taking my talents to the Palouse when I visited Pullman for the first time my senior year of high school.

But even in this sanctuary of brunch, with my parents and my brother, three people who know me as well as anyone, I could not find solace from my sadness.  TJ was gone. Max was gone. A dozen other people were gone. It wasn’t something you could see. It was something you felt: Absence.

I get the feeling that my dad sensed I wanted somewhere to reflect and process – and more than that – somewhere that wasn’t Pullman.  On the drive to my apartment after breakfast he suggested we head up to Steptoe Butte. It’s about 32 miles north of Pullman. I’d never been there. It was on a list of about 200 other things my friends and I swore we were going to do some Saturday when we didn’t have a football game or homework or How I Met Your Mother to watch. Some Saturday when the weather was nice and you actually felt like getting out of bed before 10:30. Halfway through your sophomore year you realize you get about three Saturdays like that a year if your lucky. Anyhow, I’d never been to Steptoe Butte but I’d always heard the view was amazing.  And I don’t know how my dad knew it, but I just know he knew I needed a good view on this particular day.

We drove up to the top and for a kid who grew up in the wide open spaces of Wyoming, where a view for miles was always just a near hilltop away, being able to see out like that was more of a relief than when you pee after holding it for an hour longer than you should.  I went off by myself a little ways and lit a cigarette. My mom caught me halfway through, and on this day she just laughed and even took a picture. I finished my cancer stick and told her I was going to quit soon but at the moment it was too much to think about (I’m almost to the four week mark as I type this).

Mick and my dad eventually joined us and we talked very reflectively.  My dad always brings an incredible sense of peace and wisdom to situations like this. My mom — with her back rubs, encouraging words, and never-ending faith in me – never fails to come through. And Mick, with his jokes about how much of a girl I am mixed with statements about my talents that never fail to boost my confidence, did just those things.  It was a three-headed monster of love and support.

They too talked about their fears and anxieties up there on the top of the butte. My dad with his uneasiness and insecurities about running for State Legislature after getting hosed in his re-election for County Commissioner a couple years ago. My mom about her dad who has terminal cancer and her state program (the WBLN) that she’d helped run successfully for 15 years getting shutdown because of a lack of funding. And Mick trying to make the jump in career fields from paradmedicine to sports broadcasting.  It was good to be around other people who had fears and worries, and that weren’t 22 years old.

After that we prayed. We prayed about our own and each other’s anxieties.  We prayed for the rest of our family and I prayed like hell for the friends who had become my family at WSU.  In my family that’s how you deal with fear. You give it to God and you share it with each other, and at the end of the day — neigh by the end of college — I’ve concluded this method works.  It acknowledges your weakness as an individual and calls upon the strength of your community.

We stayed up there for awhile, and I couldn’t help but see the metaphor of the situation. Here I was. I could see for miles in all directions and I could go any which one I wanted to. It’s a cocktail of optimistic exhilaration and terrifying doom. The great American halfway house that college is over; now it’s time to go pro.  I decided right there that this summer I was going to embrace the uncertainty.

I’d applied for a one-year paid residency at a magazine in Chicago that I thought I had a real shot at getting so I didn’t look for much else. I had a letter of recommendation from one of the prominent former writers of the magazine as well as great ones from my journalism professor and worship pastor.  And I’m not gonna lie, I wrote the crap out of my cover letter; and my resume, though not built for most jobs, was very much built for this. They were even looking for a graduating journalism student from the Northwest specifically and WSU has the best program for that in the region.

I didn’t feel entitled to the job, but I have to admit I felt entitled to an interview; just a chance to show who I was in person and how bad I wanted it.  They never did call back. I called the lady who asked my professor to recommend a student for the resume at least 25 times getting only an answering machine each time. I left her two voicemails and sent a couple emails. By the end all I wanted her to do was pickup her phone and tell me I didn’t get it. The tooth for tooth side of me wants to drive to Chicago and put Crisco on her toilet seat…

I’m telling you this because it made the whole “college being over” thing that much more terrifying. I didn’t have a plan. But like I said, up on Steptoe I decided I was going to embrace the uncertainty. To take advantage of having a summer where it was acceptable to not be in school or have a real job. I decided to title it “The Wandering Summer” … but more on that later.

I came down from Steptoe still sad, but not as frustrated about that sadness, for I remembered another lesson I’d learned in college that I’ve mentioned on this blog before: sometimes you need to be sad… sometimes it’s healthy.

It’s often to the simplest ideas in life that are most effective.  So when you come to moments where you feel some perspective is needed, find the highest point within 30 miles of yourself, and do so.

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A Simultaneous Farewell to the Murrow College and Resonate Church– By: Charles Westerman

This past semester I’ve had the privilege to work as a communication intern with my college church of four years in order to fulfill my six-credit Murrow College internship requirement. It was a “two birds with one stone” experience and I’m so grateful for how God used these two entities to shape me into who I am today: someone who has a relationship with Jesus and knows that his purpose in that relationship is to write for His glory.

Here is an excerpt from my final paper — neigh final assignment — in college. This assignment asked me to write a 12-15 page report on my entire intern experience. The final question in the paper guidelines was this: Analyze how your internship site performs in regard to social responsibility. And below were the sub-questions to that question

            –What is the purpose of your agency in society?

            –Did your site measure up in an ethical sense?

            –What is its contribution to society?

            — Was your time spent there of educational value?

             — Would you do it again?

            — Is the internship a fitting capstone to your university experience?

Here is my answer to these questions and my thank you to Resonate. Without them, I honestly don’t think I would have graduated college:

Unlike many churches in 21st century America, Resonate is not only socially responsible, but socially competent as well.  From our Lead Pastor Keith Wieser, down to the people in charge of setting up and tearing down for services; it is a well-organized, hard working, practical and visionary organization. They absolutely know what their purpose in society is and the fact that they have 700+ in attendance at their two services every Sunday is a testament to that.  Resonate seeks to give students an ‘authentic community’ to be a part of throughout their college experience.

Resonate’s model for building authentic community is a successful one, and I feel qualified to say that because it was the model I personally experienced.  The Resonate model for authentic community consists of three parts. Obviously, the Sunday service is one of the parts, however they constantly stress that Sunday gatherings aren’t more important than the others. In fact, if anything, they’d say it’s the least.  It is the second and third components of the model that has made Resonate so successful in their purpose.  In just five years Resonate has gone from their first service of less than 200 people, to a church of over 700+ in attendance every week. Not only have do they have a quantity of members, but a majority of the members they have are quality. I don’t mean this in the sense that they are perfect people who never do anything wrong, I mean it in the sense of how seriously members take their role in helping Resonate fulfill their purpose.  This is evidenced by the participation in the second and third components of Resonate: Village and Ethos groups.

Village is Resonate’s version of a Bible Study, but it’s different than any Bible Study I’ve been to, and I grew up in a strong Christian home. Every week, groups of 12-20 people gather in a Village Leaders home. The members take turns making meals each week and the first hour of Village is spent breaking bread and just getting to know each other.  There’s almost no better way to build community than to have people eat a meal together.  After that, everyone gathers in the living room and the Leaders facilitate a conversation about Sunday’s sermon.  This does two things: it gives people different viewpoints and exposes them to different opinions on all kinds of topics. From forgiveness, to social justice, to personal identity, to sexual relationships; people who regularly attend a Village get a chance to talk and listen to conversations about some of the most important aspects of life.  The second thing the Village conversation accomplishes is making the message on Sunday sink in, feel relevant, and ultimately be effective. Being reminded of the essence of the message in the middle of the week prevents it from having the “in one ear and out the other” effect.

The third component of Resonate is Ethos groups. The Sunday service unites the entire body with one message and one commonality: The resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Villages give members a more intimate community and a chance to process the message with multiple perspectives in mind. Ethos is where the next level of intimacy comes in.  Ethos groups are made of two-three members of the same sex. It is this group where members have a chance to be free to share the deepest desires and fears of their heart.  It is a group that stresses unfiltered honesty, complete vulnerability, true accountability, unending encouragement, and ultimately, friendship that defines brotherly and sisterly love.

I would absolutely do my internship with Resonate again. What I’m about to say is no slight to the Murrow College, but a testament to Resonate: I have learned as much about good communication from them as I have in school.  Because good communication is the only explanation for how an original staff of three guys from Texas and their families could come to the most un-churched region in the country, to a college town of a very un-churched generation and grow in both the quality and quantity they have in the last five years.  I would go to my grave saying that Pullman is a better place with Resonate than without it.  Student’s who attend Resonate faithfully will ultimately have their character shaped for the better. That’s not to say other organizations can’t have a similar affect, but this was the one that affected me and I’m eternally grateful it did.  My internship with Resonate was a fitting capstone to my university experience, but my four years being a member of it turned out to be the foundation of that experience.

Some words about Grace– By: David Landrus

Song: Devotion – Hillsong United

Post:

There has been something following me, hiding behind every corner, just waiting to approach me. This thing has no ill will towards me but Love. It stays at a close distance so it can keep its ever watchful eye upon me, ready to approach and lend me a helping hand. Grace.

Rarely do I find myself truly acknowledging its presence but mistake it for that of a foe. As humans we are constantly weary of turning the corners of life because we expect to get beat up, get hurt, get let down. We think that if we turn that corner and meet what is waiting for us that we are going to face something that will put us into worse shape than we currently are. I encourage you friend, don’t listen to that lie. It may be reproof, or chastisement, or having to let something go, but the Grace that will present itself to you will be more than enough to get you through the pain.

This week has been one of emotional ups and downs, as I am sure it has been for us all. Embarrassment, regret, frustration, guilt, happiness, uncertainty. Admittedly I do not approach those corners in life with the confidence that I will meet grace every time. But, the joke is on me. Grace watches as a shepherd looks after his sheep. He doesn’t always stand within petting distance but He is ALWAYS within a staffs length. Accepting grace has been my big take away this week and I want to share that joy with you.

Just yesterday I was hanging out with a good friend. A man that I would say is close to my heart. In this lifetime we will all have two types of friends: repentant and unrepentant. Both are very similar, prone to the same actions, the same decisions, but the difference in the two is one says “Fool me all you want” while the other says “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” This friend is one of the prior notion. He is a self-made man who builds his life one accomplishment at a time with heart pats to his own back. This is not something that I look down on with distain but rather something that I look at with pity.

During our conversation he brought up the fact that he had read his Bible the previous day and even said a prayer. Oh how I would love to hear that prayer. And on top of it all he’s going to church this weekend.

“Thud Thud, Thud Thud”

The sound of a heart starting to beat again. In this small act my friend has by no means established an eternal justification but he has done something just as powerful: accepted grace. Wether it is unbeknownst to him or not his heart has been softened. And how I plead with my maker that it is the beginning of a vibrant, healthy and eternal heartbeat. How can something that is so hard for me to do, even with the saving knowledge that I have, be the knee jerk reaction of my friend. That is truly Grace at its finest. The small, still whisper that calls us all home.

Encouragement:

Pray today. Pray that the fortresses in your life that holds Grace out would open its gates and embrace Grace as its friend. Pray that same thing for your friends. And heck, maybe cry a little bit for those who you see desiring it the most. Take a note from our Lord

John 11:35 “Jesus wept.”

Weep for your friends.

Unhitch that Plow– By: David Landrus

Song:

Mumford and Sons – Thistles and Weeds

Post:

Farming is a topic that doesn’t really enter into our daily patterns of thinking in the 21st century; unless you’re watching a documentary that talks about how nutritionally deficient America is, or driving back to school through the beautiful rolling wheat fields of the Palouse. Whether you acknowledge it or not, farming plays an intricate part in all of our lives. In actuality, our country was founded on agriculture, and it wasn’t until after WWII that large farms and conglomerates were responsible for our food production. Farming, surprisingly, is very interesting and the people that bear the title of farmer are even more interesting. Many parables told by Jesus actually pertained to this topic, and there is one in particular that I would like to bring to your attention. So sit back and enjoy some Mumford while I have you ponder this quote, “unhitch that plow off your back.”

Jesus said in Matthew 9,

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;

38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

As a matter of fact, he said it twice. Here’s what Luke recorded in Chapter 10 of his biblical contribution,

2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Most of the time, the Bible says something once and moves on to other statements to strengthen the point. However, there are times when the Bible will repeat itself; one example is Jesus starting a statement with the disclaimer “Truly, Truly I say to you”. This might seem excessive, but I promise you that Jesus had nothing resembling a stutter. In Hebrew culture, repeating something twice witnessed to its importance, and futhermore, repeating it thrice witnessed to the statements(or Gods’) perfection. The fact that this verse is repeated in separate Gospels therefore witnesses to me its importance. But why is it so important?

Land is commonly measured by the unit of acres; but how big is an acre and who decided its size? Well let me tell you! An acre was originally the amount of land that one man could tend to in a days’ time. Now I want to apply that definition to a topic at hand, our lives. Many times we feel weighed down by all the things we have to do in our days. Whether its school, or a job, or community service, or a relationship, or whatever you find yourself doing today, that is your acre. All the while the laziness within is appealing to us, “You work so hard in the field everyday, just unhitch that plow off your back. It would make your days a lot easier.” Granted, many of us don’t “entirely” listen to this voice, but we do allow it to affect our actions at some level. I’m not saying that all of us are throwing in the proverbial towel because the truth is that many of us realize that quitting is not an option; but we do get awfully comfortable watching our favorite sitcom on Netflix each night as our relationship with God gets shoved to the side. As we do this, the voice in turn encourages our self pity and entitlement and, without noticing it, we start agreeing with it. “Yah! That’s right, I have been working hard! I just spent all day getting my school work done and now I NEED me time. Maybe my friends want to get drunk tonight.”

You’re sunk…

Let’s go back to what Jesus said now. He said that the harvest is plentiful! Those are positive terms that he’s talking in folks. The harvest IS something that is to be desired. And then with all the insight that you would expect from the Son of Man, he accurately states that “the laborers are few.” God just called every lazy servant out, including you. And he’s actually being nice! Read the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) to see how laziness is rewarded in reality. But that’s not my point. My point is that you should rejoice! There is a harvest, and its plentiful, and we are being called to put our plows back on every morning when we wake up! Lastly I want to leave you with a verse of encouragement. This one comes from Matthew 11:

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

A word to the wise, “get used to your plow and harvest all you can until the master gives you a bigger one.”

Introducing a new series: Lazy Saturday Poetry– By: Charles Westerman

When I started this blog, I said I was going to write a little bit of everything I really like to write.  And there is some stuff that I get absolutely jolly writing.  There’s nothing like capping off a sports column with that perfect last sentence, that last neat little stitch to bring it all together.  There’s nothing like learning something big about your faith and then finding a way to put that life-lesson into words. There’s nothing like inventing a new fictional character in your mind that even you yourself find interesting, funny, complex and mysterious.

But to be honest, sometimes my column feels like a chore.  Sometimes I go months without telling people what’s going on in my walk with God.  And most of the time, I want to punch my main fictional character in the face, because he’s just a bad metaphor for my life and he can’t gain his own independence and have his own unique personality (which is what good fictional authors can do).  When it comes to those forms of writing, I often have to dig down deep and pull something out of myself… and though it’s exhausting, when I find the discipline to do it, it’s always very rewarding.

Yes, readers, I’m going to finally admit one of my most awful secrets to you: my favorite writer is myself, and my most loyal reader is me.  I get a tingling feeling when I read my own stuff; I’d imagine it’s sort of what doing crack is like.  Nobody thinks I’m wittier and craftier with words than I do.  Seriously if anyone has a good shrink they should call me, because as you can see, I’ve got some ego-issues going on.  But hey, admitting it is the first step right?  But even more seriously I think all writers have to have this confidence and satisfaction on some level (although my levels are admittedly are a little high).

Personal Hamartia aside (if you don’t know what Hamartia means, Wikipedia that bitch) I’ll get back to the point.  That a lot of the writing I do sometimes feels like pulling teeth.  But even though it feels like I have to dig a lot of this stuff out of me, there’s one form of writing that has always just flowed out of my pen onto the paper, or came in a text message to myself, or that taps itself out on a little document I’ve had open on my computer for four years saved under “Playonward– Cause for Effect” (playing on the phrases ‘pause for effect’ and ’cause and effect,’ you have no idea how much I stroked my ego when I came up with that one).”

What I’m talking about is the writing form of poetry and lyrics.  Since my freshman year of high school it’s something I just have to do or I’ll burst.  Come to think of it, it’s a lot like peeing.  I never really know if I’m writing poetry or song lyrics, but when it’s three in the morning and my mind is roaring like a Harley, I know I won’t be able to get some Z’s until I grab my phone, open a text to myself, and see what knots my head is trying to untie.

What happens as I furiously tap those little button on my En-V3 is a rush I can’t explain.  A kind of trance or orgasm of the brain.  What I’m left with is an explanation to myself I’ve been working out for days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years.  I wrote a poem about my relationship with my late-father on the 20th anniversary of his death that I’d been trying to capture the complexity and feeling of since my freshman year of high school.

If my other writings are what crack is like, poetry is to me, the brief moment of clarity I’d imagine someone gets when they smoke meth.  I still remember the first truly satisfying poem/lyrics I wrote in a text message to my brother one day the summer after my freshman year helping my Dad fix fence on the ranch.  Back in 2005 I’d just got my first iPod and was finding my own unique taste in music– listening to a lot of Dashboard Confessional, Fall Out Boy and The Starting Line.  That angsty teenage music about how girls are the source of all their pain and all their joy.  And though it’s childish, I remember thinking that Chris Carrabarra (the lead singer of Dashboard) was like the Hemingway of angsty teenage music. So naturally I wanted to be like Chris (I don’t so much anymore).

I opened a text to ‘Mitch’ and wrote the following lines, “What goes around comes around and kicks you in the back of the head, I’m chasing your tail, which has me chasing mine instead.”  Yes it was very 15-years-old of me. But hey, that’s what 15 year olds do right?  I had officially started my mission to figure out how to deal with this angst and ultimately conquer it. Once I hit send I didn’t stop the rest of the day.  “Alright bro, here’s another one: ‘Your skating on thin ice and I’m under water with a blow torch to bring you down.'”  It was a bad imitation of Chris Carrabarra, but had Mick not been a good older brother and texted me back telling me they were really good, I’d probably still be looking for some form of my identity to this day.  In fact, I owe most of my confidence as a writer to Mick (and for that bro, I can never repay you).

Eventually I became competent enough with a guitar to start writing songs.  I wrote my first song the second semester of my freshman year at WSU and haven’t gone three months without writing one since.  I’d estimate I’ve partially written about 40 songs and have finished about 25 of them, putting me at about a completed song once every six weeks.  It’s something I have to do to keep my sanity.

With that in mind, I’d like to start consistently sharing with my small handful of faithful readers, where my true heart for writing came from.  I’ve posted a few poems on here before, but I’d like to make it a more regular occurrence. So I’m going to start a series title, “Lazy Saturday Poetry.”  One poem will be posted by yours truly at 12 pm Pacific Time every Saturday.

And when you read them, know that the writer your interacting with felt nothing but bliss and exhilaration as he wrote the words.  That he was refreshed and not drained as he hammered them out.  That even though writing his sports column was like doing layup drills, or writing about his faith felt like practicing free throws, or the short story your reading came from countless hours studying film– the poetry your taking in, was to him like all that hard work paying off as he took the court for the big game.

Below is the first ever edition of the Lazy Saturday Poetry series.  I wrote it in church last week.  It by no means stands out from the dozens of other poems I’ve written on this exact subject; trying to motivate myself to conquer my pride, and remind myself that only Jesus Christ has the power to do that.  But in a way it’s kind of a classic Charlie poem.  A good way to introduce you to my style: pure, flowing vulnerability.

Lately I’ve been trying to write some poems that have a rhyme scheme that’s more complex than my natural Mother Goose style.  I’ve been playing around with structure, punctuation and capitalization more, and learning how to make something flow that doesn’t necessarily rhyme, or at least rhyme all the time (you see, I can’t help myslef).  And though I’ve made strides in this department, I’ve come to the realization that sometimes a poet just needs to be true to himself and his natural style. I hope you enjoy it.

Why The Wine is Red 

See your face, and I shake like a quake.

The center of the flock breaks,

And the lambs disperse in every which way.

But the shepherd speaks a stern command:

We can be united again,

When you come back and feast from the palm of my hand.

Will you wait for me to find you or will you wander in the land?

If you’d ever stop screaming you could hear me calling back.

Calm down and come back.

You get a little closer with the tiniest of steps.

Deliverance will find you when you eat the bread,

And remember why that wine is red.

Go back to all the times where you thought your soul was dead.

And you prayed that sweetest phrase,

“I swear I’ll start living it.”

I don’t want another start, I just need another chance.

One more day to sing a song, strip off my clothes and dance.

Another night to ponder stars and praise how small I am.

I’m just a man without a plan because instead I chase my dreams,

That Christ would take my life until there is no more of me.

So I bid good riddance to that sore in my eye.

That swollen, black, pride.

There’s Nothing like a Long Hard Talk– By: Charles Westerman

One of the things that happens in college (especially in the later years) is you start to realize the difference between friends and acquaintances.  At least I think the people who successfully make it through college do.  You realize that you had a lot more acquaintances in high school than you did actual friends.  You realize you hung out with some people in the dorms, not because you were great friends, but because you both liked to play video games and they were right down the hall.

That’s not to say friendships haven’t been formed this way.  You’ll find out the next year when you move off campus and they move off campus out of walking distance from where you moved…  and either you built a meaningful enough relationship to make the effort to stay in touch, or you didn’t.

If you didn’t, you’ll come to a few realizations on why you don’t hangout anymore: you’ll probably realize that neither of you ever really learned about each other’s families. You didn’t ever talk about a truly difficult time in your life.  And though there’s probably more, the last one I’m adding to this list is the epiphany I’ve had about friendships in the last month— you’ll realize that you hardly ever– if not never– disagreed with each other.

The more I think about it, the more it rings truth.  Good relationships are built on honesty right?  So let’s be honest: we humans disagree on things constantly; most of the time we’re simply too frightened to voice our disagreement, but tell ourselves we’re just being polite.

Take my friend David for example—he is the friend at college I’d say I just flat out have the most in common with: we’re both the youngest children of big families.  We’ve both lost a parent at a young age.  We both like sports and competing.  We both have hauntingly similar taste in music (even the stuff we listened to in high school when we didn’t know each other). We both like good beer and cocktails, economically feasible fashion and have similar approaches to the way we approach dating.  Most importantly we both have the same beliefs about Jesus.

Yet even with all that in common, it seems like David and I have disagreements all, the, time! Sure we both like the same music, but we gripe about which song in particular should be played during a particular mood and moment.

David and I didn’t start seriously hanging out till last semester, yet he’s become one of my closest companions, and will be one my lasting friends from college.  Why? Because we can be honest with each other.  We can disagree.  We know each other’s major character flaws (and everyone, everyone has major character flaws) and we feel comfortable calling those flaws out when they’re out of control.

You see, I think my generation, in the culture we grew up in, thinks that good friends live their own lives and only help each other up when the other is hurting.  I’ve definitely done and thought this.  And though the intentions are good, I don’t think it makes for a truly good friendship.

In college and your mid-twenties especially, it’s hard to flourish if you live separate lives.  You have to do life together.  It’s a scary, but exhilarating truth that in college, your friends really become your family.  It’s a unique opportunity in your life, because it’s the time in between your actual families.

So is it better to have friends/family that will warn you when you’re going down a road that will end up in you hurting yourself and others, or to have a friend that will stand by and watch you go down that road, and then be there to tell you everything will be alright when you get to the end of it and you’re not alright?

Why is marriage the most intimate human relationship we have?  Because it holds you accountable.  You have to work through disagreements.  You constantly have to sacrifice your selfish desires for the greater good of your relationship.  I know this not because I’m married, but because I’ve been around good marriages (my parents and my siblings).

The same goes for a good friendship.  My friend Brendon—who happens to co-administer this website with me—is a lock to be in my wedding party.  The reason I have such confidence in that is because when we have to, we will have the tough conversation.  We’re planning on moving to Portland next year to try and make a living as writers.

But over Christmas break, as we drove back from Denver after our New Years fun, Brendon confronted me on some of my deepest issues—mainly my desire for life to be all fun all the time, even if it came before a time when I needed to be more practical and disciplined.

Neither of us our confrontational people, so I know the last thing he wanted to tell me was that if we were going to go out in the world together next year, I was going to have to make a few major changes in my life.

It was the last thing he wanted to tell me, and it was the last thing I wanted to hear.  But the conversation was necessary for a couple reasons: One, it was what I needed to hear for the benefit of my overall long-term happiness—and though I didn’t want to hear it, I did, because I knew Brendon was coming from a place of love.  Two, if we hadn’t talked through the issue, it would’ve come up in our apartment in Portland and it would’ve been a bigger, stinkier, angrier issue that might have seriously jeopardized our friendship.

So I’d encourage you to take stock of the friendships/acquaintances in your life.  Are there tough conversations you need to have with a person you consider a close friend?  Are there acquaintances you’d like to become friends with and you need to make the effort to have a few vulnerable, breakthrough conversations?  Are their relationships in your life that are meaningless and unproductive?  Do you need to do the unpleasant, but beneficial thing and cut them out of your life?

Don’t make snap-decisions about these questions.  Reflect on them, pray about them, think about what you really want to say before you have the hard talk.  Ask God for courage if you’re into that sort of thing.  We all have beautiful, but incomplete personalities, (only Jesus’ had the whole package) and they all need to be balanced out with honest, sometimes polar-opposite viewpoints.  It’s why God gave us this unexplainable desire to not be alone.  To crave community.  He wants us to do life together.  To be accountable to each other in order to find his perfect balance of truth and grace.

 

The Functionalist Manifesto– By: Jeremy & Charlie Westerman

My brother Jeremy and I started a non-political political party last year as a joke on facebook. It’s called The Functionalist party… and the more we think about it, the less of a joke it is, and the more serious the idea has become as a set of ideologies to live your life by. With that in mind we decided to draft a Manifesto this fall.

I read some Manifesto’s for one of my English classes with my favorite professor Jon Hegglund and remembered thinking; “It would be cool to be passionate enough about something to write a Manifesto…” So yeah, I can at least cross one thing off my bucket list this year!

If you’re interested in joining The Functionalist Party email me at– cmdwesterman@gmail.com 

The Functionalist Manifesto

We are a political party that does not believe in politics.

We believe in doing what is functional.

Because what is functional is love.

And Love is the Most Excellent Way.

Therefore what is Functional is the Most Excellent Way.

We do not believe in unbridled capitalism.

We believe in capitalism in moderation.

Because capitalism has become an idea of excess.

And the only thing Jesus Christ believed should be excessive is moderation.

He is the moderation of justice and he is the moderation of grace.

He is the moderation of power and he is the moderation of humility.

He is the moderation of laughter and he is the moderation of tears.

We believe that there is obvious and undeniable proof that God exists all around us.
This proof might be big and it might be small–

But we believe if you look hard enough you will realize this is completely true.
We believe this to be true so strongly that we are either right or totally crazy…

We are ok with either.
The proof here on earth is God’s gift to us and drives our faith.
Our faith drives our obedience,

And we obey because we have sought to bring knowledge and deep understanding to our faith.
Our obedience drives living a functional life.
We believe a functional life is the best way to have a happy and fulfilled life here on earth.
We believe this life is only temporary and we will live the MOST functional existence in Heaven.
We believe the concepts of Functionalism are simple and clear.
We believe these concepts revolve around people and relationships.
We believe the relationships we have with people (and God) are some of the best proof of this.

We believe that while the people who believe in God fail all the time, God himself is not a failure—his son, Jesus Christ is the most functional being to ever walk the planet.

He is the Most Excellent Way.

Because Christ IS love.

And there is no fear in love.

And if we stopped successfully portraying him as a failure, his teachings could literally save the whole world.

We believe the only way to do this is through the power of authentic community.

We believe America has become a country that doesn’t value authentic community.

We believe we can change that through the power of communication, organization, genuineness, laughter and resonating the spiritual with the intellectual.

We believe in DEEP THINKING.

We believe you should know why you believe something.

We believe you can’t have authentic community unless you have authentic individuals…

This stuff isn’t rocket science.

We believe in the separation of church and state.

We don’t believe in the separation of Jesus and state.

Because we don’t need separation.

We need a united state.

We don’t think that concept is a coincidence.

Because Jesus was all about commUNITY.

And our country is fighting Civil War II.

Instead of Confederate and Yankee, we have Democrat and Republican.

We just don’t use guns, we use words.

We believe that it’s not a coincidence that God calls the Bible his Word, and that when Paul writes the full armor of God, he compares the Word to a sWord.

We believe that words are swords, so we may not be fighting a war with guns, but we are fighting a war with words

And as iron sharpens iron, so we sharpen each other with our words.

Therefore our words have to start sharpening each other for good.

We believe that the author of salvation is a hallelujah revolution.

Hallelujah means inexpressible joy.

We believe we have to start truly believing in that revolution.

We believe that he can take away all of our fear and worry.

Because as John says in chapter four of his first book, “God is love… there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

And as Jesus himself says in Matthew 6 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? … Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

We believe that when we eliminate fear and worry from our lives we become more than conquerors.

Therefore we have to start using words that contain only absolute truth.

The only absolute truth is love and God is love.

We don’t believe God shows this love through our circumstances.

We believe his love is how to deal with and improve those circumstances.

Even when children die, love can improve that circumstance.

It’s the only way TO improve that circumstance.

You can either use that tragedy to make the world and your life a more empty place, or you can love the ones who are still with you better and bring beauty from the ashes (Our official party bird is the Phoenix).

We realize this is not an easy thing to do, however it is a necessary thing to do.

We believe that a lot of the information our culture gets doesn’t contain absolute truth.

(For example what the news reports about our government doesn’t always tell the full story)

We believe good communication reveals absolute truth.

We will only put information out into the world that we truly believe to be absolute truth.

This is what we call good communication.

We believe good communication happens in good relationships.

The only good relationships are functional ones.

The only functional ones are relationships that are built around honesty, selflessness and genuineness – aka LOVE.

We believe that Christ isn’t a religion he’s a relationship.

We believe that life is all about relationships.

Functionalists strive to have functional relationships with God, themselves, their family, friends, strangers, technology, time, music, sports, work/school, food, alcohol etc.

We believe humor is one of God’s greatest gifts.

We believe that a community where plenty of laughter is found is the sign of a healthy, authentic community.

We believe our party should strive to make the whole world laugh more.

Because the more we laugh, the less fear and worry we have.

We believe this party started out as a joke between two brothers who were fed up with a dysfunctional government.

We are dead serious when we say that this joke could change our country—and even the world– for good… God is ironic like that.

We believe that power is a responsibility, not something for our own personal gain.

We believe that if God blesses you with money, power, fame – that he has given you a responsibility to use those things for good.

To help the widows, the poor, the sick, the fatherless, the homeless, and all who feel powerless.

We are a party of compassion.

However we are NOT pushovers.

The men in our party shouldn’t be “nice guys” or “bad boys”.

They should strive to be “good men.”

They should be warriors for what is good and just in the world.

Being a warrior means we believe in chivalry, therefore we treat women with respect.

We strive to be good leaders, husbands and fathers.

The women in our party don’t go for “bad boys” or “nice guys.”

They go for “good men.”

They holdout for men who strive to be good leaders, husbands and fathers.

Because they are all too beautiful not to holdout for such men.

We believe that if we have good marriages, we have good families, and that if we raise good families, we will start to have more authentic communities, and if we do that, the problems in the world will start to fix themselves.

We believe that nothing is manlier than justice.

And that nothing is womanlier than grace.

And that if there’s a perfect balance of that in our marriages.

There will be a perfect balance of it in our world.

Because Jesus was the perfect balance of justice and grace.

And he was the most functional, influential human being to ever walk the planet.

Tim Tebow is to classy, so I’ll trash Bill Maher — By: Charlie Westerman

My last column was about Tim Tebow. Maybe some of you are sick of hearing about him all the time.  If that’s the case, you might want to grab a trashcan or a doggy-bag if you plan to keep reading this; because it’s going to start with Tebow, build up to Tebow, and finish with Tebow. Tebow. Tebow.

I grew up in a Christian home.  My mom told me as I went off to college that I needed to go out and decide for myself if I believed it or not.  In the end, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to pursue a relationship with Jesus because I realized that truly being a Christian wasn’t about following a checklist of religious rules.

No. It’s not about a religion, it’s about relationships; your relationship with God, with yourself, your family, friends, time, money, Facebook– you name it.  I’m really pretty piss-poor at living a relational life, but at the end of the day I somehow still want to get better at it.

I tell you this not to try and cram anything down your throat, but I think when a lot of people hear the words ‘Christian’ they immediately associate it with words like —conservative, Republican, judgmental, ignorant, close-minded, up-on-a-high-horse, boring.

They think of names like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Joel Osteen and Fred Phelps.  Personally, I think I speak for the majority of Christian’s when I say Fred Phelps needs grace almost more than anyone.  He perverts the Bible in order to gain personal power and unleash his anger.

The point I’m trying to make is that almost all Christians that mainstream culture knows about, are very extreme and often don’t even truly believe in the core teachings of the Gospel.  That’s why Tebow has caught on like a honey badger on Youtube.  He does believe and faithfully try to live a life that’s accountable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Contrary to what his own Pastor said, Tebow doesn’t believe he wins football games because God “favors” him.  He knows God is much bigger than sports.  Tebow wins because he works hard, he’s positive and encouraging to his teammates, his actions match up with his words, and therefore he is a leader people are willing to follow.

Of course this is speculation, but I would bet that when the camera shoots to Tebow praying on one knee before kickoff, he’s not asking God for a Broncos win; he’s asking God that whatever the outcome of the game is, that he (Tebow) would have glorified God and shown the powerful love of Jesus in anyway he could.  If the answer to that prayer involves him beating the Steelers for the Broncos first playoff win since 2006, then I’m sure that’s more than okay with him.

Bob Costas said in a story on NBC that even if people don’t believe the same as Tebow, his beliefs should at least be respected.  I think it’s ironic that profound Atheist Bill Maher has ragged on Christianity for being judgmental, close-minded, hypocritical etc.

Then he tweets things like “Wow, Jesus just f****d #TimTebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler “Hey, Buffalo’s killing them.” This was after Tebow’s loss to the Bill’s last month.  The first mainstream Christian that comes through not showing any of those characteristics Maher despises so much and he proceeds to judge and be close-minded about Tebow (which also makes him a hypocrite).

Everyone has a right to love or hate a sports figure. That’s one of the fun things about being a sports fan.  But I hope Tebow-haters will truly ask themselves the question: why? And if they still hate him, that they would at least respect him.  Because I’m betting he would genuinely respect you.

Resolutions? By: Lynn Kirkbride

From site creator Charlie Westerman: This is a blog post my mom did on her blog.  I’m gonna start featuring her to guest write for Play Onward when she can.  She’s a good writer when she is communicating about something she is passionate about (and has the time to write about it!).  And I don’t know many people more passionate about their faith than my mother.  She challenges and encourages daily.  Here’s what she has to say about embracing the unexpected…

A New Year is upon us…

But before we we say “out with the old” I want to do what my husband often encourages our family to do and simply reflect. I think I might reflect a bit better on paper than just in my head so here goes.
A theme emerged from the events of this year:
Unexpected Changes
As the kids know I like to have a plan. I always believe that after the plan is executed then there will be a lull in the action and I will actually have a chance to relax and do some those things that I never get to do. Never happens. (You have to just take the time to do those things because peace and relaxation is not the natural order) This year was no different. Maybe actually worse because I did truly believe that is was going to be different.
The Lowe’s outreach training project for people with disabilities that I was directing looked like it was going to continue for another year and in April I believed, that since the foundation had been laid, it was going to be easier. Instead, unexpectedly the money was found to hire my coordinator. Quickly it went from corporate sponsored to corporate owned (hooray) but it left me unemployed unexpectedly. Ok…. maybe some days off and less stress. Not to be… Out of the blue, after a conference call, I got hired as the Director of Affiliate Relations for the USBLN. (I never could have dreamed that one up) A big hooray and an amazing opportunity for this girl from Wyoming to work on the national level helping to build BLN’s on the local level! Score for the Lynnester….God certainly surprised me with that turn of events.
Second unexpected… our BLN Director, and long time friend, Marla Lewis resigned to move to New Mexico and take a position as the Director for the Ruidiso Chamber of Commerce. A great chance for her but sad personally for me to lose my dear friend and the one staff person closest to me on our WBLN team. I found myself doing a lot of training with our new staff director to help ramp him up quickly our huge fall BLN event schedule.
A third unplanned event was Dad’s colon cancer in July. That wasn’t in the 2011 plan either and caught us all off guard. Dad has hardly had a health issue in his entire life so this was BIG. I went to Wisconsin three times in four months. Hard to care from a 1,000 miles away but I did my best and am happy to say that my Dad is on the mend fairly well at 87 and he and Mom are still living in their house at 240 Woodland Drive but the implications for me in terms of time and energy were big this year.
The final unexpected change was Hannah’s marriage to Tom in October. At this time last year she wasn’t even dating Tom so upon reflection this is a stand out. We added a significant member to our family this year…. hooray, again, for that. A wonderful partner for Hannah and friend for all of us in Tom Kraner. Who would have thought up this good gift?!?!
Additionally there were some fun little gifts that God threw my way and some looming on the horizon of 2012. The most prominent one is the eminent birth of our first grandchild! Big woo….I can’t really count that as part of 2011 but it will soon stand up and be counted! Everyone that is a grandparent tries to tell Dan and I how great and is and how it will change our lives like no other…. can’t wait to try it on, try to out, take on this most esteemed role. Thanks, Jeremy and Tara for all we have to look forward to!
God gave Dan and I some new friends this year as well that we didn’t expect. Several came through Dan’s Leadership Wyoming group which will continue through April this year. A couple that we met at a friend’s party on the Fourth of July have turned out to be wonderful additions to our lives! God has some new tricks up His sleeve that completely take my breath away. Last year at Christmas time the kids did a sort of family intervention with us to see if they could encourage us empty nesters in some new directions. We must have appeared alarmingly pathetic. The area of friends was one of those weak places in our lives. Look at us now. Dan has 45 new friends who he is writing about for Leadership Wyoming, we have a supper club, I have a whole bunch of new co-workers and friends on a national level and a couple new really close friends that have been cultivated this year in Gretchen and Dana.
Through Gretchen I learned of Ann Voskamp and her 1,000 Gifts book (check out:http://www.aholyexperience.com) and was challenged to look at all of life through the lens ofeucharisteo (grace, thanksgiving, joy). Not to see things through the lens of ingratitude…. the sin of ingratitude which was the first sin of all humanity back in the garden with the crafty serpent hissing that somehow God wasn’t enough….that what He gives is somehow inadequate and that we should have something more. Shame on me… that is often my lens.
But rather to have a sense of gratitude for all that comes my way…. that God is indeed in it whether it appears at the onset to be bad or good…. to see that the holes that God allows into your life are really just peep holes into the beyond where He dwells. “Open places to the see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. The God whom we endlessly crave.” (Ann Voskamp) So I have been trying to see through this lens just this fall. I take this new lens into the New Year. I had many times of doubt this year. I had many times of pity for myself and others around facing more than difficult losses… times where I resent what is dealt to me, question God’s wisdom… really I know a better way, don’t I? Can 2012 be different? Will I have 1,000 gifts by this time next year? Will it change and shape me?
So what sense do I make of all this unexpected change in my reflection at the close of 2011? Have I seen through the God-holes to more of who He is? Lowe’s unexpected led to the USBLN position, Marla’s leaving led us to some new energy for our WBLN, Hannah’s time at home led to a marriage partner and unexpected time with my parents was good and some things gotten taken care of and things were discussed that needed talking through. Holes for sure but God was on the other side….all along.
I have already began my list of 1,000 gifts and am up to 86. I am practicing so when the big stuff comes I am ready. What will next year look like? Will the unexpected changes that are bound to come have me less rattled? Will the thanksgiving keep me more grounded and able to accept the changes in my life? Will I be calmer and more able to cope trusting better that it is all a gift from God? Will I trust that He really knows what He is doing? Will I know in my knower He does have my best interests at heart. Will I know Him better, live more fully, love others more deeply?
That might be the best unexpected change of all… don’t you think?
I have enlisted others to join me on this journey of eucharisteo. Anyone is welcome…. will you come along too and try to see the “holes” as God holes…. chances to see Him more fully? Chances to see His glory despite what the circumstances appear?
May the New Year be blest for all of us with new eyes… eucharisteo… thanksgiving, seeing His grace…. leading to JOY….Thanks for being there….

Journey with me,
Yours Trewly
P.S. My dear friend Joy has been on a journey of cancer for six long years now. She is lives in eucharisteo…. I see it more and more the longer this has gone on what a witness she is for us in 2012….wow….

The Vision (My New Tattoo)

I got a new tattoo about a month ago.  It’s on my ribs.  This fall I was praying on my deck and for the first (and so far only) time I spoke in tongues.  To be honest I’d tried to speak in tongues before but knew it was only the gibberish of my own head.  This experience was different.  It was from the Holy Spirit and it was one of the most powerful feelings I’ve ever felt in my very emotional life. The phrase I spoke, and have since tattooed on myself is this:

                      “Hallah yu Alla Higham Hyawehlujah”  

I love the tattoo and how it came out. The only thing I didn’t think about was how hard it would be to try and quickly articulate to someone what exactly it means.  In a sentence it means “trying to look at temporary life on earth through an eternal lens.”  But it really means so much more than that. I could probably talk about all the intricacies of it for hours.  Instead, I tried to capture it in the form of creative writing.  Hope you enjoy it.

The Vision

The Vision

I saw it all.

The day all the clock shops were blown up with all the time bombs.  I was on a multi-colored street that seemed to be an orchestra of cultures.  Fire engine red saxaphones. Atomic tangerine orange harps. Bright yellow journalistic guitars. Dark green envious cellos. Depression-quilt blue trumpets. Psychedelic electric indigo pianos.  Advent candle violet violins.

The people were all these colors—all these instruments of change. They wore their flaws without shame. They made their deepest fears known to each other. And because they did so, they knew just how to help and forgive each other.  The flaws could not fester in deep wounds of the soul. They were promptly cleaned and bandaged—no infection of insecurity, lust, greed, bitterness or anger could spread throughout the rest of the body of the people.

It was a multi-culture of lucid kisses and loving embraces. Prophetic words were the only words spoken.  People were ever changing—like the spectrum of colors of a star if it were played through time as you watched it in fast-forward in light speed.  Change was no longer a tragedy for the human soul to bare.  These lucid kisses, these loving embraces, were all kissing and embracing the mach-infinity of change that was ever present on the multi-colored street.

The symbolism of history was perfectly understood.  The practicality of mathematics was warmly accepted.  The curiosity of science was unashamedly desired.  The absolute necessity of healthy communication was a welcomed standard.  These avenues of the mind were all valued equally.

Yet art and poetry were of the most importance.  They were not avenues of the mind.  They were rivers to the seas of the soul.  And everyone floated them together.  It didn’t matter if you had talent or not.  When you created to energize, to invigorate, to electrify, to set fire to, to see into your soul– the art was brilliant, whether it was brilliant or not.

Every emotion was so deeply understood that you felt joy behind it no matter what you were feeling.  You felt anger wonderfully– sadness was necessary to appreciate joy–  boredom was finally understood as the ultimate form of relaxation… Anytime, was nap-time.

Dinner was a three-hour event.  Sports were pure and just.  Music was cleansing and graceful.  These were the facts of life.  It was simple and therefore it could be properly complex.  Behind every necessary invention there was depth in the thought of its design.  Self-awareness was absolutely essential to the vitality of the community and every individual understood that.  They did not fear the challenge of constantly being ready to learn.  The faster they learned the happier they were.  The only sin was being stagnate.

Stagnate: (of water or air) cease to flow or move.