Tag Archives: fear

Staying Inside the Lines

happy grumpy

I’m not sure what it is about high school girls and coloring.  If you don’t spend a lot of time with high school girls, you might be surprised.  They do it a lot.  I don’t usually keep coloring book pages from my students.  I’m not sure why I did these.  Part of me thinks it’s a harmless way for these kids to express themselves “artistically” while experiencing a bit of nostalgia for the good old days.  Another part of me sees high school kids coloring the same way you might view a high school kid riding a bike with training wheels.  Move on buddy.  I hear a lot whenever an assignment involves any kind of art element.  “I can’t draw.” “Can I draw stick people?”  “I’m afraid of doing anything that I might not be good at, something that others will see and make fun of.” Ok, they don’t say that last one, but I think that’s mostly what it’s all about. Somewhere we’ve so devalued the process of making or writing or drawing something, and we’ve so focused on the correct outcome, that kids are afraid to try, to put themselves out there.  I know part of being a teenager is not wanting to look dumb or draw the wrong kind of attention to oneself, but I think there’s more going on here than just that. I wish I had focused more on that in my teaching, more on putting yourself out there, on taking chances and failing.  I will try to make that more of a priority for my kids in the future. I know that there are times when it’s important to know the right answer or to know how to do something correctly.  But in this day and age, most of that information is a google search away. It’s the doing, the trying, that’s important. And girls (who do most of the coloring) are in an even greater danger of this fear which leads to the safety of staying inside the lines rather than the boldness of making their own way, taking their own chances, of drawing their own lines in the world.

Gray Wolf

Some of these old poems that I had forgotten writing, I’m not crazy about.  This one I like quite a bit.  Partly I like it because of the memories it evokes of these evening games long past, and also the hinted at idea of the blurred line between fun and fear.


gray wolf


The sun goes down early in the fall,

burning leaves and cool

Autumn bite in the air.


We sit on the front porch

and one, two, three, not it!

our voices echo down the dark street.


The loser, now a gray wolf

lopes into the wild

behind the house, away from the streetlights.


Hidden, he howls.

His shriek carries through the neighborhood

to the rest of us, three or four kids, hunters.


We scatter

into the wild to find a wolf

before he finds us.


Silent minutes pass

as the the sky darkens.

No wolf.


Finally I approach the old garage,

crouched behind the house,

its gaping mouth open, forbidding,


darkness. I smell the burning leaves

again and reach for a dirty pitchfork

that leans against the wall.


I grip the rough wooden handle,

and peer into the gloom.

Silence.  Then creaks


and breathing?

The wind? Or something

much worse.


I inch into the unknown,

fork extended to fend off

friend, foe,


whatever evil

might come at me

from the dark.

The Power of Self Control

This was from just before American Independence Day of last year.

I’ve said before that One of the nice things about doing these communion meditations every so often is that it kind of forces me to pay attention to what god’s up to, at least in the days leading up to me putting one of these together.  But then there’s the weeks that are so busy, so crammed full, that it seems there’s not time to notice god at work.  I think god takes these weeks into account and then sort of hits you over the head with something.  Although I’ve become pretty good at not noticing being hit over the head as well.  But I noticed this time.

The other evening I was twisting some balloons at a VBS party.  And at this party, in order for the kids to get tickets to play games and such, they had to say this, or at least some of this: “God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  Paul wrote this to Timothy at a time when Paul was going through some tough times for his faith, and anticipated that Timothy would as well.  Prison-and-beatings tough times, not she-told-me-happy-holidays-instead-of-merry-christmas hard times.  So Paul and the early Christians, and even present day Christians in many parts of the world, but not the U.S.A., have reason to fear, and need to be reminded not to fear.  But  I want us to think about the last part of that verse.  We have been given the spirit of power, and love, and self-control.

So, as we celebrate our freedoms this week, I want us to remember these words of Peter Parker (The Amazing Spider Man)’s Uncle Ben:  “With great power, comes great responsibility.”  It is not only our responsibility to love, and to exercise self control, god gives us the power to do it..

We can love fearlessly and extravagantly.  We can love those who are near us, and those who are miles away.  We can love those people we don’t like.  We can love those people nobody likes.  We can love our enemies.  We can love the people we hate.  We know we should do this, but god actually gives us the power to do so.

And self control.  If we have reason to fear anything in this country, it’s excess.  But Paul says god gives us the power of self control, with the intent, I suspect, that we use it.  So, let’s not eat too much, or drink too much, or relax too much, or spend too much, or drive too much, or talk too much, or do too much.  Let’s appreciate all we have with the spirit of self control.  As we take the bread and the cup, let us remember Christ, our example.  Let us live simply and selflessly.  Let us appreciate our freedoms this week, and then use them to live and love quietly and humbly and powerfully.


Bump in the Night

I like this one.  I think it’s creepy and fun and maybe says something about fear.  I sent it to a few places, but no one was interested.

Bump in the Night

“Tim, your roll,” said Mike.  Tim picked up the dice and shot them across the board.

“Six.”  Tim moved his counter.  “One, two, three, four, five, six.  That does it.  Enough of wandering around the village; I’m moving in to the dungeon.”

“Who wants a Dr. Pepper?” Brett shouted from the kitchen.

“Pepper me!” shouted back Mike.

“Me too,” said Tim.

Brett returned from the kitchen with a 2-liter of pop and and three stadium cups, all hugged to his chest.  “What’d I miss?” he asked as he set the cups and pop on the table.

“I’m tired of messing around,” Tim said.  “I’m going in.”

“Sweet,” said Brett.

Mike smiled and took a cup and the bottle. “You are going to get eaten alive.”

Tim reached for a cup.  “Whatever.  When is Jon going to be here?”

“I thought he’d be here by now,” said Brett.  “I figured we’d start the movie about nine.”

Slasher Man IV.  This is going to be sweet!” said Mike.

Brett looked out the window.  “Gets dark early this time of year,” he said.  “I wonder where Jon is?”


The discussion was interrupted by a loud bang on the front door.

The boys were quiet for a few seconds after the noise, listening.  Tim glared at the door.  “What the crap was that?”

They listened a bit longer, then Brett got up and went to the door, stopped, and waited.

“Well, open the dang thing,” said Mike.  “What are you acting so scared about?  You’re freaking me out.”

Brett opened the front door and peered out into the darkness.  “Windy,” he said.  “Probably a branch or something.”  Then he looked down.  “Or a rock.”  He bent over and picked up a large gray rock.  The rock was roughly the size and shape of a human foot.  He looked at the front door and found a small scratch in the paint.  “Mom’s not going to like this.”  He looked at the scratch again and closed the door.

“What is that?” said Mike.  “A bone?”

“It’s a rock,” said Brett.  “Somebody threw a big honkin’ rock at my house.  What the heck?”

“Probably Jon,” said Tim.  “He’s out there waiting for you, hoping you’ll come investigate so he can scare you.”  Tim took a drink of his pop then turned back to the board.  “Let’s go.  Who’s turn is it?”

“Look at this thing.”  Brett brought the rock over to the dinning room table where the boys had the game set up.  There he dumped it on the table.  It shook the pieces on the game board.

“Dude!” said Tim.

“That thing looks like a foot!” said Mike.

“You said that already,” said Tim.

“I said ‘bone’ before.  Now I say foot,” said Mike. “Foot bone.”

“Who would do that?” said Brett.

“Jon,” said Tim.

“It is windy out,” said Brett.

“The wind blew that rock?” said Mike.  “From where?”

“Let’s go.  Let’s go!”  It was Tim.  “I’ve got monsters to kill, treasure to plunder.  Whose turn is it!”

The boys gathered around the table.  Brett took the dice.  “I think it’s my go.”

While Brett took his turn, Mike picked up the rock and military pressed it over his head again and again with his right arm.  “I am He-Man!” Mike announced.

Then, Thump!  The boys stopped.  This time it was on the roof.  The boys remained frozen, quiet, listening.

“Dude!” said Brett.  The other boys shushed him.  They listened again.  This time they heard the sound of what seemed to be something scuttling across the roof.  They exchanged glances.  “Tell me that was a branch in the wind,” said Brett.

“Didn’t really sound like a branch,” said Tim.  He paused.  “Bet it was Jon.”

“A kid running across the roof would go bump, bump, bump.  That sounded like something else.”

“Yeah.  Kinda did,” said Mike.

Tim dropped the dice, walked to the front door, opened it, and stepped into the windy night.  “Jon!” he shouted into the darkness.  And the wind blew the door shut.

Mike and Brett stared at the door, not realizing that they were holding their breath.  Seconds passed.  Then suddenly the door flew open with a bang and a shriek as Tim leaped into the house, screaming and holding his throat as though he were being tortured.  The boys both jumped.  Brett slammed into the table, knocking pop and ice onto the game board.  Mike dropped the rock that he forgot he was holding and it bounced off his foot and onto the floor.  Tim finished his scream and then began to laugh.  “Scared much, ladies?” he chuckled.

“Jerk!” said Brett.

Mike rubbed his foot. “Ouch,” he said, still a little pale from the scare.

“Dude, you wrecked the game,” said Tim.

You made me,” said Brett.

“Guess I win,” said Tim as he picked up wet cards from the table and attempted to dry them on his shirt.

The other boys were silent.

Tim slid the rest of the game into it’s box, doing his best to avoid the spilled soda.

“Let’s get the movie going,” Mike finally said.

“What about Jon?” said Brett.

Tim looked out the window into the night.  “Guess he’ll be here or he won’t.  Maybe he found something else to do.” The boys moved into the living room and toward the T.V. set, leaving the foot shaped rock and the spilled soda behind.

your jungle

I feel like I should say something about this one, but I’m not sure what.  I never felt like this one was finished.  It needs some editing.  I’m not sure it says what I wanted it to.  Apparently my poems are not like my own children.  There are some that I love more (or less) than others.


your jungle


As you walk through the

black and white jungle

you are confident.

Spear in hand,

animal skins tied around your waist

reveal your muscled legs, chest and arms.

As the camera pans up to your head

the audience is surprised by a wooden mask —


long teeth, wide eyes, flared nose.


You walk through the familiarity and comfort of

your jungle.

Birds and monkeys squawk.

But you are at ease, at home.

The beating drums soothe you.

As you move, you slow,

the drums crescendo and

suddenly stop

as do the jungle creatures.

You slowly turn and the camera follows your gaze.


You see an animal new to you in your jungle.

It’s grayness blends with the grayness of its surroundings.

Two large eyes seem to

stare right through you.

You freeze

waiting for the beast to make the first move.

It doesn’t.

It’s smooth hide shines in the morning sun.

You side step.

Perhaps it doesn’t see you.


You will sneak around and

kill it from behind.

The wind blows,

you smell it now.

Its hot dirty acrid scent burns your nose.

It sits low to the ground.

As you creep forward

the beast is still,

it’s strange tail held stiff and off center.

Closer, closer.


With a snarl you leap

spear-first at its flank.

Ting! Ting! Ting!

Your spear tip pokes at the jeep’s back fender.

The audience laughs as the camera moves in close.

I see your eyes behind your mask.

I laugh too as my heels

push my mask a bit further

under my seat.