Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

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A reflection on embracing your inner self, from a middle ager inspired by middle earth

In art,Books,C.S. Lewis,Community,culture,devotional,faith,Fun,Lord of the Rings,movies,poetry,The Hobbit,Theology,Uncategorized on December 14, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , , ,

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This last week I was inspired by listening to Malcolm Guite‘s talk from Kindlings Summer Fest, the third of a series of three. ¬†We attended Summer Fest but were out ‘living’ the topic he spoke of, primarily being the¬†recipients¬†of amazing Orcas Island hospitality from our hosts…they took us on a tour of the island on the boat, simply amazing! ¬†If you have not heard of Malcolm or The Kindlings it would be worth checking out. ¬†The podcast is in the archive and joining Kindlings as an Associate is well worth the $2/month to listen to the content. ¬†His talk was titled,

Malcolm Guite ‚Äď Finding our Way Forward Beyond Generational Apartheid ‚Äď Live from Kindlings Fest 2012¬†

 

In the talk Malcolm covers some amazing points on how to reconnect across generations, his first two points will be the focus of my thoughts today:

  • You Yourself are Intergenerational! Start by remembering and befriending your inner child, the one that dreamed Dreams and saw visions.
  • If you are a youth still in touch with your inner child, how about getting in touch with your outer adult?

There are parts of who you have been created as a person that were transparent when you were a child and over time you ‘learned’ that those things were wrong, immature, or even shameful. ¬†While yes there are ‘childish’ ways that we are encourage to let go of, that is not what I’m talking about here. ¬†I’m talking about that calling from Jesus to be ‘childlike’. ¬†When you ask a kindergarten class to raise their hands if they are an artist, almost every hand will be in the air…yes this is probably because they love raising their hand but also that there is a love and passion for creating and learning. ¬†By middle school that entire poll completely changes as perhaps a few kids will raise their hands while most will look around to watch what their peers are doing. ¬†How does that middle schooler get back in touch with that kindergartner? ¬†A better question might be ‘how do I get back in touch with that child in me’?

Last night as my wife and I went to the midnight showing of The Hobbit, an unexpected journey, I was struck by a few small points around this topic.  First, the story is told generationally.  The way it is framed is Bilbo Baggins is writing his adventures to his cousin Frodo Baggins, they are more than seventy years apart and therefore this connection is intergenerational.  Also it is a time for Bilbo as he is entering a late stage of life to reflect upon his adventurous middle life experiences.  Lastly, when Gandalf describes why he chose such an unlikely home-body as Bilbo to Bilbo himself, Gandalf reminds Bilbo of his youthful adventurous spirit that had been all but replaced by reading and looking at maps as an adult. Bilbo is brought face to face with the need to embrace the passions of his childhood and realize them as an adult.

One small aside this embracing of childhood passion can be a perverted immaturity as a grownup child plays with expensive and dangerous toys at the expense of others to fulfill selfish desires, the guard against this is clear from the movie…other centeredness. ¬†Bilbo embraces the adventure for the sake of reclaiming a home for the dwarves, be a child and then live passionately and childlike for another’s good!

Let’s also remember what I just described is the part of “getting in touch with your outer adult”. ¬†There is a beauty that comes along with age, that of wisdom, loyalty and integrity. ¬†These are also why Bilbo was chosen for the journey, fear would cause him to doubt his place at moments. ¬†The beauty of having a hobbit on the journey..and in this world is that they are the only ones of such great¬†character (especially the Baggins)¬†that they can carry the ring.

Today there are a few practical things I want to encourage you in. ¬†First, reflect on your passions from your childhood. One for me was the grandfather clock in our house, hands down the most valuable possession in meaning to my family. ¬†I grew up with a love of that clock and when an opportunity arose to be involved with making a clock, my passions from childhood were ignited. ¬†Second, sing a song or read a poem or riddle…today. There is a beauty and inspiration that cannot be captured in words by doing this. ¬†Christopher Alexander in his masterpiece, The Timeless Way of Building, ¬†captures this well…he spends an entire book describing how this nameless power is present in good (true) architecture.

I will leave you with the powerful ¬†words of C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,¬†‚ÄúIt means,‚ÄĚ said Aslan, ‚Äúthat though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge only goes back to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor‚Äôs stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.‚ÄĚ

Seek the deeper magic today.

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Sharing life together, though complete and utter strangers

In art,Community,culture,devotional,faith,familiy,home,music,poetry,politics,Prayer,Spiritual,Uncategorized on November 10, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: ,

Moments in this life take on a forever quality that I would have thought could only be reserved for heaven. ¬†Last night was on of them. ¬†This month I turn 36 years old, still a kid I know, and Karin and I went to a house concert of a music hero of mine name Bill Malonee who I have have been listing to for twenty years. ¬†There are many times that Bill’s path has crossed mine and each has been significant and meaningful to me, some directly others indirectly, some glorious others painful. I’ll start with how I ‘met’ Bill and then I’ll tell you my favorite story about him.

I moved back from living overseas my first to years of high school. ¬†The transition back had it’s challenging chief among them was I got cut from the varsity basketball team of my new school after having played varsity for two years overseas previously, thanks Coach Brotias. ¬†Suddenly my plan to be the next Bobby Hurley and start at Duke was looking like it was in¬†jeopardy. In addition I had not registered for a beach trip a group of my new friends were going on with my church because it conflicted with basketball. ¬†I was left discouraged and going to be alone in it, until this small group of young guys (5 of them) made sure that I was going to the beach with them. That was a long way around the barn, so I’ll get to it. ¬†On the three hour ride to the beach instead of riding on the huge bus, where all the girls were which should have been motivation for us, my group of guys piled into a small van, probably the worst smelling van in history. ¬†There we had our own boombox to control the music we listen to on the way. ¬†Erik Crown brought his Jimmy Buffett tapes. ¬†Being new to the group and from a family of¬†teetotalers¬†this was highly offensive and I struggled with listening to ‘drinking’ songs while going on a church retreat. ¬†Little did I know these young men were setting me on a journey more theologically rich and challenging then I could ever imagine and they were using music. ¬†This is the same group of guys who introduced me to Bill Malonee, the story would only be better if his name were Bill W:)

ImageBill Malonee was the writer and frontman for a group call Vigilantes of Love, or for fans like us VOL. They were a gritty thoughtful theological rock band with folk influence from Athens, GA. ¬†VOL and Bill’s lyrics became a soundtrack for my life, one learning to love mercy, seek justice and walk humbly. My soul was fed and challenged with lyrics like:

I’ve been trying to negotiate peace¬†
with my own existence. 
She’s gotta stockpile full of weaponry;¬†
she breaking every cease-fire agreement.
-Welcome to Struggleville

Now look if you’re gonna come around here¬†
And say those sort of things 
You gotta take a few on the chin 
You talking about love and all that stuff 
You better bring your thickest skin 
Sometimes you can’t please everyone¬†
Sometimes you can’t please anyone at all¬†
You sew your heart onto your sleeve 
And wait for the ax to fall
-Skin

It’s amazing what you’ll buy if you think last chance went buy
You weave a new set of lines to cover yourself
‘Cos love is just a plea at the deepest point of need
We take the reasonable facsimile most of the time

-Reasonable Facsimile

If Bill approached faith with gloves it was not the white gloves I was used to it was boxing gloves, and he seemed in my mind to be on the receiving end of the punches…most of the time.

Years later one of my closest friends played bass in a band, The River, from Eastern College in Philadelphia. The River found their inspiration from bands like Creedence Clearwater¬†Revival, in your face Southern Rock with a great lead singer who’s voice clearly woke you up. ¬†The River’s first big show was to open for Vigilantes of Love and they were honored at the opportunity. ¬†Nervous¬†and extremely excited they took the stage, played their set, during and afterward they knew there was something terribly wrong. Later that night while hanging out with Bill, he showered them with complements about their potential and asked, “Would you like some advice for the future?” Receiving wisdom from an artist that had made it was a great opportunity so my friend said yes and in all humility and graciousness¬†Bill said, “You guys have some real talent, for the future I would just invest in a tuner.” The River is no more but the story lives in rock and roll lore as one of the most gracious and¬†hilarious moments, on par with anything that was scripted in the movie, We are Spinal Tap.

ImageSo last night I had to opportunity to experience a house show with Bill Malonee and his wife Mariah. Time has not stood still, Bill has a son only ten years my junior and I have three daughters who did not exist when I was introduced to Bill. ¬†As I sat on the floor at Bill’s feet, he poured out his soul, challenging me to remember those who have died as a result of corporate greed in West Virginia coal mines, wooing me with lyrics of songs that have transformed my soul from the past, and introducing me to a new friend Seth Martin. In a world that I have information on anything I want, Bill reminded me that there will always be those who are called to be prophet. Whether they are riding in boxcars like Woody Guthrie or playing Madison Square Garden like Bob Dylan, I need a prophet to speak or rather sing into my life reminding and rekindling my soul as to what is important.

Today my soul is rekindled, may you take a moment yourself and listen to one of my favorites of Bill’s called Double Cure.

ImageThanks Bill.

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Poetry instead of PowerPoint in the boardroom

In art,business,China,culture,faith,familiy,Friends,leadership,poetry,Proverbs,quote,Spiritual,Technology,Theology on December 22, 2011 by mstevensrev

A friend and inspiration of mine and many other Nigel Goodwin¬†has an encouraging idea he shares with those creatives in the boardroom. ¬†While spending a few days with Nigel and a group of others at a Kindlings Hearth Event, we had been discussing slippers and¬†lingerie…which is probably an entirely different blog post unless you know Nigel because I’m certain you have discussed similarly unique things with him. ¬†At some point he stops and says, Michael when I do consulting with companies I want to see the humanity brought back into their existence so “When I go into the boardroom I start with poetry rather than PowerPoint.”

While Nigel’s words were inspirational, there was a good part of my heart that sank. ¬†Of course Nigel with his experience and maturity is able to bring those worlds together, he is a uniquely gifted GIFT from God to the rest of us. ¬†As a young, inexperienced, highly ambitious and motivated sales monkey I could not picture that reality, but in that there was hope. ¬†In the short term I embraced bringing the humanity back into those rooms, and noticed results. ¬†With clients such as Google who treat vendors as nameless faceless units and make rational decisions upon the data that has been thoroughly scrubbed for accuracy, it is not easy unless you are intentional. ¬†Though I noticed the more human meetings became, the more laughter there was, the more people longed to have lunch together afterward and there was a small patch of green growing in this area.

That would have been a miracle in mind and the truth be told only God could be responsible for bringing life and humanity to a Google boardroom:)  And yet I had an even bigger surprise yesterday and am grateful that I had the eyes to see what I had stumbled into.  This year has been filled with job transition and the turmoil related to that change.  Thankfully I am celebrating two months with a new company that I am really enjoying and excited about.  Yesterday I found myself in Cupertino at our office with the head of a Business Unit discussing recent shifts within the company and how we are to move forward.  We were setting out a goal for the next three months and clearly came up with the foci and metrics to measure success, yet we had not named our goal.  So I ask the Business Unit head what is mantra for the group.

A grin came across his face and he said that he has a slide on that which he presented. ¬†While finding it on his computer his¬†demeanor shifted from the confident young leader to shy. ¬†He said that often these are the hardest ideas and seem really good in private but are silly in public. ¬†I felt like I was on¬†holy ground. ¬†Then he presented this image to us. Thankfully he did not have the English translation because he was able to share with us more context which made the word so much more than the translation expresses! ¬†It is a quote from Confucius which most people from China know very well, roughly translated it means, “To put the world in order we must first set our hearts to right thing, to then focus on¬†craftsmanship, to then care for family and team, and then the world.” ¬†I have begin to read commentaries and other translations of this proverb and needless to say it is very profound.

After listening to the explanation I was asked what I thought. ¬†I said it was amazing, the full extent of why I think it speaks to me will take an evening and a meal together but in short is universal and human, capturing and relating what it means for us to be ourselves. ¬†How beautiful to have the opportunity to start with ‘getting our hearts right’ with my co-workers, I desperately need people around me who are concerned with that because it has a direct effect on everything in my life, including my ‘numbers’. ¬†I said, “It is deeply human.” ¬†Then on a level even more deep my coworker asked me with an amazing amount of¬†vulnerability¬†in his eyes and voice, “Is it too Chinese?” ¬†The weight of that question would be hard for me to describe in this blog post, but in short it felt like through this poem/proverb I was being asked if we were all people in a shared struggle with what it means to live in this world. ¬†Again I said it, “It is human, and with roots from China it is perfect for our company.” ¬†There was some more discussion but one of the action items we took away was to send out an audio file of the poem so that the American’s on the team can learn how to say it…as it is mean to be said.

We took a break and before we started again, I told the team about Nigel. ¬†This wonderful friend who brings poetry into boardrooms instead of PowerPoint, and I said he would be very proud of the discussion we had around a poem. ¬†In this I cannot express my gratitude….

P.S. For those of you who haven’t seen the TED Talk related to dance and powerpoint please check it out, this is very dear to my heart.

Dance vs. powerpoint, a modest proposal: John Bohannon on TED.com


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>The Art of Making New Dreams

In church,Community,faith,journal,poetry,Prayer,writing on July 12, 2009 by mstevensrev

>When I was a kid I regularly dreamed. So much in fact I had regular reoccurring dreams, not day dreams, but actual reoccurring dreams at night in which I was returning to the same place, even sometimes revisiting a previous dream. This is the first time I have thought about it but I don’t remember many of my dreams anymore, is it something that has just faded or was it taken from me I’m not sure.

One lesson I am currently learning is the art of making new dreams. While this might sound very beautiful to me it is difficult and feels like it is splitting me at the seams. In biblical terms it might be more like dying to one self (Matthew 16:24-27). Time and again already in my life things that bring about a great deal of meaning to me have been taken from me. Is this because they had a inappropriate place in my heart? Yes. Is this because of the sin of those around me affecting my dreams? Yes. Is it because of reasons I don’t have any idea about right now? Yes.

These transitions, dying, making new dreams has been hard. Not only is it about looking forward and having a plan, but it is about digging in the lowest and earliest regions of my identity. My life was one of the chosen son of blessing, a role which torments me because I know I can never meet the expectation and yet it is the standard in which I have for myself. Either I am all things or I am nothing. This is a dream that is from the depth of hell and it deserves being shattered. But if that happens, then who am I?

Even in writing this post I’m lost at how my intention was to talk of rebuilding, the art of making new dreams, and yet I’m left feeling as an orphan. Yes we know that adoption (Romans 8:15) is one of the beautiful picture of scripture, yet have you ever known a person who was adopted and had severe abandonment issues? That is where I’m at.

Struggling to hold my own self deception too heavy for me, yet temporarily I keep it up knowing that it shatters when dropped and only then I will be free to make new dreams.

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>Poetry

In Fun,poetry on April 15, 2009 by mstevensrev

>In the tree outside my room, there is a bird.

He wakes up at 5:33, that’s absurd.

I’m awake as he sings in the shower.

I wish he’d just give me one more hour.

His singing just can’t be unheard:)