The Weekend Review: Wild in the Hollow, Unyielding Wildness, and a Fuzzy Puppet

It’s the weekend, and this one feels like it flew in on the wings of forever. Dang.

This weekend, let’s talk books, links, maybe a video or two. Let’s talk about productivity, but only a little. Let’s watch fuzzy puppets dance. (Huh?) Whatever we talk, let’s enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Books:

Amber’s new book, Wild in the Hollow, is out in the world. It’s beautiful. Here’s a taste:

“There is no believing and leaving the church. We are the church, satisfied in God alone.

I do not care if you’re in a bar, a ditch, a hospital bed, or behind a podium on stage. I don’t care if you were born mute or blind or with Down syndrome. I don’t care if you’re rolling in cash or looking on the sidewalk for change. Are you the man who changes light bulbs or picks up trash in the stadium? Are you the one who prays exquisite prayers? It does not matter where you are, who you are, or how educated you are. In Christ, you are the church.”

I’ve enjoyed reading rough drafts of Hollow, and now, I’m enjoying the print version.

And here’s what Sarah Bessey says:

Grab a copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Givington’s (book club bundles available) or wherever fine books are sold.

Links:

1. Culture:

If you’re a literature lover raised in the south, it’s a rule: you read To Kill a Mockingbird, and when you’re an adult, you consider naming a child or pet after one of its characters. (Confession time: who here has a Scout, Atticus, or Finch running around the house?) Watchman‘s critical reception has been less than stellar, and Atticus’s name has been sullied. But read why the folks at Mockingbird believe Lee’s new novel is prophetic.

This week, Sarah Bessey writes how feminism compels her to a pro-life ethic. It’s beautifully done and a perspective you’ve probably not considered.

2. Poetry:

If you aren’t reading John Blase’s poetry, why not? This week’s “The Earth is Stained With an Unyielding Wildness” is a beautiful piece. Perhaps one of my favorite Blase originals.

Did you catch my poem this week, the one in which the sunrise conjured memories of my grandfather? What memories does a sunrise conjure for you?

3. Productivity:

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: you turn to your computer to type a work-related email and you hear the blip notifying you, “HEY! Someone just mentioned you on FACEBOOK!” A twenty minute lack of productivity ensues. Do you ever feel like you need a productivity accountability partner? This week, Ann Kroeker set me free. In her podcast, “The Writing Life,” Ann shares about the Pomodoro Technique, a productivity method that involves a regimen of focused work, followed by a set time of focused rest. So, when that Facebook notification crosses your screen while you’re working, you know you can click over in twenty skinny minutes. Genius, eh? Ann is full of good tips.

And back to that email you were typing. Are you an emotionally aware emailer, or do your emails frequently devolve into a morass of inner-office turmoil? 99 U has a few communication tips in “How to Avoid Miscommunications & Email Like a Real Human Being .” And for those of you wondering: yes, the emoji is actually in the link’s url.

4. Instagram of the Week :

 

 

Video:

What’s happening here? I have no idea. These guys are so hipster they have a fuzzy dancing puppet with an East German accent. Who knows? Whatever. The music’s right as rain, anyhow. Enjoy.

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Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the July newsletter, I’m discussing growing young. I’m also giving away Chapter 3 of Dear Little Brothers, a serial eBook. Sign up in the box below to receive Chapter 1 and look for the July Tiny Letter in your inbox to download the other chapters!

 

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A Podcast and a Goodread

It was an email out of the blue, followed by a cold call or two. His name was Troy, he said, a layman doing the work of the church by way of a podcast. Don’t we live in strange times? It’s a brave new world, and all of that.

Troy read my writing on Coming Clean for In Touch Magazine, and he asked whether I’d be willing to sit for an interview. Before I agreed, I interviewed him. I walked in the summer garden, cell phone to ear, and we talked about Rich, Brennan, and Walt. We talked about the importance of lay people rebuilding the church. We talked sobriety. We may have discussed the Cameron Crowe classic Almost Famous. I can’t remember.

In that first one hour conversation, I decided I liked Troy, and I agreed to sit for an interview.

It’s more of a conversation, really. I’d love to invite you to join us. Would you follow this link to the Project Pastor Podcast? And while you’re there, check out the other great interviews.  (He’s interviewed Walt Brueggemann? Seriously?)

 

***COMING CLEAN UPDATE: TODAY’S ACTION ITEMS***

Coming Clean:A Story of Faith (Zondervan, October 2015), is available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Givington’s (for those of you who like the more independent option). It’s tells the story of my first ninety days of sobriety, how I walked through the pains of life and into the abiding presence of God. It’s a book about recovery, yes, but not just from alcohol. It’s a book about recovering the faith so many of us have lost along the way.

I believe the message of Coming Clean because I lived it. Would consider pre-ordering Coming Clean? Would you consider entering into this conversation with me?

Goodreads users: Enter the Coming Clean giveaway on Goodreads! 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Coming Clean by Seth Haines

Coming Clean

by Seth Haines

Giveaway ends October 06, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

And while you’re at it, add it to your reading shelf.

Coming Clean:  A Story of Faith

 

***TINY LETTER***

 

Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the July newsletter, I’m discussing growing young. I’m also giving away Chapter 3 of Dear Little Brothers, a serial eBook. Sign up in the box below to receive Chapter 1 and look for the July Tiny Letter in your inbox to download the other chapters!

 

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*Photo by Michael Johnson, Creative Commons via Flickr.

Remembering Sunrise (For Grandpa, Who is Gone)

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” ~Leonardo da Vinci

Last week I slipped on a pair of flip-flops and walked into the dawn. The sun was peeking through the trees, and I stood in a little patch of fescue just beyond the compost pile. The fescue; the sweet, wet compost; the dew on my toes–these things reminded me of my Grandpa Ducky, though I cannot say why. Isn’t memory an odd thing?

We wake to memories like grand epiphanies. Standing in the train station, or the grocery line, or rinsing our hair in the shower, memory happens as much to us as in us. It brings the smile hidden in the heart, the anger buried in the darker places of the soul, sometimes mourning from the place just behind the eyes. Remembrances are sometimes intentional, often not.

My Grandpa Ducky was larger than life, a Big Fish sort of a man. I remembered him last week standing in the fescue, and I wrote this poem. In full disclosure, the images in the poem are very real, but the phrasing from my grandpa is not. This poem, though, contains things he might have said, probably did say, surely must have said. I could tell you I remember them, but I don’t. Or maybe I do. Sometimes memory and imagination are twins.

Too many people are afraid of poetry these days. A colleague told me yesterday, “I don’t do poetry because I don’t understand it.” Hogwash. Today I’m painting a scene in words. Isn’t that all poetry is? I’m painting it for my colleague and the rest of you don’t-do-poetry types. Read the word painting below. Smell the boathouse. Hear the Jazz. See the sun. Meet my grandpa. He was a good man.

*****

Remembering Sunrise (For Grandpa, Who is Gone)

This morning the sun came tromping,
heading west, the promise of gold
in its eyes, conjuring rainbows
in dewey fescue patches.

There I remembered my grandfather,
the smell of his boathouse, gasoline,
naugahyde seats, cold gin, sweat.
There I heard Miles and Johnny
improvising on the record player
powerd by fifty feet of orange
extension cord, a lifeline to the
white brick house heaving to sleep.

Evenings are for maintenance,
for going back on expectations,
but the mornings–yes–the mornings
are for golden futures,
for promises of rainbows
on every blade of grass.

These are things he said
or either might have said
in a time, in a place.

Sleep child. Hoisting me,
lying me on the boat bench.
Sleep well. There I closed my eyes
and woke to this morning.

 

***TINY LETTER***

Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the July newsletter, I’m discussing growing young. I’m also giving away Chapter 3 of Dear Little Brothers, a serial eBook. Sign up in the box below to receive Chapter 1 and look for the July Tiny Letter in your inbox to download the other chapters!

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A Few Good Links: Bone Clocks, Recovery, and Wildishness

It’s the weekend. Couldn’t we all use a little break from the grind? Let’s talk books, links, maybe a video or two. Let’s talk recovery, perhaps a little soul care. Whatever we talk, let’s not make it about occupation. Deal?

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Maybe a little soul work. These are the twin themes of the day.

Books:

I’ve killed my fair share of non-fiction over the last few years, but I’ve slipped into novels lately. There’s something about a story cut from whole cloth, the escapism of it all. Allow me to offer a few suggestions?

1. All The Light We Cannot See–If I’ve read a better piece of historical fiction, what was it? I’m not sure. Sure, it won the Pulitzer. Sure, everyone’s read it or is reading it. Sure, it’s hyped. But listen, there’s a reason hyped books are hyped, and there’s a reason Pulitzer Prize winners win the Pulitzer.

2. The Bone Clocks–This offering from David Mitchell captured me from the beginning. Genre? I’d put it in the Sorta Science Fiction category. By Sorta, I mean to say that haters of the Science Fiction genre will still love this one. The character relationships are complex. The story is tight. The ending? Whoa.

3. Silence Once Begun–This is Jessee Ball’s 2013 offering, and here’s all I can say about it: Dang. It was a risk of a novel. Set in Japan, the narrative is driven by interview transcripts and letters. It’s a story of a crime not committed, or perhaps committed, or not committed. Or? Silence is a book of dichotomies–silence versus the effluence of words, love versus mendacity, the individual versus the collective. The final pages deliver the death blow to the modern justice system. It’s hard to imagine that I will not be thinking of this novel for many days to come.

Links:

1. John Blase wrecks it this morning with his poem, “The earth is stained with an unyielding wildness.” This one broke something loose.

2. Speaking of poetry, this week I dropped a couple of poems in one post! Check out my thoughts on being a “Poetry Contest Loser (2 Poems).”

3. Is addiction all about the chemical hooks? Is it the substance of choice? If so, how do you explain gambling addictions? Internet addictions? Workaholism? In this piece at the Huffington post, Johann Hari explores the connection between addiction recovery and community. It flips the addiction/recovery narrative on its head. For those interested in recovery, it’s a must read.

4. Recovery and community–see how they’re connected? There are other waypoints on the road to recovery, too. Do you know the “The 5 Embraces of Recovery.”

5. Addiction, addiction everywhere and not a drop to drink. Or something. Anyhow, did you see the news? Shawn Smucker quit the Internet. Well, he quit social media to be more precise. Why? Addiction, soul work, and all of that, he says. Check out his piece.

6. What does Amber do when she can’t sleep after Midnight? She writes.

“It’s midnight as I write this, fallen awake again at the wrong hours, night after night, exhausted but vividly in tune. The room goes dark, and it’s all technicolor for me, an odd synesthesia behind these lids.”

I love the way she writes. And speaking of the way she writes, this week, Amber’s book Wild in the Hollow started shipping–3 weeks early! Early readers report that they’ve read it in one sitting. They’ve flown through the pages, come to the end with tears in their eyes. I’ll vouch for it. It’s good. Check it out?

Videos:

Admit it, you need a little “Beat It,” in your life this morning. Yes?

***TINY LETTER***

Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the July newsletter, I’m discussing growing young. I’m also giving away Chapter 3 of Dear Little Brothers, a serial eBook. Sign up in the box below to receive Chapter 1 and look for the July Tiny Letter in your inbox to download the other chapters!

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The 5 Embraces of Addiction Recovery

In the last 10 months, I’ve hosted a series of guests as they’ve stepped into the Recovery Room and written about coming clean from various addictions. Alcoholics, undereaters, overachievers, suck-it-up-ers, over-workers, they’ve all shared their stumbling, drunken stories and written of their journey into sobriety.

Comment after comment, email after email, others have reached out in response; me too, they say. But comment after comment, email after email, I hear this from others—I just don’t know how to quit.

Maybe you’re like so many of the others. You recognize your own addiction, but the thought of coming clean is unbearable. A day without the drink, the credit card, the sex—is such a thing possible? 

It’s not an easy process, this road to recovery. There is a way through, though. Embrace the difficult yet not impossible.

1. Embrace Confession

Alcoholics, sex addicts, workaholics, and even shopping addicts—there is a twelve step recovery group for just about everyone these days. Each of these Anonymous recovery programs starts with the same first step–admit your powerlessness over addiction and confess your life has become unmanageable.

Addiction is the monster in the closet, the boogeyman under the bed. Confession brings the light of truth to addiction, allows mother, sister, brother, or friend into the room. Confession allows a community to help expose addiction for what it is–a beatable thing.

St. James says it best in the good book, “confess your sins one to another so that you may be healed.” A wiser word was never written; confession is the first step to wholeness and healing.

2. Embrace Community

I was asked a few months ago how I made it through the recovery process without joining my own Anonymous program. I stopped, mulled the question, and said, “it’s all about the community.”

In September of 2013, I quit the bottle under the outspread arms of an Austin Spanish oak. I was in Austin with some good friends, brothers from my hometown. I confessed my problem, told them I couldn’t seem to control the alchohol on my own. Straight faced, nodding, arms on shoulders, they said, “we’ll walk through this with you.”

And they have.

In scripture, Paul exhorts Christians to live a sober, Spirit-filled life. He writes, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” I once wondered why Paul contrasts individual drunkenness with the Spirit-filled Christian community, and this is what I’ve come to believe: The addictions of our life are often born from our own isolation, from our pain and anxiety.

The community of faith steels the legs of recovery. Community encourages the spiritual work. Community holds the addictions born from isolation at bay. Community and confession–they are kissing cousins.

3. Embrace Cliché

The early days of sobriety dawned like a house fire. Each day anxiety would set in, and my nerves would burn. The want for gin was less like a craving and more like an obsession. Gin and tonic, gin and tonic, gin and tonic–I was a broken record skipping on the beat.

I called my friend Heather, a sister who’d walked through her own bout with addiction. “I have to do this forever?” I asked. “I have to say no to gin for the rest of my life?”

“You’re approaching it all wrong,” she said. “I know it’s cliché, but it’s the best I have. Just take it one day at a time.”

Heather is a writer, and she knows full well how other writers hate clichés. We avoid them like the plague. They are a cancer. (See what I did there?) But as famed author Jack Kerouac said, “clichés are truisms and all truisms are true.” Put another way, there is a reason clichés become cliché.

One day at a time. It’s the most overused cliché in recovery circles, but it holds true. Jesus put it another way–give us this day our daily bread. In recovery, you don’t need a lifetime supply of bread for today; there’s a limit to how much a man can eat, see. Pray for today’s provision. Meal plan for today’s provision. Give thanks for today’s provision.

And if you need a list of good recovery cliches, I’m here to oblige.

4. Embrace Forgiveness

The drinking, eating, puking, shopping, working, sexing—is it about the act itself?

Yesterday I was on the phone with a friend, and we were discussing various addictive behaviors. “For me, it wasn’t about the alcohol,” I said, “it was about escaping presence and pain.” Isn’t this the way with most addictions?

Being present in and to the world, being awake and aware can be a painful thing. Remember the abuse as a child, the spiritual manipulation? Feel the anxiety rise, the panic attacks that come at the end of the day’s work struggles? Hear the voices behind your eyes whispering, maybe your mother, perhaps your father, your husband, your boss? “You’re not good enough,” they say.

True sobriety—inner sobriety—begs us to recognize and face the sources of our pain and anxiety. Who first whispered the lies that stick in our craw? Who is the source of our pain? And once the sources are identified, then what?

Jesus—God in flesh—was hung for heresy. The innocent of all innocents looked down on the murdering men and prayed, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”

Forgiveness is an act of creation; it brings a garden of peace from the blackness of hate and hurt. Forgiveness brings resolution to the anxiety. Forgiveness is the antidote to the poison of life.

5. Embrace a Lifestyle of Recovery

Recovery is not a one time renunciation of addiction. It’s a daily process, a journey. Confession, community, forgiveness, these are the one-day-at-a-time, every-day-at-a-time imperatives.

A few weeks ago, Elizabeth Esther, author of Spiritual Sobriety (Convergent, 2016), asked about my process of recovery. I wrote,

As often as possible (at least a few times a week), I take an inventory of my emotional distractions. Is there an unresolved issue that’s giving birth to anger? Am I refusing to forgive someone? What voices fill my head or my heart in times of quiet? I list those things and take them to God, asking him to change my heart. There, in those quiet places, I clean out the spiritual entanglements. I declutter the room, confess my sin and make space for King Jesus to sit on the throne of my heart. Only then can he properly direct my emotions and guard my sobriety.

This is the trick, I think. It’s only God who can guard our sobriety, and only then if we embrace a lifestyle of inner-sobriety, of confession in community. Is it hard work? Yes. But as sure as the sun will set, I can tell you this—recovery is beautiful.

*****

In October, my first book, Coming Clean: a Story of Faith, hits the bookstore shelves. It’s a story of doubt, forgiveness, and recovery. Would you consider pre-ordering Coming Clean and help spread the good news of recovery? You can pre-order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Givington’s.

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***TINY LETTER***

Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the July newsletter, I’m discussing growing young. I’m also giving away Chapter 3 of Dear Little Brothers, a serial eBook. Sign up in the box below to receive Chapter 1 and look for the July Tiny Letter in your inbox to download the other chapters!

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