Archive for category: Books

Happy Birthday To Me… Again.

On Sunday, I stepped into my thirty-eighth year of life in Billings, Montana. I found a local cafe, McCormick’s—open 7 days, says the pink and blue neon sign—and ordered my birthday breakfast. Two eggs, over easy, toast, bacon. In the McCormick’s, the morning light tendrils through the windows, cuts shafts through the slight mist of floating bacon grease. Bacon grease—could there be a better incense of the people? It’s a beautiful thing.

I opened my laptop and connected to the mccormickcafe network, and when the signal strength bars filled, my Facebook birthday notifications began streaming in. Facebook—I don’t care if Mark Zuckerberg is a socialist; hasn’t he created a platform that makes us all feel inordinately special on our birthdays? On Facebook, every birthday is an exercise in rediscovering that, yes, you actually did hang the moon.

I watched the cafe patrons—the young father stealing his son’s nose, his mother ordering cinnamon rolls at the counter, the old men waiving their hands and speaking in slavic tongues, the fella in the Auburn Tigers hat and the University of Montana sweatshirt shoveling four eggs down his gullet. We were a loose community, they oblivious to my solitary birthday celebration in the corner of the room. I smiled.

It was the happiest birthday. There was no sense of loneliness, only solitariness (the two should not be confused). Amber, the boys, and I celebrated before we left, and it was fantastic. Friends were sending their birthday wishes via the internet, and text message. I felt loved.

A birthday in Montana, eggs and bacon on your plate. Who could ask for more?

****

I’m still in Montana, and today marks another sort of birthday. Today, my first book, Coming Clean, hits the shelves. This time, I’m with a few good blokes, and we’ll have a smallish celebration. We’re without internet access, though, so aside from these fellas, I’ll have no idea whether Coming Clean released with the fanfare of a Facebook birthday, or whether it slipped onto the shelves in relative silence. There’s something that feels right about that.

Birthdays bring noise, bring celebration. Birthdays are the day when it’s okay to be the center of attention, to grab the limelight. Self-indulgent treats are occasionally justified. Perhaps a book birthday no different. Sometimes, though, self-indulgence does a body bad. I know this from experience.

In Coming Clean, I offer a raw account of my first 90 days of sobriety, illuminating the ways in which I numbed my pain with self-indulgence. My vice was liquor, but as we’ve learned in the Recovery Room over the past year, many numb their pain with various and sundry vices—sex, eating, puking, achievement, drama, theology. The vices, don’t they crowd out the voice of God? Don’t they distract us from the many ways God hopes to speak to us in our pain?

Today is the birthday of my book. I hope you’ll order your copy. I believe it’s important. But aside from this piece of writing, and a few scheduled social media messages, I’ll be relatively absent from the noise surrounding the release. I’ll be on the river, watching the trout fight against a fly line, and I’ll be thanking God in the quiet. The quiet–it’s where I learned to escape vice; it’s where I found God again.

Thank you for ordering your copy of Coming Clean. If you’d like to help spread the word, CLICK THIS LINK TO TWEET. And if you’re more of the Facebook sort, consider sharing this little message:

Seth Haines’ book, Coming Clean, hits the shelves today. Don’t miss his story of pain, doubt, and the kindness of God that drew him into faith. http://sethhaines.com/books

After you’ve let your fingers do the clicking, find your own quiet space and ask yourself this question: is there some vice, some noise distracting me from the still, small voice of God? Is there something from which I need to come clean?

Walk into another sort of birthday, the birth of a new story. You won’t regret it. I promise.

***TINY LETTER***

Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you’ll receive access to my serial eBook, Dear Little Brothers.

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That Time I Rearranged An Airport Bookstore (I’m a Rebel, see)

I traveled last week to Story Nashville, a conference hosted by Crosspoint Church in Nashville, Tennessee. I enjoy traveling more than most, in no small part because of the solitary nature of any given excursion. To those who know me, this should come as no surprise—I am an extreme introvert by nature, though a well-practiced extrovert. It’s the introvert that needs the travel, the blending into the airport crowd, the whir of the airplane engine drowning out most conversations, the headphones drowning the rest.

More than the solitude, though—and brace yourself for this bold statement—I adore an airport bookstore. I am a book junkie, and if I could mainline words, I’d probably ask you to pass the elastic band and syringe; I’d freebase them from a spoon. (Was that a touch crass? I suppose sometimes the truth is.) So last week, on the way to share stories at Story, I made a beeline to Potomac Books and began perusing the shelves. (The name of the bookstore has been changed to protect the innocent–namely, me.)

I picked new releases from the shelves, read bits and pieces. I snatched a copy of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See–a book that nearly stole my will to write–and fawned over a few of my favorite pages. I flipped through the words and photographs of a World War II history book, devoured the captions under the photos of Rommel churning up dust in North Africa. Mindy Kaling’s new book was on the shelves, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns), and I read a few pages, laughed till I choked on my Jamba Juice. Books, books, everywhere. It was Valhalla, I say.

I moved to the Religion and Spirituality section of the Potomac and scanned the titles. Here, my bookish aura greened, bile rising, as I noted the smiling, Photoshopped heads floating against muted backdrops, the titles promising me my best life now or some version of it. They were there with their pearl white teeth offering reward from work or faith, depending upon the flavor of the author. They were the salesmen of promise. What was the promise? Happiness. Wealth. Status. Perhaps a good sex life. Hopefully a good sex life. (Who wouldn’t buy a book promising a good sex life?)

Joel Osteen was smiling next to Dave, who was smiling next to T.D., who was smiling next to Ben, who was smiling next to some buxom woman in a deep-V blouse promising a good sex life. (Again I ask: who wouldn’t buy a self-help book promising a good sex life?) The people–they’re all smiling on their book covers these days. Frowns and ash don’t move print, I suppose.

And this is where the story shifts, and why the bookstore name must be changed for my protection. There, among those very pretty floating heads all awash in smiles was a little book by Emily Freeman, Simply Tuesday:Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. In contrast to its companions, it was simple. It was the unassuming fish swimming in the pond of assuming largemouths. I picked it up, flipped the pages and read as she wrote of living a deeply connected life in the hustle and flow of the everyday. I flipped, flipped, flipped, and was moved by the honesty of Freeman’s work. It was, at it’s root, true.

And this is the part of the story wherein I might have crossed the line. There was her book, a shining pearl among the fool’s gold (dangit if they’re not profiting off so much pyrite these days) and the spirit (mine or the spirit of God, who can know) said Freeman needed more shelf space. I didn’t cover Ben, or Dave, or T.D., or the Buxom woman wearing the deep-V (doesn’t everyone need a book promising a good sex life?). In a moment of weakness, though, I grabbed a few copies of Simply Tuesday, and faced them out, covering Mr. Osteen’s smiling face. I’m not sure the legality of the move, though I’m quite sure it was untoward and uncivil. I didn’t raise the ire of the T.S.A., little act of resistance that it was. I’m also quite positive that the shelving snafu was quickly noted by the pimple-faced teen at gum counter, and the issue was rectified once I turned my back on the shelf. Even still, the act felt good.

Sometimes it feels good to be a rebel.

I walked from the Potomac to my gate, whispered a quick Lord Have Mercy over the folks who entered the Potomac. And by Lord Have Mercy, I meant this: “Lord, let a few more copies of Simply Tuesday find their way into the hands of all these fast paced travelers.”

Amen.

***TINY LETTER***

Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In my most recent edition, I’m discussing the discovery of “The Quiet Sober.” Sign up and receive access to my serial eBook, Dear Little Brothers.

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The Places I’ve Been

Oh, hey there.

It’s been a crazy season here in world Haines, and if I went about the business of explaining it all, I’d bore you to tears, or at least to clicking off to your favorite online retailer. There’s business to be done, children to raise, and a to-do lists that stretches from the Ozarks to the Rockies. In all of that (and more to be sure), it’s the little things–like keeping up this little writing space–can fall by the wayside.

But in 400 words or less, allow me to catch you up on team Haines. Take a deep breath. Ready?

Amber took a break from raising children and chickens to birth her debut book, Wild in the Hollow. We threw a raucous book-release party on the hottest day of the summer; the air conditioner was on the fritz; everyone sweated buckets while Amber read. There was cake, though. Cake makes everything cooler.

Friends

girls

 

Music reading Cake

Good folks came in for the book release, so there was a weekend of entertaining. We sat around the big table and talked life. We laughed a little too hard, which is always good medicine. Austin listened to his wife without interjection or contradiction, only love. The world could use more conversations like the ones we had.

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A week later, our little church gathered on a Sunday and sent a girl to college. She was our first to fly the coop. God bless her. Everyone cried, especially her mother and father.

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In all this hustle and bustle, Amber and I bought a house. Ironic? Sure. (You understand this irony if you’ve read Wild in the Hollow.) But hey, things change. Right? To everything turn, turn, turn. Those Byrds (and King Solomon) had a few things right.

Under the cover of night, my little book, Coming Clean,  started its own giveaway on Goodreads. It was an awkward move on its part, and we had a little conversation, the book and I. “You can’t go launching yourself to the world without my permission,” I said. “Watch me,” he said. Looks like I have a teenager on my hands. (While you’re at it, though, would you consider entering the giveaway?)

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

Amber wrote about the Ashley Madison scandal, but not before calling to make sure my name wasn’t on the list. (Hey, we’re all human here.) It was a gutsy article to be sure. Take a gander. I wrote a few words about doubt, and boy did they hit home. I followed up that little Facebook post with a TinyLetter on the same subject. “A TinyLetter?” you ask. Yes. A TinyLetter. You can sign up here (or click the photo to redirect to my TinyLetter). 7a082db7-48c1-48ec-b33e-d99f897eeb7c We’re running, running, running, and I’m not sure whether we’re going or coming. At least we’re still breathing, which is some testament of grace. What kind of grace? Who knows. But we’re living into it. I’ll be back regularly next week. It’ll be September, which is National Recovery Month. I might have a few things to say about that. Thanks for reading along, and carry peace today. While we’re all here, let’s shut this down the way we shut the Wild in the Hollow release party down; shall we?

  Closing down the #wildinthehollow book party. Thanks for a special evening, all.   A video posted by Seth Haines (@sethhaines) on

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Wild in the Hollow: A Birthday Bash!

I was told once by a bunch of Calvinists that all things were predestined before the foundations of the earth. Death. Salvation. Destruction. The weather on May 21, 1996. The toast I ate for breakfast this morning, a touch burned. All of these things were chiseled in a stoney timeline even before God thundered “Let there be light!” over the void. All things planned. All means spinning toward the ultimate ends of God. These are the things once said by that Calvinist bunch.

Perhaps its an oversimplification of some grander theological truth. I’m not sure. I’m a lawyer by trade, and I have no letters behind my name vouching for my theological prowess. I’m a simple layman, one who uses spiritual intuition and a sometimes confounding set of scriptures to understand the workings of the cosmos. But as untrue as this sort of hyperactive, robotic predestination construct feels most days, there are other days when I wonder whether we’re not all just running down the record groves.

This isn’t so much about building a case for pet theologies, so don’t curse the screen just yet. It’s an exercise in recognizing a thing. The thing is a pulling or maybe a pushing. It’s about things ordained.

On a September Saturday in 1998, I sat in a stiff plastic chair in the Marie Hammon Student Center of Harding University. Marie Hammon was some long lost relative of mine–a great aunt, or fourth cousin, or some such. She was a wealthy Floridian spinster who’d made her fortune by virtue of marriage to a fortunate man. As the story goes, she was brutally murdered by her gardener on account of dispute over money or cocaine–depending on your perspective on the matter–and she’d left a sizable sum to the school on the stipulation that my sister and I attended for free. I never met Maria Hammon. She didn’t much care for children, I was told.

I sat with Christy, a senior who had a thing for my best friend’s brother. She was a short shot, full of fire, vivacious. She could have been a thing, I’ve always thought, but she was off limits according to the Bro-Code, which is a lamentable but very real thing. Christy and I were were making small talk, wasting a cool weekend morning when Amber walked in the Student Center, loose tee sweats and a tee shirt.

I looked at my short shot, said, “I think I like that girl. Met her last week here and I’m thinking about asking her out.” Christy smiled, tousled my hair like I was a little brother and said, “what are you waiting for, Sport?” She nudged me from my chair. The rest is history. (See how the pushing works?)

It could have been like any other of my first dates–a concert, a movie, some little triviality that drove me so crazy that I bolted. It wasn’t. We were in sync from the beginning, found our rhythm from the minute she stepped down into my tiny black Mitsubishi Eclipse. In that silly little car–almost sporty–Amber told me she was a poet with supreme confidence. She wasn’t going to be or hoping she’d grow up into like so many of the other girls on campus. She was, she said. A present, active, confident verb. She would write books, she said, or maybe lyrics. Who knew.

Tides to the moon, we were pulled, and pulled, and pulled. It was the first date in a continuum of togetherness. Engagement on a snowy day in December. Marriage in an orange Indian Summer in Alabama. A bad stint in ministry. Graduate school programs–a Master’s of Fine Arts for her; law school for me. A trip, maybe a fall. Maybe one for each of us. Whatever. A child, then another, then another, then another. Dark seasons. Seasons of light. Dream seasons; seasons of dreams. Through it all, Amber was a poet. A present action verb living and collecting experience. All of it was writing fodder, pen fuel.

Today is the culmination of all the pushing and pulling. Over the last two years, Amber has worked on what would become her first book–Wild in the Hollow. It’s a memoir about smallness, weakness, and finding the broken way home. It tells her story and a sizable chunk of our story. It’s true, at times heavy, but never heavy handed. There’s a poet’s touch to the pages.

We’re still looking for the way home, Amber and I. Or perhaps the way home is looking for us. Who knows. I suppose it depends on how much Calvinism one can stomach without tossing one’s theological cookies. Either way, today marks a step in Amber’s journey into her fit; dare I say her calling? Who knows. I suppose time will tell. But today, we’re celebrating the official release of Wild in the Hollow. Will you celebrate with us?

You can send Amber congratulations on Facebook, or Twitter. And if you haven’t picked up your copy of Wild in the Hollow yet, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Givington’s, or other fine book sellers. Join me in making this a special day for Amber.

 

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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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What’s Gentleman’s Club, Daddy?

Baby it’s cold outside.

Cousin winter blew into town like an uninvited guest and brought the old ice-skating-rink-in-a-box with him. He spilled that skating rink across the entire town, looked at the children and said, “let’s call school off and party down! Ain’t this a gas!”

A gas. Sure.

The boys have been out of school for two days now and Amber has been on the other side of the world. She’s exploring Jerusalem and getting to know the people there, seeing the sights, walking the Old Town. We were exchanging messages last night, and she said, “there’s so much to learn I think my head might explode.” I looked out the window, saw the snow piling up, and heard the children screaming with delight at the announcement of today’s school closing. They ran through the house like caffeine-infused squirrels, laughing. “My head might explode too,” I said, “just for different reasons.”

Yesterday, the boys came to the office with me because our baby sitter couldn’t make her shift due to the inclement weather. All four wheels engaged, I trucked us eight miles to my office. The boys oohed and awed over the falling snow while I did my best to keep us between the ditches. This is the work of single parenting, I think. Just keep it between the ditches.

I finalized reports there at the office and the boys constructed Minecraft cities. Generally speaking, I think Minecraft is a soul-sucking, brain-melting, addiction-inducing thing. Yesterday, though, it made my list of favorite common graces. And when I was finished with my reporting and they with their construction projects, I said, “let’s find a restaurant.” Another dizzying cheer of joy rang out in my very small office.

There was only one restaurant open in town. La Heurta is the Mexican joint that sits right next to one of Fayetteville’s local gentleman’s clubs. As we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, Isaac asked why there was a club that was only for gentlemen. I said, “there’s nothing gentlemanly about that club, son.” He pepeppered me with questions, his 10 year old brain trying to make sense of a men’s only club that sported a logo of a woman reclining in a martini glass. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was a club where women negotiated feigned affection; I didn’t have the heart to tell him that gentlemen have been making sport of exploiting these women for millennia. He’s only 10. Shouldn’t a child be allowed his innocence for a time?

Innocence is a gift.

After supper we made our way back to the house and sat in the living room to read Shawn Smucker’s new offering, The Day The Angels Fell. We read a chapter about innocence, how it is found in the eyes of a lamb, or in the heart of a pre-teen girl. We read about the sacrifice of innocence, too, how evil tries to snuff out any pure thing. I read, and the boys listened, eyes wide. They were not taking the metaphor in, but I was. I considered the ways in which this world attempts to steal the doe eyes of boys, the ways in which it hopes to turn them into gentlemen too soon. This is lamentable.

I tucked them in and prayed over them. Turning off the lights, I glanced at photos of Amber streaming from Israel. She and the rest of the women wore the glow of joy. They were awake when they’d otherwise be asleep and did not show the signs of jetlag. I, on the other hand, walked to my bed and crashed face-down, surely suffering from some sort of parental jetlag.

I tried a quiet prayer for my sons before I drifted to sleep in my jeans, but I didn’t make it past the “dear God.” I slept hard, dreamed of lambs and boys, dreamed of slaughter but also resurrection. I dreamed of the hope that might rescue every gentleman, even those yet to be born. I dreamed of innocence, dreamed that it was fashionable again. And in this way, I suppose I dreamed well.

*****

In this month’s Tiny Letter (my once-a-month, insider newsletter delivered straight to your email), I’m discussing the Lenten season, the darkness of my heart, and the discipline of quiet reflection. If you sign up today, you’ll receive a FREE DOWNLOAD of the song “Train Wreck.” It’s a song I wrote about pain, loss, and the love of God.

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