Truth: Remember?


“Remember your baptism!”
said the old man with
arthritic hands, bellowing
from the pulpit.

I sat in the pew, head skyward,
picking at the curled pages
of the bible.

“Remember your baptism!”
I stared at the dulled (muted)
stained glass Jesus
staring back at me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I heard it last week
and the week before.

I sit in silence as he
drones on and on
and on, about what
I can’t remember.

I stand to leave; only
Mrs. Meyers notices.
She glares at me, but next week
she won’t remember.

Outside, the clouds are looming,
covering the sky.
They remember.

I get wet, the cold rain seeping
through my clothes, drenching,
soaking, saturating to the bone.
And I…
I remember.


much love. sheth.

Truth: We’re Both Right.

My Facebook friend list is a crazy mix of people that I love.  There are the politically conservative and religiously liberal, there are libertarians, a few anarchists, a hippie or two, a few yoga instructors and plenty of cowboys.  There’s some who love their kids, some who treat their pets as kids, and some who don’t like kids at all.  There’s retirees, teens who have yet to start working, a few unemployed, some who stay at home while their partners work, and a lot who have a regular job…or two…or three.  There are Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Non-Denoms, Atheists, Pentecostals, and Agnostics.  When I get on Facebook I have the opportunity to see a veritable cross-section of America.

When something ‘big’ happens in the world (terrorists, politics, sports, church) I am blessed to see all sides of the story – those who are for it and against it; those rooting for their home team while cursing the away team; those standing with and those opposing against.  I see arguments that are fact-based, faith-based, emotionally-based, and the occasional pot-stirrer who just wants to make everyone upset.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like if my Facebook friends ended up in the same room together because it’s such a varied list of people, but my wondering often turns into anxiety because I don’t know if it would be such a great idea.  This side opposes that side; that group hates this group; this person is holding a 20 year-old grudge against that person; I’m right and you’re all wrong.

And they all talk a big game on Facebook – ‘I’d show those damn snowflakes what real oppression is’; ‘If I see him again, I’m going to punch him in the face’; ‘Those people have no idea what they’re doing to me and my family.’  If they all got together in a ballroom at the Hilton, I’m afraid the niceties would end and all hell would break loose in about 38 seconds.

I think we’re all pretty angry with each other.  We’re angry for both valid and invalid reasons.  We’re angry because the other isn’t of the same mindset as we are.  We’re angry because we’re losing things that are important to us.  We’re angry because we’ve missed out on things for so long.  We’re angry because others are suffering, others are winning, others are inflicting harm.  We’re angry because we’re seeing a few lines of text on the screen and assuming the rest of the story.

Five years ago I don’t think I’d have been this reluctant to bring all these people together – not because my list of friends has changed, but because my friends have changed (as have I).  There was a time when we could disagree online and in person, but still treat one another with respect and graciousness.

I think we’ve blurred the lines between online interactions and real-world interactions, sacrificing civility in the process.  We no longer listen before we speak.  We no longer discuss things.  We are no longer flexible in our politics, theologies, or standards.  We can’t not say something.  We assume, we fill in the story, we take sides before knowing the facts.  We have allowed the meaning of ‘fact’ to be redefined.  We have drawn our battle lines, made our teams, and have set our feet firmly on the ground that we believe to be right (and to hell with those who don’t agree with us).


I know how to fix this problem and make us all more loving, civil, and nicer to one another.  It’s fixed by doing it.  We need to recognize that each one of us is important, each one of us is valid, and we are together on this planet.  Truthfully, we know this and we know how to do this.  We all have it in us to be better to one another, to be more loving to one another, to be nicer to one another.  There’s no magic formula, no three-step process, no seminar that needs to be attended before we can do it.  We know how to be better than we are – we need to act on our knowledge.

The fighting, arguing, and yelling will only make the rifts between us grow wider and deeper.  Being uncivil because they’re being uncivil will only make it worse.  By all means, disagree with one another!  Just don’t be an ass in the process.  Hold on to your beliefs, but don’t be afraid to let go of them if you need to.  Keep an open mind, but make sure you filter what’s going into it.  Understand others.  Empathize with them.  Think before you speak or type.  Get off social media and have actual discussions with people.  Have conversations with people you disagree with face-to-face.  Be kind.  Be civil.  Be nice.  Be loving.  Be vulnerable.  Be the other.

May we understand who they are, who we are, and that we are all in this thing together.  May we converse more, love more, and understand more.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Speaking.

This past week I’ve written a sermon, an article for the school newsletter, a reflection paper on an interview I did, replied to countless emails, edited two papers for other students, started reviewing a friend’s sermon, am about to write a paper on a passage from the book of Mark, and have one other paper to write by Friday.  Last year I was begging for more opportunities to write.  This year I’m drowning in opportunities.

And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I find great freedom in writing because I don’t always use my voice.  One of the reasons is because I’m one of those people who mulls things over and contemplates…I chew on them for a while…then I decide whether or not to say anything.  One of the other reasons is because I don’t always feel my voice is of any importance.  When I’m in a discussion I don’t always say what needs to be said; sometimes this is good, but other times I have known I needed to speak but never did, and reaped the consequences of it.

Speaking up when it’s needed is necessary – I can recall many times on the playground as a child when I should have stood up for myself or my friends.  I can recall being in conversations with someone who was clearly in the wrong but allowed them to think they were right because I didn’t want to argue.  I’ve been in relationships where I haven’t expressed my feelings, choosing to bottle them up instead, and allowed the relationship to abuse me and who I was.

There are times when people don’t have a voice, or can’t speak up when they need to do so.  There are abused spouses who are afraid to speak for fear of the retributions.  There are the immigrants who don’t know the local language and instead suffer in silence.  There are the children who don’t know how to express what they’re feeling or experiencing.  There are the assaulted who are unsure of where to report their attack.  Countless people with things to say and no where (or not knowing where) to say them.

We are living in a time where it’s more important to get out our words, talk over one another, and speak before being spoken to, instead of closing our mouths and opening our ears.  We may allow the other to speak, but how often do we actually hear the words they are saying?  We might give someone across the table (or the internet) a chance to say something, but do we put the brakes on our mind to attentively and intentionally listen to the words the other is saying?

Perhaps we should do less talking, less writing, less proclaiming, and allow those who have not been given the opportunity to do so, to speak.  But we must do more than this – we must encourage those who have been holding back to say something; we must give them safe places and warm occasions to say what they have been wanting to say.  Most importantly, though, we must close our mouths and open our hearts to the words the other will speak.

They need to speak, and we need to hear.  God, give us all strength – to speak if we need to speak, and to hear if we need to hear.

much love. sheth.

Love Sport

In my debut to the game,
I broke Christine’s heart in 1997.
The volley was returned by
Lisa, Jessica, and Brittany –
each breaking my heart:

I went on a run of my own:
Kristen, Melissa
Hannah, Marie.
No longer new to the sport,
I was on fire:

My heart, being broken
by Amber and Julia,
balanced out the score
and it’s all tied up:
Match point.

I think my next opponent
should be my last.
A long game that ends
in a tie, and we leave
the field together.
The score no longer kept.

The Heart’s Home

A few years ago I was living in a tiny apartment in Salida and I was trying to watch television.  I say trying, because I found cable to be an unnecessary expense, so I had the old-style rabbit ear antenna.  Its two wires stood straight up from a base on top of my TV, and with great hope I could pull in a few weak signals from Denver or Colorado Springs.  Usually the picture came in grainy and hard to watch, but if I got a decent picture I would watch whatever came through.

I was flipping through the channels (all five of them), trying to find anything that came through decently enough to watch when I stumbled across one of the PBS stations.  There on my screen were two people, standing in front of a small glass box which held a pair of shoes.

An older man, wearing a plain brown suit coat which hung loosely over a white collared shirt, was speaking, “These shoes are one of seven known pairs made for the movie.  They’ve been on display here at the museum since 1979.”  The man was balding from the front to the back, and had a white, bushy mustache.  His excitement about the shoes was visible, but the interviewer disregarded it, hoping for more general information.

“So how many people visit the museum?” the interviewer asked, clearly interested in the building itself and not its contents.

“Well, we have roughly four million people visit annually and they…”

“Wow,” the interviewer said exuberantly, “that’s a lot of people!”  Her interjection was unwelcomed by the man from the museum.

“…yes, it is…” he hesitated to say more as he was unsure of when she would speak again,  “…the National Museum of American History has about three million objects in its collections.”

She feigned astonishment, “Three million?  How do you show it all?”

The man smiled and answered politely, “Well, we only have about five percent of it on display at any one time.  We simply don’t have the room to show it all.”  He moved his hands as he talked, making wide but gentle gestures now and again.

“And what are some of your most popular exhibits?”  The woman clearly tried to make this interview more exciting than it was.  The man was not the best person to interview; he didn’t exude the vibe and excitement that television called for, even for PBS.

“Well, of our two-hundred thousand square feet of gallery space, the most visited include our transportation collections – cars, trains, planes, and the like.  Also, visitors seem to flock toward the collection on American Presidents.”

Her made-for-television smile beamed as she stared into the camera, speaking as if she knew what he was going to say next, “And of course, the Ruby Red Slippers.”

“Of course,” he said as he smiled, “they are one of the most asked about pieces in the entire museum.”  He placed his left hand on the glass case in a caressing manner, “Everyone loves these shoes, the magic they hold, the dreams and hopes they have brought to so many.  Dorothy Gale was able to fill the void in her heart with the use of these shoes.  Visitors to the museum want to see what they have believed in for so many years.”

“And what is that?” the interviewer asked.

“The belief that a person can go home again.”


Just off Fremont County Road 39 is Falls Gulch – at one time it was a rough and bumpy road only accessible to four-wheel drive vehicles, but has now become a somewhat better thoroughfare that my Nissan Murano could somewhat navigate.  Last week, when I was back home, I made a quick visit to the old road, partially to escape into nature and partially to find something for which I’ve been looking.

In years long-since passed, the earth around Falls Gulch was picked and prodded for minerals, and the remnants of discard piles can still be seen.  For all the traffic that goes through the area, even today the road is often washed out and will change its course based on the season and year.  Over the decades the forest service has blocked off some off-shoots with boulders and dirt berms.

This place held many memories for me: near where my grandparents retired, it’s where I would often spend some portion of any elementary school breaks with them.  Falls Gulch is where we would go to play, learn, and explore.  I spent summer days puttering around the hills with my grandpa in his old Jeep, our family held many picnics in the clearing near the long-dilapidated fireplace, and every fall I learned more about hunting for mule deer in those hills.

I don’t often make it into those hills now, mainly because they hold so many memories for me, and when I do return I realize how fuzzy my past has become.  It’s frustrating and a little sad to be in a place that was once so familiar, and to now not recognize much of it anymore.  The fireplace where we picnicked has finally crumbled to the ground and has become overgrown with scrub oak.  Once-tall trees used as landmarks have fallen with age and have been carted off by someone for firewood.  The amethyst mines we would pick through have been washed away and covered by the changing earth.

I keep returning to that place because it had always been a link to my past – it was where I spent time with my grandparents, where my father taught me life-long lessons, where my brother and I learned to shoot, where my cousins and I bonded after months of not seeing each other.  I always held out hope that my time spent in those hills would give me the opportunity to relive those times and days from so long ago.  But just as the landscape has shifted and changed over the years, so too does my link to that place.  As much as I want to step into the past’s memories and experience them again and again in Falls Gulch, I can’t do it anymore.  The place that it once was is no longer – this home is not my home.

I’m realizing that I’m home-less, and it’s a little scary.  My parents have been living a nomadic life for a few years and most of their belongings are in a storage shed.  My grandmother was moved into the nursing home two years ago, the majority of her life’s possessions sold off to pay for the extended care.  The landscape of Falls Gulch has shifted and changed into a nearly new and unrecognizable place.  The small town that I spent my formative years in is now a bustling, rapidly-growing, second-home community for people from the Front Range of Colorado.  I can’t go home again because my home is no longer there.


In 2001 I was in a small village in Kosovo, talking with Flamur, a sixteen-year-old from a local village.  Wiser than most his age, he was describing to me what had happened during the genocidal reign of Slobodan Milosevic two years prior.

“We were forced out of our homes by Serbs that live right over there,” he pointed to a small group of houses not more than two hundred yards away.  “One night, they just entered our village and started robbing the houses.  We fought back, but it was no good.”

He kept his head up; his voice was strong as he continued to speak, “We left to the mountains right over there.”  I looked behind him at the mountains behind which the sun was slowly falling.  “One hundred and seventeen of us left our homes, our belongings, everything.  We only took what we could carry, loaded up in the cars, trucks, wagons, and we left.  Only months later did we return after the United Nations had bombed and stepped in.”

I didn’t know what to say, or what to ask, and I told him.  “It’s okay,” he said, “I know it’s something that you couldn’t really get.  The good thing was that all of us returned to the village – all one hundred and seventeen.”  He smiled briefly as we walked down the road.  “Not many villages are lucky enough to say that.”

“And what about the village?”  I asked.

“Houses were burned out…you know, destroyed.  We found some of our things out in the fields, but most of it was gone.  We had to rebuild the houses, buy our new furniture.  We had to start all over again.”

There was a long silence as we both stood on the muddy road that weaved through the village.  “Let’s go,” Flamur said, “It’s not safe to be out after dark.”

Home, for Flamur and the others in this village was not a building.  Home was with the others.  There, each individual heart was connected to another; piece by piece, generation by generation they continually built a home where they could live, laugh, and love.  I can’t imagine the heartache each person would have felt if they had lost a single member of the village.  But I can honestly say that they would be missing a little bit of themselves.


Even with all of my ‘things’ with me here in Texas, it doesn’t feel quite like home.  While I can take the time and effort to make my dorm room more appealing to me and my sense of belonging, I know that in two years I’ll have to pack up and move on to someplace else in Texas, or Iowa, or Idaho or Montana.

This home-lessness is new to me, and I don’t know what to do with it.  I wonder if I’ll ever find that sense of comfort and peace that I once had in Falls Gulch or in my parent’s house on East 3rd Street.  I wonder if I can ever have a place where my heart will be able to find rest and where others can create memories of their own.

Maybe I need to re-frame my way of thinking about home.  I may not have a place – a physical place – that I can always return to, but I will always have people that I can go to who know my heart and my soul.  I have people that know me and my deepest secrets, pains, and joys.  I am but a phone call, text, or quick walk away from finding comfort and rest.

If home is where the heart is, then my home will always be, first and foremost, wherever I am.  That’s home – my heart, and that’s where I long to be with my family and friends.  It’s where I can love and be loved, where I can laugh, cry, speak openly, and express myself.  Perhaps Dorothy was right – there is no place like home.  There is no place quite like the heart.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Words

I’m not proud of it, but I must admit that there are times when I’m really good at tearing people down.  Sometimes I’m mad at the person and will intentionally say something mean or rude that cuts deep and will emotionally wreck them.  And sometimes, in a moment of playfulness, I’ll say something that is taken the wrong way and wounds the hearer.  In the aftermath of both cases I always feel miserable and plead for forgiveness, relationships are mended, and we (hopefully) move on.

This tongue in my mouth can lift people up, or bring them down.  It can encourage or discourage.  It can say something nice, or it can say something mean.  A friend of mine has recently been reminding me that I am in charge of my own body – and this includes my tongue as well, and the words I say.  I am responsible for what exits my mouth.

There’s a certain safety in hiding behind the screen and pecking out some words, some comments, about anything and everything that we come across on the internet.  In an age where we can say anything we want on the internet, it can be easy to let that spill out into real life where people are actually in front of us.  I try to refrain from making any comments online about anything – good or bad – because what I perceive as a joke may not come across as such.  What I perceive as a compliment may not be heard that way.

Both on-screen and off-screen I need to be more attuned to the words I speak, the words I choose to use, the comments I choose to make.  Will what I say uplift the hearer?  Will my words make the situation better?  Will this comment add to something good?  Is this the appropriate time to say this?  Do I need to say this?  Can I find something better to say?  Am I making a positive deposit in this person’s life?  It can be a challenge to wrestle with all these questions in the middle of a conversation, but it’s worthwhile.  If anything, I ask myself what I would want to hear if I were in the other person’s shoes, and then say those words.

Choose good words, my friends, and lighten up this world.

much love. sheth.

Five Part Race.

Note: There are parts of this essay which have non-politically correct language, and to be honest, some racial slurs.  I feel it’s necessary to put them in and I hope you understand the context in which they are used.

I grew up in the suburbs of Denver, which isn’t exactly as diverse or exciting as LA or Chicago, but a lot of races were well represented.  My school was a microcosm of the larger neighborhood itself: the majority was white, but we also had a good number of blacks, Asians, and Hispanics (we didn’t have the politically correct nomenclature that’s been used in recent history).  We had a nicely varied classroom and learned a lot from one another.

We were doing a study on immigration in fifth grade – learning about Ellis Island, the potato famine, and the large influx of immigrants during the early 1900’s. I was excited about the whole thing because I liked learning about my own family history.  I had classmates who could trace their lineage back to George Washington or Daniel Boone – the best I could do was talk about my great-grandmother being raised in Nebraska.

One of my classmates was Asian-American, and I was curious as to which part of Asia he belonged.  So I asked him, “Are you Chinese?”

“No, I’m American.”

“Haha, I know, but, like where are your parents from?”


“Yeah, okay.  So what are your grandparents?”

“They’re American.”

I got frustrated at this point and asked the teacher for David to tell me what he was.  She asked, “David, what’s your heritage?”

He answered the same way he answered me, “American.”

She nodded her head and said, “There you have it.  He’s American.”  She went about her business and I sat there frustrated.  I knew by looking at him that he was Asian, and I understood that he was American.  But I couldn’t understand why he didn’t identify himself as Chinese, or Japanese, or Korean, or Vietnamese, or Thai.


My family and I moved to Salida the summer before I entered 7th grade – I turned 13 that year.  At that age it’s difficult to make and keep friends, fit in, and not be awkward – it’s even more difficult when you have to do it in an entirely new environment.

I was shocked by how white the town and school was – there was one Hispanic in my grade, and one black in the grade ahead of me (his brother was two grades below me).  Walking around town all you saw was white people.  You went grocery shopping and there were white people.  You went to the park and there were white people.  You went to church and there were white people.  It was like a really, really weird Twilight Zone episode.

I came to discover that the town was really quite racist in its past and the residual effects of that still lingered.  I heard stories of families being run out of town, kids tormented until they quit going to school, and that the KKK was still around, lurking in the shadows.

But even stranger to me was the racism that occurred between the whites themselves.  There was a hierarchy between descendants of the Italians, the Germans, the English, the Irish, and other Anglos.  Each group seemed to gather together at lunch or in the classroom.  If you didn’t know a few words in Italian, couldn’t be angry like a German, or watch soccer like an Englishman then you didn’t belong in that group.

Being thirteen and trying to fit in, but also being of a varied background of Irish, English, Prussian, German, and whatever else you could throw in, I found it difficult to find a group that I felt comfortable with.  It was a weird feeling being a white kid in a group of white kids and still not fitting in.  I fit in better at my old school where the diversity seemed to erase the races.  Racism wasn’t an issue for us – in that school we weren’t white, or black, or Asian, or Hispanic – we were just kids.


In the late 1990’s the fashionable thing was for guys to wear their hats backwards, and wanting to fit in any way that I could I jumped on that bandwagon and rode it for as long as I could.  My brain told me it was a stupid thing to do – the whole point of the hat was for the bill to keep the sun out of your eyes.  But I did it anyways for fear of being uncool.

We had a family reunion in the summer of 1998.  I had just graduated high school, was looking forward to college, and was having a great summer and feeling really good about myself and my backwards hat.  All the usuals were at the reunion – aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, people that were somehow related to me but not sure how, or why.

In talking with other people I’ve come to understand that each family has one member who takes the cake for being the weirdest, oddest, most eccentric person in the whole family.  I’ve had numerous competitions with people pitting my uncle up against their family member, and I usually always win.  Now don’t get me wrong – I think the world of my uncle.  He’s very intelligent, funny, and very opinionated (which I am not, so that’s something I can respect).

So there I am at the reunion, sporting a backwards hat, newly graduated, and strutting around like I owned the place.  As I’m walking around I pass my uncle sitting outside by the pool and I say, “Hey Uncle Chuck, what do you think?”  It was a polite, but still edgy and cool thing to say.

He sat back in his chair and pulled a long drag from his cigarette, “I think you look like a God damn nigger.”  Needless to say, his comment was a lot edgier than mine.

This was the first time I had heard the word nigger in real life.  I’d heard it in the movies, both as an insult and a compliment.  I knew immediately which way my uncle wanted me to take it.  I was shocked to say the least, not because he called me a nigger (or used the phrase God damn which is a big no-no in my family), but because he used the word.  I knew it was not to be used.  I would get uncomfortable hearing it when I rented a movie, and now here I was hearing it in real life and I felt unbelievably uncomfortable.

I know the word has hate attached to it – I experienced that for myself.  But what I experienced doesn’t come close to the power it has when it is said with hate attached to it and directed at an African-American.  As bad as I felt for hearing it I can’t imagine what it’s like to feel it, to experience it in its fullness as an African-American.


In 2004, while going to college in Greeley, I worked at Wal-Mart with a guy named Luis who always had the radio we kept in the storeroom tuned to “El Tigre”.  There were a few radio stations in the area that played mariachi, salsas, sambas, reggaeton, etc, but El Tigre played the newest, hottest hits.  I fell in love with reggaeton – the beat, the timbre of the voices, the way the songs brought in so many different genres to make a great sound.  I’d drive to school or to work blaring the radio as the DJ would say the usual radio stuff, but in Spanish.

I don’t speak Spanish.  I can say ‘si’ and inquire about the restroom, I can say good, and count to ten.  But that’s it.  Listening to the station I picked up on words like ‘aqui’ and ‘ahora’, and phrases like, ‘es no bueno!”  And while I figured out what ‘es no bueno’ meant I had no idea as to what ‘aqui’ signifies.  I’d listen to ‘Ciento Dos punto Uno…El Tigre!’ but have absolutely no idea what was going on or what they were talking about.

Part of me felt a little embarrassed to be listening to ‘Ciento Dos punto Uno…El Tigre!’  Not because I was white, but because I wasn’t Hispanic.  Something inside of me tried to say that the radio station was theirs and I shouldn’t be listening to it.  I could have the other seventeen stations, but El Tigre was off limits.

My embarrassment went so far that when I would pull to a stop sign or stop light I would turn the volume way, way down so no one would know that I was listening to Ciento Dos punto Uno…El Tigre!  I imagined listening to Daddy Yankee and rolling up to a stop light, but forgetting to turn the volume down.  A group of Hispanics would pull up next to me and catch me head-bobbing and doing all the humiliating things that white people do when we listen to music.  After I’d inadvertently managed to get the attention of the entire vehicle next to me, they’d yell at me, “Hey gringo, that’s our music!”  Then they’d jump me.


It’s hard for me to understand intolerance when it comes to race.  I’ve seen both sides and I don’t get why it’s even an issue at times.  I’ve lived in both tolerant and intolerant places.  I’ve lived in integrated and all-white towns.  I’ve worshiped with stiff whites and hand-clapping-shouting-praise-Jesus-African Americans.  I’ve been in classes with immigrants, descendants of slaves, bilingual kids; I’ve been in all white classes where Martin Luther King Jr. was nothing more than a blip in history.

I suppose what bothers me is that I didn’t stand up to my uncle when he used the word nigger.  And it bothers me that I’m embarrassed about listening to reggaeton, because, truthfully, it’s not ‘their’ music – it’s everyone’s music (if I had to listen to my German heritage music, it’d be Lawrence Welk…heaven help me).  It bothers me that I think that people of different races want to be identified as Asian, Hispanic, black or whatever instead of American (how racist is that?).  Maybe, unknowingly… somehow…deep down inside I don’t understand how to love and respect all races.  I was taught to be very tolerant of all races – no one was better or worse than another, least of all because of their skin color.  I truly believe it.

But perhaps I should work on doing what I believe.

If you hear Tito el Bambino playing loudly on a car stereo, don’t get angry – be thankful that I’m working on improving myself.

.much love. sheth.