Getting kids to read.

I know too many people who let their children decide what they are going to read or if they are going to read. This is the same as letting them decide what they are going to eat. No child is going to make good choices. They are going to go for the comic books and the candy. That is why you are their parent. You are there to direct and guide them.

Just like a potter with a lump of clay, the potter shapes it and molds it until it is tall enough and strong enough that it will be useful. It has to be shaped in such a way that it can endure the heat of the kiln and the wear and tear of use.

Children have to be shaped so that they can be strong too. They need to be shaped so that that are good people and helpful and kind. They need to be shaped so that they can survive out in the world and not crack.

So in the same way that you wouldn’t let a child pick out all of his food when he is only going to go for cake and chips, you can’t let him pick out his books when he is only picking out what is essentially junk food for the mind.

Now we all need a little junk food reading every now and then. It is important to let kids have some control over what they select. They need to learn that reading is a pleasure and not a punishment. They need to feel that it is fun and not work. But a solid diet of junk food results in a sick body. A solid diet of junk food reading results in a sick mind.

If you let children have total control that is the same as the potter letting the clay have control. They will be an unformed lump at best. They will be spread all over the place at worst.

Don’t know what to recommend to your child? Go to your local library and ask a librarian. They are there to help. You don’t have to do this on your own, but you do have to do this. The mind you save will be your child’s. The world you will save will be your own.

Eulogy for a young mother who died tragically. (Be open to grief)

There are no words for our grief. We are here together, wordless, numb, and hurting. We cannot make sense of this senseless loss.

But we are here. We are here to pay our respects to Hannah. We are here together as a testament to our love for our friend, our coworker, our wife, our mother. We are here searching to make sense out of a senseless thing.

Let us comfort each other in our grief. Let us take this time now to cry with each other, to hold each other, to wail with each other. I invite you to do this now.

In some traditions there is something known as Passing the Peace. You do it by shaking the hand or hugging all the people next to you, one at a time. You say “Peace be with you” It is done as a sign of reconciliation. It is done right before communion, because it is important to approach the Lord’s table with an empty heart – one that is free of the burdens of grief and anger. Those feelings keep us away from our true nature, which is love.

When we are angry or grieving we are closed off and cold. The purpose of reconciliation is to make us open and warm. When we are open we grow. When we are closed we die.

Many of us are angry right now. We want answers and there aren’t any. Why did Hannah have to die? Why did someone we love get taken away from us, so soon in her life?

Many of us are angry at God, and that is alright. Be angry. God can handle it. We are the ones who can’t handle it if we hold it in.

I’m not here to explain any of this. I can’t tell you why she died the way she did. I’m not here to tell you that it will all make sense and it is part of God’s plan. Because it will never make sense. And I don’t believe that God plans for us to feel pain, certainly not this kind of pain.

I believe that God is crying with us, is wailing with us, and is holding us right now. I believe that each time we share our grief with each other, God shares our grief with us.

God is there, acting through us. God is in the arms of the person you hug in your grief. God is in our arms as we hug them.

I invite you to be open. I invite you to open yourself to these feelings and to let them out. Cry. Wail. Talk about Hannah. Talk about how you love her.

Notice I said love, and not loved. There is no past tense with love. Love doesn’t end with death, it just changes shape. Where before the shape was the size of Hannah, now it has to expand. It has to get big enough for us to include each other in it. Every person here has a tiny bit of Hannah in them. When we share our grief with each other, we are also sharing Hannah with each other.

Open up. Don’t close yourself off.

Our society teaches silence and stoicism. Our society teaches us to have a stiff upper lip and that big boys don’t cry. Our society is full of it.

Cry. Let it out. Let it out because that grief will hold you back from life. That grief will hold you back from love.

That grief, locked up, will hold you down under the waves for so long that you’ll stop being able to breathe. That grief, locked up, will kill you. Maybe not literally, but you’ll be dead just as certainly as you would be if you drowned. Grief, locked up, leads to a certain half-life, a certain zombie like existence. Grief, locked up, only delays the pain, it doesn’t get rid of it. Let it out, and live.

Let it out because you have to. Let it out because you must, because you love Hannah.

Talk about her. Celebrate her life. Celebrate the time she spent with you and everything you did together. Do something in honor of her, something that you both enjoyed doing together. Donate to a charity in her name. Plant a tree. Paint. Write. Dance.

Many people say that to show joy in grief is to show disrespect to the person you are grieving for. I say that to not show joy is to not show the love you have for her.

We grieve deeply because we love deeply.

Be open. Be open because you love Hannah.

Peace be with you.

(Written as a eulogy for a young mother who died tragically.)

Recovering, not recovered. On addiction.

So what is the deal about the term “recovering” addict? You are never described as a “recovered” addict. It is as if you never get there. You are never home safe.

And really, you aren’t.

Even if you have been sober for twenty years, the fever is still there. Even if your last hit was so terrible that you ended up in jail and then the hospital, and you lost your wife and house over it, that fever is still there.

Because you forget. You forget how bad it can be. You forget how bad it was. All you remember is the high and the good times. All you remember is how it took away the pain.

You forget about all the pain it can bring, and did bring, to you and to everyone you love.

You say you are “recovering” as a sign to you and to others that there is no escape from addiction. You never ever are the same after you’ve been an addict.

You know what it tastes like, and you want it again. You forget the bitter and only remember the sweet. And you think that just because you were able to escape it then you can do it again. You think lightning can’t strike twice. You think you can just do a little bit of it and be fine. You think you are smarter than it.

It is the same as playing with fire. While fire can help, it can harm. It can light up the room and keep you warm, or it can burn down your house. It can be the difference between cooked food and raw food – it can also be burnt to a crisp and made worthless.

Drugs burn us up and make us worthless.

The trouble with drugs is the same as the trouble with fire – it can’t be contained very well. You think you’ve gotten it under control but really it controls you instead. You don’t do drugs. They do you.

When you forget, you’ll start doing drugs again. Just a little. Just to “take the edge off.” Soon you’ll be sneaking out to buy drugs. You’ll make up excuses. You’ll lie to your loved ones. You’ll call in sick to work. You’ll miss out on all the activities that you used to do for fun – because you are using drugs.

You think – that can’t happen to me. That is for suckers. That happens to losers. And I say to you – what makes you so special?

You aren’t special to drugs. You are another conquest. They are like a virus, eating away at all that is you. Slowly, slowly, you lose your fight. Slowly, slowly, it wins.

Quitting doing drugs doesn’t mean you are cured. You can’t get immunized against drug addiction. No matter how much you’ve done and how long it has been since you stopped doing it, you aren’t safe. You haven’t built up a resistance.

The only hope is to never let them back into your life again. The only way to do that is to continue to say you are “recovering” and not “recovered” as a reminder to keep that door closed and bolted shut.