Friday, September 3, 2010

"Your bumper sticker religion is so adorable"

A friend called me out recently: "Your bumper sticker religion is so adorable."

Said so in front of my closest e-friends on Facebook.

Deleted his post.

Sent a text saying: "Watch it, Jerk."

Wondering why I responded so harshly, quickly, angrily.

He does have a point, no? After all, many of the posts on my FB pages do sort of sing the song of "religion." Have written stuff about believing, of hoping, of aspiring to be, of doing, thinking, loving, acting.

It bothers me, the oars from the galley, particularly when the blows strike so squarely on the top of the head.

Perhaps I'm a phony.  But if this is the case, I'm only a phony in so far as I've bought-into an incomplete and irrational story, hay and barrel.

And truth be told, I fall down most times in attempting to accomplish those things of believing, hoping, aspiring, doing, thinking, loving, and acting.

But I feel less like a hypocrite and more like a failure: Not saying one thing and doing the other, but rather saying THE thing and failing miserably, most times, trying to fulfill it.  

But when falling down, that irrational story somehow rings true.

He came to love on those that were failures in the eyes of their peers, but he also came to love on those that were hypocrites.

So if my bumper sticker says "Love Wins," and my life is a failure and/or is a hypocritical mess when compared to such, please forgive.


And know: those words on the bumper are real ... no matter what I do.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hands and Feet Day 14: Queen City Calibration

Today was the 14th day of an idea that will take me 30 days to complete. In a nutshell, my task is to perform at least one act of kindness for someone else at least one time a day, and the act must push me outside of my comfort zone.

Went cruising with Superman today. He needed help with his cape, and so we used a trusty paper clip to keep it from dragging on the ground. He was pleased, and I was happy to feel sort of like MacGyver ... in my own little way.

He looked at his cape in the mirror like 7 times.

My plan was to go to Newport on the Levy. Wanted to purchase a book with no words it in, thinking that I'd have other people fill-it-in later. Surprising, how much books with no words cost. Almost like the words are free when you compare the price of a book with "no words" to a book "with words."

On the way to Newport, I see two men fighting on Queen City Avenue. I'm on the phone at the time with someone who puts words in books, and I say, "There's two guys fighting!"

It bothered me. Not sure right now why it did. Turned around at the UDF close to Sunset Avenue. Really, the UDF is closer to another street, but Sunset is the only street coming to mind at the moment, and for the sake of story it doesn't really matter, does it?

After turning around, we drove past these two guys again. Screamed some stuff at them that must have smelled like "Stop!". The person I was talking to on the phone remarked how different I sounded.


Superman's in the backseat and Riley (at twelve months old) is traumatized and calibrated, I'm sure, as I slow down to about 12 miles per hour to scream at these two grown men fighting on Queen City. Felt like my voice was a little high-pitched. Like I had a bell to ring at recess or something.

Drove back to a guy laying on the sidewalk. He was drunk. Taking a nap.

Two other people stopped too. We were comrades.

Called 911 and waited for way too long. Left when a really, really skinny cop showed.

Didn't touch the guy taking the nap. When on the phone with 911, they advised me not too. Felt really uncomfortable not touching him, and now in hindsight, it feels even worse.

He needed to be touched. Someone. He was alone. Hurt. Drunk. Untouched.

(Thinking now, if superman was not strapped in his car-seat in the back of the hand-me-down Camery, things would have been different.)

Next time.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hands and Feet Day 1: Fishing at Fountain Square

Today was the first day of an idea that will take me 30 days to complete. In a nutshell, my task is to perform at least on act of kindness for someone else at least one time a day, and the act must push me outside of my comfort zone.

Sunday, August 8th:

I piled the kids in the car, and we hit the road with no idea where to go. Thought about going to Newport on the Levy, and then to Kenwood Mall ... but finally decided to just keep driving. We drove through Price Hill, passing my first apartment, and ended up downtown, where we sort of just drove around some more. At some point I said barely loud enough to hear, "God, I'm yours. Tell me where to go."

I think we passed a prostitute at one point. Or else, an asian lady (I think "a lady") just made a strangely-serious effort to make and maintain really, really intense eye contact with me as I drove by. Oh, and she was dressed like a prostitute.

Sort of felt weird in that I was "fishing" for someone to serve. We drove around and around downtown, me looking for a bite. Someone to do something kind for. Must admit that this did make me look at people differently.

We ended up parking the car under Fountain Square, and my plan was to put Riley in the stroller, and she, Ethan (who was dressed like Spiderman) and I would walk around until I found someone that I could do something nice for.

Because I was fishing, meaning I was on a sort of a mission to find someone that needed something that I could provide, my experience of walking around downtown was different than normal. I talked to people I normally wouldn't. Made eye contact with lots, and lots of people. More than usual. Maybe I'm a prostitute.

Was fishing for an opportunity to be "Hands and Feet," so I felt a different rhythm to the walking around. Wasn't simply going from point A to point B ... or accomplishing task 4 on a list of 10 "to-dos." Because I was on this fishing mission without a real firm idea of where to look, we explored places that we normally wouldn't. Walked around some of the floors of the hotel. Sort of "got lost" while having fun playing on the elevators. Searched around what's left of the "Sky Walk."

At one point, I realized that I was exploring downtown with Spiderman, me with a pink and cream diaper bag over my shoulder.

Right before giving up and heading to another location, we decided to wander away from Fountain Square and toward the bus terminal, which is where we met *Colorado*.

A middle-aged (although it's hard to tell) woman was sitting on the ground, back against a building. We walked by, and I made the point to stop (which I normally wouldn't do) and say "Hi, how are you?" She looked up, smiled, and said "Oh, I'm doing OK I guess," but she said it while sort of looking around as if she knew her answer wasn't really true, or as if she was looking for someone else who was in worse shape than she was so it could be relatively true.

She was eating what looked like lasagna on a small, white, styrofoam plate.

To my question of "how are you," she finally responded with, "well, I'm trying to get back to Colorado, .... I really like your city, ... and I'm trying to panhandle enough to get back, ... but I only ever make enough money to last me the day."

This was her asking me for money. I wondered if her Lasagna was warm, and if it was, where she warmed it up.

I gave her some money. Five bucks. Noticed how tall and thin she was when she unfolded to grab the money from my hand.

She then said, "I'm looking for a church or an organization that can maybe help me get home."

I told her about "City Gospel Mission." She asked me if this is the church that I go to.

Not sure which: if the money or the pointing to the church was more valuable to her, but they were equally easy for me. Felt like it wasn't enough.

She remarked how pretty my little girl in the Spiderman costume was. I thanked her, and said that she's a boy. Colorado sort of apologized and said that people sometime mistake her for a man too.

She commented on my daughter in the stroller, saying how beautiful she was, adding "you must have a very pretty wife," to which I replied, "yes, I am blessed."

This made me feel uncomfortable. Here I am, money in my pocket, a job, cars, exploring the city with Spiderman, ... a house, family, etc. getting compliments from a homeless lady from Colorado. Wow. Don't think I've done anything to deserve my blessings, have I? Wonder if *Colorado* has done anything to deserve her seeming lack-of-blessings?

We said our goodbyes and headed to the parking garage.

Ethan wanted ice-cream, and I was thirsty, so we stopped at Graeters. Spent $6.40 on two scoops of chocolate and a diet coke. Threw one of the scoops away.

Makes me uncomfortable that I spent more on treats that I gave Colorado.

... one other thing that struck me was that she, Colorado, had the most beautifully sky-blue eyes that you could imagine. Reminded me of my son's eyes, ... Spiderman's eyes.

29 days to go.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hands and Feet: Preview

I attended the Global Leadership Summit at the Vineyard Community Church this Thursday and Friday, and while it was a mixed-bag of speakers (some better than others), I did come away feeling a little challenged.

I also came away with "pink eye," but that's a different story.

One of the things that impressed me the most is this idea of "leading where ever you are" and being the "hands and feet" of the church. These ideas really made me pause and take a look at (with my one good, non-pink eye) what I am doing with my time and opportunities to lead. So here is my plan:

Starting tomorrow (Sunday, August 8th), I will take time out of each day to do at least one act of kindness for someone else, but these acts of kindness must include things that push me outside of my normal comfort zone. So giving change to a homeless person will not do, as I'm pretty comfortable doing it. If the daily acts do not push me outside of my normal comfort zone, well, ... then they just aren't good enough. They key is feeling some sort of "sacrifice" (time, resource, comfort, ego, pride, etc.).

I will do this until September 8th, at which time I'll take some time to reflect. Leading up to that date, I plan to keep a daily web-log right here on my web-log.

30 days.

Friday, June 11, 2010


My son caught his first frog today. Ethan and Jen were looking for lightening bugs, which are certainly cool, but they ended up with an amphibian, ... which is so much cooler, ... in so many more ways. Not to take anything away from bugs that light up, which is certainly cool too, but catching what you are patently not fishing for seems to loom heavy for this blurb.

I mean, you are searching for a being that lights up at night, which is remarkable, and you instead find a being that doesn't do anything of the sort; you find a being that lives in two different realms of being. The odds are certainly against you, which makes it more cool maybe. The novelty of it, maybe? That you stumble across what you aren't looking for, but find something that is better, ... isn't that something?

In this example of my son's search, he went looking for one thing but found a journey; something that he could hold in his hand, experience, never forget, love on, put back in the water, and then understand/experience why bugs (even lightening bugs) are important too!

So, my question is: What are you looking for, ... the thing that lights up?

Monday, June 7, 2010

power check

Dear US Government:

The recent and ongoing tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, and your reluctant and seemingly ineffective response on our behalf and in regards to such, has brought me to a reflective posture; one that is recalling the backbone of this democracy:

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” ~ Preamble to the US Constitution, 1787

The citizens of the US have given you the temporary luxury of leading. If you fail, your luxuries default to our rights. If you do not lead effectively, we will most surely and swiftly move in a different direction. While these decisions may be called “politically incorrect” at best, we rest assured in knowing that the decisions are indeed ours to make.

… we care little about party affiliations

… we care little about political careers and legacies

Our focus: Choice and the wellbeing of our families, our friends, and the future of this nation.

If you continue to make decisions that oblige the wellbeing of our focus for the sake of yours, we will revoke your power.

… We will take-back your opportunity to make ill-fated decisions for us, and we will again make decisions for ourselves; decisions more aligned with our focus.

… We will enact our rights as citizens of the Unites States of America.

Your power is temporary and loaned to you freely. Make a change, or find yourself hoping for one.

Yours truly,

Michael J. Sharp (father, husband, and citizen)

Friday, May 28, 2010

salsa in the spotlight

Perhaps it's the rainy, rainy "sprummer" that we're in. Or maybe it's something else. Perhaps it's just simply that I'm finally paying attention. Don't know, but I'm growing fruit-producing plants better than ever, and I have no explanation for it.

As I write this, I'm looking forward to tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, parsley, basil, beans, dill, and cilantro. I walk outside, daily, ... and might I say even "proudly" (not quite like an expecting father, ... and I won't talk about, here, pacing the floor with cigars in my pocket), to check the progress of these plants.

At the very least, it could be that "expecting something to grow" may impact, in some way, these plants actually growing and producing fruit. I suppose that if I pay no attention to them (by instead doing something like reading a book, checking Facebook, watching TV, or post something on a blog, etc., ... when the plants want ... and really need something), one of two things will occur:

1. They'll grow and produce fruit anyway
2. They won't

...and by paying attention to these two possible outcomes while writing here, and with remembering my lack of success with producing fruit in the past (while watching "Survivor" et al.), I'm left with two possible reasons for growing unsuccessfully in the past:

1. I've not paid enough attention/given enough focus
2. It's not really up to me, and it never has been

These to possible reasons, however, bring with them such radically different ways of being, of thinking, and of believing:

1. If it's really not up to me, then this particular blog post is as mindless and useless as opining about the meaning of waves crashing on beaches

2. On the other hand, if it's really more to do with my attention/focus, .... well, then that's a whole different story

So, I'm left with a decision:

1. Pay attention
2. Or assume that things grow regardless of choice

... which leads to further questions about things unrelated to growing Western Hills Salsa:

Do I have a choice?

Does my choice matter?

How could it?

Why does parsley grow?

How can it?

Does it (parsley) care that I'm asking?

And what about tomatoes?

Do they care when they are being eaten alive?

Are they *upset* when the aren't?

What is "choice?"

Is it an illusion?

Are we predestined?

Are the cucumbers too, predestined?

And what about the beans?

Do the strawberries grow so the birds can eat them?

How does Ethan make sense of that?

How do I?


Is "Choice" king?

Or queen?

... or sovereign somehow?

Is it Hobbes?

Or Martin Luther?

Is it Calvin?

Where does Jesus fit in here?

Are my choices simply "just illusions?"

... as much as they are constraints?

Can my constraints be eclipsed by my choices?

Or am I constrained: choice is reacting to it?

Does it matter?

Is it all determined?

Did the Universe wind like a clock, and now we are just ticks?

If I look back, what's delivered me here?

And what about writing about choice?

Do I have a choice in writing about choice?

If It's all predetermined, then this blog is like grass, right?

And what about love?

His love?

Just love, really?

I mean, isn't that ridiculous?

Isn't that whole story of "Love Wins" simply unbelievable?

Does it, Love, really win?


If there is no choice, then how can it win?

Am I a just a dill?

Is "life as we know it" just a series of chemical dances?

Will the beans grow without me?

Do they give a flip about my attention?

Why do I have this connection the the "little-bean," Ethan, then?

Is that all just "biological determinism?"

If so, where does this notion of "Love" come in?

... and, again, how can it win?

Do we choose who we are?

Or, are we just "who we are?"

Do we make choices?

Are we lookers?

Maybe ants?


Or do-ers?


... Or are there people that write about the line in-between "choice" and

Do I have a spot-light that matters?

And if I do, where in the flip should I look?

On what and whom should that spot-light shine?

Saturday, May 15, 2010


My son plays soccer. Not my favorite of youth sports, ... but I look at his playing soccer like he's "conditioning" for baseball.

Oh, and ...

[set your intellectual time machines to last Saturday]

Today, ... earlier today ... I'm cutting grass. It's long. And while I do not live on anything that resembles an "estate," my grass takes about 75 minutes to cut, trim, and blow grass-clippings into my neighbor's yard.

It's 4:10, and I see Jen standing at the fence-gate. I turn the mower off so I can hear about why she's standing there. "What does she have to say," I'm thinking, standing there with my mower winding down.

She says/asks, "Honey, do you know we are leaving in 10 minutes?"

I ask the question back: "What time is it?"

She answers, "4:10," to which I respond with another question: "Isn't the game at 6:30?," to which she responds, "no, it's at 4:30."

I have budgeted my time as if the game was at 6:00.

I am wrong.

Thankfully, I'm on the tail-end of of the yard, and I say, "Well, I can't go like this ... I'll have to meet you there, ... I need to get a shower."

I finish the yard with no time to blow clippings into my neighbor's because I have my son's soccer game to attend, ... to which I will now be late.

While in the shower, ... living "lately," ... I'm thinking about how crazy my life is in terms of managing time. I'm wondering about why I have no "time" to do anything I really want to do. And I'm frustrated and anxious and angry because I will be late, which always makes me anxious and angry, ... which also forces me to always (almost always) be on time.

While in the shower, full of anxiety and anger and frustration, I literally compute (in a mathematical sense) how many hours/week/month/year I spend doing stuff, ... like watching television, ... this along with how many hours per day/week/month year I spend doing other, equally useless and ridiculous, time-chewing stuff.

As for TV, specifically, I calculated that I spend about 30 hours in front of it a week, ... an electronic IV dangling from my media-sucking jugular. As this thought crosses my mind, I shove the bar of Dial soap, ... no wait, ... I stick the bottle of Old Spice Body Wash down my throat and punch myself to death, naked in the shower.

The paramedics find me, ... not moving, lifeless, "sudsy" and dead. My son stands there, crying in his shin-guards. The "waterproofed" watch on my wrist is still ticking away, and full of life.

Okay, that's ridiculous, and it didn't really happen that way, ... "but what's shamefully ridiculous, really," ... I think about, while holding the bottle of off-brand body wash, "is all that I could be doing with those 30 hours spent in front of the tube."

After washing, drying, and driving, I find myself standing as just another fan at the baseball conditioning session for my son. He, Ethan, does as well with soccer as I do, which reminds me that soccer players aren't so popular in the US.

Then we get back home, post-game, ... and guess what?

The DIRECTV is not working! Now I'm more frustrated, ... FURIOUS, ... b/c I've managed my time so well all day, ... and now I deserve my reward, my dessert. But,'s been taking off the table!

I think to myself, "I've eaten everything, even the green beans! Where is the justice in the world if I can't now, ... after doing EVERYTHING I'm supposed to do, kick-back and watch others talk about all of the injustice in the world?"

... which leads me to these questions:

How do I spend my time?

How many hours-per-week do I really spend doing nothing but getting "dumber?"

Why am I not spending that time doing something else?

What is "time?"

Can I control it?

Does it control me?

Do I have any say-so in the matter?

What am I so busy with?

Is my "business in this time" fueling me , ... or anyone else for that matter?

Do I give Jen enough of my time?

How about Ethan and Riley: Do they have time for me, ... to give them my time?

Am I giving "me" enough time?

Can we borrow time?

Do we "give our time?"

Do people "save it?"

And if so, does it accrue interest?

Can I cash it in, ... when "our time is up?"

How could it ever be "up?"

Then what about "down-time?"

Or, is time just really over?

Am I out of time?

Or, is Time all I have?

Is it simply this: by the time we understand time, we can't do anything with it, ... because it's gone?

And how could it be gone?

Doesn't time exist independently of my life?

Why am I able to travel through time by sleeping?

Why can the "feel" of "passing the time" be "the best of times?"

... or the "worst of times?"

Can I "lend" you time?

Or "take" your time?

"Share" our/your time?

When they say that "time is money," what does that mean?

If I can spend time, then what is the best way to spend it?

If I can share time, what is the best way to do so?

Can I take the time?

When I "take the time" to do anything, from whom or what am I taking it from?

If I'm misusing my time, does God have the power to make my TV not work?

Is that how He comes through?

If not, how does He come through?

Does He come through?

Is He?

Who's He?

Why's He?

What's in it for Him ...

Does he wonder/Is He worried about how I spend my time?

Am I wasting time by asking about time and God's perspective on it?

Is there a beginning?

An end?

Do moments pass through my life in-between those book-ends of "begin" and "end?"

What could I do with 30 hours a week if I made the decision to abandon TV?

What would my life look like if I abandoned just 10 of those 30 hours?

How would I spend them?

Would I replace those 10 to 30 hours with another useless exercise?

Or, would I put those hours to good use?

And what would that look like?

Why would He pick TV to turn-off, ... make it unavailable, as a way to "make time?"

Why not some other "thing" that takes up my time?

Is time really finite, a socially constructed concept that has no bearing on what reality "really" is?

Is He trying to tell me something, ... in that short amount of time?

If so, .... why has it been such a long time coming?

I'd ask more questions, but guess what ....