Poetry is Worthless

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12, 2016 by thecrossingchicago

Poetry is worthless, I heard.

It supposedly does nothing for the world.

But it’s not without value, I agree.

Lest the sweet voice of a child or

The sound of a requiem played in the distance

Wafting through the trees to my expectant ear

Be deemed to be without reason.

A prayer whispered on the lips of a dying saint

Or a liturgy penned by a poet of old

For a people who could not find the words.

Worthless?  Perhaps.

Needed?  Absolutely.

– Brandyn Simmons

Pressing On

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12, 2016 by thecrossingchicago

Real estate tycoon Donald Trump flashes the thumbs-up as he arrives on stage for the start of the prime time Republican presidential debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN / AFP / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Well, whether we like it or hate it, are elated or mortified, it’s done.  It happened.  There are so many adjectives that I’m tempted to insert here, but I won’t.  I have decided that rather than being bitter, I am going to be hopeful.  Last night at the prayer vigil that our church hosted, I prayed that God would bring mindfulness and compassion to the hearts of all people, including our President.

I have heard talks of revolts, uprisings, and revolutions.  I obviously don’t agree with violence and know that such ideas could only lead to detrimental outcomes for all.  I do believe in revolution, however.  This is not to say that it should be done by force or coercion, but rather that there needs to be a change in the hearts of all Americans.  Instead of looking at one another as enemies, we should be seeing each other as brothers and sisters so that we might be capable of empathy.  Our divisive speech and comments such as “I’m tired of ‘them’ taking ‘my’ tax dollars” needs to stop.  This will lead to the manifestation of the kin-dom of God right here where we are.

Many have quoted the saying that the Chinese characters for “crisis” are “emergency” and “opportunity.”  The latter is how I choose to see the situation.  I don’t see a need to be in a panic and become irrational.  Instead, I see this election as an opportunity for a new way of doing life.  Presidents only have so much power.  The real change happens in the trenches with the common folk.  So, if we say we are for social justice, equality, and empowerment, then now is our time to shine.  We have our work cut out for us and there’s no time like the present to get busy.

Blessings on the Journey Ahead,

Brandyn

Cubs Fan

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2016 by thecrossingchicago

img_0802It hardly seems fair.  There were people who lived 100 years and never saw it happen.  There were folks who were life-long fans and died days or hours before getting to see it to its completion.  And then there was me, a Sox fan, decked out in Cubs hat and shirt gathered with the real fans holding my breath as Bryant threw to first to get the final out of a roller coaster of a game and chase away the Goat’s shadow.

Am I a sellout?  A fair weather fan?  A supporter?  I would say I am the latter.  I heard so many Sox fans say that they couldn’t bring themselves to root for the Cubs.  I even saw some that were wearing Indians hats during the game.  I can’t quite understand it, but some people feel the need to hold on to ideas for dear life.

After seeing all the names written on the wall at Wrigley, I could tell that we were getting somewhere.  Names of moms, dads, husbands, wives who didn’t live long enough to see their dream come true.  The way a man wiped back tears after writing his young wife’s name on the bricks and explaining that he had lost her to cancer.  The thoughts that these departed were “angels in the outfield” who somehow helped the Cubs win.  All of it beautiful.

We all have strengths that we should be putting to use to heal the world.  These are gifts that nobody else has, nor can use in the same unique way that we can.  If used wisely, we could start a revolution of hope and change.  Instead, unfortunately, so many people are holding on to ideas that don’t suit them.  They are looking over their greatness to grasp a desire that doesn’t suit them – even if it’s at others’ expense.  This is akin to the fan who can’t just be happy for their brothers and sisters and root for their team when they are strong.

It’s time to get on the bandwagon and become a fan.  Be a fan of yourself and those around you.  What are those skills or talents that you have that you may not have used as much as you could have?  What is someone near you doing to improve him/herself that is resulting in good for others?  Let’s start cheering for the good in people and in ourselves while we focus on the positive!

So, some may call me a sellout.  But I’d like to think I’m a just a fan – a fan of Chicago, a fan of humanity.

Strike the Same Iron

Posted in Uncategorized on September 22, 2016 by thecrossingchicago

the-blacksmith-and-the-kingThere seems to be a lot of tedium in my life.  The same repetitious stuff that brings on ennui and an unsettling feeling that every day is Groundhog’s Day.  I can kind of imagine how Bill Murray must have felt.  I’m not trying to sound melodramatic or come across as though all is bleak and dreary, but there is definitely an ever-present feeling of “here we go again.”  Another way that was eloquently put by Stephen King in his book, Dreamcatchers, is SSDD: Same Shit, Different Day.

For some reason, rather than breaking that cycle and doing something different (because I felt like I didn’t have the energy or had some excuse not to act with intentionality), I continued to endure.  I just went through the steps and rode the waves of highs and  lows until the end of the day would come and it was finally time to sleep and take my opportunity to get off the roller coaster at least for a few hours.

There is something to be said about “waiting until things get better” and having patience.  There is also a danger of failing to act when the power is there to affect change.  Ultimately, nobody has the ability to change my life except for myself.  The (perceived) lack of inspiration to write, the uncanny loss of desire to read, the feeling of complete loss of creativity and motivation in general.  All of these things seemed to stem from being caught up in this endless cycle of repetition and routine.

I finally did force myself to read.  I grabbed Paulo Coelho’s Aleph and began to devour it.  Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down.  This reminded me of the age-old truth that nothing will ever get done without taking the first step.  All I had to do was force myself to pick up the book and open it.  All that was needed was to sit down to this computer and start writing.  No matter what feelings I had about the process or the endeavor, doing it, was the only thing required to get me back on track.

We can’t control our feelings.  We can’t change our emotions on a dime and “cheer up” as many tell us to do.  What we can do, however, is decide how we react to those feelings.  If past experience tells me that I have enjoyed and succeeded at something in the past, then I have to remember that and get to it despite what the emotions tell me.  This is all a part of learning from the routine, which I realized from reading Coelho, isn’t the same as repetition.

In this enlightening book, Aleph, the main character tells a story to teach that:

Routine has nothing to do with repetition. To become really good at anything, you have to practice and repeat, practice and repeat, until the technique becomes intuitive.  I learned this when I was a child, in a small own in Brazil’s interior where my family used to spend the summer holidays.  I was fascinated by the work of a blacksmith who lived nearby.  I would sit for what seemed like an eternity watching his hammer rise and fall on the red-hot steel, scattering sparks all around, like fireworks.  Once he said, “You probably think I’m doing the same thing over and over again, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, you’re wrong.  Each time I bring the hammer down, the intensity of the blow is different; sometimes it’s harder, sometimes it’s softer.  But I learned that only after I’d been repeating the same gesture for many years, until the moment when I didn’t have to think – I simply let my hand guide my work.”

There is a beautiful lesson in here about mastery of skills and practice.  But I also see an even more important lesson about mindfulness and awareness.  Although each strike of the hammer looks like the same thing done over and over again, each blow is unique.  And so is each day for me.  Although my days are filled with a lot of the same activities and characteristics, each day is unique.  I am in control of how mindful I am about noticing those different and special opportunities that each day affords me.  This is a great  lesson about breaking habits and cycles.  Ultimately, though, viewing each facet of the day with new awareness is just as important as escaping the cycle itself.  It takes just such an awakening to lead to new beginnings and first steps.

First Step Exercise

Posted in Uncategorized on September 21, 2016 by thecrossingchicago

Here is a spiritual centering exercise that I created for our last council meeting that I thought might be helpful:

Sit with your back straight, yet relaxed.  Be comfortable with your feet flat on the ground and your hands resting lightly on your lap.  Feel your head getting lighter on your shoulders as you take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.  As you become aware of thoughts coming into your mind, do not try to push them out.  Merely be aware that they are there and let them pass by.

As you continue breathing, be aware of that feeling in your heart that often goes ignored.  This is God tugging on your soul to bring your attention to your calling.  Open yourself to that calling, because it contains your True Self.

Picture your ideal self a year from now.  As you continue breathing, what does that you look like were you to accept your calling and be true to who you really are?

What’s prevented you from becoming that true version of yourself?  There have likely been barriers that may have served you well in the past, but have merely becoming a stumbling block to becoming your True Self.

How are you going to overcome these barriers?

What’s going to be your first step toward the new and true you?  Imagine a concrete and measurable action item that will set you on the right trajectory and get you one step closer to who you are called to be.

How will you keep yourself accountable to make sure it happens?  It is ok to seek accountability from others around you at times, but this can sometimes lead to codependency and a lack of ownership on your part.  Ultimately, it is you that you must be accountable to in this process.  You have to be able to trust yourself to take that first step and the following steps that will be needed to get you to where you know you need to be.

The journey is yours.  You have the strength, the power, and the tools necessary to do this.  God has always been with you and always will be.  You’ve got this.  Now get ready.

On your mark.

Get set.

GO!

Blessings on the Journey,

Brandyn

http://www.fslifeservices.com

The Ballad of Dixie Lee

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16, 2016 by thecrossingchicago

This poem is one that was previously posted and removed for publication:

Your hair was short and done up perfectly the way it always was.

Not the way it would soon become, pressed flat against the side of your head

from too many hours on the floor or on the couch.

You wouldnt dare be seen by others any other way.

The rouge was just right, high on your cheekbones and your lipstick was

something between pink and red that I dont know the name of.

Your voice was starting to become unsteady with the first glimpse that the confidence

was slowly being sucked out of you as you asked me

Hon, do you think Im beautiful?

Of course I did.  And always will.

Your breath smelled of mint tic-tacs with a faint tinge of vodka that

supposedly wasnt there.

Your skin was stretched tightly against your gaunt face and felt like latex as

my cheek brushed against yours when I hugged you goodbye. 

It wasnt the same goodbye that I would soon be coming to say

as you lay there on the floor with your sister kneeling by your side.

Where are you going?you asked.

No.  Where are you going.  Thats what I wanted to know.  That day you went.

Happy Mothers Day.

I could taste the scent of White Diamonds as I inhaled and it rested on my tongue

like fog on a pond at morning time.

You gave a faint groan as you turned to walk away back into a life

that was never meant for you or perhaps that you were fated for from the beginning.

 

Cryin’ Time

Posted in Encouragement with tags , , , , on June 16, 2016 by thecrossingchicago

ab2e6aae7569767e3cebea551eb71fb3The kid would not shut up.  The whole way back to Chicago from Newark he was screaming incessantly from his seat two rows in front of me.  It was bad enough to be stuck in a flying tin can, but to have a child crying like that was almost unbearable.  I didn’t have earphones, so the best I could do was to close my eyes and tune him out by recollecting the events that happened at the Writer’s Conference.

There was the time when we were all gathered in the chapel for midday worship as the rain came down in sheets outside.  The run from the event hall to the chapel was rather unpleasant, but there were no unhappy faces as we sat in our soggy state singing praises to God.  Just as we came to the line in the hymn proclaiming God’s majesty like the power of thunder, a deafening peal shook the chapel exactly was we were singing the word “thunder.”  We all glanced around at one another and just smiled.  Coincidence?  God showing off?  A not so subtle reminder?  Perhaps God was looking down and nudged an angel with an elbow saying, “Check this out.  Humans love it when I do this.”
Then there was the reading.  People who signed up had the opportunity to read samples of their writings for five minutes.  Some were mediocre, some were profound, some were just like the rest of us.  There were the occasional few that really hit home, though – such as when Em read his poem for his daughter that he had just sent off to college.  The precious moments he had with her when she was a child.  The periods of joy and sadness that they shared as she grew into a young woman.  And then finally the moment where they said goodbye at the riverbank while she went off to start the next chapter of her life.
Although my daughter is only three, it made me think of the things I will share with her and the things I will miss with her.  Since I no longer have the opportunity to see her every day, I imagine there will be many moments that I won’t get to have, although I’ll always do my best to play a pivotal role in her life.  It reminded me of the importance of parent-child relationships and how we have to choose peace and kindness toward those we love rather than grief.  As Father’s Day approaches, it’s especially important to consider these dynamics.
Suddenly, the voice of the crying child on the plane sounded less like a headache-inducing wail and more like the sweet music of an innocent child.  I became aware that such cries are to be embraced right along with the laughter because we won’t always have the opportunity to hear either one.