Posts to Prevent Suicide

Tomorrow (September 10, 2013) is World Suicide Prevention Day.  Rather than simply support the greeting card industry, I encourage you to read these deeply personal posts from suicide survivors and, as you are led, leave encouraging, life-affirming comments.

To read more, click on the title –

Posts to Prevent Suicide: Mental Health Monday

For more information about suicide prevention, see “Suicide Prevention (SUPRE)” at the World Health Organization site.

Charatee Buzz - WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY - September 10, 2013 - Charity Gift Box™

My Dad (not bad for a sixth grade grad)

At my cousin’s graduation party, we were asked to wear alumni t-shirts.  There were ones from Ohio State.  IU.  University of Chicago.  My dad proudly wore one that said,  Jabez Elementary, Sixth-Grade Grad, Class of 1951.  We told him he should wear it to the Roberts family reunion.  He declined, saying “They’ll think I’m putting on airs.”

The truth is my Dad is quite intelligent.  When he was 16, his father Joe Etsy set him down and said,  “You can quit school now and become a real man.  Earn money for the family.  Pay your way.”

Out of spite, mostly, Dad stayed in school and earned his high school diploma – all the while being the primary family wage earner working at a nursing home.

Dad went in the military and was stationed in Germany.  He has fond memories of seeing the European countryside and meeting new people.  He’ll even tell you he learned to speak German and then share his vocabulary – “Eins bier.  Zwei bier.  Drei bier.”

Dad got out of the service on a Saturday and went to work on a Monday at Cummins where he worked for 32 years, starting out on the burr bench and worked his way up to scheduler, the best paid office hourly worker for the company.

Dad worked to earn a living, but he didn’t live to work.  When he was off, he was off.  One of his passions was getting involved in my sports.   Though he knew nothing about baseball, he accepted a position as assistant coach and statistician on my little league team, the Nineveh Cubs.

Dad had his own way of scoring.  Anytime you didn’t strike out, he counted it as a hit.  I batted over .850 my rookie season.

I once calculated I played in 128 games in my basketball career and Dad attended a total of 127.  He missed one because he was in the hospital after suffering a motorcycle wreck on his way to the game.

Dad wanted me to gain a good college education, but he wasn’t able to save much money to invest in it.  That didn’t stop him from contributing.  After I received a scholarship from Cummins worth thousands of dollars, Dad calculated the exact number of overtime hours to earn it and he worked off the clock, sometimes going in at 3 a.m..

Dad was no saint, though.  For years, he drank and smoked about as hard as he worked.  It took its toll as he developed host of other health problems.  Yet, his strong will has allowed him to make necessary changes.  When he was diagnosed with emphysema, he quit smoking.  When he was diagnosed with diabetes, he quit drinking.  Just quit.  Cold turkey.  And hasn’t looked back.

Now Dad lives modestly in our family home where he watches the hummingbirds out the window, rides his four wheeler through the woods, and roots Tony Stewart on to victory each week.

He’s done pretty well for a self-described “dumb old Kentuckian with a sixth-grade education.”

Dad says when he dies, he’d like to be buried on a hillside near a highway and have one of those smiley-faced waving hands on his tombstone that reads,

“I’m dead, but have a nice day.”

View album

“Hear no evil (Dad).  See no evil (Me).  Speak no evil (Uncle Larry).”

Sexy Syntax in WordPress


First, a disclaimer… this is not a list of lurid erotic posts found in WordPress.  It is a follow-up to an earlier post I did (reflecting on a section of Mark Tredinnick’s Writing Well) that describes the process of forming sentences for good writing as something like foreplay.

As I mentioned, I am Puritan enough to believe this intimacy is best reserved for the marriage covenant, but the analogy between the interplay of words in good writing and the dance of intimacy in a loving, holy relationship is sound.

To illustrate Tredinnick’s point, I’ve looked for WordPress posts that stitch together words in an alluring, suspenseful, even seductive way.  They have nothing to do with sex.  They are about relationships – between a man and his food, between an artist and her model, between a loving father and his daughter, as well as between the Creator and His created,

For some truly sexy syntax, check these out…

Bread Whine” (Logos con carne) bemoans a love lost, then describes his search to satisfy his hunger as best he can.

The Pygmalion Effect” (charlottesville winter) depicts a wonderfully suggestive, seductive relationship between an artist and a model.

The Big Leagues” (The Best Place By the Fire) tells the intricate, discreet details of a poker hand.

Blue” (Another Resolution) shares a lovingly intimate moment of a father bathing his child in a sink.

The Master Shucker” (Increase & Abound) draws an extended analogy from a childhood memory of a father shucking crabs.


(image “Words (IMG_5971a) by Alaskan Dude” from shallowend, some rights reserved)

A Way With Words is Growing Up

father and infant

Having just celebrated the birth of A Way With Words about a month ago, I feel somewhat like a first-time father when his child comes home from the hospital.  I want things to be perfect (or at least as good as I can make them).  I never know what to expect.  Sometimes I dress her up in a new outfit only to watch her spit up and require a change.

Now we’re heading into our second month, some patterns are developing.  Nothing quite like a fixed schedule or format.  There will no doubt be interruptions, but there will also be things you can look forward to, some things you can count on.

Here are some of the features I anticipate you will find in A Way with Words this coming month…

1) Author Interviews: We had a good response to my interviews with Matt Robb and Rob Diaz II.  I have since arranged an interview with author Molly Tinsley whose new book Entering the Blue Stone is a memoir of caring for her parents at the last stages of their lives.  More information about Molly and her writing can be found at Fuze Publishing.

2) Book reviews: It is my hope to publish a review of Entering the Blue Stone after my interview with Molly Tinsley.  I just picked up a copy of Light in August by William Faulkner.  Also, I will continue to post periodic reviews and writing exercises inspired by Writing Well: The Essential Guide by Mark Tredinnic.

3) Creative writing: I have been privileged to get in on the ground floor of the start-up collaborative blog Today’s Authors.  I plan to respond to their “writing prompts” as often as I can.

There will be more.. spiritual reflections, John Prine, humor, best blog posts features…  Who knows what this growing child will get into as it explores the world and learns to toddle about and discover what life is all about?

(image “Happy Father’s Day” from Insight Imaging: John A Ryan…, some rights reserved)

The Russians Are Spying On Me (And I’m Loving It)

My Dad is a Cold War veteran.  For part of his stint, he was stationed in Germany defending the Berlin Wall (or at least cooking for those not far from it).  He was taught (perhaps like Mitt Romney) that the Russians are our true enemies.  To this day, when Dad experiences static on his cell phone, trouble sending or receiving e-mails, or his cable TV goes on the blink, he declares –

It looks like the Russians are spying on us again.

Well, today I awoke and went to the computer to see my blog stats through the night.  There I discovered that, while I was sleeping, someone from Russia was spying on me.  Some “Russkie” as Slim Pickens from “Dr. Strangelove” would say, has viewed my blog and now there’s no telling what will happen.

I’m not going to panic.  I mean, I’ve been dangerously exposed before.

– Like when my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Underwood, caught me trading my baseball cards in class and took them away from me for a whole day. (I didn’t think I would ever get over that one.)

– Like when I wrote a pastoral e-mail reply to one person and clicked the “Reply All” button.

– Like last night, when I commented on a blog post that listed many ambitious worthwhile goals by writing, “You are a man on a mission.”  And the reply came back, “Actually, I am a woman on a mission.”

But now, the Russians!  That’s a different story.  What should I do?

– Should I practice hiding under my desk like in those “Duck and Cover” drills we used to do in grade school?

– Should I contact the FBI and inform them my blog is under surveillance (as if they don’t already know)?

– Should I delete the post I did on “The Death (and ultimate life) of Ivan Ilych” for fear that Tolstoy is an enemy of the state?

So much fear and trembling.  What to do?  Lord, help me.

[pause for a brief period of intensive prayer]

Okay, I know what I’ve got to do.

– I will strengthen my feeble knees and dose up on some Alexander Solzhenitsyn (one Russian author I’ve not read).

– I will reflect in blog posts on themes of faith in my favorite Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky.

– I will search out Russian bloggers who could be looking for “A Way With Words” without even knowing it.

If you are watching this, President Putin, beware!  You may be able to pass legislation restricting Americans from adopting Russian children, but you can’t stop this American from exercising his freedom to reach Russian children (of all ages) with words of encouragement and hope.


vladimir putin

(“Vladimir Putin is watching you!” from Limbic, some rights reserved)


Note to my Psychiatrist: 

Dear, Dr.W_____, I got your message.   No, I haven’t stopped taking my medicine.  It’s true I didn’t get much sleep last night.   But I promise you I haven’t been hearing any strange voices or seeing any unusual visions.  Trust me on this one. 

P.S.  Do you know if Communists have an equivalent of a “fatwa”?  Just wondering.

Anything Can Happen

Tony - Work

As we approach the new year, it is tempting to set far-reaching goals to change our habits, adapt our lifestyle, transform our character.  It is important, though, to pay attention to the details, to follow the process step by step and let the outcome take care of itself.  It is better to focus on doing what is good and right rather than pursuing greatness.

There’s a great scene in the movie “Dad” in which Jack Lemmon, as an aging father in his hospital bed, shares with his son, played by Ted Danson, some of the wisdom he’s gained through years of living.  His mind wanders to a World Series baseball game in which a second-string left fielder – Al Gionfriddo –  finally given the opportunity to play after years of waiting on the bench, saves the game by catching a near-home run ball hit off the bat of Joe DiMaggio.

 “You know what that story means?”  asks the father.

“What, Dad?” asks his son.

The father’s face breaks into a smile as he looks into his son’s eyes.

“Anything can happen if you show up for work every day.”

Since I’m on disability, I don’t have a conventional job to show up for every day.  But I do have daily work with which I’m going to occupy myself.

1) Pray every day.  In addition to meditation, I’m going to renew the practice of keeping a prayer journal to be more mindful of including praise (Wow, God!) and thanksgiving (Thank you, Lord.) as well as confession (Forgive me.), intercession (Please help others.), and petition (Grant me, Lord…)

2) Read every day.  This includes a reflective reading of a passage of Scripture (a chapter or so) as well as readings of classics – right now it’s The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (on audio books), contemporary fiction (downloading e-books) and blog posts.

3) Write every day.  This month, my focus has been on developing this blog.  I plan to continue regular posting, but I have other projects as well.  I have a completed draft of a devotional book I wrote a couple years back that I want to revise and prepare for publication.  I’m meeting with some business owners and a community group about doing some blogging for them to enhance the traffic on their websites.  I expect to do a good bit of writing in my Internship which I hope will begin soon.  I really want to be more faithful writing letters to my two oldest daughters.

So those are my goals for 2013.

Pray.  Read. Write.

Every day.  And if I do, anything can happen.

How about you?  What is the work you are going to show up for every day?

(image “dictionary definition: work” from Jaboney, some rights reserved)

The Death (and ultimate life) of Ivan Ilyich

In the eleventh post of Christmas, I truly give to you…

the death of ivan ilych

Leo Tolstoy’s short story The Death of Ivan Ilyich is at times an excruciating book to read.  Ivan Ilyich’s callous social climbing, care-free lifestyle and heart-less unconcern for his family are difficult to bear.  When he becomes chronically ill, one almost cheers for his payback, but we are made to instead endure his unending complaints and cries for relief.  At one point in his suffering, he scolds his wife –

“For Christ’s sake let me die in peace!” he said.

She would have gone away, but just then their daughter came in and went up to say good morning. He looked at her as he had done at his wife, and in reply to her inquiry about his health said dryly that he would soon free them all of himself. They were both silent and after sitting with him for a while went away.

“Is it our fault?” Lisa said to her mother. “It’s as if we were to blame! I am sorry for papa, but why should we be tortured?”

It seems nothing can be done to relieve Ivan Ilyich’s suffering (and insufferability) and it only grows steadily worse.  As the end draws near, he spends three full days simply calling out a monosyllabic cry, “Oh!”

He is lost – alone – in his struggle.  But just when it seems he will go to his grave suffering alone, his neglected son enters the room.  He becomes aware of his son’s presence.

At that very moment Ivan Ilych fell through and caught sight of the light, and it was revealed to him that though his life had not been what it should have been, this could still be rectified. He asked himself, “What is the right thing?” and grew still, listening. Then he felt that someone was kissing his hand. He opened his eyes, looked at his son, and felt sorry for him. His wife came up to him and he glanced at her. She was gazing at him open-mouthed, with undried tears on her nose and cheek and a despairing look on her face. He felt sorry for her too.

“Yes, I am making them wretched,” he thought. “They are sorry, but it will be better for them when I die.” He wished to say this but had not the strength to utter it. “Besides, why speak? I must act,” he thought. with a look at his wife he indicated his son and said: “Take him away…sorry for him…sorry for you too….” He tried to add, “Forgive me,” but said “Forego” and waved his hand, knowing that He whose understanding mattered would understand.

In his deathbed confession – to his family, and to God – Ivan Ilyich finds the grace to die in peace.  The pain is still there, but he doesn’t focus on it.  He chooses instead to take the self-less path of gratitude for those who surround him, who care for him, who make it possible for him not to die alone.

As a pastor, I have seen many people at the verge of death and I’ve seen some as they died.  Some die peacefully.  Others resist.  It isn’t always the case that those who are right with God and others die a more peaceful death.  Sometimes the suffering is still agonizing.  But it makes a big difference when we can clear our slate by asking for and accepting Christ’s forgiveness and making the most of whatever time we have remaining.

I like the way one prayer I’ve said puts it,

Give us your grace, O God, to live as those prepared to die, that we may go forth to live so that, living or dying, we may always walk with you.

How about you?  Are you ready to die so you can fully live?

(image “The Death of Ivan Ilych” from  Dottie B., some rights reserved)


– In the first post of Christmas, I truly gave to you…. “God is With Us (a Christmas Story based on Matthew 1.18-2.12)

– In the second post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “Assaulting a Felon with a Fruitcake.”

– In the third post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “Some of the Best Christmas Blog Posts for 2012

– In the fourth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “I Wonder as I Wander

– In the fifth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Be More Like a Child at Christmas (and beyond)

– In the sixth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Five Favorite Movies for the Christmas Season

– In the seventh post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “From India to Indiana: My New E-Pal

– In the eighth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “What Sam Found in His Backpack After Break (A Prompted Poem)

– In the ninth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “The Precise Dilemma: A Book Review

– In the tenth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Potentially Praiseworthy Poems Posted on WordPress