Stars Can't Shine Without Darkness by

Restless Eyes That Know Not Where to Look

I watched with rapt attention at nothing at all.
Heavy hands of relentless time clicked loudly.
Rusting knobs did long for something to do.
Metal fans gave up the search for a charge.
The tides came in and left in quiet shame.
Piano keys caked high with dust did sigh.
With each sunset a trillion daggers flew.
And paint did peal before my very eyes.
A decade long of agonizing death.

I shut my eyes and licked at wisps of air.
My lungs did rage at trying something new.
My gray pallor of distressing sleep did speak
of long lost hopes and dreams of life long gone.
There’s nothing now these hands do want to create.

With each new day I pray she will come home.
That fate somehow will smile upon my tears.
But each new night takes pieces of my hope.
A relentless thief replaces hope with strife.
It won’t be long before I’m ashes and dust.

And then one day she walked right through those doors
with shoulders hunched and slowly scraping feet.
Her long lost words sent shrills into my ears.
And eyes that never reached into my soul.
A limp handshake sent bile into my mouth.

My best of friends did finally return to me.
She should have stayed away and let me die.
It wasn’t until she left my house again
that I did learn how to forgive completely.
And only forgiveness did let me heal and grow.

Surrounded by a dark and gloomy forest
That taunted me with pain and grief and strife
I learned to keep a pace that kept me moving on.
And then one day before my un-expecting eyes
I left the dingy forest for awe inspiring plains.

Should I look back and whine about the work it took?
Or look ahead at what’s in front of me
and know the challenges that I did face
have brought me to a better place.

Stars Can't Shine Without Darkness by


Photo Credit: By Daniel Nelson located on

Pablo Picasso in front of the kitchen, photo by Herbert List

What did Pablo Picasso’s mother say to him? Can those words help us? Ask, seek, and find out more.

Pablo Picasso in front of the kitchen, photo by Herbert List

“My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.” – Pablo Picasso

What would life be like if we all believed that about ourselves? The world would be a different place.

Guess what? Jesus died for our sins so that we may LIVE. For that big of a sacrifice, you know He has something special planned for each and every one of us.

Discover the dream and live the reality of that kind of love, if we only seek His face.

Ask, seek and find out more. The next step is all yours. He’s waiting.


Photo credit:  Pablo Picasso sitting in front of the kitchen, photo by Herbert Frost.

Tram and a Few Wants

Jonathan discovers his foundations and the cloak of deceipt

“The best of ideas can only be built on a foundation that will support them.” The screen blurred through my struggled to stay awake. I read a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. “If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.” Then sleep viscously grabbed me.

I reached out into the sands of time in an attempt to silence the voices that have long sought to change the foundations that I rely on. The voices of deceit have longed to control my thoughts and render me ineffective. Yet, as I reach for them, silence booms out. A desperate silence that I don’t understand. Suddenly, I’m treading on the dark water. I can feel the beast lurking unseen beneath, daring me to find it, promising me riches. The thought of giving in to its promises makes me shake with fear and I don’t know why. The silence is so strong now that it’s difficult to even see if my soul is still there. I know that it must be, but it’s far away in a ravine – hiding.

I lurched awake in a cold sweat. I stared unseeing at the dark gray clouds that loitered in the afternoon sky. Their indecisiveness had been churning since early morning. The air was sickly still, oppressive and warm. Something wasn’t right.

“The boss will kill you if he found out you slept way past lunch break.” Tangles’ goofy sense of humor hid the sharpness. I am the boss. Her smile placated any sense that she didn’t love my company. Her laugh, infectious. Her eyes twinkling. Deception hung like a dark cape around me. Soon I would discover the truth in Shakespeare’s words, “All the worlds a stage.” Indeed so.

“Tangles, I need to check the trail for any stragglers. That storm’s about to hit and I don’t want them in it.”

Tangles cocked her head to one side and frowned. “Everybody came and left before you fell asleep. Barn rats have already washed down the horses, brushed them out, fed them, and stalled them. All except for Butternut. Barn rats are all safe and sound at home. Nobody’s out there, Jonathan. That’s why you took a nap.”

“Something’s wrong. I’m going to check it out.”

“Whatever you say, Jonathan. Butternut still has her saddle on. She’s all ready for your afternoon ride.”

I pulled my boots on and walked out to the barn and over to the calmest mare in the stables. I patted her on the neck. “We need to take a quick trip, girl.” And, I quickly jumped on. In my hurry to check the trail, I didn’t check the saddle. It was an oversight that would haunt me.

I lightly kicked Butternut into action. She jumped uneasily to the edge of a terror that I didn’t understand, she barely followed my directions.

The beginning of the trail passed sluggishly by. As we pass the fork in the trail that led to the pond, Butternut unexpectedly stopped. I scratched Butternut on her neck and spoke softly. It seemed to help. Maybe it was me that it helped. A horse fly the size of New Hampshire angrily buzzed Butternut’s face. That was enough. Butternut jumped and bucked like she was in a rodeo. Up and down I went, holding the reigns tight, trying to hug her neck. Suddenly the saddle pulled away from me. I pulled up and up into a horror. My boot twisted in the stirrup. Blue sky turned into Butternut’s hoof staring at me from inches away. As the horse bucked, I pushed off of the ground. Up and down. Up and down. When Butternut twisted again, she kicked me in the face. I fell hard against the stirrup that held tight against my boot. Pain shot through my leg when the stirrup unexpectedly broke. It saved my life. Butternut bolted back to the safety of her stall.

Blurry-eyed and limping, I made it back to the barn and fell on the bales of hay.

Tangles found me as she was leaving for the day. I woke up again on the couch in my office with dinner on the table in front of me.

Tangles smiled infectiously, “Before you ask, Butternut’s fine. She’s happily munching in her stall. The doc’s come and gone. You’ll be fine, too. He made me promise to tell you that you’re thick head does come in handy sometimes.”

I looked at her and scowled, “Why do you keep calling the vet instead of my doc? Do I look like a horse to you?”

Tangles laughed hard, “Now I know you’re feeling okay.”

I smiled back. “Thanks, Doc.”

“Do you want me to stay with you?”

“Are you offering to move in with me, Tangles?”

Tangles looked up to the sky and shook her head. “I need to go now and let you work on better pick-up lines. You really need some help.”

“Ouch. Good night, Tangles.”

“Good night, Jonathan. You have my number if you start seeing two-headed horses breathing red fire.”

“Doc, doc, are you still there? Everything’s getting dark! Doc!”

“Oh please. Open your eyes, Jonathan.”

“A miracle worker! An angel.”

“Good night, Jonathan. Work on your lines with Butternut. Maybe that will help, but I doubt it.”

“Oh, that hurts.”

Tangles laughed and went home.

I admired the pictures of my horses as I finished dinner and left the dishes strewn across the table. “Thank you God for being blessed to take care of such amazing horses. Thanks for having a doc who will cook dinner for me. And, please take care of TJ at his prom tonight. Good night.”

Morning came crashing through the door in a blink of an eye. A sandy-haired wiry teenager came dancing through the door. “Boss! You can’t still be asleep, they’ll be here soon. Woah, what happened to you? You look like someone poured coffee over your hard-drive. Was that you on the news last night?”

My head pounded. My knee ached. I groaned. “Butternut had an issue last night.”

“Nutterbutter always has issues, boss.”

“Stop calling her Nutterbutter.”

“Yeah, whatever you say. She’s a nutty mare, but you must have had an especially great time with her. She had her saddle on all night. I saw the broken stirrup. She’s in a really bad mood. We can’t take her out today.”

Tangles walked in, said hi, and then answered her phone. “Tangles here. Okay. Okay. Yes, I’m available. I’ll be right there.”

My stomach tightened into a huge knot. David Brinkley did say that A successful man is the one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others have thrown at him. I do believe that I have a good start at rebuilding New York City.

I turned away from tangles and looked out the window. “We need to here today. The charity is bringing some challenging kids over. I said we would have you here in case something happened. This is a key part for me working with this charity. You promised.”

Tangles answered, “Jonathan, nothing ever happens during these weekends. I have a chance to pick up an extra shift and I took it. No big deal.”

TJ turned into a TV monster, “Arrrrg boss Jonathan, Miss Tangles’ bank account is like an evil Frankenstein. Arrrrg. Feed me. Feed me. Give me more money!” TJ did a remarkable imitation of Frankenstein walking around the room.

I laughed. “Hey TJ, not bad.”

Tangles rolled her eyes, “Really? You’re encouraging this?”

TJ switched from monster to rap. “Well I don’t know, but I’ve been told. Shillings are chilling and’ll freeze you in place. Now lay down cool cause I’m not done. Pesos are lassos that won’t let you run. Tangled in a web, I’ll give you one more. Dollars are collars that will lead you like a dog. Now get it straight, money rules her roost.”

I applauded. Tangles left.

TJ imitated Tangles walking out of the room. “You know Jonathan, Epictetus said that wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. You know that I only have a few wants. Is wanting a billions dollars only one want?”

“TJ, can I book you during the evenings as a stand-up comic entertaining the special needs kids?”

TJ Bowed. “Thanks boss. I’ll have to check with my agent. My people will get back with your people. Hey guess what. Seriously, I’ve passed my advanced first aid and I’m working on becoming an EMT. Can I help?”

“TJ, I’m impressed. That might work. I’ll run it by the clients.”

I made time to pray to God before I ran it by the clients. “Dear God, whatever drives me to You is good for me, no mater how painful it is. Please touch this and let Tangles, TJ and myself see Your work.”

I approached the clients as they drove up and were unloading. They all knew TJ and loved him. They thought he was an even better choice then Tangles.

Thank You God that I built the foundations of this charity on Your concepts of helping people and not on Tangles’ foundation of money. Life is good.

Tram and a Few Wants

The best of ideas can only be built on a foundation that will support them.

As it says in Ephesians 2:19-21 “So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”

God chose us before he created the foundation of the world.
God wants us to be sucessful.
God created a foundation for us to build an amazingly sucessful life upon.
There’s a plan that I want to constantly learn more about!
Why would I want to build my life on a faulty foundation?

Why did God, before the foundations of the earth, create emotions for us?

A box of emotions, I do see, lives deep inside of me.
They churn and heave and beat and boil and struggle to be free.
Some are right and some are wrong, but I know that’s not true.
My emotions box is just a filter that makes me who I am.


I love my bride so much it’s true, she is my heart’s desire.
Or when I did face down my fears and saved that helpless child.
Or savor the joy that I did feel when I became a father.
And pride and freedom and peace and patience are all inside there too


What causes pain and great refrain is when my filter gets blocked.
It’s like a needle in a narrow groove digging deeper and deeper down.
The emotion that’s stuck floats to the top and pushes the rest back down.
It seeks to destroy and tear things apart but never will it create.


Don’t ever forget that I am so mad and I will not let go.
Or when I’m scarred, yes really scarred, that fear does rule my choice.
Or when I’m sad and very depressed I just want to let go.
Or when I rage and cause them pain because I know I’m right.


All emotions have their good and, yes, they have their bad.
They’re all in me and when in tune are like a symphony.
But out of balance they tare apart and kill relationships.
How I know that I’m in tune is when my emotions create.


Hope is used to see past trials and to a place of joy.
Love conquers hate and discrimination and makes the bad turn good.
Fear increases what needs to be seen to make our steps more sure.
And anger is used to make a change to make our world much better.


A box of emotions, I do see, lives deep inside of me.
They churn and heave and beat and boil and give my life real meaning.
If used to create they make life great for everyone they touch.
My emotions box is just a filter that makes me who I am.

Thank you God what what you give that make our lives so blessed.

(featured image: Chicago Symphony photo by Jordan Fischer)

In what world is ‘Hate” an acceptable form of behavior. The answer is, in our world. People hate all of the time. Ask me, I know.

As a father I was told:
“You are a terrible father and your children would be better off if you were dead.”

As a project manager I was told:
“Sit down. Shut up. And, let us do our work.”

As a co-worker I was told:
“Stephen has to be experienced to be understood.”

As a co-worker I was told that I wasn’t welcome in their office then or ever.

As a friend I was accused and taken to court for a crime that my accuser knew I didn’t commit.

The variety of ways that people have told me “I hate you” continues on. My list is long.

Oh, I know the pain of hate. I’ve suffered for it. I’ve paid a heavy price for believing its words. I’ve gone through the denial, grief, anger, rage, and acceptance. During the worst of those times, I went to a place that I can only describe as blackness: no light, no warmth, no love. The absence of anything but pure, overwhelming pain is a horrible place to be. Oh, I know hate.

The only reason that I can even write this to you now is that I’ve found a way out. I’ve found a way to a better place. A place where I learned to embrace my differences. A place where I learned that hate destroys the souls of those who hate. But, I couldn’t find that place on my own. I needed friends. I desperately needed friends who would unconditionally accept me for who I am.

What is a friend? Someone who will be there all the time, not just when it feels good.
Someone who knows that there is something more important then being right.
Friends give you an extremely powerful version of hope.
A hope that gives you the power to take one more step.
A hope that knows that there is something more out there.
A hope that loves you into a place where dreams thrive.

It was through my friends that I discovered the most amazing fact, a fact that I didn’t really understand until I experienced it. In all things, love conquers hate. Love is so much stronger in so many ways. How little I understand. How much more I want to learn.

So, the next time you find that dark place… No wait, right now, before you find that dark place, cultivate your friendships. You just never know when you’ll really, really need them.

John 15:12-16 says an amazing thing. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

Thanks be to my best friend, (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).
The more that I get to know you, the more amazed I become.
Praise be to Your holy, holy name.

And now, I’m off to cultivate a friendship.

What does life look like from the eyes of a hero?

My brow does sweat with drops of blood,
but that is now my least concern.
My knees do bleed from kneeling down,
but why should I give care to that?

My knuckles throb from gripping tight,
I doubt I’ll ever grasp again.
My heart does threaten to explode,
it makes it hard to hear their words.

How long can I endure such pain?
When will I know this path is right?
How long can I be this fatigued?
When will I get a bit news?

Where are my skills to lead this group?
When will some peace be-still my heart?
Where is my strength to keep this pace?
How can I take just one more breath?

I read the news a thousand times.
I scan my plans a million more.
The time is now to speak to them.
I beat my legs to wake them up.

I walk out to the edge of time
and there in silence are millions of souls.
They look to me to lead them on.
They look to me to give them strength.

“We will endure. We will fight on.
For self reliance. For our freedom.”
Then deafening cheers do reach my ears.
They know their hero will help them win.

“Where is your fear?” they say to me.
“Do you know pain just like we do?”
I look to them and take deep breaths.
“A hero knows to step once more.”

And daylight came with one more step.

A hero is just another life.
We all need God to know what’s right.

If God is good why is there pain? Why doesn’t He just blot pain right out?

A four year old with mom in tow
happily traveling to his aunt’s big house.
With Sandy hair and big brown eyes
He plays inside the living room.
He sneaks outside and un-crates the dogs
And pit bulls descend and maul him to death.

I’ve heard it said that God is good
How can He allow such pain for us?

Is God so mean to allow a fatal choice?
Or should He stop that one wrong move?
If God does choose my path for me
What can I choose? Where does it stop?
Without any choice I could be a chair
Or just a robot who does what he’s told.

I’ve heard it said that God is good
Why does He let me choose the next step?

I like the idea of freedom of choice.
I like the idea to choose my own path.
Freedom of choice to do what’s right.
Freedom of choice to make mistakes.
The mistakes I make will cause me pain.
The mistakes I make allow me to learn.

I’ve heard it said that God is good
He takes our pain to create something good.

The greatest pain we’ve seen in life
Has lead us to create something quite good.
The Titanic crashed and cost so much,
but lead us to much safer ships.
The loss of life to drunk driving,
created MADD that saved many lives.

Thank you God for being so good
And letting my pain teach me what’s good.

Knowing there’s good behind this bad
Gives me mighty hope to take the next step.
Knowing there’s good behind this bad
Gives me mighty hope to learn something more.
Knowing there’s good behind this bad
Gives me mighty hope that my future is bright.

“And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love Him
and have been called to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 NIV