Five Minute Friday: Lost

(I participate with a group of writers in a weekly “Five Minute Friday” writing exercise. In response to a word prompt, each writer sits down for five minutes for “no extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation. Unscripted. Unedited. Real.” This is also described as a sort of writing flash mob and a great form of “free therapy”.)

Five Minute Friday: Lost


Some of my best memories involve getting lost.

The kind of lost where I suddenly looked up and it had been an hour or more since the last time I noticed my surroundings.

I’d often find myself draped sideways in a stuffed chair – with my head braced against one arm rest and my legs dangling over the other.

I’d blink a bit and try to get my bearings.

Where am I?

What time is it?

Why is it dark outside?

Then it would dawn on me and I would realize my situation.

The clue?

The book in my hand.


Me, reading a book in our pop up tent camper




Opie, on his way to school, is being threatened by a bully

Netflix Screenshot

It’s possible to agree with someone and still disagree with them at the same time.

It happened to me just yesterday.

Our son and I watched an episode of the Andy Griffith Show on Netflix while we ate our lunch.

Opie Taylor was being bullied.

Every morning on his way to school he would have to cough up his milk money (5 cents) to a mean boy who threatened to beat him up if he didn’t give him the nickel.

Sheriff Taylor (with assistance from trusty Deputy Fife) caught on to what was happening, but struggled with how to help.

“I don’t want him to be the kind of boy who goes around lookin’ for a fight,” Andy Taylor muses. “But I don’t want him to run from one when he’s in the right.”

Without letting on that he knew about the milk-money-bully, he told Opie a story from his own childhood.

He stood up to a bully, took a punch in the nose (“I didn’t even feel that knuckle sandwich”), laughed at the bully and then “lit into him like a windmill in a tornado.”

Opie takes the story to heart, stands up to the milk-money-bully and appears at his dad’s office with a black eye.

He is proud of his black eye and strategizes how to make the swelling and bruising last as long as possible.

Sheriff Taylor supports the response by referring to Opie’s black eye as a “medal.”

So that’s how I agree with Andy Taylor and disagree with him at the same time.

I agree that we should never go around “lookin’ for a fight.”

And I agree that we shouldn’t “run from one when…in the right.”

But I disagree with the idea of lighting into our enemies “like a windmill in a tornado” and I cringe at the idea of then swaggering around with our injuries as if they were some sort of “medals.”

Opie flashes a big smile when his Dad tells him he can try to keep his black eye "medal" for as long as possible

Netflix screenshot

I prefer the lesson taught by Sister Benedict in the movie Bells of St. Mary’s.

She notices a boy being picked on and encourages him to turn the other cheek.

When the bullying continues, and the bully gets a pat on the back from the priest for being “manly,” she teaches the boy how to box defensively.

He successfully protects himself and then, instead of lighting into the bully “like a windmill in a tornado,” he offers his hand, helps the boy up, and invites him to be his friend.

There are lessons for us here in how we deal with disagreement in our highly polarized world.

  • We should not go around “lookin’ for a fight” with people who believe differently than we do. (Don’t be a troll.);
  • We should not run from debate with them when we feel we are in the right. (Participate in discussion and debate about important issues.);
  • We should not combat bullies and trolls by lighting into them “like a windmill in a tornado.” (Don’t stoop to their level.); and
  • We should defend ourselves, but then be willing to offer an open hand and a fresh start. (Take the high road.)

It is possible to agree and disagree with someone.

Even Sheriff Taylor.


When people ask me where I’m from – I tell them “West Virginia.”

When they ask, “where in West Virginia exactly?…Where’s ‘home’?”…

Well…that’s a little tougher to answer.

You see, I’m a “PK”.

For those who don’t know, that’s a “Preacher’s Kid.”

Specifically, I’m a United Methodist PK.

United Methodist pastors are itinerant.

Meaning…they move from place to place.

They agree to go wherever the bishop sends them.

They’re sent to serve in a given place for a year at a time.

They usually stay longer than a year, but rarely are in one place for their whole ministry.

So my family moved several times as I was growing up – always within West Virginia.

I was born in Charleston, but before I graduated high school and left for college, my family also lived in Westover, West Liberty, Charleston again – different church, New Martinsville and Keyser.

The year I graduated from high school my family moved to Clarksburg.

I studied at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon – and have since lived in Charleston, Morgantown and now Fairmont.

There were a few years there in my twenties when I lived in West Germany and then Columbus, Ohio – but for most of my life, I’ve lived in West Virginia.

For me, this has meant a strong sense of connection with our state and a strong appreciation for her people.

“People” are “home” for me – my family; church members, neighbors, classmates and teachers in all those towns I grew up in; my colleagues in the jobs I’ve held.

Earlier this month I was reminded of this strong sense of connection.

Every June, clergy and lay members of the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church gather at West Virginia Wesleyan for a yearly business meeting.

This is a meeting which includes serious business – you know…motions and amendments and amendments to the amendments and calling the question and budgets – but also a whole lot of celebration and worship and fellowship and…connection.

I serve as a lay member of the annual conference and have attended for a number of years in that capacity.

But for many years, I was among the PKs who tagged along with their parents to this conference in Buckhannon – exploring the campus, participating in activities, attending the worship services, embraced by the people of the conference.

The people of the conference and Wesleyan’s campus with its tree-lined walkways, Wesley Chapel and its white-painted pews, pipe organ, hand-carved sculptures of the disciples and the large statue of John Wesley out front…these have been constants in my life and in the lives of many other West Virginia United Methodist PKs.

The connection is strong at this annual gathering.

You have to leave plenty of time to stop and talk as you make your way across campus, because you will run into many friends.

And when the conference ends, the people head to their cars, point them in the direction of their current physical homes, and fan out across West Virginia and Garrett County, Maryland.

They disperse to go and serve their communities and the people there.

At the conclusion of this year’s four day conference, as I steered my car onto Corridor H and then I-79 north, I was tired and glad to be going home…but also thankful I’d just been there.

Statue of John Wesley at West Virginia Wesleyan College - looking out over campus in front of Wesley Chapel.

(I am a big fan of public radio, so I am very happy to renew my affiliation with West Virginia Public Broadcasting as an essayist. This essay was written for their program Inside AppalachiaYou can hear the audio version here.)

Five Minute Friday: Release

Golden Eagle - Aura - flies away after her release

Photo by Three Rivers Avian Center

(I participate with a group of writers in a weekly “Five Minute Friday” writing exercise. In response to a word prompt, each writer sits down for five minutes for “no extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation. Unscripted. Unedited. Real.” This is also described as a sort of writing flash mob and a great form of “free therapy”.)

Five Minute Friday: Release


The metal grate that served as a door was suddenly open.

Aura peered out, but paused a moment.

What was beyond the opening?

She had memory of it.

Recent memory.

There was a memory of pain and sickness.

But that was not the main memory.

Far more than pain, she remembered freedom and breezes and open air.

She inched to the front of the cage.

Closer to the open door.

She felt the breeze and spied the open spaces.

One short hesitation and then she hopped out of the cage.

She spread her wings and with a low swoop arched her way upward.

Going a short distance, she perched in a nearby tree.

Getting her bearings, she looked around.

With a last glance at the people with the cage, she took flight and was gone.

Again experiencing freedom and breezes and open air, she had one more memory.

Memory of the loving hands that had healed her and then opened the door.


(To learn more about Aura and how you can help save other wildlife, visit Three Rivers Avian Center.)


Letting Go

My childhood friend’s mother is dying.

She is doing it on her own terms.

She tried some of the treatments against her aggressive cancer, but when they didn’t work, she drew the line at pursuing the additional long shot treatment options. Instead, she spent the last several weeks of her life visiting with family…creating experiences and memories with those she loves.

It has been inspiring and humbling to see the Facebook photos of her sharing meals with loved ones, visiting wild horses on beaches, touring the National Cathedral.

Now she is home and the family is keeping vigil.

She is a woman of faith and so has no fears about what comes next.

I remember my Grandpa Russell saying that he was not afraid of dying…but he was in no hurry.

When his time came, I had the honor of being among the family members surrounding his bedside and spending his last moments with him.

Me with my Grandpa Russell

There were other reminders this week of the times in our lives when we need to say goodbye and let things go.

A historic church in our town was torn down.

It was a beautiful building and had faithfully served its community for many years and through many generations.

My Grandpa Russell (mentioned and pictured above) was ordained as an elder in that very sanctuary and went on to serve many communities as a United Methodist minister.

Church building partly demolished. One side and clock tower still standing.

But the building had reached the point where the money needed to restore it was better used to carry out ministry in the community.

The building was razed, but the ministry of the church congregation continues.

A third reminder this week took place in another church sanctuary two hours south of our town.

My brother-in-law retired after nearly 40 years as a Presbyterian minister.

There was a gathering and worship and communion and singing and remembering.

And then it was time to say goodbye.

Photo of a tweet - showing church sign - First Presbyterian Church Everyone is Welcome! Sunday, June 1 Something to Remember Me By Rev. Gary McGrew 9:45 Sunday School 10:55 Morning Worship

So this week I was reminded that people, places and careers all have their seasons.

And then it is time to say goodbye.

It is time to let go.

One of the speakers at the retirement worship service pulled out a quote, sometimes attributed to Dr. Seuss.

It rings true whether we are letting go of a loved one, or a loved place or a fruitful career…

Don’t be sad because it’s over. Be glad it happened.

Five Minute Friday: Hands

Handy Smurf

(I participate with a group of writers in a weekly “Five Minute Friday” writing exercise. In response to a word prompt, each writer sits down for five minutes for “no extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation. Unscripted. Unedited. Real.” This is also described as a sort of writing flash mob and a great form of “free therapy” )

Five Minute Friday: Hands


Handy Smurf is my hero.

He shows up, puts his problem-solving skills to the task, and does what he can to make things better.

Usually with just everyday resources he finds around him.

I’ve known many real-life “Handy Smurfs” and I can’t begin to express how much I admire them.

I’d count my parents among these “can do” heroes.

Whether it was making a variety of parsonages (of various degrees of repair) “home” for our family of five, or loading us up to go on camping trips, or helping with school projects, or staying on the cutting edge of photography and digital media storytelling techniques…they have always continued to keep moving and contributing to the world around them.

I used to work in public radio broadcasting, and I remember one of our engineers in particular who exemplified this “can do” “Handy Smurf” quality.

Equipment would break.

When we would let him know, he never met the news with a groan or gave the impression that he was being put out.

He would get a gleam in his eye and start brainstorming how he was going to fix it.

He accepted the challenge and went about the work with a positive attitude.

I’ve got to hand it to all the “Handy Smurfs” out there.

They sure make the world a better place.

Stop.  Selfie of my Mom, Dad and me - the day after Mother's Day 2014


June 2014.

25 years since Tiananmen Square.

Iconic photo of one lone man standing in the way of four Chinese tanks - following Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

70 years since D-Day.

Black and white photo of troops preparing to land on D-Day.

Courage comes in many sizes.

But is almost always selfless.