2013

January 1, 2013:

Tender Greetings and Happy New Year!

I pray in this past holiday season you were able to find some peace and comfort with loved ones amidst all the chaos that tends to stir in such times.  How was the end of 2012?  My December was great!  The Christmas concert we played for our friends and neighbors went well.  It sounded amazing with the addition of our two new musicians, Keith Phiboolsook and Ken Domond.  For Christmas this year I was able to visit San Jose for seven days.  I was really excited about that because it is always nice to visit home for the holidays.  It was good to see a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in a long time.  I wish I was able to catch up with some a bit more, but it was not in the cards.  The other bummer was I was sick the whole time.  I had visions of running everyday on my favorite trails, but that dream was squashed.  It did rain everyday so that made me feel a little better about not being healthy enough to run.  My trip was super relaxing which was very nice.  Every night I watched a movie with my dad drinking tea by the fire.  On Christmas day I went to the movies to watch Les Miserables.  It was more of an opera than a musical, but I still enjoyed it.  Earlier in the month of December, at our last Director of the Boards meeting for our Portuguese civic club, Michael and I accepted the roles of Civic Affairs and Scholarship Chairperson (respectively) for 2013.  It will be interesting to see where those roles take us.  And finally, last night we welcomed 2013 with a prohibition themed NYE party at our house which was a tremendous amount of fun.

December 21st has come and gone and we’re still here, for better or for worse.  Once again, for the second time in my life, the doomsday theorists were proven wrong.  (Third time’s the charm?)  There were many theories about the end of the Mayan calendar, but the one I fancied the most said just that; it was the end of their calendar.  Just how December 31st is the end of our annual calendar, December 21st, 2012 marked the end of the Mayan’s.  As one age reaches its end it inevitably ushers forth a new dawn.  If one is to make the most of a new beginning it helps to know where they’re starting from.  Only after discovering where you are, can you begin building the path which leads to where you want to be.  How was 2012?  How do you feel it went?  Did you learn anything worthwhile?  What were your accomplishments?  What were your failures?  What were the standout moments?  Why did they stand out?  What was something that gave you life this past year?  What was something that drained you?  What have you learned through all the highs and lows?  How have you changed?  If you don’t take the time to think about questions like these, then you risk living a stagnant life.  The years will go by and all you’ll have to show for them is another wrinkle.

We have discussed many topics since the first letter’s release on June 1, 2012.  The following are a few questions we’ve gone through: What is your heart’s desire?  What steals your focus and energy?  What are your current priorities?  Who are the difficult people in your life?  Why are they difficult to be around?  Who is a person you need to forgive?  What is an area of your life or who is a person you are feeling invited to be patient with?  How is your relationship with your neighbors?  What is something you have been meaning to do for some time and have not done?  Have you found any answers to these questions since they were first posed?

During the Newtown shooting tragedy I thought about the words I wrote on forgiveness last month.  I was trying to relate to the surviving family members of the victims to see if I would be able to apply my words to the shooter.  It was difficult, but the exercise turned into a valuable lesson.  I’m not going to type out my whole thought process, but I challenge you to think about this: What would your thoughts and feelings be towards a person who killed your family?  How would you interact with them?  Would you be able to maintain an eternal perspective in the heat of battle?  It is true that time heals all wounds, but how would you act while you’re suffering?  The short answer is endure.

2013 is showing to be a year of flexibility for many areas in my life.  There is a lot in flux right now, both personally and professionally, which brings many uncertainties, but I’m welcoming it all with a smile because along with the possibilities comes excitement.  The largest variable in my life for this upcoming year is my job.  There is still no word on how much longer I’ll be working at the plant, but we’re supposed to be finding out soon.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m at peace with whatever situation befalls upon me, however secretly I think I’m hoping to get laid off.  I love my job, my coworkers, and the compensation, but I feel getting laid off might be a great opportunity for me.  I’ve been daydreaming about what I would do with the time off and a Himalayan trip to Nepal reigns at the forefront of my mind.  I have this romantic vision of hiking Buddhist’s trails and experiencing that region of the globe, but we’ll see what comes to pass this June.  It sounds weird, but I feel as if I’m being called to do something else, as if I was meant for some other purpose.  It would be nice to know what that “other purpose” is, but I have no clue.  It’s difficult to find something if you’re uncertain what you’re looking for.  In my saga for occupation and wife there is still much to discover and much to be told.  Sometimes, when I think I know what I want, I find it is in fact not what I want.  Due to this phenomena I have adopted the strategy of making decisions not based off what I want, but based off what I don’t want.  What I truly want may be uncertain, but I definitely know what I don’t want.  It seems as though my journey has been long, but no journey is too great if one finds what they’re looking for.

What are you looking forward to this year?  Being the eternal optimist I am, there are many things I’m looking forward to in 2013.  Here’s a brief list:

  1. Potential trip to Nepal.
  2. Potential career change.
  3. Learning more Portuguese in preparation for my trip to Brazil in 2014.
  4. Volunteering in prison ministry.
  5. Acting as Scholarship Chairman for my Portuguese civic club.
  6. Playing music for BAD IX and our Christmas Concert.
  7. Having more frequent substantial conversations with friends.

How will you improve your life this year?  Last month I read “people make many resolutions, but never a decision.”  What decisions do you need to make to start living a full life?

In conclusion, as we begin this new year, for the dawn of 2013 I leave you with a prayer from Saint Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace;
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

May these words resonate in your heart all year as you march forward on your journey.

Love,

Aaron Buttery

p.s. Twelve minutes you wont regret on the most powerful force in the universe; love.

 

February 1, 2013:

Greetings,
As always I pray this letter finds you well and in good health and spirit.  To be honest, I almost didn’t write this month due to my current health, or rather lack thereof, and to the tremendous amount of energy required to sit upright and develop a reasonable train of thought, but I have realized how special these letters have become, so I’m fighting through it.  Please bear with me.

Ahhh, what’s there to say that hasn’t been said?  What will make people open their ears when they have closed their hearts?  How do I express my deep longing for your well-being?  How do I translate the groaning of my heart into readable word which carries the weight and power of what I feel?  Where do I even begin?

I hope you were able to take some time this past month to reflect on your own situation.  Everyone has steps waiting for them that will inject new life into their journey.  Did you find any?  Did you even look?  Are there any areas in your life that need to be revitalized?  For me, January was a time of abnormal reflection which brought along many realizations.  Most of them were trivial, a few were deep, but some were profound, which was very exciting.  I was going to share all of them with you, but I just don’t have it in me this month, so you’re going to get what’s been on my mind latest and deepest.

In Romans chapter 12, verse 2 (12:2), the apostle Paul beautifully summarizes the way I’ve been living this past month.  In it he states, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  I have given up several of my “worldly” desires because I have seen their end in suffering, destruction, and death.  In January I experienced two encounters which made me sick to my stomach and affirmed the decisions I have made.  Affirmation is always a great gift to receive.  As with the renewal of my mind and its sanctification, I’ve been working on many things, but lately I’ve been working on the removal of unnecessary noise.  I’ve been doing this through various avenues, but would like to illustrate what I’m talking about through the following example.  There are times where I’ll be driving or on a run or walking around at work and I’ll build up a whole argument against someone I have tension with.  I’ll create this angry debate in my mind and cover all the sides.  I’ll waste so much time, energy, and mental effort on a situation that doesn’t even exists!  Better is it to live in the moment and cross those bridges when you get to them, than to foolishly flail with the wind.  When you arrive at these bridges…at these moments of confrontation, I’ve personally experienced that if you approach them with a mindset of love and understanding; if you enter them with the goal of an honest outcome, you will find there is never a need for these fictitious debates we play in our heads.  When these thoughts come to me, I quickly recognize them for what they are, brush them off, and move on to enjoy the moment rather than brood.  It has been a life giving exercise I encourage you to try.  Speaking of life giving exercises, I came across an amazingly powerful exercise this past month that I can’t wait to share with you, but I want to do it with my small group first, so you’ll have to wait until next month to hear about it.

New News: There is no new news with my job, but when I get laid off, instead of going to some country in Asia, I’ve decided to go to beautiful New Mexico. ; )  I’ll check out the Carlsbad caverns and then venture back to the Grand Canyon and go on a 14-18 day rafting trip which will go through the whole thing.  Many people have asked me what my future career plans are.  There are still “a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous” that need to be figured out, but my heart and passion currently lie in supplying fresh drinking water to parts of the globe that lack that precious resource we take for granted.  To what capacity and in what region I cannot say; there is still much to be researched, but that is where my desire lies.  I’ve previously shared with you my desire to serve in prison ministry.  Well, last Sunday I completed my final orientation and jumped through my last hoop.  Next week I will be providing my first service.  I have no idea what kind of experience it will be, but you can count on me sharing about it in next month’s letter.  On a different note, my house has decided this year to have B.A.D. IX on March 23, so if you can make it out we’d love to see you.  I’m also really excited about that!  Lastly, as of late I’ve been embracing my English heritage by allowing myself to indulge in the therapeutic properties of drinking tea.  It is amazing the tranquil sense of peace one little pot can provide, especially through the sounds of The Division Bell.

Last month I was having lunch with my friend and he asked me a question which caught me off guard.  I was sharing with him how I’m doing all these things that I love and which I feel drawn too, however I explained I feel as if I was a circus performer spinning a bunch of plates, looking for something that was going to bring them all together.  Then he ask, “Well, Aaron what do you want?”  The million dollar question.  If I knew the answer to that I wouldn’t feel the way I do and I would have something so many people lack; direction.  I have decided to take a systematic approach to finding my solution.  My plan, which I have already begun, is to break down my life into all the categories that matter to me.  Once I have those, I’ll take a look at each one and ask what I want in that specific category.  Ask what my heart desires for that topic.  Once I’ve done that for every category I’ve come up with, I’ll be able to take a global look at what I’ve written and see if there are any universal themes or crossing overtones.  I’m excited to do this and I can’t wait to share what I find.

“It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t.  It’s just that some people are ready to change and others are not.”  – James Gordon

Several times this past month I have heard people I know say something along the lines of “well, it’s not what I want to do forever, but it’s good for now,” in regard  to their occupation.  While I realize the need to make a living and to take what you can get to survive, I also realize the force of contentment in comfort and the laziness it brings.  To everyone I ask: Does your occupation allow you to do the things you want to do with your life?  If not, what are you doing to move on?  Here’s a little pep talk to inspire you to awaken the awesomeness that is waiting to be unleashed within you!

This past Christmas Eve I found myself sitting on the couch with my dad in front of a fire at midnight watching the Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI during the midnight mass.  It was a surreal experience with a practical message.  He called out how, just like the inn who had no room for God, we too, in our high speed high tech. world two thousand years later, also save no room for God in our lives.  Most of us stay so busy, we don’t even have time to reflect for ourselves, let alone about God and others!  My friend Stephen Johnson sent me a great read on this just a few days ago.  The article stated “Stop being lazy by being constantly ‘busy.’  It’s easy to be busy.”  It justifies never having enough time to clean, cook for yourself, go out with friends, meet new people, make that phone call, or pray.  Realize that every time you give in to your “busyness,” it’s you who is making the decision.  What are you investing your “busyness” in?  Is it something that is going to last?  Is it something you are passionate about?  Is it something that revitalizes your zest for living?  I pray that it does.

With Love,

Aaron Buttery

p.s. Early this week, before I fell ill, I was telling people how great I felt.  Internally I feel the best I’ve felt in a long time, if not ever!  With that attitude I went and got a haircut so my outer appearance could reflect my inner-being.  I’m feeling great, I’m looking great, and I’m ready to rock this year like you wouldn’t believe!

p.p.s. Speaking of rocking!  My friends, the musical group Great White Buffalo, just came out with a new cd you can listen to for free.  I highly encourage you check them out and give it a listen.  They’re a great group of guys doing great work.  I know you will enjoy.  Until next month…

 

March 1, 2013:

Greetings,

Back in high school my weeknights consisted of sports practice, band practice, homework, and the occasional chat over AIM when it was my turn to use the computer.  There wasn’t much down time, but I did allow myself to indulge in a few guilty pleasures; one of which I enjoy to this day.  Every Monday night at 9pm my brother Michael and I would turn off the lights in our room, turn on the TV, and watch one of the best shows ever produced, Ally McBeal.  Say what you may about the show, but to us it was and still is amazing.  We own the complete series as well as the complete series of The Wonder Years.  Both shows, while completely different and worlds away in setting and age, are strikingly similar in the way they engage your emotions.  The way they penetrate our calloused outer being and stir deep within us the emotions which take root in universal themes and experiences is nothing short of magical.  This emotional well we have; this sensation of deep emotional feeling is our common theme of discussion for today.

A little over a year ago I began a correspondence with my good friend Dustin Albanese.  In our letters we discussed many topics, among which was the topic of sexual fulfillment.  We found ourselves in a world submerged with sexual stimulation.  Sex was everywhere and for guys like us it was easy for the taking.  For a long time we found ourselves captivated by the whirlwind before we realized the peril of our situation.  The following is an excerpt from one of my letters:

It should come as no surprise to you that I am a very religious man.  My major reformation occurred a few years ago when I abandoned my playboy lifestyle and begun sculpting the man I am today.  The change, unlike the decision, did not happen overnight and is far from being complete.  You talked about your time of “free love” and upping your standards.  I can heavily relate to that, for I too have walked down that deserted road and know the utter loneliness of which you speak.  While a time of free love is fun, it has tremendous potential for pain and ultimately, completely counter intuitively, leads us to a desolate island.  For the past four years I have attempted to give up sex, masturbation, and pornography for lent.  The first year I lasted three days.  (That is how deep I was enslaved to the beast.)  My mind was consumed with one thing and one thing only and its obsession was fed often.  The following year wasn’t much better; I may have lasted a fortnight or so.  It wasn’t until last year where I succeeded for the whole duration, but it only took a few days to fall back into the same old filthy habits, albeit they were much less frequent.  This year I believe my mind and heart are ready and willing, not only to relinquish my vices for lent, but to finally shake free from their enslaving bondage for life, freeing and lifting my soul from the weight of this blemish once and for all.  I was praying a few days ago and asked for help.  I told God all I wanted to do was to become pure.  I admitted I had no idea how to do that, but He knew the way and for him to help guide me and lead me down the difficult path.  The only way to break free of a habit is to find its triggers, examine why they exist, and fill the void with what it was intended to be filled with.  As I was praying I searched myself, trying to find why I was so obsessed with sex.  It came down to this: Deep within me I have a strong desire for oneness and a strong desire for women.  To be specific I have a strong desire to obtain oneness with a female, but not just any female, with The female…as in The One.  The one you know is The One from the first moment your helpless eyes fall on her presence.  As I was contemplating over this I realized, while desiring oneness with a woman is good, thinking she is going to fulfill the deep burning for oneness I have in my heart is wrong and unfair.  No woman, or anything else for that matter, will ever be able to satisfy the desires deep within the heart of man that only God himself can satisfy.  By not having the patience in waiting for The One I was literally taking matters into my own hands and obtaining my oneness through climax, if only for a few fleeting seconds.  Last year I made the decision to relinquish my quest for the search of The One over to God and I must say, I have been in a great state of peace ever since.  She will come when the time is right.  Until then, all I can do is spend my time trying to be The One instead of wasting it searching for her.  I have realized this past week that when I am tempted by lust I need to pray for God to fill me with His spirit and focus on being one with Him instead of rushing off to the quick non lasting fix of some floozy or porn.  All that foundation just to say I am glad you have realized the flaws in the “free love” life style.  Temptation will always be there and will often be presented on a “silver platter,” but I have to believe it is possible to overcome such temptations.  Keep fighting the good fight!

Revenue from pornography in America is more than the NFL, MLB, and NBA combined!  What are we looking for?  Why do Americans spend so much money just to look at naked people?  As I told Dustin, I believe it boils down to a deep desire for oneness.  We long to stand in awe of one another, just as Adam and Eve must have done when they first locked gazes.  We long for our whole body to tingle with the thrill of knowing that one fascinating being has been created especially for us and given to us unreservedly for our help, comfort, and joy.  Oneness.  Wholeness.  Fulfillment.  How are these obtained?  What are we to do with the desires we have been given?  This mystery is lost on a culture characterized by self-focused, short-term gratification.  The first step is to break free from destructive habits.  Easier said than done, but it needs to begin deep within our heart.  You must have a heart that wants to change.  Once you have this, your heart will tell your brain which will develop thoughts.  Those thoughts will lead to words, words will lead to actions, actions will become good habits, and good habits will become your character.  You see, we make our choices, but in the end, our choices really make us.  We have this enormous, all-encompassing energy within us with several dimensions to it.  Sex, is the physical expression of oneness; without the accompanying emotional and spiritual oneness, we will always be left searching for something more.
Last month I began my prison ministry by serving at Donovan State Prison.  I entered this endeavor with little to no expectation; simply following what I believed to be an invitation from God.  What I found was life changing.  It is a weird feeling one gets when you walk as a free man inside a maximum security prison.  It’s actually kind of cool!  How many people can say that?  On my first day in the chapel, before their bible study began, I was surprise by the people I met.  Every single inmate who was attending came up and personally introduced themselves to me and thanked me for being there.  What surprised me was how sincere, courteous, genuine, and respectful these men were.  I was not expecting to find those qualities on the inside, especially so prevailing.  Before they began their study they entered into a time of worship, singing praises to God, which set the stage for my second surprise.  As I stood in the middle of the chapel I was transported.  When they started singing I was no longer in a room surrounded by convicted criminals, but in a holy house surrounded by brothers.  Oh, how I wish you could have heard them sing!  There I was, in a room listening to a bunch of full grown men sing, and not singing along to some rock or rap song, but singing songs of praise to God with nothing to aid them but the clapping of their hands and the joy in their hearts.  Singing along with them, tears began to fall down my face.  They weren’t tears of joy or sadness or anything really in particular.  One could say they were tears of amazement and there might be some truth to that, but it was something more.  I was overcome with such a deep emotional feeling as to the likes of which I have never experienced before.  It cut to the core of my being and hurt, but hurt in a good way.  It was a powerfully surreal experience.  Once their bible study began I was surprised again with the intelligence these men exhibited and how incisive their questions were.  They were asking extremely difficult questions, questions which I often wondered about.  Thankfully the pastor leading the study offered incredibly wise answers.  I was very blessed to be able to listen.  After the study we entered into a time where the inmates were able to give praise reports, sharing with everyone the good things God was doing in their lives.  That was also a very powerful time.  It’s amazing how little some of these men have, yet how hopeful and joyous they can be despite their location and situation.  When our time came to an end we gathered into a large circle, held hands, and sang one last song.  What I saw then as I looked around the circle was nothing short of a miracle; the true power of God.  In this circle you had every stereotypical criminal you could think of.  In this circle you had a group of men who had experienced terrible pain in their lives; many who have come from extremely dark places; who grew up in such twisted cultures as to where you did not even talk to someone of a different race, let alone hold their hand…but look at them now!  If that’s not the transformational power of God, I don’t know what is.

I visited the prison three times last month and three times I cried.  Inside their chapel the presence of the Lord is distinctly seen and experienced.  The power of His love saturates the air and creates an environment that is so overwhelmingly powerful…no words can convey nor mind imagine until the soul has experienced.  People often ask me if it ever feels dangerous or comment on why I’m wasting my time with men who have committed serious crimes.  To them I say, “Not once have I ever felt threatened or that my life was ever in any danger.”  First, you have to sign up to attend chapel; you cannot just walk in on a whim from the yard.  Those who are there desire to be there.  Secondly, and more importantly, these men have been convicted by the Spirit of God.  Their faith is evident and their transparency refreshing.  There is a rawness that is so rarely found in today’s world…their honesty, openness, and willingness…many of those men I would trust with my life.  As far as the crimes they’ve committed, I do not know who has done what, nor do I wish to know; the only thing that matters is their hearts have changed.  We all make mistakes and are in need of forgiveness and grace.  They are serving their time.  What are you doing with yours?  Being involved with this prison ministry, which is really a ministry of presence, is currently the best thing I have going on in my life.  I go there to be a blessing for the guys, but really I am the one who ends up being blessed.  What is the best thing you have going on in your life?

Last month I shared with you my mission to break my life down into categories and to address my desires for each with the hopes of discovering how it all ties together.  Well I have done that and have attached the file for the curious to read.  It was a good exercise to do.  Looking back on it I discovered several things.  There are two reasons why I like what I like.  One is due to the upbringing I had, and the other is due to the desires that have been placed on my heart, like friendship.  I like people and I enjoy bringing them together.  There is something special that can be said about community and I think we can all agree on what it is.  So what now?  What did I gain?  Where and what is the direction and purpose I was seeking?  What brings it all together?  While this exercise was good for me to do, I did not find what I was looking for in it…that came from a different place entirely.

Knit into the fabric of humanity is the hunger for transcendence.  We long for Mystery—what is beyond us; for Beauty—what captivates and moves our being; for Truth—the search for meaning; and for Belonging—the need to know and be known.  Where do you find mystery, beauty, truth, and belonging?  For some the answer may be complicated, but for me the answer is simple; all can be found in God.  The other day I was talking about this with one of my friends.  I asked them, “What prevents you from believing in God?”  We had a great talk on apologetics, but logic and reason only took us so far.  In the end there will always be a leap of faith that needs to be made.  Sadly, for most people this leap doesn’t happen until they hit bottom.  After all, if life is going great and you are accomplishing everything you wish to accomplish on your own power, then who needs God right?  This is what I know to be true through testing and personal experience: God is real.  He loves me and he loves you.  He understands what we’ve been through and where we are coming from.  He knows us better than we know ourselves and he truly desires to protect our deepest joys.  When He sees us unhappy and suffering He grieves.  He wants to make our lives better.  He wants to lead us to better places and situations and He does if we would only listen and have the courage to follow when led.  Just take a look at my life.  How much have I changed over the past several years?  I did not make that transformation alone; that would have been impossible.  I was guided every step of the way.  God has given me my purpose and direction.  Where He leads I will follow because through Him I have fulfillment.  Through His grace I have been adopted into His family and that gives me belonging.  I cannot explain the mystery of faith, but I can explain the beauty that surrounds me and it is everlasting.  These truths have been made know to me and they resonate true to the core of my being.  My only prayer is that one day they resonate true in yours.

Love,

Aaron Buttery

p.s. This past month I stumbled across the poet Henry Van Dyke.  I’ve been enjoying his writing and wanted to share two poems with you today.

The Sun-Dial at Wells College:

The shadow by my finger cast
Divides the future from the past:
Before it, sleeps the unborn hour,
In darkness, and beyond thy power.
Behind its unreturning line,
The vanished hour, no longer thine:
One hour alone is in thy hands,-
The NOW on which the shadow stands.

Keeping Christmas:

It is a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men agree to stop work and make merry together, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds a man to set his own little watch, now and then, by the great clock of humanity which runs on sun time.

But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is keeping Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellowmen are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts hungry for you; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness — are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open — are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world — stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death — and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you can keep it for a day, why not always? But you can never keep it alone.

April 1, 2013:

Hello Again,
Back on October first I embarked on a personal journey which many were skeptical of.  While still only half way to my goal of one year, I can honestly and proudly celebrate the fact that I have been sober and have not drank a sip of alcohol for the past six months!  This is the longest I’ve gone without drinking since I began (back in the summer of my high school graduation) and I feel G-R-R-REAT!  This process has been very interesting, to say the least, and I’m looking forward to sharing with you some of what I’ve learned thus far.  Although the loss of ten pounds was nice, it is not the best benefit I have found in sobriety; that spot is held by the priceless feeling one gets when they are fruitful with their time.  I hated those mornings after a night of drinking where you wake up feeling hung-over and awful.  At first the ill feelings are purely physical, but over time they transforms into a deeper terribleness which is highly corrosive.  To sum it up, I was getting tired of wasting my life.  Deep down I had this feeling I was meant to do great things and I was sick of the same old rut and routine going out had to offer.  I would often find myself sitting there wondering what I was doing with my life; yearning for something more.  When the next morning arrived and I woke up hung-over, I would have tremendous guilt for wasting another day.  I was tired of this feeling and it feels fantastic to no longer have it.  It is amazing waking up every day feeling refreshed and ready to “conquer the world.”  I have been able to be more honest with myself and hence, discover the things I truly desire to do and I DO them.  Another aspect of being fruitful with my time comes from the conversations I have with people when I go out.  When people see me not drinking they inevitably ask why.  This leads to a deep conversation, which interestingly, is always pursued by the other person.  The longing to have such conversations is a desire I know many people have, but sadly few get to indulge in.  Why is that?  When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with a family member, friend, or stranger?  If it has been awhile, what has been preventing you?  In the conversations I’ve been having with people I often hear “I respect what you’re doing, but I could never do that.”  When most people say that, what they really mean is “I would never want  to do that.”  I see where these people come from, but there are others who truly think they could never give up drinking.  Whenever I hear those people say that it always makes me sad because, when it comes down to it, anyone can do what I’m doing.  It doesn’t require supernatural powers or feats of physical strength.  All you have to do is make a choice and answer for yourself, “What kind of life do I want to live?”

The other day I was checking in with my sponsor Nina.  I told her how great things were going and how surprisingly easy sobriety has been; especially when compared to my quest for sexual purity (the most difficult calling I’ve ever answered).  After I shared my good news she told me a phrase which spun my thinking gear.  She said, “It’s easy for you Aaron because you really want it.”  A brief introspection in tandem with reflection on those words revealed how true they were.  I never really thought about it before, but it makes sense; the more you want to change, the easier change will come.  It all comes down to the will.  Saint Augustine put it like this:

The mind gives an order to the body and is at once obeyed, but when it gives an order to itself, it is resisted.  Why does this happen?  The mind orders itself to make an act of will, and it would not give this order unless it willed to do so; yet it does not carry out its own command.  This is because it does not fully will to do this thing and its orders are not fully given.  It gives the order only in so far as it wills, and in so far as it does not will, the order is not carried out.

Everything comes down to a choice and desire.  Once you make up your mind, the ease and sense of peace you have while putting in the required work to obtain your decision is directly proportional to how much you want it.

People often ask me what is going to happen when my year of sobriety is up.  I honestly can’t say at this time.  Although there are times when I miss having a glass of wine or a cold beer with dinner, for the most part I don’t, and if I don’t miss it, then why go back?  On the other hand, I’m learning to appreciate that glass of wine or that one beer and believe moderation is obtainable.  There is much to consider and even more to learn within these next six months.  Time will tell and reveal in its good nature what my future relationship with alcohol will look like.  When it becomes apparent to me I will reveal it to you.

On the 23rd of last month my friends and I celebrated the ninth year of a festival we call B.A.D.  It was a huge success and we ended up raising $2000 for the Loloma Foundation!  Going into the party I was a little concerned on whether or not I was going to have fun.  I mean, I knew I was going to have fun simply based off the events planned for the day and the people who would be there to partake in all the action, but this was going to be the first BAD ever where I was going to be sober the whole time.  I know you do not need alcohol to have fun (I’ve been busting that myth every day), however there is still a part of me that says I would be having more fun with booze flowing through my veins.  While that may be true, it’s the same temptation that comes along with any drug.  Shit, cocaine is a hell of a drug, but you don’t see the masses chasing the white powder down rabbit holes to enhance their day.  Why is that?  It’s because they have decided they are fine with what they have and don’t need to risk it for something more.  I have found the same to be true with sobriety.  This past BAD I had the time of my life: I was able to carry many conversations with friends, I was able to perform the best concert of my life, I was able to dance my heart out, I laughed with Eric “Leche” Nilsen until my stomach hurt, and I remember it all!  If I’m happy with that, why do I need to risk getting sloppy to enhance my experience?  Another lie my body tells me is that I need alcohol to do certain things; dancing being one of them.  When I have a strong buzz, dancing comes natural and the moves create themselves.  I have a blast when this happens and my body tells me it’s thanks to the alcohol.  That simply is not true.  It is due to the learned habits I have developed over the many years of drinking.  The social habits I developed over my drinking career did not arrive over night, but through time.  It is in time again where I plan on tailoring my learned habits through a sober lens.  When I am sober I am reluctant to do many things which I haphazardly do when I’ve been drinking.  The exciting part these past six months has been learning how to overcome the fear that lies at the root of my reluctance.  When I take the risk to stand against these fears I am filled with a sense of raw excitement that makes me truly feel alive.  Do you know what I am talking about?  When was the last time you felt truly alive and what were you doing?

This past month I was able to go on a great snowboarding trip with my friends Daniel Ching and Kash Lau to Big Sky Montana.  It was a mountain I’ve never heard of before, but now reigns as favorite in my heart.  There were no lift lines, their boast of being the “biggest skiing in America” is deserved, their chairs are fast, and the runs are a blast.  Daniel unfortunately missed the first day due to delayed flights, but he had told me of a run he wanted us to do off the summit called the Big Couloir (photo attached), so Kash and I figured we’d scout it out.  As we made our way up the mountain we encountered fog which made visibility terrible.  Since we couldn’t see anything we said forget it and headed down to have fun on the lower part of the mountain.  While we were taking one of the lower chairs back up a guy from ski patrol joined us.  I took the opportunity on the lift to ask him how difficult the Big Couloir was.  His response was, “You need an avalanche beacon, a probe, a shovel, and a partner with all the same gear.”  I immediately looked at Kash, laughed and said, “Well, it doesn’t look like we’ll be doing that one.”  When Daniel arrived later that night I told him we weren’t going to be able to do the Big Couloir.  He asked why not and I told him we needed all this gear, to which he replied, “I brought it.”  In my head I said, “fuck,” because earlier in the day when the fog at the summit had cleared I was able to see how steep the Big Couloir was and it looked sketchy.  We decided to do it on the last day of our trip because if anything should happen, at least it would be at the very end.  When that day came, Daniel and I geared up and headed for the summit.  As our gondola was climbing its way to the peak I was thinking to myself, “Am I getting in over my head?”  I’m a decent snow boarder.  I can carve down a mountain pretty fast without falling down, but Daniel is much better than I am.  I was confident in my skills of safely going down really steep parts, but as we climbed up the face of the mountain I was able to see our fateful way down, and a worry set in.  When we reached the top we hiked over to the ski patrol hut to have our gear checked and to sign up for the run.  For safety reasons they only let two people drop in every 15 minutes.  When we arrived there were 3 groups ahead of us so we had to sit and wait for 45 minutes.  There should have been many things running through my head during this time, but surprisingly there was not.  I was nervous, to be sure, but I wasn’t worried or panicked.  When I get really nervous my body reacts by getting tired; it helps me stay calm and collected.  I’m not sure if I’ve always been this way or if it’s been a developed reaction over my years of racing track (I would always get sleepy the minutes leading up to a big race).  Either way, when our time came I zipped up and went out into the snow.  As we approached the drop-in gate I was uncomfortable, but as soon as I went over the edge the most interesting thing happened; all nervousness, fear, and discomfort vanished.  The only thing on my mind was the immediate action necessary.  It was truly amazing how rapidly everything changed.  I’ve experienced this phenomena many times before in my racing days, but it never ceases to amaze me.  When the starting gun of a race fires and its sound cracks through the air, all internal stresses instantaneously dissipate with the sound.  Everything you were thinking about and feeling vanishes and all you’re left with is the lightness of the moment for which you’ve trained for.  As I snowboarded my way down the Big Couloir I came across another amazing realization; I was having fun!  When I reached the bottom I was ecstatic.  Standing there looking back on the track I just came down, seeing Daniel rapidly approach, I experienced a great sense of accomplishment.  Daniel and I had conquered the Big Couloir!  Something I was reluctant at first to do had turned into a fantastic run.  My confidence in myself as a boarder grew that day which brings me to my point; unless you are willing to challenge your fears and force yourself into uncomfortable situations, you will never grow in whatever aspect you are trying to find growth.

Last month I went to the movies for the first time since Christmas day.  While watching the previews (one of my favorite parts of going to the movies) I heard the line, “Danger is real.  Fear is a choice.”  What do you think about that?  I spent some time trying to come up with examples when fear wasn’t a choice and I couldn’t come up with any.  (If you have any I would love to hear what they are.)  Sure, one might get startled and have an initial reaction of fear, but after you get past that initial reaction you make a choice on whether or not you remain afraid.  This was a very powerful thing for me to think about.  If fear is a choice, how might our lives look differently if we chose to not be afraid?  To answer how that might look we must begin with identifying our fears.  What are you afraid of?  Are you afraid of the dark, heights, spiders, or clowns?  Do you fear flying, the unknown, or death?  Or are your fears more profound like the fear of being alone, that you don’t fit in or don’t belong, that you aren’t smart enough or pretty enough, that you are unlovable and have no value?  What prevents you from doing the things you want to do?  What’s stopping you?  What are you afraid of?  I challenge you the next time you find yourself hesitant to do something, to identify the fear that is holding you back and chose differently.  Be smart about it; remember danger is real; don’t put yourself in foolish situations.  If you are able to do this you will be amazed at the places you will go.  Choosing to not listen to fear is one thing, when you are able to truly see the lie that lies behind most of the fears we succumb to, and trust me they are lies, then we will truly be able to walk in freedom and do amazing things.  What’s holding you back from greatness?

What makes a great man?  If you listen to the radio and TV it would seem like it’s cash, money, hoes.  Our society tells us that great men have power and influence and walk around like Bruce or John Wayne, never falling off their white horse.  It tells us you need to have sex appeal and be accompanied by beautiful women as if they were just another object to own like a fancy watch or car, which better be top of the line.  I know most of us don’t fully buy into this, but how much of it do you believe?  True, money and influence are powerful tools, but they are not great within themselves.  If we are truly honest with ourselves, I think we can all agree that it is goodness which makes a great man.  Goodness is one of the greatest things of all, for from it springs integrity, humility, hospitality, generosity, sincerity, compassion, faithfulness, patience, justice, and mercy.  A great man is someone who is trustworthy, who has understanding, and who is vulnerable.  We all fall and make mistakes, but a good man will learn from what has happened, get up, and move along on this crazy journey we call life.  This calling for goodness; this calling for GREATNESS is a calling we’re all called to.  The development of goodness in our character is God’s biggest desire for us.  God’s will for our lives is not something specific like moving to Kansas to run an orphanage or soup kitchen; he loves us far too much to restrict us to such limited possibilities.  We all wish to live a life of peace and happiness; to live a life where one can look back and call it a success.  Are you truly happy with the choices you’ve been making?  Where are you in this process of self-discovery we call life?  Are you stuck, paralyzed by fear?  Are you lost in the fog of consumerism?  Or are you in the pursuit of greatness; the pursuit of GOODNESS?  Where ever you may be, the good news is you have Today.  I have yet to achieve perfection; I am far from reaching my full potential for Goodness, but I press on…I’m on my way!

Love,

Aaron Buttery

p.s. “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” -Thomas Jefferson

p.p.s. In keeping with the music video theme, enjoy this little three part harmony gem: Angel Band

 

May 1, 2013:

Aloha,

This month reaches you from the sunny shore of Oahu.  I flew out here five days ago to visit my friend Michael Cunningham.  Thus far, my time spent on the island has been absolutely amazing and I’m looking forward to enjoying the remaining five days.  How was your April?  Did you do anything exciting and life giving?  Did you challenge any fears?  Did you do anything that made you feel young?  Towards the beginning of the month I ran the Carlsbad 5k with a group of my friends dressed in costumes.  Being that the race was a week after Easter, we decided to dress up as the Easter bunny and Easter eggs.  It was a tremendous amount of fun and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves being silly.  (I’ve attached photos for those of you who missed them on Facebook.)  Randomly running into my old friend and teammate, David Monico, during the event was also a pleasant surprise.  Needless to say, we are excited for our next race (yet to be picked) and are already brainstorming costume ideas.  Any suggestions?

Another activity I did last month which brought me great joy and satisfaction was the remodeling of one of the bathrooms in my house.  I was originally going to pay someone to do it, but my carpool buddy convinced me it was simple enough to do by myself, so I made the attempt and I am very pleased with the results.  I know I’ve written on this topic before, but I can’t stress enough how much enjoyment one gets when they complete a home improvement project from start to finish.  It might take a little research and work, but I’m telling you, it’s worth it.

On a similar note; what does, physical work, your home, and spring have in common?  You may have guessed it…spring cleaning.  We as humans are natural hoarders; some more than others, but hoarders all the same.  This trait, ingrained from our hunter gatherer days, can easily become the source of unnecessary, wasteful noise in our life if allowed to roam unchecked.  This past month I was lying on my bed in prayer and meditation and felt the need to purge my belongings.  I went through my closet, bookshelf, and drawers removing anything I hadn’t used within the past year along with the items I no longer desired to keep.  When I was finished I had a mound in the middle of my room.  What could be donated, was, and the rest either recycled or thrown away.  It was a very therapeutic process which raised many interesting thoughts.  Why am I holding on to this?  How did something so valuable become worthless?  Why are many of today’s purchases tomorrow’s load to the dump?  After some time lost in thought, I realized the lie that drives this materialism goes something like this: (insert material possession) will make me feel secure, powerful, successful, happy, or any combination thereof.  We believe this lie, and in some ways, it’s true.  When we purchase an object we do feel happy and excited, but over time its initial allure fades and we are eventually let down.  When this happens the World’s remedy is the newest model or the next “big thing.”  This feeds us back into the loop, which we know is only a partial/temporary solution, so why continue to buy into it?  What is one to do?  To answer this we must look into why we hold onto things of little to no value.  There are several reasons for this, but the main one you’ll find is there exist some kind of emotional investment in the object; an invisible bond which prevents us from getting rid of such seemingly worthless things.  What are we to make of this?  It all comes down to relationships.  True life and happiness are not found in how many things you can buy, but in how you interact with people; in the relationships you make.  What good is owning the world if you have no one to share it with?  Our culture sells the dream that your happiness can be bought with the next best toy, but all this leaves us with is a room filled with junk, ultimately feeling unhappy and unsatisfied.  What’s causing clutter in your life?  How much junk are you caring around?  What are the things you need to let go of?  I encourage you to participate in spring cleaning this year; if not your life, then at least your room.

Before I continue, I want to take a moment to recognize the end of a special time in my life.  On this day, my brother and dear friend Manuel “Night Hawk” Vargas moves out of Biddle.  Manny, it has been one hell of a ride and I thank you for all of the joy and excitement you have brought into my life.  You have grown immensely since that night you showed up on our front door and I am incredibly proud of you.  You have great opportunities ahead and I am excited for what you’ll do with them.  Even though you’ll still be living in San Diego, things will be different.  I will never forget our epic trip to Florida with Haymaker/One Hour and I’ll never forget all the talks we’ve had.  I wish you the best of luck and the brightest future.  I’ll see you at Festa with my apron and Nardo tan ready to serve Luciano and kill the Dresden. -Arn

Last month I discovered a lot of information with regard to my job and future employment.  I found that if I am going to be affected by the layoffs, which is highly probable, then I will know for certain sometime within the last two weeks of May.  I also read the layoff dates will be from June 3-13, so that’s good to know.  As you may imagine, I have spent a decent amount of time this past month thinking about my next steps; my next journey.  While there are still many unknowns and many variables to figure out, I have come across a few certainties.  When I get laid off I plan on going on unemployment right away to collect back some of my taxes from last year.  I will also be purchasing a one way flight to Alaska to meet up with my friend Justin Chaudion.  Justin will be getting out of the military in the beginning of June and I’m going to road trip with him from Alaska back down to San Jose.  I’m looking forward to the beautiful scenery we will encounter as well as the quality time spent together.  Once in San Jose, I’ll stay there enjoying childhood friends and family until July second, where I’ll fly back down to San Diego for my Cabrillo Club board meeting and to prepare for my five day trip to San Felipe with Joe Accinelli, Manny Vargas, Michael Buttery and whoever else decides to join.  I would like to go rafting down the Grand Canyon this summer and take a motorcycle ride out to the Carlsbad Caverns, but we’ll see what happens.  As far as my future career goes, I’ve expressed with you my desire to work for an organization who provides drinking water to deprived parts of the globe.  I spent some time looking into that, but didn’t really find what I was looking for, so I figured, “If I can’t go international, let’s stay local.”  I started looking into what it would take for me to work at a water purification plant here in California.  I found I would have to take a few tests and one community college course, which was no big deal.  However, right around this time I had a major realization, an epiphany if you will; the culmination of months of thought and trial had led me to a place where I was ready to make a BIG move with regard to my future life.  I decided to pursue Prison Ministry full time.

When you find something that fills your heart with joy; when it shadows your thoughts, never straying too far; when you see how the events of your past have equip and prepared you for its pursuit; when the people who know you best affirm your journey; then you may have discovered what it is you were intended to do in this life and you would be a fool not to go after it.  The morning after I made this decision and had shared it with my mom and roommates, I awoke with a fear and uncertainty thinking, “Oh no…Am I making the right choice?”  But after talking with friends I confirmed I was and realized it was normal to have such feelings after making such a huge decision.   When I went to work later that day I remember walking around completely disenchanted wondering, “What am I doing here?”…realizing my heart was no longer in nuclear power.  Just last week I heard Diablo Canyon (a power plant up in Morro Bay, California) was hiring.  This was a place I was seriously considering relocating for employment a year ago because I love that part of the state.  With my qualifications and experience I would practically be guaranteed a job there, but I no longer have interest.  As I said, there are still a lot of ins and outs that need to be figured out, but for now I’m still plugging away until my last day at the plant.  And if for some reason I manage to squeak by the layoffs, then I will continue to work at the plant until I figure out all the ins and outs, at which time I will resign.  Two issues that kept coming up with my friends and family were the issues of pay and wife.  With regard to the later, I am not becoming a Catholic priest, I will become a Christian minister, a minister in a ministry that allows marriage.  As far a pay, this is one of my biggest uncertainties, but I have to have faith God will provide what I need.  He has proven himself to be true time and time again so I have no reason to believe He will not fulfill his promises.

A few months ago I expressed my desire to start a career providing drinking water to impoverished people.  This month I tell you I am entering the water industry, but instead of providing drinking water, I will be providing Living Water to those in need, for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  The other day I heard an interesting talk on sloth.  The speaker went into how sloth is not solely about being lazy and physically inactive, but how it involves being inactive or indifferent on eternal matters as well.  When was the last time you sat down and seriously contemplated what might happen to you after you die?  Whether you believe in God or not, we can both agree there are only two destinies: the destiny of death and the destiny of life.  We have a loving God of revival who wants to bring the fullness of life to you if you would only let him.  What is preventing you?  God is not concerned with the externals of religion; only the internals of your heart.  What does your spirit tell you?  What do you hunger and thirst for in your life?  My faith is the best thing that has ever happened to me.  It doesn’t make me better than anyone else, but it makes me better than I would have been and I thank God for that.  You will be in my prayers.

Love,

Aaron Buttery

p.s. SAVE THE DATE:  BAD X: March 8, 2014

Look for a Facebook reminder coming your way soon.

p.p.s. In May I am looking forward to a camping trip with my friends, the Portuguese Festa in Point Loma, and a special event where you’ll have to wait until next month to hear about.

 

June 2013:

Hello and welcome to the Special One Year Anniversary Edition of The Monthly!

If you read/do nothing else, watch this 9 minute and 23 second clip: This is Water

Time is a curious entity.  Its dualistic properties are truly astounding.  What I mean by that is, it’s amazing how fast time flies and yet in the same token, how many things are able to happen within its span.  It seems like only yesterday I was sitting down to write my first letter and here we are a year later.  Let’s take a quick look at what’s been discussed.

June: Action on Procrastination, Worry, Comfort, Family

July: Small Towns, Neighborhood/Community, Difficult People

August: The Worst Thing, Patience, Control

September: Fix it Yourself, Hope

October: Email, Football, Born to Do, New Experience, Gifts

November: Desire, Prevention, Admiring Beauty, Trying to Prove, New Experiences

December: Corrections, Work, Politics, Forgiveness, Gossip, Quotes, Religious Section Two

January: Reflection

February: Live in the Moment, Busyness

March: Lust, Prison, Apologetics

April: Being Fruitful, Human Will, BAD IX, Fear, Greatness

May: Clutter, Prison Ministry

I have attached a word document which contains all twelve months in case you would like to go back and reread a letter or two.  The process of writing these letters has been wonderful and I’d like to share with you a bit of my experience, but first I must share where the inspiration came from.  Several years ago I received an email from my friend, Bernard Guanio, which contained an update on his life.  Not too many people take the time to inform you, especially in-depth, of the intricacies of what’s going on in their life so it was really great to read.  Ever since that first letter I thought, “Man, that would be a great way to keep my brothers up in San Jose, my college friends who have moved away, and everyone else informed on what’s going on in my life,” but I didn’t take action on it; I left it on the back burner to simmer.  It wasn’t until a few years later, when I started meeting with a group of men from church, where the urgency to write became apparent.  Every week my Life Group would meet to discuss the issues we were going through and how God was working in them.  We would have great discussions and I remember thinking, “More people need to think about this kind of stuff,” but I still didn’t write, at least not to big groups.  Why?  I don’t know; life tends to get in the way of many things and unless you make a serious stand for what is important to you and commit to it, most of the time it will not get done.  However, as fate would have it, around this time I began a correspondence with my friend Dustin Albanese.  I always viewed Dustin as a younger brother because I saw a lot of myself in him and it was my desire, through our writings, for me to impart any wisdom I had to him, in the great hope he would not make the same mistakes I had made.  Through our letters I had learned I was a better writer than I’d previously thought.  I still don’t consider myself a great writer, however a confidence was discovered and that was the final piece needed.  I called Dustin and shared with him how I was going to start writing these monthly letters, then called The AGB for Aaron George Buttery.  I told him I didn’t know how long I was going to be able to write for, but how I intended to keep on writing until I had nothing left to share or say.  What is funny is when I began, I didn’t think I would have enough material to last a year, but here we are a year later with no sign of stopping any time soon!

Once the decision had been made to start writing, the next big question was, “Who do I send this to?”  I wrestled with this question for a few weeks before I came to the conclusion of sending it to everyone I could get a hold of.  My filter ultimately became, if I care for them enough to wish good in their life, then I’m sending them a copy and it will be up to them what they wish to do with it; my part was done.  I am extremely glad I came to this conclusion because some of the most heartfelt responses I have received have been from people who I almost didn’t send to and from people who I thought would never take the time to read such lengthy emails.

My process for writing is simple.  I spend the first three weeks of the month deciding what I want to write about, then the last week writing it.  Most of the topics stem from what I’m personally dealing with, but not always.  What has been interesting is to see how the different letters affect different people in different stages of life.  Every month I receive a response from someone who says that particular month’s letter was the best one yet.  Now, as for my part, I put the same effort in each month, so the major variable is the reader.  When what I decide to write syncs up with what they need to hear, that’s where the magic happens.  Since we’re on the topic, it is a good time to remind everyone why I send these out.  The following is a blurb I send out to new people on the distribution.  I feel it does a great job explaining the purpose.

Hello Friends,
You are receiving this email because you are someone important in my life and I wish to include you to my monthly email distribution.  On the first of every month I send out an email giving a mini update on my life along with questions for you to consider in your own.  I have attached last month’s email so you have a better understanding of what I’m talking about.  I do not write these emails to solicit feedback, nor do I trust you will believe and agree with everything I say.  These letters are written for two reasons: One, that you will have a better understanding of who I am. And two, in the hopes you will take the time to reflect on the questions I pose in your own life.  If you wish to respond, that would be great; just know it might take me some time to reply back (I’m working on my timeliness).  If at any point and for whatever reason you wish to no longer receive my emails, let me know and I will remove you from my distribution with no hurt feelings or love lost.  I pray you all have been well since we’ve last spoke and I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you.  Take care.

Your Friend,
Aaron Buttery

I am not the smartest man, nor am I the most interesting; I definitely do not have all the answers, but what I do have is a desire for your wellbeing, which is why you receive these letters.  We all can recognize how easy it is to find ourselves in the drag of life; a routine which more than likely has us missing the obvious and important realities; the things that really matter.  We can talk about big fancy questions about life after death all we want, but that is not the purpose of these letters.  The purpose of these letters is to help us LIVE life BEFORE death.  The purpose of these letters is to help us take an inventory of our lives; to help us become better people; to help us find fulfillment.  These kind of things are not going to happen unless we are intentional about them.  This is where the work of choosing comes into play.  Every day we decide how to spend our time.  We may not control what happens to us, but we can control how we react, how we treat others, and what attitude/outlook we wish to carry.  There are many ways to pass the time, but I say, unless we work on developing an acute awareness of where we are at and where we are going (physically, literally, emotionally, metaphorically, etc.), then it is all in vain.  Where are you at in your life right now?  Are you happy?  Are you comfortable?  Have you found fulfillment?  Are you exercising your ability to help others?  It is so easy to become dead to all the possibility that lies around us.  My only hope is we discover an awareness to what is real and essential, to utilize the great possibility we have.  This is water.

With Love,

Aaron Buttery

p.s. No journey is too great if one finds what they are looking for.

**A note on looking for things: Last month I read “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”  What was ironic about the story was everyone (besides Dorothy) was looking for something they already had.  The Scarecrow demonstrated wisdom, the Tin man compassion, and the Lion courage all along their journey to Oz, but they couldn’t see it.  They were unaware of the talents they already possessed.

p.p.s. I have attached a recent photo of myself for the family members who do not have facebook and have not seen me in a while.

p.p.p.s If the “This is Water” link was removed to copyright issues, then youtube “David Foster Wallace This is Water” and look for a 9 minute one.

SEGMENT TWO: My friend Mark Dombrowski is always asking me for colour…meaning he wants an update on what’s going on in my life.  This past month, so much has happened it required its own section.  Let me color you up shotgun style!

On May 21 I was laid off from the nuclear power plant and I couldn’t be more excited about it!  This is something I had seen coming for a long time and I’m happy to finally begin the next chapter of my life.  My only regret about the whole layoff process was I was unable to say goodbye to many of my coworkers.  I worked with a lot of great guys at San Onofre and it’s sad I will never see most of them again.  That being said, I will be at as many functions at Theirry Hosig’s house as possible.  People are always asking me what’s going on with the plant.  With the information I had on my last day there, I can give you my unofficial response of “one of the units will never start up again (Unit 3), and they’re looking to start up the other unit (Unit 2) sometime in July, but we’ll see what happens.”  I hope for the state of California they do get Unit 2 back online, but we’ll see how much trouble the anti-nukes raise.  Those misguided people irritate me, but I’m not going to get into that now.  On the day I was laid off I submitted my application to Bethel University for Seminary school this fall semester.  If all goes well I’ll be back at school in September to begin the 2-3 year process of obtaining my Master of Arts in Ministry Practice!  I have booked a one way ticket to Alaska which departs on June 9th.  I’m flying up to visit my friend Justin Chaudoin who will be discharged from the Army on June 12th.  On that day we will begin our road trip through Alaska, across Canada, and down through the Pacific Northwest back to San Jose, CA.  I am really looking forward to that trip.  This time of year has been really busy for me in my role as Scholarship Chairperson for the Cabrillo Civic Club.  I’ve been running around attending many senior awards nights to give out the scholarships that were awarded.  A pleasant surprise was running into my old coworker Todd Farrand at one of the ceremonies.  This position is also giving me good practice at speaking to large amounts of people.  Last week I spoke to about a thousand!  I’ve never had issues speaking in front of large groups of people, but when a thousand people are looking at you, it’s only human to get a little nervous.  Speaking of the Cabrillo Club, last month was the big Portuguese Festa down in Point Loma.  Michael, Manny, and I had a tremendous amount of fun running the beer garden and seeing everyone come out.  Manny and I were like kids in a candy store.  It was great times.  The month of May also saw the conclusion of the Theodessy program I went through with some members from my church.  It was an eight month journey I’m extremely glad to have undertaken.  There were a lot of good things I was able to take away from the program, some even found its way into a few of these letters, but if I had to pick the two biggest take-a-ways they would be meditation/prayer and positive affirmation (giving and receiving); both were found to be extremely enriching.  In the beginning of May I ran a 5k out in Hawaii with Michael Cunningham.  We set out to run a time of 20 minutes, which I was skeptical of because I was not in shape and that sounded really fast, but as soon as the gun sounded we took off and both ended up running sub 20 mins!  I ran an 18:30 which truly surprised me.  That race has inspired me to train for the San Jose Rock and Roll half marathon coming up this fall.  I’ve always wanted to train for a road race in San Jose and this is the perfect time in my life to do it.  My goal is to run a 6 minute mile pace for the race, giving me a time of 1:18:00.  My friend and old teammate Aaron Jacobson will be my coach, even though he doesn’t know it yet. : )  I’m really excited about this because this is something I’ve had a vision about for a long time now and I’m finally taking action on it.  There is something to be said when you have a vision/goal, put the necessary work in to achieve it, and go after it will all you have.  I’m looking forward to it.

The last thing I will share with you this month is what I am looking forward to the most.  In Galatians 6:1-2, the Apostle Paul wrote “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  I feel a strong calling in these words and I’m excited to finally start helping as many people as I have the capacity to help.

July 2013:

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
-Aristotle

Greetings,

I pray this letter finds you well and in good spirits.  If you live in California, I hope you have been able to enjoy this phenomenal weather we’ve been experiencing. That being said, find yourself a cozy spot in the shade because I feel this is going to be a long one.  Let’s get to it!

1) Were you able to do anything exciting or adventurous during the month of June?  Did you do anything spontaneous to free you from routine?
After being laid-off from the power plant I was able to purchase my one way ticket to Fairbanks and begin my Great Alaskan Adventure with Justin “Justice” Chaudion.  Justin was discharged from the Army on June 12 and on the 13th we began our road trip hauling all his belongings back to San Jose, CA.  I was looking forward to this trip for several reasons.  One, I was excited to see the raw virgin beauty of Mother Nature displayed across the great expanse of our 49th state; a place I’ve heard so much about, but have never visited.  Two, long road trips are always fun, especially when you have no time restraints or obligations.  The interesting characters one meets along the way, if nothing else, make for good stories and memories.  Lastly and most importantly, I was looking forward to spending quality time with my friend.  Justin and I have known each other since the sixth grade (20 years). It’s funny how you can know someone for so long, consider them a good friend, and still feel like you don’t truly know them.  Well, after 16 days, numerous U-turns, and 3,500 miles later, I can gladly say my understanding of who he is has greatly increased.  Our trip was awesome and in a few days, when I return to San Diego, you will be able to view pictures from it HERE.  (They will be public so you should be able to view them even if you don’t have a facebook account.)

2) Are you able to recognize when something special is happening?
There were many great things that happened during our road trip, but one of special interest occurred while we were at a karaoke bar in Vancouver. (Love me some good karaoke!)  A few songs into the night a cute little blonde stepped on stage and sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.  When I saw the song preview I remember thinking, “Who picks this song to sing at karaoke?  It’s a beautiful song, but come on.”  I was not looking forward to the suffering we were going to have to endure while we watched her butcher and fight her way through it, but then she started, and wasn’t half bad.  In fact, she was pretty good, so I sat back and enjoyed with a curious look on my face.  Somewhere in the middle of the song she started wailing and it was then when I realized I was witnessing something special.  Once she finished amazing the crowd she stepped off stage and humbly sat down, leaving everyone with goosebumps.  The MC went on to say how the performer (Tegan) was a contestant in the World Karaoke Circuit, which I didn’t know existed.  Here’s the funny part of the story.  After the MC finished educating the crowd on what they just witnessed she said, “Alright, up next we have Aaron!”  I was like, “You have got to be kidding me,” but I went up there and nailed it. : ) Tegan later went on to sing Con Te Partiro, which was just as amazing as her first song.

Along the same lines of musical excellence, one afternoon while Justice and I were people watching at a street cafe in Vancouver, we heard a beautiful flamenco guitar start playing.  We closed out our tab and pursued the sound to investigate.  What we found was a true gem.  It was a man from Tasmania playing the most beautiful music from a beat up old guitar.  He was incredible and the whole situation reminded me of the Joshua Bell story I shared with you all several months back about the million dollar musician playing in a NY subway.  Justin and I watched his whole set and bought his CD.  It was amazing.
The last story I will share with you comes from my friend Matt Falkner.  Matt is one of those unfortunate people who suffer from a mental disorder which tricks them into thinking triathlons are fun.  ; )  It is sad, however his ailment has allowed him to encounter some remarkable experiences.  Most recently he found himself as the lead bike for the elite runners in the San Diego Rock and Roll Half Marathon.  (For those of you who do not know what the lead bike is, it is a person on a bike who rides out in front of the runners to guide them on the right path.)  He told me “at around mile three one of the lead runners made a move and within a mile he had distanced himself a good quarter mile ahead of everyone else.”  He went on to say how people told him this would happen, but not until mile seven, so he thought this was a flare and that the guy would die and start slowing down, but the runner did just the opposite…he started speeding up!  He was running so fast Matt had to get “out of the saddle” and start pushing it on his bike.  At this point in our conversation I asked him, “Did you realize something special was happening?”  To which he responded, “I wasn’t sure what was going on.  All I remember thinking was ‘wow, this guy’s fast!’ ”  The runner that gave Matt the work out was Bernard Koech.  He ran 13.1 miles in 58 minutes and 41 seconds.  (That’s a 4:28 mile pace!)  Bernard’s time was 18 seconds off the world record and is the fastest half marathon that has ever been ran on US soil!  After hearing that story it almost discouraged me from training for my 1:18 half marathon in October; almost…
3) Who is someone who has made a positive impression and influence on your life and have you thanked them for it?

I spent a significant amount of time these past few months thinking about this question.  While many people pasted through my memory I kept returning to a face I hadn’t seen in years.  It was the face of my middle school librarian, Mark Corpuz.  When I look back on my life trying to figure out how I became the man I am today, I do not see how it could have been possible without the positive impression and influence Mark made on my life.  While his professional title was Librarian, Mark was so much more to the children he interacted with.  He was one of the first positive male role models I had in my life and he was definitely the first person, besides my mom (love you Mom), who encouraged me and entrusted me with responsibility and really mentored me in tremendous ways.  Early in June I spent a few days tracking him down and was able to reach him on the phone.  We had a great conversation and it felt good to express my gratitude to him for everything he did for me.  It was also great to give him positive affirmation in the way he was carrying out his life.  I cannot encourage you enough to do this for yourself.  The joy you’ll receive will abound and you’ll bless the life of the person you share your gratitude with.  Let me know how it goes. : )

4) How amazing of a story will you believe before requiring proof?
The answer will vary depending on several different variables such as: Who’s telling you the story, how many people are verifying it, what your personal experience has been, etc.  The following is a miracle I would like to share with you:

An inmate at Donovan whom I will call Brother C was miraculously healed of advanced testicular cancer. For many months he received chemo therapy with no improvement.  His once healthy body of thirty-four years dropped to below 140 lbs., with obvious signs of disease and deterioration.  He was told by the doctors that nothing more could be done.  Surgery revealed that the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes.  His cell mate who happened to be a Christian tried to share Christ with inmate C, but because of his many years as a devout Muslim he would have nothing to do with Jesus.  So his cell mate forged a visiting document and sent it to his mother who lives in Egypt.  Upon receiving the word she came to California and paid Inmate C a surprised and unexpected visit.  Being that he had no family and had not submitted a visitors form for anyone to visit him, he was shocked when he was called to visiting.  His cell mate’s mother greeted him and after some small conversation asked him if he believed God had the power to heal him.  “Of course Allah has the power to heal me,” he quickly answered. She replied, “No!  Not Allah; Jesus.”  Inmate C stated he didn’t believe in Jesus and held fast to Allah.  “Do you mean to tell me that you’d rather die with cancer than to let The Lord Jesus Christ heal you?”  He said he was astounded by her boldness and reluctantly submitted himself to her prayer.  The following morning he was awakened with a burning sensation throughout his body.  He knew at that moment that Jesus had healed him.  He gave his life to Christ and has been walking and testifying of his healing to all of the men in the prison, especially the Muslims.  He has personally brought several of them to service and continues to be a powerful witness to the glory and power of God.  Two weeks after his healing he returned to medical.  After tests were conducted it was determined there was no trace of cancer in his body.  The doctor declared, “I am a man of science, but now I am a man of faith, for this is truly a miracle.”

I have the pleasure and privilege of talking to Inmate C every time I volunteer and can tell you I believe his story, as incredible as it is, just from his word and what others have said around the prison.  What do you think?  What do you need to believe?  Would you need to meet this man to judge his character for yourself?  Is I vouching for his story enough or would you need others?  How many people would it take telling you the story is real; that they were there and experienced the whole process and can vouch for everything?  Is there any number that would make you believe, or would you need more substantial proof like talking with the doctor and reviewing Inmate C’s medical files, seeing the before and after data?  You do not hear about these stories all the time, but just because they are not common doesn’t mean they can’t happen.

5) How often do you ask yourself why?
This is possibly the single most important question you could ever ask yourself: Why am I doing (fill in the blank)?

Why are you doing what you do?  Why are you trying to accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish?  If you don’t know why you’re doing something it becomes much more difficult to continue doing it when times get hard.  Many people lately have been asking me why I’m going into seminary school to become a minister.  The answer is simple: When I talk to people about God; when I sit around and listen to them tell me about everything he is doing in their life and share likewise; when I’m able to learn more about who he is and share that knowledge with those who question to know; when I spend my time doing that, everything else becomes gray and loses importance.  Maya Angelou once said, “When you learn, teach.  When you get, give.”  Doing just that about God has been the only thing that gives me color and brings vibrant energy into my life.  Do you have something similar in your life?  In a conversation with a friend the other day I heard the phrase, “I have never held a job I liked.”  I remember thinking to myself, “How sad is that?”  Do you find yourself in a similar situation?  If you do not have anything which is bringing color into your life I encourage you to keep searching.  What you seek is just around the corner.  In her commencement speech to the graduating class at Harvard, Oprah concluded by encouraging the class of 2013 with this quote from Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  Amen.

With Enduring Love,

Aaron Buttery

p.s. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” -Proverbs 18:2  Pay attention to the times you speak in groups.  How often do you speak only to express your opinion? How often do you listen and fully understand all that is going on around you?
p.p.s. A prayer I came across in my readings: God, I offer myself to you–to build with me and to do with me as you will.  Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do thy will.  Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of they power, thy love, and thy way of life.  May I do thy will always.

August 2013:

Hello,

As always, I pray this letter finds you well and that you were able to enjoy an amazing July.  For me, July was good and filled with many adventures.  Most notable was my camping trip to Pinecrest with my buddies RJ Saunders and Kash Lau.  Growing up my family use to go camping there all the time.  It’s interesting how our lens changes as we get older and how things we once saw as children now look different as adults.  A very close second was the Fourth of July block party we had with our neighbors.  My sister Doreen, Justin Chaudoin, and Kash all flew into town and we had a great time playing music, cooking, and competing in the BAD Biddle Street Relays.

I had prepared a whole list of topics to discuss this month, but after this past week and the events which transpired therein, I have become disenchanted and feel led to write solely about what has been weighing on my heart most recently and pressing.

Yesterday I had the privilege of having two fantastic conversations; one with Amy Beeman and another with Jordan Johnson. Although the topics varied, the weights of the conversations were the same.  This made me think:

What are the building blocks for a meaningful conversation?

After asking several people that question I began to note the common themes; those being a willingness to engage, having an open mind, active listening, transparency, raw honesty, security in confidentiality, etc.  The conversations I had with Amy and Jordan really made me think about the importance of having meaningful conversations in our lives.  I can’t speak for the two of them, but I know I felt incredible after each talk.  There was a voice which seemed to shout from the depths of my soul which said, “YES! Finally,” as if one being deprived of some essential life force and finally being able to absorb its quenching powers.  While I understand how unpractical it is for all of our conversations to be meaningful, I do see how incredibly shallow most of our conversations have become.  I challenge you this month to find a few people to open up too; dive in deep and peel back the layers of the onion of your life.  Your spirit; your soul; the aspect of yourself underlying and determining all your attitudes, choices, thoughts, and behavior–the very core of your personality, the very heart of your person, the most fundamental aspect of your being will thank you.  I guarantee it.

After a run and breakfast with Neil Kalra early last month, Neil asked me a question I had never heard before.  While giving him options on ways to get back to his house he asked, “Where’s the fire?”  I didn’t understand at first because I had never heard that phrase before, but then I realized what he was talking about.  What’s the urgency?  Many times since that morning I have been asking myself, “Where’s the fire?”  It reminds me to calm down, to relax, to enjoy.

Yesterday was my brother Michael’s 29th birthday.  We celebrated a great day together with some family and friends.  It was good to spend time with him.  Even though we live together, between his traveling for work and my traveling for pleasure, it feels like we rarely get to spend any quality time together.  This upcoming month Michael and I will be the only people living in our house.  I am really looking forward to using this next season to strengthen our relationship.  Even though we have been living together for the past several years, our meaningful conversations have been fewer than they ought.  It goes to show how easy it is to take the things and the people nearest you for granted.

You are in my thoughts more often than you know.  Keep me in your prayers.  You will be in mine.

Love,

Aaron Buttery

P.S. I’m always open for conversation, either in person or on the phone.  408-655-6470

September 2013:

Greetings,

I pray this letter and fine weather find you well.  How was your month of August?  Were you able to engage in any meaningful conversations?  Did you find yourself needlessly rushing and have the presence of mind to ask, “Where’s the fire?”  Back in July my brother Michael made a “big boy” move and leased a new car; a beautiful red Chevy Volt.  I was very proud of him for this and it inspired me to pull a similar trigger.  A little over a month ago I finally traded in my 99 Honda Accord, with 204,000 miles, and bought a 2010 Mazda 3 (2.5L).  I have been extremely happy with my purchase and have been thoroughly enjoying my new toy.  Another thing I highly enjoyed this past month was my four day backpack camping trip with Daniel Ching and Justin Chaudoin out in the wilderness of the northern Yosemite National Forrest.  We had a tremendous amount of fun, not so much on the 10 mile hike out to the camp site, but in enjoying the lakes, the camp fires, the quietness, and the beauty we found ourselves surrounded by once we reached our destination.  Sandwiching that camping trip, I was able to spend some time enjoying all of my friends in San Jose, which is always a blessing.  This past week I spent outside the country, but I’ll get to that trip later in this letter.

Classes start for my seminary school this Tuesday and I couldn’t be more excited to begin this next great chapter of my life.  The graduate school offers several different tracks of focus, of which I have decided to take the Master of Divinity.  This track is the most in-depth, longest, and most expensive, but will give me the foundation to do whatever I want in the ministry field upon completion.  The program will take three years to complete and cost around $50,000.  When I made the decision half a year ago to make this career change, to leave a career where I was making well into six figures for one that was uncertain and modest at best, I took a leap of faith that God would provide.  What is truly amazing has been discovering the ways He intends to do that.  Between a scholarship I have found and a conversation with my friend Bernard Guanio on federal student loans, I have discovered a way to pay for my schooling with very little out of pocket spending.  This process has been affirming, encouraging, a blessing, and what’s most exciting is that it’s only the beginning!

Just today, a good friend of mine sent me an email with a bunch of questions I would like to share with all of you.  They are great questions and I would like to share my answers.  I hope you enjoy:

Why do you have to pay to go to seminary school?  Isn’t everything you need to know in the bible?  Can’t you use all that money to start your own church now?  Why spend 3 years in a school when you can be spreading the word to the masses now?  I’m HIGHLY against organized religion.  I don’t need to go to church to have a relationship with god so I’m just curious why you have to go to a school to be able to preach when you already seem to be able to spread love, joy, and hope now.

It is true “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17  I realize I just used the Bible to prove its own validity, which is not a good tactic for logic, but it will have to suffice for this letter because to go into why we can believe the historic truth of the Bible and how it is God inspired would take a whole letter in and of itself and I can’t do that today.  If you’re interested in all that you can either call me or Google it.  Given the passage in second Timothy, the question then is not whether a passage of Scripture applies to us, but how.  The Bible is not a book.  It’s a library.  Thought it wasn’t written to us, it was written for us.  Learning to apply the Bible means moving from the “to them” to the “for us”…the challenge of application.  God spoke through human beings, using human language, adopting literary forms common to their time and place, and addressing specific historical and social situations.  To apply the Bible appropriately to our lives, we must first interpret it rightly with reference to its original audience, entering into the very different world of the text.  This entails understanding how language works, how various literary forms function (as narrative, prophecy, poetry, proverb, etc.), and how the human authors address specific life situations.  There are many misconceptions about the bible–even among Christians.  For example, the Bible is not a “magic-answer” book for decision making in life.  Nor, at its heart, is it a list of commands to obey, promises to claim, a systematic textbook on theology ethics, nor does it claim to be an all-encompassing history of creation.  Rather, the Bible is God’s story, the drama of redemption, setting out the fundamental problem and solution to humanity’s dilemma.  The Bible teaches us who God is, who we are in relationship to him and to one another, and what his purpose is for us and for the world.  As I grow in my knowledge of what it means to be part of God’s story, I will learn to make good and godly decisions, which will help me be a better minister.  These are the reasons why I have to go to seminary school; to understand this fundamental knowledge and to learn how to read the bible correctly.  It is true I could spend a lifetime trying to figure this out on my own, but why reinvent the wheel?  I’d rather pay others who have already done that to show me the way.  Plus, it’s not like I’m using my money anyway.  God has provided the funds for me to pursue the path he has laid out before me.  All I need to do is keep walking.

I can understand why my friend and many like him are “HIGHLY against organized religion.”  Throughout history there have been many troubling issues with organized religions and the problems they have caused.  The root of the blunder, of all blunders to be exact, stems from the fact that everything we encounter involves man, who is sinful in nature and needs grace, mercy, and sanctification.  Many atrocities have been made which give organized religion a bad rap, but that doesn’t mean we throw the baby out with the bath water.  There is a tremendous amount good organized religions do for the world and for the communities they are a part of.  It is true you do not have to go to church to have a relationship with God, but it is a great place to meet godly people to encourage you, to walk along side and fellowship and disciple with you, to find people who can mentor you, etc.  God’s church is not a place, but a who.  It is the people who make up the church and because of that, church can be found anywhere there is a community of faith.  It is true faith is a solo thing between you and God, but we were not made to live solitary, isolated lives, but rather were intended to thrive among others in community; in church.

I watched a very interesting TED talk the other day by Philip Zimbardo on The Psychology of Evil.  In it he explored the power of situations to try to understand why/how good people do bad things.  He said, “Situations have the power to do three things.  The very same situation that can influence the hostile imagination, in those who become perpetrators, of evil can also inspire the heroic imagination in others, or render most people passive bystanders and guilty of the Evil of Inaction.”  He gets into how most people, when placed in the right environment, are fully capable and in fact do evil deeds.  I think about this a lot when I work with the guys down at the prison.  I often find myself wondering if I was in their shoes, would I have made the same decisions.  If I was immersed in their culture and didn’t have the accumulation of advantage I was blessed with; if I fully experienced what they had to experience and endure what they had to endure, would I make the same decisions they made?  My pride tells me no, but my spirit knows otherwise.  It’s a sad thing to think about and makes me grateful for the life I have lived.  Philip finishes his talk on the banality of heroism, which states “heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary moral deeds in certain situations.”  The bottom line is anyone can be a hero.  We’re all heroes in waiting.  We just need to seize the opportunity, to have the courage to not be passive, and to use wisdom to make the right choice.  Alexander Solzenitsyn said, “The line between good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”  We each will be placed in situations where we will have the opportunity to make a choice.  How will you be a hero this month?

What is the greatest honor?  Is another very interesting clip I came across last month which boils down to a similar conclusion…ordinary people doing the right thing.  This past week I had the opportunity to step alongside ten ordinary men, to do a good thing, and witness an extraordinary result.  From August 23-31, I and ten other men from my church went to Haiti on a mission trip.  We worked with Children of the Nations (COTN), a fantastic organization which partners with nationals to provide holistic, Christ-centered care for orphaned and destitute children, enabling them to create positive and lasting change in their nations.  The goal of the trip was to construct a foundation for a church and a roof for a school.  We accomplished this goal, but in the process accomplished much more.  I only really knew one out of the ten guys going into the trip.  What was awesome was how well everyone got along and how well we worked together as a team during the project.  I am only one day removed from the group, but I already miss them and all of the joking around we did.  The physical work we did was very hard and strenuous, but no one ever complained.  It was amazing how humid it was and how much we all sweated, but the heat wasn’t so bad.  The food was incredibly delicious and the scenery was surprisingly beautiful, like the people.  When I was studying up on Haiti and reading about the devastation of the earthquake, the extreme poverty, and their rampant deforestation, I had pictured a destroyed version of Tijuana; a dirty, trashy, muddy, concrete village of hopelessness.  This could not have been further from the truth.  The country was beautiful and reminded me of Hawaii.  There was still trash and obvious signs of poverty, but there was beauty and hope to be found in its mist.  It was like dumping TJ on Hawaii.  My favorite part about the whole trip, besides all the horse play with the guys, was our interactions with the translators and with the children.  I have been familiar with COTN for several years because I sponsor a child with them, but this was the first time I have ever been able to see how they run their program and interact with the children.  Reading about how their program works is one thing, but seeing it and experiencing it was something completely different.  It was absolutely amazing.  I told my mom this trip was the best thing I have ever done.  It was incredible and the reasons why lie somewhere between the great men who joined me, the beautiful people we met, and everyone’s faith in God and the good works he is doing in all of our lives.  If you have never checked out COTN’s website, I encourage you to spend some time on it to see all the good things they are doing.  And if you have never thought about sponsoring a child, I encourage you to consider it.  It is only $32 a month.  I realize for some of you this might not be possible, but for many of you it is.  It is a great feeling you get when you realize you can provide a future and a life for a child who would otherwise not have one, especially for so small a sacrifice as $32 a month.  I do not write this to guilt any of you, only to make you aware of an opportunity to be a tremendous blessing in someone’s life, to give you the opportunity to save a life.  If you feel moved to sponsor a child let me know.  I was able to meet several adorable children in Haiti who are in desperate need of a sponsor and it would be my absolute pleasure to help make that happen.  “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” -2 Corinthians 13:14

With Love,

Aaron Buttery

p.s. Some Bible verses I came across which relate to last month’s letter and the topic of meaningful conversations:

Matthew 12:38  I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Ephesians 4:29  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

p.p.s.  A good prayer by Michel Quoist:

“See that at no time I forget Your presence.  I don’t ask You to bless what I have decided to do, but give me the grace to discover and to live what You have dreamed for me.”

**God wants so much more for us than to just be good people.  He dreams of using us to bring His blessing to others.  He allows us to play integral parts in His story of redemption, if we are willing.**

October 2013:

Hello,

Today, by the grace of God, I am one year sober.  (What an incredible journey it has been!)  A few weeks ago I was reading the Pure Desire letter I sent out this time last year, which described my reasons for undertaking my challenge.  While reading my words, I found myself thinking and remembering where I was in life when I wrote them.  My mind made a survey of the year that had passed; took an assessment of who and where I am now; and was overcome with joy, amazement, and wonder.  It is true, I have learned many things this past year about myself and my old habitual drinking; how I would drink simply because it was Friday, or because I was bored, or starting a vacation.  I was fully subscribed to the lie that alcohol enhanced every situation and hence, should be used often and regularly.  When I began this endeavor I had no idea what I would find or learn along the way.  I had no idea what would be at the end or if I would even get there.  All I knew was I was unhappy and needed to make a change.  Well a change I made, and thank God for that, for now I can honestly say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been…and it’s only getting better!  **A quick note on that: While the statement “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been” is true and accurate, that doesn’t mean I walk around every day kissing rainbows and farting sunshine.  I still have my unpleasant moments and bad days, which none of us are immune.  In fact, just two nights ago, on the night of my 31st birthday, I was laying in bed feeling absolutely awful.  (It was the worst I’ve felt since my last birthday when I swore off alcohol.)  As I laid there a million thoughts were racing through my mind, the biggest was “why do I feel like this?”  My first reaction was to get up and go for a run, which is what I normally do when I want to process/escape thoughts and/or purge my body, which both felt needed to be done, but then I thought, “That’s strange.  Why do I feel such a strong impulse to go run right now?”  I realized because that was my comfort zone, my go to, my safe place.  I’ve been running my whole life, physically and figuratively, and where has all that running led me?  Right there, alone in my bed, feeling like shit.  So, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t run.  I took the invitation to sit in my discomfort.  It is too soon to share what was found there, but it was good.

None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t taken the time to make an honest assessment of who and where I was.  Do you take the time to analyze your general wellbeing?  This should be an active process under continuous construction and constant review.  “Even if you’re on the right track you’ll still get run over if you just sit there.”  At all times we should be trying to discover what we want and don’t want, what we are willing to do or not do, what we can do or cannot do, and what energizes us or what depletes us.  The process starts with discovering your desires, solidifies upon the resolve of your will, and renders complete upon the follow through of your actions.

People often ask me, “So what’s next?  Are you going to go back to drinking?  Maybe just in moderation?”  My honest answer is I don’t know.  I have some thoughts, but those will be decided one day at a time, one situation at a time.  What I can say is currently I do not have the desire to drink, so why do it?  I’ll keep on riding this wave until it’s seen its course.

In my Pure Desire letter I named sexual purity as one of the main reasons for undertaking my year of sobriety.  While acting out is now a relic of the past, there is still substantial work that needs to be done in my mind.  Years of feeding the beast, with its insatiable appetite, has caused substantial pollution to my train of thought.  Serious rewiring needs to be done and is currently underway.  In July I began meeting with a group of men to help me with this process.  They have been an incredible blessing in my life and I’m extremely thankful for them and the process I’m going through.

Seminary school is going very well.  All of my free time in the week is spent on studying and reading, but it’s not so bad because it is really interesting.  I’ve been getting A’s on all of my test, so the studying has been paying off.  (That’s always nice, but not a guarantee.)  I’m taking three classes: Old Testament Survey (an outline/overview of the Old Testament), Chaplaincy in Contemporary Society (self explanatory), and Hermeneutics, which is a scholarly word for biblical interpretation.  What is encouraging is my chaplaincy class is by far my favorite class.  This is exciting because the whole reason for me going to seminary school is because I want to become a Chaplain, so it’s good that lines up.  I’ve been learning a lot in school and will probably send out a page report at the end of each semester with some cool insights discovered within that time.

Back in August I had the privilege of watching my friend Michael Cunningham purpose to my friend Amy Beeman.  It was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever witnessed and it happened like so: There were about two dozen candles lit under the moon and stars when she stepped out into the backyard to meet the love of her life.  As she appeared he began to play one of the most beautiful melodies a violin has ever produced.  She went out to meet him and stood there in the middle of the glistening lawn, admiring him in his hansom suit.  Sometime between her emergence and the last note of the song, rose pedals began to drift down from the night sky, as if to accompany the crickets to the pulse of the song.  One by one they glided effortlessly, creating a bed atop the evening dew.  As I stood behind the curtain, watching her watch him, my eyes did not see what they ought, but instead saw a girl and a boy.  It was simple and innocent, yet very profound.  On one side I saw a girl standing before a boy she deeply loved in complete joy with sheer excitement and transfixed amazement.  On the other side I saw a boy who had worked so hard for this moment, to express to the girl how much she meant to him and what lengths he’d be willing to go just to make her happy.  I was deeply moved and tears welled up in my eyes.  When the song had ended he spoke a few words, then dropped to one knee, extended his hand and waited.  At that very moment an angel lowered a ring from the heavens into the palm of his hand.  He took the ring and asked for her hand in marriage.  She said yes!  A fanfare was played and champagne was poured.  It was beautiful.  Since that night, Michael and Amy have asked me to marry them.  I told them I would love to.  It is an incredible honor to marry someone and I feel blessed they asked me.  This will be the second wedding I have performed, second to Eric and Jackie Rogers (love you guys!), and I’m really looking forward to it!  I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

I leave you with this final thought.  A few months ago there was a survey done by a group who went around to people 95 years or older and asked them, “If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?”  The responses varied, but the number one theme was “I would have risked more.”  I find this very inspiring.  We all can relate to the regrets of not taking certain actions when we had the chance.  How does this survey speak to you?  Where do you need to take a risk?  Is it at your job or in your personal life?  Is it with a family member or friend?  Is it asking that one person out or is it with a change of lifestyle you need to make?  Where do you feel the invitation?  Remember, there is a difference between taking a risk and being stupid.  Taking a risk means putting yourself out there, not shouting YOLO and trying to run across a freeway or throwing 10 grand on red.  Our lives, each and every single day are full of opportunities, full of risk.  The question is, what are you going to do with it?  What kind of life do you want to live?  A day will come when the risk to remain in a bud will be more painful than the risk it takes to blossom.  What’s stopping you?  What’s holding you back?  Is your life a life that is marked by flowers or one that’s marked by buds; one with a bunch of potential, but nothing to show for it?  I encourage you this month to make a self assessment; to risk action; to blossom.  I cannot promise what you find will be pleasant, but I can say you’ll emerge with a deeper understanding of what it feels to be alive, and that alone make it all worth while.

With Love and Risking With You,

Aaron Anthony

p.s. Do NOT do, lest your relationship with God go askew:

  1. Let memory fail you.
  2. Let vanity possess you.
  3. Let prosperity intoxicate you.
  4. Let security deceive you.

p.p.s. While I was on my mission trip to Haiti during the end of August, my friend Greg who went on the trip with me wrote up a report which went into a few of the details of the trip.  I have attached it to this email for those who are interested in reading more about our trip.

November 2013:

Blessings to you and your family!

Warning: This is a long one, but if you stick with it I promise you will not be disappointed.

Happy All Hallows!  Today is a very special day in my life.  It is a day I look forward to commemorating every year because it marks the day I made a commitment to turn my life around.  (We’ll get more into this later.)  How was your October?  I hope it was wonderful and that you were able to enjoy a safe and exciting All Hallows Eve.  Were you able to identify an area in your life where you felt you were being invited to take more risk?  Did you take it?  If so, how did it turn out for you?  What did you learn?  My October was good and can be summed up in two words: Kairos Marathon.  Before I get into the meaning of those words we must take a journey into the past…

Did you ever compete in high school sports?  If so, how competitive were you?  If you were competitive, where did this competitiveness come from?  Was it an internal drive or was it a seed planted by a coach?  When it came to track and field I was extremely competitive.  If you were from another school and you toed the starting line in my race you were automatically enemy number one.  While my coach played a significant part in the construction of this fabricated animosity, and while I’m sure school pride played some role, my own interior drive to be the best added its fair share of fuel to the fire.  I defeated many opponents, but there were some I never beat; this only stacked my animosity even higher.  Like Clubber Lang in Rocky III, I would head hunt in my work outs against the lead runners of other schools.  Sadly and amazingly, I carried this animosity almost all the way through my high school career.  It wasn’t until mid-track season of my senior year when I realized, “These kids from these other schools; these kids who I have all this animosity for; they’re just like me.  All they’re trying to do is run the fastest they can.”  Once I graduated high school and moved on to community college I was stoked to become teammates with many of the runners I used to be enemies with.  It was amazing because I felt like I was part of a dream team.  I give you all this history to tell you the story of my interactions with one of these fellow runners and how our relationship has evolved through time.

In high school Eduardo “Eddie” Alaniz was enemy number one.  He ran for a rival high school in my league and was one of the fastest runners in the Silicon Valley, which meant he always beat me.  In team meetings the day before our track meets my coach would conjure up schemes to prevent Eddie from scoring points.  They never worked.  Eddie would win the 1/2 mile, the mile, and the 2 mile!   In my senior year my animosity toward Eddie turned to respect, but I still didn’t talk to him.  When I went to West Valley for community college, Eddie went to San Jose City Community College (our rival), so we still didn’t talk.  It wasn’t until one day, many years later, when I found myself sitting around my house thinking, “I wonder what Eddie is up to these days?”  Well I found him on Facebook, we started talking, and now we are good friends.  It’s amazing how that happens!  We go on runs now whenever I am back in the Bay Area.  Our runs have become one of the things I look forward to whenever I return home.  On our first run together (photo attached), after I had shared all of this with Eddie he said, “You know what’s funny?  Coach Nelson did the same thing.  He’d say, ‘Ok, here’s how we’re gonna stop the Butterys from scoring points.'”  I got a kick out of that and thought, “I wonder how universal this phenomenon is?”  After talking with friends about this animosity towards competitors in high school sports, I have realized it is a completely universal issue across all sports.  Teenagers in high school do many things, but when you boil it all down each one is trying to discover who they are.  They fight to prove themselves; to create a niche among the masses; each one searching for their identity.  Running and being a runner has been my identity for most of my life.

This next paragraph is embarrassing to write, but I feel compelled to share.  Post college I foolishly clang to my running identity.  I would sign on Facebook and see all these “posers” gloat about their races and think, “These guys aint shit.  I’m gonna train for a race and show them how slow they are.”  Terrible.  I know.  But that’s where I was at.  The funny thing is I’m not even that fast.  Sure a non-runner would think I’m fast, but any quality runner would see I’m completely average.  Due to life circumstances I was unable to sign up for a race for several years.  In that time my attitude changed, however there was still a part of me that wouldn’t let go.  In June I signed up to run the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon, which I ran on October 6th.  I was excited because this was going to be my first road race in my home town.  I wanted to take it seriously and train to thrown down a fast time; partly for me, but mainly to show off.  Throughout my training this past summer I constantly wrestled this interior demon.  I knew I didn’t have pure motives, but I also had a personal goal I wanted to achieve.  For weeks I struggled with the question of “Why do I run?”  This is what I realized: I run because I enjoy it.  I enjoy moving through nature, the elements, the satisfaction of exerting myself, and many other aspects.  I’ve been doing it for so long my body actually gets irritated and cranky when I go for prolonged periods without it.  While pondering the question I had a powerful moment of understanding.  I realized I had been placing too much of my identity into this concept of a runner and it was time to let go.  It is never easy letting go of something you’ve held onto for so long, in fact it is probably impossible unless you find something new to hold onto.

Who are you?  How do you identify yourself?  Do you even know?  There are some people who try to create their identity; forging it through the sweat and blood of their efforts.  These people painstakingly strive after activities which produce the effects of the identity they’re trying to personify.  A warning to those who find themselves in this lot: Your path ends in failure and despair.  Our identity was meant to be received, not achieved.  It is only when we let our identity determine our activity, instead of vice versa, when we are able to move forward with a peace of understanding and direction which brings fulfillment.  Some of you might be thinking, “What do you mean my identity needs to be received?  What if I truly don’t know my identity?  And didn’t you say in a previous letter I need to go out and DO things if I’m not sure what my calling is?”  These are all great questions, to which I shall do my best to answer.  First, we each were born for a purpose and with that an internal compass to guide us toward that purpose.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)  Accepting, embracing, and owning this purpose is what it means to receive your identity.  Sure you can go out a create an identity contrary to your calling, but you will become unhappy and ultimately unfulfilled.  Second, if you do not know what your calling is, then you need to go out and try new things until you come across it.  When you do you will surely know without a shadow of a doubt. Going out and trying new things to find your identity is different from going out and doing things to create your identity.  Which of these paths are you on?

As I mentioned in my introduction, today is the day I decided to turn my life around.  Several years ago I made a commitment to God I would clean up my act and pursue a more holy path.  Little did I know at the time where that would lead me.  Here I am now in seminary school pursuing a career in prison ministry.  I have accepted my identity as a minister of God and I couldn’t be happier!  The following is a verse I like to read to remind myself every once and awhile. “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you–from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)  Moving forward, I now make my decisions with this knowledge of who I am and who I want to become.  Not who I want to become to fulfill some fantasy or for boasting, but such as I know who I’m called to be and I recognize there are gaps from that to who I am now.  Are your current decisions constructive or destructive to your identity?

The ancient Greeks had two words to express the concept of time.  The first word was chronos, which denotes sequential time, the ever-passing second to minute to hour, etc.  The second word was kairos, which was used to describe God’s special time, or the time in which God acts.  Twice a year R.J. Donovan state penitentiary runs a program called Kairos. The program targets 36 men of negative influence, shot callers, gang leaders, etc. and invites them to chapel for four days.  During this time the men eat cookies, listen to talks, eat cookies, have discussions, make posters, eat cookies, and are loved on.  Most of the men have no idea what the program is about and come solely for the cookies.  Keep in mind, most of these men haven’t had a cookie in 15 years!  On the first day we ask the men, most of whom never stepped foot in a church, to grant us their willingness to listen and engage with an open mind.  Throughout the four days ten talks were given.  They started with a talk on choices, then moved to such topics as friendship, forgiveness, spiritual habits, and grace.  The following are a few things I took away from the talks:

You get to choose how to spend your time and what kind of person you want to be.

Past choices affect your future, but you get to choose how.

God’s doors to you are and always have been open.

By not making a choice, you make a choice.

We have been given directions (The Bible). When all else fails, read the directions

God loves us.  Spirituality is how we love back.

Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison in the hope that they’ll die.

The Lord does not protect me from what he can perfect me through.

The theme of Kairos was Love Love Listen Listen.

You have two ears and one mouth; use in proportion.

One of the more powerful events during the weekend was the forgiveness ceremony.  As you can imagine forgiveness is something extremely important to these men (it is important to all of us, but carries special weight with them).  In this ceremony the men were given an opportunity to write the names of individuals they needed to forgive on a piece of paper.  Then they were invited to step up to a bin and drop the paper in to see it dissolve before their eyes, symbolizing forgiveness and letting go.  As I sat there trying to think who I was going to write on my piece of paper I drew a blank.  I do not hold resentment toward anyone and ever since I forgave my dad many years ago for all he put my family through and ever since I accepted God’s forgiveness for my sins, forgiveness comes easy to me.  So there I was, staring at my blank piece of paper when all of a sudden I thought of a name I hadn’t thought of before.  I needed to forgive myself.  God had forgiven me, but I hadn’t.  There are many things we beat ourselves up over and we need to learn to let them go.  As I stood there watching my paper dissolve, a lightness washed over me.  All of the should of, could of, would ofs of my past were gone; they weren’t forgotten, but they no longer burdened my soul. One of the biggest things I forgave myself for was breaking the hearts of two significant women from my past.

The climax of the Kairos weekend for me arrived in the receiving of the cross ceremony.  In this ceremony the men were invited up and those who wished received a cross and acknowledged Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  It was a very powerful ceremony and emotions ran high as man after man accepted the love and grace of God.  It was amazing to see the incredible transformation these men had made in just four days!  Since I was new, I too was excited to go up and receive my cross.  Pastor Roger was the man performing the ceremony.  He would say, “Jesus is counting on you,” and if you believed in Jesus, then your response was “And I’m counting on Jesus/Him.”  When it was my time I approached Roger with watery eyes and a tight mouth.  We met with a solid hand shake that would have made any diplomatic treaty signer proud.  Our hand shake said, “Welcome!  It’s good to see you.”  As we stood before each other, looking eye to eye, I lost it and broke down as Roger stated teary eyed with a quiver, “Jesus is counting on you.”  At that moment I was so overwhelmed with emotion I couldn’t speak, but somehow I managed to utter the most frail words to have ever passed through my lips.  After he placed the cross around my neck we embraced with a hug that said, “I love you.  Welcome to the business.”  A few minutes later, during the weekend closing ceremony, the inmates were invited up to the mic to share their thoughts about their experience during the past four days.  As I sat there listening to these men pour out their hearts on how they were resurrected from darkness to a new life, I became absolutely certain of my call to prison ministry.  There is nothing more important, more life bringing, than finding and stepping into your true identity.

We are each running our own race. We all want to be part of a “Dream Team”…to be a part of something great.  A lie we hear when we are young is “you can be anything you want to be.”  The truth is you cannot be anything you want to be, but you can be a whole lot more of who you already are.  Do you know who you are?  Do you know your worth, that you are a treasure of immense value with the capability of influencing and changing lives?  Do you know you are someone who is loved and accepted, even with all of your quirks and scars?  Do you realize the talents you have been given?  I was talking to a friend the other day who said the only thing they’re good at is pounding beer.  I quickly told them that wasn’t true and how there were many ways they blessed the world.  Are you able to see the ways in which you bless the world?  Is there an area you are feeling challenged to step into for positive impact?  Are you carrying around excess baggage; things which you need to let go of; things which are hindering you from stepping into your true identity?  Owning your identity is not for the faint of heart.  It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.  E.E. Cummings puts it like this, “To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight.”  I pray you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  There is much to be thankful for.

With Love,

Aaron Buttery

p.s. I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has call you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.  -Ephesians 1:16-18

p.p.s The following is a prayer Mother Teresa use to enjoy:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

p.p.p.s. Pray as though everything depends on God (it does).  Work as though everything will depend on you (it will).

p.p.p.p.s. “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis

p.p.p.p.p.s. I have attached a one page report from Pastor Roger which further describes the events of Kairos.

p.p.p.p.p.p.s. I hope that was long enough for you Nick Gudger. ; )

December 2013:

Season’s Greetings,

I hope you were able to enjoy a good Thanksgiving last week and that you were able to reflect on and express you gratitude for the things you are thankful for (if you didn’t, it’s not too late).  I always love this time of year because the charged air stirs strong emotions within me.  For example, a few weeks ago I randomly awoke at 4am completely ready to start my day.  For one reason or another, I was feeling poetic and decided to write.  The following is what found its way to my notebook:
When the heart stirs
And rest can no longer be found
It’s best to write
Till the rise of the morning star

It’s nothing fancy, but it does possess a few tricks the casual eye might miss upon first pass. ; )  I love writing and all the liberation art gives to the soul in allowing it to express emotion.  One of my favorite avenues for allowing me to experience emotion lies in the realm of musical theater.  I’m a complete sucker for musicals.  I can’t help it.  I’ve been hooked ever since I played French horn in the pit orchestra of my high school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof.  Side Note: I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this with anyone, but if it wasn’t for my great interest in physics, I would have pursued a degree in music.  Sometimes I wonder what my life would look like if I had chosen that path…what kind of shows would I be playing?  What kind of people would I have met?  It’s fun to think about that kind of stuff every once and awhile, but it’s important not to get too wrapped up in it, so back to musical productions… Being British, there are a few things my brother and I do to uphold tradition and culture.  One of them is to drink tea on a regular basis; another is to watch Mary Poppins.  This past July, our friend Brittany “Barbary Coast” Barber, knowing how fanatical Michael and I are about Poppins, informed us of Saving Mr. Banks and its release on Christmas day.  We couldn’t be more excited as we eagerly count down the days till Christmas!  This will be the second Christmas in a row where I’ll be going to the movies (last year I saw Les Miserables).  Unlike most people, I was not disappointed with last year’s remake of Les Miserables.  It wasn’t the best, but it still had plenty of great moments.  When I want the best, when my heart aches for its fix of musical sensation, I watch One Day More.  It is great on its own, but is ten times better when you know the story.  There are a lot of people in the world who do not like the story of Les Miserables; they say it’s too depressing.  To them I ask, “What did you think it was going to be about when you saw the title?”  True there are a lot of sad things that happen in the story, but that’s life, and like life, the key to finishing the movie with a sense of joy lies in perspective and focus.

This past month I had the privilege of receiving two wonderful emails from Stephen Johnson.  The first one was a list of the 18 things people should make time for in their lives.  Most of it is stuff you may have seen floating around social media, but it never hurts to see again.  I encourage you to check it out (I specifically enjoy doing #5).  The second email Stephen sent was quite a bit heaver and ushers us into the meat of this letter.  It was called the 30 of the most powerful images.  Take a few minutes to scroll through them.

How do you feel after viewing those?  I hope each photograph stirred something inside of you.  What’s interesting is although every picture is unique; there is some underlying force which unites them all.  In each picture there is something to be said about humanity.  I hope collectively they shook you and made you think of something different and larger than your day to day routine.  In essence that is the point of these emails.  I send them to remind us there’s more to life than day in day out.  They are intended to pull us aside; to make us stop and wonder about the things we normally don’t take time for.  As you find yourself sitting around this holiday season; whether it’s in your car on your commute, at a Christmas party, or nestled in your favorite spot; where ever you may be, try to take the time to answer the following question: “What do I value most?”  For some of us this is going to be a surprisingly difficult question to answer.  (Starting Tip: Look at how you spend your time.)  When you find your answer, or your top three, evaluate it/them by asking, “Is this worth valuing?  Is this worth all my time and energy?  Is this something that has lasting value?  Is this something I’m proud of?  Does this bring me enjoyment?  Does this serve a purpose larger than myself?”  Once answering these questions, the million dollar question is what now?  What do we do with our lives now?
Take a moment to enjoy our planet.

Children Learn What They Live
By: Dorothy Law Nolte

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
What do you live with?  What do you carry around with you?  Do you find yourself on the upper half or lower half of Dorothy’s poem?  What is your element?  How we live and what we live with is a choice each of us get to make every morning.  We can chose to be told how to live, to be a victim, to be disengaged, to carry a negative attitude, to be angry, to harden our hearts to the infinite joy around us.  Or we can choose to discover our talents, to be proactive with our issues, to take accountability for our choices, to carry a positive attitude, to be kind, to be patient, to be open to the joy which awaits us at every turn.  I was listening to a science talk the other day and I heard, “If the placebo effect is proven science; if we know that it works, then why don’t we use it more in our lives?”  The power of what you believe, the choices you make, and the attitude you carry go a long way.  Be sure you know which direction you are going.  The world doesn’t need any more negativity.  What it needs is more moments of happiness.

Some quotes I came across:

“People try to fit too much into a day.”

“When the grass is greener on the other side, water your lawn.”

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done” -Kayleigh’s wall

“The person who says it cannot be done, should not interrupt the person doing it.” -Chinese Proverb

“How long will you continue to live off your own power?”

“Aren’t you tired of doing it on your own?”

“This kind of living is beneath you.”

“Is there more to life than all this brokenness?”

“Everywhere he went, revival came with him.”

Back to the question of “What now?”  What if we were able to change our perspective?  What if we were able to see people the way God sees them?  If we were able to see what people were going through, would we treat them differently?  If we were able to see the implications of our actions, would we choose differently?  What is your focus?  Last July I found myself walking through the Gas Lamp district of downtown San Diego at 1am on a Sunday morning.  As I hurried my way through the hustling streets I encountered a situation which curtailed the hands of time.  From 15 yards out I captured two beautiful women advancing my way with bodies dressed to kill in a fabric formed specifically for their physic.  Upon passing I saw the twinkling in the eyes of the one nearest me.  A few steps after I turned to affirm what I had witnessed.  It was at that moment, in the whirlwind, in the melee of the commotion where she turned, stopping time.  With our gaze locked we exchanged smiles with all the power and sparkle stardust can radiate.  When time caught up in its fast-forward fashion I was twenty feet down the sidewalk feeling the happiest I’d been in a long time.  I know this story is romanticized, but the point is: Do you know the power of a smile?  A smile is an amazing thing.  Not only is it capable of changing your mood, but it is able to change the mood of those around you.  Perhaps this is why Mother Teresa said, “I will never understand all the good that a simple smile can accomplish.”  Why is so simple an act with such positive benefits so underutilized?  It is my wish for you this Christmas season to increase your rate of smile.  Bless the world with your radiance.  “From a little spark may burst a mighty flame.” -Dante

With Love,

Aaron Buttery

p.s. I hope you took the time to view all the links in the main body.  If you didn’t, you may want to go back and do so now.

p.p.s.  Stephen Johnson, in thanks for what you have shared, I offer you (and everyone else) this last clip, which I know you’ll enjoy.

Author: Aaron Buttery

A man under construction.

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