What's Philip's Question?

Though it is not Philip's question, it is sometimes the question we wish someone was really asking.

Though it is not Philip's question, it is sometimes the question we wish someone was really asking.

When I lived for a short while in Costa Rica I became a proficient Spanglishista and I discovered a couple of great Tico (native Costa Rican) sayings:  the first was !Pura vida!  Which is shorthand for 'pure life'.

(Thanks to digi-pals at for the deeper dig):

"But where did Costa Ricans take this phrase from? According to a study of the expression, a film called Pura Vida came to Costa Rica from Mexico in 1956, directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares. In the movie, "Pura vida" is the expression of eternal optimism used by a comic character, played by the actor Antonio Espino, who unfortunately can't seem to do anything right. While a small population used it then, the phrase "Pura vida" was used nationwide by 1970.

Associated with many different English interpretations like "pure life", "take it easy", "enjoy life", "all good", "purity in life", "hello", "goodbye", "this is life!" and many many more. The point is that foreigners truly don't have a true grasp of the meaning of "pura vida" as they are not Costa Ricans themselves.

Pura vida! Means that no matter what your current situation is, life for someone else can always be less fortunate than your own. So you need to consider that maybe...just maybe, your situation isn't all that bad and that no matter how little or how much you have in life, we are all here together and life is start living it "pura vida style."

Pura Vida:  Is there anywhere in your life it isn't?  Where you're struggling with what my friend Adam famously called, "selfish entitlement rooted in anger"?

Apologize, baby!  Or forgive; let it go:  pura vida.  Shakespeare said, "The time of life 'tis short, to spend it basely, 'twere too long."

Read this from my brilliant bride on how she got her joy back:


The other magna-pregunta was 'How do you go?'  (?Como Te Va?).   Related, in that, hopefully, pura vida is how you roll.

I love how Spanish has an upside down question mark before their question to let you know a question is coming.  While I don't know how to make mine flip:  ?How do you go?  

I love a better question, I really do.

They're often the questions that catch you off guard.  

Not Philip's question, "How do you go?"

My son was being turkey-esque at the end-of-the-school year.  His sister was trying to help him with something and he was having none of it. 

When I finally remembered to stop judging him and just ask, Holy Spirit said, "It's not what you think it is.  Ask him Philip's question."

Philip's question is:  "How is you heart?"  You will rarely get out of or far into a chat with Philip without that question making an appearance.  And somedays it is tough to answer.

And when I asked my son how his heart was, the tears and the harsh realities of young life began to well up and out of him as we sat in the boat out on York Pond and I pretended to fish, while really learning again to care for and hear his heart.  Comfort sees and cares, those who know remind me.

People won't often answer questions they're not asked.

So, How is your heart?  Who needs you to ask them that?  Who do you need to ask you?

A friend of mine went to a higher learning mecca that rhymes with Oxford and one assignment called for sending someone who would know the answers a list of questions.  I didn't like them.  So, I said, I don't like these and I don't want to answer them so I'm not going to.  They were sort of shame-y 360 degree what areas do you suck questions that leaders are taught to ask all over the world.  I sent him back what I know to be better questions--how are you awesome and where are you rocking?  And what does God think about you?  To my conviction, we invest way too much daylight concerning ourselves with what we are not, what we don't have and what's wrong with us.

The leader of their group apparently moved past my questions and responses pretty quickly by pretending my friend had ignored the assignment.  

But my friend said, "Megs, do you know how they describe apologetics over there?"  My English accent is quite a bit better than my 3/4 box-step, but how they define apologetics, I admittedly didn't know.

He said, "Asking better questions."

Like I love "When was the last time you asked God the question He was asking you to ask Him?"

Between meetings I went for a walk on the railroad tracks a few weeks ago and I found all these pieces and spikes meant to fasten the railroad tracks to the ground littered every hundred yards or so. I felt like one of the boys in Stand By Me.   There was trash, there were flowers and bugs.  As I strolled, it became a sensory paradise.

And I realized I hadn't really been exploring in a few weeks: really looking a la Daniel.  Last time that stood out to me, my eldest and I were in Steamboat up in the mountains and my senses were ridiculously alive.  

Loving Steamboat--the question is implied in the reminder I've set in my phone:  Make it memorable.  This waterfall isn't even halfway up the path to Long Lake and we would know.  We saw us hike it.

Loving Steamboat--the question is implied in the reminder I've set in my phone:  Make it memorable.  This waterfall isn't even halfway up the path to Long Lake and we would know.  We saw us hike it.

It is spiritual exercise which always involves our imagination and still deeper attention.  It is where you can hear the Holy Spirit whisper, "Did you catch that?" in the sudden breeze.

Just taking a few minutes to peer more closely at something you've passed by a zillion times. Closer.

Aspens.  Wow.  Upon closer inspection, many of them have initials carved in them--and they whisper.  They sound like waters.  Supposedly King David would hang his harp in the trees and go to sleep listening to the strings played by the nght breeze.

Aspens.  Wow.  Upon closer inspection, many of them have initials carved in them--and they whisper.  They sound like waters.  Supposedly King David would hang his harp in the trees and go to sleep listening to the strings played by the nght breeze.

We so need it. It is how we learn to hear Him and each other.
There is hidden treasure out there; I guarantee it.  Get a metal detector or a magnifying glass.

The Bible says you don't have because you don't ask.

My challenge and question to cap off today is: are we asking, 

                 As Kings


Should we go to the theater or write a book..?

Love Love Love this girl--and her world.

Love Love Love this girl--and her world.

Our daughter is a theater veteran.  She was on stage for more than a hundred performances in I think five different plays this last year.  And she loves it and I know exactly where she gets it.  She is ten and her dedication inspires me.  Plus, she is fearless which is infectious to be around everyday.  

This has been my outgoing email tag for the last three years, "If I could be someone else I would be me."  Tess Meggison, 7 yrs old

So, last night in honor of Tess and the little Tess in a lot of us, I did something I haven't done since I lived in Los Angeles in nineteeen-eighty-wow-has-it-been-that-long?:  I went to an audition.  I drove down to the DM Playhouse to try out for the play she auditioned for the night before:  Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  

Quick brag on our metro Theater community.  I've been to shows in blackbox to huge theaters from Phoenix to Los Angeles to Chicago to Costa Rica and I can tell you with heartfelt sincerity:  DM not only holds its own--it has an excellence all it own; it is thriving, expanding and rich (we are especially grateful to and fond of Curtain Call Kids, Des Moines Young Artists' Theater and Des Moines Playhouse for their training, opportunities and love for Miss Tess).  Go to the theater immediately! End PSA.

So our favorite theater parent and pal Miss Denise was there, thank Heaven, so I plopped it down next to her before the song.   She embodies encouragement and her talent is only surpassed by her heart.  

But me?  I am a pretty good singer.  The song I chose because I decided an hour-ish before the audition to actually go was the Mac Davis classic, "Oh Lord, It's Hard to Be Humble" (and in light of my dancing, it isn't actually at all).

Some folks say that I'm "egotistical"
Hell I don't even know what that means.
I guess it has something to do with the
Way that I fill out my skintight blue jeans.

Ohhh Lord it's hard to be humble

When you're perfect in every way.
I can't wait to look in the mirror
Cause I get better looking each day
To know me is to love me

I must be a hell of a man.
O Lord it's hard to be humble
But I'm doing the best that I can."

My twist on the song was to sing it like it was a revelatory song.   So, like on No One Thinks You Can Dance, wait, I mean The Voice:   I slowed the roll and sang it a cappella.  My goal was to blow them away with my choice, acting chops and song-take all in forty seconds--so you discover that instead of being hilariously haughty like Mac, the character singing is actually discovering as he sings the lines that he may be the loneliest man who ever lived.  Because that's the actual fruit of pride.  Well, that's what I was going for, anyway.  I was actually choked up by the end, proud of "the work" and as they say...scene.  

I could just stop there and marvel.  SeeMegs?  It wasn't so hard:  once I decided not only did I want to do it, I was going to do it.  

Huh.  Writing for others to read after many years away hasn't been that hard, either:  once I decided I not only wanted to, I was going to.  In fact, that's why Im going to announce the title of my first book right here and right now Go to Now:  The Procrastinators' Guide to Killing Tomorrows' Time Vampires Today (a spiritual guide).  I began its working title The Procrastinators' Guide to Tmro about the time of my last audition.  Yes, the irony to me is delicious like quitting smoking on Ash Wed.  Ebook at least, no later than November, this year (any of you ebook-savvies, reach out, wudja?).

Anyway, when I auditioned in Los Angeles a few times for different things, I was so nervous it was near-paralyzing.   And you don't perform well when you're nervous.  And I didn't perform well. Well, anywhere.  So, yesterday morning, this was Graham Cooke's post.   (Graham has been one of my primary spiritual fathers and how-to go-to's without his knowledge for years.  I resonate with His heart).

So, I won a book at our friends' white elephant party a few Christmases ago called Dancing with Cats and the title is not-in-the-least misleading.  The cats themselves look like they're trying to find the number for animal rescue.   Like me, last night when they announced we were heading down to the TIG.

Cat-tastics.  Delicious and terrifying.

Cat-tastics.  Delicious and terrifying.

Sweet Lord, Megs-dancing?  (TIG stands for theater in Ground, I learned after I got home and Christine let me in).  My dancing is closer to the wonky willies.  Think interpretive modern dance except they're trying to choreograph me, meets please stop doing that, sir.  I got the six step high-knee march down, though.  

Tess said on the way to school a little while ago:  Yet, Daddy.  You're not a good dancer, YET.  I love that perspective.  I can still grow.  (Great book on topic, Mindset by Carol Dweck.)  

So the dancing portion of the evening will not need much additional narrative here, other than to say, just wow.  I didn't expect to be that quite that ridiculously awful.  When it was time for old 10a (my assigned number) to hoof it, old tena about hoofed it out the door.  But it was fun.  One of life's golden keys:  never take yourself too seriously.   (Cue Tiny Dancer...)

Then we dashed back up to sing just a little more and that is where I realized I'm both a little up-close blind and when nervous and lost, pitchy as the first past of AmIdol.   I couldn't make out the lyrics of the grampa fizzy drink song.  The director and music director were fantastic.  I could match sort of in ensemble with direction but my solo effort was, suffice to say, we are not waiting by the phone.

But I didn't really go so much to get cast.  

Did you ever just do something because you feel like you're kind scared to?

Nothing fun about this ride.  But facing the fear of riding it was.

Nothing fun about this ride.  But facing the fear of riding it was.

So, why don't you?

You should.

You won't maybe be great first time out of the box in years--but it's ok.  It's just your first time in awhile, probably.  

I always ask people when they're trying to learn to hear from God--"Do you speak Japanese?" and they almost always say no.   And I ask them why not.  And they say because nobody ever taught them and I say, well there you go.  Why would you think you'd be brilliant at it, already?

My "instrument" has mostly sat in a different world life since a little before the Northridge earthquake (if you don't count my Fluffy Kitty, MobBoss/Identity Thief impressions designed to wake the three amigos up on the way to school).  

I will not be playing Willie Wonka this year.   But the fear of auditioning because I haven't auditioned since Reagan was President is behind me. 

What do you need to wave at in the rearview mirror once you get it behind you?

Do it.



Has Anyone Seen Michael?

My pal Joe cutting my locks, ca. 1990.    My Mama took the pic.   This is my "I would prefer a beating" look.

My pal Joe cutting my locks, ca. 1990.    My Mama took the pic.   This is my "I would prefer a beating" look.

What I couldn't put into words when Joe was done was, "But I really liked my hair, long."

Joe, as always, did phenomenal work.  That wasn't the problem.   The problem was:  now even I couldn't see me.

Joe, as always, did phenomenal work.  That wasn't the problem.   The problem was:  now even I couldn't see me.

I was ineffably sad in this after-cut pic because so much of my identity was wrapped up in that hair and nobody seemed to care that I wasn't much sure who I was without it.  I was still sorting me out and no one was much helping.  In fairness, a large proportion of my people were fighting cancer for their own lives at the time.

The expressions on my face are what the befores always look like when you are paying attention.   And I'm learning as a husband, as a daddy, as a friend:  to really pay attention.  To invest my minutes in the the minute and my moments in the momentous:  or I may miss it.

Like my sister spotted one of those I-missed-it moments when she was back for a visit recently.  She heard just barely under the breath of one of our three favorites:  "Like it matters.."  That's what a hidden oucher sounds like--a little indifference, a little aggression.  

I always see it like the minimize button--it is actually a minus sign or a dash but it shuts the window down.  The problem is:  when you hit too many minimize buttons, you can actually crash your system. 

1993, I discovered this Eric Clapton song about the time I moved to Costa Rica to hide out from all the pains of dying and it was haunting because at times it felt like maybe who I was becoming.  

"Lonely Stranger"

"I must be invisible
No one knows me.
I have crawled down dead-end streets
On my hands and knees.

I was born with a ragin' thirst,
A hunger to be free,
But I've learned through the years.
Don't encourage me.

'cause I'm a lonely stranger here,
Well beyond my day.
And I don't know what's goin' on,
So I'll be on my way.

When I walk, stay behind;
Don't get close to me,
'cause it's sure to end in tears,
So just let me be.

Some will say that I'm no good;
Maybe I agree.
Take a look then walk away.
That's all right with me."

The enemy mocks us in our calling.  Anyone who knows me today:  nearly category by category, the fight of my life has been to become the opposite of this song:  surrounded by people I love and trust, genuinely known, authentic, encouraging, shooting shame zombies and their brain-leech associates in the head.

But for a long time, it was a soundtrack for me because it sounded a lot like who I thought I maybe was.

In our family system, I was "the lost boy".   "Has anyone seen Michael?" was one of the most frequent questions asked when I was little.  I would vanish for hours down by our pond and head down to the ravine and explore--by myself.

My mama was just taking pictures trying to cheer me on into this new fabulous career I wasn't at all convinced I wanted because I didn't see how it had anything to do with me.  There aren't enough terabytes of storage for the photos this lady would have taken had she made it into the digital age. But she caught two of me in old 35mm within forty-five minutes that speak loud-volumes to me about that time in my life.

I think they are pretty instructive for how we can miss loving people we want to love well sometimes, if we aren't paying close enough attention.  Oops, missed that catch; txting.  Oops, missed that question, FB.  Oops, news over you won what?

Do you have some photo albums you ought to dig out and some photos you might want to reverse engineer?  Some of them are harder to look at than others but I would encourage you--open up, open them up and try to remember or ask those who were around what was really going on in that shot.  

Ask the Holy Spirit to point a couple out to you.  It is never too late to re-sensitize a tired heart.  God redeems time.  It is His thing.

All over Daniel Chapter 7, he says, "I kept looking."  

We are all in a season right now, I believe, where there is such a deep need to be seen and to keep looking.

I don't want to take the pictures if I'm missing the moment--when the need of someone I'm here to love is quietly shrieking at me.  

The after-shot, when I'm blowing on my fingers gazing into a mirror and I can't see myself is one of the most haunting photographs of my young life.

It is in some ways, that lonesome and scared kid, surrounded by cancer and an identity crisis of epic proportion is the instigator of me learning to prioritize the "there you are" mindset.  Though, trying to get that loneliness need met sometimes has looked more like "here I am!"

In a listening prayer session once, the Holy Spirit connected for me the above-photographs to this powerful scene when I was too little to understand what was going on.  

I couldn't have been more than five and I was doing something a little naughty apparently and my Mama and Grandpa Meggison were having a little fun at my expense.

"Oh, has anyone seen Michael?"

"I right here, mama."

"Oh no, Michael is such a good boy.  That John, he is the naughty one.  John is here today."

"NoMama!  Irighthere!"

John is my middle name and He showed me that I felt like I had actually disappeared and they couldn't see me.

And she and my grandpa cut up over my little super-traumatizer.  But He arrived on the scene and held me, hands clasped over my heart.  They didn't know what was happening:  He did.

You may have noticed I'm pretty into names and I've become wildly self-aware.

And copious amounts of healing have come from various forms of listening prayer:  learning from Jesus He never leaves; He is always listening and actually knows me a thousand times better than I think I know me.

So, I keep looking.   And He keeps looking.  There is this principle in quantum physics:  the observer changes the observed.

It's how we discover stories deep.  We keep looking. 

I took this over Labor Day and man, I'm still looking...

I took this over Labor Day and man, I'm still looking...

You know what was time redemptive in the hair arena?

This green-haired girl at the ice cream shoppe in Minnesota last summer.

I told her how much I loved it when I took York on an adventure that landed us in her ice cream shoppe.

She said she was afraid old people wouldn't like it; I said we couldn't help but dig it--way too awesome not to.

Her whole body lit up:  she tangibly felt noticed.

York being York on our way to sit down outside on the bench, said, "I really like when you do that."

I said, "What's that, pal?"
He said, "The way you're always nice to people."

I said, "Why do you think I am?"
He said, "I don't know."

I said, "It doesn't cost anything but it means everything to people," and then, "Do you suppose a girl with green hair might have a little need for attention?"

He smiled, nodding.

Maybe instead of just the greys, we can start looking for the greens...