One Sentence To Set You Free from Fear

Have you ever had your world turned upside down by a single sentence?

Have you ever felt someone else’s words unlock a caged place within your heart?

If so, then this story is for you.

It begins with me spending a month in a residential rehab called The Clearing.

I am here for work – I’m a copywriter on The Clearing’s team, writing ebooks and essays – but I am also here for my own healing.

(They tried to make me go to rehab, and I said yes.)

On this particular day in workshop, we are learning about self-forgiveness. We are offering ourselves compassion for our judgments against ourselves and others.

Then The Clearing’s co-founder and CEO Joe Koelzer tells us, almost offhandedly, “Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to worry about asking God for forgiveness.

At this, I cannot help but raise my hand and say, “Wait … you don’t?”

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When Hope Seems Lost, Remember This

When my brother Willie was diagnosed with autism, he was three years old and I was five.

Neither of us had been to church yet, so I didn’t have much of a God concept. But somehow, I’d already arrived at a very clear idea of heaven. I used to lie awake at night and think about it, so eager for it to be real.

I believed that heaven would be just this: a place where I could talk freely with my brother. It would be a place without the limits of autism on his part or lack of knowledge on mine, a place where I could ask him a question and receive a complete answer.

Willie and Caroline

Willie and me, around the time of his diagnosis

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The One Song that Changes Everything

Early in my life, I noticed a pattern.

Whenever I’d meet older adults, those in my parents’ demographic, our interactions would follow a predictable course. We’d exchange names, and then I’d look down, both because I was shy and because I knew what was coming next.

They would start singing.

At a conservative estimate, this happened about 70% of the time.

Of course, what they’d sing was the opening line to the chorus of, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. In case you’ve been living under a rock, it goes like this: “Sweet Caroline … bum bum BUM!”

The bum bum BUMs are instrumental, which I did not realize for many years, because until college I never actually heard a recording of the song. I just heard people singing that one line at me.

The song seemed to make people happy, but I had no idea how to respond. I mean, what is the appropriate reply to, “Bum bum BUM”?

I still haven’t figured it out, so I just smile.

Family visit, 2015

Family visit, 2015

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