Wednesday, August 11, 2010


As Katie and I near our time of departure from Seattle, we are both spending lots of time reflecting on how we’ve grown over the last year. I’d like to post a blog at some point on the things we’ve learned and ways we’ve changed. But this post is about our parting presents from Seattle. What would be more quintessential as a symbol of our time in the Pacific Northwest than a tattoo? An icon of an alternative zeitgeist. A piece of art meaningful in numerous ways.

First, tattoos have been present in my work at the Veterans Hospital. I have had several sessions with Vets where their tattoos served as focal points of our therapy: pieces of themselves visually represented on their bodies. In fact, I was able to show one of my patients my tattoo as a way of revealing a small part of myself, a gift in kind for how open he has been with me. And a parting gift given at the end of our therapeutic relationship.

Next, the tree is a symbol of life. Trees play a very central role in the stories of the Bible. The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. Christ is crucified on a tree to draw us into an intimate relationship with Him. And trees are often symbols of how a follower of Jesus lives life: producing fruit (aka. love, joy, peace, mercy), strong and with deep roots. So the trunk of my tree is knotty and gnarled and twisting. Its full of scars and ugliness and imperfections. But it’s also strong. It’s stood the test of time and trials. It also starts off growing away from the light source, trying to make it without the Sun, without God. But then as it turns and starts to bend toward the source of energy, full foliage appears. Beautiful groups of leaves supported by the strong trunk and of course the deep roots. Those roots symbolize the importance of community and need for people’s support through prayer, encouragement, tangibles, etc. And so everything you don’t see in this tattoo, the sun and soil and air, all symbolize my faith. Not easily seen with the senses but the entire life source of my being. You never see the sun but you see the effects of the sun by looking closely at the juxtaposition of light and dark within the same tree.

Finally, this is a family tree. Katie’s name is unfurled in a scroll in the roots. Those roots are so intertwined with the scroll that the two are inseparable. Katie is a huge part of my foundation and created harmony and stability when she entered my life. I also love the use of a scroll because as a kid I loved ancient stories of adventure, which were of course always written on scrolls and parchment. These last few months Katie and I have been embarking on written exercises designed to spark our dreams and envision pathways to that future. It’s been incredibly exciting and I can’t wait to watch as stories continue to unfold in this next year. Just as the top of the tree is leaning in, Katie and I are leaning into our future. Not just settling for whatever comes our way or passively accepting life, but instead actively planning and pursuing God’s will for our lives. Also, I’ve left room between the roots and the branches for a banner. This banner will one day have the names of our kids tattooed on it. It’ll be floating in the air and wrapped around the backside of the trunk. Here I turn to a scripture from Song of Solomon, a great love poem from the Old Testament. “Your banner over me is love.” Katie and I can’t wait to love our children with the same unconditional love we have for each other, which is the same love Christ has for us.

Stay tuned to learn about Katie’s tattoo. To learn about Josh’s tattoo check out his blog at . And my buddy Andy got the rod and staff of a shepherd from Psalm 23, which are tools used to protect and guide. A key aspect of his life as a husband and parent.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mt. St. Helens

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A cry without an echo

I am reading a non-fiction book about a serial killer in Italy called "The Monster of Florence." Its a page turner but I was stopped dead in the middle of a page when I came to this paragraph. Its the words of a psychoanalyst monk describing neurosis. Maybe some of the most powerful words I've ever read on the topic. Its also coming towards the end of my internship as I've just started working with couples in distress and young Vets returning from Iraq & Afgahnistan. These words resonate deep within me as capturing a deep truth about what it means to be human.

"There is no longer true communication among us, because our very language is sick, and the sickness of our discourse carries us inevitably to sickness in our bodies, to neurosis, if not finally to mental illness."

"When I can no longer communicate with speech, I will speak with sickness. My symptoms are given life. These symptoms express the need for my soul to make itself heard but cannot, because I don't have the words, and because those who should listen cannot get beyond the sound of their own voices. The language of sickness is the most difficult to interpret. It is an extreme form of blackmail which defies all our efforts to pay it off and send it away. It is a final attempt at communication."

"Mental illness lies at the very end of the struggle to be heard. It is the last refuge of a desperate soul who has finally understood that no one is listening or ever will listen. Madness is the renunciation of all efforts to be understood. It is one unending scream of pain and need into the absolute silence and indifference of society. It is a cry without an echo."

This week my eyes filled with tears as I listened to a Vet share something with me he had never told anyone his entire adult life. In fact I still feel them as I write this. He's been locked in a prison of this secret, in solitary confinement. And without words his soul has screamed out in confusing ways. Confusing to himself and others. And together for a moment we opened that world and found words and tears. Tears from a long time ago.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wallach Award

What the heck is the Wallach Award? Well all your questions will be answered in this 4 part video series entitled...What is the Wallach Award?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wallach Award Part 2

yes, this will be released in 3D on Blue Ray this summer

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

History of Haiti

This is a unique blog post. I'm posting about another person's blog that I really think is important. I met this guy the other day and found out about some provocative comments being made by the "prophet" Pat Robertson about Haiti.

I am appalled by Robertson's comments as a Christian and think this blogger had some solid rebuttals.

Also, if you were planning on giving some financial aid to Haiti...don't delay. Just pick an organization and do it: (here are a few possible)

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Years Resolutions

1. Lose weight

I went to the doctor today to ask about things I can do to reduce my acid reflux. She casually said “Looking at your chart here, you’ve gained some weight in the last few years.” And before the words were even out of her mouth I was spouting off some defensive nonsense… “Well, you know, I have a genetically large bone structure and those calculations don’t take into account muscle mass, etc etc blah blah.” She cut through my baloney and just said if I wanted to reduce acid reflux I could shrink my bulbous belly that was pushing on my stomach and forcing hydrochloric acid up into my esophagus. She also had some suggestions that were perfectly catered to me- mindful eating. Apparently, the slower you chew your food, the smaller it is in your stomach and the less likely it is to come back up later. So tonight I ate a steak super slowly (which was really helpful cause it was a cheap piece of tough sirloin) and savored each bite with all my attention. Also, I’m working on eating smaller portions and setting a goal of getting to the gym 3 days/week. Check out this free website that is motivating my workout routine ( Again perfect for me because it’s based on competition (so if you’d like to join- challenge me to a workout competition). Oh and of course I’ll continue to take my Omeprazole (dang pharmaceutical companies have me hooked on a drug).

2. Manage anxiety

I have a problem with anxiety. And you can always tell how I’m doing by looking at my finger nails. If my fingers look as if I shuck oysters all day long for a living, that’s a bad week. Times I remember having smooth fingers/nails: being in Tanzania. Something about that place that just washed away my anxiety. So my New Years resolution is to 1) pay attention to when I am picking at my fingers. This may sound elementary but most of the time I’m doing it I don’t even realize it. 2) Pray for whatever it is I’m worrying about (something actually constructive vs the purely pointless activity of ruminating on my concerns). 3) Join a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class. Very excited for this- it’s something I teach other people but only occasionally practice on my own ( )

3. Do more outdoors activity

I already went skiing last weekend and had a blast. And of course in classic Johnson fashion I pushed it 110% right out of the gate and ended up bruising some ribs on a mogul run. But I’m recovering and plan on taking Katie out this weekend. I’m also planning a backpacking trip with my friend Josh to Mt. Saint Helens when the snow melts a bit. And Katie and I are gonna get some snow-shoeing in for sure.