Parable of the Pinball Machine


Photo Credit: Eric Fischer (

Last year my friend Bruce shared an analogy for life with me: he likened life to a pinball machine.  I have had some exposure to pinball machines.  In Junior High my friend Shawn had a Star Trek pinball, and in high school my aunt and uncle had a pinball machine in their game room that I would play at cousin slumber parties.

With a pinball machine, you pull back a lever, release it, and then it sends the pinball flying to the other end of the machine, and then gravity compels it to come back down.  But, through paddles controlled from the outside of the machine, that ball can be hit, whacked, and launched back and forth, side to side, and up and down at varying angles.  Backwards and forwards you might say.   In his description of this analogy, Bruce explained that there are times where he has seen himself seemingly progressing forward, only to then find himself unexpectedly whacked and launched in a completely different direction.  Whenever it seemed that things were going smoothly, he was paddled again and ended up in new and unfamiliar territory.  He said that during those times, it felt as though he was often disrupted from a steady progression.  But, in retrospect, he can see where he was being guided in a forward direction continually.

It is often fun for me to look back and ask myself, “Ten years ago, where did I think I would be ten years from now?” or “Five years ago, what did I think that my life would be like in five years?”  Consistently, what I would have imagined or hoped for myself professionally, geographically, or related to relationship status was not realized.  I was always sent some other way.  But I can consistently look back and see ways that my life has been divinely guided, and I can recognize that I have been moving forward, that I am growing, developing, learning and that I have been able to make a difference in the lives of others.  I have been moving forward, even though forward has taken me in unanticipated directions.

So if you feel smacked, disoriented, derailed or otherwise seemingly knocked off course, have hope.  These experiences are still propelling you forward, and they will make you a stronger person if you let them.

Waxing Strong


When I was a teenager, my family took a two-week road trip, stopping at various historical sites across the country.  One of our stops featured several shops and demonstrations showcasing what life was like in the 1800s.  In addition to seeing a blacksmith, brick mason and baker at work, the family observed a presentation in which we were shown the process by which candles were made.  These were not the scented candles in jars that are common today.  These candles were long and cylindrical, and made to be placed on candlesticks.

In olden days, before electricity, the only source of light after the sun went down came from the flames of candles and kerosene lamps.  Candles provided access to light at times when fires or darkness were the only other options.

The process of making candles, I learned, was one that could not be rushed.  It had to be done dip by dip.  It starts with a long, thin, flimsy wick.  The wick is dipped into heated wax.  It is brought out of the hot wax and allowed to harden in the cool air.  It is dipped again.  It is lifted out again.  It is dipped again.  It is lifted again.  With each new dip, a thin film of wax is added onto the body of the candle.  Slowly, almost imperceptibly, it becomes thicker and stronger with each added dip until it eventually becomes a fully-formed candle.  You could say that it waxes stronger and stronger.

It is interesting to consider that this process can’t be rushed by simply leaving the wick in the wax for an extended period of time.  This won’t make it thicker faster.  In fact, if a partially formed candle were left in the hot wax, what existed of the candle would melt and there would be no candle.  Only the wick would remain and the process would have to begin again.

The process of creating a candle happens step by step, dip by dip.  That candle is then capable of holding a flame that can bring light to a house, be a guide to someone who is lost, or aid someone who is searching for something.

The growth of people can be similar to the growth of candles.  It is a process that happens a little at a time.  Sometimes the growth is hard to measure in the moment.  But, little by little, it comes when the right process is followed.  And, when a person is healthy and strong, they become a source of light and guidance to others.

The intent of this blog and of my clinical work as a marriage and family therapist is to help others in their efforts to wax strong.  For some that growth involves healing.  For some that growth involves learning.  For most, it involves discovering and acting upon their personal strengths, resources and potential.  It also often involves recognizing and becoming free from influences and beliefs that can restrict choice and freedom.  It also involves healthy and rewarding relationships.  Accordingly, this blog will feature posts about wounds and healing, it will include relevant knowledge and insightful information, and it will highlight strengths and resources.  And it will share guidance related to marriage, parenting, interpersonal relationships and family life.  It is my hope that I can perhaps provide something that will help individuals, couples and families to wax a little bit stronger so that they can shine a little bit brighter.