Monday, January 31, 2011

Hard to Say

When their love was new and they had been courting for a while, the "I love yous" were a regular part of their language of connecting and departing. They were spontaneous and heartfelt. Those utterances were sloppy and mushy and pure as a freshly fallen snow. Neither could believe that a relationship could be so good, could fulfill such a deep need, could cover over so many old wounds and hurts. Now years later, marriage, kids, life's pressures and burdens, familiarity, personal conflicts, financial pressures, and everything else that has come along, have led to little more than marking time along the way. Those sweet, sweet words have long since evaporated.

When their child was just a toddler, he started to get a sense of what his parent's "I love yous" meant and he happily and eagerly parroted their words back to them. It was part of the bonding that nature and its innate instincts bring out. Both the words spoken by parent and child are also snow white. Usually the sharing of these feelings is accompanied by hugs and kisses. Yet what seems to happen so often is that as the child grows and seeks their claim of independence, the "I love yous" dissipate and escape in complete correlation with the disappearance of those hugs and kisses. Ultimately the words are shared no more.

Why does time seem to steal away our "I love yous"?

Friday, January 28, 2011


Let's begin at the beginning to give us a firm foundation for discussion. regret is defined as a sense of guilt or sorrow, as over some wrong done or an unfulfilled ambition. If you ask anyone to cite an example, they will not have to think very long or very hard to throw a handful at you. Personally, Regret tends to haunt me. It eats away at my sanity. It causes me to look backward in remorse, in shame, in what-could-have-beens and what-should-have-beens. If only I had eyes to see. If only I had listened. If only I had done this or that. I struggle because I saw my life going in a certain direction and put everything into making that vision crystallize. After a long and arduous path that burned up the small store of fuel available for the journey, when things fell apart or did not go as planned, I am left to deal with the failure and loss. As winter quickly approaches, I also sense that I am running out of time. I sense that weight of REgret.

When one is young and living in the springtime, REGret can be used to face necessary lessons that help on the long path ahead. Although they can be tough, they serve to ensure that some episodes are not repeated or are handled with more skillful aplomb. Better said, sometimes REGRet helps us to cultivate wisdom. However, sometimes I become myopic and lose sight of the blessings that I do have in my life, the mountains that I have successfully scaled, and it seems like I am sitting at the craps table and my bucket is nearly empty. What can I do in times like this? REGREt is especially difficult in such times because it seems to define me and my life. The clock ticks loudly in my ear and there is nothing that I can do to turn back those hands. That tick-tock, tick-tock builds into a crescendo. One look in the mirror and my reflection is gone. All I see staring back at me is REGRET.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Reading a biography of past heroes can be an experience that brings melancholy to a soul. No matter how great these men or women were, no matter what they accomplished or how they lived, all of their tales end the same way. Death, inevitable death. The story of Jesus is different. We know the biblical account that Jesus was handed over to be crucified by his own people. He then died a horrible, painful, humiliating death after only three years of public ministry and was buried. But of course, his story was not over, his biography was not complete. As was written in Old Testament prophecy, Jesus triumphed over death and rose from the grave three days later. After a period of ministry to reconnect all of his disciples who were disillusioned and confused and lost after watching their master taken away and killed, Jesus left this Earth and ascended into Heaven. He promised that he would return. He also promised that "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die." John 11:25,26

The story of Jesus' life on this Earth is the subject of the ninth and final book in Charles Swindoll's Great Lives Series, Jesus, The Greatest Life of All. This work takes us through the Old Testament prophesies of the coming Son of Man, through his conception, his birth, his life, his public ministry, his death, his resurrection, to his ascension to heaven. Swindoll presents this chronology using scripture from Psalms and Isaiah in the Old Testament, along with the eye-witness accounts in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The story, although familiar to most, still is powerful and telling. It is a reflection of the past and a reflection of ourselves. If you call yourself a Christian, this biography is important to appreciate and understand. If you are not a Christian, this book can relate to you a life-changing account of the greatest life of all.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stirrups and Nakedness

Every year for the last 15 years I have put myself through a ritual that can bring on panic and anxiety and depression. I wish that I could avoid it altogether, but it really isn't optional. In fact, it's a matter of life and death. I find it amazing how we grow up and develop this feeling of invincibility with regard to our bodies, yet that feeling is so fragile. One bad doctor's report and our entire attitude can be altered for the rest of our lives. Each ache or pain, every upset stomach or case of heartburn, can set one's mind to racing, to running up the panic meter. It's like once our shield of strength has been penetrated and we are exposed, we can never relax. The feeling reminds me of my first car. After taking it on many journeys spanning thousands and thousands of miles, I came to rely on this dependable friend. One day the engine blew, and even though it was repaired, I never felt comfortable in that car again. Every knock, every ping, every unusual sound, made me fear that I was about to be stranded by the side of the road.

Of course, my loyal readers probably have already figured out what my subject matter is about today. I have alluded to it several times over the past few years. It is about cancer and how I live with it even when the doctor's reports indicate that I am clear for another season. Just when you start to relax a little bit, that doctor's appointment stirs the pot. It is time for my yearly ritual, a rite that follows a well-worn path. I lay naked from the waist down on an examination table with my legs up in stirrups while a team of folks works on me handling and touching parts of me that I would rather keep hidden. I wait while they poke and prod with their invasive instruments.

If they find nothing, then I am paroled for another year. If they find any evidence of recurrence, then I am in surgery within 48 hours and must hang in for a few more days after that for the biopsy results to come back. Actually it turns out that during this latter window of time is when I feel even more exposed than when I am on that exam table. That report will dictate how my treatment will proceed. One thing that I have learned is that laying naked in stirrups in front of a medical team is actually a good vantage point. It is there that you really come to understand what or who gives you strength. Stirrups and nakedness. A most appropriate time to remember Phillipians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

This year marks the second in a row that I have been found clear. But I honestly feel that I can now deal with the news either way. As you can imagine, it has not always been that way.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mindset 14

In the Mindset series I reminisce about some of my favorite memories of my daughter's life when she was younger. I hope that the task of writing these entries will serve me well, and I hope too that you will enjoy going on this trip with me.

Today's journey takes us back to all of our time together reading Highlights magazine. My daughter has had a subscription to this monthly magazine for kids for as long as I can remember. One of the cool things for me is that Highlights magazine was something that I enjoyed looking at when I was a kid. All of the features that I enjoyed are still there today, Hidden Pictures, Jokes & Riddles, The Timbertoes, What's Wrong, Brain Play, and the short stories. My daughter has very much enjoyed having something delivered in the mail with her name on it. With each new issue, we would sit down together and pore through it from cover to cover. In these times together we have shared countless laughs, learned a thing or two, and been inspired by lots of stories and ideas that sparked our imaginations. I guess that it has just been a part of growing up for my little one. With our most recent renewal for another year of Highlights, we agreed it would be our last. My daughter has now outgrown this magazine, but I know she still enjoys our time together with each new issue. Today as she has developed a love of reading and pours through one book after another, I would bet that Highlights magazine has certainly played an important role in helping her to develop a love for reading.

Monday, January 24, 2011

World Without Heroes

It seems to me that in times past, it was so much easier to have a hero. In those times, likely heroes included professional athletes, movie stars, racer car drivers, astronauts, military leaders, musicians, artists, and world leaders. Today the world around us makes it harder and harder to claim anyone as a hero. How can anyone be set apart when any veil of illusion is immediately swept away and trampled asunder by every peering eye, every hidden camera, ever pundit's voice on late-night talk shows? Nobody is ever given a moment's peace. Everyone is constantly under the microscope. Illicit affairs, drug use, financial troubles, gambling problems, undocumented staff workers, private tirades, driving under the influence, politically incorrect language, hardball contract negotiations, policy compromise. Nowadays it does not even matter if any of the allegations made are true or are only the truth from a particular point of view. It seems there is an element of our society whose job it is to ensure nobody is set apart as special or exemplary or worthy of praise. It seems like there is a secret gestapo that seeks to destroy the character or the legacy of anyone that might be admired by the younger generation. One blemish. One spot. One mark. That is all it takes to tear everyone and anyone down, to create a world without heroes.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Forgotten Lives

I just finished reading the eighth volume in Charles Swindoll's Great Lives series entitled Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives. The first seven volumes in this series all focused on the stories of specific individuals. In contradistinction, this volume turns its attention to a series of "forgotten" individuals, one chapter at a time. One might reason that folks whose lives are forgotten, might not have anything to teach us, but indeed they have been included in the Bible for good reason.

Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. (Romans 15:4)

In other words, even folks who did not command front page headlines still have worthwhile and important lessons for our lives today. The list of folks included in this volume include:
  • Cain - first child of Adam and Eve.
  • Abraham - covenant father of the nation of Israel.
  • Esau - Son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham.
  • Achan - Israelite soldier during Jericho campaign.
  • Samuel - prophet of God, anointed David as king of Israel.
  • Saul - first king of Israel.
  • Abigail - Wife of Nabal, became wife of David.
  • Absalom - Son of King David, briefly reigned as King of Israel.
  • Rehoboam - Son of King Solomon, first king of Judah.
  • Jabez - Israelite whose name means "he makes sorrowful".
  • Naaman - Syrian general.
  • Gehazi - Servant of Elisha.
  • Uzziah - King of Judah.
It is amazing the timeless nature of the truths that the Bible can teach us. Truths about jealousy, vanity, servitude, honor, greed, humbleness, and courage. I loved the variety in this volume and how Swindoll approached each person. Definitely a worthwhile study and my personal favorite in the series. Now, onto the last volume in the series, Jesus, The Greatest Life of All.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

From Where Inspiration?

Inspiration is a curious thing. Sometimes when needed or desired or earnestly sought after, it runs and hides from our light. We sit down with an empty pad of paper and tightly grip that freshly sharpened pencil just above that empty canvas. We call upon you to provide us with an idea to think about or a new way to look at something old. Nothing comes. The well seems dry. Sometimes it is hard to believe that it could ever have provided that refreshing water. The silence at these times can be deafening. Dried out tumbleweeds blow across the landscape of our minds when there used to be an expanse of green fields. We beckon for a seed or a whisper. The more we push and exert and search, the more bleak our surroundings. The empty chasm that faces us is likely due to a mental or physical fatigue or the malaise induced by a worn-down spirit. What is also bewildering is that sometimes we can be faced with so many possibilities that we are overwhelmed and can find nothing to latch hold of firmly. Sort of like trying to pull a quiet lilt out from the overwhelming din of everyday existence, a single kernel of wheat from a truck-load of chaff.

Oh but behold when inspiration does flow. A dry trough suddenly sees a trickle and then we are deluged by your presence. One wonderful thought after another enters our mind. The pages of the pad can now hardly contain everything that makes itself known to us. I once read an interview of the lead singer of a band that was riding the crest of a very popular song. The music and the lyrics were praised for their depth and nuance. The singer remarked that although he wrote the lyrics and came up with the melody, he felt reluctant to give himself too much credit. He believed that this treasure was somehow already out there floating in the aether, just waiting for someone to see it and take hold of it.

From where comes inspiration? I don't know, but often I am most fertile and most receptive when I just relax and let it come to me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mindset 13

In the Mindset series I reminisce about some of my favorite memories of my daughter's life when she was younger. I hope that the task of writing these entries will serve me well, and I hope too that you will enjoy going on this trip with me.

Today's journey takes us to visit her art projects great and small. I loved how she would pour out her heart and soul on the canvas, whether that canvas was a scrap of paper, the back of a restaurant placemat, or a colorful piece of construction paper. When she was satisfied with her output, she would present it to me as a gift. When I would bring her to my office at work, she was so pleased to see her creations covering my walls. One time a student of mine offered cash for one of her works because he loved the form and the color. When I told my little one about this, she beamed like the brightest start. (Note: I did not sell that student the piece as his offer was far too low!). As the years passed, the production of my little Picasso dwindled to a halt. No more school art class. Other responsibilities and interests. Today the walls of my office are still a museum of her works. Here I have captured a bit of her child's eye, her innocence, her love, and how she saw the world. I think that she is still pleased to see them hanging on the walls, knowing how much I still treasure them.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The 700 Club

It seems like just yesterday that I ran the announcement of my 600th post. In the blink of an eye I am now celebrating number 700. Sometimes I worry that I am running out of ideas on things that I want to explore through my writing. At other times my mind is overflowing with so many topics and possibilities that I feel like the proverbial kid in the blog candy store. At the present moment the list of things that I want to explore and connect with certainly will keep me trucking along and I plan to celebrate post number 800 with you at the beginning of spring.

Once again, I want to thank the few folks that stop by regularly to say hello and to leave comments. While I still maintain that my writing is primarily for me, I am still greatly empowered and humbled by your gifts of time and energy and attention to anything that I might create. I pray that every once in a while I have something to pass along that you might find useful or valuable or amusing. I might even dream that maybe a post will stick with you for a bit even after you have left my site.

Now my regular visitors will note that I have been posting 6 days per week for over 2 years. The one day that I take off is Sunday, a biblically mandated day of rest for all bloggers. However, in tracking readership on this page, it is pretty clear that there is measurably no traffic on Saturdays. With that, I have decided to drop back to a 5 days per week posting schedule. My guess is that the world will survive this change without skipping a beat. It will likely be good for me as well. So, hopefully you will continue along with me and, again, thanks for everything.

Monday, January 17, 2011


The mightly Philistines drew up their troops for battle against the Israelites. They were a savage, brutal, and bloodthristy lot. They were armed with the most advanced weaponry of the age. Opposing them was the Israelite army led by King Saul ...

A giant nearly 10 feet tall stepped out from the Philistine line into the open, Goliath from Gath. He had a bronze helmet on his head and was dressed in armor - 126 pounds of it! He wore bronze shin guards and carried a bronze sword. His spear was like a fence rail. ... Goliath stood there and called out to the Israelite troops, "Why bother using your whole army? ... Pick your best fighter and pit him against me. ... I challenge the troops of Israel this day. Give me a man. Let us fight it out together!" When Saul and his troops heard the Philistine's challenge, they were terrified and lost all hope. (1 Samuel 17:4-11)

The story is well known to most folks. Little shepherd boy David can take no more of the taunting and shaming of God's chosen people. He volunteers to face the giant. He has no armor. No shield. Just a slingshot and a few stones. Before another word of mockery spews from Goliath, David meets him on the battlefield and takes him down and changes the course of history. That day David faced his giant and showed us how to do the same.

In the book Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado, the story of David shows us what facing our giants is all about. Of course, the story of David is so much more about the killing of Goliath by that seemingly unimpressive shepherd boy, that forgotten of Jesse's sons. Over the course of the next decade we see David grow into a man, learn how to be leader, and finally become king over a united Israel. David was called a man after God's own heart, but not because he was without sin. In fact, David faced many giants during his lifetime. Some he slew and others slew him. When he looked to God, he was blessed richly, but when he focused on his own desires, he failed miserably. Of course, this is the key to facing our giants.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Grind My Gears 20

I'm not one to "profile" based on stereotypes, but I must make a strong statement in this case because it needs to be done. Consider it a public service on my part. My gift to you. Over the past, oh I don't know, two weeks (or it could have been the last 25 years), I have noted two specific types of apparel that are consistently worn out of their proper context and that men who wear these items tend to be quite full of themselves. They tend to be the sort of dude who purposely overloads their Denny's food platters with excessive jalapeno peppers or tabasco sauce just to make everyone take notice of them. If they do not get sufficient attention from this, they resort to making whooping noises loud enough to shake the walls. "Woo-wee and boy howdy, I sure am manly! Whoop!" They believe themselves to be uber-cool, in a class with James Dean or Chuck Woolery. They are God's gift to us plain and simple, and if you don't think so, you merely have to ask them. These folks just grind my gears.

The apparel to which I am referring (as if you couldn't already figure it out) consists of either a trench coat or western-style boots. (And I don't even want to think about the type of "he-man" who would dare double up and sport both offending items.) Now let me make two scientific observations:
  1. I have never met a man who wore an open trench coat who wasn't either a Jesse James-type desperado or who didn't get all tingly and moist when looking at himself in a full-length mirror.
  2. I have never met a man who wore western-style boots that wasn't either a dogie-ropin', dirt-munchin', lasso-swinging cowboy, or a person who loved to count and then part his chest hairs.
So, if you are not either a true gunslinger, with your wanted poster hanging in the local saloon and a three-day growth of stubble, or a clump-kickin', cow-patty-wrangling cowboy with a 10-gallon Stetson hat that is tipped slightly sideways on your head, then I am speaking to you. If you are under 15 years of age, you're off the hook. If you are over 35 years of age, you are likely too old to be of any use to society anyway. The rest of you jackwagons, just stop it. Put that stuff away. My gears get ground enough as it is.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Not much had come his way in life that he hadn't worked for. He had been a full-time laborer since he was 14, the year his father died. This was only two years after he lost his mother to consumption. He worked as a "wiper" in the belly of a large coastal freighter. Stuck in the engine room for year after year. Eventually the darkness had taken a toll on his eyesight and his hands were now permanently stained with oil. Where once he used to stand straight and tall, he now walked with a noticeable hunch due to the 5 ft clearance of his working compartment. Twelve hours a day for weeks on end he shoveled coal and kept the boilers clean. The work was thankless and he had never seen any of his superiors, given how far down in the bowels of that ship he labored. With all that he endured in that dark cave, he never complained or uttered a single regret or lament. It was honest work that needed to be done and he was thankful for the job, especially in a time when so many were out of work. Soup kitchens, poverty, long lines at the government offices. No, he had no complaints and he usually could be found whistling a sweet song he learned from his mother.

He likely would have continued on in his toils until someone happened along and found him expired face down on the steam controls, yet that is not what fate had in store for him. A freak accident and his left leg was essentially rendered useless. He was let go with nothing more than a small severance package for his 28 years of giving all that he had. One moment he was doing his usual set of duties, and the next moment he was out on the street. As he ambled up the dock away from that familiar steel hulk, his life and home for so long, he looked back one last time. Many folks would have been filled with anger or bitterness or felt betrayed and unappreciated. But instead a broad smile spread across his face revealing a toothy grin. He felt a certain freedom that he had not expected. He also felt gratitude for the opportunities and the experience.

As he had no family, he decided to travel westward. He had it in his mind to take advantage of the homestead land tracts that had become available. After more than four months in transit and two months working through the government bureaucracy, he sat on a rickety old chair on the front porch of a cabin that had not been habitated in more than 20 years. Most of the windows of the shack were broken, you could look up through the ceiling and see the night sky, and the outhouse was quite a walk from the back. Yet he was so thankful. The old potbelly wood stove was a blessing, and the two old oil lanterns that he purchased gave him enough light to see all he needed to see. As he sat on the front porch looking out over that barren landscape, he didn't see the rocks or the nearly dried up creek. He saw nothing but lush fields and promise in all directions.

Sometimes I wish I had the eyes of this old laborer. Though many would view his life as joyless or harsh and empty, he always sought out the positive when everyone else only saw hardship and darkness. I had a brief glimpse into this mindset recently when we had an unexpectedly warm day in the otherwise long march of winter. Although spring is still months off, the warm breeze across my face caused me to see things in a different way. The land was still brown and there were still piles of blackened snow on the sides of the roads, but I looked up and saw the trees covered with leaves and the grass lush and green. I don't know, maybe it was just a subtle change in perspective, a gentle reminder to stay positive.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Brook Besor

There was a period in the life of David, before he was in place as the great God-fearing king of the nation of Israel in 1000 B.C., when he was running for his life from the jealousy of King Saul. David was hiding out in the wilderness in the Negev desert. Over a period of a few years, David had taken leadership of some 600 men. David had been anointed years earlier by the prophet Samuel as the next king of Israel, but at that point in his life, that crowning felt like a distant and unrealistic dream. David was idling in neutral and his focus was not on his God, but on himself.

David hid among the enemies of Israel to gain some separation from Saul. He settled at Ziklag in Philistine country. On one mission, David led all his men away to join up with the Philistine army that was going to attack the Israelites. When David met with them, his services were rejected, and he and his men slunk back home. When they returned, they arrived to find Ziklag in ruins. A raiding band of Amalekites had destroyed the place, taken everything of value, including all of the women and children.

David's men turned on him and were preparing to stone him when David finally turned to the Lord for strength. David rallied his troops to set out to reclaim their families. After a long search with few clues as to where the Amalekites had gone, David and his men stopped for a rest at a place called Brook Besor. When it was time to go, 200 of David's men made the decision to stay behind, to give up on the pursuit. They were bone weary, discouraged, and broken. David and the remaining 400 continued on their way. Ultimately, they caught up with the raiders and wiped them out. Every last person taken from their village was rescued. They also not only reclaimed the goods and valuables that had been taken from them, they took in all of the plunder the Amalekites were transporting.

Upon return to Brook Besor, the sentiment of the 400 men was to keep the booty for themselves. Yet David, in his wisdom, divided it up equally among all of the 600. David understood that God had delivered the Amalekites to him. He understood that his muddied thinking and self focus were what led to the whole situation in the first place. He had reached his low point and knew what it was to lose all hope and not be able to look up and move on. Instead of putting his men down, he moved to build them up. "Everything we have is a gift from God; we share it with all who are saved by God." (1 Samuel 30:23-25) In dividing the spoils among the 400 who went into the battle to recover their loved ones and the 200 who stayed behind at the brook, David served as an ideal model of grace and compassion. He showed us how to build up instead of tearing down.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mindset 12

In the Mindset series I reminisce about some of my favorite memories of my daughter's life when she was younger. I hope that the task of writing these entries will serve me well, and I hope too that you will enjoy going on this trip with me.

Today's journey takes us to visit our trips out to the old fishin' hole. If you are now picturing the opening montage from the old Andy Griffith show with Andy and Opie, our version of fishing was quite different. In the apartment complex where we used to live, they had a small, man-made decorative pond near the entrance. The pond was stocked with lots of minnows, some small catfish, a few ornamental koi, and some other unseen denizens that we were sure lurked out in the reeds. These fish had come to rely on the local residents to provide them with food. You could tell this because whenever you walked up to the edge of the pond, all of the fish feverishly swam over to where you were and stared upwards, waiting patiently. In our version of fishing, we would bring along a few pieces of bread and we would pick up a couple of long flexible branches that we kept hidden out by the pond. We would then place a piece of wadded-up bread on the end of each branch and then dip the ends of our "fishing poles" into the water. Within seconds the fish all moved toward our bait and devoured every morsel. We loved watching the fish try to outsmart each other to get the bits and pieces of bread that floated about. My daughter always giggled when she felt the fish nibbles transmitted up along her branch to her hands. We always made sure that we set aside a bit of the bread to feed the fish that seemed too afraid to come up to us. We then made a game of tossing little bread balls out to them while trying to avoid the other fish. A new twist on an old pastime. Andy and Opie had nothing on us.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Dreams are like butterflies, beautiful and gentle. Always dancing and flittering just out of your reach. Elusive and coy. Clear, yet somehow just a vapor. Very few who have somehow managed to grab that golden ring or bottle that genie, have truly been satisfied. It always seems that the initial intoxication and euphoria slowly dissipates into the aether. Whether it's the loose floorboards and peeling paint in your new dream home, the burdensome grind of that high-paying new job, or the morning breath of your beloved, it seems that everything looks so much less perfect once the translucent veil of the dream-induced fog is pulled back. Just when you think that you have achieved everything that you ever wanted or finally corralled happiness, you start to notice its flaws. You see its scars. You learn that reality can be so much more troublesome and aggravating than the one-way road of our daydreams or fancies or fantasies. There is a saying that says "Better is the enemy of good enough." I think that we need to take this to heart as we try to capture that butterfly. Of course, there is an important difference between "good enough" and settling for something lesser when you deserve something better. But I just think that we need to be fully certain of what we need and what we want and what we truly desire before we let that butterfly loose. Once it is gone, you may not see another again.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Fierce Storm

One friend posted that there was nothing better than being all cosy inside with her family. Board games and hot chocolate and a few movies. Just perfect. Another posted of how beautiful his yard looked as it all came down. Every branch and fence post accentuated and enhanced. Oh such a sight. Nearly everyone took it all in through eyes of admiration and majesty and awe. I would agree that there is something magical about the snow. As you watch it fall down and accumulate, something normally causes me almost to fall into a trance. A lovely daydream, a tickling fancy.

Oh for that word normally. But what to my wondering eyes should appear but a harrowing and confining mood. A frozen picture stolen out of an Admiral Byrd expedition diary. All at once I felt trapped, bottled up, at the mercy of the elements. No scream would be heard. A straight-jacket wrapped tight around the perimeter of my house. It was then that I looked over at my daughter who told me not to worry, and then she looked over at all of her goodies beneath the Christmas tree. She said, we'll figure out something to do.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Demise of the Fire Pole

The headline was quite clear. There was no mistaking the words emblazened across the top of the page. "Fire poles are now sliding into history." As I read that line my heart sank. I remember a field trip back in elementary school when my whole class went to visit the local volunteer fire station. To my little kid eyes, everything looked so big in scale. Big fire trucks, big axes, big snarling Dalmation with beheaded chew toys laying about. Those firemen seemed like superheroes to me. They were rugged and burly. They reeked of charcoal. They all had that gleam in their eye. I was absolutely mesmerized and transfixed by all that I heard and saw and took in that day. Of course, the coolest part of it was getting to see the big brass fire pole. We even got to see how they slid down the pole when they were responding to an emergency of some sort. When that alarmed sounded, they told us that every second counted. Of course, each of the big, burly men yelled out "Wheeee" as they slid down the pole, so at least they got to have some fun too.

Beyond the eye-catching headline, I learned that fire poles, while fun and neat, also had their dark side too. One of the main experts interviewed for the story, Fire Chief Ax Elerant, was quoted as saying that fire poles were the number one source of fireman-related injury. Oh it wasn't the skin burns on their inner thighs that was the biggest issue, although this was comically serious, it was the startling number of firemen who were wandering around the second floor, strung out from the fumes of the fire that had just been extinguished, who inadvertently fell down the gaping hole in the floor. Chief Elerant stated that while time was of the essence in responding to all emergencies, it was just as important to make sure that his teams got to the scene in one piece. He stated that his men could more safely take the stairs.

Wow, it has come to this. What's next, a long flight of stairs down to the Bat Cave or to the Mermalayer? What of our heroes when they return? The only thanks they get is having to huff up all of those stairs. Part of that hero image that I had for firemen now seems, somehow, tarnished.

Friday, January 7, 2011


One day there lived a man named Job from the land of Uz. He was a very wealthy man, who lived on a great expanse of land with his wife, ten children, and servants. He is described in the first verse of the book of Job as "blameless"; a man very close to God. At this point in the story Job loses nearly everything. His children and his wealth are all taken from him in a series of calamities. The why of the story is intriguing, and Job's response serves as an example of how to honor God through all of the seasons of our lives. Charles Swindoll takes us step by step through the story of Job in the seventh volume of his Great Lives series, Job, A Man of Heroic Endurance.

At the root of this story is a meeting between God and Satan. Satan claims that Job is so pious only because he has been richly blessed. Satan suggests that if Job lost everything, he would curse God. So God allows Satan to take everything from Job, yet Job remained faithful. Certainly he grieved and lamented, but he understood that God has the right to give and take whatever and whenever he pleases. When Satan saw his response, he was frustrated and went back to God. He then claimed that Job only kept his integrity because he was healthy. God allowed Satan to take this from Job as well.

At this point, four friends of Job arrive on the scene. Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu. While their original intent was to comfort to Job, they end up only providing him strife and torment. They are of the strongest mind that Job's suffering is due to some hidden sin in his life, and that the key to his restoration is simply to admit his sin and ask God for forgiveness. Job believes that he blameless and defends himself against their barrages. What is paining Job more than the arrows of his "friends", is the distance and silence of his God when he needs him most. Yet through the pain and grief and loss, Job never curses God and remains a faithful servant.

When God finally breaks his silence and addresses Job, he never explains what happened or why. Instead he focusses on teaching Job who he is and building their relationship. Many who read this story are frustrated and confused. Job is seemingly treated as a pawn in some sort of game between God and Satan. Although Job ultimately is restored by God to full health and rebuilt his empire and his family, he endured an excruciating season marked by amazing losses. Job learned some important lessons through this, but it is not recorded whether any of this had an impact on Satan. What is confusing is that Satan knows that God is omnipotent and omniscient. If God told Satan that Job would never curse him, why did God have to "prove it". My guess is that this had less to do the battle between God and Satan, and more to do with God building up his servant Job. Now, on to the next volume in the series, Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mindset 11

In the Mindset series I reminisce about some of my favorite memories of my daughter's life when she was younger. I hope that the task of writing these entries will serve me well, and I hope too that you will enjoy going on this trip with me.

Today's journey takes us to visit a very fond memory with my daughter where we used to go for long walks together. We lived in an apartment complex that was quite large. Several dozen building units spread out over a large site. Around the perimeter of the complex was a nice paved walking path. Many evenings after we had eaten our supper, we would head outside and complete the circuit. Sometimes she would hold my hand and we would talk about our days. Other times she would find a nice stick to drag along the ground. At times we played games like follow the leader or "I'm thinking of an animal". On occasion we would veer off the path to get a Slushie at the next door 7-11 store. Each time we ventured out we found a unique and exciting adventure. I loved these times together because we left the T.V. and computer games behind and got to make our own fun. This was the best path for connection.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Do Over

When kids are playing a game you will frequently hear them calling a "do over". Usually this occurs when they have failed to reach a goal or get very far in what they were attempting. They want another chance. They want to try again. In fact, calling for a do over is so commonplace that kids rarely cry foul or rise up to block the request. It is actually a tacitly accepted part of the game.

You know, I often wish I could call a do over in life. The other day I walked away from a conversation where I mistreated someone as I sought to get my way heard. Countless times in frustration because I could not form a cogent argument I have wounded others with my hurtful words. Time after time I have failed to come through in a pressure-filled situation with grace, civility, and good manners. I wish in times like these I could collect myself, remember who I am supposed to be, and call for a do over.

Actually, my most frequent type of do over call would be the times where I have let something silly, unimportant, imagined, or unreal creep its way into my brain and take over. The tendrils of these small monsters run amok in me and take over. They fill my demeanor with anxiety, with hatred, with inward focus, with negativity. They take over my whole day. If you only knew the total number of days of my life that have been wasted in this manner, you would pity me. Oh, to waste no more. Oh, for the ability for a do over.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grind My Gears 19

I was recently sitting in a movie house, mindlessly munching my overpriced, burnt, concession-stand popcorn, when the pre-movie trailers started. Apart from the fact that the endless trailers they now force us to watch last longer than the movie that we actually came to see, one other thing struck me as I tried to pry my shoes from the apparently molasses covered floor. SMURFS IN 3D! What?? In fact, trailer after trailer after trailer trumpeted the fact that their movie would be shown in 3 freakin' D. Let me just go on record and say that anything in 3D really grinds my gears. When I was young we lived in a 2D movie world and we liked it. Our characters were shallow, the cinematography was lacking, the direction was hackneyed. Yet we still grew up to be normal, productive members of society. Sure we loved the tantalizing glimpses into the possibilities of 3D programming given to us by the late and masterful John Candy as Dr. Tongue on SCTV (O.K. how many of you out there appreciate this allusion??). But this whole 3D thing is now totally out of control. Given that going to see a regular old run-o'-the-mill 2D movie already requires me to take out a second mortgage on my quaint spanish-style bungalo, they want even more money to add that extra dimension. Fie! I say fie! I don't know about you, but as for me and my family, we will stay in flatland. And, I might add, if I can get a further discount on my movie ticket prices by dropping even another D, sign me up.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Next Door Savior

In Next Door Savior by Max Lucado, we have a book that essentially represents a collection of Sunday sermons or a daily devotional. Each chapter is separate from the others and each serves to illustrate a story or anecdote from the life of Jesus. Each is centered on the notion that while on earth as a person like any of us, Jesus was just as close as a next door neighbor. Yet at the same time, he was strong enough to handle whatever came his way. He served as the ultimate example. Always the right words, always the right attitude, always the right actions, and always the right thoughts. He was the sinless lamb, without blemish or defect. He was the son of the living God in heaven.

My take on this book is very similar to what I said in my review of his book Come Thirsty. There is nothing unexpected, super deep, or mind blowing in these pages. It is spiritual comfort food. Ready to speak truth to us and to remind us that our God fully understands everything that we are going through, not only because he is omniscient, but because he has been there
himself. He serves as a steady beacon of light that can take away the darkness from our lives.

In Next Door Savior, the chapters are each just a few pages long. The book can be ready cover to cover in just a few nights, or it can be stretched out over a few months, reading a chapter here and a chapter there. The idea of using it as a devotional is a particularly good idea. Sit down and complete a chapter with your morning or evening devotional and it will refocus your heart and keep you straight on your walk.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Day 2011

It is the start of a new year and with it I begin in the most joyous way that I could imagine, namely, celebrating the birth of my daughter. While all of her birthdays are special to me, this one marks a new period for her. A new beginning of sorts. Today my daughter embarks on her journey as a teenager. Thirteen. Treize. Trece. Tredici. Dreizehn. Wow! This will be such an amazing and important year for her, and I can't wait to go on this trip with her.

As you might imagine, with every beginning, there is an end. As she begins as a teenager, she leaves behind her time as a young child. She leaves behind her moniker as "my little one" and that is as it should be. One thing that I am beginning to understand is that as my daughter grows up, I need to adapt and make changes in how I interact with her. While my love and support and attention towards her will remain constants, I need to be sure that I don't treat her like a toddler or a youngling. I need to give her space to grow, space to learn, space to succeed, and importantly, space to fail. I need to treat her in a manner that is representative of her maturity and her years. Lord knows I am trying my best, and I hope that she has patience because this is not always easy for me.

Today we are going to just enjoy our time together and embark on that journey together. My beautiful daughter, I am so proud of you and love you with all of my heart.