Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Comfort Zone

All it takes is a sliver, a whisper, a wind. Just the slightest nudge can knock us out of our comfort zones. At once we move from breathing free and light to battling the pressure on our chests. Funny how fragile our mindset is when we are moved even an iota away from our comfort zone. I was reminded of this very recently at work. Normally my office is my comfort zone. My space for quiet reflection and deep thinking. A place I can retreat into to re-center my rhythms and regain my focus. However, the other day a workman showed up to deal with a loose seam that had developed in my carpet. This seam was positioned just next to my desk, right beside where my chair normally sits. Ultimately, because the job was trickier than the workman had expected, he ended up squatting next to me hemming and hawing and gesturing and coming and going for the whole day. My office suddenly had a very different dynamic. I couldn't concentrate on my work, I couldn't sit for a moment and just think a problem through. I couldn't work anywhere near my peak efficiency. What's interesting is that when I got home that evening I was exhausted. It took so much additional mental effort just to get by, that I was worn out. Definitely a day out of my comfort zone.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Each marker represents a life taken and a life given. For each one like this here and around the world, I offer a simple, humble prayer of remembrance. Some took up this role by choice, others were sent. All left behind so much life. Since the beginning of time, man has shown that he cannot life in harmony with his brother or his neighbor. Killing and savagery are a part of us. I pray that somehow, some way, we can find some common ground and live with each other in respect and peace so that no more markers need be placed to represent another life taken.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Check 50

Stream of consciousness. Random selection. Mental drift. I took a moment to look over my most recent blog posts. I seem to be all over the map with my subject matter. Likely, the diversity of this sample is quite a typical spread for me. In fact, I am happy that I have the freedom to express myself from any point of view that strikes my mood and my demeanor. A story from my past that has stuck with me through the years. An inspired touch of poetry. A silly observation from the folds of my mind. My considerations of books that I have read. From one day to the next I am free to explore and free to express. One wave ebon, the next alabaster. A little bit country, a little bit rock 'n roll.

Just for fun, I decided to categorize my ramblings and thoughts over the last several months, amounting to 50 posts. This is what I found:
  • Personal struggles - 11
  • Observations - 9
  • Book reviews - 16
  • Anecdotes - 3
  • Humor - 7
  • Religion - 4
Thanks for letting me roam and letting me be me, ..., as if you had any say in the matter.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


There's a lyric in a old rock 'n roll song that declares, "It's better to burn out than fade away." This notion of "burnout" implies a fiery nova that disappears in a flashy and brilliant display. But burnout also stirs another image. That of someone who has given all that they can and has nothing left, their tanks on empty, their reserves gone. They feel depressed and fatigued to the point of complete powerlessness. A deeply rooted state of lethargy or apathy brought about by prolonged stress, overwork, or intense activity. A shroud none too easily removed.

Burnout can overtake us as well when our routine becomes rote and meaningless. When we can't remember why we are doing what we are doing. Activities and feelings that we were once passionate about only leave us numb and unsure. We devote significant time and energy and spirit to volunteering only to feel unappreciated, unimportant, and unnecessary. We kill ourselves year after year at work on project after project but none of it really matters and nobody else seems to give so much of themselves. We go to church on Sundays and spend time in our devotionals, and we try to transform how we live to become something that we weren't. All too often we are plagued by doubts and uncertainties and often miss what we have left behind.

But how do we proceed when we are struck down and afflicted? Burnout rocks us and steals our joy and our purpose. It can make us feel like we have wasted our precious resources of time, money, and mind. No deposit, no return. Staring at lines of regret across our faces. But withdrawal and closing in on ourselves is likely more destructive than anything else we could do. Going through the motions and continuing forward on the same worn path is also no way to live. But maybe there is something that we can take away from the season of burnout to balance out the ledger. Could it be that exploring our position, to appreciate who we are really volunteering for, who we honor when we work to the fullness of our abilities, and why we strive to live transformed lives even if we are not fully successful, might just help us to resettle attitudes and priorities, as well as to devise more personal answers to questions that rattle our minds? Only then can we appreciate that the fire from burnout might be present not to burn us to ashes, but to forge us into something stronger.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


"... it was a strange monster, for beneath its exterior it was frightened and sickened by its own violence. It chastised itself for its savagery. And sometimes it had not heart for violence and rebelled against it utterly."

Graceling is a fantasy/adventure tale by author Kristin Cashore set in a land of seven kingdoms, each ruled by a king. Five of the kings are wicked and selfish, prone to border skirmishes and displays of power. However, two of the kingdoms, that of Leinid and Monsea, are ruled by kings with a reputation for fairness and strong leadership. Leinid is an island, well separated from the others, which affords its people distance from the mainland battles. Monsea is separated from the other lands by an unforgiving and brutal mountain range.

Among the people of these lands, who were united in days of long ago, exist a handful of misbreeds. Men and women, boys and girls who are born with extraordinary talents. They are called "gracelings", as they have been graced with superhuman abilities for sword fighting, swimming, archery, running, and a host of others talents. The gracelings are feared, shunned, misunderstood, and avoided by most of the people. The heroine of the story is a strong-willed teenager named Katsa, the niece of the Middlun king. She is graced with an unparalled ability for killing and combat. Her uncle uses her to settle disputes or extract quick and merciless revenge on his enemies. He keeps her and commands her as he would a savage dog, and this control keeps her down and in chains. However, as Katsa matures, she starts to come to grips with who she is and how her grace can help bring justice to the lands. She forms a secret Council with other sympathizers and they undertake missions of mercy. On one mission to rescue a kidnapped prince from Leinid, she meets a graced fighter named Po. There is an immediate spark between Po and Katsa that surprises her, as nobody has ever intringued her in that way before.

Ultimately the Middlun king pushes Katsa too far and she refuses to obey his barbaric and unscrupulous orders. As she must flee her kingdom, she decides to travel with Po, who we learn is also looking for the Leinid prince, who happens to be his grandfather. Po is the seventh son of the Leinid king. Katsa and Po set out on a quest to unravel the truth of the kidnapping. Their journey takes them to Monsea, where they must pass across the rugged mountain border. On the long and treacherous journey, Po and Katsa fall in love. The beautiful scenery is outshone only by the transformation we see in Katsa due to Po's love and gentleness. Slowly he helps Katsa to dispel the notion that she is a monster, and that she is so much more than her grace. He helps her to blossom into who she was meant to be. A harrowing tale takes place among this romance of a battle with the king of Monsea, who is actually truly wicked and cunning. They help to save the king's young daughter Bitterblue from murder by her own father's hand. This was a vivid and wonderful journey with well developed characters and scenes that filled the imagination and the spirit. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Not About Me

"So the one who plants is not important, and the one who waters is not important. Only God, who makes things grow, is important." 1 Corinthians 3:7

This simple yet profound verse of scripture sums up the central truth of the book It's Not About Me by preacher and author Max Lucado. It was really the title of this book that resonated with me when I came across it in the library the other day. This simple mantra, "It's not about me", has been an important aspect of my walk and my daily devotional time. It is a notion that is definitely not native to my operating system, and so, I struggle with personalizing it. I must revisit this lesson again and again and again, like a student who continually fails the same course time after time. I don't seem to get it or to fully absorb it. My body seems to continually reject this seed. Yet, it's not about me. It never has been and never will be. Though I may fight and scratch and claw to put myself at the top of the stack, eventually I hope to truly, madly, and deeply learn where I belong.

In this book from 2004, we find a very typical set of sermons from Lucado about some relevant truth and teaching regarding our place. This work is separated into two sections, one called "God Pondering" and the other called "God Promoting". The first section is to help us to understand who we are in relation to our Creator and why everything we do should focus on glorifying Him and lifting Him up. The second section gives us some practical advice on how to fulfill our mission here.

Nothing too deep in this book. Just straightforward and practical easy-listening preaching that is the hallmark of all of Lucado's works. Ahhh ...

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Old Ways

As the parent of a child who recently became a teenager, this is undoubtedly a period of immense changes. Immense changes for her and immense changes for me. She is growing up and maturing from a child to a young adult. The old child-like ways are being set aside and new grown-up ways of thinking are taking root. At times I feel like I am watching a metamorphosis from one species to another right before my eyes. For me, I am constantly trying to understand how to interact and relate to my daughter. The rules of the game seem to be constantly shifting. What works today is frowned upon tomorrow and really upsets her next week.

I have noticed just over the past six months that many things that my daughter and I used to do together no longer hold any interest for her. For example, I used to sing to my daughter as she brushed her teeth or she used to love for me to read to her before bed. These activities were staples of our time together. There were also several games that we used to enjoy playing together. Now, she has outgrown these games of youth. Several times recently we have been playing one of our regular games or doing one of our regular activities, and I have had the sense that this would be the last time that we did this. I'm not exactly sure of what tips me off. Perhaps something about her attitude or her approach. These feelings definitely tug at my heart strings.

I had this feeling recently when my daughter and I were playing a game of sword fight that we have played for years. She has a magnet construction kit called "Magnetix". In our game, we would each take a metal pole and hang magnetic links from its end. We would then swing the poles at each other and try to take the magnetic links of the other. The game was over when one of us got all of the pieces or we got tired from laughing and carrying on. As I put the kit in her closet in the evening after I had tucked her in bed, I knew.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Marketing Ploy

I have noticed a growing trend in television advertising with regard to children's toys. Ads for everything from trading cards, to collectible action figures, to water guns seem to have latched onto this new marketing approach. Frankly, the whole thing kind of creeps me out. Toys that are made for and played with by boys 5 to 10 years old, all seem to be using grown men in their commencials. One of the worst offenders is the toy brand Nerf. Picture a man with a 5 o'clock shadow looking menacingly into the camera and snarling, "It's Nerf, or nothing!". Either these men have not matured past adolescence and need some significant psychological counseling, or the toy manufacturers are up to something else.

You may ask, "What could they possibly be up to?", to which I would say, "I'm glad you were astute enough and good-looking enough to ask." Well, I don't know for sure and can only wildly speculate. Actually, at this point, I feel compelled to wildly speculate. It's my calling, it's my gift. My initial guess was that the toy marketing gurus were hoping that the lonely housewives who watch daytime television would be put under a testosterone spell and sprint to their local Toys R Us and purchase all of this junk. However, it is much more likely that there is an important marketing demographic of Navy Seals and Army Rangers out there who are just an inane commercial away from spending their full military retirement on cheap plastic crap because they sense a kindred spirit with the tough guys they see on the tube. You might have other theories, but I can assure you that you could not be more wrong. Even though I am creeped out by these commercials, I am learning to live with them, after all, I feel it is important to support our troops.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Leprechaun's Gold

Sometimes we stumble upon the leprechaun's pot of gold and we continue on our way, missing out on the treasure that is right before us. All the while we mutter and complain how good things never come our way. Ahhh to find the good stuff, recognize it in the moment, and then take the time to fully savor it.

Here is my list of leprechaun's gold. I hope this spurs you to stop, be still for a moment, and hopefully start to learn to recognize what is right in front of you.
  • Talking with my daughter as she swings in her hammock.
  • A long lunch with a good friend.
  • A lively and Spirit-filled Bible study group meeting.
  • Making myself a nice dinner because I am worth it.
  • Doing something for my daughter and having it recognized.
  • Catching all the lights on the way home from work.
  • Falling into a good book and losing myself for a few hours.
  • Sharing a side-splitting, tears-in-your-eyes laugh with an old friend.
  • Connecting personally with the message at church.
  • Turning on the T.V. to unexpectedly find a favorite movie just as it begins.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Young Adult

It seems that most things around us wear labels written in the hands of others. It allows us to categorize and manage. Like a stereotype is an inaccurate and muddy reflection of a person, labels are sometimes just as problematic when it comes to things. Take for example the category of books referred to as "young adult". From what I have seen, YA books are marketed to newly independent readers in their early to mid-teens. Yet from what I have found, they can have very intricate plots, detailed and realistic character development, very mature themes, and can run the gamut over all genres. Yet labels come cheaply. Sappy teenage romance, awkward battles of body image-challenged square pegs, naivety coming-of-age garbage. Yet I would challenge you to look past these common-law definitions.

Over the past several years I have thoroughly enjoyed savoring my time with two YA series in particular. The first was the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins that I read last year. The second was the 6-part Dreamhouse Kings series by Robert Liparulo that I just finished reading. Both had very original plots and made me really care about the characters and what happened to them. You know you are connecting with the story when you miss the people as you reach the end of the book. But if you press me for what is missing in a typical YA book, I can admit they are missing any unnecessary foul language and gratuitous sex. But, you know, that's O.K. with me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No Time

It doesn't seem that long ago that I held you in my arms as you lay sleeping. You were helpless and completely dependent on me for so many things. I distinctly remember telling you how much I loved you and how I hoped that I had the strength and patience to bring you up in this world to be ready and to make a difference. Although the words still echo in my ears, they are from a moment so very long ago. Back then I thought we had all the time in the world.

Through the years you grew and developed into who you are. Many things you learned from me, but many were also hard-wired into your being. Kindness, caring for others, laughter, silliness, and determination. From your first day of preschool through kindergarten, elementary school, and middle school. We have been through so much together, so many firsts. As much as I cared for you and looked out for you along the way, it feels like you have done so much more for me. At each stage I kept thinking that we had all the time in the world.

Today so many things have changed or stopped, so many lasts. From dependence to independence. Revolution and evolution. Over the period of what seems like just a few short months, so many of the little girl ways have been put away. Brushing teeth as I sang to you, reading together before bed time, screaming out whenever the clock read 7:11, going about town on our adventures, making me close the soap container, and caring for your zoo of stuffed animals. It has all flashed before my eyes so quickly. I always thought that we would have more time together.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gardening at Night

Suppose you had transported home a very expensive and delicate collection of crystal vases in your car. I suspect if you were in a rational state of mind, you would very carefully carry them into your house. You would not try to load up a dozen of them in your arms at once, and only then fumble through your pockets to locate your house keys to open the door. If you did, you could imagine that one or more of the vases would wind up shattered on the ground at your feet. You might then start to throw a fit and bellow at the door lock and your bad luck. But luck has nothing to do with it. It is stupidity, stubbornness, and laziness, pure and simple.

Now the previous scenario is one that I made up to make a point. Why do we oftentimes do really stupid, short-sighted things in a moment of haste that we would never dream of doing in our right minds? In fact, how many times have you done something really boneheaded and had it go awry? It is only when you sit back later after having regained your composure that you realize that if you had seen someone else doing what you did, you would ridicule them for being an idiot. But what if they kept repeating the same idiocy over and over again?

Case in point. The other evening past sundown, as I sat on my couch reading, I could swear I heard one of my neighbors start up a lawn mower. I kind of shook my head and was curious enough to investigate. Sure enough the man who owned the property on the other side of my back fence was out mowing his lawn. He had his back porch light on, but it was a feeble source and left nearly his entire yard constricted in blackness. Two minutes later he ran over something and the mower shuddered to a halt. I then heard a string of cussing that would have made Popeye blush. You would have thought that at that moment he would have ceased his risky activity. Yet not even ten minutes later he was at it again. Bang. Same result. More cussing and fussing. Again. Bang. Same thing. More cussing and outright screaming. I thought to myself, how many times would this man continue in his idiocy? Well after the last round of yelping and carrying on came to a close, I did not hear him or his mower again that night. Whether it was because he came to his senses or he finally destroyed his mower is unclear.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blue Like Jazz

"I never liked jazz music ... sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself ..." So, this is what served as the taproot for Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. I wonder if it is only those who have personally experienced his opening statement who will ever truly appreciate his point of view.

As for me, there was a time I did a walk-through of the Kunsthistorisches museum in Austria by myself in under 30 minutes. Dry, musty, old. On my way out the door, I happened upon a friend who asked for some company to tour the museum. Many hours later we were asked to leave because it was closing time. Without the light of my friend, my eyes would have remained closed to a world of beauty and technique and grandeur. I would have taken nothing away from that afternoon. Yeah, I understand what Miller is saying. I get it, in a very personal way.

Blue Like Jazz is the second book by Miller, and was published in 2003. It is the story of Miller's own life as he moves in fits and starts toward finding a way to define his spirituality. It includes a series of stories, essays, and reflections of his life during his college years that detail his growing understanding of what a Christian is and is not, and how to live life as a Christ follower. The subtitle of the book is "Non-religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality", yet that, in my opinion, is a bit of a misnomer. This subtitle really is used because Miller was seeking out an authentic relationship with God and Jesus, the sort that is completely removed from pretense and pretending. It is not the kind that is built on the ramblings of a mega-preacher, the finger pointing and rule making of the Pharisees, or the polite Christian-lite banter overheard in the church foyer before and after the Sunday service. Miller asked questions that I would like to think all Christians ask before devoting themselves to this path. His style is honest, straightforward, and filled with innocence and humor that most will appreciate and understand.

But like listening to jazz, had he tried to find his way alone, he might have walked away, without a taste for the medium. It was only in his experiences with other people did he learn to love it for himself, did he learn the language and music of his soul. This book was written with a very unique and personal voice that spoke intimately to me. At times I almost felt like Miller and I were sharing stories over coffee, and I was given my own nickname and was part of his circle. An absolutely wonderful book that I highly recommend. I look forward to reading his other works.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

House Matters

As a home owner, it seems like there is always something that needs to be done to ensure that my house does not collapse inward on itself. My "to-do" list is long and only getting longer. Battling this monster day after day and year after year, I have made a number of observations. Perhaps you can relate to some of these.
  • I am pretty sure that my vacuum cleaner will never die from overuse.
  • I can make a single bottle of bathroom cleaner easily last for 5 years.
  • That cobweb floating from the molding by the front door will likely remain there until I move.
  • I am quite proficient at dusting using the palm of my hand, and no, there is no need to move the knick-knacks out of the way.
  • I have linoleum and tile floors in several rooms, but I don't own a mop. I can live with this situation.
  • I could not imagine changing my bed sheets every week.
  • Is once every other month (or so) a reasonable time period between vacuuming?
  • You can learn to live quite easily with a bit of mildew in the shower.
  • I have a carpet shampooer machine. It seems to prefer to remain in the closet.
  • Home repair is for the weak minded. Neglect is strength.
So, fellow home owners, is there anything that you could add to this list?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A+ America 5

Today I continue my quest to seek out the good and the positive with intention and purpose. I want to learn how to focus on uplifting things that I see in the world around me as opposed to just the blackness and hatred and violence and selfishness that are so easy to find. The one that I found today I have actually appreciated for some time, but I just never let my mind dwell on it. I was parked in the community sports complex near my home. It is actually a very nice facility with lots of baseball and softball fields, as well as general purpose fields for football, soccer, and other sports. I happened to be there for my daughter's lacrosse game. It seemed on this particular Saturday that there wasn't a single field that wasn't full of some organized children's activity. Yet almost lost in this sea of excitement and life, there were a myriad of folks who are responsible for organizing everything and making it all happen. This includes not only the facility managers and the game officials, but also the dozens of coaches and assistants who work with our kids not only to teach them the particulars of the games, but also how to compete with honor and respect, all while having fun and gaining self confidence. All of these folks willingly volunteer their time to give what they can, to share their wisdom and their passion, and to make a difference. They make things better in this world with a overwhelmingly positive outcome. It really is a very good thing. So, I say A+ America.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Frenzy is the last of the six-part Dreamhouse Kings series from author Robert Liparulo that continues on immediately where Whirlwind left off. Xander and David have been captured by the ruthless and evil Assyrian assassin and are being readied for massacre on an ancient battleground in Greece. Once again their level-headed thinking, along with a bottle of shampoo, allows them to escape from their captors. As they try to find their way back home, they are completely surprised to find they are time-jumping from age to age instead of going directly home. They then start to gain deeper understanding of the rules of time. While their Dad and little sister are off following up on a lead related to the ogre that kidnapped their mother, the King boys are bonding with Keal, the nurse/ex-Army Ranger, who accompanied the old man Jesse to the house. Jesse is still recovering in the hospital after being stabbed and left for dead by the assassin.

In this last installment of the series, the family chooses to jump through a portal to escape a murderous plan by the assassin. In a cool and telling moment, they land in Jerusalem and encounter Jesus carrying the cross that he would be nailed to later that afternoon. This moment is fitting because we have been learning throughout this series that the portals exist to take the gatekeepers back in history to where man's biggest mistakes were made. In essence, they exist to allow the gatekeepers to prevent where mankind went astray. Certainly the death of Jesus is the biggest such moment, and it is fitting that this is where they ultimately reunite with their mother and return home. Once home, their peace and joy are short lived as they must have one final battle with the assassin and his ogre. Through some clever thinking and strategy they lay a trap that leads to the antagonists being returned to their time without any direct path back to the present. The story ends with the family finally embracing their destiny as gatekeepers.

In an interview at the end of Frenzy, author Robert Liparulo tells us that he didn't want every aspect of the story to be wrapped up in a neat package. He didn't want the King family to kill the assassin, as this would make them too much like him. He also didn't want them to solve the problem with the coming apocalyptic end to the world engineered by the assassin. He wanted to end the series conveying to the reader that they had the skill, talent, ability, and will to change the past to positively affect the future. For now, that is enough. Have we seen the end of the King family? Likely not.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Whirlwind is the fifth book in the Dreamhouse Kings series that begins just where the previous book, Timescape ended. A very anxious Xander and David King are trapped in the house of the ancient assassin, separated from each other, and both quite certain that they are going to die. After some very courageous and quick-thinking moves, they both manage to escape with a few new bruises and scrapes, but with a deeper insight into just how evil and depraved their nemesis really is. Yet this latest brush with death only emboldens them to work harder and smarter to make sense of the house of dark shadows and to rescue their mother from whatever time and place now holds her captive.

The King boys ultimately gain a deeper appreciation that their being brought to this house at this point in time is not just due to a decision by their father to search for his kidnapped mother. It is not just about the present search for their own mother. It is not some thrill ride to see how close to death they can actually position themselves and still escape. They begin to truly understand and embrace their legacy, their birthright, their destiny as gatekeepers. Not only are they to regulate who has access to the time portals, but they are to use them to correct the wrongs and mistakes of the past. The boys have already gotten a sense of this when they find out a girl they rescued from the Nazis went on to develop the vaccine for smallpox and when they saved the life of U.S. general Ulysses S. Grant. Their direct actions have resulted in the saving of several million lives!

Now the race is on to outwit the assassin and affect the past to avoid the bleak future that they have already witnessed in the trip to the future world. However, nothing ever seems to come easily and there is seemingly a heavy price to pay for every inch that they gain. As Whirlwind comes to a crescendo, the boys find out they have gone through a portal and ended up in Atlantis. They also learn that the assassin had his ogre henchman bring their mother there as a slave gift to the royalty in order to gain their favor. Now on to the conclusion of the Dreamhouse Kings series, "Frenzy".

Friday, May 6, 2011

In a Pit

Several years ago I read Mark Batterson's second book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day in my church small group. At the time I was very much taken with the author's style, his turns of phrase, his attitude, and the legitimacy of his doctrine. Many who read Batterson's books note that he has a very approachable style and his books rate high on the readability scale. With that background stated, my current small group decided to dive into this book as part of its discussion, allowing me the opportunity to read the book again. I was looking forward to the discussion within the group and to see what new truths I could pull out and what messages I would be convicted by or reminded of once again.

The title of this book is in reference to the man Benaiah who would ultimately become King David's military captain. However, before he got this opportunity he was proving his mettle and building his resumé by purposefully doing battle with a lion who fell into a pit on a snowy day. Of course most people would run from such a battle when assured of a very low probability of survival. Not Benaiah. He dove into that pit, took that chance, and gave God the opportunity to reveal His glory. Such is the message of this book. Lion chasers thrive in the toughest circumstances because they know that impossible odds set the stage for God's biggest miracles. Of course those of us in the majority who would run from such a challenge are robbing God of an opportunity to reveal Himself to us in a situation where success clearly and unequivocably could not be of our own doing.

I found that tackling this book in a different group leads to an altogether different type of discussion. Of course each group is different and the points raised and hashed out can be quite different indeed. I was at first a bit reluctant to read the book again and "waste" time within group on something that I had already been through. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Not only was I reminded of what a wonderful piece of writing this was by Batterson, but the group discussion was deep and fresh and uplifting and I very much looked forward to each and every week.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Why can I forgive others when I can't forgive myself? This is a question that was asked during a meeting of my church Bible study group. It wasn't asked in anger or frustration, but more from the standpoint of curiosity. I sensed that the question was posed more from a rhetorical sense. After the question was raised, it hung in the air for a moment or two as we all silently pondered. A good question, and one that most of us really can appreciate. Sometimes we can forgive the most aggregious offense from someone else, but we cannot stop reminding ourselves of our most trivial and pedestrian slips.

I know this to be true of myself as well, and I understand how this lack of forgiveness leads to deep-seated regrets that I can't let go. In fact, it sometimes feels that it is not me holding onto them, it is them holding onto me. Hence the image of a prison cell that I chose to accompany this post, for unforgiveness truly is a prison of sorts. We are trapped by painful thoughts and feelings and regrets that never seem to end. It is a cramped, dank, and putrid confine of our own making within the boundaries of our mind.

Although I do not fully understand what I am about to claim, and I don't know what it means in practice, I recognize the truth of my own words. Living in a prison cell of our own design is not the way God intended us to live. Life doesn't have to be this way. You see, we are the warden. We have the key to our cells and the ability to open it up at any time we choose. In fact, nobody else in the world has this ability or this authority. Only us. Forgiveness is the key to open that door, and it is the only key that will fit into the lock and engage the tumblers. It is not the passage of time. It is not trying to forget the past or bury it away. It is not numbing the pain with alcohol or drugs.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


The fourth book of the Dreamhouse Kings series, Timescape, flows immediately from the end of the previous book, Gatekeepers. There, the mother of Ed King, who had been stolen away to past times and past worlds for more than 30 years had been rescued. However, the forces of time demand balance. What was taken must be returned. The absence of the elder Mrs. King from the timeline of past history results in her being pulled back to the portals to the past. While the King family is trying to save her, the evil Assyrian assassin makes his move and tries to kill the mysterious Jesse who built the dark shadows house with his family so many years ago. Jesse knows more about this house than anyone, and it was felt his presence would finally result in something positive to even out all of the negative, near-death trials the King family has experienced trying to locate their mother. His injuries and his absense have sucked the spirit and the fight out of everyone. Yet as he lay bleeding he left a clue for the family.

During this time the King family learns that one, and only one, portal leads to the future. Upon visiting this time, they witness a bleak, post-apocalyptic world occupied by humanoid mutants. This timescape of future history is being shaped by the actions of the assassin via his purposeful manipulations of the past. Yet, we don't know what his aim is. What is he trying to accomplish? Ultimately the King children make sense of Jesse's clue. He has given them the directions to find the portal that takes them back to meet him as a child, where he is busy with his father and brother building the house of dark shadows. The book comes to a close on a powerful crescendo as the King boys, Xander and David, who are trying to infiltrate the layer of the assassin, are trapped by the very man they were trying to outmaneuver. It is only at this moment that they realize how overmatched they really are, outflanked by an evil master of the game.

At this point in the series, we have experienced the characters and lived with them through countless ordeals that began only a mere few days ago. However, the personalities, tendencies, and strengths of the King children have been well developed. Xander (15) is brave, self-reliant, rebellious, and headstrong. David (12) is courageous, cerebral, and caring. Toria (9) is strong, tenacious, and more reliant on others. We are still left trying to understand the father Ed King. He busies himself but without really getting anything done. His caution is at times frustrating. Yet we understand how much he loves his children. Now onto the fifth book in the series by Robert Liparulo, "Whirlwind".

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


The third book in the Dreamhouse Kings series by Robert Liparulo is called Gatekeepers. This book starts just where the book Watcher in the Woods ended. The King boys, Xander and David, are left on their own when their Dad has been arrested based on false charges and a few bribes paid out by the ancient assassin. Xander and David believe that they have made contact with their mother in a portal that takes them to a Civil War encampment near the front lines of battle. They left behind a clue that only she would recognize. When someone answers the clue, the boys begin to visit this period to find their mom. However, every time they enter into the portal that leads them to the camp, they barely escape with their lives.

Throughout, the King children continue to match wits with the mysterious assassin who is bent on killing them. Although the doors to their house are locked, he seems to have ready access whenever he pleases. We also learn that he commands several of the ogres who come and go through the time portals to carry out his bidding. We know his aim is for evil, but we don't yet know what is going on. Just when things start to close in on the children so that they fear they will have to flee for their very lives, the sickly old man Jesse arrives on the scene with his traveling nurse, a former army ranger named Keal. Keal knows how to take care of himself when needed. Jesse and Keal are just the allies that are needed when things look the darkest.

Before this book ends we learn that the DNA of the King family is somehow tied to the house of dark shadows. Their destiny is to live in this house and protect it, to act as the gatekeepers. Yet they feel overmatched. Just when they think they have found their mother, it turns out their have found their grandmother who was dragged away over 30 years earlier. Clues to the whereabouts of their mother, the path that leads to her, have completely vanished. While they rejoice in the return of their dad from jail and the rescue of their grandmother, Jesse tells the Kings that not all of the portals lead to the past. There is one that takes them to the future. It is through this door that they will come to understand the full impact of what the assassin has done to the past, and what inky blackness his wickedness has wrought on the future of humanity. Now on to the fourth book in the series, "Timescape".

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fashion Rules

There is a saying that goes, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way." There are many examples dating back to the beginning of time of men and women who fought through the status quo or the usual and accepted ways, to push a new reality or a new way of looking at things. Those who were heard and made sense we view through the lens of greatness and history. Einstein, Newton, Edison, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Bach. Then, of course, there are those who weren't heard or made no sense. They are viewed as kooks and grape nuts. Sometimes there is a fine line between having someone carve a statue of you out of the finest Maldavian marble and being the person who is deemed just barely sane enough to scrape the pigeon dung off of said statue.

In this line of thought, I would like to consider the world of fashion. There are folks from all corners of the globe who have shared their vision for the world and received a heaping wad of kudos. Hilfiger, Lauren, Dior, Armani, Chanel. Then there are these fruit wads who I have come across time and again out in full view of the public. They can be spotted in our grocery stores, our malls, and, heck, even our fast food establishments. These include people who:
  • wear shorts on top of their sweat pants
  • wear baseball caps at non-standard angles
  • obese women who wear mid-rift tube tops
  • obese men who wear mesh tank tops
In a world where fashion rules, folks need to understand the fashion rules. Don't be that person who doesn't understand the difference and is forced to clean the pigeon poo.