Follow by Email

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas! (And don't shush me...)

I was a kid... at Harding Elementary School in Corvallis, Oregon. When I was in the second, the third, and then the fourth grades. I vividly remember participating in several amazing school Christmas pageants that marked each of those tender years.

I certainly can't sing like that little songbird anymore
, but as a young lad I had solo voc
al parts in those events. Yup, that was some heady stuff for a nine year-old. "Myrrh is mine its bitter perfume..." were the intro words for one of those contributions. The story of Mary and Joseph, of the Nativity--the birth of the Christ Child, celebrating the visitation by the angels and the wise men--was all central to that annual presentation, and it was put on by and at the public school, supported by the system behind it, and of course attended by the community. Wow, wow, wow!

event, and many other similar occasions and cultural "institutions" throughout the year showcased an exemplary American mindset and behaviors--a societal Character, if you please. Take for example, Thanksgiving, Lent and Easter, Sunday's Blue Laws, etc. These modeled what had become (though 200 years of American history to that point on the international landscape) a world-renown Christian Nation-type respect for God. It showcased an aggressive pride in country and a commitment to an almost unqualified world-wide neighborliness (albeit equivocally salted with some cross-culturally manipulative expressions not always well executed).

Every bit as amazing was America's--our culture's--resounding commitment to family values
--truth telling, personal honesty and lawfulness, interpersonal morality, and p
ersonal integrity, and to time time-tested appropriate manifestations of their effectiveness. Citizens generally displayed these--whether they were "churched" people or not. They ascribed to these values, they taught them to their children, they generally tried to showcase them in their own lives and conduct, and they typically required them of one another. We expected to see them as matters of fact and course in business and politics. Admittedly, some people did this hypocritically when, in fact, they weren't personal subscribers to the normative values in the way they wanted to operate). They were the "Mr Potters" and "Ebenezer Scrooges" of that day.

I attended my wonderful (and only) grand daughter's Christmas play this past weekend.
Watching the event take place in a local church forced me to realize the contrast between the school setting where I sang, "Oh Holy Night", way back then, and the "politically correct" setting for "this kind" of singing and the related events now. Wow, we've certainly "...come a long way baby," but I sense it's a long way
d-o-w-n from those comparatively lofty heights, indeed.

Some people will immediately respond with something like,
"Oh, how can you say that? People still dream of getting to the USA to live, love, and play out their lives, and they 'risk life and limb' to get here...yada, yada, yada...This is still the land of great opportunity, where dreams are realized and where freedoms reigns! Political and life-freedoms have never been more celebrated and vigorously protected for all peoples--races, religions, sexual persuasions...yada, yada, yada." Yup, and that's exactly what the now proverbial fat frog would say to his fellow frog as they both sit quite relaxed in the warming fount of the French Chef's pot.

Societal indicators depicting our potential demise LOUDLY contradict the optimistic "Yada, yada, yadas." Consider some of these interesting facts: ( You can click on the links to see the data behind the disturbing statements.)
  • Divorce rates remain statistically higher than at any another time in our nation's history (click).
  • The fastest rising portion of our population facing poverty is young, single-parent-head-of-household mothers (click, click).
  • The nation faces a "quiet epidemic" of sexually transmitted diseases--fastest rising statistically among teens and young adults (click, click).
  • The educational and academic influences in our culture are less effective at successfully teaching and training our masses than at any time in our nation's history (click), yet they have perhaps a louder voice for influence now than they have ever enjoyed at any point in the nations' history (click).
  • The number of men successfully graduating from high school has dropped, nationally (click), to an all-time low, so comparatively (i.e., percentage wise to women) fewer men are going on to college.
  • Women graduating from college for graduate degrees outnumber male graduates 1.5 to 1 (click).
  • Societal voices argue vigorously and noisily for the jettisoning of the nation's historical commitments to values that, at their roots, support family and family integrity, motherhood, sexual propriety, and marriage (click).
  • Socially, Christianity is increasingly "dissed" and Christian men and women face growing dismissal--societal impatience and rejection--for their perceived intolerance of newly fashionable ideas, situations, and people groups (click).
All of that is kind of sobering. It's sad...albeit prophetic--if you are a Bible student. But despite what's happening--maybe because of it--it's all the more important to remember and celebrate that amazing Nativity event so many years ago. Indeed it's influence is at the ROOTS of all the absolutely Christian life and lifestyle stuff to distinguishing HIS followers for over 2000 years....Emmanuel!

Is that all completely miraculous and amazing or what!!

Merry Christmas!
(And don't shush me, but if you do and then you ask me to repeat what I said, yes I will... it's worthy of a megaphone!)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gazing Far Beyond the Horizon

Beautiful scene...and we ran across these two--a man and a sea gull-- during our summer vacation. I thought, "Who's mimicking who?" We were visiting the haunts and hollers in and around historic Nye Beach in lower downtown Newport, Oregon. It appears they're eyes are fixed on something far away, something maybe beyond the immediate horizon, perhaps a "fix" whose focal length extends beyond the limitations of thoughts to places deep within the heart? Maybe it's "bringing in close" a heart-felt longing...for man...and bird?

Do you ever feel that way? Do you find yourself emotionally reaching, reaching, reaching for someone or something you want or "need" in your daily life--but "Oh Ratz" that person, thing, or situation remains elusively beyond your best stretch?! Then, as time ticks bye your uncomfortable suspicion grows into a realization that your life, and the availability of "it," is going to stay the way it is--distant to your sweet wish!?

SO, well beyond the reach of those longing gazes, how is a person supposed to live with that growing suspicion...or that potentially consuming reality?

For the courageous--the Life Warrior--I enthusiastically recommend a two-part remedy. No, it's not a cure for the uncomfortable longings, but it offers an effective antidote for the distraction of....your "hope deferred" (Prov. 13:12 ).

First: Distinguish your life from "it" (Matt. 6: 19, 25-34). Challenge yourself to distinguish "it" from "you"--your life, your experiences, and your influence. Clearly God's purposes for you at this time do not include "IT"...even though your longings may have done a good job of persuading you otherwise. So, vigorously argue (dispute!) with your longings; remind them that no matter how you may feel about "it," your life is NOT saved by "it"---you'll never be saved by "it" (Acts 4: 12; Prov. 3: 5-6; 16: 3, 9).

Second: Fear God and focus your creative energies on today--its focus, it's demands, its challenges (Matt. 6:19-21; 7: 24-27). It's just a fact; your real purpose and effectiveness is discovered in the here and now--your "now"gradually becomes your future. We have "control" of our future in so far as we respond appropriately to what's going on right now. It's just the way life works; a practical and spiritual reality. So you wanna change your future, it's right here staring you in the face now (Prov. 16: 3,9)!

Finally, I challenge the same way I daily challenge myself: "Be a Warrior..." and don't ever stop (I Cor. 16: 13, KJV)!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

We are counting
Our many blessings today... and
Praising our God
For HE has blessed us
With incalculable riches
In and through the person of Jesus Christ!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Best wishes from us to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My weekday routine gets me up around 5:30 AM for an early bike ride. A quick glance at the thermometer outside the kitchen window this morning affirmed it was only 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Hmmmm, a bit colder than I expected! (That pic is a bike-ride sunrise I saw earlier this fall. Cool huh.)

I'm generally hesitant to get on the bike below 20 degrees--it's a matter of keeping my fingers warm!! But just yesterday I'd purchased a new pair of winter (actually ski) gloves planning to use them for riding. A ride in this weather would tell the tale. So, in part for the sake of discovery and in part just because "it's what I do," I rode east along Clear Creek into central Arvada (CO, from Golden) to meet a good friend for coffee--a super idea. As it turned out my fingers were pretty cozy inside those glove's Thinsulate(d) finger tubes; not a disappointment.

Coming down a tall hill separating the Clear Creek and Ralston Creek Valleys, I avoid a busy intersection to meander through feeder streets of a large apartment complex. Today they were curiously clogged with tenants' cars set in crazy configurations--many double and triple parked right on the street. "What's this about; were the drivers all drunk last night?"

Woops! There's yellow caution tape stretched across the street! Beyond that point there wasn't a car on in sight--anywhere! I guessed the street had been treated with a new topcoat, now dry, so I stopped, dismounted, and carefully ducked myself and pulled my bike under the tape, remounted, and coasted the final two blocks before ducking, again, and crossing Kipling to Starbucks.

The experience was an interesting reminder. Stopping to duck under the tape was uncomfortably inconvenient--especially given the speed I generate coming down the hill! Yes, I was talking to myself. But life is like that. Interruptions, discomfort, departures from our " plan," curious surprises that make no sense,...all part of a day's mosaic. So today's reminder is probably something I've said to my boys a time or two: "Don't get your underwear in a wad!" God is in charge--whether it's construction tape across the street or precious Princesses (click here) laying in a coma in the hospital. Life has meaning because GOD IS. Because of what He's done historically through Jesus Christ we know he loves us. John 3:16. Trust him; praise him! "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart...(Ps. 19:14)" do exactly that today and every day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Here's a compelling little love story:

Once upon a time there was this handsome young Prince. His name is Nathan. OK, like I said, he's a young Prince trying to find and make his way in life and (just like the rest of us) figuring much of it out as he goes. Not unlike his brothers, he aspired to leave his own personal signature on both the people and the things he touched inside his family's kingdom--BUT also beyond the boundaries of his parent's influence. He chose to measure himself and to, in-turn, be measured by the every-day challenges that many "commoners" face. So, he modestly albeit understandably discounted the privileges reserved just for "royalty."

Nathan soon took a job. He juggled it with college--for a while--and in the course of his own ongoing self-discovery displayed good people skills, strong management abilities, good self-discipline, and an inquisitive mind with natural business savvy. He was promoted to leadership (management) and soon decided it was an appropriate time to leave the family's castle.

Oh, yes, I said this was a love story....
In the meantim
e an insightful first cousin introduced him to a "friend"--a young woman named, Laura. Laura is a beautiful young Princess from yet another royal family and a distant land (but not too distant). As his cousin suspected, Nathan was soon and predictably smitten by Laura's graciousness, intrigued with her charm, and captivated by her beauty and brilliance.

So, as this story goes, passing months have warmly embraced them. Their relationship has matured and deepened. "She is radiant sunshine when it's dark," he explains, and those relatives and friends who know her well--but even people who have merely just met her!--are quick to agree.

Despite the predictable surprises that accompany romance's heart-knitting efforts (...and who really knows...maybe it's because of them?!...), these two have become closest friends..."soul mates" they say. To their friends and family members alike I understand they have rehearsed a shared love with a deepening respect for one another. They have voiced the possibility of a united life in a shared and dream-fulfilling future. I, for one, only know that a loving and faithful God is the One who can design and decide where this fun relationship may in fact take these two. Ahaa...we'll wait and see.

Last Friday (November 4th) Nathan and Laura arranged to spend a fun early afternoon together in what turned out to be a warm, sun-kissed downtown Denver. He later described those moments with words like, "Some of the most fun we've ever shared"...or something to that effect. Then
, around 3:45 PM they embraced and parted so each could get to different work sites--Laura turned and walked across the downtown after she helped Nathan board a bus for his ride back to Arvada.

Nathan got a call while he was at his workplace. Laura had been struck by a Light Rail Train as she crossed the street near Spear Blvd at Stout Avenue in downtown Denver. She was alive(!!) and had been rushed to the hospital in critical but stable condition. The news rocked him to his knees.

Please follow this developing story (click here) ....(then also click here)...then please pray with us for Laura, her family, her friends, and for God's gracious healing hand on Laura...our Princess...and all these lives. "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God...Romans 11: 33-36.


PS: Yes, Nathan is my (our) youngest son.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ode to Grapes and a Happy Harvest

When it's time, it's time!

I remember how well that was really true of pregnancy. Our six sons are a dramatic testimonial to the statement's accuracy. As it was--six times--Judi would be in her ninth month, and as the days counted by our schedules were increasingly punctuated by thoughts like, "Is today the day?" There was "that window" in which the blessed event was most likely to happen. Generally each of our sons--with one notable exception--was born in his anxiously anticipated "frame of time."

Having become a dedicated vintner over the past 13 years, I've learned how grapes can similarly introduce some of those anxious moments about, "When it's time, it's time." I've been out there harvesting the grapes from our vines in snowstorms, in bright warm sunshine, when it's raining, and sometimes in the dark! I've been crushing them inside a cold 35-gallon plastic garbage can when the temperature on our back porch was only in the 20's Fahrenheit--it gives the term "dumpster diving" a whole new range of meaning. (No, I have no video's of that far.)

This year the harvest has been comparatively pleasant. The weather has offered me generally warm temperatures and sunny skies. Through September I'd been watching the grapes quite closely both in an effort to monitor their maturing readiness, but also to prevent any of the other grape-loving creatures from becoming too interested in them. (I've lost whole crops of our grapes in years past simply because I wasn't paying close enough attention! A Mule Deer herd, for example, can pick the vines clean overnight, but there's squirrels, birds, skunks, and, and...) The critters know exactly when the grapes are ready to be harvested, and they come calling to sample what's available--unless I intervene.

However, this year's harvest has not come without it's own special challenges. This year the grapes are not ripening in unison or uniformly. Practically, that means some clusters are ripe here and there, but the rest are not ready. Some are even still green! When Judi and I visited Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon (in September) they were experiencing the same thing. Apparently it's a national phenom. Interesting.

So, I'm driven by the ripeness of these clusters, and those, and those; the ones that are ripe. I've been forced to pick them staggered by one and two week intervals. Ugh. It means the process of picking, crushing and gathering up the must, and all the other necessary post-picking processes must be done right after each harvest. It's a demanding 12-hour proposition. Then I wait a week or two and do it all again. Ugh, ugh. The promise of the final product--a beautiful, crystal clear white or amber wine--makes it all worth while. But it's the grapes that drive the activities going 0n around them since, "When it's time, it's time."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Another Turtle....on a Post!?

Yesterday I came across another article documenting the apparent gradual demise of marriage. I find this stuff both interesting and ironic. When I read something like this--and please believe me when I say that I don't doubt it's accuracy at all--I am reminded of the "turtle on a post" phenomenon.

Humor me. Just suppose for a minute that you are out in a field some bright and shiny morning having fun. You're getting your morning walk in the open air...just hiking along. Suddenly, you spy this very curious site, and you hardly believe your eyes: Yup, IT'S A TURTLE RIGHT THERE, BIG AS LIFE IN FRONT OF YOU, SITTING ON TOP OF A FENCE POST!

Sure, you're understandably surprised. It's sitting there curiously staring at you and you're returning it's startled gaze right back. You think to yourself, and maybe you even express your thoughts out loud in the turtle's hearing, "Hey little turtle gal, what on earth are you doing setting here on this post? How on earth did you get here?" Of course you don't expect the turtle to answer you back.

But, if she does, and she opens her little mouth to speak...she tells you she's been training for this exercise for many months. She reports how she's been training and practicing by climbing rocks and graduating to progressively higher and more difficult outcroppings to develop her technical climbing skill and confidence toward this, her ultimate challenge. Today, this morning, was THE big event--the opportunity to face and embrace her destiny...climb this post. And as you can obviously see, SHE WAS SUCCESSFUL!!!

So, if she does open her little turtle mouth to speak...DON'T BELIEVE THE TURTLE (but do help her gently down), because turtles don't climb posts. PEOPLE PUT TURTLES ON POSTS.

So what's the problem in reporting how 40% of a large sample of Americans think marriage is obsolete? Actually nothing. There's no problem in the reporting...none at all. But there is a problem in the interpretation of that information; in the interpretation of that data. So, what should we conclude from it?

Consider this example:
If I were to tell you that our society is in a war with fat; that 40% of the American population is overweight and many in that percentage are actually obese. Then I also told you that medical technology offers amazingly effective means for removing or controlling body fat, and that these methods make the need for dieting obsolete...what would you think? What would you say to me?

Would you say something like, "Wow, it appears we've got a really sick society, one that has forgotten how to eat properly, that fails to discipline itself, and one that often actually looks for excuses to be indulgent?

Of course, yes, that's exactly how you should respond if you are really THINKING--exactly what you should say back to me. Any other explanation flies indulgently in the face of our personal, family, and societal health. It SHOULD be obvious to just about everybody that any other kind of reasoning is just plain wrong..."The Turtle Climbed this Fence Post!" Not!

The Bible clearly tells us about Satan, that he is a liar, a deceiver, and a destroyer (Rev. 12:9; IICor.11:3). Most major societies have historically risen or eventually deteriorated on the strength of their truth-telling and character. In this situation, the idea of marriage being obsolete, or not, is of course not really about marriage per se or at all. The issue is really one that's about angry rebelliousness and sensual indulgence . It's all about finding license for convenient passions and self-gratification without accountability (Romans 1:18-32).

So if and when you read or hear discussion like this about marriage...pleeeez remember the turtle!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tuesday, Judi and I returned from a fun vacation. We've arrived home feeling good--emotionally, spiritually, and physically! That's a sharp contrast to vacations we've done in the past where we got home exhausted and needed a l-o-n-g nap just to catch-up before we returned to work.

It's always nice to renew relationships, especially those that have been seasoned with the spices of shared experience and common history. We were privileged to spend our time hosted in the home of two people who know us probably about as well as anybody. 

My friend Derald was a fellow engineering (Mechanical/Metallurgical) student and lived right next door to me and my (Electrical) engineer roomie . Derald was my best man in our wedding in 1970. Now he and his lovely wife, Andrea, continue to live in that community, Corvallis, OR, a place we moved away from several years after we were married.

It was the late spring of 1973. I had just taken a job as a field engineer with an up-and-coming consulting firm,  CH2M-Hill, based (at that time) in Corvallis, . I had accepted a role with them and they immediately moved us north to Portland--Judi and me and our first, new son, Mark. At that time the company was a fledgling consulting firm. It's a huge understatement to say that they've grown a bit since then.

So, we're back home and we're already well into this week. I've got a lot of pleasant vacation-specific thoughts, and they're like the pleasant sensations of a satisfying meal, wafting around in my mind. They've become tangled-up with and sweetly christen this week's responsibilities, including a home-related "to do" list. Among other stuff it includes things like protecting my maturing grapes, harvesting our apples from the backyard tree, prepping for some Friday counseling work, winterizing efforts in the shop, note prep and outline development for an upcoming men's seminar, strategic business development planning and execution,...and of course, blogging.

But these things are "up front" on a stage against a backdrop of competitive sights and sounds. But you've probably seen or are seeing and hearing them, too--some BIG deterioration in the past two days for the Dow, Doomsday prognostications about a "double dip" recession, rumblings in the Middle East about Palestinian statehood, and another speech from President Obama.... Then, too, on the home front I empathize with Judi's stepping back into the demanding work-day and week themes she faces; a whirl-wind administrative "full-time role masquerading as part-time." It seems to characterize so many contemporary business situations. And this morning we woke-up to a nearly dead battery in our car. Aha. For sure we are home; life is normal again!?...and the message of Proverbs 3:5,6 never wears out.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Pick Up the End of the String!"

Yah. Right. Lots of times I feel exactly like that, like someone has handed me a task more complicated for the moment than I'm prepared to do. It's not that the task is beyond me, "impossible," but that there are so many little pesky demands being made on me, right now in this moment, that finding and "picking up the end of the string"  is just more than I've got the time, emotional energy, and the attention span to do. The word "exasperation" comes to mind.

When my sister and I were kids at home and in the midst of  "circumstances," I can remember my mom saying, "Tie a knot in your (circumstantial) rope and hang on." I think it was her way of encouraging us to slow down and carefully evaluate our options. Another famous saying that we heard often, "Life by the yard is apt to be hard, but life by the inch is more of cinch."Again, it was her way of encouraging us to "slow the train" to give ourselves opportunity for evaluation and clarity before we "jumped." A good look at any situation at hand sure seems to be the more intelligent response to what can feel like overwhelming circumstances.

As a counselor often working with married couples one of the biggest challenges partners routinely face has to do with communication and problem solving.  When I was a neophyte counselor studying at the University of Denver, two of my mentors were Doctors Howard Markman and Scott Stanley. I remember so vividly their words explaining how one of the greatest confounding contributors to couples conflict is in their failure to really understand the problem they are trying to solve together. Of course that starts with their really working to understand one another, first. Howard and Scott would say, "You can't solve a problem that you really don't yet understand!" 

I remember reading the little booklet, "The Tyranny of The Urgent." Perhaps you've read it too. It's been a while, but one of the things I remember about it's wisdom is in this question: What's really urgent?" Insight is discovered in one's ability effectively prioritize where and how I can best use and focus my obviously limited energies and time. Yes!

So, maybe "picking up the string" isn't what's most important right now. In fact, maybe it's not really important at all given the other stuff going on. It'll just lay there for now; I won't give it another thought (Matthew 6:31-34). Ha. When I think about it that way I realize it's just a stupid little out of place string.

What's your "string" today?

Have a super day...I think I will!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No Deja Vu All Over Again

Since my last update I managed to get close to the grapes AND the beehive again. But this time "I" was completely successful. I tip-toed around those lil' Kamikaze bees and didn't get spied by any of their sleepy little sentries. I knew they were there...super! (It took several days for all those (10) bites to disappear...well they haven't really all gone yet...but they're well on their way into my history book.) I cut and pulled some small tree-sized saplings out of the vines and then, like a bandit, made off with em. Ha, ha, ha, ha, haaa, ha. But yup, those little bee guys got their message through to me crystal clear.

So far the grapes are doing just fine. They're green and plumping right now, but they'll soon be turning a translucent purple. I'm watering them every other day. Yesterday I cut and placed (draped) some of the necessary woven metal chicken wire over the vines for about 20 feet. It makes for a marvelous "deer helmet." I'll need more of that stuff, so in the meantime I've temporarily stretched some nylon bird mesh where I didn't have enough of the chicken wire to cover the entire length.

If you've been following my Wood Talkin' blog you've got a picture of the fun work I get to do with furniture. Of course I learned how to do it and then started working at it while I was bulldozing my way through seminary (back in the mid-70's...the era of gas rationing with long lines at the pump, a "Peanut Farmer President," and one of the first big declines in the outer space industry, i.e., NASA). Anyhow, this past two weeks have been slow for shop work and my counseling practice has not picked up the slack as it's been doing recently. So I'm doing some marketing-type things on both fronts to stimulate an "uptick" in the general situation for the immediate future. As we all know oh so well, the economy is really s-l-0-w.

I've got an "inner" space problem at the shop, one for which I've got to devote some exploring efforts and hopefully come up with some kind of a creative solution. As the winter approaches the challenge working inside there gets complicated by the brrrr cold outside there: it tries to get in the shop! Many of the chemicals and stains I use in the shop don't cure in the "cold" at 50 degrees the way they do when the shop temp is in the 80's. So, everything slows down...often by 48-72 hours! Then, too, there are challenges for me when it comes to doing any spraying. A dedicated spray booth would be nice, but the issue again is space.

I've thought of adding to the floor space. I really like that idea, but it would introduce some interesting complications of another sort. Wow, don't you wish everybody in the world had similar problems! Starvation, ruling despots, poverty, economic insolvency, cancer, HIV...a list that could go on and on and on would all be "GONE!" because everyone would be dealing with the issues of some inner space situation. Ha. Not.

B-b-but I'm working with some new directions in my counseling related business, too. Only God knows where any of it--or the inner space issue for that matter--will actually go or take me, or us. Again, the words of the Psalmist are in my thoughts, "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord God directs his steps (16:9). There's absolutely no doubt about that.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Kamikaze Moment

I arrived home late this afternoon. Spent the bulk of the day moving stuff out of the old Rivendell facility in Boulder. I was tired, but there was still time--and the will--to do some things around the house and yard.

This time of the year I've learned to keep a watchful eye on the grapes we have ripening along our driveway's fence. I water them daily and monitor their growth pretty closely. Right now they've got some ugly little Ash trees invading their space, and I'm going to sneak up on those little "suckers" to root them out.

I know the local deer population will soon be eying my grapes too. The fragrance of the maturing grapes will soon tempt the herd into our yard to sample them. The handsome freeloaders will quickly make a mess of the grapes, so vigilance is a must for the next six weeks or so.

In the meantime...

I grabbed my little arbor saw and headed for the front yard to cut out those little suckers. Kneeling down I had to crawl under the vines. "Wow, lots of grapes down here." Pushing the vines and several clumps of grapes aside I located the base of one sapling and quickly sawed through it. But I had to yank at a bit to pull it free, up, and out of the vines and grasses at the base of the fence. "Ugh, what was that. Surprise, surprise, this little sapling has little friends!"

Ouch! Yipe! Look out! What's that on my neck, biting my arm, in my shirt, and on my back? It's Beeeeeeezzzzz.....'n lots of them! My first thought, "They're protecting these little trees!" Then, my first emotional response was frustration--and anger--at the little bug biting me in the back. "Hmmm, protecting these little trees--the arrogance in that 'teamwork!'" But then, and very quickly, my thoughts and actions changed. It was about self-preservation now; "TEAMWORK" indeed! My angry strength was no match for the Kamikaze behavior of these little yellow soldiers.

Swatting and smarting (and talking to myself a bit) I cautiously walked back to the house...wary and clearly beaten. But, in the words of another formidable foe, albeit a mythical one, "I'll be baaack" to resume this fight another day...soon. For sure I can't have those little warriors waiting there when it comes time to pick the grapes.

I think maybe there's a message in this little late afternoon cameo...maybe you can tell me what it is?


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Spontaneous Combustion

How often do you have "one of those weeks?" I had another one last week and it's still reverberating to influence this one. Of course what I'm talking about in this instance is a week of days where my routine gets messed up by a variety of newly important demands or events that, just because they are urgent, preempt my "scheduled programming."

The way life gets lived--at least the way it happens for me--weeks like last week tend to arrive pretty much unannounced. Sure, I could see there were some situations looming out there that would eventually require my attention, but I had no real warning how several of these would gang up on my scheduled programming. If you know what I mean, it just seems to happen; a form of spontaneous combustion?

Go with the's what one does under such circumstances....right?! I resigned myself to the realization that my scheduled programming was going to be on temporary hold. I focused my attention on an effort to extinguish the flames. At the same time I monitored the responsibilities I had around my sidelined schedule--just to make sure something there wasn't developing a "critical mass" of it's own. Then I returned to extinguish more flames...and finally that fire was out.

So, there's some clean-up to do this week. I've embedded it inside my so-called scheduled programming for this one. It makes the week a tighter fit than it would have been had it not been interrupted
(Proverbs 20:24) by last week's events, but that's OK.

Actually there's a bit of a silver lining in all this. Those situations that had been looming out there are gone! Wow, that's a good thing and that realization introduces some great vibrations for sure. It's one for which I can get genuinely excited and genuinely rejoice about!

"The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). I believe that little verse offers some great insight into situations that "spontaneously combust." Among other things it clearly tells me how planning serves a necessary and important purpose. For example, it encourages me to identify goals and consider appropriate ways I can see to reach them, then it serves to help me get up and get going--moving toward them. That's the first part of the verse. Then once I'm up and moving along purposefully, God reserves the right to intervene... often through circumstances that are completely out of my control (e.g., Acts 27)...and He moves me directionally this way or that...correcting my plan--maybe even burning it up!

Of course I have no idea what your week will be like this week. Whatever your intent or it's content we can trust HIM together. We can support one another. Godspeed.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

When Tomorrow Comes

Rejoice with me! The cold symptoms I was fighting are gone...beaten! Zippidy doo dah. The combination of 50 mg of Zinc every four hours, Zicam lozenges (when I don't take the Zinc), water, and not being stupid pays off. For me it "lops the head" off the cold softening its symptoms and shortening its duration--often by about a week!

I'm back on my bike. With an end to the cold's symptoms I was able to get back into the swing again. I'd not been able to ride my bikes for almost six weeks no thanks to some serious mechanical issues and moo la la obstacles to my fixing them. Not fun. I tried to be patient and did a pretty good job. I rode my stationary bike and pretended I was on the North Mesa above where we live. That worked OK...until that cold (now history!) jumped on me; but in the meantime my bike-riding 86 year-old dad offered me some timely and gracious help. I love you dad.

I find it interesting how easily and quickly I can project life into the future. Once I get my bikes fixed everything will be OK again; once I get over this cold life will start back up; as soon as I can get this shoulder fixed I'll really be able to start living again; when we get our financial issues resolved life will feel so much better; if I could only get back to the Northwest, then life would turn right-side-up again; when the economy turns around life will feel so much better; if I could only get a full-time job, then life will really start humming again....OK, you get the idea. It's a way of thinking that tends to put "life engagement gears" in neutral.

I'm not discounting the real influence of disappointments or of discouraging and God-forbid painful circumstances. The untimely influence of a summer real for sure! The frustration of joblessness...yup; the death of a loved one...ugh, ugh, ugh; the angry pain of a tweaked hum; the long, frustrating displacement to bright Colorado for a person whose senses are stamped "made in the Pacific Northwest"...yeah! It's so easy to project life "out there somewhere" and then engage a struggle that's all about getting back to it. Do you get what I mean?

"God help me be where I'm at while I'm there." That's Judi's little coaching statement proposing a challenge to this projection tendency. I'm learning that it's an acquired skill and an ongoing discipline. "Being where I'm at while I'm there" requires some conscious, intentional and systematic self-examination to my perspective and my attitude in the moment.

For the Christian there is another WONDERFUL consideration or dimension to all of this. I sincerely believe my temptation to project life into an "out there somewhere" scenario forgets something. If forgets that THIS LIFE ISN'T ALL THERE IS; THIS IS A PREFACE SUPERIMPOSED over what "awaits." When I re-focus my confidence in that truth it makes dealing with today's obstacles, disappointments and painful losses a LOT more doable. It keeps me in what I presently know as today and re-fuels my motivation--power in my tank! It helps me actualize life today, right now, as a developmental exercise building muscles I need both for right now and tomorrow (Rom. 12:1,2; Phil. 2:5-8, 4:4-8, and 3:7-11; IPet. 1:3-8; Rev. 21:1-5).

So enough about me, how are you doing today?

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Renewing of My Mind...and stuff

I think it's always valuable to review the past in a ways that ask, "What has God done here," or, "How was God in this or that?"

Thursday I visited the offices of a friend, "T.J." He's a fellow counseling professional in Lakewood, CO.
Initially there was a lot of stuff associated with our relationship. That early "stuff" was all very professional and academic. He was a supervisor while I was at Adams Community Mental Health (1994-'95) where I was completing my PhD's clinical internship requirements. But then after I left the Adams County team he had become a valuable friend and part of my client-referral network. (It's the network I disbanded when I left private practice through 2006-07.)

T.J. asked me to come, see his great new office suite, and meet some of his prized fellow staff members. So, there I was. In the conversations and sharing that punctuated my visit, he asked me to review some of my professional experiences. Specifically, he wanted me to rehears some of the professional roles and experiences that contribute to my effectiveness with couples and families (since we're considering practical ways we can be more collaborative and creatively effective.) As it turned out that was very interesting....hmmm!

Just for clarification, this was an entirely secular setting, albeit a friendly one. In my rehearsal of those roles and experiences I was purposefully trying to be professional and familiar--since we were all "friends"--and I was also trying to be consciously sensitive to "the little voice" inside (1Kings 19:12-13; 1Peter 3:15; Psalm 42:7). The little voice was saying, "Dick, listen to yourself carefully!

I think it's interesting how we remember things. Our memories of circumstances or events are influenced by both what was going on for us emotionally at the time and the by general content and detail of those events. It's similar to the way the Dewey Decimal System's letters and numbers route and identify the placement of a library book on a library's shelves. Our memories are stored in our mental library according to their emotional impact and their general content. Perhaps it's no surprise that the emotional influence of the events at the time, not so much the content, becomes the decisive factor to "where and how this memory will be placed" on our mind's library shelves.

Scripture challenges God's people to regularly review and to praise God--no matter what--for the events and circumstances of their lives (e.g., Philippians 4:4-9). Interestingly, too, God's people are challenged to do this often as a community (Psalm 147 & 150; Ephesians 5:18-20). Why? I believe, in part, it's because people remember things differently. For example, I may remember something and attribute great discomfort or outright pain to it. However, people who were around me at the time may, in fact, remember the same event quite differently. Their perspective can bring an entirely different and potentially more positive "twist" to what was so painful for me. Their perspective can--IF I LET IT--have a positive and uplifting influence on my initial memory. Their perspective can help me appraise the events initial impact on me and how it can be re-shelved, now, in my memory's library. WOW!!!

As I drove away from T.J.'s office Thursday I realized I had a different and developing new perspective on some events associated with my pre-doctoral life. For me those events have been remembered as four very uncomfortable years. But right now the IMPLICATIONS of that great discomfort is being challenged--and interestingly changed!! I can "feel" them doing a metamorphosis (Romans 12: 1,2) even as I am writing this. Surprisingly, in this instance for me, it was the "little voice" that prompted the change; T.J. and his team had little or nothing to do with. The challenge to "Listen!" to myself and to consciously rehearse the details is re-editing how it feels, right now, and the way it it's being shelved, right now, on my mind's library shelves. Hmmm again.

Someone has said, "The same sun that softens butter hardens clay." Obviously the difference is in the oil. Oil is often associated in scripture with the influence of the Spirit of God and one's response to HIM. Perhaps we could re-write that little quote to say, "The same SON whose influence softens the hearts of some men hardens the hearts of others."

Oh God, may I continually be found among those who are softened by life's circumstances! Amen?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Miracles in Routine

I really despise the common cold. But a summer cold just adds insult to injury! Monday I woke up with the symptoms of a doozie. There's something about a cold that tends to turn me into a "90 pound" something--a real whiner. So Monday was quite challenging as I somewhat miserably gathered the gear I need to help me make a run at this and whittle it down a bit. With a healthy portion of God's grace and a lot of stubborn perseverance, I actually managed to have a productive day.

I think there may be an analogy to Christian life in the way we must gear-up to fight the symptoms of a head cold. Maybe Ephesians 6:12? Thought: Maybe someone out there is interested and creative enough to take on that challenge? If you want to take a stab at it please send me a copy of your thoughts. I'll see that it's published for the enjoyment of the masses.

Today and yesterday were shop days for me. I'm working on furniture, e.g., click here. It's become increasingly clear to me that somehow I need to get more space---to do the "magic" things I do in the shop. All those tired albeit quality furniture pieces, heirlooms and antiques sure appreciate it. (Yup, they tell me so.) I get pretty excited about this stuff. When I can make people happy with the outcomes it's doubly satisfying. But I do need more space. Does anybody have a space-expanding Genie Lamp laying around, one that I can borrow? I'll return it promptly.

Earlier this afternoon I had the shop doors open. Several pieces from a marvelous 1930's vintage cherry dresser (with a secretary!) were variously "spilled" out the doors and arranged for last minute surface preparation and spraying. Then a "Ker-Booooom!" from a not too distant northwesterly direction prompted a scurry of not-so-welcome retrieval activity. Oh well....(anybody got that Genie?). I learned later in the evening there were over 3000 ground to cloud lightning strikes accompanying that storm. Amazing stuff.

What did I see around me today the prompted my awareness of God's presence? Actually, I think I felt HIS presence in the doting attention of our dog Gandalf. I contemplated HIS perspective--he was also a carpenter--as I faced challenges in the shop. I sensed HIS presence in text messages I received from a friend. I felt HIM in camaraderie as I met a good friend for lunch. I sensed HIM in the spontaneous rehearsal of scriptural verses and some related themes momentarily triggered in the day's conscious deliberations. I heard an expression of HIS awesome power in a summer storm. I "saw" Him late in the afternoon in my son, Jon; we shared reflections on the day then almost gone. For me these are some of the miracles in routine.

"There is no speech nor language where HIS voice is not heard" (Ps. 19:3 KJV)



Monday, July 18, 2011

Wedding Fun....Seasoned with Sillyness and Life!

Ha ha. Judi and I attended a fun and wonder-filled wedding yesterday near Civic Center Park in Denver. Weddings are always celebrations of new relationships; celebrations of hope filled with the anticipation of shared life adventures to come. I always enjoy them. Of course this one was no exception, and it added a new twist for us all in that the bride's family commissioned one of those fun photography booths. You know the situation where you walk-in, draw the curtain behind you, plan your poses, and then "face the camera to start posing after you press the button." It was a hoot! We went back in there several times and, yup, you guessed it, we had fun making fools of ourselves.

I find it really fun when I get to attend the wedding of friends
(or in this case our friends' daughter)--I get to meet and greet some of their family members. Usually these are the people my friend grew up with or around--these are the people b-e-h-i-n-d the person I know. Yaah; yes in deedee. So, these events tend to help "fill-in-the-blanks," or discover some new ones. Again, there were no exceptions here. It appeared to me that everyone had a great time.

But weddings are not what they used to be for me.
It's probably because of my familiarity with contemporary marital research, dating behavior, and people in general. I'm often momentarily distracted by the question, "How do these two really know that what they are doing here today is in their best interests?"

In my work with pre-marital couples I routinely include and we discuss the statement, "Nobody ever gets married to be miserable for the rest of his or her life!"
But as we all know that truth doesn't prevent the relationships reflected in our nation's divorce rate from hovering painfully the 40-50% level. (There's just so much about dating and courtship, and about relationship development in general, that's increasingly counter-intuitive.) So, lest I become a pessimistic bore, when that thought predictably marches through my mental space, I catch it! Right then and there I make a heart-felt promise to myself and my friends that I'll support them through the inevitable surprises life will bring. It's the very least I can do--or that we can do for one another!

But this wedding experience offered Judi and I an added bonus! We spotted some old friends we've not seen since our early Denver days at Galilee Baptist Church. Of course some of you may remember that's the church family that brought us to Denver and the University of Denver (1980) in the first place. Wow, it was so refreshing to see them and to spend those few hours catching up. God is good to us...all the time!

So, what's all this got to do with "Wood?" I guess you'll find out if you read me often. Leave a comment or something....and just maybe I can entice you to subscribe, too?