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Monday, December 31, 2012

A Friendly New Year's Challenge

Fun family warmth at home
I'm admittedly uncomfortable with what's happened and is still happening to marriage--and to families. Actually, the concept of marriage, itself, is in fine shape; people still love the idea and want what it has historically provided. But it's the people: We just can't seem to do it anymore. 

Yes, I mean us, and people just like us, "You-n-me, baby," and our kids, who are struggling. And I routinely hear a not so secret (never unique) and very characteristic set of rationalizing themes. In the disillusionment, discouragement, and what I'll call dissolution-ment, partners verbally re-write their story: "Oh, we never should have got married"..."We got sucked into it"..."We're just so different"..."We just 'fell out' of love"..."We changed"..."We realize now that we were too young and stupid"..."We just never REALLY loved each other....and more yada, yada, yada. You get the idea.

Why? What's happening here!

It's a variety of things---and something quite nefarious. In reference to the "lot of things" category let me refer you to Daniel Cere's absolutely marvelous article. I challenge you to read through it. It's prophetic! You'll see what I mean.

Then, under the category of "it's something," I refer you to a Biblical perspective illustrated in 1 Timothy 4:1 and again in 2 Timothy 4:3ff.  The Apostle Paul refers to A SPIRIT-- not to be mistaken for the Holy Third Person of the Trinity, either! Yes, we're talking about spiritual deception, seduction, confusion, and self-alienation, etc. All of it bad stuff for sure!

So, read through Cere's article, and if you find yourself struggling with any of this stuff...give me a call (720-350-2992). You need some support. Promise yourself you'll get that support for this New Year 2013. We've gotta hang together because this short sojourn we refer to as "life" isn't the whole story...IT'S JUST THE PRELUDE!!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A "Path Perspective" on My Day

So, what's my day
A dedicated path from here to there

We're all on some kind of path that gets us from here to there. For example, I've got a schedule full of things I know I need to do. In fact, that list of things I COULD DO (in the context of "all things that really need to get done") could go on and on. So, I suspect like you, the list gets policed by the day's limited  hours and my limited energy. But aside from those real practical and pragmatic considerations, what is my day about today?

Similar to tracking how I spend money, the list of things I prioritize my time and energy to actually do clearly says something about me. Consider today's partial list for example:
  • Make a quick trip to Boulder
  • Call a customer to schedule and then deliver an antique table
  • Further my effort to get our 69 Chevy Nova back on the road
  • Call a customer to schedule and then deliver an antique chair
  • Visit a customer's home to leave a message on their door
  • Make a trip to the bank
  • Call a customer to schedule and then deliver three walnut dining chairs
  • Make a cameo appearance at one of  Golden's antique retailers
  • Update my blog  
  • Slice some apples and load em into the food dryer 
  • Call a customer to discuss a necessary pricing adjustment...
I suspect you get the idea. Even a cursory glance at the partial list uncovers theme in the preponderance of issues and events--one related to my Wood Talkin business ( But I must remember and I do often remind myself how despite its importance to me, Wood Talkin is NOT my life; it does not and must not be allowed to define me. How I do business, how I treat people, what they may learn about "the man behind Wood Talkin" is of far greater significance and import in the long run.

I learned this little targeting verse as a kid--as a new Christian. "Whatever you do, do it with all your heart as unto the Lord and not merely for other men's sake" (Colossians 3:23, the Brandow paraphrase). It's my daily challenge to myself....and it keeps me on the right path.

So, what's your path and how's it going for you today?


Monday, June 11, 2012

Some of Life's Simple Pleasures

Nathan hugs his puppy, "Indy"

A surprise "big wet kiss" from a really wiggly puppy,
An early morning bicycle ride, 
A breakfast bowl full of fresh fruit and yogurt, 
Fun smiling faces of young men at the door (sons!), 
Today's birthday celebration!
The fresh rhythmic sounds and smells of sprinklers watering a thirsty lawn, 
The azure beauty of the new morning's sunlit sky,
God's Amazing Promise to right the World's wrongs.
...A spontaneous celebration of simple things so easily taken for granted.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Her name is Abby Baumbach (click the "Abby" link below to see her picture). I had coffee with her earlier this week, and wow, was that ever a lot of fun! We met at the recommendation of a common friend--someone else with whom we have more than a little bit in common, and someone you'll appreciate when you read what I'm about to say. She's going to be directing a brand new start-up of a collegiate ministry effort at the University of Denver this coming fall. She'll be working under the auspices of Mission Door--the same organization that brought Judi and I to Denver in 1980. See...I told you; that's fun, huh.

Yup, it's the DU campus!
Here's a little side note. Six weeks ago I had lunch with Rick Miller, the Executive Director of Missions Door. Why? Because Judi and I are "flipping stones" as we prayerfully ask the question, "Lord God, is there a special place where you want us to serve you through the next 10-15 years of our lives?" So, I had called Rick to discuss potential opportunities that MIGHT exist "out there" in the collegiate arena with Missions Door. During that lunch discussion he mentioned Abby and the anticipated start-up of a brand new ministry effort at the University of Denver. Then Abby called me late last week to set-up a "let's get acquainted" coffee time. She wanted to meet me and to hear what I could tell her about my own "start-up" experience at DU, let me (very happily!) rehearse some of my ministry experiences there, and then talk "shop."  

So, where do you think this is all going to go from here--GOD ONLY KNOWS. The proverbial "fly in the ointment" for anybody considering an initial ministry effort like this---or "a second time around" type effort---is that of raising the necessary financial support. It was no small challenge for Judi and I to make it happen in the late 70's and early 80's, and it would certainly be no less the challenge now. And we wouldn't want to even consider doing such a thing unless we were certain our Lord was orchestrating the whole thing. In the meantime, pray for Abby as she works to finish raising the bulk of her support between now and this Fall.

So, what are your thoughts? I'll value your feedback.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Bicycle Ode to Dad III: Don't go there!

The first time I was a real patient in a hospital was to have my tonsils removed. But that was a short-lived stay when I was maybe five or six years old. Then it got serious. I had double hernia surgery the summer I graduated from High School.

But that experience was far more memorable for the way it grew my spiritual faith than for it's repair to my torn tissues. What I mean by that is I was a relatively new Christian and the "down" time gave me a really special in-the-hospital opportunity to read and reflect; it actually helped set the course of my life through the ensuing 20 years. I actually came away from the hospital stay with a sense that its environment was friendly, nurturing, and a resource providing multiple types of revitalization! I have had my share of hospital visits since that post-high school graduation event. Sadly, the hospital environment has become a scarier place to find oneself--or one's loved ones.

Immediately following my dad's bicycle accident on January 9th he was transported to the hospital for x-rays and a MRI. Their findings told him that the impact of the accident fractured three vertebrae in his lower back--and before he left the hospital he was feeling them!

Right after he was hit by the car he had jumped up from the pavement feeling pretty good and declared he was "...jus' gonna go back home."
(It was the Adrenalin talking.) But the ambulance staff reasoned with him and he changed his mind. So sure enough, once he got to the hospital he could feel the swelling in his hips and lower back--and he knew he'd been "Bumped!"--that's how he referred to it. Then, because he was having great difficulty walking, he was more agreeable to a stay in the rehab facility for a while. He was prescribed a steroidal anti-inflammatory medication and encouraged to remain in the rehab wing for a few days so his doc could observe him and the rehab staff could teach him how to use a walker, etc. He expected to be discharged by the end of the week. But then...

Bacterial pneumonia! It was diagnosed late in that first week--Thursday or Friday. It was Friday night when my family called to let me know what all was going on...and the pneumonia really hit him hard and fast, so that by the early part of the next week he had lost a lot of strength. Ugh. Late that second week he was also diagnosed with MRSA--a blood born hospital acquired staff infection (probably from the IV's). And this was a HUGE sucker punch to an 87 year-old guy. He was put on some strong antibiotic medications and quarantined.

So he went into his third long week in the hospital fighting these two KILLER infections! That's when I flew to the Northwest to be with Dad--and Mom and my very concerned family members. And by the end of that third week, with the help of the meds--and lots of prayer, he had beaten back the infections. All that "bed rest" and those infections had impacted him physically and emotionally; he was physically weak and experienced some "hospital psychosis." Then, suddenly, he got the pneumonia again.

Here, above right, we're all gathered in his room the night of the Super Bowl. Dad had really hoped to watch the game with us, but as you can see he fell asleep just before it ended. I was scheduled to fly home the following day, Monday. I was encouraged because Dad was lucid, in good humor, was doing well with his daily physical therapy--strong, but he tired easily.We had every reason to believe he would be able beat down the pneumonia again despite his little stamina. Dad was facing his fifth consecutive week in the hospital and I would follow his progress following my return to Colorado. Everyone remained optimistic.

You already know the rest of the story. I awoke to an early Valentine's Day text from my niece telling me that Dad, "our Valentine," had quietly passed away early that morning. I was smitten. I wondered, in retrospective disbelief, how all this had happened? Sure he was elderly (but in excellent mental and physical health and athletically strong!), and sure he was hit by a car (--but his injuries were thankfully minor and uncomplicated). Actually, he died from hospital-related complications. The environment that "...was friendly, nurturing, and a resource providing multiple types of revitalization" to me as a kid in the 1960's had become dad's enemy (--click on that)!

We're planning a Memorial Service for dad, Dr. Wm. G. Brown, on the West Coast, in Corvallis, yet this Spring.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Bycycle Ode to Dad...continued

It was a trip I really didn't want to make to the Pacific Northwest! My "I don't want to" felt so strangely unusual...even foreboding...since I'm always exuberant making this flight to Portland. I'm generally filled with wonderful anticipation at even the thought of getting close to the Northwest's sensual embrace--but not this time. I was very aware that Dad and my family really needed me there--for all the wrong reasons. Then finally walking into his hospital room, in Corvallis, I saw the quick light of recognition in his face,...and gradually I observed how he appeared close to giving up. (Right, below, my sister, Suzie, talking to Dad in his hospital room just before Valentines Day.)

That's a place I've really never seen him go to. Dad has always been a quiet but doggedly persevering guy. He always hated getting attention--anyone could see it was uncomfortable for him; very shy. So, just tricking him to look into a camera's lens and a smile was very difficult--well, it almost never happened! But despite his shyness and general social hesitancy he was very well accomplished!

Dad was "hard core." By that I mean he was an athlete and a quiet competitor. He was an honor student throughout his school years; he won a full ride scholarship as an AAU Champion Wrestler at Kansas State; he pursued and was awarded a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics at Iowa State before he moved us all to the Northwest and Oregon State College (1955). At OSU he was a teacher-researcher-scientist. Soon he became a full professor. His humble, scholarly style was punctuated by a dry, clever humor and his blue-eyed mischievous "twinkle." It won the hearts of many student "mentees" from all over the world, and they recommended him for "best teacher" awards. When he received these, albeit reluctantly, he suggested--"...but this is my job."

Tennis was one of Dad's big passions. As I understand it he began playing when he was in college at Kansas State. Later he taught us all how to play--including my mom. He played long into his 50's before his knees and an old back injury began "talking" to him. Before he stopped playing (actually he never really "gave it up") he ranked near the top of the Corvallis Tennis Club ladder having won singles and doubles championships multiple times. (See, left, my youngest sister, Suzie, and my dad, in the fuzzy pic, accepting his Corvallis Singles Tennis Trophy @ Summer, 1968.) And I never could beat Dad. Even after he could no longer physically "out-play" me he would still "out-think" my use of the court! That was always frustrating for me--but oh such great fun!!

So, perhaps you can understand when I say Dad just wasn't one to give-up. Nevertheless, as we talked there in his room, with the friendly hospital staff going in and out and friends also coming and going, I slowly grew concerned. He was really tired.

Yes, there is still more to this my next blog.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

My First Bicycle Ode to Dad

My Dad has been riding his bicycle for well over 50 years. He learned to ride initially on the farm as a kid. What his riding habits were like in college at Kansas State and then through graduate school at Iowa State is a mystery for me to solve. But when he moved us to take a professor's role on the West Coast at Oregon State University in the fall or 1955, well, he rode his bicycle to work every day--for decades.

When Dad retired--well, sort of--around 15 years ago, he transitioned into recreational riding. He loved it, and he'd often choose to hop onto his bicycle to run his errands around town or to make the quick trips to the grocery store. So, when I got into riding in 2002 (after being a jogger for literally all of my adult life) Dad and I chronicled our mileage to one another as part of our weekly "check-in" phone calls--of course I'm in Colorado and he's still there in Corvallis, OR. Up until just a year ago, at the age of 86, he was still riding a road bike and I was b-a-r-e-l-y keeping up with his weekly mileage totals!

Dad bought a three-wheeled recumbent bike in the Spring of 2011. He wondered if he'd really like it given how it was a lot heavier, lower to the ground, and just "different." He was soon extolling the blessings he realized being clipped onto the pedals. He no longer had to fight the balance war all street bikers face in congested traffic or at controlled stops. He explained how the weight of his new bike did shave some distance from his weekly mileage, but he observed how pushing the weight of its frame still kept him in the same fine physical shape. You guessed it: Dad was physically hard core--and in other ways too! (I'll tell you more about that in the next blog.)

The first week of February I booked an urgent flight to Oregon to be there with Dad.
On the 9th of January he was on his bike--riding to the Post Office. It was about 3:15 PM on a bright and sunny Willamette Valley afternoon. He'd traveled less than a mile...when he was hit by a car!

The rest of this story must be told, but in some ways it's still being written. In my next blog update I'll rehearse what has happened, and what I--and we--know to this point. But for your information, this story has a very sad ending. I thank God that this life is not "the end." 1 Corinthians 15:19!!!


Monday, January 2, 2012

Crying About Shoelaces...Hearing Voices in Situation Comedy

What's one difference between between little boys and men?

Here's one:
A man's ability to choose what to cry about; it contrasts what he would have been crying about as a boy. So, for example, if you find a mature Western male blubbering through tears because he's having difficulty tying his shoe, you're likely to suspect there's a lot more going on for him than just tangled shoelaces!

I just suggested, and you probably caught it, that this difference (between men and boys) can also be influenced by cultural background. Even our dog Gandalf seems to know "instinctual culture" (if you please) teaches cats to "Hiss!" at him. Cultural differences have the power to influence us about what's appropriate and deserving of a good emotional manifestation--a "Hiss" (?) or an outburst with tears--or not. (Although I'm not sure I'd want to find a man crying--or God forbid "Hissing"--about his shoe-tying difficulties.)

Between philosophical and world view-contrasted people, we should expect to find some cultural differences.
They're a manifestation of their different moral and ethical priorities and the related societal/interpersonal expectations and emotional dynamics.

Who has not seen recent dramatic manifestations of grief, pain and suffering
associated with the death of leaders, friends, and loved ones in Japan, the Middle East or North Korea? Certainly the human heart understands and empathizes with these losses. The differences in public manifestation of this pain, take for example the emotional tone and intensity of American's loss and grief after 9/11, may appear behaviorally muted to some cultures--controlled(?). One or another cultural style is not better than anothers'--there's no "right or wrong" here--they're just different. Each is observably and respectfully nuanced by culture.

If you want little boys--or kittens--to act differently...well, good luck with that. But if you want men to act differently...hmmm. You've got to change the culture, inside, where the little boys are growing up. And how do ya do that? Well, you've got to influence the philosophical foundations of the culture itself--change (or at least gradually massage) its moral and ethical commitments in the direction you want them to go. And how do you do that? Well, subtly...and very, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.

In English cultures, situation comedy--television's "sit-coms"--are a completely marvelous example of this process.
Oh Ratz...That's gonna need to be it for know....but if you're interested and having fun, keep your eye on this blog for a couple weeks as I chase this --crying about shoelaces stuff--a little further.

"For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding..." Proverbs 2: 6-15, RSV.