Saturday, November 27, 2010


Referring to my previous post...

I just read, at the very least, an encouraging and challenging reminder of truth. It's the kind of thing that I referred to in the 'weed post' as the spiritual equivalent of Roundup.

But, like the real Roundup, it does no good unless it's applied.

It does no good in a bottle.

It does no good in a blog.


And, when necessary, re-application.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Amber waves of grain- purple mountain majesty

Don't get used to this, my blog-reading friends. Multiple posts in one day is not my M-O. I'm trying to clean house, finish thoughts, etc.

It's been almost a month since this trip. It was a great weekend. 

I've made a few attempts at writing some witty intro to this post only to have it glide off my fingertips like...

yep- nothing. 

Anyway... I went to Colorado a couple weeks ago. I was ready for a break from Kansas wind and crunchy, dry grass. (I think that this summer put me over the edge a bit- consecutive 109-110 degree days, working outside, blast furnace wind... no thank you).

I intended to see some friends and enjoy the mountain views, but was also able to set up a general interview with an organization that I respect a great deal and would love to work for.

Suffice it to say, Colorado is growing on me.

I climbed my first Colorado mountain peak, Twin Sisters, outside Estes Park, elevation 11,428 ft. (Not a 14-er by any stretch of the imagination, but a good starting point for my 'summit-ing' career)

 That's Twin Sisters through the windshield of the ca...

thanks, Karm, for not leaving me and my Kansas cardio system in the dust.

Some more of my favorite pics...

The reward for a high-altitude workout... Thai food in Boulder (not pictured) and ice cream. Imagine a brownie about the size of that milk can building, in a bowl, and then in my gut (actually...couldn't even finish it)

Oh temptress, you.

In the Weeds...

I started this post a couple weeks ago...and since I seem to be in a blogging mode/mood today, I thought I'd knock it out. It's been a weedy couple weeks. Applicable.


This post has been ruminating in my head for awhile.  Maybe I should say, my mind has been ruminating on this post for quite some time. (confession: i had to go to dictionaryDOTcom to check my usage of the ruminate get the point, hopefully).

It's been a 'heady' last year or so... that referring to days and months of analysis, questioning, reading, thinking, over-thinking, and all the other words that you can imagine 'heady' to refer to. I would say that over-analysis is one of my spiritual gifts, but the problem with that is  1) I don't know how spiritual it is and 2) I am completely convinced that it's not a gift.

Anyway... while I'm not sure that this is exactly what Jesus was referring to, the headiness has seemed to connect me to a parable and passage in Matthew 13 where He is talking about the seeds and the sower. Of particular relevance and application is the portion of the parable where Jesus talks about seed falling among the weeds. The result is that the growth from the seeds is choked by the weeds.

In His explanation of the parable, Jesus says that this seed/weed interaction indicates a person who grows to a place of fruitfulness in spiritual things, only to have that fruitfulness snuffed out by worries and worldly cares. I'm not sure what the original Greek says, but there is a reference in most translations to greed and monetary aspirations overshadowing the focus on the eternal, as well as the worries of life choking out fruitfulness.

Weeds are terribly tenacious, life-sucking organisms. I've discovered that 'fun' truth first-hand in my last several months of working as an 'external beautification specialist.' I'm not sure how many hours I've spent on my hands and knees, pulling weed after weed after weed after weed out of a flower bed or tree box. We have one particular kind of weed that has taken over whole sections of our lawns. There is no sign of the healthy fescue grass that we planted last year. And it seems that repeated applications of herbicide haven't won the battle...yet.

And weeding/spraying is not a 'one and done' process. My coworkers and I can make a given flower bed look great, pulling out the weeds (properly- roots and all), only to come back days later and have to do it all over again. We can spray several times a season, only to have the little (insert plural censored descriptor) come back with a vengeance.

I think, taking this illustration back full circle, 'heady' can be exchanged for 'weedy' as a description of my last year or so. I've felt a lot of joy and peace strangled out of my life and relationships by the weeds of worry and anxiety. And while I find days of reprieve and the ability to 'breathe' again, I feel like I'm living in a perpetual choke hold these days.

So... I'm searching for the spiritual equivalent of Round-up. I'm finding that worship is part of that solution. I've been saved, time and again, as I digest what I'm playing/reading/singing.

And like the real-life stuff, I know that 'weeding' my mind and heart are not one-and-done activities.
At least I think I know that...

Maybe that's part of my problem- I need to be a little more regular about cleaning house and eradicating the 'weeds.' And weeds can have some deep roots. This is going to be a long process.

Why are these things so much easier to write about...


Another blog from my current life...for another day... pruning and John 15

Why I love Pandora...

I saw the name Ruth Moody on another blog and checked her music out...

  • Canadian singer songwriter
  • individual artist
  • also part of the 'Wailing Jennys'
  • great acoustic-driven sound
so I made a "Ruth Moody" pandora station.

Check out these songs that started on Ruth's station tonight-

  • Come on Get Higher- Matt Nathanson
  • Crash Into Me (Live '99)- Dave Matthews
  • I'll Be (Acoustic Version)- Edwin McCain
  • Why Georgia- John Mayer
  • Brand New Day- Joshua Radin
  • Beautiful Girls (Stand By Me)- Boyce Avenue
  • Angel/Better Together (Live 2008)- Jack Johnson
While I'm not quite as familiar with Joshua Radin and Boyce Avenue, I enjoyed their sound, especially nestled between these other classics. I love the live ones, especially.

Yep... Pandora. It's what's for dinner.

And some Sister Hazel is coming on... All for You (Live)

Confession of a Killer...

I'm discovering a 'talent' that I do well, and do frequently enough that I wish I could get paid for it.

I kill chapstick.

and this is my weapon of choice...

It's being added as a new feature on the 2011 edition of the Clue board game.
Professor Plum, in the utility room, with the dryer.

Guilty as charged

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Breaking the Post Silence...

Yep... your blog-feeder/reader doth not deceive.

And not only that, but I've had a few blog-worthy things percolating in my noggin to dazzle and amaze in the coming days, so stay tuned.

Until those earth-shattering things see the light of day, enjoy the literal 'light of day' that I walked out the door to see this week. I literally said wow, out loud. (As in WOL in text-speak).  And then I went and grabbed my camera.

It'd be nice to see that kind of thing every morning... And then again, maybe not. I'd hate to grow accustomed and numb to that kind of beauty.

And just a bonus- I saw this cool 'parting of the cloud sea' on the drive home from South Dakota on Labor Day. (I especially like the 2nd pic, with the road disappearing in the distance)

I'm learning to have my camera close and ready. You never know when you'll see something photo and blog-worthy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

the summer that was...

I went for a run tonight... in long sleeves.

It's fall, and I love it.

While I have acclimated to a warm working environment, 
I was made for cooler places. (yes... that is an actual picture from work. I forgot to take a picture of the days it maxed out this cheap little thermometer)

 Here is a short and incomplete snapshot of my summer...

A quick disclaimer- no animals or people were harmed in the activities depicted in any of the following photos, unless the animals were meant to be eaten.

snapshot(s) #1- one of the most amazing games I've ever attended in person- Rangers vs Red Sox at      Arlington- August 13th. 9 homers, including a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th.

snapshot(s) #2- my first experiences with eating leftover sushi at home and chocolate babka. Both were     'successes.' I did not eat them at the same time.

snapshot(s) #3- Mutual of Wichita Wild Kingdom... the "LOG," (short for LARGE-FROG). I was curious as to whether he ate 'fish food.' He toyed with it. And when he wouldn't do more than play, I played the bully and yanked him up by his lower lip, much to his chagrin.

I have big hands and pretty big feet... I had a bit of a task unhooking him from my lure, and then getting him back into the water. I could barely get my hand around his shoulders/mid-section. Grande, and heavy.

snapshot(s) #4-recreational hazards... big, sharp (red) hook + ambitious, yet smallish, fish= on-site surgery.

snapshot #5- big wheels aren't just for little kids. This dude might as well have been sitting on the ground. It was a pretty beefy and homemade-looking contraption. (and I didn't get a good pick of his riding companion on his own equally homemade-looking big wheel)

and finally, snapshot #6- The Creature from the Red Lagoon- this thing was living in my 'korean casserole' (at Yokohama in Lawrence) and about to climb out of the bowl. Creep-ay, but taste-ay.

well... needed something light to blog about this time. There you have it. See ya summer.

Maybe cooler weather will inspire me to blog more. Maybe not.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The privilege of privilege... and why I whine about it.

I dropped my toothpaste in the toilet last week. I fished it out (before I thought to take a picture of it for this blog) and chucked it directly into the trash can.

Disgusted? No doubt.

Frustrated? Honestly, I was frustrated for only an instant. I was frustrated for as long as it took me to throw the 'tarnished tube' away, wash my hands (gag), open the under-sink cabinet, and get out a fresh tube. The fresh tube even had 'whitening' enhancing flakes (or whatever they're called).

As I've thought about that, I have a flashback image in my mind of some Jamaicans cutting open toothpaste tubes to get the last little bit, scraping the inside of the tube almost spotless. As I left the island after my first of two mission trips to that country, our team was asked to leave behind anything, including half-used toothpaste tubes, that would be used by local people. And so I did the 'noble' thing- I made the monumental and sacrificial easy decision to leave behind my travel-sized toothpaste tube, that was half-used.

I could talk about how much I hate the triple-digit heat in Kansas lately. But I'd also have to share about how I have working air conditioning in my car and in my home.

I could talk to you about how frustrating it is to be in life transition and work in a place that seems about as far from my life calling as it could be. I could write how frustrated it is not to feel like you know your life calling yet. I could even write a blog about those frustrations, and come off as a whining, disenfranchised brat. (I've been reevaluating my 'contest entry' if you hadn't noticed)

But, after talking about those job/life frustrations, I'd have to tell you that I am able to pay my bills. My belly would tell you that I eat well. I'd have to tell you that I am gradually paying off debt. I'd have to honestly tell you that I don't really lack for anything.

Toothpaste-air conditioning-stable income...  all things that I take for granted. And these are all things that the majority of the people in the world do not have, and don't even hope for. Sad, isn't it. I could tell you of the countless things that I have in my cabinets and drawers that some people will never have. And more sadly, I could give you more examples of what I have, what I am blessed with, and what I take for granted.

I've come really close to deleting my last post- my 'contest entry.' It was more venting than coherent (or beneficial) thoughts. It was something that you write, think better of, and delete.

But I chose not to. I know, in retrospect, that it represents, not the glossy and polished look of someone that I am proud portraying, but the honest and raw look of how selfish and tunnel-visioned my focus is at times. It portrays more of the truly human heart that beats in my chest, that often questions God's timing and goodness, and wonders why have I have to 'suffer' through periods of transition and doubt.

In it's best light, my 'whining blog' represents the honest seeking of a heart that really desires to live for God. In it's' worst light, it reflects the heart of someone who is truly blessed, but doesn't know it fully.

Why the whine?

I think any North American Christian whines and complains about anything because he/she doesn't realize how blessed and privileged he/she is.

In my saner moments, I realize that, and repent of it to a God who does nothing but lavish me with good things.

In my 'human' moments, I kick and scream like a spoiled baby, thinking that the world revolves around me.

If I could rewrite my contest entry, I would say that I want to live a bigger story because it more rightly and winsomely reflects the Author of the Biggest Story.

I would write that living a bigger and better story reflects that 'top line/bottom line' view (that I learned in Perspectives) of the Biggest Story that says we are blessed, not to selfishly enjoy and live comfortably (and lazily), but so that we might pass that blessing on to others.

I would write that I want to live a bigger story, because that's the reality- I am part of a great story. And all the bumps that I complain about are only lending themselves to the drama and intrigue leading up to the perfect ending.

(I'm going to reread this blog, hopefully, when I forget)


[priv-uh-lij, priv-lij]  noun, verb, -leged, -leg·ing.
1.a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most: the privileges of the very rich.

If you're reading this, you, like me, are privileged. You are among the 'very rich.' You are living beyond the advantages of most.

May we live, give, and love accordingly.
And may I do all three first, before expecting it from anyone else.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Writing the Story of Me...

This is a first for me... writing for a 'contest.' Author Donald Miller and Co. are putting on a seminar in Portland and gifting a trip to said seminar to a person (and a friend) who writes an inspiring blog about it.  (please see the video at the bottom of this blog)

There's no feasible way to attend the conference outside of winning the contest, so I take the leap, and let my fingers articulate my heart.

So... prepare to be inspired. And even if it doesn't inspire, this will give you all a vulnerable glimpse of my life that, I hope, will encourage you to rethink yours.

(I've read all of Miller's books, most of which have come out in the last 10 years or so. Blue Like Jazz and his latest, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, are my favorites. He writes with a personable and conversational style that makes reading easy. And he discusses the weighty topics of life, relationships and faith with an openness and candor, admitting when he doesn't know the answers, and graciously offering his opinion and perspective when he has them. He seems to have a great and biblically-inspired balance of grace and truth. He's good-one of my favorites. Check him out, if you haven't already)

Miller's latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, introduces the topic of seeing our lives as a story, and intentionally pursuing a better story, and a better life. As Miller writes, the components of a great story are true in whatever genre-movies, novels, and yes, even our own lives: "A character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it."  (Don begins a three-part blog series here about how we see those components in the popular new movie, Toy Story 3.)

I love how Don weaves his own personal story and experience in with the discussion of big and weighty topics of life and calling and destiny. I'm intrigued by the people that he's come across in his life, developing life-long friendships with amazing individuals, simply by being open and aware of his surroundings. I appreciate his ability to engage people's hearts by sharing his own.

His story, and this 'million miles' book, reminded me a bit of Philip Yancey's Soul Survivor. Like Miller, Yancey shares about people who came into his life and shared a part of the journey with him, or at least caught his attention along the way. He shares how they inspired him and contributed to his own story.

What would happen if we took more time to listen to the stories of people surrounding us? How would our perspective of our lives change if we stopped to take inventory of what others have contributed?

I also hear the voice and heart of John Eldredge, reminding and inspiring us that life is an epic journey that God desires us to live to the fullest. The experiences that He allows are all about developing us into the men and women He created us to be. We have an enemy who seeks our destruction, but God is our biggest cheerleader, protector and advocate, encouraging us and reminding us of His presence on this life journey.

So... what is my story?

I'm not going to bore everyone with the details of my birth (which I obviously don't remember) or my daily routine, 34 years later. But it's intriguing to me to look at the components of a story and overlay them on my life and see how they flesh out. Intriguing?  Maybe a better word is baffling. Or sometimes, frustratingly random. Or...

Actually, I'm not going to go into many specifics, but I think I cover two of the three bases pretty well. I know the character- me- and I recognize (and struggle through) conflict when it arises, but the third one is the challenge. The 'wanting something' is a little blurry. Actually, wanting something is not the problem, but knowing what I want and intentionally pursuing it is the issue.

What do I want? Why am I here? Where do I fit? What was I created to contribute? Where is this journey leading?

I've grown up with supportive parents who have been as supportive as anyone I know. They were always consistently there to say, "we're proud of you and love you, no matter what you choose to do." That wasn't a license for scandalous behavior, but a blank check of their backing to support me in following my dreams. And when my parents haven't been physically present, I've been surrounded by an amazing host of cheerleaders and friends.

I have been afforded opportunities to do just about anything I wanted.

  • I've served on two mission trips to Jamaica. 
  • I've traveled to Africa twice, serving in Zambia and even bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls bridge. 
  • I saw the frantic preparations for this year's World Cup when I was in South Africa two years ago.
  • I've officiated a wedding for one of my best friends on the steps of a Sonoma Valley vineyard house, after driving with him on a non-stop 29-hr trip from Wichita to San Francisco. 
  • I even got crapped on by a bird in Grenada last summer while on a 3-week exposure cruise with Operation Mobilization.
These things have all just 'happened,' it seems. I didn't dream up and pursue any of it. The opportunities materialized, and I said, 'okay, let's do it." That's the story of my life- no big pre-arranged life blueprint; just a series of fun, sometimes hard, and exciting experiences.

And don't get me wrong... I am deeply grateful for those experiences. I have some rich memories and unforgettable experiences to relive in my mind and in conversation. And looking back, I see God's hand guiding and leading and orchestrating (for most of it)...

But life just seems random and disjointed sometimes. And the current season seems as ambiguous as any I've known up to this point. As blessed as I am, and have been, and as supported and loved as I am, I still struggle to not feel like I know where any of this is going or where I fit.

I'm a pastor's kid, and have lived enough places that I'm not sure what to tell people when they ask me where 'home' is. 
I went to college as a criminal justice major and graduated as a pastor.
I worked at a camp after college and worked there for a year and a half because they needed help, not because I have a life calling to camping ministry.
I left camp ministry to a short season of transition, living with my parents and working in a church pew factory.
I lived the church pew factory/parental 'free rent' life for six months before moving halfway across the country to be a youth pastor, something I never really envisioned doing. 
The youth pastor 'gig' was a great 9 1/2 years at the same church, producing lifelong friendships and memories, but ending with a clear sense of needing to move on.
And now... a year after resigning my youth ministry position, I've just 'celebrated' my first anniversary of paying my bills by working at a cemetery and funeral home doing everything from mowing lawn to driving a funeral coach...
And now... I have no clue what's next... or what I want to be next. There are possibilities for 'next,' but  no clear, life-defining vision of the immediate or long-term future.

Someone likened my life to that of Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry's multi-faceted  and eclectic-life protagonist. There are some parallels, oddly enough. He seemed to go wherever the wind blew him, doing everything from working at a race track to cutting hair to digging graves.

And now, although I don't really adhere to this theology in my heart of hearts, the current chapter of my life story seems just as random as Jayber Crow's and a product of what feels like God taking a break from communicating my story with some kind of 'writer's cramp.' It feels like everything is on 'pause' even as life speeds by me. I don't know my place, and it's hard to be okay or at peace with that.

I know the right Sunday School answers. I know God loves me and has a plan for my life. I know that 'all things work together for good for those that love God." I know that this life is ultimately not about me, but like any human being, knowing that and living it are two different things.

I don't see how the story progresses from here.

I don't understand where I balance what I do with what I trust God to do. What is my responsibility in this story, and what is His?

And hardest of all... I don't know how to enjoy the journey for what it is--a faith-saturated opportunity for me to represent God in a winsome way on this earth by living the life and story He's called me to.

The 'not finding joy in the journey' makes me feel selfish and ungrateful and spoiled... and most assuredly, I am those things on a regular basis. It's no fun to feel stuck, and, although biblical, I struggle to thank God for these opportunities to grow.

But I have a sincere desire to live the story and be the person God created me to be. It's ultimately about Him.

So... were I to be picked to attend the Donald Miller seminar, I think these are the things that I would look for...
  • An opportunity to widen my spectrum of friends and acquaintances by meeting others with the same desire to pursue a meaningful and exciting personal life story. 
  • The opportunity to have some objective input into my life story from people who, as yet, know nothing about me.
  • The opportunity to be reminded of TRUTH that I forget or ignore in the distractions of life. 
  • The opportunity to add a cool chapter to my life story.
That's it... gut-honest, vulnerable, and raw.

Don, and other staff members, thanks for the consideration. Thanks, too, for inspiring people like me to think more 'big picture' thoughts about life and eternity. And thanks for helping facilitate the process of realigning and reinvigorating 'stuck' people in need of encouragement.

    please check out this video about the seminar...

    Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Snap, Crackle, Pop

    The following are my top 'snap, crackle, and pop' 4th of July firework photos.
    They turned out pretty cool.

    I call the first one, "Radioactive Palm Tree."

    The next one, I call "Sky Anemone."

    And for the grand finale, a tie between "Tinkerbell" and "Cottonwood Seed"

    I know, I know... I cringe at the tinkerbell tag too, but it looks like a little person/fairy in the middle, and that's all I could think of. (And, yes, I'm secure enough in my masculinity to stick with it)

    Thanks to the Freuds for including me in their 4th festivities, and thanks to the Freuds and Duerksens for the pyrotechnic show.

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    Hey You Guys!

    Pretty epic night...

    Even as I write this, I'm watching the final minutes of one of the great movie classics of all time...

    ...The Goonies.

    It's given us such great cinematic moments as:
    the 'truffle shuffle,'
    'pinchas of powah,'
    'baby ruuuuuuuuuth,'
    and, my all-time favorite...

    Mrs. Fratelli: Tell us everything! Everything!
    Chunk: Everything. OK! I'll talk! 
    In third grade, I cheated on my history exam. 
    In fourth grade, I stole my uncle Max's toupee and I glued it on my face when I was Moses in my Hebrew School play. 
    In fifth grade, I knocked my sister Edie down the stairs and I blamed it on the dog... 
    When my mom sent me to the summer camp for fat kids and then they served lunch I got nuts and I pigged out and they kicked me out... 
    But the worst thing I ever done - I mixed a pot of fake puke at home and then I went to this movie theater, hid the puke in my jacket, climbed up to the balcony and then, t-t-then, I made a noise like this: hua-hua-hua-huaaaaaaa - and then I dumped it over the side, all over the people in the audience. And then, this was horrible, all the people started getting sick and throwing up all over each other. 
    I never felt so bad in my entire life. 

    Sadly, I trivialize the true beauty of the night with that, but I couldn't resist. 

    I was driving home tonight and saw this...
    It was like the sky had a halo. 

    My only regret is my inability to fully capture the beauty with my phone camera. I usually have my digital camera with me in my 'purse.' But not tonight, unfortunately.

    Nights like tonight make me want to be Ansel Adams and travel the globe (or country) trying to capture a small sliver of the beauty. 

    The Bible says in Romans 1 that creation is daily shouting 'hey you guys!' to get our attention off the small lives that we choose to live and point us to God. Jesus said that the very stones would cry out to praise Him if people didn't. The mountains and hills burst into song and trees of the field clap their hands in response to God, according to Isaiah 55.

    So I guess the sky was in worship mode tonight, and singing/shouting loudly.

    Actually, forget about Goonies. I'm shutting off my tv. 

    It's sad how satisfied and enthralled (and anesthetized) I am/we are by the 'reality' of t.v. and computer. 

    Nights like this put things in perspective.


    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Couple more things on this longest day of the year...

    Donald Miller's blog would be worth you checking out, in my humble opinion.

    Father's Day-
    This past Sunday was Fathers Day, in case you missed it.

    I have a pretty cool dad. And while separated by distance, I'm thankful for a close and good relationship. I'm thankful for his example, his heart, and his passionate seeking after God. I'm thankful for the way that I've seen him love my mom faithfully and well. I'm thankful for his faithful support of my brothers and I. And I also enjoy seeing him in his grandpa role.

    He also rides a Harley, which adds to the coolness factor. And... he knows how to play the Wii (although most nursing homes are employing that gaming system now as means of exercise for their patrons). Just kidding, dad. (and mom). * I could have included more embarrassing pictures, but don't want to put anyone on the spot.

    People say that I'm a lot like my dad. My mom has said several times that, "you're your father's son." And I think she meant it favorably.

    I take is as a great compliment.

    I'm also thankful for my brothers, who are now both dads. And good ones... We've had a good example in not just our dad, but our grandpas.

    Happy Father's Day

    Cookie Day-
    Also, if you read one of my recent posts, besides Father's Day, this last Sunday was also "cookie day" in heaven. My friend Colleen was released from her earthly limitations and ushered into eternity early Sunday morning.

    Even writing about not being able to see or understand all of who God is or what He is doing makes me think of how much bigger a perspective she has now. She sees things more clearly than anyone here on earth. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't a bit jealous.

    Please pray for her husband Mark and her kids Ryan and Michelle, along with the rest of the family and friends who are grieving her death.

    Math Maniac

    I have a shirt that says, "Math Maniac." 

    That is not the point of this post, regardless of the post's title.

    The shirt is nothing more than a Goodwill purchase that makes people look weirdly at me . I like that it's green, and I like that it's a bit quirky (read: I like that it makes people look at me weirdly). I like that it has symbols that I've never seen before, but which I assume have something to do with math.

    But it's just a shirt. I'm not really that into math at this point in life, outside balancing my checkbook or counting fantasy football points. This shirt has nothing to do with anything significant in my life, other than covering my naked torso, which is important.

    But I digress...

    I enjoy reading Donald Miller's books... Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years are my favorites. I like the way he writes- a combination of brutal honesty, vulnerable transparency, self-deprecating humor, and deep spiritual insights. They are easy reads for me, and I find myself reading and re-reading them quickly. They're that good. But, like many books that are good, reading is one thing; digesting and applying is another.

    I admire the way that Miller can engage people who think differently than him while staying grounded in who he is and what he believes. I admire that he does the hard work of listening and studying and reading, rather than just talking. While I've never met him, he seems to be the kind of guy who would make you feel important, even if you just met.

    Several months ago, I found Miller's blog, signed up to receive his feed in my blog reader, and have since read whatever he writes there. Most days, I skip over his blog to read the rest of the blogs that I have feeding in... blogs with pictures and fun stories and family. But after I read the rest, I go back and read Don's blog. It's usually deep and profound enough to need extra time and attention to digest.

    Let me throw in a caveat: if you have 'made the cut' on my blog feeder, your blog is not 'inferior' to Donald Miller's. It's just that I have to think about his a little bit deeper than most. 

    Another caveat: I will not be listing who has or has not made the cut on my blog reader :)

    Back to Donald Miller...

    Miller's entry today was, again, something that hit home to me. He talked about how complex life and faith is, but how simple some people try to make it sound. Those people want to feel in control and 'in the know,' so they talk and act as if they have life and God figured out. And it seems like, as those people show their so-called prowess or wisdom, they make others feel inferior and even stupid. They close themselves to others who think differently and attack people or ideas that threaten the comfort zone that they've created.

    There is a chance that, like me, you could put your name in the 'some people/those people/they' sentences above. It definitely, and unfortunately, describes many Christians that I know or have interacted with. Sad.

    Miller's point is this... God can be known. But at this point in life and eternity, we do not have the capacity to know it all. God has revealed Himself, most poignantly in and through the person of Jesus, but there is no one on earth that can say that they perfectly  understand who God is, how He works, or what He is up to. There is TRUTH, but we are not the authors of it- only broken vessels through which God desires to convey Himself, His love, and His truth. That is a much more humble posture than the one with which most seem to approach life, God, or other people.

    It's okay to say, "I don't know," or, "I'm not sure." We are not God and don't have to act like Him. We don't have all the answers, and we shouldn't claim to.

    My "Jim's Contemporary Version" of that truth is: "chill out, enjoy the journey, and bless those traveling with/by you by listening well and sharing graciously what God has shown and is showing you. Be real. Be humble. Point others at God, the One with the answers, rather than at yourself."

    Donald Miller quoted this in his blog entry...

    "mathematicians go mad, not poets, 
    because mathematicians try to build a bridge across the infinite, 
    while poets swim in the sea."
    -G.K. Chesterton

    I want to be more of a poet than a 'math maniac.' I want to enjoy the swim. I want to create beauty out of what is beyond my understanding. I want to trust the God who created the sea, and Who threw me into it, instead of trying to escape the faith-building opportunities that He's seen fit to expose me to by building some human perspective-centered 'bridge' out of those opportunities. 

    And, in His sovereign wisdom and grace, God has us all on unique and intersecting learning curves. There is no such thing as 'one size fits all' in that learning process, so it seems smart and, *surprise*, biblical and Christ-like, to show grace to others swimming in the same water. I want to be someone who others enjoy swimming with. (And even if others don't agree with me, or vice versa, I want to be able to talk about it in a respectable, if not enjoyable, way) I want to be someone who swims in such a way that others want to know God and His Son Jesus.

    I know I have long way to go on this journey.

    Thanks to you who are graciously and patiently swimming alongside me.

    And to dissuade any awkwardness and potential misunderstanding, I'd like to ask everyone to avoid posting any cheesy comments like, "I enjoy swimming with you." yeah... thanks.

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Cookie Comfort

    It's been a stormy beginning to summer. Even today the weather map is colorful. It seems the atmosphere has been volatile and damaging on a pretty regular basis. And the evidence of it's volatility is plain to see.

    One of the most beautifully flowering and symmetrical trees on our property fell victim to wind and storms. It's a tree, yes, but it was sad, given this particular tree's strategic place on the landscape. And now it's gone.

    A different kind of storm is raging and threatening to extinguish the life of a piece of my personal life landscape. I learned, a few months ago, that cancer was rapidly consuming the life of a lady that has been a huge encouragement to me, especially during my years of ministry at Grace. This lady wrote me countless notes and cards, and baked me untold numbers of cookies. And she made a point to make the kinds of cookies i like... monster cookies and peanut butter cookies.

    I saw her last Saturday, after hearing that she wasn't doing well and wasn't expected to live through the next month or so. I was saddened to see how much she'd deteriorated, but thankful for the opportunity to visit with her and her husband. As I prayed with them, and then left, I was struck by the reality that heaven might be the next place that we visit.

    So I baked cookies.

    I wanted to do something tangible and symbolic of the impact that this woman had had in my life, and the positive input she'd made on my ministry. Even realizing that she might not be able to enjoy them, I wanted to at least bless her husband, especially if she hadn't been able to bake since she got sick. And I also prayed that they would be edible.

    A Crisco baking stick and one packed 1/4 cup of brown sugar inspired me. 

    I strategically placed the second cup of brown sugar to create a little Pinocchio face in the mixing bowl.

    I was thankful to find my roommate's electric mixer after my hand cramped up gripping a wooden spoon.

    And voila... the finished, golden product. In sincere and thankful humility, they actually tasted pretty good.

    Storms are inevitable, and so is death. But cookies help ease the frustration and helpless feelings that accompany the hard stuff.

    I had a lump in my throat as I wrote a note to my cookie encourager, Colleen. I told her that it's people like her and her cookies who keep people going when they need encouragement. It's timely words and sweet treats from well-meaning people that help take the edge off of life's storms. And I told her that I was pretty confident of rewards for her in heaven... and maybe cookies.

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    Wee Beady Eyes...

    I'm probably as surprised as anybody...

    I've never been into snakes, but April has become 'snake month' for me and it's been something weirdly fascinating to find these guys all over the place.

    There were five or more coiled up together. I tried to pick one up (with a 'grabber' we use for picking up trash from our mowers) and, surprisingly, he/she didn't like it. Live and learn, I guess. :)

    Plainbelly Water Snake, I think.

    The sky was also brilliantly blue today, with fluffy white, cotton candy clouds... beautiful. It almost looks like a screen-saver.

    Which reminds me... we discussed a book in South Africa a couple years ago called What's Your God Language? by Myra Perrine. (It's a continuation and elaboration of a book from the mid-70's about spiritual temperaments). We were talking about why some people seem to struggle doing their quiet times, while others can sit and pray and meditate for hours; why people can worship the same God, but struggle to understand or connect with each other; why some people can devour books in one sitting, while others avoid them like the plague; why some people, like Mother Theresa, can be energized by serving the poorest of the poor while others are devastated and overwhelmed by the seemingly impossible need.

    Without going to the book for a definition, my personal description of a spiritual temperament is the place or environment in your life where you best connect with God. It's different than a spiritual gift. It's not necessarily for the benefit of anyone but us. It's the personal and most natural conduit that God has wired us with to relate to Him at the core of our being. Mrs. Perrine identifies nine temperaments. (I've seen others identify as few as four or as many as twelve).

    Some people connect best with God by wading through deep theological books and age-old arguments. (maybe, by using the term 'wading,' you can guess that this is not one of my primary places of connection with God... I could also use the words- plodding, trudging, suffocating). Some people feel closest to God when they are fighting for a cause, or for the welfare of a person or group of people. These people thrive in places and discussions of social justice. Some people feel closest or most in tune with God through the smell of incense and the sound of voices reverberating off domed cathedrals.

    I am what the book would describe as a 'naturalist.' I connect best with Jesus when I'm exposed to the natural, created world.

    So... if you wonder why I take pictures of snakes or deer, clouds or blue skies, daffodils and tulips- it's because those things renew my perspective on who God is, and who I am in relation to Him. It's why I think fishing on a cool spring evening is one of the most relaxing and calming things for my spirit. It's why my heart catches or jumps a bit when I see a shooting star. It's why spring has given me a jolt this year. 

    I encourage you to read the book. To whet your appetite, here's a list of the nine temperaments:
    The Activist
    The Ascetic
    The Caregiver
    The Contemplative
    The Enthusiast
    The Intellectual
    The Naturalist
    The Sensate
    The Traditionalist

    Which one are you? Or... what combination of those temperaments make you come alive to the wonder and presence of God in your life and world?

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