Friday, December 31, 2010
Now the wedding ceremony and reception afterwards were all very nice. All the wedding party and parents and everybody involved looked really nice. Everything ran smoothly and came off without a hitch. The short sermon as part of the ceremony was very powerful and painted a beautiful picture of the primary purpose of our marriages being a means to bring glory to Yahweh.
My family has known both the bride and groom and their families for several years so it was all very comfortable and relaxed. We had a good time hanging out with friends and just having an enjoyable evening. But none of that is the reason it was the best wedding I have ever been to. It was the events leading up to this marriage that made it special and extraordinary.
From the time this young couple made the first tentative steps toward getting to know each other until the time of their marriage last night an amazing process took place in their lives and the lives of their families that I had never seen work very well before. From the beginning both families made the decision that a marriage is much more than just two people joining together, but it is a bigger picture of two families joining together.
At the reception both fathers took their turn explaining how the process worked from their perspective. It went something like this: 1) young man talks to his father and lets him know he would like his father’s wisdom on qualities he should be looking for in a future spouse. 2) father gives advice and says, “how about this young lady”. 3) young man gives consent to the possibility. 4) father of young man contacts father of young lady to see if there is a mutual interest in the families and the two young people getting to know each other better. 5) father of young lady talks to his daughter and she likes the idea. 6) father of young lady talks to father of young man. 7) families get to know each other. 8) eventually the young man himself talks to father of young lady and asks if they can be betrothed (engaged). 9) Wedding.
Of course the explanation of all of this at the reception took a lot longer and offered us all a lot more insight and detail as to how it all worked throughout the year and a half this was all taking place. For instance, soon after the two families agreed to this arrangement, the young lady and her family moved to South Korea for several months, because Dad had accepted a teaching job there right around the time this all began. So this was a long distance friendship/relationship for much of the time. Both families found the wondrous world of Skype which allowed them to keep in contact with one another even from far away.
Another thing that took place in the process is that everybody agreed that the parents of the young lady would set the ground rules for how this relationship would develop and what it would look like. So one of the conditions the father of the young lady put in place was that the first time his daughter ever kissed a man it would be at her wedding. Even after the young lady’s family moved back from S. Korea the couple held to that requirement and it was a precious thing to see the innocence of that first kiss as the marriage ceremony ended.
Everybody there was blessed to hear this unique story. And I think the families got it right. The process won’t look exactly the same for every family, but this can work for our young people. Both of these young people are adults and yet they allowed their parents to play a major and primary role in how this courtship and betrothal worked out. They trusted the wisdom and insight of their parents. Because of it both families are stronger, closer, and have bonded with each other. Statistics clearly show that if there is family support for two people getting married, the success rate in those marriages skyrockets. This goes beyond support even, to total commitment by two families to do what is best for their children.
Perhaps the overwhelming factor in why this all worked out right is that both the bride and groom and their parents are 100% devoted to serving their Heavenly Father. Once that happens in peoples lives it becomes the primary condition in what someone looks for in a spouse, because ultimately it will be the only thing that determines the success of that marriage.
So anyway, looking at this in retrospect and having gotten some perspective of this as it was happening over the past months, I can say I’m blessed by the whole thing. It converted my thinking from, “that’s a nice ideal, but can it actually work among believing families”, to, “this is a superior way to do things-this is a scriptural way to do things, and it will work.” I think I have my wife and children on board with the concept so we’ll see where life takes us from here.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Perhaps the best of friends
A smile here, a laugh there
With nowhere else to go
They dance around in circles
Wondering ‘bout the next
Maybe heaven’s intervention
Or a simply spoken truth
Written words are freedom
When the poets do a dance
But spoken words bring victory
And give the next a chance
Monday, December 20, 2010
The other night I was sitting in my living room watching a hockey game with my son and it got me thinking about a lot of things. I clearly remember the first time my son watched a hockey game with me. He was about 3 months old and I had him propped up next to me on the couch introducing him to a sport I grew up watching and playing. He seemed fascinated by the action on the tv screen. It was probably the bright light and noisy action that caught his attention, but he was hooked from that time forward. My son turned 21 a couple of days ago. A lot of life has passed since that first hockey game we watched together when he wasn’t even old enough to sit up by himself.
In those intervening years we got to spend a lot of time together playing sports, especially when he was younger, sometimes me coaching teams he played on, other times just hanging out in the yard throwing around a baseball, or playing a pickup game of floor hockey with friends. As he grew up his interests shifted away from sports a little bit to music and writing and reading (he learned how to read very early in his life and it’s still a passion). As he matured into his teen years he didn’t go through the typical rebellious stage that so many kids go through. Instead he turned his focus to his Heavenly Father. So now while we still sit and watch an occasional hockey game together, much of that time we used to spend on sports and just hanging out has been replaced with discussions about more significant things in life.
So last night we went to a “bachelor” party together. Now I’m well past the age where I have friends getting married on a regular basis, but every once in a while I get invited to one of these things. Now in the circles I hang out in, a bachelor party consists of going to a restaurant with a bunch of guys and eating some food and hanging out and talking, or maybe doing something more adventurous like playing paintball or shooting a few games of pool. But the point is my son has grown up. We don’t do kid stuff together anymore (well not too much anyway).
Instead we interact as two adults. We’re well past the point where my ideas are more significant or carry more weight than his do. Three years behind him toward his college degree I know my son has learned things I will never know. We have many discussions about our beliefs and the importance it plays in our lives, knowing it forms who each of us is. Going to a bachelor party naturally gets us talking about friendships and relationships. It gets us talking about marriage and the type of young lady he wants to marry some day-someone who is just as devoted to his Heavenly Father as he is. Someone who will walk by his side in service to the Kingdom.
So my son has grown into a man- a true man of Yahweh. The transitions from childhood, through the teen years, and now into his adult life have been pretty smooth ones between us. As in any life, in any family, there are always a few growing pains and lessons to be learned as we and our children grow together. That’s part of the refining we all go through.
I guess the real point of what I’m writing here though is that life is a continuous time of growing and maturing. Make the most of every moment. 21 years ago, with my baby boy sitting beside me watching a hockey game on tv, I couldn’t have imagined sitting here writing this blog today. :)
To see the kind of stuff he likes to write about check out his blog- Crauhnice.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Nowhere to go but down
Detained by winter’s frigid, gnarled hands
Faith retreats as night asserts its influence
The decree is to give in, to be one of them
Faithfulness the expense of the fray
Despair has taken the high ground
Desolation will fight for his space
The husbandman prunes with purposeful intent
The vine weeps in anguish as branches
Join the burning bramble
Others are cut back to fortify the vine
The vine must grow at any cost
Even the demise of the vine is not too great a price
The vinedresser’s hands restore with gentle ease
Reviving faith in the midst of despondency and malice
Daylight’s brightness a harsh reminder of nighttime’s place
Nighttime withers under the brilliant light
Darkness a slave to the light, bowing to the master
Reconciliation the goal since inception
Standing on the pinnacle embraced by the day
Stable, steady, unyielding
Supported by firm, gentle hands
Faith affirms as the night hides away
Monday, December 6, 2010
Lo and behold, she refused! Not only that, she wrote me an e-mail letting me know I had to prove myself worthy to be her FB friend. We had fun with that for about a week, until one day my sister invited me to be her friend. I informed my wife I now had a friend on FB and didn’t need her to be my friend anymore. :D
Ok, so we had a lot of fun with that, made each other laugh and moved on. But before I could close down my account I was getting several friend requests...and starting saying yes. So getting to my point, I enjoyed reconnecting with a whole bunch of people over the last 20 months that popped back up in my world. Some that I lost touch with many years ago.
The other side of that of course is watching people use Facebook as a place for gossip and all other kinds of rude behavior that I probably would never see of them in “real” life. More than that though is the time consumer it can become. I need to make place in my life for other things that are more important to me than Facebook. So after threatening to do it for a few months I finally pulled the plug on my FB account yesterday. I looked at the left of my wall and saw 144 friends. I thought that was a good number to end things with.
The interesting thing about Facebook is that you can never actually delete your account. You can only deactivate. So to everyone that was a friend it removes all comments, pictures, and every other interaction you have ever had with them. You are gone. But all it takes to reactivate the account is to sign back in with your user name and password and voila, you are reconnected like nothing ever happened. I guess it’s just the way of our world. :)
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
But this…this emptiness, this non existence, this place separated from life itself. This was simply beyond anything his mind could process. Did he even have a mind really? If I can think, I exist, he thought to himself. It was that moment of recognition that hurtled him towards true separation.
He awoke. Never before had he even known there was a choice, let alone a choice so clear. There was only life and not life. Life is better. He would choose it. He would live and serve. He would live to tell others about Life. That would be his existence forevermore.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
What is it about change that we find so difficult? We prefer what is known to what is unknown. There is security in where we are at. We know what to expect. We understand the rules and parameters of the now. Change ushers in new rules and regulations and a lot of “what if” and “what now”.
I want to make the case that change is good, that we should embrace change with all our might. Some of the most dramatic life changing experiences we have propel the human race forward on its course. Who doesn’t appreciate the bliss of a mother as she cuddles her newborn son or daughter? Or the joy of a new bride and groom as they contemplate their life ahead? These are life changing experiences we encourage and hold tight.
We expect these changes to help us grow and flourish. I say we should view all change in this way. Change keeps us from getting lazy. It forces us to mature and move forward with life. No stragglers allowed when change is part of our life. Stragglers get left behind.
Whether we view change as a positive or negative experience is of no consequence as to what it has to teach us. Change, expected or not, makes us better. It compels us to grow and understand in more significant and profound ways. I say hurray for change.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
In those intervening months I have witnessed many occasions of people giving of themselves at their own expense to help others change their lives in inspirational ways. People giving of their time, their last dime, and even putting themselves at risk to reach out and help others make an effort to walk a better path in life.
Regretfully I have also seen the other side of that. People who have removed themselves so far from love that their selfishness eats away and consumes everybody around them. Some are people who should know better, those who have experienced grace and love firsthand, and yet somehow have let their own desires, and their own self preservation become the course they have chosen.
“Me first” never has any place walking beside true love. “Me first”, not only damages “me”, but it also throws out a whole bunch of collateral damage to those whose lives’ paths that person intersects.
More than ever, I believe what I wrote nine months ago, but I also have a better understanding that love is truly a choice we make. Every day we wake up and say, “I have the opportunity to serve, I have the ability to forego my selfish desires, I have the time, the words, and the resources to make somebody else’s life better and more meaningful.”
So this is a call to let love rule our lives. It is a call to remember that love is, “A bending of our will to the only will that matters-Yahweh himself”. And it is ultimately from an eternal point of view, the only thing that defines who we are as we walk this earth.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Not knowing the next day
The who or what or why or when
Imagined paths before us
Rarely what they seem
People, seasons, reasons, times
Temporary appearing as life
Hoping for so much more
Friendship, love, bonding with another
Momentary, but real enough for now
Realization of the one we long for
Two lives sharing common vision
Reality defining the temporal
Hope fulfilled in a shared life
Two lives intertwined in love
Ah life, what a funny way to live
Still not knowing the next day
Yet living with the one, we can love Him with
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Hands lifted in humble triumph
Warmth of a billion suns glistening upon tears of exultation
The elation, the joy of knowing it’s all true
Reflection of more innocent, unassuming days
Memories of long ago childhood
Loving mother’s embrace sharing tears of delightful wonder
The elation, the joy of knowing it’s all true
Contemplation of first knowing your touch
Mind tries recalling your face
Warmth of a billion suns glistening upon tears from heaven
The elation, the joy of knowing it’s all true
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Wow! I was shocked when I did an actual count. When I think of all that information that I store in my head, and then think of the actual time spent doing stuff with those accounts, it’s no wonder life seems overwhelmingly busy at times. And yet when I go through the list there are only a couple of them that I can easily say, “yup, that’s a no-brainer, I can get rid of that one”. Most of those accounts help me interact with other people in significant ways.
In the culture we live in, personal one on one interaction is often replaced with e-mails, chat rooms, blogs, texting, and several other ways we connect to each other that leaves out face to face, voice to voice encounters. On the one hand it saddens me to know that this is a fact I will live with for the rest of my life. On the other hand I’ve gotten to know many people that I couldn’t have just 10 years ago.
My life has been enriched by the friendships I’ve developed with people I have never met in person. And with most of us having easy access to travel, there are eventually opportunities to meet face to face with those we have only known electronically before. I recently had the pleasure of meeting several people in person that I had developed e-friendships with over the months and years. It was a truly awesome experience.
And perhaps that is the goal of all of this electronic communication. It is a more expansive way to find others of like mind and common interests and share our lives with others outside our small world that we would typically limit ourselves to. So I guess in all the busyness we’ve brought into our lives, the silver lining is the people who touch us and that we touch in return in some way that enriches our lives and makes this globe a better place to live.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Running, turning, every direction, no direction
A voiceless Babel with too many words
Happy to belong to everything, belonging to nothing
A troupe of prophets with nothing to see
With too many visions, with no vision
Followers of the automated, the conformed pack
Pleased with no direction, no hope, no vision
Sunday, September 19, 2010
"Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of Yahweh will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and Yahweh will answer; you will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And Yahweh will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail."
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Look at me Papa I’m gonna climb up the slide
Look at this Papa see I built a lawnmower
Look at this Papa see I fixed it with the hammer
Uncle Jared let’s run round and round
Uncle Jared let’s wrestle on the floor
Uncle Jared I just want to go in your bedroom
Uncle Jared can you tell me a story
Grammy come here I can’t make the game work right
Grammy come here I need more juice and cheese
Grammy come here see I helped put away the clean dishes
Grammy come here see I picked this green tomato
Mommy I need you to put on my socks they won’t go right
Mommy I need you to go to the bathroom with me
Mommy I just need you to come by me on the couch
Mommy I just need to give you hugs and kisses I love you
Sunday, September 5, 2010
We were mostly making small talk about girls, faith, and the start of the new college semester and trying to determine which restaurant in the food court was getting the most business. We decided it was Subway, the only restaurant there that was well known. That led us to a discussion of people being comfortable in a culture and amongst people and places they are familiar with.
To my left was a man, woman, teenage boy, and small baby sharing dinner together. They were far enough away from us and talking quietly enough that we couldn’t pick up most of the conversation, but it was clear that the man (dad it appeared) was talking quite stridently and straightforwardly to his son. I did hear some words that sounded like “only thinking of yourself” as dad left the table to take care of his food tray. For the minute that he was away from the table it appeared son was looking for consolation from mom; with mixed results. I assumed that probably wasn’t going to be a fun car ride home.
To my right sat another family. At first it was just a mom with two young daughters. After a few minutes a man dressed in a suit came walking up and I heard squeals of “daddy, daddy” from the two little girls. After some hugs and kisses they had some pleasant family time together and most likely went on to enjoy a nice evening.
Since we had a good stretch of time before the movie started we stayed at our little table for quite a while watching and observing as people flowed in and out of our space. We eventually finished and made our way to a Barnes and Noble to kill a little more time (I used to read a lot of science fiction when I was younger and so decided to peruse that section. I was disappointed to learn that classic science fiction has mostly devolved into fantasy and horror masquerading as sci-fi). A group of teenagers were making their way through the bookstore pushing the limits of the understood quiet nature of such a place, but not quite going far enough to get themselves reprimanded.
So here’s the thing; in that time and place, me, my son, and all of the people flowing in and out of the food court, the bookstore, and eventually the movie theater, all stood on common ground. We all knew the rules, we all understood the limits, and we all had a clear grasp of the culture and society in that little world. The dad talking firmly to his son understood his behavior was acceptable and wouldn’t be questioned. The young family understood it was perfectly okay to show their affection for one another in this spot. And the teenagers in the bookstore barely operated within the rules of the bookstore, but didn’t pass the limit.
When we look alike, when we think alike, when we are familiar with what is expected of us, it is simple and easy for us to behave in ways that don’t offend our neighbor. When we are put into places and situations where we don’t understand the culture, we don’t understand the rules, and we’re not privy to the proper decorum, there is a lot more opportunity for us to offend or be offended.
Many years ago my family and I visited a small congregation of people for a worship service. We had never met these folks before and so we walked into the sanctuary and took a seat near the back. Within about two minutes a gentleman informed us we were in his seats. That was a new experience for us. Other members of the congregation quickly came to our defense and told us we could stay in those seats, but it was easy enough for us to move. In spite of that initial greeting we ended up making that our congregation for the next two years. We came to understand the rules. Everyone there had their place to sit every week. It was unspoken and unwritten, but a rule nevertheless that we had to learn, to be accepted into that microcosm of the greater society.
Now I’m going to present something I’ll call the uncommon land. It is a place, a time, a culture, and society that also offers a spot to function in our commonality, but not because of any external sameness. In fact it is a place that allows us to function with order, with decency, with dignity and love, because it forces us to understand our sameness has nothing at all to do with what is on the outside, but instead recognizes a more powerful unity we have in a shared vision of what flows out of our hearts. It’s an uncommon land, because it is not a place we choose to visit too often. It’s a place that compels us to look beyond all of the common ground we experience with our five senses and to embrace a firmer, clearer bond we have of a vision of what awaits us if we choose to operate from this place of the uncommon.
What we know with our senses is so unreliable in gaining insight into the heart of another person and yet our interaction with the external is the ground upon which we mostly choose to make our judgments about one another. As a child of the Most High I hope to be able to implement the idea of choosing to interact on a level beyond the purely physical and enter a realm where our interactions are spirit to spirit…heart to heart. Surely this will be easier said than done for any of us.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
His mind weeps in silent accord
Hopelessness his companion of choice
Seared conscience cloudiness so liberating
Shadows beckoning his favor
Harbingers of the broad and free
Glaring clarity concedes to the eclipsed
The enchanting solicits his gaze
Vitality no longer bounded by truth
The arrogance of those who know better
Audacious fools spin a tale of caution
They have no right, it’s his to live
Deadly fashionable truth fails his spirit
Life force pining to reconnect
Hope may be his accomplice yet
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Time, it’s just a game we play
You think it’s yours to keep
You think you have your share
You live in the future, you live in the past
All that’s real is now
All you’ve got is now
All that’s real is now
All you’ve got is now
Time it’s just a race we run
You think it’s yours to win
You think you have enough
You live in your worry, you live in your guilt
All that’s real is now
All that’s Him is now
All that’s real is now
All that’s Him is now
Eternity has you in its grasp
The things you see will never last
He is now
Live for Him now
Live for Him now
Love’s the only thing we’ll keep
The only race we’ll win
We live in the moment, He is the moment
All that’s real is now
All we’ve got is now
All that’s real is now
All that’s Him is now
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I’m the eagle soaring in majestic stillness, powerful, untouchable
I’m the hummingbird in feverish motion, gracefully suspended
I’m the nightingale, beautiful voice, clearest tones just before the dawn
I’m a man reaching upward through the heavens, nourishing my soul
I’m a man soaring in life’s freedom, peaceful, strong, touched with love
I’m a man in endless motion, quiet grace embracing my spirit
I’m a man singing shouts of anguish and joy, clearest answers at morning light
All creation spiraling, soaring, dancing, singing in harmonious unity
All creation living for the moment of reconciled oneness
All creation conceiving the reality of heavenly majesty
All creation praising the completeness of the great YHWH
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Then there are those of us standing just outside my friend’s space. We see a beautiful heart and soul shackled by chains in a swirling mist of emptiness and confusion. What my young friend sees as expansive and life giving we see as limiting and deadly. There is no truth in the place my friend is living. There is no reality in the place my friend is living. There is only nothingness masquerading as life.
My friend is living in a prison barely big enough to turn around in, but because my friend can’t feel the walls, there is no recognition of imprisonment. Because my friend only sees the mask of light that darkness wears, the true light has become a foreigner. Because my friend only sees true life as limiting rules, the true love of life is elusive and alien.
There is reality, there is life, there is light, just outside the prison walls and we want to set my friend free, but we have to proceed with care and caution. I want to take the sword to those who have willingly entered the prison to persuade my friend that their darkness is light, that their death is life. Yet there is a good chance my young friend will suffer damage in the battle and so we keep the swords in their sheath and wait patiently.
We do battle in the way that is least likely to cause damage, with unified prayers lifted to the heavens, with our own acts and words of love, and encouragement, and life, instead of the flattering words of damnation. My young friend is broken and hurt, but can’t embrace that reality to move past it. One way or the other love will have its way in my friend’s life. We all hope it is sooner rather than later.
The irony (as is often the case) is that those who are only acquainted with my friend, those who only know my friend in a peripheral way would never suspect there are shackles. The façade is complete. Eventually though the light will reveal the truth. The prison door will open and my friend will stumble out broken and in need. The only response we can have is love.
Perhaps the little guy learned a lesson…doesn’t really look like it though. :-)
Monday, July 5, 2010
So a little over a week ago we were having lunch in an elementary school gymnasium that is now mostly used as a cafeteria when school is in session. It’s a space we rent for once a week worship (church) services. Every week we have to go in, set things up for the service, and then afterwards we rearrange things and have lunch together. For the service there are nice folding chairs and at lunch time we set up cafeteria type tables with benches attached. All fairly safe and serene.
Since this is an elementary school there are common areas we have access to when we rent this space. Scattered throughout those common areas are a few chairs with wheels that are used at computer desks, etc. Calby is one of those kids that can pretty easily find mischief in a matter of milliseconds.
So anyway he got his hands on one of the rolling chairs and wheeled it into the gymnasium. Somehow he got it moving across the floor while he was standing on it. I was only an eyewitness to the aftermath, but witnesses say he managed to fly over the back of the chair as it was falling to the ground.
Now there was a small commotion and a little bit of crying, some hand wringing that maybe he had clunked his noggin on the floor, but after a few minutes he was back in action. We eventually took him home and life was good.
A little while after we were home he complained a little bit about his arm hurting him. We checked him over, but couldn’t see any bumps or bruises, no swelling or excruciating cries of pain. At this point we were fairly confident he had a strain or sprain that would bother him for a day or two and all would be fine. After a day or two we noticed he wasn’t lifting his arm above his head and so had some concern, but still he was using the arm almost normally besides that.
About four days after the initial tumble from the chair, he was visiting great grandpa and was “helping” with some yard work. He wanted to pull the empty lawnmower bag across the yard. That’s when it happened, the yell of anguish. Time for the emergency room. It was his collarbone. Apparently the fall had caused the initial hairline fracture, barely noticeable, not really painful, but the cause of the injury. When he was moving the mower bag it put enough strain on the fracture to cause an actual separation. Ouch!
So here we are, a little over a week into the event and he has his right arm in a sling. That’s about the only option to help immobilize a broken clavicle. There’s no way to put a cast on it, etc. Needless to say he finds the sling to be a very limiting piece of equipment. He has already removed it several times. Just this morning he went off to his bedroom to “get something” only to return slingless. He did a pretty good job of hiding it. It took a few minutes to locate it and get it back on him.
So our mission for the next 4-6 weeks (at the height of summer and outdoor play time) is to limit a kid that absolutely detests limits. He’s a smart kid so we have had some success in helping him understand the implications of re-injuring the bone, but still he will push the limits. So now we are back to hoping, praying, and pleading, but we sure do love the life our grandson brings to our home.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
My wife and I have been back home for three days now. Last Thursday morning we had a great breakfast of quiche and fruit stuffed french toast. We were the only guests for breakfast that morning so we got to have some good conversation with our hostess Kara. We found out she was a former public school teacher who decided many years ago to home school her four children. They are currently between 9 and 15 years old. This was particularly interesting to us since we home schooled our son once he entered high school. He is now successfully navigating his way through school as a college junior.
Anyway we talked with her a little bit about faith, children, and differences in cattle ranching between New Mexico and Michigan. In New Mexico a 5000 acre farm will support about 250 head of cattle. Here in Michigan you can graze that many cattle on a 10th of that area. New Mexico has so much beauty, but it is not green and lush like here in the Midwest states.
After breakfast we made dropped off our rental car and taxied our way of to the train station. The great thing about the train is the simplicity of boarding and finding exactly where you need to go. Basically if you have a ticket in hand you walk outside to the train, find the particular car you are assigned to, show your ticket and get on. They allow a good amount of carry on luggage so many people don’t even check baggage. Even security is minimal. My wife and I have flown many times in our life and Amtrak is by far an easier, more relaxed experience.
The return trip was filled with meeting interesting people too. We had lunch with two elderly ladies from the Los Angeles area, Elsa and Francis who were heading all the way to Massachusetts for a graduation of some kind. Francis is 77 years old and volunteers to help youth in the local park system. My wife lived in that area for several years as a child and so was able to appreciate some of the local references. Francis was very openly religious and conservative in her views. She expounded on the fallacy of wishing someone luck instead of offering them a blessing. It was a delightful conversation.
One meal we sat with a young lady named Dorothy who had been visiting her father in Los Angeles and was returning home to Garden City, Kansas. She was only 17, but already had a semester of pre-veterinary school behind her.
We also met Nick and Jean a mid 50s couple from Buffalo NY. They had been in Las Vegas visiting one of their sons. They have another 21 year old son who had played junior hockey in Canada and was still trying to find a way to break into the pros. I love hockey so we had quite an enjoyable conversation. They had even met the goalie of our local semi professional hockey team who we were informed was from their hometown of Buffalo.
It’s amazing how much people will open up about themselves, how unguarded they can be, when they know they will probably never see you again. I realized though that everybody we meet has something to teach us. In spite of differences in beliefs and philosophies, even personalities, most of us want the same things in life. We want to love and be loved. We want some freedom to express ourselves. And we want to have something that gives us significance, that gives us a reason for getting up tomorrow, to building something better for those we love.
26 hours after leaving Albuquerque we were back in Union Station in Chicago. Our children were there waiting for us. We made our way to our car. After several days away the familiarity of our own vehicle made it seem almost like we were back home. The 2 ½ ride to Michigan was pleasant and uneventful. We shared our experiences with our children. They told us of theirs. And we decided it would be quite a while before we would embark on anther adventure like this again.
The Turquoise Trail runs directly through the Sandia Mountains and divides several small towns that retain much of their original ancient architecture and character. We’ve been to many beautiful places in the U.S. and even in some of the Caribbean islands, but I think this is the most beautiful place I have seen. It’s both majestic and plain. The people here live simply in adobe structures. There are as many horses as vehicles in some of the villages we journeyed through. It’s a far different part of this country than what I’m accustomed to. It was refreshing.
After some lunch we headed for downtown Santa Fe. We drove around until we stumbled upon the state capitol. We found a parking spot, walked inside and were greeted by a couple of friendly middle age women who gave us a brochure and pretty much gave us the run of the place. It didn’t seem particularly busy and we were free to walk through the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors with no guidance or restrictions. Seeing it was the beginning of June, the house and senate weren’t in session, nor apparently was the Governor anywhere to be found. I’m guessing there are more restrictions in place if there are people to protect. Nevertheless it was very laid back, which seemed to be the general attitude everywhere we went in NM.
There can be no doubt about both the Spanish and Catholic influence in Santa Fe. The words Santa Fe apparently mean “holy faith” or something close to that. 2010 is the 400th anniversary of the founding of Santa Fe. Everywhere you turn there are 1600, 1700, and 1800 Catholic churches and cathedrals as the centerpiece of the community. Most of the place names are some combination of Spanish and local Indian languages. In a more modern concession to diversity we saw at least three Jewish synagogues and some Hindu centers of worship.
After making a full day of touring Santa Fe we headed south on I-25 back to Albuquerque. We decided to forego dinner and instead picked up a bottle of local red wine and some cheese and crackers and enjoyed the setting sun out on the balcony of our room. That turned out to be a little bit of a mistake.
After not sleeping well I woke up Wednesday morning feeling awful. I had no energy and couldn’t get myself out of bed to go to breakfast. My wife decided to go to breakfast without me with my encouragement. I’m glad she did. After describing to our host my symptoms she immediately knew my problem-altitude sickness. At higher elevations like Albuquerque the available oxygen in the air is less than at lower elevations like where I live in Michigan. The body needs to work harder to stay oxygenated and healthy. In addition the dry air of the southwest US, although very pleasant compared to the humidity I’m used to living in, is very dehydrating. Alcohol in any form also has a dehydrating effect on the body. So the two glasses of red wine I had the night before contributed to the effect. Some people are barely affected by the change, other are affected severely. Thankfully we identified my problem quickly and the solution is simple. Water, water, and more water, in addition to water with electrolytes added. Over a half gallon of water later over the next hour things starting coming back to normal.
Wednesday afternoon we visited a section of Albuquerque called Old Town. It is a strange combination of very old adobe structures and modern “adobe looking” buildings. It’s also an odd mixture of very nice local artwork, pottery, and jewelry contrasted with touristy type stuff like t-shirts, coffee mugs with pithy slogans, and other knick knacks you can find in almost any tourist stop across the country. All in all it has been a great couple of days. Tomorrow we hop on the train for home.
Monday, June 14, 2010
A couple of months ago our children surprised my wife and I with an Amtrak trip to the bed and breakfast of our choice in Albuquerque. My wife has been to this city before and had occasionally expressed an interest in returning some day. Apparently my children were listening. I was somewhat apprehensive about the train ride. I don’t always travel well over long distances in confined spaces. It is no doubt a throwback to my childhood where every car ride had the potential to be a motion sickness adventure. As I got older I have mostly gotten past that, but still, looking forward to a 26 hour ride each way on a train was presenting some mental challenges.
As it turns out the train ride was a surprisingly pleasant experience. Sure, the restrooms don’t work right at higher elevations and learning to walk down the narrow hallways and between cars of a vehicle moving as fast as 90 mph as it jostles back and forth on the rails presented some challenges. Still those small drawbacks seemed minor in comparison to the benefits. We had a sleeper car so we had some privacy as well as a dark, relatively quiet place to lie down at night. The meals are first class (think fine dining restaurant, not airline food).
The best part though was the people we met. Amtrak practices community dining, primarily because of space restrictions. So for instance my wife and I being two people were always seated with one or two other people we didn’t know. It’s all pretty random, mostly first come first serve. So for instance on our first meal on the train we ate dinner with Irene and Helge(pronounced Elya) a 60ish couple from Oslo, Norway. They were on a three week holiday touring the United States. They flew into NY and were eventually taking the train all the way to Los Angeles and ultimately flying out of San Francisco. Along the way they were stopping at several places across our country that most of us will probably never see?
The next morning we had breakfast with Jack, a retired Michigan State University professor from East Lansing MI who retired to start his own company that develops health products for animals. He was taking the train to La Junta CO to oversee a photo shoot of a well known rodeo star who was endorsing one of his company’s products.
I’m sure there will be more stories like that on the way home.
When we arrived at the train station in Albuquerque on Monday afternoon at 4:30 we were about 40 minutes late. We had arranged to pick up a rental car from a place that closed at 5pm. Knowing our time was limited we immediately went to the desk and inquired about the location of the rental car company we were looking for. Nobody could tell us. As the clock ticked toward 5:00 I called my daughter back in MI to see if she could track down some directions for us. What she was able to come up with was sort of vague, but it seemed like our destination was about 3 miles away. At this point it was too close to 5:00 to even track down a taxi and take us there.
What happened next is my favorite part of the trip and one of the many reasons I love my wife. She is a much more experienced traveler than I am, but she also has the ability to not get frustrated in pressure situations. As I was entering my, “what are we going to do now”, near panic mode, she calmly took out her phone. She called the 800 number for the rental car service, found out they had another location at the Albuquerque Airport which is open 24/7, had them change our reservation to that location and had me call a taxi to take us there. Problem solved! 45 minutes later we were at the Bed and Breakfast being greeted by the owner Kara Grant and her nine year old daughter Abby.
We had a nice, but expensive dinner at a local restaurant, came back to our beautiful room and got some rest.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Falling, falling, falling toward the everlasting abyss
Nothing to hold on to, only swirling thick darkness
Hopelessness, emptiness, no existence, nothing
What he shows, a view for the world, can it be real?
His face is bright, his words are sure, life excels
He holds everything, the majestic is his to own
He won’t be toppled, he won’t be torn, he mustn’t break
Inside his mind, inside his soul, covering the truth
Plummeting, plummeting, plummeting toward the everlasting abyss
Nothing to stop the fall, only darkness surrounding, demanding
No hope, alone, lifelessness pleads its case, nothing
For the weak, the show has become the truth, the new reality
Like the hypocrite in the ancient play, the actor springs to life
Spinning a story, deflecting our gaze, all is a slave to his whim
He’ll stand on the heights, remain intact, the façade cannot be broken
Mind is trapped, soul is anguished, imprisoned in lies
Down, down, down, forever downward, charging to impact
A glimpse, a flash, yet darkness, maybe a shadow, perhaps
Hope searching, harshly, abruptly fills the empty, something
He is damaged, he is broken, he is humbled, finally truth will have its way.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
As life would have it Calby (another nickname) and his mommy have lived with us since day one of his illustrious life. Calby recently turned four. From the start his determination and happy personality took us in its grip. It was at about the age of two that we started to understand that the determination part might offer us some challenges.
I walked into the living room one day and he was standing on the back of the couch…so far nothing unusual for him. He then announced that he was going to launch himself from the back of the couch over the seat and onto the living room floor. My brain quickly calculated that there was about a 100% chance that he would break some bone in his body if he attempted this maneuver. My mouth urgently reacted with, “no you are not…”-too late, he was in the air. He landed, rolled, and stood up laughing. A quick check assured no broken bones, or even any bruises.
Well now my pride as a grandpa took over. I was impressed. Jumping attempts two through ten were with my, at first hesitant, but increasingly enthusiastic approval. I should mention that my adult son was a co-conspirator in watching this unfold. There were no women in the house at the time and when we later in the day tried to explain this episode to mommy and grammy, I recall the word stupidity being applied to us men. Of course the fact that Calby had a great time and had no broken bones or significant bruises, gave us the self assurance that we had done nothing wrong.
Well, there’s a glimpse…more to come later.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how annoying and disheartening it is to be around loud, boisterous people. Now I’m not talking about people who are full of life and enjoy every moment with enthusiasm and exuberance. I love being around those people. No, I’m thinking more of those for whom every moment is an opportunity to bring drama to their life and yours if you will let them. I’m thinking of those who find a problem in every situation, or something to criticize about almost everyone they meet.
There are those who seem to flourish by constantly ratcheting up the emotional turmoil, to keep things stirred up for the sake of a continual emotional high. They talk and gossip and oppose for the sake of getting a reaction. It’s draining to interact with people like that.
I like quiet people. I like sitting in a room or riding in a car with someone who can be comfortable sitting in silence. I don’t really mind talkative people either as long as their spirit is quiet and at rest. I have friends that I can just sit and listen to for hours, because their conversation is peaceful and uplifting. Their words bring insight and light and life to me, not just noise and clutter, or their opinion about all that is wrong with the world.
I’m pretty sure I was meant to be a recluse. I’ve known it since I was a kid. I don’t crave constant social interaction. I’m content with having just a couple of really close friends (my wife being first on the list). The irony in all of this is that in both my vocation (sales) and my avocation (pastor) I’m required to have constant interaction with people. I’m expected to be social. I’m expected to voice my opinion about things I don’t want to voice my opinion about. I’m expected to accept loud and boisterous people as part of what I do and who I am.
Sometimes life’s road takes some strange turns. One day soon I hope to evaluate the reclusive lifestyle a little more closely. I don’t think I want to go live in a cave or anything, because I really do like people a lot. I can just do without the dramatic touch some bring into our lives.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Fire of life pulsing through our veins
Speeding through existence
Living water refreshing our souls
Hurtling through space and time
Inspiration filling every breath
Traveling in the oneness
Sounds of unity energizing our mind
Racing toward our vision
Touch of eternity drawing spirit close
Arrival at our home
Senses finally giving way to Life
Saturday, May 1, 2010
“Every breath you take is not yours to own”
“I need your breath in my lungs tonight”
The quotes above are from three different songs from the band Switchfoot. As I was thinking about these lyrics I was impressed with the thought that most of what we accomplish in life is brought about because we have second chances. Oftentimes many more chances than even that to get something right, to try over and over until we match whatever perfection our standards demand of us.
For many, that perfect standard is subjective, changing, modifiable. I need something a little more concrete than that. I need a standard that is generated outside my own mind, outside my own sense of right and wrong. And so I look to the Creator of all that there is to see what His expectations are for me. Even then I have to do some interpreting based on my own life experiences, viewed through my own lens. Still, I try to see things as He sees them, from His eternal perspective. You might even say I try to put myself in His shoes.
Having been given many second chances in life I recognize that any breath could be my last and that I truly don’t own that next breath. I need to make the most of each and every breath I take. I need to use each breath to contribute to making the universe a better place. I must acknowledge that the breath I need in my lungs is His breath. The word inspired just means to breathe into. I yearn for His inspiration. I’m thankful for His inspiration.
When we embrace the second chances our Father gives us, hanging on to the hope he puts in front of us, accepting the restoration He offers us, we get a glimpse of His full love; a place where the heavenly meets the earthly to inspire us to completeness and perfection.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Stunning, natural beauty, peaceful
Unattainable, out of reach
Meeting in person, she’s real
More stunning, more beautiful, friendly
Still unattainable, still out of reach
Working together, how did that happen?
Perfection, beautiful heart, mysterious
Need help, need to solve the mystery
Flowers not from me, more flowers
Already given her heart? Already someone else’s?
Anxious, need to know
Surrounded by the impressive, out of my league
Too many vying for her attention
Can’t compete, too young, too poor
Take a chance. See a movie? Roller skating?
Yes? No way. Really?
Help has arrived, mystery being solved
A rain soaked afternoon. Give your heart to me?
No, already somebody else’s. Oh no
Given to the Kingdom, now I understand
Ask for second place. Yes that will work
She’ll give me second, never first
Serving the Heavens together, as each other’s second
Twenty seven years now, flowers, children, life all with me
Stunning beyond measure, beautiful, quiet gentle heart
Just the right amount of mystery, doesn’t need to be solved
First glimpse, so long ago
No more glimpses, only unity in flesh and spirit
No need to attain, no need to reach, we are one
Friday, April 16, 2010
“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows…” Isaiah
“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” Yahshua
“Love Yahweh…love your neighbor…all else hangs on these two things” Yahshua
“He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim release to the captives, Recovering of sight to the blind, To deliver those who are crushed” Isaiah and Yahshua
Social Justice- words that strike fear into those of us who pride ourselves on our conservative view of life. We live by our rules and regulations, our structured and orderly lives, our black and white interpretation of the world around us. Rule of Law is our battle cry. It’s our well defined objective truth. It keeps our universe neat and tidy. Laws must not be broken. Rules can never be bent. There is only the right way. Mercy takes a back seat to justice, compassion second place to being right. Social justice is for the weak minded, the bleeding hearts, and the do-gooders.
But the prophets of old scream at us, plead with us, command us even to help those who have the least ability to help themselves; the oppressed, the fatherless, the poor, the widow. We are called to be defenders of those who cannot defend themselves, beckoned to water those who are parched, nourish those with no food, clothe those who are destitute, shelter those with no family to go home to.
Even allowing my mind to hint that social justice might be the real message we are to heed makes me a little nervous and uncomfortable. It has implications that take me to places and interactions with people, that ultimately smash apart my tidy, ordered existence. And yet what else can it mean to “love your neighbor”? If loving our neighbor is only a mental exercise, a game we play in our own mind, how does my defenseless neighbor get defended? How does my destitute neighbor get food and shelter?
Surely there are many who will take wrong advantage of our generosity, of our compassion, of our empathy and mercy if we choose to walk in the path of Isaiah or Yahshua. But that is no concern of ours if we truly believe we hear a voice from the heavens asking us to humble ourselves, to give up our own dark and dreary corners of our heart so light can shine forth to others. I guess in the purest sense I can be a law keeper above all law keepers, and a rule follower amongst the best of the rule followers, by embracing the words of the prophets to reach out to those my Creator seems to be most concerned about.
So I will walk out my life with laws, rules, and regulations that help me regulate my outward appearance. But not everyone I meet needs to see those things about me; what they do need to see is love, compassion, mercy, and a justice that teaches empathy for the most deserving of empathy in whatever community and world of influence we have been placed within. Perhaps this won’t be too bad after all.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Then there are times like this past week. In the course of four days events from the past and present converged on me in such a way that denying His present, active role in human events, in my life personally would be the height of folly.
Day one brought me an unexpected letter from an inmate in a local prison, explaining that he and several others had been transferred from a prison across the country and had been practically set on my doorstep for me to find a way to minister them. He had been given my name by a close friend who had developed an ongoing prison ministry with them in another state. I guess it’s my turn. :-)
Day two had me stumbling upon a website I had never seen before. It was devoted to helping “victims of abuse” of a religious organization I had once been part of 25 years ago. It brought back a lot of memories and emotions, some pleasant, but mostly unpleasant. It was a chapter of my life mostly left in the past, but never far away I suppose.
Day four brought news that the leader of the religious organization mentioned in the above website had become critically ill; a man who had at one time been a spiritual mentor, and defender of the Faith. A man I at one time had a great deal of respect for. A man that in my estimation had lost sight of the true meaning of truth and love for the sake rigidness and order. Still, I can’t deny my love for him even after all these years.
By the way, the close friend who had developed the prison ministry is the son of the man who has become critically ill.
Suddenly people and events that were barely in my consciousness a week ago have all taken center stage in my life. People that I either didn’t know or haven’t thought about in 25 years.
The strangest part of all of this is that friends and acquaintances presently in my life can only share in these events in some peripheral way. The only thing they know of my life from 25 years ago is the brief glimpses I’ve chosen to share with them. But there is no common experience, no emotional attachment, and so no possibility of them really understanding the impact these current events are having and will have on me and my family.
Yet we are truly the sum of our lives. One event added to another on the narrow pathway of life. All designed by our Father to lead us to Him if we are willing to believe it is more than just randomness and coincidence. Both past and present, people from then, people from now, people we are yet to meet, cross our paths in a grand plan to form us into our full potential. We are being molded into citizens of an Eternal Kingdom.
The unexpected turns in life are only unexpected from our perspective; from our prisons of time and space. From an eternal perspective everything is going as planned.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Someone else's fabric
Yearning for, grasping
Elusive, beyond touch
Someone else's tapestry
Pull together, make complete
Fleeting, never whole
Glimpses of shadows
Someone else's vision
Clothe in light, perfection
Gray haziness, falling short
My loose ends
My fabric, my tapestry, my vision
Final destination, greater reality
But still loose ends never giving way
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Love is a thought, love is a word spoken, but more than anything love is an action. It's a verb. It requires a thoughtful giving of ourselves in the service of others without expectation of reward or repayment. Without the doing, the speaking and the thought become only meaningless steps in the process.
No doubt we are created to preserve ourselves, to serve ourselves even at a most basic level. And yet we are called to something higher, something more profound, something Heavenly, to rise above our most basic desires. It takes a surrendering of our individuality, a surrendering of our desire to "be someone", a giving up of the notion of being known for our own accomplishments. A bending of our will to the only will that matters-Yahweh himself. That's love and it truly is the only thing that matters.