Sunday, March 28, 2010


(For Hailey)

I lusted after that magnifying glass. Today I can still feel the smooth glass, see that beautiful orb encased by a gold band and the way it slid softly into the round leather case that it was attached to. It was owned by my neighbor. I stole it from him. At seven years old I was fully acquainted with my own evil and the shame that sin produces.

My father was in prison and my mom was in and out of the hospital. Dad was a plumber for Los Angeles County, fixing all the county buildings including the jails. Mom worked as a nurse at Valley Presbyterian Hospital.

I first heard Jesus’ words in a Mormon living-room*. On the days that mom worked the Mormon family down the street took care of my sister and I. I remember hearing Jesus talk about loving your neighbor. Statements about ‘removing the log from your own eye before removing the speck from the eye of your brother’ struck me as true. This man did not teach as normal men his message was deeper, different.

I attended the Junior High Youth Group to meet girls but stuck around for the sermons. It became clear to me that Christ was God incarnate. Understanding enough doctrine to know that I wanted Christ to lead my life, I made a public profession and was baptized at the age of sixteen.

One college afternoon found me walking across the campus lawn thinking, “Is this all there is?” That same season we had a new pastor at the church. Lanny was the first pastor that I’d heard preach from the bible and exegete the text. During this time I enrolled in an evangelism program. As I trained for the course I came to fully understand that I was a sinner and could not earn my salvation. I grew increasingly hungry to read the bible and spend time in study with other Christians.

Growing in grace began to free me from the extensive guilt which had ruled my life. The process would be lifelong, but understanding that God chose me before time began and loves me unconditionally radically changed my outlook on life. Guilts’ little brother anxiety had followed me around for a long time as well. He began to leave me alone after I realized that I could “cast all my anxiety upon Him, because He cares for me.”

In the years since God has been gracious and compassionate, though that sometimes meant using a two-by-four to get my attention. Christ is ever sweeter, joy is ever greater and mercy is poured out abundantly on this sinner saved by grace.

* God shielded me from the counterfeit while calling me to the true.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Embracing the Possible

It is one of the rules of the road trip. When scanning for music on the radio you must listen to whatever musical station the scanner stops at. Hailey and I were out on the road listening to the radio. The first stop of the dial was one of those top-40s stations. I raised my hand to hit the scan button-road rules or not. From the back-seat I hear, “Embrace it dad.” So I took a small step out of my comfort zone and listened to the music.

Most of us approach life like we approach the roll of plastic wrap in our kitchen drawer-being careful to avoid the cutting edge. Really though, where’s the true joy? Where do the greatest rewards happen? Where does the greatest character growth occur?

What does the cutting edge look like to you? We stand on the brink of difficult times as a country with more people than ever in need of assistance. Go grab your calendar and check-book. Could you invest in a neighborhood shelter, take part in the reading program at the local library that you’ve thought about on and off (and off and off) for the last year?

Maybe start smaller scale. Be thankful for one more thing today. Take one small step toward that big God you’ve been avoiding. Write that letter to Aunt Sophie telling her how much her cookie recipe has always meant to you.

Put your hand to the plow. Listen to the music. Step out of your comfort level. Embrace the challenge.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In 3D

I have received many responses on the dating site I participate in---mostly rejections. Granted my face is less ‘ruggedly handsome’ and more ‘ravaged’ per the Janis Ian song. There is another reason that I don’t do well on the dating site. Though I’m good on paper, I’m much better in three dimensions.

I should have seen it coming. I was working for a large insurance company when email came on the scene. Slaving in the quarry of cubicles my neighbor would email me rather than greet me in person. Corporate bosses would email messages rather than face me with an issue—“Greetings Dillo. How does a nice long vacation sound?” Nobody would leave their ergonomically positioned chair to interact person to person.

Professors across the country are banning laptops from classrooms.
José A. Bowen, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, is removing them from lecture halls and urging his colleagues to "teach naked" — without machines. Bowen says class time should be used for engaging discussion, something that reliance on technology discourages.

“Taste and see,” are words the psalmist uses to drive our experience of God. An experience that engages all five senses will have a greater impact on us than an event that is only seen. Partial engagement equals distractions. At the bowling alley I saw a girl bowling and texting at the same time. Needless to say she was not fully engaged. I guess you could say she was on ‘pins and windows.’ Fullness and joy in either event did not occur but only dissipated involvement in each.

Laptops and cell-phones are great tools for interacting with the world. A friend of mine is a truck driver. Texting and phone calls allow us to stay in touch throughout the week. Those electronic messages are but a shadow of the interaction we enjoy when we get together for a meal. Face to face we are fully engaged, Facebook to Facebook is a quick note in passing.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Water Comes Back To Joshua Tree

Instead of water my last visit to Barker Dam found a wide expanse of stinking green algae. The effects of a drought year with .67 inches of rain. God gave rain this year and the dam is full. A stormy winter will make way for a splendorous spring.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Boredom An Epiphany

"From 7:00 to 8:00 we take our early evening nap, and then for an hour before we go to bed at 9:00 we waste time. "As you can see, that leaves almost no time for brooding, lagging, plodding, or procrastinating, and if we stopped to think or laugh, we'd never get nothing done."

"You mean you'd never get anything done," corrected Milo.

"We don't want to get anything done," snapped another angrily; "we want to get nothing done, and we can do that without your help."

"You see," continued another in a more conciliatory tone, "it's really quite strenuous doing nothing all day, so once a week we take a holiday and go nowhere, which was just where we were going when you came along. Would you care to join us?"

"I might as well," thought Milo; "that's where I seem to be going anyway." -The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster.


An attack by pirates would be a welcome change. Steady winds and a strong sail propel the boat miles offshore. Long passed are the shipping lanes and boats staying close to harbor. Now we are out, somewhere, in the middle of the ocean.

The sea grows calm and smooth as glass. The wind, no longer steady, has ceased blowing. To complicate matters there is no motor. The only thing that could make matters worse would be… “Yes it would have been a good idea to recharge the battery for the GPS.” Drifting without direction, powerless and visionless I count the minutes until I leave work.

Like the Polar Bear at the zoo I pace back-and-forth. I stand and sip coffee as I face another day without challenge, another visionless morning. Even as I stare out the window my mind seeks to grasp something solid. Thinking through options that make life interesting I have an epiphany.

Difficulties and trials stretch one's limits and allow little opportunity for boredom. I grab a sheet of paper and proceed to outline the last five years of my life. It looks something like this:

2005: Move to desert. Start new job. Get kicked out of house.
2006: Move into new house. Find out about affair. Begin divorce proceedings.
2007: Look for new job. Fret about finances. New job opportunity.
2008: Divorce final. Mom gets cancer. Take care of mom.
2009: Mom passes away. Lose consulting job.

Looking at the list I think to myself, “Maybe boredom’s not a bad thing.” Quick upon the heels of that thought two others rush in:

1) Boredom is another trial. 2) I must learn to fill the boredom with things that make a difference.

Unlike the Polar Bear I can make my time productive. In the lulls at work I can pray. I can create and plan ways to encourage others. I can dream big and not let boredom become my master. Could it be that boredom too is a steady wind moving me onto greater adventure?

What do you think?