Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Humid And Muggy

Humid and muggy the weather was weighing everyone down. Sweat was on everyone’s forehead and talk of thunder showers on their lips. DJ’s talked about it between music and bloggers posted about it for a week. People in the lower desert continued to put slash marks on their calendar hoping September would come quickly and with it cooler nights and dryer days. Then in the afternoon you could feel the difference.

A cool breeze appeared out of no place. The sky looked the same. Still the breeze came up cool and dry. People stood up straighter. Old men and women and young men and women skipped down the sidewalks. The suffocating swelter of humidity had given way to something else.

Hope was in the air. Not just hope that tomorrow would be dry. Hope for healing and love, dreaming dreams and having vision. Did this cool breeze carry hallucinogens? How was it that less sweat gave way to hopping and hoping? People nodded to each other and gave high-fives their eyes clear and faces expectant. Shackles were removed and they could sing as they were born to.

The people continued to go about their afternoons almost giddy even as the radios began squawking and alarms sounding. Flash-flood warnings were in effect. Hard rain was coming. The sky was going to fall. Still they danced as the humidity solidified to rain. They went home and opened windows. Hard rain and behind it crisp air blew back into the desert. Someone drew an exclamation point on the calendar. Right next to the hash mark for today. Thirty one days til the end of August.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Both Sides Now

The heat and humidity brings them in. All sort of people come in to buy coffee drinks. The fact that we are located inside an air conditioned building may also have something to do with it.

Today started hot and humid. The sky looked like someone had punched a wall of cotton. The sky was dented with blue holes and clouds exploding. Coming in to escape the explosion this customer walked by the kiosk saying, “I’d like to work for minimum wage.” He tells me he used to sell vinyl for Tower Records. He says he can’t believe it’s been seven years. I looked it up. Seven years since Tower Records filed bankruptcy and closed their stateside stores. Now he sells them on Ebay.

It’s the old maxim about one man’s junk. Record collecting is understandable. An album is a complete experience. There’s the artwork on the cover and surprises on the inside. Finally there is the actual LP. Today you download the music and pay extra for the cover.

Perhaps the era ended in 2006. Technology and teens move the music forward. Somebody turns down the color on the clouds. The sky goes monochromatic grey.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

So You Think You Can Write

"Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind." (Catherine Drinker Bowen, biographer)

"People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it."  (Harlan Ellison, science fiction writer)

“You don’t have the vocabulary. You only dance one genre. We don’t know if you are flexible enough,” are common statements from the judges on the show, So You Think You Can Dance.” The dancers have been dancing since they could move. They come before the judges and millions of viewers and dance. They put it on the line because they believe they are good enough. Writing feels like this.

There’s a caveat. I write with self-doubt. I wish my words popped. I ache to write like Annie Dillard or a Frederic Buechner. To have people see through my words. Oh to go deep and write from marrow bone stirring heart not just scratching surface. I compare myself to them and feel I should give up.

Like the dancer I have been writing since I could pick up pen (in the days when pens were used for writing). When I don’t write my soul echoes that of the ancient prophets-fire burns in my bosom and I must get it out. So I write.

Pressfield begins The War of Art by saying, “There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is resistance.” The resistance comes from outside and from inside. The screaming ‘You are not good enough,” and the crying baby all equal. We push back, we carve out time, we get up on toe, we dance, we write.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Spoiled We Are

“I am spoiled,” he said at the end of a conversation about current hardships we are undergoing. It is an amazing thing how in the midst of lifes’ pressures we experience refreshing redemptive experiences.

A small group of men from the bible study group I attend went up to the mountains this weekend. Saturday two of us rode our bicycles to Onyx Summit, which tops out at 8,433 elevation. Completing the ride we circled the lake, ran out of water, restocked and re-sugared at a liquor store then rode home.

Playing hard and camaraderie, sharing laughter and talking about life lightens burden. We did some work and mostly played. We didn’t solve the world’s evils. We didn’t fix any problems. We laughed a lot and shared from the heart a little. Through it all we were reminded that, yes, life is hard. There is much good as well. My buddy pointed out that he can go riding every weekend. Friends, laughter, loves all things we get tossed in to the mix. Spoiled we are.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Chick-Fil-A and Sundays

Faith and profits must be mutually exclusive.  “Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain known for putting faith ahead of profits,” were lead words in a lead story on the fast-food chicken chain.  Sunday is half of the weekend, people shop on Sundays, so closing on Sundays must be wrong.  I presume that is the logic.  I also suspect a hint of prejudice.  Chick-Fil-A supports biblical standards, biblical standards are outdated and narrow minded so closing on Sundays is wrong.  If one comes to a conclusion based on erroneous supposition then the conclusion will be wrong.

I will try to leave God out of the equation. Closing on Sundays still makes sense to me. People get a day off on the weekend guaranteed. They can plan lives. They can relax. This will leave them energized for the rest of the week. If they want to go to church they can. If they want to drink all Saturday night they can do that too.

My union employer pays people extra to work Sundays. I suspect it’s a holdover from when everybody took Sunday off. People still like that weekend day off though. Financially it’s one day that Chick-Fil-A doesn’t have to pay their employees. One day less to run the stores electricity and pay labor. I trust there are some significant cost savings there.

You know what’s funny about customer service training? If you apply the Sermon on the Mount you have the synopsis of every class. Treat people as you want to be treated. Love them for who they are. Be excellent. Serve your customers. Chick-Fil-A closes on Sundays and they also teach and apply those tenets to their employees. Crazy people applying all those outdated biblical principles.

The world at large doesn’t understand faith working with business to create profit. Godly principles work. God is in the equation, He wrote the formula. I applaud Chick-Fil-A for their business principles and wish others would take off the blinders, see the light and follow the model.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reality TV

We don’t have a television set. We have the hardware. We are talking big hardware of the old-fashioned sturdy kind with tubes and weighing as much as a small house. We just watch movies on this antique. Everything else we do on the computer.

Part of me wishes we watched no television at all. As our culture sinks into depravity it is reflected (chicken or egg?) in our programming. I wish I could say I was morally perfect in this area. I watch my share of bad television. I hope that I am more discerning about what I watch.

We watch a lot of reality television mostly Master Chef, Hells’ Kitchen, and competitions. My wife has got me started watching Survivor. This is probably the worst to watch. There is a bizarre component of putting twenty people on an island and watching them run around sweaty, smelly and half-naked while trying to cheat and lie to one another. It’s like picking up Lord Of The Flies for light weekend reading.

My pithy posts are really self-challenges and inner wrestling. October will move us into Fall weather and Fall season. Survivor will start again. The Amazing Race will feature new countries. Though I’m not ready yet to swear off this form of entertainment I remind myself to be vigilant. Even with my doors locked the worst of culture can still creep into my living room via Hulu.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Losers

They are the losers. Mike pushes and pulls a metal shopping/luggage rack in which he keeps his oxygen bottle and machine. He smiles and begins coughing, rasping and wheezing. I drop back in case he expels a lung or something worse. His face is unshaven and thin, a step shy of being gaunt. A patch over one eye, tubes for air up his nose, teeth broken and missing he sets down his pack of cigarettes and pulls out two well-worn dollar bills. He cracks a lame joke or makes light conversation. He stands at the counter and talks until a line forms behind him. He comes for the coffee and the conversation. He has few friends and obviously longs for the company.

Joan looks good in her matching pants suit, stylish and summer cool. Her brown hair looks good cut short for the season. It is when she gets close that you realize something is wrong. It is difficult to tell if she is in her fifties or seventies. The street must do that to you. She lives from a shopping cart which is so heavy that I would strain to push it even a block. Joan pushes it cross town. She pursues shade in the summer and recyclables for cash.

Joan starts talking and furthers your inkling idea that all isn’t right. She says that the next storm will roil up water under the mountain and cause the rocks to roll down on the city. Perhaps she was told that by one of the mystical homeless or the birds that talk to each other and allow her to listen in. She tells me all these things as she rambles on waiting for her bagel and small coffee. The line forms behind her as she routs her purse. She seems to appreciate the audience as well as the cool air-conditioned building.

It is difficult to grasp those dollar bills not knowing who or what has touched them. Their owners untouched as well, dark and dirty from lack of shower and exposure.

Time was not so long ago that they scared me. I disliked serving them prejudiced against and certain their plight was deserved. God has wrought growth and delight now to listen to their thoughts though illogical and nonlucid. Losers and lost they populate our world. Perhaps their decisions deserve such outcomes. I know not enough to judge. So like all my customers I offer them coffee, conversation, and a place where they are known by name.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Goodbye Car and Camera Bag

This week we said goodbye to a car and a camera bag. My wife has had the car since 2006. I have lived with it for a year. When my wife moved into our house the car moved into my life. It wasted no time and began sucking that life out of me the first month; new tires, new struts, new noises then the final cough and sputter that brought it to its death.

As my wife kissed it goodbye it wasn’t the Volvo she thought of. It was all the trips the Volvo had been part of, college group trips, beach trips, road trips, dates and carrying things. The search for the car and God’s leading are even part of her Volvo lore.

The camera bag has been with me since roughly 1985. It was with me with my first girlfriend, it was with me in my first marriage, it was there to welcome my child, to grow with my childs’ friends and now into my second marriage. It has seen a lot. It was even the focus of a blog post in 2009. It is not the camera bag I remember it is the events where it was present.

We get attached to things because we imbibe the things with meaning. Certainly we suffer the loss of the practical. We now are in need of a car to transport us. I need to be able to easily transport my camera and gear. When we go shopping it will be difficult. For we will be buying a car-just a car. It will not come with a load of memories (a good thing because dealers would charge extra for that). I will be looking for a practical camera bag. We will both want something that was as comfortable and as perfect a fit as camera bag and car were though they didn’t feel that way initially.

This is the reason for altars in the old testament and sacraments in the new. When Jacob had a dream he made his rock pillow into an altar. Not because the pillow was special but to remember the event that occurred. In the same way we have baptisms and communion. Not that they are magical in themselves. They are imbibed with meaning because of word and experience. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have this truth and this relationship that we’ve experienced through many years.

My camera bag will be in the trash heap this Friday. The Volvo will be sold this following week. We will take communion for months and years to follow. Next time that I do I will spend an extra minute linking the event with richness of experiences I’ve had as Christ follower. Let us then celebrate the richness of the temporary as conduit to the experiences of the eternal.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Weather

One pearl of wisdom my uncle gave me was, “It is always safe to talk about the weather.” I have become a weather junkie. My excuse is that it gives me something to talk about with my customers. This is the truth. A customer yesterday was talking about Palm Springs weather and comparing it to her home in Chicago. They are in the midst of one of the worst draughts in history. It provided a touch point to share the pain of her home city while talking lightly about the possible thunder showers here.

It seems wistful. Though it be 109 degrees outside with raging humidity I can look at the averages for the year and know September will be cooler. I plug in ‘Yellowstone’ and wish that our high desert nights were as cool as those on the Colorado Plateau. Perhaps it’s also that crazy urge for trivia that drives me. People actually ask me now what the weekend will be like.

The wife grew up by the beach. She isn’t wistful. She wants beach weather. We have the sand at least...

In 2006 I wrote this:

The Weather Girl

It’s storming outside,
With predictions of snow for tonight.
I look to the weather girl for company.
Soup or spaghetti for dinner,
Followed by beer or a Gatorade chaser.
Perhaps read, or watch a video.
Down the hill to work in the morning,
Do it all again tomorrow.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hope on Tippy Toe

“Tiredness makes cowards of us all,” somebody once said. I’m posting this at eleven p.m. and feeling every bit of tiredness and melancholy. It’s been a long day filled with work, a wedding, a car purchase, and a quarter day of travel. Being bone tired messes with my perspective. The day was filled with blessing; the wife’s, mine and other peoples.

At the wedding we sat around a table as you do with acquaintances and people you know. Talk turned to work. Each of the guys at the table was either on a career path upward or had reached a pinnacle and was ready to retire. I’m at mid-point between the two and couldn’t help but feel that career wise I should have done something else. In the light of day I’ll see that the choice I made allowed me to be a great dad to my daughter, to experience great places and to have freedom. Tonight I’m doubting the trade off.

The bride and groom are blessed to have two loving Christian families with fathers that raised them by life example (which means, in part, that the fathers were present). Not a choice I had. Remorse ebbs in and I feel the regret for the type of family and father I never had. In the morning I’ll see that I was taken in by other fathers and other families-given a hundred fold more than I deserved.

Soon I will crawl into bed and hug my wife. Sleep will overtake me. Morning will come as it always does with loud alarm, robust coffee and bright sunrise. I’ll look forward and wrestle with a life that counts. For hope doesn’t disappoint me-but it does keep me on my toes.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Boogeyman Gonna Get You

It was the copycat shootings she was afraid of. I had Friday off and we had all planned to go to the movies. Then the Aurora shooting happened. My daughter’s mother freaked my daughter out suggesting there would be copycat killings and it was the worst day to go to the movies. Fear comes in a number of forms. It comes in the logical kind that happens when a car swerves into your lane. Then there is the illogical ‘boogeyman gonna get you’ type of fear.

We live in a culture permeated by fear in general. Much of it is the boogeyman type fear. Parents that don’t let their children walk anyplace because someone will snatch them up. People that lock their door at all times lest a home invasion occurs taking life or maybe taking body to Mars. Fears based in fact but fears that can overwhelm.

Perhaps I dislike it so because I was an anxious little kid. Grownups scared me, police scared me, girls scared me... I refuse to live in fear at this point. Ultimately people fear death from some unnatural occurrence. Yet as I often tell my daughter you can die by swallowing a piece of bacon wrong while in your own kitchen.

There must be some healthy way to measure whether the fear is valid. Is it a fear that overtakes your life and holds you hostage in itself. It seems that is the measure for me. Am I able to embrace life more fully by entering into this activity though I have a level of fear? Let’s say I want to go ride ATVs for a weekend but I have heard stories of people becoming paraplegic after ATV accidents. Do I hide from it or embrace it. I take precautions and embrace it. (The author would at this point like to admit to an irrational fear of heights which however has not kept him from climbing Mt. Whitney nor trying rappelling.)

Culture screams at us to avoid life, yay, to avoid coming alive. We do significant disservice to ourselves and our Creator when we hide from opportunity and living. That is what I am most afraid of.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Aurora, Bad Things, Good People

Heaviness and sorrow grip me as read of the shootings in Aurora this morning. We go to see movies to escape reality---two hours of getting caught up in fantasy outside ourselves. How startling then to have reality interject itself into the theatre with extreme violence and no regard for age or status. Once again my mind reels with the unfathomable questions.

Praying for the families this morning I think of their questions; the whys, hows and what-ifs. There will be no satisfying answers. The only beginning of an answer depends on your paradigm for understanding life.

Horrific tragedy is only understood in a Judeo-Christian ideology. If you understand the world as a good place and people as inherently good what do you do with random slaughter of people? How do you deal with the holocaust or Pol Pot? How do you deal with blood running down the aisles of your local movie house? The Biblical view is that sin entered into humanity in its’ infancy. The bent of all mankind is toward evil not good. We are on a crash course for destruction.

There is no immediate consolation for those involved in Aurora. The only hope of comfort is in understanding that once the most innocent of men was killed in the most violent of deaths. That man was also God. That man was raised from the dead in three days. Comfort can come in calling out to Him. No answers nor easy healing, no lack of scarring, no simplicity. The only peace I can pray is that the God who understands violence wrought on innocence will draw close to those with pain and questions today.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Meshing Of Two Lives-Anniversary

The meshing of two lives isn’t easy. I am on the road celebrating my one year anniversary with my wife. We are on a nine day road trip. There is an ebb and flow to a road trip. You talk, you are quiet, you are yourself, you are couple, you are relaxed, you are stressed out. Life is like that too.

My wife moved into my neighborhood, my house, my city. It’s an ebb and flow as well; meshing decorating styles, sleeping habits, bathroom habits, selfishness and commitment to the relationship. She gave up her comfort zone to live with quirky me.

It helps if both are committed to the relationship. Though both may be quirky it helps if one (not myself) is more practical and easygoing. One drives, one navigates and supports. It’s a long road. Thanks for my wife that supports the driver in me and the adventure we are on.

The Devil-We Are Not Unaware Of His Schemes

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”-C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

It was as if her yell set free my vision.

The alarm sounded at four a.m. giving me four less hours of sleep than desired. Getting into work I felt out of sync with the universe. Before breakfast I was berated by a fellow supervisor for work issues. On the heels of that encounter my assistant store director informed me that hours were going to be cut in my department. Blow after blow the universe looked a dark place.

The customer approached the register and, with an accent, ordered a latte with no flavor. As is our procedure I wrote the order on the cup. She said, “I would like to pay first.” I took her money which she would not hand me but which she slapped onto the counter. As I began to get her order she began a tirade. “A man from Brazil once slept with me and he did not respect me. It is important that a man respect a woman…” She began to yell.

Like lightning on a summer day the curtain was ripped open and I saw the truth. Speaking of the devil Paul says, “We are not unaware of his schemes.” Yes my day was going horribly. Certainly the customer ranting was out of her mind. Inciting my customer and shading the events the devil was wont to ruin my attitude and have me blame God.

I am not unaware of his schemes. Lack of sleep and trials of life may ‘hide His lovely face.’ I must be reminded of God’s goodness as contrasted to the powers of darkness. Then I can see the big picture, smile, remember the Giver of Joy, and move forward.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Do John Piper, C.S. Lewis and Solzhenitsyn Have In Common

“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.  If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones…We all…need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period.  And that means the old books…We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century…lies where we have never suspected it…..The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.---John Piper quoting C.S. Lewis in God’s Passion for His Glory.

“She couldn’t stop crying…as (he) dragged the two bodies up into the motor home,” is a line from the Joe Pickett novel I am reading (by C.J. Box). Gumshoes and gunfights are highest on my list of reading material. I enjoy the action and the hero that believes in the law but not the legal system. I love the genre but my mind and soul are left empty. That is when I heed the call to pick up what Lewis calls ‘an old book.’

If you want to raise some eyebrows read The Gulag Archipelago in the lunch room at work. I know it’s not on the magazine and book rack at your local Wal-Mart. I remember my mom working through this book one summer when I was in Junior High School. The book draws portraits of the victims of Soviet repression; police operations, labor camps and prisons and the extermination of whole populations. My mother, having escaped Latvia on foot during the Soviet invasion was acquainted with similar stories. I read it currently because it is on World magazine’s Top 40 books of the 20th century.

You are not going to get popular reading old books. You will be lucky to find another person that shares your passion. Passion will be stoked. Your mind and heart fired up by beautiful language and imagery. You will hunger for righteousness and desire depth as never before. You will grow in depth and character. You will be challenged at a deep level.

If popularity at the water cooler is your deepest desire stick with People magazine and the local magazine rack. If you long for beauty and thirst for righteousness; if you desire the wisdom of the ages and a spirit to match—pick up an old book.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Coming Home

“In 1994, after twenty years of forced exile in the West, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia.”

“Home, where my thought's escaping, Home, where my music's playing, Home, where my love lies waiting, Silently for me.”

On the heels of a road trip or post Trojan War it’s good to be home. Pulling out of the driveway I know adventure waits. Road trips are a mix of planned proceedings and serendipitous encounters. It is the gestalt, the voyage as whole that stirs passion.

Adventure trips come in different packages, i.e. “I am hanging, exhausted, by my fingertips from a rock ledge 23,000 feet above sea level. My right foot searches for a dimple in the rock to push from, fails, them my left foot does the same…”* For me it is a hike to the top of Vernal Falls or my first kayak trip. It is the break from the mundane, the escape from the work week the physical and mental push beyond my sacred safe places.

With eagerness and moments of melancholy I head home. The familiar roads, the town boundary, all comfortably familiar. A hot shower in my own stall with my favorite soap and hot and cold knobs that are familiar to use. Clean sheets complete the process.

It is always good to return home to the comfortable. Friends and family await as do the other uncontrollable stressors that I left behind. I have fought the enemy and denied the Sirens call. My dog bounds out to meet me. My lovers’ smile and hug greet me. Peaceably home again.

*Mike Wallace, The Spirit Aroused, Esquire June 1987

Monday, July 16, 2012

Food For Thought

I know nothing about cows. Driving through Central California with my wife I see (and smell) many cows. The cows end and the trees begin; olive, pistachio, apricot, avocado and apple. I know nothing of fruit trees. How citified I am. The cows drink from a lake. They cover the mountain so thick that from the highway they look like a flock of birds. Where do they go? What do the farmers do with them?

The pistachio trees line the highway. Where do the nuts get water from? Does a large company pick them on behalf of the rancher? I know that Sunkist contracts out with orange growers to pick their fruit for them at a percentage of profit. Nuts! I am clueless about such things.

I am embarrassed to admit this. Certainly everyone reading this knows all about cattle. Surely there is common knowledge about orchards. I can cook a steak and peel a pistachio. Cows confuse though.

The traditional cure for lack of sleep is counting sheep. My lack of sleep is caused by sheep. It’s embarrassing really. Part of me believes that everyone knows these things. Realistically I suspect that most people are clueless about where all their food and drink come from. People get their knowledge of wine, cheese and ranching from movies like ‘Sideways’ and ‘Charlottes Web.’ I am startled by my own shallowness in this area. It’s knowledge I need to cultivate.

Christians Must Be Well Mannered

Christians must be well mannered. In the old testament an entire chapter talks about Abrahams’ purchase of a burial place. The rough sequence of events is as follows; Abrahams makes request, the Sons of Heth offer it freely, Abraham bows and requests the cave of Machpela, Ephron says to take it, Abraham bows and says he will pay for it, Ephron offers a price, Abraham pays. Much ritual for a little land.

One will cite culture and bartering but underneath that all there is a leaning on local customs and graciousness. In the same way Abraham welcomed the angels that appeared to him and gave them food; Lot also took in the same angels and took care of them. Such acts of kindness are missing today---perhaps also buried at machpela.

Manners are acts of consideration for others.  Christians should excel in them. They make a difference. While in Yosemite we continued to offer ‘thank you’ to the bus drivers and were always rewarded with countenances which lit up as we touched their hearts.

In this dark age it is no surprise that people are only out for themselves. Since good manners benefit community and others they do not fit into this milieu . We serve a different master. We choose to focus on others and not our cell phones, to say please and thank you. It is a small scrimmage in the battle we face. Pinpricks of light are easily seen against black backdrops.

Angels Unaware

He asked where I was from while lifting the hood to see if the cycle had begun. He had driven over the range and spent the day at Mono Lake. “The wife stayed in her room,” he said, “She doesn’t like hiking and outdoor things.” He is from Maryland and flew to visit his brother in Santa Cruz. His brother is one of the only Republicans living in Santa Cruz, “Brave man,” he said while dumping in more soap.

“Good for him,” I said. I asked him if he’d seen any thunderheads out east as we noticed some off in the distance. He looked at me strangely. I wonder if thunderheads are western phenomena.

He asked if I’d been to Solvang. His wife likes the touristy things so he was thinking about driving there. I gave him the approximate time frame for the drive. I tried naming off cities and landmarks and got the blank stare this time.

The joy of travel is brushing up against others different than you. The Bible says that we entertain angels unaware. I wonder if they ever meet us in the Laundromat.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Trouble With Technology

No need to get out of bed to see the mountains or face the morning.  All I need to do is turn on channel two.  The hotel I was at has a webcam to the outside world.  If I order in local food I really have no need to leave the room.  Technology can be great.  It can also work against you and separate you from reality and being in touch with your soul.

In the hotel room the air-conditioning is running and the bathroom fan is whirring.  My wife tells me it is good to have a bathroom fan.  I can not hear myself think.  I could go to the mountains (from whence my help comes) to meditate and find peace but like I said, there is no need since I have channel two. 

The social network consists of great tools to communicate and stay in touch with people.  Conversely one need never have a face to face interaction.  If you need to communicate you can text or message or tweet.  All quick and easy solutions. 

Our culture lives in stress mode.  We take in a significant amount of messages from the same social media.  We also get input from YouTube, Facebook, and news sources.  What we need most is to put away the technology.  We need to see the mountains.  It is crucial that we contemplate in quiet away from whirring and purring noises.  We are most likely to hear God in the quiet out of the way place.  We will best solve issues with our friends if we meet face-to-face.  Ultimately we must turn off the technological tools and step out of our comfort zone.  It is there our souls will be fed and we will make those connections that go deeper than the best technology can offer.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

God Blesses

I had to turn my radio off. As I backed out of the driveway the preacher on the radio was talking about God. In a booming voice ideal for a preacher he proved that he could smash two stones together and get words to come out. His oration was great with lofty words that made me feel like God loved me and that God would fix everything. Then he said, “I am good and God blesses me.” I realized that was what was wrong with what I was hearing.

We should do good because of who God is. God doesn’t bless me though because he owes me for being good. I just finished reading the account of God demolishing Sodom. Right before he threw down judgment and wrath he had this bizarre conversation with himself. He asked himself if He should tell Abraham what He was about to do.

Why would God do that? His reasoning was that through Abraham the nations of the Earth would be blessed. Was Abraham going to make that happen? No, God was. Did Abraham call himself out of Ur? No, God did. God blessed because God chose to bless. Granted God would honor Abrahams’ faith and credit it to him but that also involved God’s choice of Abraham.

As I continue in my pursuit of God through Christ I see that it is much about God. It is little about me. God blesses and gives breath. God calls, I react. God sets the boundaries for my life, the people in it, the job opportunities and the wife I have. God created my child in the womb and allowed her to be unique in all her ways. God owes me nothing. It is that which helps me stay reliant and humble. As Paul said in Philippians may we have the same attitude in ourselves which was in Christ who emptied himself and took on the form of a bond-servant. We are blessed because God gave not because we deserve the gift.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

I Left You On The Hook

I left you on the hook,
For Hillary that lived around the corner,
She was older a bit
We played Ring Around the Rosie,
On long summer days,
My first crush,
Jungian Archetype,
Mother, safety, woman,
One day she was gone without notice,
Gone from the neighborhood,
I still remember her name.

I left you on the hook,
For Eric from Indiana,
He was kindred spirit,
Rainman and missions,
Long catch-up notes,
Moving without rust,
Man of letters,
Friend, depth, hedonist,
Cancer metastasized,
Leaving fiancée and friends,
I still don’t understand.

I left you on the hook,
For Lynn my college sweetheart,
She was all my heartbeat,
Playing without commitment,
Throughout years and seasons,
My first beauty,
Eve and the whole garden,
She, fulfillment, Golden hair,
Breakup without redemption,
Leaving young illusion,
I begin to understand.

I left you on the hook,
Fullness of deity dwelling,
Still I doubted all your goodness,
You called from time eternal,
Shepherd and Lion,
My first love,
First fruit of creation,
Father, security, Lord,
Still I kept on running,
You will never leave me,
I am engraved on your hands.

Friday, July 06, 2012

His Compassions Never Fail

You saw it coming of course. So did I. One sets out with a goal to blog every day figuring 15 minutes is no sweat. Then today happens. You’ve had days like this. Heck you’ve probably had weeks like this. And. It. Just. Keeps. Going. On. All. Day.

Seven years of serving coffee drinks and I can count on my hand the returned drinks, the truly unsatisfied customers. I had two of them today. My morning started that way and I just couldn’t get rhythm. I had customers yelling because our business agenda wasn’t their agenda. Boss issues, delivery issues, personnel issues all by eleven a.m. That was not the worst though.

I couldn’t save my attitude. Couldn’t find a smile or a song or a verse to refocus and regain momentum. It wasn’t happening. Then after work a Dr. visit to get my eyes checked. The doctor visit lasted three hours.

Blogging every day my life will spill onto these pages. You will experience my days of euphoria, my frustrations, black moods, and days when I can’t keep from dancing. On all those days I am reminded that the ‘Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail, they are new every morning.’

That is why I believe God created sleep. We need that six or eight (or five or four) hour break from our previous day to refocus and remember the newness of the morning, coming on the heels of the night before. Tomorrow I start again, healed from the previous day. I will celebrate His new compassions.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Day After July 4th

“Thanks Dad, I had fun today,” my daughter said as I dropped her off at her mom’s. It’s a father-daughter code we’ve developed; it’s how we affirm each other. Not that she should have had fun today. We spent the day lounging. It took cataclysmic effort just to get up off the couch to do anything else.

Neither one of us got much sleep last night. We’d all got home late after fireworks at the local high-school. The daughter was up until one a.m. texting and talking to friends and worrying about who was in the inner-circle for the week. I was up and down for a good two hours as the massive amount of Kettle Corn I ate (or something else) played havoc with my innards. So today was a sweet catch-up of a summer day.

The wife left in the early morning to visit her parents. I’d spent part of the morning reading the bible. I decided it’s too bad that I can’t use the name ‘Cheddar-Lamer’ (“Chedarlaomar King of Elam”) for my next child, dog or goldfish. Then without moving from the couch I switched books (ah what talent!) to the newest C.J.Box novel I am reading. Then since I was horizontal anyway I took a nap. The daughter simply spent the hours texting or on Facebook. Finally we managed to move off the couch to run some errands.

The errands tired us out so we came home and ate lunch then took up our places on the couch again. Mid-afternoon we turned on Hulu and watched some television. Dinner time came and we fended for ourselves; daughter made herself tuna and I had leftover casserole. That was pretty much the day.

Yes, we did have fun today. It is good to enjoy those long summer days, to relax and enjoy being family.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Summer Storms

I recognize the smell and the sensation in my skin from my summer in Chicago. I’d experienced it here as well though not with such contrast. Two in the morning and I feel the change. The warm air which the fan blew in through the window turns cool and refreshing. It had that smell which a summer storm brings.

Living in Chicago we played with the fans to get the best result. I finally arrived at an angle that was perfect and that blew the air in from the outside of the house. Most of the time the air was warm and wet and only the breeze and moisture helped cool one enough to escape wakefulness. Though often rain would blow in across the lake and you could feel the difference. The air temperature would drop and get cold and refreshing. Sleep would come without sweat and struggle to relax.

Last night I felt the change as the cool air blew into the bedroom. I woke to morning showers and drove into work with the wipers on. Azure blue separated white clouds and a full white moon shone over the mountains. Rain fell fast enough to create run off. The coyotes would be happy to have easy access to water. Runoff fills nature made cavities.

I go through seasons where my soul is dry and rest doesn’t come. Pressures mount and little ankle-biter trials keep me on my toes. This morning’s storm reminds me that refreshment will come. I need only be still and be lead beside calm waters. Then I can drink cool water and my senses will be satisfied with good. So I await the next summer storm.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Outdoorsy Guys-The Corollary

If you are self-righteous and a braggart this may not apply; on the whole though people want to hear about your adventures. Case in point: Robert and I rode our bikes from San Francisco to the San Fernando Valley. We did it carrying a full tent, full camera gear and wearing tennis shoes. We did it a quarter of a century ago. People still want to hear the story; and we still tell it.

Most folks will want to hear your story because theirs are boring. One would think that this would cause them some concern and self reflection. It does not. For those of us trying to live out a good story though it adds impetus. We do it because living half-heartedly is an offense. We do it because we’d hate to crawl into that big pine box with the six handles on the outside and regret our life. We want to challenge the ring of folks around us as well so that our children and our friends will choose better stories.

Years ago my friend Glenn and his woman took a trip to South America. Their goal was to step foot into every country in South America. They scrimped and saved for a year then travelled a year through South America by plane, train, taxi and backpack. People would always say to them, “I wish I could do that.” He’d respond by assuring them they could do it. I suspect most did not.

Simply I can not understand settling for a mediocre existence. Life will throw curves at you and your dreams will shatter. At least wrestle with the possibilities. Push the envelope past your comfort zone. Then when they lower that pretty pine box into the ground they’ll be telling some good stories. You will have challenged them even from the dust.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Outdoorsy Men

“You’re an outdoorsy guy,” he said with a smirk in his voice as I reiterated the vacations I ‘d taken with my daughter; kayaking in Santa Cruz, hiking The Narrows and hiking the Bright Angel Trail for instance. I indicated that his assertion was true though I’m not the type of guy who goes out hunting or fishing and I’ve fired a gun only once. That being the case I tend to see ‘outdoorsy’ types as different from the rest of the world.

Pushing oneself past personal expectation provides powerful assurance and perspective. My brightest days were those were I’d hiked in freezing rain and kept going, ten, eleven, twelve miles until a good campsite was found. I remember pushing past bonking and bad moods to cycle the extra ten miles to get to lodging. Setting up a tent at the end of the day when I could barely stand.

Life gives us ample opportunity to persevere, commit and grow through chosen and forced challenges. Still there is a powerful sense of fullness one encounters in the outdoors; a polarity between quiet being stillness and exuberant wind-howling flesh knowing livelihood.

This may apply more to men; ladies feel free to stay back at the house and create a home. For men however nothing is as simply stimulating as pushing oneself in the outdoors. It is that coming alive and coming to God. For those who smirk at the challenge or simply don’t understand it they miss out. We are meant to push hard and come alive in the process. For those who reach the mountaintops obtain a unique experience reserved only for those who strive to reach the top.

"There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest...."  Robert Service

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Fine Lines

I am talking silky smooth with curves in all the right places baby. When she goes by people notice her color first, that perfect shade that takes work to perfect and a top layer that is unmarred yet has those special marks that make her unique. Then when I take her out---when she is unbridled by city rules and normal convention, the boys better watch out.

Tonight she needed some attention. She’d been pooped on and had a narrow escape with some cleaning supplies. Even got to the point where the neighbors were making comments, “She’s not looking so hot. She’s needing some attention. She must not be ‘new’ anymore, eh?”

It’s a fine line between lust and stewardship. At this time of year the heat in the desert affects my baby badly. She gets steamed up badly inside and her outside looks dirty and unkempt. Things fall from trees like poop from birds and soil her. Her paint can crack from all the heat and corrosives.

Tonight I waxed my baby. Like I said it’s a fine line. She needed the attention. Whew but does she look good when she is cleaned up and loved on. Heck I know there’s no scientific reason for this but she’ll even feel like she’s running better tomorrow. When I’m out with her now people will turn their heads and stare. I’ll stand a little taller, strut a little when I walk. If I take good care of her I know she’ll take better care of me. I’ll sing when we go out any my Sonata will hum with me.