A Six Year Old Kid…

I decided to check out my blog today, just to see what was up. In the corner was an icon I hadn’t seen before (or it was so long ago, I didn’t recognize it). It was a trophy… weird. I clicked on it, and was surprised with a “Happy Anniversary” message from WordPress… Kidstuph was born (registered) 6 years ago.


This has me thinking… 6 years… over 125 posts, visitors from 70 countries, hundreds of comments, over 10000 pageviews, subjects from lemons to sermons to Calvin & Hobbes. Most of what happens from Kidstuph, at least as far as who is reading and how it is touching people is hidden from me. Every now and then I get a comment, or someone telling me how important Kidstuph is to them (thank you Mom and Lorraine :-) ), but I don’t write for accolades… I write because I love sharing my heart, I love writing, and I love connecting with people through my writing. People like Estrella, Gina, and of course my friend and writing mentor, J Clement Wall :-).

As I think back over the years, I am pretty confident that I have grown in my writing, expanded my concepts that I was willing to tackle, and at the same time, I have so much to learn. I have always stuck to personal and/or spiritual things, but have never attempted to lend my writing abilities to my work… maybe because… well, maybe because of every reason and fear in the world – who knows… maybe I just never did it. I have focused on what I was comfortable and confident in – what I knew I could easily write about, even if the process of constructing each entry was tough. Subjects like wisdom, love, hope – those come relatively easy for me to write about, even if I am struggling to experience them at the moment. I think it is because I believe in them, and as such they become beacons and benchmarks for me… lighthouses if you will, to help guide me back to a balanced center in this crazy roller coaster journey we call life.

A couple months ago, I was sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops, and I was joined at the counter by a 6 year old. We were both regulars there, so he was pretty comfortable with me. As we sat there eating fries and drinking tea, he asked me, “why is your skin that color?” Ah, the mind, innocence and boldness of a 6 year old :-). I was only taken aback because I wasn’t expecting the question. Personally I thought it was cute, and reminded me of a situation with my daughter when she was about that age. Right now, he sees the world in a certain way, but as he grows up, his world view will change, and so will his questions. The color of my skin won’t matter too much to him – at least I hope it won’t. He will be more interested in developing relationships, understanding business, caring for his family, seeking out his destiny… as I think about him now, I wonder what I can do to help influence his worldview and passion so he can become a force for positive change and life, but that is the subject of a future blog post…

6 year olds are great because they have a grasp of complex thoughts, are willing to engage older people in conversation, and have the energy to light a small city :-). They are also great because they are growing… they won’t stay 6 forever, and for them, they don’t want to stay 6 one more second… they want to grow up, do more stuff, take on more, be more…

DSCF4961So Kidstuph is 6…

And it doesn’t want to stay 6 any longer than it has to. There are more challenges to overcome, more life to see and experience, more people to meet… There is a great big world out there that is calling to be visited, to be touched, to have relationship with, to share love with. According to Infoplease, there are 196 official countries out there, so Kidstuph still has work to do. The world is seeing what the news and politicians are portraying, and according to them, the state of our fair planet looks pretty grim… what can this 6 year old do, when it matures to tackle the state of the Big Blue Ball? Who knows, but that’s the great thing about a 6 year old… 6 year olds are still innocent enough that they can dream big, and not be jaded by what they see on TV… They are not only willing to believe that superheroes live among them… they believe that they can be that superhero. DSCF4978

I can’t tell you what this means yet for Kidstuph. I can say that the progress of Kidstuph will continue. We will sit together at the table, and ask the questions that are important… we will share our fries together, and we will get to know this world we live in… together.

Thank you for walking with me for the past 6 years, and for the years to come.

Notable Notables

6 years ago, not only did Kidstuph start, but this video showed up on Youtube. Talk about a positive kid… she can make you want to take on the day (the second one is the deleted scene… priceless :-) ):


Droughts, Drops and “Dearness”..

This has been an interesting week, mentally. A few days ago I was looking back in pictures I took a year ago, showing the effects of the drought on one of my childhood hangouts…

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My friend and I had gone on a hike, and ended up staring at what at one time was a popular fishing place. What had been a lake completely dried up… the drought had taken everything that the lake was… water, fish, you name it – it was gone. Now I knew we were in a drought… I saw the media coverage, the lack of a snowpack and all, but it really didn’t hit home until I was standing in the middle of the lake bed, my shoes covered with dust.

We were really in a drought…

It’s been about 6 weeks since I transitioned out of my job. It is an interesting process going from being gainfully employed to seeking employment. By interesting, I definitely don’t mean enjoyable. It is interesting in how it affects a person. Initially, it is like hearing the news of the snowpack on TV. You acknowledge it, comment about how horrible it is, but then change the channel or wait for the next news story. It’s like “that’s ok, cuz at some point, the rain will come… we’ll bounce back… we always have”. Then you hit that emotional valley. The place where, over time, the rain has not touched for a long time. Companies don’t get back to you… recruiters are not calling as much, if at all… you find yourself 4th out of 3 candidates…

You are standing in an empty lake bed…

You are in your own drought…

Droughts do some weird things to us. When the drought was in full swing over the past year, you started seeing signs saying, “Brown is the new green”. Almost like people were proud that their lawn had died. There was also some jealousy or judgment  of those whose lawn was still green… “how dare they? I’m doing my part… my lawn is dead”. When we realize we are in drought, we try to adjust to it. We cannot control it, so we might as well play along. As much as we play along though, inside we still feel it… we look at the deadness of the hills, and it hurts us. We long for days gone by when we weren’t suffering so.

I have done similar things as I prepare for the job that at some point will come. I have accepted my new current normal (kinda), been jealous of those who are still in “green pastures”, and as the days go by, have felt the sting of being in a place where the dust gathers around my feet.


Droughts do something else though… In recent days we have started to see rain. Rain is fun cuz it messes up our commutes, causes us to track water and mud into the house, and does a number on many a hairdo. Yet, because of the drought, rain caused something else: appreciation. It is awesome to see so many people happy to recognize the drops of life coming from the sky. People even forgive the commute conditions because they are just thankful that the rain has come.

While these little drops of goodness haven’t put a dent in the drought conditions, they offer promise – rain will still come. No matter how bad the drought gets, it doesn’t stop the rain, so there is reason to hope. Looking back on my day in the lake bed, there was one other thing that I didn’t focus on, but was actually there… trees. While the bed was dry, around the bed there were still trees growing. Their roots had gone deep enough to find water to sustain them. So  the drought is in our face… at our level, but refreshing drops of water exist if we are willing and able to go deep enough for it. So, there is not only promise, but there is evidence… evidence of life that I can focus on, and if I am observant, I can see it all around me. I can choose to focus on the dust, or I can lift my eyes to see that there is beauty and encouragement surrounding me.

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This morning my soul was in knots. The “Type A” in me was struggling with the struggle… trying to force the drought to end, realizing that I don’t have the strength in myself to make water fall from the sky. The quote that entered my mind was “these are the times that try men’s souls”. I wanted to use it to update my status, yet had no idea where it came from, so I figured I would look it up beforehand to ensure I was using it in the correct context. To confess, I thought it was from one of Shakespeare’s plays or something like that, just because it flows so poetically. Actually, it was from a very different source. It is from Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis,  describing the beginning of the American Revolution. I read more and understood the quote, and my drought, and my appreciation for the drops, a little more:

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

This winter, we are expecting El Nino to hit harder than ever before, and those of us in drought stricken areas are saying, “bring it on!” As much as we know it won’t be easy, we do know it will provide what we so desperately need. I have spoken to other friends who have moved into new roles and companies, who feel the relief that refreshing drops bring. They feel it because they have identified the “dearness” in their lives. Whether the dearness is work/life balance, or teamwork, or vision, the thing that they needed they were able to find, and indeed they fought hard to get that thing.

So, I fight on… while my soul may be tried, I will not be the summer soldier or the sunshine patriot of my own soul (or my career), but will work to, not just find a job to get a paycheck, but to identify what is really needed for my soul… and to appreciate those times when drops of life enter my dry lake bed, knowing that it won’t always be this way… soon enough it will be full of life again, and in a place to give life to others.

Notable Notables

I love hearing about companies who exist for higher purposes. Tom’s Shoes was one of the first I recall that would give a pair of shoes away to someone in need for every pair that is purchased. While this messes with our mindset of profit at all cost, it is a much more noble way to live. Other companies have started to follow suit, and is a commendable way for businesses to be responsible. Kudos, Tom!

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A Word In Due Time..

I was reading in I Samuel about Hannah. She really had it hard. Having to share a husband, being tormented daily by the “other wife”, and being barren… It just wasn’t a good situation. One day she just has to get up and get by herself. She was in front of the temple, crying out to the Lord, and gets accused of being drunk… For some people, that would be the last straw… can’t even get encouragement at church… I can understand her anguish… I’ve been at that point where I have been ready to just utter the words, “I’m done”.

But that is not what really caught me in my reading…

The other character in my reading… Eli. He is sitting in the door of the temple, and he notices Hannah. He really does think she is drunk, and throws out a “get your life together, woman!” imperative. He doesn’t get up, spend time with her, do any counseling, understand her plight, nothing. Eli is not invested in this random woman who doesn’t seem to be right in the head, at least to Eli.

Hannah in the simplest of terms explains her plight… well, not so much. Just that she is hurting and crying out to the Lord. She doesn’t tell Eli what her request is, why she is so grief stricken… only that she is…

“Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him”. That’s it… No, “let me pray for you”… no, “let’s agree together”… no, “I believe God has a word for you”… In fact, I think Eli was more concerned with getting her out from in front of the temple than he was with her plight.

I really don’t think he realized the power in his words.

– Hannah’s spirit was lifted

– Hannah’s barrenness was broken

– Hannah’s request was answered

Was it because Eli “agreed” with her in her prayer? Well, that’s too simple a formula. But I do believe there is something to him speaking a word in due time.

My mom (and probably yours too) always said, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”… what if we flipped that on its head? What if we can always say something nice? or useful? or encouraging? What if we can, whether we realize it or not, speak a good word… agree with someone’s prayer… choose to uplift rather than tear down? The Bible says that life and death are in the power of the tongue… I think that is more true than we realize.

I am praying that my words offer more open doors than closed ones… more open arms  than folded ones… more answered prayers than condemning words… I encourage you to position yourself to offer a good word in due time. it doesn’t have to be a crazy prophetic word… it could be as simple as Eli’s word, simple yet powerful enough to lift someone from the chains with which they are bound and set them free enough to believe that their prayers can actually be answered…

Fun Notables

Sometimes you don’t need words… sometimes you might just need to let loose to encourage someone else… Have fun with this one :-)

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God’s Strange Timing..

I am a person that likes to have everything in order, and definitely on time. Delays don’t work well for me. I’m sure that delays don’t work well for most people. So, when I was reading this week, I was struck by a delay, by none other than Jesus:

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:24-26 ESV)

Eight days…

Thomas had a major crisis of faith… I’m sure he wanted to believe, but he saw his friend die. The other disciples were excited, but they were also under some tremendous strain, having their lives turned upside down, all of their expectations dashed, and their friend horribly crucified and then, supposedly they saw him…

Eight days…

So Thomas says “no way… I need proof”…

Then… nothing… No proof… no show… no word… nothing

Not the next day… or the day after that… or the day after that… or even the day after that…

Think about this… not from Thomas’ perspective… think about it from any one of the other disciples’ perspectives…

I saw him die… then I see him show up. “He’s alive!” When will I see him again? “Thomas, I’m sure he will come back…”


More nothing…

“Jesus, did I really see you?”

More nothing…

This wasn’t the only time Jesus’ followers had to deal with a crisis of faith…

John is sitting in prison… He had announced that his cousin was the coming messiah, that this was the fulfillment of every prophecy… John had given his life for this proclamation, and was about to make the ultimate sacrifice for it…

What did John see? What didn’t he see?

He sent people to him… “Are you the one I have been talking about, or should we be looking for someone else?”

Delays… they suck…

Jesus said “Blessed are those who are not offended in Me”…

So, basically, as much as delays suck, as hard as they are on us, we can’t let them turn us bitter, or get offended because he does delay.

But… eight days…

Lazarus was dead, and he only took 4 days… what was he trying to prove with the disciples?

 You know the question… Mr. Owl… how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The answer?

We don’t know why he took eight days. There may have been some deep theological reason… some heavenly ceremony, or contract signing or whatever… we don’t know… For all we know, it took eight days to travel to heaven and back (I know, sounds silly, but I’m pretty sure that we have come up with more ludicrous explanations for things)… Bottom line, he never told the disciples what he was doing, how long he would be gone, or when… or if, he was coming back… Thomas wanted proof, and he was powerless to get it, and even though he made his request known, getting his answer was not going to be that easy…

The good thing is, Jesus did come back. And he did answer Thomas’ request.

Then he said to Thomas,“Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

It is possible that for those eight days, Jesus was working on Thomas’ belief, trying to get him to believe without seeing… again, “the world may never know”. I’m sure the disciples were not just sitting cozy in their belief during those eight days. The thing that brings hope is that Jesus knew what it would take for Thomas to believe, and he also knew where else he wanted to take Thomas. He did what was necessary for Thomas to get back on track with his faith, while challenging him for more. This brings me hope as I wait for certain things to happen in my life, dealing with delays in promises, in callings, in simple things like securing employment. I can rest a little better knowing that Jesus knows exactly what I need in answer to my faith questions, but he also holds secure the thing he has called me to… the thing that I cannot see, that he calls me to believe in.

I still hate delays, but I am learning to trust the journey he has me on, even when he hasn’t shown up for a few days.

Funny Notables

so if you can’t identify with the pain of delays, maybe you can identify with some of these situations… hope you enjoy this video :-)

Oregon City

A Long Ride, A Hot Rod, and A Cool Tune..

This past weekend I was driving home from a mission of love and mercy… bringing a cat back to his adoring family. My ride up to the Pacific Northwest was filled with a “meow” about every 2 seconds (you can do the math… the cat should have had laryngitis by the time I got there :-) ) but the ride back to the Bay was very quiet… quiet enough that I needed a couple extra stops at rest areas.

When I pulled up to one rest area, there were 2 people panhandling. Frankly, it caught me by surprise, as I had never encountered that before. The traditional response kicked in – a mixture of wanting to help and wanting to avoid, but my giving nature finally won. I was all set to give to both of them, but as I started for my wallet, I got a check in my spirit… I felt I wasn’t supposed to do anything yet… I went through my checklist – was I hearing right? Being selfish? Trying to justify not giving? I sat outside of my car for about 10 minutes, waiting for the “check” to go away, but it never did. Eventually, I pushed myself past the guilt of not giving, got in my car and proceeded down the road.

As I pulled into the next rest stop, I had put the former situation out of my head… well, until I parked. Right there, another person looking for handouts. I just wanted to take care of my business and get on the road, but I couldn’t avoid him – I parked right in front of him. Ok, quick prayer, decide on an amount, and no checks in my spirit – I’m gonna “bless” him,  do what I need to do and get back to speeding down the road (what can I say? I have a vroom vroom car ;-) ).

I went up to him and gave him the money, and he began to comment on my car. That began a long conversation about his life – his love of automobiles, driving big rigs, writing country music, even his first time in the Saddle Rack. At one point his wife came up and chimed in on the stories, just helping to make for an interesting visit with him.

After a long while, he told me that he wanted to sing one of his songs for me and ask me what I thought. Now, I like to think I am pretty open musically, but I do have to admit Country is not my first choice in music. For Rod, however, I wanted to listen (yes, he was Rod, wearing a Hot Rod cap :-) ). Rod began to sing this beautiful song about autumn and God’s creation. As he sang I could see the trees that had changed colors, the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and the mixture of clouds and sun that accented every word and note of his song. I thought that I was there to bless him, but he blessed me in so many ways. Even then, it wasn’t over…

We talked for a little while longer, and then I really had to leave, as I had many hours of driving left to do. Now, what I hadn’t told you about Rod, he was a character… colorful language and experiences that would make you think first about trying to get religious with him – the nicest guy though. All that to set the stage… I was about to leave, and in the back of my mind was the traditional thought of praying with him… after all, that’s what you do when you give someone a handout, right? I didn’t move fast enough though… Rod grabbed my hand and said “here, let me pray for you before you go.” In my stunned silence, he prayed for my trip, for my job search, for my life, and did so with such passion and conviction. When he finished, I was privileged to pray with and for him. As I drove away, I understood why I needed to wait… Rod was my blessing for my drive home.

Recently my best friend and I were talking about what the world would be like if money didn’t rule it. If people were able to just do what was in their heart, what their passion was without worrying about whether it would pay their bills. We imagined singers and musicians who would randomly just “have concerts” – not to get paid, but because they just love to sing or play their instruments. There are people that actually do that, but they are a rare breed. Rod did that for me, and yes… he was rare.

I admit – I judged Rod before I ever met him. I judged him based on his sign, on his appearance, even on his location. But something happens when you take the time to meet someone new. You find out there is so much more about them than meets the eye. The biggest thing about them no longer is their “sign” – whether the sign is a sign, or a car, or a job or a wardrobe. The biggest thing about them is their life – their story. Who they are, who they actually are and how they can, in one moment, contribute to your own life. Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

You know, Rod never looked at the amount I gave him. He took it, tucked it away, and began to talk. He never looked at the money, but he continually looked me right in my eyes. Rod wanted connection. He needed it. We all do. His need of connection… no… our need of connection broke down walls of prejudice and allowed us to grow, to live and to build even more memories than we ever could have if I had just stayed in my car, or avoided him.

Jesus said that people would know that we are his disciples, not by our ability to spout dogma, but by how we love each other. We hear that, but we don’t ever apply it, or we only apply it in certain circumstances. We love in ways that are acceptable to us – I’ll give money… I’ll pray for you… etc… The most powerful part of that statement though is the end: “each other”. There is a connection that Jesus says is the key. It’s not “you” doing something to or for “me”, but it is in the points where love is actually shared. Where two stories intersect and intertwine into a blended story. Where lives are made better because two people, even for a short period of time, walk together, sharing life and love and selves with each other.

I am better because of Rod. I am better because of that meowing cat. I am better because of the barista in Starbucks who remembered me after a single visit. The list goes on and on.

My encouragement to you – find the “Rod’s” in your journey. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with them, listen to their song, and let them bless you more than you ever thought to bless them. Your life will be infinitely richer for it.

Notable Notables

I have always been impressed by Dave Chappelle, but when he threw his block party, that just put him over the top… He got the best of the best to perform, “just because”, and the party? Yeah, it was free… just show up. And it wasn’t just “stars” performing. He brought the community together. Basically, anyone who wanted to come could and whether it was Common or the local high school band, they were all involved…

Imagine a world…

Here’s a preview:


Stepping Forward..

It was a decision I was avoiding… I did everything I could to keep it going, and at the last minute, I thought things were going well… it had all smoothed out, or so I thought… In the end, I was given my options, and after careful consideration, I gave in…

I got a new phone…

Haha, I got some of you… you were thinking of all the other transitions in my life, weren’t you? ;-) . That’s ok… it applies to them too…

When I first got my phone a year ago, I had no complaints… it served me well, garnered the attention of many an onlooker, and even inspired a few people to follow suit and get the same model. It was rare that you would see me without my phone in hand… tweeting, posting, selfie-ing (if there is such a thing)… doing whatever I could on my device…

I guess it was too much for my phone to handle…

Lately, my phone and I were not seeing eye to eye… It became more trouble to get anything done and, frankly, it just wasn’t fun anymore. I stayed loyal though… I figured I paid my money, I should be able to keep it for at least 2 years before upgrading… not so, in this instance.

When I got the new phone and was spending time setting it up, I started thinking about the whole subject of transition… I’ve been through a lot of it lately, and all of it seems to have the same components:

  • Tension between Ideal and Reality – When my old phone came out, it was top of the line, had more features than I could even figure out and was, on paper, the best phone on the market. That was the “showroom gloss” that I was living under, all the while the phone was freezing, rebooting and basically losing its mind. My ideal was that I still had the best of the best, but in reality, it wasn’t any better than a paperweight (actually worse, cuz it was too light to hold anything down)
  • Fear of Loss – Fear is such a powerful thing. When it came to the phone, I looked at my options for upgrading and changing, and “none of them were as good as my phone”… yes, the phone that I cursed every day because it wouldn’t work right, would decide to reboot in the middle of conversations, or would take 5 minutes to eek out a simple text cuz it couldn’t figure out when it wanted to show the actual characters on the screen. But I wanted, or so I thought I wanted the particular options my phone had… It seemed like I wanted them more than the basic reason I needed the phone in the first place – to communicate with friends and loved ones… I was so afraid (subconsciously, I might add) of losing the non essential things that I put up with the problems and even justified them… for months. Battery died too quickly – I bought a second battery to carry around with me. Phone would freeze –  clear the cache and reboot, even up to 10 times a day. That didn’t help? start chucking apps… apps that I use, mind you, but maybe not as often as others. The bad part of all of this is it kept me from addressing the real problem, and the “loss” I was fearing, I was really experiencing every day.
  • Unfair Comparisons – When I got my new phone, I didn’t immediately focus on the fact that 1) it worked, 2) it worked well, 3) it was much more reliable than my old phone. I focused on what I didn’t like about it. I compared it with the “good times” I had with my old phone (mind you, over the past couple months, I had no good times with my old phone). “This doesn’t sync right”… “I don’t like this feature”… “yeah, but on my old phone…” It really didn’t help that I got to take my old phone home… it sat there, taunting me with its empty promises of days gone by.

Transitions are hard because they carry with them the cycle of grief

Whenever we experience a major, or even a minor change, we go through these stages to some degree

The hardest part of this is processing these feelings alone, even before the transition actually happens. Last night I was talking with my best friend about my computer, which I just got a couple weeks ago… I guess I don’t learn – it really wasn’t good. As I complained about what it wouldn’t do, she offered some simple advice – take it back and get what you need. Brilliant! Why didn’t I consider that? Cuz I didn’t want to deal with another transition. Yet, when I did, it was the best thing I could have done.

The good thing is I am on the upswing with my new phone. Somewhere between bargaining and acceptance (yes, I admit it, I do swing back into depression every now and then too). I am focusing on the good things it has to offer, learning about its unique features, and moving forward with what I have. I am also learning about myself in the process. I am learning how procrastination plays a role in the transition process, how it feeds on fear, and how you sometimes have to just accept reality for what it is. When Jesus was about to be arrested, Peter, in an attempt to ward off the reality of everything Jesus said, tried to take out one of the guys who came for Jesus. Jesus replied, “Peter, do you think for a minute I am not going to drink the cup the Father gave me?” As hard a reality as it was, Jesus was ready to face it. In the same way with the transitions in our lives, whether jobs, or locations, or yes, even cell phones, we should be courageous enough to face them, knowing they really won’t kill us… in fact, we may find some elements of real life in them.

Notable Notables

I found this funny post about life before technology. Some of you will remember this, and others will just be glad that you didn’t have to live through it ;-)http://fishofgold.net/2014/05/10/12-things-we-did-before-technology/

Things Not Adding Up: Need for Authentic Relationship

Yesterday, I had a God encounter, and it disturbed me…

Still does…

It was about 95 degrees out, I was comfortably in my car, pulling out of a shopping center parking lot. I was driving slow, as there were various people walking around me. As I was about to make the turn out, I was flagged down by a young woman. I rolled down my window to see what was up, and she told me her plight… something happened with public assistance, leaving her with no money for food… on top of that, she was very much pregnant. So, she and her mom were walking through the parking lot, in the heat, trying to get money for food…

Strangely enough, that’s not what is bugging me… I’ve encountered many people asking for money, and always will. Jesus’ words are true: “the poor you will have with you always”.

I had 3 dollars in my wallet… not enough to make a dent. I gave it to her, but told her I wanted to do more. This is when you know the need is real… She asked if we could go to the store in the shopping center to get a gift card to use for food… No scam… no bait and switch… Just hunger… Absolutely, I can do that. She called her mother over as I parked the car.

Both were very nice and appreciative, and even offered to return the money once public assistance came through. I told them “no, this was God’s gift to them”… I wasn’t trying to pander to them or market God… I felt this was a God encounter, and that He wanted to bless them.

They told me of the treatment they had received by people as they endured the heat, just trying to get some food… harsh people… mean spirited people… hurtful people… They said that I was the first person they encountered that would help them…

It was miserable outside… the treatment they received however, was worse than the heat…

Even that is not what disturbs me… well, it does, but it’s not the overarching thing that is getting to me. I have dealt with mean spirited people, and I’m sure I have been mean spirited at times…

As we walked to the store, they asked me what church I go to (I guess the “God’s gift to you” thing kinda gave it away). I told them, just making light conversation. Then the mom said “we go to ____ church. We love it there”, and went on about how great the church was, the messages, the programs, etc. She was very excited to tell me about her church.

95 degrees…

begging in the parking lot….

part of a community of believers….

Something is wrong with this picture…

Now, this is not an indictment on the particular church. For all I know, the church doesn’t even know of the plight of this family. What disturbs me is that for whatever reason, they felt more comfortable to brave the heat and the attitudes of strangers, than to go to their own community… their extended family, if you will, to meet a temporary need.

There are a ton of “maybe’s” in this… maybe they went to the church multiple times… maybe they’ve burnt bridges… maybe the church doesn’t care… None of the maybe’s matter… what matters is that there is a relationship, but it is not working right. I should be able to go to you, no matter how painful it is, and feel that regardless of the outcome, I am safe in relationship. I should feel more comfortable with my extended family than I am with random strangers…

I do know that this scenario is not rare… and that is even more disturbing…

If you are expecting me to come up with a nice message, object lesson, or resolution, I don’t have one… As much as we all know how we should treat people, the Golden Rule, all that, our society (and micro-societies) doesn’t seem to work that way…

Maybe… just maybe… if our relationships were more important than our structures – our titles, our image, our personal accomplishments… maybe then we won’t have pregnant women braving dangerous conditions just to get food… maybe then we won’t have our children thinking that life is not worth living… maybe then we won’t have people thinking that taking another life is an acceptable way of existing…

I was reading earlier this week, where Jesus and His disciples encountered a blind man… “Whose fault is this?” they asked. Jesus told them that this was not a matter of fault… it was an opportunity for God to be glorified. Some people will read this and judge the young woman and her mom… “They shouldn’t be on public assistance”… “she should have planned better”… blah, blah blah… She was not a textbook case… she was a person… with a name… with a story… with a need…

Even after writing this, I am still disturbed… Maybe that’s good, because maybe it might change how I view, and do relationships. Maybe it will change how others who read this will do relationships. Maybe relationships can start to be really safe and nurturing. I’m thinking that maybe that is what society is supposed to be all about.

Notable Notables:

I was introduced to Hannah Brencher (virtually), having seen her challenges on my friend J’s blog (https://www.judyclementwall.com/). Hannah started moreloveletters.com, a site that connects people with a need for encouragement with people willing to reach out in authentic love and provide that encouragement. I participated in a few of the letter writing opportunities, and I cannot tell you how powerful it was, to bring a word of encouragement to someone needing to hear it. I would encourage everyone to do it at least once (and then do it again)… not for you… do it because you have the capacity to give real, authentic love… because you can make life a little better, a little safer for someone you encounter.

A Father’s Day Retrospective

2015-06-25 22.00.17This is a little late, but still worth the post .

Two weeks ago was Father’s day. I don’t know about all fathers, but for me, sometimes Father’s day can be difficult. I don’t live with my kids anymore, and they are grown, living their own lives and stuff. When I do see them I often go through my checklist… what could I have done different? How do they really see me? Do their lives reflect what I so desired to pour into them, or have we lost that as they have seen the chinks in my armor – my failures, my weaknesses, my inability to be all that we hope a father should be? I don’t tell anyone, but Father’s day sometimes scares me.

It was interesting to see how my day started. My best friend took me on a walk, during which we stopped at a park. Shortly after we got there, a father brought his son to play at the park. The son was so cute, about 2 at best, and was so lost in the freedom, safety and enjoyment that the father’s love and attention gave him. It was fun watching him mimic the things he saw the father do, or attack the playground equipment without fear, knowing that the cares of life  he could easily roll onto his dad. I could have sat there and observed them for hours. The relationship between the father and son was so wonderful to see.

My day would unfold in such a special way, step by step showing me that while fatherhood is tough and not perfect, it is something of the highest calling of every man… whether you have your own kids or not. And not just a calling, but a yearning to have that kind of relationship that you can pour into with love, fun, safety, challenge, vision and so much more.

I wasn’t expecting my first gift. I think it is because I hadn’t had an expectation of what Father’s day really meant. As we met to go walking, my friend presented me with this red box (my favorite color) full of goodies and a card ushering me into what would be a series of wonderful gifts. The gifts I received however were not toys or gadgets… they were “signs of relationship” – the promise of a movie night… a “Man Card”, affirming me and the rest of the fathers at church as positive men of influence… being able to beam after my daughter’s show, and over all of the people proclaiming my son’s work in his church, and not last or least, my other son coming home from military training. To me it was all relationship, connection, affirmation, and all of it was in some way connected to the fact that I have had the privilege of being a father.

After we finished our walk, I went back home, cleaned up and met my son at his church. It was my first time being there, but I was immediately struck by how many people knew him. From the parking lot to the pulpit, he introduced me to young and old, and without surprise, everyone had great things to say about him. But not just the standard niceties… they spoke of the impact he was having, specifically with the high school group. He is more than just a role model. He is becoming a father figure to these kids. I couldn’t be more proud… No, wait… I could…

We went to lunch after church, and he began to just pour out his heart. I heard about some of his struggles and how he overcame them, his perspective on life, and how he has come full circle to accept the destiny he knew about since he was 11. He has grown immensely. At one point in the conversation he was giving me insight into his thoughts of the time when Jesus was walking on the water. As he finished, a woman who had left the restaurant came back in to affirm what he was saying, further illustrating to both of us his impact to those around him. It was an amazing time.

We left the restaurant and I made my way to my daughter’s show. She has built quite a reputation as a choreographer, and created a piece in this show that literally had people in tears. This is not the first time that has happened. Better than that though, I saw how she built young women and men into strong purposeful dancers. Parents and students alike told me of how they have followed her for years, and I know it is because she gives every ounce of who she is to make them everything they can be. I get choked up just thinking of it.

Finally the show ended, and we were all famished, so we did the “Father’s day dinner thing” :-) . I hadn’t seen my youngest yet, as he had been away for 3 weeks in military training. I still remember the day he told me that he was going to enlist. Fear immediately gripped me, as it would any parent. Then as I went to talk to him about it, I thought about who he had become: I knew he had thought this through, and made the right decision for himself. That night I listened to him speak about the work he is doing and about some of his other passions. He is becoming an exceptional man.

Seeing my kids affecting the lives of others – from the youth at church, to the dancers in the studio, to the nation being protected – these were my Father’s Day presents. And they didn’t stop there. I received Father’s Day wishes from many that I have had the privilege to father – not by blood, but by relationship. I love calling them my kids as well.

On the one hand, it would be great if there was a manual on how to be a father, but there isn’t. Maybe that’s better, cuz the best things about being a father cannot be learned in a book – staying in it, giving love, and just being dad. In the card my friend gave me, there is so much of what she said that I love and appreciate. Right now, however these words are sticking out to me:

And you do it all simply by being the good man that you are… the best kind of dad a child can have

Sometimes you hear it from your kids, other times you see it, but eventually you will know that it was, and is, forever worth it being a dad.

A Love Like No Other

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends – John 15:13

Where Do We Start

Actually we are not going to start where you would think. Typically Easter messages pick up from where Good Friday, the death of Jesus left off, and speak of the good news of His resurrection. We are not starting there. We will get there at some point, but where we start is with a post that a friend of mine wrote on Facebook. In the post, she spoke of her current state of being, her anger at life, or at nothing or whatever… In the midst of this state of being, she gets a call from Ethiopia, one of those “I’ve been waiting for these” opportunities. While she was focused inward, focused on whatever was wrong and in a state of anger rather than submission and thankfulness, God shows up… I love her next statement, and this was the starting place on this journey for me: “God’s furious love just makes life unbearable sometimes. And the discrepancy about how we feel about Him and how He loves us can be so irritating.”


We are speaking about a love like no other…


Who Am I? Who Are You?

Jesus spent time with a bunch of guys that saw in him something different, something special, and something that they were willing to follow. It was clear many times however, that although they followed Him, they had no clue who he really was, what his motivation was, or what was to come next.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” – John 13:3-6

During the time they followed Jesus, the disciples were trying to figure out the pecking order – who was “next in line”, the most important, the closest to Jesus… so much so that when it came to standard protocol, no one wanted to take on the role of the lowliest. It was the servant’s job to wash the feet of the master and the guests. For the disciples, since there was no servant, they chose to forego this portion of the evening meal. Jesus threw a whole case of monkey wrenches into their thought pattern that night when he got up and did what none of them would do. At the very least they should have offered to wash Jesus’ feet, but they were all looking at their position. Jesus cared more for the disciples than he did about his own position.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. – Philippians 2:5-7

King, servant, God, man… none of that was going to define Jesus, because he was more interested in what God was doing and wanted to do in others. Because of this, Jesus would often turn the tables on the expectation of his followers. He would act and respond in ways that defied logic and protocol, and he would bend, break and obliterate the rules in order to reach the ones he loves.


Logic would have said that my friend should have “surrendered her anger”, and “spent time with the Lord” and all such things before he opened the door to this opportunity. Logic would have said that she didn’t deserve an unqualified outpouring of His blessing in this way, at least not yet. However, here He was… seemingly ignoring her anger and outbursts, and barging into her life with something so fantastic, it could only be God.


Lord, are you going to wash my feet?


Peter had to be appalled at what he was seeing. Jesus was breaking all the rules. If anything, he should have asked (or rather commanded) someone to do this. For Peter, this was embarrassing, and obviously something that he would never do. For Jesus however, there was no reason to be embarrassed. Jesus’ heart of love was reaching out to the disciples, and even to Peter, to bring them closer to himself. Jesus had something to give, something to show, and nothing was going to get in the way of him doing just that.

The Why of the Resurrection

Easter presents us with the perfect opportunity to use language that sounds good but doesn’t really register to us. We celebrate the fact that Jesus “died for our sins”, that he was “our substitution”, that he rose from the dead so we can have life. All of this sounds good… good to our religious brain. What we don’t meditate on is why… Why would he do this in the first place?

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” – John 13:6-8

Peter was sure he knew what was going on. He knew who should be, and should not be doing this task. Peter knew what was important and could recite the reasons for doing this. He could see what Jesus was doing, but his interpretation of what Jesus was doing was off, because he failed to understand why he was doing it. Similarly with us, we get the rules and the mechanics around the death and resurrection of Jesus. We understand that without it we have no place in the kingdom of God that it is through this that our future in God’s eternal kingdom is secured. But is that all there is to it? Do we merely enter into a legal contract with God where we simply accept what He could only do, and thereby live for him in our efforts to stay away from sin, because, of course, “he died for them”? Did Jesus die, get buried, and ultimately raise from the dead, only to satisfy the justice of God, or was something deeper going on?

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:5-8


For God, what we call Easter was not clinical. It was not simply justice being met. It was not just a means of us escaping hell. For God this entire act was the demonstration of His love – a love that is larger and more powerful than our inability, our weakness, or our ungodliness.

The Depth of His Love


“God’s furious love just makes life unbearable sometimes…


I can guarantee that some people upon hearing this statement want to run away from it, plugging their ears as if they had just been slimed. The combination of the words “God”, “furious” and “unbearable” grates against our religious mind. God can be furious about our sin, and sin can make life unbearable… this makes logical religious sense to us, but God’s furious love?


“You will never wash my feet”


We run from such things because we don’t allow ourselves to fully understand how deep and far reaching His love is.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

When we use religious terminology we miss the real message that God is trying to demonstrate to us. Paul’s declaration to the Romans shows that there is nothing on this earth that will stop God’s relentless love pursuit of us. Anything that would seem to get in the way or halt God showing us His love doesn’t stand a chance. God’s every response to every situation is “but I love you more”. When you see this, you can understand why Jesus was such a rebel, challenging every stated rule. It was because he loved so deeply.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” – Luke 15:1-7

How often have we read this and thought, “of course, that makes total sense for the shepherd to leave the 99 and go after the one”?




The sheep are in the open field. There is no fence, no guard, nothing to protect the sheep. The open field is where the predators live. Without the shepherd, the flock would be as good as gone. The shepherd would be ridiculed for his disregard of the flock. “Dude, this is your livelihood… your job… how you feed your family. Let the one go. There are 99 others.” This shepherd however risked livelihood, reputation, everything on the possibility of finding a lost sheep… there was no guarantee that the lost sheep would be found. But for this shepherd, the love of this one sheep was so deep that it was worth the risk… not only of losing the 99, but also of whatever would come against him. “…in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents…” God is willing to risk it all to be reunited with one person… with you.


The sheep was lost. Not just falling behind and the shepherd had to urge it to catch up… the sheep was lost – nowhere to be found. The shepherd had to make the decision to search for the sheep, not based on the sheep’s ability to respond. The shepherd was willing to risk it all, with the possibility of receiving nothing from it. His love was not based on the response of the sheep. Yes, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents, but the love that brings the sinner to repentance is not based on the repentance of the sinner.

…when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly

God’s love for us is so deep, life and death are not barriers or boundaries to it. Reputation and protocol cannot dictate it. Time cannot contain it and our response to it cannot make it happen or not happen. God’s love is furious.


Definition of fury from Merriam-Webster: “wild and dangerous force; extreme fierceness or violence”


God’s love simply cannot be stopped. This is the story of Easter… a story of a love for you that superseded even life and death.

Living In the Love of the Resurrection


So how do we respond to this act of love – this ever present, unrelenting, furious love that disregards everything so it can be demonstrated to us?

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. – John 15:12-14

Too often we take scripture apart and read it as separate statements, rather than the discourse that it is. We have looked at Jesus statement about the greater love and thought, “that is logical, for Jesus is saying it, and he laid down his life for us, and since he is God, his love is greater…” We isolate this statement and separate it from what was before it or after. This is all one stream of thought. Jesus commands us to love each other. How? In the same way that he loves us… ferociously, with abandon, without concern for our reputation or protocol, without barriers or boundaries. We are to love not because there is a response, but choose to love whether a response is possible or not. Love whether it is convenient or not. Love people back to life, to the fullness of their purpose, and to relationship with the Father.

Kenneth and Kids

Son of The Father

This weekend I attended the funeral for a friend’s father. His father was in many ways larger than life, as evidenced by all of the stories and accolades given by family and friends. While I had never met the man, I left feeling that I had a sense of what it was to grow up in his house, or to be mentored by him… he was someone that I would have appreciated meeting at some point in my life.

My friend actually performed the service. I admired him for taking that step – it’s hard enough to do a funeral, much harder to do when it is someone that close to you. Years ago I had to do the service of my sister, and I have to admit that it was one of the toughest things I have ever had to do. My friend did a great job, honoring his father with stories that made us laugh, cry, and reflect on our own relationships.

At the funeral many people came up to pay their respects to his father. People that worked with him, trained with him, or lived with him as family all stood and gave story after story of the effect he had on their lives. Many people talked about how their lives changed for the better. Out of all that was said, one thing stuck with me, and continues to ring in my head. My friend said, “I am honored to be the son of my father.” Hearing those words stilled me… even reflecting on them now, they still do. Wow… what a relationship they must have had that would cause him to declare that about his father.

I began to think about my own family relationships. I have two great sons (and a fantastic daughter :-) ). Ironically, my oldest son’s birthday was the same day as the funeral. Both of my sons have grown into strong men in their own right. I am proud of who they are and who they are becoming. Hearing my friend’s words, I thought of no better epitaph of my life, than at my funeral my sons would say the same thing about me. My mind spun with what I am or am not doing to earn that honor… do I spend enough time with them? Do they know how much I love them? Am I an asset to them or a liability? When they speak of me to their friends, is it with pride or shame… or do they speak of me at all? I thought that I don’t just want that epitaph at my funeral… I want it every day of my life.

It is a shame that it takes a funeral to bring about the best comments about a person. It’s like we hold the best until the end, taking all of the things we have felt over the years and pour it into the couple of hours we have with family and friends. It feels good to be able to recollect, to remember, and to give testimony to those around us of the person we love. As much as it is said at funerals to “not wait”, we find ourselves settling back into old habits once the funeral is over… we mean to give the compliment… we mean to have that lunch… we mean to make that call… we mean to say, “I love you”. As I write this, I am thinking of the last time I hugged my sons (thanks mom… you have made me into a hugger extraordinaire :-) )… while it hasn’t been “that long”, it has been too long.

As I thought of my sons (and daughter) during the funeral, I also thought of my relationship with my father. I have to admit that over the years our relationship has been strained for many reasons. He will always be my dad, but I have found myself pulling away, and putting up, not boundaries, but rather walls to protect myself. It just seemed easier than engaging him in conversation that could end up polarizing us again. Yet, when I think of him, I do remember the good times, the laughter, the talk of things we both love, the highly intelligent and charming man that he is…

I’ve been meaning to make that call…

I so want my sons to speak of me with honor… I have to believe that my father would want the same. However it’s hard to honor someone on the other side of a wall, especially one of your own making. The scary part in this is that I don’t know if tearing down my walls will bring about that honor. What would make me say, “I’m honored to be the son of my father?”

Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Maybe it is not trying to get to the end, so much as it is doing what can be done. I don’t have a lifetime, and don’t need one… I have today. I can’t change the past, but I can change how I react and respond to him (and to others) right now. I can make that call…

In addition, I can accept that honor now… the honor of being the son of my father, not because he has done anything specific for me, but because he is my dad. He has a lot of great qualities, and even though he may bug me sometimes ;-) , I know without a shadow of a doubt that he loves me. I think that is a great start.

So here’s to taking steps, making calls, having lunches, and giving hugs… lots of them.

Notable Notables

One of my favorite videos shows the power of a single step… Free Hugs for all :-)