Archive for the ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years’ Category


I have a confession to make. I likely have several confessions to make, but will limit this to admitting I have a thing for cheesy movies. Spoofs, Chick Flicks (my weakness, to be sure), and clean B- comedies all strike a chord with me. It may have something to do with laughing with my kids, but I confess it likely goes beyond said moments.

A particular favorite of my kids and I is Paul Blart, Mall Cop. Kevin James has a unique brand of physical trauma comedy, and the movie contains a sweet and redemptive storyline. At one point in the movie, Blart finds himself making a mistake or two while seeking acceptance among his peers, and it leads to a most unfortunate (and large) tattoo. His only defense is to acknowledge his great weakness: “I really don’t drink“.

I don’t drink, in the physical sense of the term. Seriously. It’s a personal thing, one that I won’t burden you with the details of here. If you ever want to know why, there’s probably a time and place for that conversation.

I have another confession to make. I don’t drink, generally speaking, in the spiritual sense of the term, and that is unfortunate. Allow me to explain this analogy further.

When I was back in high school, one of my earliest “on my own” adult experiences was to drive myself to the dentist for some repair work on my teeth. The nurse got me all prepped before the dentist made his grand entrance into the room. After the cursory “how are you doing” conversation with me, he proceeded to put his hands into my mouth and began the requisite small talk with his assistant.

The conversation that followed almost brought me up out of the chair. His nurse asked about his especially good demeanor that day, and he responded by admitting “I’ve been drinking a new wine”!

Thankfully, he did not stop talking there.

You see, my dentist back in good old Shreveport, America was a man of faith, and on this particular Friday afternoon, he was feeling especially grateful to his Lord and Savior. It is a verbal exchange that I have never forgotten.

God is good, all the time. God is faithful, even when life seems too hard to understand. The older I get the more I see that everyday, in the lives of those around me, and in the blessings in my own walk.

The choice to truly enjoy His faithfulness is up to me, however. Psalm 34:8 says:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Such joy is found in the little things: the sound of the rain on the rooftop, the sweet spirit of my cat as it climbs into my lap early every morning and after I return home every afternoon, the laughter of my children, and the wry smile of my wife when we are both quietly thinking the same thing. Sometimes, such joy even comes in the middle of a sinkful of dirty dishes.

This morning, the music of Brandon Heath’s rendition of “Shout to the Lord” was playing during a requisite loading of the dishwasher, and just hearing the words were like a new wine, indeed, or so I assume. You see, I don’t drink, in the physical sense of the word, and I’m not about to start.

However, I may take up drinking more deeply, in the spiritual sense. It seems like a good idea, and I’m likely not at risk of tattooing anything permanently…

My Jesus, My Savior,
Lord, there is none like You;
All of my days
I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love.

My comfort, my shelter,
Tower of refuge and strength;
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You.

Shout to the Lord, all the earth,
Let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King;
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name.
I sing for joy at the work of Your hands,
Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand,
Nothing compares to the promise I have in You.


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Winds in the east, mist coming in.
Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin.
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store,
But I fear what’s to happen all happened before.

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I dreamed of things being different. “Once upon a time” was both long ago and possibly and unfortunately not so far away. Perhaps it was only yesterday. As the family and I sat down the other night to watch a few minutes of the movie “Saving Mr. Banks”, I was reminded of that and so much more.

Not so long ago, in a land much farther away, some friends and I climbed a mountain. But, things indeed were different: different from my prior experience, different from my visions of the moment, and different in the result. You see, you can’t escape the winds, no matter how hard you try. And, to quote another song, the funny thing is “It’s OK”.
IMG_1889I had been on this mountain before, but the chosen path was changed. In fact, were it not for the winds of change, we would not have been on this path, this day, at all.

It was just about a week ago that my friends were nearing the summit of our climb. I say “my friends were”, because I had long ago lost sight of them, and was beginning to wonder if I would ever reach the summit myself. The path was steep, I was likely not fully prepared, and there was the wind. As I hiked alone, knowing those friends had gone on before me to reach the top, the wind became suddenly and painfully strong.

The gusts were powerful. The sensations were cold. My mouth was dry, and my tongue was numb. It felt as if the wind would fill the very jacket I wore for protection and would sweep me right off the side of that mountain to an unfortunate landing below. I thought I wanted to quit, to sit down, to give up, and to hope my friends would be back for me later, having experienced the summit without me.

But, it didn’t. Quit, that is; the wind didn’t quit.

I didn’t, either. Quit, that is. I pressed on towards the summit, finally reaching it to the buffeted sound of cheering from my friends as they endured that very same wind.

As we descended the mountain later that morning, I reflected on what we’d just experienced, and was reminded about how life can be. Windy, that is. But, enduring the wind makes for a great story. Sometimes encountering that very wind makes the story possible to begin with.

As I said, I’d been on this mountain. My son and I have traversed its slopes twice prior, and the mountain has taught us to expect the unexpected. Fog, snow, lightning, hail, and rain from a sunny sky have all accompanied our experience here. Wind had, as well, but nothing like the wind this day.

Two of my friends from this day were supposed to have climbed a different mountain with us just a few weeks ago, but winds of change prevented that moment. My father entered his last days of life in the very moments that we were to embark on our journey with these friends, and we had to say no that day. But, you see, enduring the wind makes for a great story.

Sometimes, I might suggest, encountering that very wind makes the story possible to begin with.

Those friends went on to plan this most recent adventure, and they brought two new friends with them. Had it not been for one of life’s windier and most uncomfortable moments, we would not have found ourselves together this past week, nor would I likely have been inspired by the outcome.

As we all drove home together, life’s winds continued to blow, this time in the form of car trouble. It blessed us yet again with the reminder of how other people will go out of their way to help when you need it the most and expect it the least.

Which brings me back to the inspiration from “Saving Mr. Banks”. Long ago I used to dream that life could be simpler, and wished that my days could be more like the 1950’s, when it seemed that life had fewer distractions, fewer interruptions, and maybe fewer hardships. But, as I often learn later in life, I was wrong to feel that way.

Mr. Walt Disney himself even had hardships back in the 1950’s. The demands and fast pace of today have only replaced the equally demanding world of yesterday, and there are things we have learned and overcome today that could not be said of a prior “simpler time”.

Winds in the east, mist coming in.
Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin.
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store,
But I fear what’s to happen all happened before.

Indeed. Let those winds blow. Life’s outcomes lie ahead, and I’m sure some great stories are right there with them.

*lyrics from Disney’s Mary Poppins

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Plumb: a lead weight attached to a line and used to indicate a vertical direction.

out of plumb or off plumb:  out of vertical or true.

So defined is the term by Merriam-Webster online.

As one who has done a little wallpapering in my day, I’ve learned the value, sometimes the hard way, of being out of plumb.

Is it straight?   Is it true?    Does it stand tall?   Does it risk falling over?   Or, much less risky but much more visible, will the condition call attention to itself for years to come?

My first experience was as a teenager helping my mother re-paper our dining room in Shreveport, Louisiana.   Having never done the job before, we just jumped in.  While the work was done quickly and the wall surfaces felt nice and smooth, it was soon evident when standing back a few feet that the vertical stripe pattern had a distinct tilt to it, even though it looked like we were putting it up straight.   Fortunately, the china cabinet just happened to fit nicely in a place that would hide our error, and on we went.   Undoubtedly, it was noticed by others in the years that followed.plumb

The building I office in at my employer is vintage 1950’s, and is the product of a noted west coast architect from that era.   It recently underwent a major gutting and renovation, and only at that time did we discover one of the most visible outer walls, leading from the ground up to a 7 foot window ledge and bounded by ground to ceiling windows on each side, is far from plumb.   The error was hidden in the past by a particular sub-wall and door facing, but cannot be hidden any longer. The tilt is now prominent for all to see, and makes for an interesting story.   And yet, it is still a great building, with wonderful history and an impactful legacy.   So, being “out of plumb” is not always equivalent to fatal failure, even if less than desirable.   Sometimes great character comes from such flaws.

I recently attended a concert event with some friends.   One of the opening acts was a singer who calls herself “Plumb”.   Her most current hit song seems to hit the nail right on the head, or maybe more appropriately to be straight and true.   Consider the lyrics for yourself and see if you agree:

Well, everybody’s got a story to tell

And everybody’s got a wound to be healed

I want to believe there’s beauty here

‘Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on

I can’t let go, I can’t move on

I want to believe there’s meaning here

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to

Just keep breathing?

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

Standing on a road I didn’t plan

Wondering how I got to where I am

I’m trying to hear that still small voice

I’m trying to hear above the noise

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to

Just keep breathing?

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

Though I walk,

Though I walk through the shadows

And I, I am so afraid

Please stay, please stay right beside me

With every single step I take

How many times have you heard me cry out?

And how many times have you given me strength?

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to

Just keep breathing?

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

I need you now

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

I need you now

I need you now

I’ve reached a place in life where many roads are converging.  Some call it the sandwich generation.   Our parents have aged.   Our kids somehow suddenly reached a point that their actions are more impactful.   I look in the morning mirror, and am starkely reminder that both statements are true of myself, as well.

Some call it mid life, and refer to it as a time of crisis.   I believe all of life presents moments of challenge and crisis, but may I suggest our response and reaction is every bit as important, even more so, as finding out we may have been “out of plumb” to begin with.   Maybe it is in mid-life that we are better equipped to reflect and respond to the inherent flaws in our prior efforts.

There’s another word called grace, and even another called forgiveness.   They remain with us, even if the evidence of a tilt remains.

Nothing says it better than Hebrews 14: 12-16:

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.  

 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.



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“There are two sorts of traveler.  The first sets off in the general direction of the destination and is quite happy to figure things out on the way, to read the signposts, ask directions, and muddle through.   The second wants to know in advance what the road will be like, where it changes from a country road to a busy multilane highway, how long it will take to complete the different sections, and so on.”  N.T. Wright – Simply Christian

All roads lead to Portland, or so it seems.   Likewise, all roads must lead from Portland, for you can’t get much farther from here when you are there.   I hope that makes some sense, or at least will when I’m done.

Portland was established in the mid 1800’s near the end of the Oregon Trail.   It was named, by definition I assume, as “the land of ports”, a place where rivers come together, and where ships (and people) come and go, delivering their cargos, their freight, and their baggage.   They might ultimately leave Portland feeling lighter, or perhaps they take more with them as they go.

I had long heard of Portland but never visited there until about 15 years ago.   Then, for the better part of 10 years, it almost felt like a second home.   After that, it was time to leave.   More on that later.

This Christmas holiday, I’ve been blessed to have time to do more than just a little bit of reading.   Courtesy of an Amazon gift card, my interests and inquiries led me to two books: “Wild”, and “Packing Light”.   Neither was quite what I expected, both in what was similar about the books and the authors, and in what was different.

Each book is a story about a young lady 26 years of age searching for something more in life, and choosing to take a daring journey to help them find it.   The first was from Minnesota, and ended up in Portland.   The second was from Portland, but ended up in Minnesota.   Ironic?   I think not.   Each tells a story about our journeys, what we take with us, what we leave behind, and what we pick up along the way.   Each talks of friendship, and the role others play in our lives.   Each tells a story of faith, the lack thereof, or where we place it.

Back to Portland for a moment.   Portland (and the surrounding areas) is the home of many good friends, and of Powell’s books, Columbia Sportswear, and organic food.   Each of those people, places, or things has been a big part of my life, my thoughts, my hobbies, and resulting actions and attitudes these past few years.    And, Cascade College.   Portland is the forever home of the former Cascade College, and I have a baton, and a large framed picture of Mount Hood at sunset to prove it.   Each tells a story about our journeys, what we take with us, what we leave behind, and what we pick up along the way.   Each talks of friendship, and the role others play in our lives.   Each tells a story of faith, the lack thereof, or where we place it.

Wild – From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is the story of Cheryl Strayed,  a young lady who lost her mother, made mistakes amidst her grief, and set out to find herself.   She had no experience as a long distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “…an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise”.   The book was a real page turner, a fact that was emphasized all the more by my accidental choice of the large-print-edition when I ordered my copy.   And yet, when I finished this read, there were but a mere one or two “dog eared” pages, a symbol marking when I was particularly moved by words and phrases I wanted to remember or repeat.    This book has its shocking moments, and is not for everyone, so caveat emptor.  What I came away feeling was joy for Cheryl at her completed journey, and the life she has made in the twenty years since.   I came away with an appreciation for the Pacific Crest Trail, and as a Christian man named Albert, her pack-lightening trail mentor said about his time on the PCT “…now there’s something I’d like to do before I go to meet the Lord”.   OK, for me, it may mean a slightly smaller pack.   And, I may not take the full 1,500+ mile excursion that the book describes, but I  also don’t plan to set out alone, as did Cheryl.   I look forward to hopefully being on the trail with a friend or two, and to walking the miles together with my God.

Packing Light – thoughts on living life with less baggage is the story of Allison Vesterfelt, a young lady who had a neatly orchestrated life, but knew she was missing something.    She had no experience as a long distance traveler, but chose to leave almost everything behind to see the country and find what she was missing.   She left almost everything behind, except a big suitcase, a back seat full of “treasured belongings”, a good friend to accompany her on the journey, and her faith in God.   At the end of this read, I found just the opposite of my “Wild” experience completed just a day or two prior.  I have “dog eared” no less than 30 thoughts and quotes from Ally’s book.   Suffice to say, I’m not packing light when it comes to what I want to take away from this read in the form of thoughts, quotes, and remembrances.    And yet, I’m no more impacted than by what Cheryl had to say about things that cross our path.

Each tells a story about our journeys, what we take with us, what we leave behind, and what we pick up along the way.   Each talks of friendship, and the role others play in our lives.   Each tells a story of faith, the lack thereof, or where we place it.

Back to Portland for a moment.   “The land of ports” is a symbolic place for each of us.   We drop our heavy loads.   We take a rest.   We enjoy the beauty of the creation around us.   We celebrate our achievements, and grieve our losses.   We re-stock our packs.   We cull our baggage.   And, ultimately, we pick up our next load, our next set of objectives, our next destination, and we start the journey anew.

As I set out with my friends and my beloved Little Frau toward 2014, many things dot the horizon.   A wedding (lightening one pack, and adding weight to another), new objectives for my company and career (shedding excess weight where I can, and acquiring lighter, more nimble tools), and of course being prepared for the occasional rattlesnake or moose that appears on the path before me. (something Cheryl and I almost have in common).

I look forward to walking with my God each step along the path.

Who knows what lies before us?   I said ‘no’ to a wilderness  trek experience with a good friend almost 25 years ago, but stand eager and ready today with plans we are making to live that moment, now with a few of our almost grown children (the more adventurous, not-yet-married ones).   I’ve even got the overloaded (but ever shrinking) pack to prove it.

…you can’t get much farther from here when you are there.   I hope that makes some sense, or at least will when I’m done.

2013-12-27 10.50.20

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The road trip has been on the calendar for a long time. Father and son, roughing it, swapping stories, sleeping out by the light…of the monitors?

Not exactly.

Those words do well to characterize the week. Birthday parties, movies, meetings at the office, and Memorial Day adventures were all planned.

What has all happened was largely unplanned.

Hospitalizations. Near miss tornados. Large scale tragedy unfolding before us. An early morning cutting down trees. And, of course, the road trip.
#1 son and I caught the climbing bug last summer. It has been one of the larger surprises of my middle aged era. I actually enjoyed strapping on some weight, and carrying the load up and down, over long distances, sometimes in pain, while at other moments in awe. You see, I had to endure it all to reach the summit and to enjoy it in all its glory.
The thought that I was all alone
Broken and afraid
But You were there with me
Yes You were there with me

Well and I didn’t even know
That I had lost my way
But You were there with me
Yes You were there with me

Until You opened up my eyes
I never knew
That I couldn’t ever make it without You

It has been a hard week. Long before the wind ever began to blow, time, priorities, and commitments had required that #1 son and I postpone our long anticipated sojourn to the mountain.

And yet, here we are tonight, outside our element, father and son: all three of us.

Yes, #1 son and I got in the car after all, not as planned, but as unplanned. The journey west took us south. And now, not by the light of the moon, but the monitors, father, and son, and his son, are here together in a hospital room. If all goes as planned, we will lift our packs at the break of dawn and hike our way out of here. That’s the plan. Sometimes, plans change, and we have to learn to be OK with that.

And even though the journey’s long
And I know the road is hard
Well, the one who’s gone before me
He will help me carry on
Other people’s plans changed this week, as well. People like Jennifer, a true hero, whose day on Monday probably went nothing like she had ever planned. You can read her story here.

And after all that I’ve been through
Now I realize the truth
That I must go through the valley
To stand upon the mountain of God

And as I travel on the road
That You have lead me down
You are here with me

Yes, YAHWEH is here with me.

HE is with you too, and Jennifer, and all the rest of us…

The roadtrip continues, and it is a good one. The ultimate Summit is up ahead, if we just keep climbing.

*The Mountain of God lyrics by Third Day

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Sometimes when you dream…
Your dreams come true.
In extraordinary ways…
Suddenly, a day can be so amazing…
And sometimes when you yearn, you burn the air.
And then you are not the same.
And the world is-

Oh. I apologize. Perhaps I should say “good morning”. Now, where was I? Oh, yes.

Once upon a time, I met a little woman. Sometimes, she is known in the space here as “The Little Frau”. And the rest is history. History, in the making, that is. You see, life comes at you fast. So fast, sometimes, that you don’t see what is coming next. Sometimes that can be bad, but more often than not, it is good. Very good.

Having number one son surprise you by signing up to be in a musical is just one such surprise. And, may I say, the performance was amazing. The beginning and ending lyric vault moments of this nostalgic post today are courtesy of “Little Women”, the Musical. A team of kids performed it wonderfully at his school the past two nights.

As I look around this morning, the women, and the men, in my life are not so little anymore. Sometimes they seem to me larger than life.

As a small child, I used to lie in bed at night and wonder what adulthood would be like. I hoped it would be good. I had no idea it would be like this. I think I like it, warts and all. That is an understatement.

It was not so very long ago that I sat around another’s breakfast table, a strange man in a strange house, learning of other’s ways that had not been my very own. This morning, the tables were turned, as one shared his breakfast within the routines that have become ours. Truthfully, it doesn’t seem all that strange from where I sit today.

In days gone by, I’ve visited with others about their kids, and others about their new grand kids, and the miraculous stories between them all. Amazing is an understatement, especially when we compare reality to those “sometimes when you dream” days gone by.



Lest I neglect the obvious, life is no cakewalk. But life can be very good. I think that is how God intended it. The challenge for us is to find the good, or even better, to help create it.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:19-21)

She asks how I am,
And so, how am I?
My days are the usual day.
I wake up, I go out,
Time goes by.
My days are exactly the days
I have lived since arriving here.
In fact, how I am is amazed how
This comforts me year by year.
I work and I eat.
Life is muffins and jam.
The house is nice and quiet now.
That is how I am.
. Thank you, Professor Bhaer for helping open my eyes to it all.

But, even as I write this now, the natives are awaking. The house will not be so quiet soon. The dream lives on.

Sometimes when you dream…
Your dreams come true.
In extraordinary ways…
Suddenly, a day can be so amazing…
And sometimes when you yearn, you burn the air.
And then you are not the same.
And the world is-
….Amazing. Christopher Columbus, indeed.


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A long time ago, I travelled to a galaxy far, far away. The me that left never returned, and, today, that galaxy no longer exists…in a manner of speaking.

Time passes. People change. Places morph. Along the way, we sometimes seem to lose a bit of ourselves in the process. Later on, perhaps, we find bits and pieces, only to discover that they were never really gone, but only buried in the strata our lives create. Uncovering, and rediscovering, can be an awesome thing. So can truly finding.

I spent the weekend taking part in MOAG, the mother of all garage sales. You see, my parentals are moving, and they don’t want (or need) to take 18+ years worth of life’s strata with them. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not a huge fan of strata, but I digress.

Back to my story. I returned from a mission trip to the galaxy of West Germany back in Nineteen Noneofyourbusiness a changed man. And I brought a mug back for the parentals. I have a habit of bringing mugs, and hats, back from other galaxies. I deposit them in the strata. There, they serve to remind me, if I can find them, of the stories and the lessons of years gone by.

That is what happened here. As I would visit my parent’s abode from time to time, I would look for and admire the mug. It reminded me of places, and people, who helped change my life. And then, one trip, the mug was gone. I never asked about it, I just assumed it had been broken, or lost somehow. I even attempted to replace it on a subsequent trip to the subsequently reunified galaxy of Germany, in the region of the former West. It was not to be. No replacement could be found.

Back to MOAG. After days of sorting, culling, and moving, and after hundreds of visitors and thousands of $1 bills had passed through my parentals’ driveway, MOAG came to an official end. We boxed up the remaining strata, and piled it at the end of the drive for an unceremonious giveaway. That is where I saw it, in striking blue and white contrast, from the corner of my eye and in the corner of a box. It was the West German mug. It had been there all along, but was lost in the shuffle, and the strata, of life.

It reminded me of another “lost and found” story:

Luke 15:7-9

In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’

Later on last weekend, a friend told me a story of another friend who led one lost sinner to God, and the weekend was just that more rewarding in the process. I may not be a big fan of strata, but I love the stories it helps us recall. Who knows: maybe I am a fan, after all.


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