Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tossing Gold

Near Cripple Creek, CO gold and tellurium occur mixed as tellurite ore. The refining methods in early mining camps could not separate the two elements and so the ore was tossed into piles with the rest of the garbage. A rookie miner grabbed some of this tossed ore thinking it was coal into his stove to keep him warm in the mountains. It didn’t work well but it was cheap so he went through a lot of it mixed with coal dust and other garbage he could scrounge. Jumping ahead of me you probably know what happened. Eventually he had to get the ashes from his stove and in the bottom he found purified gold sitting in little beads mixed in his ashes. He became a very wealthy rookie miner.

On April 21, 2006 the news told us that a man was caught trying to sell his daughter. She was five years old and from a previous marriage where her mother didn’t want her so left her with her father. The father took her and a few years later tried to sell her for $7000. When the father was asked what he was thinking he simply stated that he needed the money for “home improvements.”

Children are tellurite ore. They are more precious than you can imagine yet often end up on the garbage heap for various reasons. Sometimes we simply are too lazy to work at separating the gold from the tellurium. Sometimes we just don’t see the gold at all and sell them for whatever we can get for them. Sometimes we fear discipline and putting our ore through the fire to smelt out the garbage and form something golden pure.

I don’t know what that father was thinking but he needs a smack on the side of the head if not more just to get his mind straight. When you look at your children and/or the children of others look at them a gold waiting to be found and burst into the open. Treat them that preciously and we will have a much richer society as a result.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Using your Muscles

We all know how important it is to use your muscles. Use them or lose them; no pain, no gain; just do it; is it in you; and all those other strong phrases. I can remember taking the cast off my leg for the first time in 4 months after my knee surgery. I had strong legs and my legs were my best asset playing basketball. I had a 42-inch vertical jump as a sophomore in High School. I could stuff a basketball backwards and forwards and my legs put me ahead of my competitors. I landed wrong once … tore my knee into pieces and my basketball career along with it. The doctor cut the cast with one of those cool saws they use and removed the plaster and unwrapped my leg. I looked at my leg and promptly fainted. From the top my leg looked only an inch and a half wide and when I looked from the side I could see all my muscles hanging and waving in the breeze. Four months of total inaction had turned my best asset into a Jello-like mass of flesh.

There is a series of muscles on your face that when you exercise you do more than build there strength … you can lighten up a room and people’s hearts. The strength of these muscles combined can heal, protect and change the course of history. These muscles, when combined in a certain way, form a smile on your face. These muscles must be exercised in both your mouth and your eyes.

I worked third shift when my wife and I were first married. Our oldest son was a baby being fed breakfast in his highchair when I would come home from an exhausting day at work. I would wearily open the front door after 8-10 hours and be greeted by my son exercising those muscles, as he would turn to see me coming in the door. In the shadow of that bright smile everything else melted away: my exhaustion, my complaints, my bills, my weariness. All these were gone with a returned smile.

How’s your exercise going? Are your smiling muscles flabby or buff? Take time for a little exercise to brighten up the day of all those around you. I think you will find your day gets brighter as well.

The Godfather

Many of you who know me know that I am unnaturally drawn to a mafia lifestyle. I love the Godfather movies, Goodfella’s and even The Soprano’s (first two seasons anyway, the next seasons got a little redundant). Maybe that was one of the draws for me moving to Las Vegas …

The whole concept of a “Godfather” is fascinating. Coming out of Roman Catholic tradition the Godfather is more than just a guy who witnesses a baptism for the father and mother. The Godfather is a man who takes responsibility for the religious upbringing of the child. In some places it even means financial and social responsibilities for the child. The Godfather sponsors the baptism, the first communion and even the marriage of the child. The original intent was for the Godfather to take responsibility for the faith of the child.

Getting the parents help with the religious upbringing of children is a great idea. Churches today have lost that concept, the sense that we are responsible for the children within our church. Now don’t get me wrong … I am not a socialist … I believe that the reason the government has had to take over the support of children, widows, and poor is because the church has been sleeping on the job. Support for the hungry and hurting is the responsibility of the church family NOT the government.

Now Coppola and Puzo distorted the whole Godfather principal with their movies by making it power related and extremely dichotic. They made it a play on the conflict between good and bad within all of us. But the Godfather and Godmother ideal is a great one … and one that all our churches and other families need to adopt.

After all “A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man.” (Vito Corleone in the Godfather, Part 1)


There … did I get your attention? Why does that little three letter word fill our minds with all sorts of good and bad images? Sex.

What is it? Now wait … I am not talking about the act itself, I’m talking about your characterization of it. Is sex a privilege? Is sex a right for all humans? Is sex simply a biological act? Is sex surface, feel good activity? Is sex a deep, heart felt action? What is sex?

As I write this Canada has just approved the first license for a gay couple to get married. Is this simply an effort to legitimize sex? Is this a long overdue step into the 21st Century?

I am asked, as a Pastor, to do “commitment” ceremonies between gay and lesbian couples as well as heterosexual couples wishing to do without the legal document for one reason or another.

Sex ruins lives and fulfills them. Sex consummates peasants and brings down presidents. Sex drives the pharmaceutical industry and the advertising industry. Sex sells cars, bars and jars of lotions. Sex.

There are only two ways to look at sex. The first way is through biological eyes. These eyes see sex as simply an act for pleasure between two consenting adults. It gives you pleasure and when no one is hurt then it must be good. Therefore there is no difference between homo’ and hetero’ sex. There is no difference between married and single. The second way to look at sex is through biblical eyes. These eyes see sex NOT as something evil, but as something amazing, beautiful and special. Something that is so special and powerful that it can ONLY be contained in a committed marriage relationship. That is the only structure that can control the power of sex. In fact, the Bible calls that flesh-bond (sex) stronger than any family bond you may have. So the person(s) you have had sex with are now closer than your parents and siblings. A VERY strong bond!

So how would you characterize sex: biologically or biblically? These are really the only two ways. All of your actions are determined by these views. What you watch on TV, what you do in private, where you go, who you see, what you sacrifice; all are determined by your view of sex.


I walked out onto my patio last night and flipped the outside light on. Scampering across the concrete, almost too fast to see, were a plethora of cockroaches. Some large, some small, some black, some yellow, some brownish-red, some winged, some even looked like they were smiling at me. They streaked across the floor faster than Neo dodging bullets, and hid again in the dark recesses of the flower bed and cracks in the concrete.

I am often asked why God created cockroaches. And if they were before the Fall or if they were a result of sin and disobedience. Like God said to Adam, “By the sweat of your brow you will tend your crops and you will be plagued by big, ugly, disgusting, multi-legged, smiling creatures.” The fact is … I don’t know. While now they are an ugly nuisance they might have been created to be cute little creatures.

What I find interesting is the fact that people “believe” there must be a purpose to cockroaches. There must be a reason for them to exist. There must be a purpose for why we have mosquitoes, duckbilled platypuses, ostriches, and cockroaches. Why is that interesting? It is interesting because our world claims that all of this came by chance and by millions of accidents billions of years ago. We claim there is no purpose, no intelligence, simply survival and mutation. It is interesting because we claim no God then believe in purpose and design.

So is there a reason for cockroaches? Maybe. Is there a reason for the universe and all that happens therein? Absolutely! Do we completely understand that reasoning? Partially, but not completely.

So next time I walk out onto my patio in see the scampering bugs, I will pause … contemplate our place in the universe and the intelligence in the design … then squash them for the nasty nuisance they are.

Mundane Miracles

Every now and again I am struck by the miracles of life. Many of these miracles you will find in the mundane things. I’ve opined about my fingernails and navel fuzz in the past. One thing that has been on my mind lately is a chair. Chairs. I think we take chairs for granted. Chairs are everywhere and we don’t even notice them until we cannot find them.

The DMV is notoriously short on chairs, so is the doctor’s office and just about any party you’ve ever been to. I am sitting on a chair right now. It is a Herman Miller high back office chair on wheels. I’ve tried other chairs but they don’t seem to “fit” me the way this one does. You sit in 4 – 5 different chairs every day. From your bedroom dressing chair, to your kitchen chair, to your vehicle, to you office chair, break room chair, to your home easy chair. There are thousands of different kinds, shapes and colors of chairs.

I thought I would look up the history of the chair so I went to our modern “know-it-all” the Internet. I could not find a thing about the history of the chair. Every search I tried came up with the “chair” of some college department. So here’s how I think the history of the chair came about.

Adam and Eve were wandering around the garden and life was good. They never got tired of walking and standing because well … they never got tired. Then they disobeyed God and started to get tired. Adam now toiled over the weed infested garden and got tired. A tree fell close to his garden and he laid his newly fashioned hoe up against it and sat down. “Hey!” and an idea was born. His thoughts were interrupted by Eve in yelling about her sore back from her pregnancy. Adam came running. “If I just could quit standing for a while. This baby is killing me!” Adam found two trees down in the perfect position and Eve could recline in comfort. “How’d you find this?” she asked. “I was tired so I just sat down and viola!” Eve replied, “You are such a lazy boy!” and the rest is history.

I thank God for chairs. I thank God for human creativity and ingenuity. Next time you sit down to relax have a little prayer in that sigh of relief.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

My Battle with Ockham

While digging a trench next to my house I found it filling up with water. While I knew there were water pipes close by I could not imagine that I ruptured them with how carefully I dug the trench. Yet the trench was filling with water. So I dug some more to find the close by water pipes and found they were not ruptured. The next possibility was the pipes I was laying were bringing water from some other leak somewhere, but the pipe was dry.

Now what?

After a few days of being stymied I noticed a tree on the opposite side of my house which had a divot around it full of water even though the rest of the trees were dry. The water main from the road to my house was under that tree. I dug it up and found a leak in the main. This leak had been soaking my yard, finding its way to the other side of my house to fill the trench I had dug. Fixing the main leak fixed my trench problem 50 foot away.

In 1300’s William of Ockham proposed his famous “razor” stating that the simplest plausible explanation for a problem is the best. Not in my case, in fact I find more often than not the complicated solution is more likely true. I would like to propose the Wunderink Razor which simply states: “It’s never easy.” Or as Rosanna Rosanna Danna would always say, “it’s always something.’” My wife might ask me to do a “easy” job around the house. But that easy job takes five trips to the local Home Depot, two new tools, and countless band-aids. It’s never easy.

I find the same with people. When someone is angry at me it usually isn’t the easy answer that is the best. If there is a simple, easy reason like spilled milk on the table where mom gets angry, chances are it isn’t the spilled milk. The mom was ignored by the dad in the morning, the baby has a slight temperature, the car needs to go in the shop, the working at home is slow getting started, the kids are loud and fighting, the in-laws are coming soon with their demands, and THEN the milk is spilled. It’s never easy.

Maybe in the 1300’s in Ockham’s world the easiest answer was the best but today … I think Wunderink’s Razor works better. It’s never easy.

The Story of a Person

This is the story of a person. A person who got up before 5 am every morning to do something this person didn’t want to do. A person who smiles and laughs when the other isn’t funny or even pleasant to be around. A person who never got paid in full for the work they did. A person who is required to push pleasure into the background and keep pain up front. A person who goes where they don’t want to go, sees things they don’t want to see and does what they don’t want to do. A person who, when tired, angry, weary, annoyed, not understanding, seeing no benefit, getting nothing out of it, would rather be home sleeping, still does the thing.

Do you know the person? Have you seen this person? No? This is the person we should all strive to be. It is the person we admire the most but are usually the least like. It is the person we are “sometimes” and that gives us a little peace with the fact that we are not at all times. We admire this person but complain when we must be like them.

I witnessed the retirement of a man who was a person like this. This man worked for 54 years for one company. That is not that unusual but what is unusual is the fact that in the 54 years he didn’t have one sick day. In those 54 years he put all seven of his children through college. Four of them were daughters that he paid for their marriage. Six of them used him as a bank to finance their first homes. In those 54 years he stayed married to the same women for 52 and buried her next to an open spot for him someday. This person did all of this and more with the wage of a janitor who, when retired, made the largest salary of his life: an astounding $22,000 a year! Amazing and almost unbelievable.

We admire this person and many others like him. The grandmother who, instead of retiring, takes the role of raising her grandchildren when the parent can’t or won’t. The mom who works two full time jobs to provide for a fatherless home. The athletes who give up adolescence for the love of competition. We admire them but we just don’t want to be them. We appreciate them but we don’t want to do what they do.

This is the story of a person that I have trouble finding and don’t see as often as I should. I miss them.

Easy Money

I got three more in the mail today! Boy! If I would just cash these things in I would be a millionaire! I’m sure you get them too. Those official looking window envelopes with “Pay to the Order of …” in the window that compels you to open. Simply sign the back and deposit for easy money to use on anything you wish. It’s tax deductible since it is attached to your home as another low-interest mortgage. I am sure you, like me, run right to the bank when we get them.

Also in my mail is a few blank checks attached to my credit card statement. Already having my name on them all I have to do is write whatever I want in “Pay to the Order of …” blank and send it off, or cash it. Nice.

I remember a time when I couldn’t get credit even if it was already biting my backside. Try to get a rental car without a credit card, or reserve a hotel. Now I could get 3-4 cards a week plus add a 2nd, 3rd, 4th and even a 5th mortgage onto my home. Easy money!

It used to be the junk mail was full of “You may have already won …!” or “Call now for one of five prizes you’ve already won!” My wife and I got a nice set of luggage from one of those once. (Hint: take young kids along with you, let them run wild and your time will be cut REAL short.) Now our junk mail is full of blank checks promising easy money and low interest.

I don’t know if it is because my wife and I are “approaching” middle age and a relatively stable income or whether scams have just changed their tack. And now you HAVE to shred all these blank checks to make sure that no one else takes advantage of these “great” offers. Easy money.

As I have now passed through that time of high interest debt that it seems we all have to experience at least once, I realize that easy money really isn’t that easy. There is no replacement for hard money. Money that it took time and energy to accumulate. Money that is a result of schooling, expertise, and a dedicated amount of time. Easy money breeds accounting incompetence.

My best investment advice is this … buy a paper shredder. You’ll be amazed at the dividends.


An amazing liquid is blood. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients like a grey hound bus to your body, deposits it and heads back to the heart loaded with so much garbage to be filtered and sent packing. Blood gathers together to form a wall preventing itself from draining out of your body and begins the healing process.

Blood is a name for family. Blood is a vital part of many religious services. Blood is evidence. But blood also carries alcohol and drugs. Blood gets thinned, gets tainted, and gets deadly with diseases and viruses.

An amazing liquid is blood. There are doctors who specialize in it. Specialists who doctor in it, nurses who draw it, drawers full of it and horror stories flooded with it.

Leeches were once on the cusp of modern medicine because they drew blood, all of us would be in line for a good bleeding once a year or so to keep us healthy. Someday soon “opening up” a person for surgery will be primitive and donating blood will be leech-like.

Fearfully and wonderfully put together is blood. But also is an amazing thing that blood feeds our brains so we can think up these modern ways of using (or not using) blood to heal and protect.

Next time you give blood, next time you bleed think of how amazing that liquid is. Think of how wonderfully put together we are and finally say a little prayer of thanks for the creative ability injected into us by our maker.

Let’s Talk Sex

For almost 40 years now the sexual revolution has had it’s impact on America. In the 60’s an advisory group including clergy would preview every new Hollywood movie to see if it was appropriate. This was even before it was given a rating (G, PG, or R. PG13 and X didn’t exist yet). Television was closely monitored and protected. Now … well, you know what has happened as much as I do. Protection of children from explicit material WAS in the hands of government and media but now it is in the hands of parents and teachers. We have heard the mantra repeated over and over again in various forms that tell us: “The more information our kids have the better decision they can make about their own sexuality.”

To that, I politely say, “hogwash!” I believe the last forty years have taught us that what kids need is LESS information about sex. MORE information has brought us a nation of oversexed kids. MORE information has brought us a nation where kids don’t even know that they DON’T have to have sex. Most think that right now it is a requirement of high school graduation, and certainly a requirement of entrance into college. You don’t believe me? Look at every survey of teen sexuality and you will find that kids are having sex at a younger age and with more and more partners – both male and female. Teens will look at you with blank eyes when you ask them why they are having sex with a person they really don’t even know – it is like asking them why they breath air. MORE information on sex has given our kids an extremely educated confusion.

I am tired of it. I am tired of seeing sex on almost every TV show. I am tired of seeing it in magazines and movies and music videos. I am tired of it. I am becoming more and more convinced that the problem is too much information. I long for the days when teens were embarrassed about sex, when teen pregnancy was a stigma and feared. I know … I know … you can always turn off the TV, turn off the radio, and even quit going to places that promote it. But I am afraid we cannot close Pandora’s Box again. It took one generation to get into sex – it will take many generations to make it proper again. But it is time to start.

Taking a Walk

Sometimes I am absentminded. I will forget things. I am coming to believe that I have a limited amount of hard drive in my mind and things need to be downloaded for anything new to be stored. So I left my key in my truck and locked the door. Frankie and my kids were all unavailable for picking up my key from home so I thought it was a nice day for a walk.

My office is only three miles from my home but I drive everyday, sometimes 2-3 times in a day back and forth, but I have never walked it. In my truck the world passes by more like television then like reality. The windows provide a view of the world where I can be there, but unattached, unengaged and distracted with my own thoughts.

At first all I noticed was the cars whipping by too close for comfort. I noticed the garbage piled up on the fences, broken bottles and plastic remainders of a long ago accident. After another half mile I noticed the smells. I smelled trees and shrubs along the way, smelled the wet sand and pavement and many more things. Pine trees trimmed to allow someone shorter than six feet to pass uninterrupted shaded the sidewalk but I am one inch taller than that and so the needles brushed my hair back as I passed underneath. Wayne Newton’s ranch is on the way and I had the opportunity to stop and watch his horses and spindly-legged colts romp around in the sprinklers watering their dinner.

I walked through my own neighborhood enjoying the homes and smell of freshly mowed lawns. Neighbors said, “How’s it goin’” as I passed, we talked briefly. In my neighborhood park, kids were playing basketball and practicing soccer or just sitting in the grass enjoying the sunshine. It was a beautiful day … and I was in it. Let me say that again. It was a beautiful day and I was IN it. I wasn’t driving by watching it from my windshield … I was IN it.

Maybe being a little absent minded wasn’t too bad after all. Quit driving by your community and neighbors, get IN your community. Smell the smells, see the sights and walk the roads. That is one big step in turning a house into a home and turning a bunch of houses into a neighborhood.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Sliver

We have all had them. Slivers. I have huge “farmer” hands as opposed to thin-fingered “artists” hands so I have a hard time finding gloves to fit. The largest gloves out there I can, after a few hours, get onto my hands but don’t allow me to move my fingers. So usually I work bare-handed when I work outside in the yard or on a construction project. So I get a lot of slivers, A LOT of slivers.

I have taken to naming my slivers. First you have the 2x4. That is the sliver that is the size of a 2x4, hurts a lot and bleeds a lot but is easy to remove. Then you have the dagger. The dagger is the kind of sliver that just kind of slips in at an angle into your skin and breaks off. It is shaped like a dagger, usually not too deep, not too painful, just annoying and normally you can remove it by pincer-ing your fingernails. Next is the mole. The mole is that sliver that is small and gets under you skin, it is an annoying, nagging pain. You cannot get this mole without the use of a pin and tweezers. Lastly you have the bullet sliver. This sliver goes straight down into you skin and no matter how much digging with a pin or a tweezers you do; you cannot find it or dislodge it. It is there to stay.

My last sliver was a bullet. It was buried into a part of my hand that I used frequently so every time it held something the bullet sent a shock through my hand reminding me it was still there. I dug and dug trying to get it out, even thinking I had it a few times, but to no avail. Nothing short of going to an emergency room would have gotten it out of my hand. So I decided to do the only thing I could do … I ignored it.

I ignored it and it healed over, with the sliver inside. Eventually I forgot it as the reminders got less and less intense. A month later I looked at my hand and found a little black spot surrounded by white, pimple-like puss. With a little pinch and a wipe I had that long forgotten bullet sliver on the end of my finger. I looked at it remembering all the pain it caused me and all the time I spent digging at it. Then I threw it away.

Now the lesson I learned from this was NOT “if you ignore a problem it will go away.” The lesson I learned was about how amazing our bodies are. I spent all that time and energy and, if I would have gone to the emergency room, all that money to do what my body and a little time took care of on its own. We are really “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Red Paint

It was a cool, fall, Saturday morning in Michigan. A few friends from work and I were crawling through the woods hunting strangers dressed in camouflage jackets, hats, pants and even face paint. In the large course I spent the first fifteen minutes wandering by myself. I was about to give up finding anything that moved so I started shooting trees and remarking on the pretty yellow splatter on the white birch. While I was examining the yellow I was suddenly felt a jolt in my shoulder and wetness splatter my ear and jaw. I looked and I was hit … red paint covered my left side and stuck like goop in my hair. A big smile crossed a camouflaged face that I never saw before that moment. I slowly walked to the corral for dead people to wait out the rest of the game. I joined my friends, all of us nice, clean cut, intelligent businessmen now splattered with red paint and sad faces. “I never even got a shot off,” one said. I answered: “I killed a birch tree.”

In the next game we hung together and decided that our friendship would protect us from the red splatter. We crawled through the underbrush, grubbing up our elbows and knees with dirt. We scanned the trees and woods for the enemy. We saw some movement and four of us unloaded on the bush where we saw the movement. A little bunny rabbit hopped away with a confused look on its face and little yellow paint spots all over it. We looked at each other and laughed. Then … “BAP … BAP … BAPBAP” all four of us felt the now familiar hit of a paintball on our backs. We turned to see three sets of grinning teeth surrounded by brown and green greasepaint. Another long walk to the dead man corral to sit out the rest of the game.

It seemed like everything we tried only got us killed. Nothing we could do could save us from the inevitable red spatter now completely covering us from head to toe. We tried solo and we tried together. We tried rushing in shooting all the while and we tried stealth. We tried random shooting and we tried shooting at planned targets. We tried everything with only one outcome … death.

The last game of the day was on the “short track.” A small basketball court sized course with hay bales, holes and a flag on a pole in the middle. My friends and I had a lot of ammunition left and we went for it. One by one we fell, as we got closer to the flag. We jumped bales, dodged bullets and got close but with only two of us left the end was coming. Death again to all … but my friend did something unexpected … he jumped in front of me and took all the red paint balls in the chest, head and legs. It gave me enough time to reach and grab the prize. We had WON! His sacrifice enabled me to get the prize! I looked at him with the flag in my hand as he laid on the ground covered with mud, grime and especially redness with his eyes closed and a smile on his red drenched face. He arose and wrapped his arm around me and we walked away in joyful victory.

Have a joyful Easter.

When Now becomes History

As I write this I am watching the 25 foot bronze statue of Sadam Hussein being pulled off his podium, bowing to the Iraqi people and American GI’s, and finally falling to be crushed by the jubilant people. Now has just become history.

I am starting to age myself but there were other items in my lifetime where I witness now becoming history:
- In the 2000’s the 9/11 attack and Afghanistan response
- In the 1990’s computer geeks becoming billionaires only to lose it just as quickly
- In the 1990’s Gulf war Iraqi’s surrendering to the press trying to take pictures of them
- In the 1980’s the Berlin wall falling and the fall of the USSR
- In the 1980’s Reagan being shot
- In the 1970’s the Watergate scandal
- In the 1970’s the Vietnam war ending
- In the 1960’s the assassinations of John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King
- In the 1960’s the Antiwar protests, the Discrimination protests, the Gender Protests
- In the 1960’s the first walk on the moon

And much more that my grandchildren will be reading about and having tests on in History class. When now becomes history.

My wife signifies events in her life with rocks. We have rocks from the Dominican Republic and Jamaica where we did service projects. We have rocks from our previous homes, we have rocks from youth group camping trips and retreats, and we have rocks with people’s names written on them from other events. Others use pictures … my wife uses rocks. In Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions rocks of remembrance play a significant role. When the Jews crossed the Jordan River they piled up rocks to remember the event on the shore so that whenever their grandchildren asked why these rocks were there they could share the history. The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is of religious importance to Muslims all around the world as a place of remembrance.

As we sit back in our comfortable chairs with our remote controls switching the channels on history I wonder if it’s time to set up a rock of remembrance. Let me encourage you right now to sit down with your grandparents, parents, or kids with a photo album and work on the now with your family BEFORE it becomes history.

Where Did all the Time Go?

I remember picking up a relative from the airport. He was an older gentleman who came from the Netherlands to visit his Dutch relatives in the States. As we approached our farmhouse in Indiana he made a remark in Dutch to my father as he pointed to the rows of ripe corn on the fields at the side of the road. My father smiled and replied back to him. Later I found out the man was wondering why we were letting the crops ripen that late in the fields. You see, he came from a time when you went out and harvested with a scythe and piled the shocks together for hand shucking later. A time and manpower intensive process for so much corn, you had to start early and work very late during harvest time. My father smiled as he showed the elderly uncle the “modern” combine which did all that work for us at one hundredth of the time and labor.

Cooking over the fire is replaced by fire stoves, which are replaced by gas, and electric stoves, which are replaced by microwaves, which are now replaced by self-heating meals, replace cooking over the fire. Counting fingers and toes is replaced by an abacus which is replaced by an adding machine which is replaced by a calculator which is replaced by a room computer which is replaced by a desktop computer which is replaced by a portable computer which is replaced by a laptop which is replaced by a palm computer which will be replaced by a watch computer. And so it goes… All of these new inventions save us labor and time.

But where is that extra time? I don’t know about you but I don’t seem to have any more of it available. I’ll tell you where it is … it has been lost in something called the Parkinson’s Principle. The Parkinson’s Principle states, “Any job expands to the time allotted to it.” This Principle is why we always waited to do a month long homework assignment until the night before. The time we save we immediately fill. We save more time and then fill it with something else – it is our nature and it is good and bad. Good because our nature drives us to work and achieve and create. Bad because our nature becomes selfish and money centered with the obvious issues that come from that.

So the question is NOT “Where did all the time go?” but it is: “What did I do with my time?” Take a look at your week and compare the amount of time you spend making money and position to the amount of time you spend making family and friends. Put the Parkinson’s Principle to work for you and expand the amount of time you spend with your loved ones this week.

HE-MAN Charge!

We tried; we honestly tried to keep our kids from guns and weapons when they were small. We didn’t give them the guns and holsters I had growing up, or the army GI Joe’s, etc. But what happened? We would look out the window and see our kids using sticks as guns and swords. A piece of wood became a weapon. Then there is the neighbors kids … who get a new HE-MAN sword for their birthday and the first thing they do with it is run to our house, yell “HE-MAN charge!” and whack my child over the head with it.

For my Master’s thesis, I did a survey where I asked this question:
Do you believe mankind is:
A] born good, is good, and will always be good
B] born good, corrupted by a bad world, needs to work to be good
C] born bad, is bad, needs outside help to be good
D] born bad, is bad, will always be bad

How would you answer that question? If you are like 80% of my 420 people surveyed, both Christian and non-Christian, you will have answered B. And, along with the 80%, you would have been wrong… Ouch, did I really say that out loud? 80% of the people I surveyed were wrong? Wow? That’s kind of gutsy because the answer is C, we NEED help to be good.

We have a nostalgic and naïve way of looking at ourselves. It is as if we look at ourselves in the mirror and squint so that we don’t see all the blemishes and imperfections. The fact is we are bad people; we have been born with a tendency to become even “badder.”

You don’t believe me? Then you must not have raised children. We lovingly gloss over their tendency to throw their food on the ground, to scream while shopping, and around others. Their first word tends to be “NO!” with emphasis. Now I can hear you arguing that their fits are a response to the way we raised them, they hit because we hit, they yell because we yell and so forth. To that I answer that I say “open your eyes!” We have had 30 years of this kind of garbage and yet few people have drawn the connection between this kind of thinking and what happened at Columbine and every high school in America.

Love without discipline leads to license, NOT to more love. Time to pull out the biblical values on raising children and to dust off that old copy of Lord of the Flies by Golding that is no longer even in most High School libraries.

Monday, April 10, 2006

My Father’s Hands

I was ready to indulge in one of my favorite snacks this week: apples and peanut butter; when cutting the apple into wedges I pulled the knife through the meat of the apple and into the meat of my thumb. Before I could even grimace my hand was red and the blood was running down my arm. I had forgotten my snack with thoughts of self-preservation and wrapped a Band-Aid so tight the tip of my thumb turned purple.

As it healed and I was able to assess the damage and realized that I now would have a very distinctive thumbprint with my new hooking scar. I also noticed all the other scars on my hands. I have one on my forefinger’s knuckle that I got while a dockworker when I moved a pallet and found it had raked of a large chunk of my hand while setting it down. This was at the beginning of the whole “blood-bourn pathogen” scare and training in companies. I had a bunch of safety white suits appear and surround me and take me to the company nurse who was also covered completely in white. The white-suited figures then went to attack the drips of blood on the floor and pallet, which attacked me. 10 stitches later I was back at work and the white ghosts went back to their hidden places. I also have a thumb nail that is thick and filled with ridges as I had it tore off a few times and slammed in car door twice. My wedding ring finger has a scar right around my ring from my first wedding ring that was ripped off my finger while working. It was a good thing we could not afford expensive wedding rings when we were first married because I would have lost my finger. Other minor scars and scrapes litter my hands along with assorted freckles, moles and wrinkles. After this self-inspection I was shocked to realize … I have my father’s hands!

I remember looking in awe at my father’s hands. They were strong, tanned and spotted with freckles and patches of black hair. He never had graceful thin fingers but was blessed with thick hands and fingers with which he caused fear in his children from spanking. His hands were scared and shaped by years and years of work, providing for his family as well as caressing his wife (after all, they had 8 kids). I look at my think fingers, hairy knuckles, scars and freckles and think of my father. At the end of my life … what will my hands say about me.

What do your hands say about you? Will your hands be known for their skill in your job? Will your hands be known for the trouble they got into? Will your hands be known for disciplined children and a loving wife? What have you touched today and what kind of impact has your touch left? Take a good look at your own hands.

Electronic Noise

I read an article this week that told me that within 10 years we will no longer have any “land based” phone systems in place. Even computers will be satellite based for email. I am to the point where I am ready to get rid of my house phone and go completely cellular. My wife still needs the phones for her computer and can’t quite break the old reliable phone umbilical. I never answer it. The only people that call on our landline is phone marketers or people looking for my wife – neither of which impels me to answer.

I can remember when the phone at my house in Indiana had a distinctive ring so you could tell if it was for you or your neighbor. Often you would pick up the phone and discover someone a few houses down talking on it. We called it a “party line” not for the fun you could have listening to your neighbor’s conversations but for how many parties or people were on the line. Remember rotary phones? Remember crank phones? Now we only see them in museums and novelty shops but when homes were hooked up with those crank phones there was an outcry because people thought you wouldn’t go out and see your neighbor any more – you would simply call them. The fear of “disconnectedness” with each other filled the land.

We heard the same complaint when Radio and TV became popular. Then later as Color TV and better phones kept people in their homes. Nowadays we hear the Internet and cell phones disconnect people and keep them home.

I find the opposite to be true. Here is my evidence: Salespeople. Door-to-door salesmen and women would hit your house once a year – maybe. Salespeople would get to you only when you shop or when you opened a newspaper or magazine. NOW how often are you accosted by a sale? TV ads appear almost as much as the show does. Pop-up ads appear on your computer every few minutes or every time you sign on. Cell phones with web access send you messages of super discounts. Telemarketers are every other call on your phone at home and even calling cell phones to make a sale. We are becoming more and more connected as a people. A friend of mine plays cards with a person from Greece, Russia and Ohio all at the same time. Chatting with each other as they play.

Life is changing and we are changing with it. I am looking forward to seeing the people I talk to on my cell phone (within 5 years). But there is no substitute for face-to-face time. So when you sit down with your loved ones turn off the cell phones, PDA’s, beepers, laptops, TV’s and even take that old land line phone off the hook for a while. The electronic noise can be deafening and distracting when it is time to reach out and touch someone.

More than Memory

Memory is an amazing and complicated thing. As we look over the possibility of another Space Shuttle tragedy I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up in the early 80’s. In fact, I have a memory of when President Kennedy was shot and killed in 1963 and I was only 3 years old. I remember coming back from a visit to my grandparents home sitting in the middle of the back seat of our car. I don’t remember hearing the news as much as I remember my parent’s reaction to the news. A little older I remember Martin Luther King being shot and Robert Kennedy but I don’t have the event etched like President Kennedy for some reason. I remember the first steps on the moon, being on my knees in front of our black and white TV hearing Armstrong’s words, “That’s one small step …” I remember President Ford being shot but I don’t have it etched like when President Reagan was shot, I know where I was and exactly what I was doing at the time. The only other two things would be the Space Shuttle and 9/11 that has been etched so deeply in my memory.

It is as if my mind has been branded. The brand has been heated in an open fire to the point where the metal is orange with black speckled imperfections. Then the unstable hand of world events coalesce at a determined time to firmly grasp the brand and presses it against the gray matter of my brain. Searing, not just the event, but also my every action and thought that surrounded that event. So I not only remember that I was watching a black and white TV at the time of the first step on the moon, but I also remember being on my knees, in shorts with a striped shirt staring at the TV which was at the time on the South wall of our living room.

Memory. I just finished a Science Fiction book on the battle of man versus smart machines. A machine would be able to remember more exactly what, when and where than our minds but it would not be able to tell how it would impact us. A machine would not be seared to its very core by an event causing all future firings of the neurons to go around the new brand. We are certainly fearfully and wonderfully made ….

Small Tangents

I went to a introductory meeting for the Raelians. (For those of you who haven’t kept up with the news, the Raelians claim to have cloned the first human baby. So far that is unsubstantiated and looks like a great PR play for them.) A small group of adults sat in comfortable chairs in the local library meeting room and watched a video on the beginning of life, on the visit of the first aliens and proofs for the landing and influence of aliens, then finally a video on Rael himself. Rael is the founder of the movement who was visited by aliens 20 years ago and changed him from a racecar driver/news reporter into a modern day prophet for the alien movement.

What they (the aliens) told him was that life began on earth when the aliens arrived and saw the planet covered with water and a new volcanic landmass they set to work creating life by genetic engineering. The “formed” animals and plants from the elements found on earth through this engineering. Then their crowning achievement was to form mankind and genetically engineer something new into this human – a consciousness. This is what is called “being made in god’s image.” One of the Hebrew words for “god” is “elohiym” which they translate as “people from the sky.” So we are made in the image of the people from the sky.

What surprised me was the question and answer period after the videos. The representative leading this meeting fielded a lot of questions but the main one dealt with evolution of the species on earth. I found that the Raelians are more conservative than most Christians I know against evolution, calling it a theory that has been disproved over and over again to the point where the only people keeping it going are the ones with a financial stake in promoting it. The key principle of the Raelian theology is love. Basically, we will never see the aliens on a large scale on earth or have the technology to see them in heaven (space) until we eliminate the violence and hatred in the world.

According to the leader of the meeting. The primary source of new converts is Christians because it so closely matches what they have been taught, but they have noticed something wasn’t quite right. The Raelians feel they have the missing key to what Christians have been waiting for to unlock the Bible and the meaning of the universe.

Hmmm …. We never run in the opposite direction of truth, most of the time we veer away from the truth in small tangents.

The Exception Excuse

Is it ever good to lie? Is it ever good to NOT tell the truth?

Many people will argue that truth is relative to the person who hears it or understands it. What may be truth for me may not be truth for you. One plus one equals two in my world, but in the world of quantum physics and chaos theory, one plus one has an infinite group of possibilities. So what about telling the truth? Obewan Kanobe in Star Wars tells us “many of the truths we hold dear are only true from a certain point of view.”

Picture a friend in a terrible accident, hours from death and that person looks at you and asks, “Am I going to die?” You are faced with a choice to give him motivation to keep fighting for a miracle or risk that person giving up. Maybe a less morbid example would be this. Your spouse asks you, “Does this look good on me?” or “am I getting fat?” What do you do?

Sure, there may be times when lying is NOT bad. But that is definitely the exception to the rule. The problem is that people use the exception as an excuse for breaking the rule and for hurting other people. “You can’t handle the truth!” screams Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. We build a matrix of exceptions around us like a spider web that, we believe, allows us to do whatever we want.

We use that exception to the rule like it is the rule and not the exception. What we have found is that a truthful person has now become the exception and not the rule. We speak in spin and mirrors. Turning things to our benefit and reflecting the accusation back on the accuser who obviously doesn’t have the whole picture like we do.

Have you used the Exception Excuse this week? Try something radical and tell the truth, take the blame, admit what you did and even make a confession. You will find momentary discomfort will give way to an amazing cleansing.

We’re so Polite

I was on my way home the other day when I ran into a traffic jam. Rush hour driving is the bane of many an existence. Here I was in the far left lane of 4 lanes of traffic doing a great impersonation of a parking lot. After about 10 minutes of moving 27 feet I noticed the left shoulder of the highway. It was empty, I slowly moved a little left and I could see a clear lane for miles ahead. How easy it would be to just take the shoulder, I would be home by now. Why don’t I just do it? Come to think of it, why doesn’t anybody just do it? There is no way a cop would see or even get to me if I did it. The only thing I could think of was the embarrassment of doing it, dealing with the iron, cold stares of the people I was blowing by. And, of course, that internal thing that told me it wasn’t the right thing to do.

My wife and I spent some time in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic doing some service projects. I had the opportunity to drive while there on their highways, if you can call them that. I come to realize that the lines in the road were simply suggestions. That the stoplights and stop signs were, at best, actually yield signs. Very few vehicles didn’t have dents or bumpers tore off. After a few days of getting nowhere fast, I became a less polite, more aggressive, horn blowing, arm waiving, stoplight running, power shifting maniac.

All this came flooding back as I sat in traffic, waiting and waiting, moving and stopping, waiting again. Glancing at the wide-open shoulder with that maniac pushing the envelope open.

We are such a polite people. We wait in lines and don’t bunch up at the nearest opening. We stay within our lines on expressways and only change with a turn signal and an opening. We open doors for people. We say “bless you” to a stranger who just showered us. We’re so polite.

Do you know why? I think it has something to do with the character of the country we live in. I think it has something to do with how our parents raised us. I think it has something to do with our own influences. I think it has something to do with the spirit that we all have inside us … maybe more than a little. Whatever it is … I am glad. God bless you.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Time Machine

We all know that time is relative, right. In physics, Einstein’s famous theories told us that time was relative to speed. Lovers will tell us the time stands still when they are together and lasts an eternity when they are not. Funlovers will tell us that time flies when they are having fun and time crawls when at the DMV or church or whatever is NOT fun. As the earth rotates around the sun the morning travels with it, as it tips toward and away from the sun we have daylight savings time and … not. Whatever that means?

I was thrust into a time machine last week when my son called me. My son took off during his Christmas break to Thailand to lead a service project of teens. He left right after Christmas and is there until mid January. On New Years Eve I received a call from him. “Happy New Year Dad!” he exclaimed. “Wait a minute; it’s only New Years Eve, why are you wishing me happy New Year?”

“It’s 2006 here, we are fourteen hours ahead of you and I am calling you from the future!”

Whoa. It took me a few seconds to wrap my mind around that concept. We talked for a while longer and he hung up too soon. Our “time” went too fast. Our time “flew” by. Our time ….

Turns out we are all on a time machine, it is called earth, and it is called life. As we walk into this New Year let us promise each other to “make the most” of our time. Let us not “waste” time or misuse our time. Because our time is really too short for abuse. It is too short for all of us who ride around on this time machine.

Follow Me

Las Vegas is known for some unusual and suggestive billboards. Most of them are now advertising for the local nightclub hotspot. Each trying to be a hotter spot than the next so they become more and more suggestive. Catchy phrases like “Bottoms Up” and “Buck Wild” have taken on whole new meanings due to the risqué pictures attached to them. The city and county have tried to pass ordinances against them when they get really carried away but by that time the word is out and the ad is no longer needed.

Cab companies have found a way to capitalize on this ad war by selling space in and out of their cab. Ad space is available on the truck of the car, the hood between the lights, the roof, the doors and some will even drag trailers covered with ads behind them to handle the luggage. Some cabs are vans simply because they have more real estate to sell.

This week I drove down the expressway that parallels “the strip” when I had a cab pull in front of me. The placard ad on the back was advertising a new club called “SIN”. How about that for a nightclub name? Sin, actually the ad showed a VERY enticing young lady with her finger beckoning me to follow her and it said, “Follow me to SIN.”

In most other cities that would seem strange I think. But it was as natural as sunshine and I am sure the cab driver was not at all embarrassed by it. Follow me to sin … sounds like something the devil has been trying to get us to do for a long time and now we are helping. We are advertising it in living color. Now, before you think this column is a rant about how the world is going to pot let me tell you that SIN might not catch on. That SIN might close after just a few weeks due to lack of interest. I read in the paper that TABUE, another night club, was in trouble. Also, SIN is just SIN for one or two nights a week, otherwise it is just a bar.
I guess I would like to see SIN die due to a lack of interest. But we all have to make that choice, don’t we?

It’s Time to Grow Up

When do we decide that it is time to grow up? When do we decide that it is time to get proactive with our lives and not reactive? When do we get to take charge and take over?

I have been mulling those questions a lot as I look at the kids of today. I call them kids because they are the age of my kids: early twenties. But in history they really are not “kids” anymore. As few as 25 years ago most “kids” would get married while in, or finishing up college. As few as 50 years ago “kids” would get married as soon as they finished High School and some even before. As few as 100 years ago girls would get married at the ripe old age of 15 and boys the ancient 17. 1000 years ago as soon as you hit puberty and could consummate your wedding the arrangement made by your parents was fulfilled.

When you got married you would now become a responsible adult and take on the tasks of making a home and making a career. Many cultures have a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood like a bar mitzvah. When do kids today decide that it is time to grow up? I don’t know and in fact I believe some don’t even make that decision. They don’t want to grow up, they don’t want to take responsibility, they are fine with their parents and their peers running things.

I remember at about age 28 that it sunk into me that my father’s generation was not going to be in charge much longer and I had to take seriously the job of running my life, my business and my country. I just had the feeling that it was time for me to step up to the big leagues. As I plan for retirement now I pray my children and their generation will soon come to that realization too. I pray they come to it soon because I can see a time when I will really get tired of the world on my shoulders and be ready to pass it on.

Where are you? Are you struggling in the big leagues or are you still warming a bench in the minors? Here’s a few clues to help you interpret where you might be at: 1] Is your job just something you are doing until the right one comes along or is it your calling and your career? 2] Do you find yourself on CNN or FOX or do you find yourself watching MTV or VH1 or WB? 3] When you have a choice do you sleep in or work on a community project on an early Saturday morning?

Let’s all make our way to the big leagues. It’s time to grow up.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Merely Different

A great scene in a neo-classic movie is when Doc tells Marty McFly to pull out his pants pockets because that is the latest fashion in the future that they have gone back to. I am constantly amazed at the changing of fashions. Even though the staple of blue jeans remain the same, our definition of how to wear them changes and changes and changes.

I grew up in the 60’s and the darker blue, newer and rigid the jeans were the better they were. Hand-me-down jeans already loosened up and faded were a bad fashion statement.

In my high school in the 70’s it was radically changed to the faded and loose jeans. The more broken in, the better, even a patch here and there was not a bad thing. New, dark blue jeans were wore at home until they were broken in enough to be good for school.

I was married in the 80’s and my kids were not too young to be caught in the fashion jean craze. Having a particular name on your jeans became important. Along with them came the spotted, faded, and torn jeans. You would buy brand new jeans that were torn and faded and pay A LOT of money for them.

In the 90’s when my kids reached the teenage years it seemed like I was yelling at my boys to pull up their pants every day. The jeans sagged as you would buy 2 – 3 sizes too big for you and the only thing that kept them up would be walking wide. Showing your boxers was the key.

Now I smile as my own kids wonder about the latest fashion in jeans. Boys wearing tight girl’s jeans and girls making sure their back tattoo shows above their jeans and dark blue is in again.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink makes a interesting statement that “people have a hard time distinguishing between what is bad and what is merely different.” I agree. Sagging pants on my boys seemed bad and I yelled at them for it like it was a sin that would send them straight to hell. With a little time and perspective I find there are a lot of worse things than you pants sagging and your boxers showing.

Be careful how you judge the actions of people. Is it really bad or is it merely different? I am sure it won’t be long before we start wearing our pockets inside-out as we head Back to the Future.

Take a Chance

I went to a Japanese restaurant this week and had some sushi. I also had some things that I could not recognize that looked kind of good. I ate calamari, both raw and breaded, octopus with the suction cups still on and crunchy and even cold soybeans. This may not seem unusual to you but you must remember that the first 18 years of my life were spent on a farm in Indiana. I grew up on mashed potatoes and gravy, roast beef and a choice of three vegetables: corn, green beans or sweet peas. The most adventurous foreign food that I remember was pizza or maybe some Chef Boyardee. My mom may have tried to introduce some variety but like many teens I rebelled from oppressiveness of trying squash, cooked onions, broccoli, and cauliflower.

It wasn’t until I got off the farm did I take a few chances in the available culinary cornucopia. My wife was my primary influence in pushing me to try new things. I would refuse at first but I finally gave in to those radical veggies. She dragged me into Italian restaurants and I would eventually get beyond recognizing nothing past lasagna and ordering some of the more radical pastas. She would push me into an oriental restaurant and I would get away from simple sweet and sour and get into Szechwan. Then, after years of indoctrinating, I grew beyond even my wife into seafood, raw and cooked, tentacled and shelled, wrapped in seaweed and rice to the point where I will try anything – once.

Sometimes I have to wonder: What were they thinking? When I slurp down an oyster. Who thought of doing this first? Who would think of chopping up an octopus into bite-sized chunks? Who would wrap seaweed around raw fish and think, hmm, maybe if I put some rice in there too?

Sometimes, I even take the radical chance of going to a local restaurant and ordering … mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and some roast beef.

This year expand your horizons a bit. Eat something you’ve never tried. Go someplace you’ve never gone. Do something you’ve never done. Meet someone you’ve never met. Take a chance.

Rearrange the Tiles

I am a Scrabble fan. I love the game and I thought I was pretty good at it… I thought I was. I have a computer scrabble game that I can play when I want against others online or against the computer. I have no one to play online right now so I have been playing against the computer. There are six levels of skill in the game. Being the expert Scrabble waif I am I thought I would try the #5 “Expert” level. I didn’t think I was quite up to “Champion” level yet but maybe after a few games. Well, the “Expert” computer partner kicked my sorry, human backside by about 500 points. (86 to 567) So I backed up to the “Advanced” level and promptly got laughed at, again, by my computer. (156 to 432). Surely I could handle the “Intermediate” level but I still got beat. So I backed up again to the “Novice” level and found myself leading for a while but beat in the last few rounds. All that was left was the “Word Wimp” level and I was determined not to sink into that vocabularic toddlerdom (are those words?). So I buckled down and worked at that “Novice” level till I got to the point where I could win using my mind, a dictionary and the suggestion option on the game (in other words … I cheated). I would come up with a word for a respectable 21 points and then look at the computer’s suggestion and find that I could simply rearrange the same letter tiles and come up with a word for 46 points. Same tiles – different results.

We are now facing another year. 2006 is a year already filled up with threats of war, financial uncertainty and a heavy dose of the unknown. But, if you think back a minute, so was 2005, and 2004, and so on. Each year you are given the same tiles, a pile of letters for you to form into your own personal history book.

The question to ask yourself is this: Do you need to rearrange your tiles? Are you happy with the words you put together last year? Is it time for you to trade in some tiles for new ones? Do you need to spend a little more time in your dictionary, get a little larger vocabulary for you to play your tiles better this time? Take a look at the tiles you’ve been dealt. I hope this year you will be able to put a quartz on a triple word score.

Leopard Print Housecoats

Christmas time on the farm in Indiana with 8 kids was a gleeful romp through barely organized chaos. Wrapping paper, which started out neatly opened at the edges so mom could save it for next year, ended up as a knee-deep lake of crumpled bright colors. Kids would dive in to retrieve presents that were barely looked at because the secret behind a sibling’s present was still unrevealed. Now these presents were absorbed with an honest intensity that would rival an engineer solving a space shuttle problem. Christmas time.

Mom and dad would “Oooh” and “Ahhh” over pencils, pens, scratch pads, a gallon of perfume shaped like a golf club, colored glass shaped like jewelry, and candy bars. I don’t want you to get the impression that we were poor on the farm because my parents provided for us very well, but some Christmases they had to get a little more “creative” than others.

We would get the obligatory underwear and socks and always the family game of that year. Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble, Boggle, Life, Operation, Mastermind, and finally the first TV computer game: Pong.

One year my mom sewed together a particularly memorable Christmas by purchasing a bolt of leopard print fabric. With that bolt she fastened a plethora of leopard print housecoats. I could say that each stitch was sewed with love, each saw-toothed cut lovingly formed small arms and collars to caress her adoring children … I could say that … but I won’t. Looking back I have to believe that mom had a smirk on her face as she found the bolt and checked out at the fabric store. I have to believe that mom smiled when she sewed as if she held a barely kept secret. I have to believe that she and dad snickered about it in bed the night before. I have to believe that she couldn’t contain the laugh. The laugh that came when she pictured the kids with leopard capes of superpower, flying through the house wearing only their new Hanes and the “Leopard Coat of Mystery!” Books and toys were forgotten as impersonations of wild, African cats roamed the living room.

Well, keep smiling mom you earned it. And joy is what Christmas is all about.

Ticket to Heaven

I saw something on the news the other day that piqued my interest. So I had to check it out and found out that it is true.

You can now order your own ticket to heaven! Just logon to and you can purchase your own (don’t make the mistake that I did and go to “” because that is what looks like a porn site … which may or may not be more legitimate). The price is $15 plus $4.95 shipping, and this will get you your very own ticket to heaven, a certificate of authenticity (?) and a testimonial card to put in your wallet or purse. It will take 30 days to deliver and California residents need to at 8.25% in sales tax.

You also have to read the disclaimer: “The parties acknowledge that this is a statement of intent and belief and is not intended as a contract for services, transportation or the supply of goods. The ticket issuer makes no warranties or representations as to the state of existence implied by the term "Heaven" or the duration, permanence and conditions thereof. The issuer of this Ticket To Heaven disclaims all express and implied warranties, including but not limited to, implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.” Which, basically, means that this ticket to heaven will get you nowhere and they aren’t liable if you don’t get to there. There is also a privacy policy where they promise that no one will know if you have a ticket to heaven and all your “personal” information will not be shared with anyone.

There are SO many areas I could go with this, and I know that it is just a gimmick to remove you a little farther from your money but let me give you a few questions to think about:
- It is good to see that God is on the information highway but what happened to the people wanted a ticket before the Internet?
- Where is the station to redeem this ticket? Do I have to make sure my loved ones put it in the casket with me?
- Why would California residents have to pay more, are they worse sinners?
- Is this cost cheap or expensive for you? Is this God’s sale price or the normal price?
- Why would it take 30 days to get it, does God have a backlog?
- Why would you need the disclaimer and the privacy policy, doesn’t that show a lack of faith?

Seriously, too many people fall for this kind of marketed religion. Which, when you think about it, has nothing to do with God and authentic spirituality at all. It’s easy and it seems to fill a gap in our lives. Whereas, authentic spirituality or real “God-stuff” is not easy, cheap or even marketable; it is a journey.

This reminds me of Star Trek V “The Final Frontier” where the crew was hijacked to find heaven and God in a sector of the universe. When they met God, he was not all he was cracked up to be. In fact when he asked about their ship, the Enterprise, I can still hear Captain Kirk’s classic line: “Ummm, excuse me, but what would God need with a starship?” Don’t be taken in by the religious, spiritual sounding gimmicks, go for the real thing.

Because of the great response I got from the last column on ticket2heaven, I thought I would share more questions generated by others as they responded.


Can I buy a round trip, if I'm just considering heaven as a vacation home?If they have an installment plan, what if I'm not fully paid before I die?Can I get a "coach class" ticket? Would I expect to see the Pope in the first-class section?Can I reserve non-smoking accommodations in heaven? (Probably not an option in hell)How many bags can I check and is it OK to bring a fingernail clipper?Is it OK if I save time by just flushing my money down the toilet instead?
Before takeoff, can I verify that the pilots are members of my religion?"
Who would be the stewardesses, where can I apply?
What food will they be serving on this flight? Angel food cake? Any Spirits?
Could I buy a ticket for my friends? Could I buy an EXPRESS ticket for my enemies?
How long is the trip? Can I change my seat if I get a fat guy next to me for eternity?
Do you check luggage? Do we NEED luggage? In fact, it is said that we can't take anything with us so will we all be naked on the flight?
What is the safety message given by the stewardess before the flight begins? Are their floatation devices under the seats?
Does the pilot need permission to take off?

Keep them coming and I will share them.


Rain on the Roof

It rained this morning. Not just a little sprinkle but a good, hard rain. Our bedroom window borders our back patio with a metal roof and it rained this morning. I love that sound. The driving rain on metal is God’s steady drumbeat on life.

Just when we start to think that we’ve a good beat on life, God takes out his drumsticks and remind us again that he controls the tempo and we are spectators in the concert of nature.

Before I could lay back and enjoy the rain I had to run outside and get my tools back inside left out on a project I was working on. I had to push things out of the rain so they wouldn’t get ruined. I picked up my newspapers, now soaked, and went back inside dripping. I could almost see others upset that they had just washed their cars and now had to do it again. Others had plans of golf ruined, soccer matches cancelled, painting projects put on hold, and a Saturday in the sun postponed. Just when we think we’ve got our beat going in life, God takes out his drumsticks ….

I tried to read my papers this morning but I couldn’t … the beat brought back memories. Memories of being inside our metal roofed, large storage shed on the farm, playing basketball on a nine-foot rim. Memories of picking up eggs in the metal roofed chicken coop where even the chickens seemed to listen to the drumbeat.

It rained this morning and all I could do was go back to my warm bed, snuggle up to my sleeping wife and smile while listening to God’s drumbeat on life.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Runaway Train

You come home and you find your friend/spouse/kid sitting on the couch with a bag of chips and soda watching MTV/NFL/HSN; what do you make of it? Do you blow up or smile in approval? Is that sloth or rest? How do you know the difference?

Let’s start with the definitions. Sloth is beyond laziness, it is intentional avoidance of work or labor of any kind. Sloth is beyond sleepiness, it is forcing and training your body to the form of a couch or Laziboy. Rest is earned respite from a hard day’s work. Rest is the peace that comes from an overworked system finally being allowed to shut down.

So how do you know the difference between the two? Answer #1: No single event can be judged without its context. A wife came home to find her husband sleeping on the couch at 2:00 in the afternoon. She blew a gasket! Woke him and yelled at him and told him to get back to work. No event (sleeping on the couch) can be judged without its context. We don’t know if he was being slothful or simply resting. Would it help you to make that decision if you knew he was up all night finishing reports, studying, or dealing with a sick relative? Would it help you to know if he just started that job, the 5th job in a month, and now is home sleeping again? Would it help you to know that he just got home from the hospital with a mild heart attack? You need to know the context so don’t just blow a gasket, find out the reasons.

Answer #2: Sloth takes time to perfect, like a fine wine. No one can sit in a couch or on a chair all day without a little bit of practice. Your body simply does not work that way unless you train it to or drug it into submission. Sloth is not a single event, it is a lifestyle. Rest is an event. Rest can be scheduled or spontaneous but it has a start and a finish. Rest has an alarm clock, sloth has a calendar.

Answer #3: Sloth saps your energy, rest builds up your energy. Slothful people are ALWAYS tired whereas rested people are, well, rested and ready to get started again.

Answer #4: Sloth will often have a psychosis attached to it of some kind. It might be depression or anger or fear or whatever, but sloth never walks alone.

Laziness can be adjusted with good, consistent discipline but sloth is like a slow moving, fully loaded, runaway train you are fighting to catch up to and stop. Beware of a steep grade; catch yourself and your loved ones in time before it is too hard to stop it.

The Takeover of Lego Land

I would sneak downstairs as quietly as I could; working hard to keep from waking up my parents whose bedroom was right next to the living room in the house of my youth. In my arm was a shoebox filled with my favorite and greatest possession. I would make it to the center of the carpeted living room and silently remove the lid of my treasure and then came the toughest part. I had to pour out the tiny plastic pieces and spread them on the floor without waking my dad in the next room. As silently and slowly as I could I poured the colorful blocks onto the carpet and the noise is seared into my memory as the most pleasant sound I could hear as a young boy. Saturday mornings with my Lego Building Blocks is one of my favorite memories.

Mom would get up to find me building a Lego corral for my Lego horses, my Lego farm house was already done and my Lego ranchers were bringing in the Lego cattle from the carpeted fields. Other mornings I would be building my own version of the Spruce Goose, attempting to use my entire shoebox of Legos to build one airplane. It had a three foot wingspan and the engineering required to keep it held together while flying on the limited resources of my collection rivaled the building of the Hoover Dam. My older brothers had their Erector Sets and their Lincoln Logs but I had my Legos.

But my Legos were different than the Legos of today. The Legos of today are now closer to model cars or planes. They require the following of instructions to build a specific “Death Star” or a “B-wing Fighter” or now the technology people are building robots and even computers out of Legos. I ask you … where’s the fun in that? Lego Land has been invaded and taken over by the kit and model builders. The beauty of Legos was in it’s simplicity. Five blocks with the eight studs on them could make a fighter plane in my imagination. Three blocks with the four studs on top each other with a round one on top of them made a man, or even two single stud blocks on each other made smaller men. My castles didn’t have smooth roofs, they looked more like a stairway. But I had so much fun with my “primitive” set that it kept me happy for years of imaginative play.

Sometimes we actually over think and over plan our lives and the lives of our children. We forget that with dirt and water we built a delicatessen of mud pies and cookies and we substitute Easy Bake Ovens with instructions so complex our kids disappear before we are done reading them. No wonder our kids are more interested in the box than the $250 gadget that came in it. Simple, easy, creative fun is, well, fun.