Headed North or South?

7The three birds flew through the cloudy skies of northern California due north on that brisk January morning.  The three friends; a Crow, a Pigeon and a Blue Jay, would have made a strange picture had anyone with a camera and telephoto lens had the mind to snap a shot.  Much higher in altitude, hundreds of Canadian Geese flew in perfect V formation in exactly the opposite direction.

“Hey,” squawked the crow, “there is another group of Canadians flying the wrong way. Why do you suppose they are so confused?”  He tried to point upwards with his right wing, but in doing so banked quickly to the left ramming the pigeon.

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Songs in the Cold

442On Christmas Eve of 1914 in a field in Western Europe, German and British soldiers sang Christmas songs, exchanged gifts of pudding, games, and simply enjoyed each other’s company for a short while.  It was a cold and muddy place, but the miracle of Christmas sought them out, bringing happiness to most, if only for a moment. Because less than 36 hours after the Christmas truce had started, which had been suggested by Pope Benedict XV, the warring Armies of WWI resumed their horrifically bloody battle of the trenches, replacing songs with death, and laughter with tears.

That night in Europe demonstrated with extreme bias the dichotomy that exists in our world; where good and evil, or right and wrong, exchange positions in an unlikely way, creating either grief or joy, depending which side is supplanted. Goodness found its way into a very bad place by the actions of a few great men and women; actions we often see as a requirement of the job. Continue reading

Love Is:

flowerMary shuffled with a limp while carrying the dirty dishes from the dining table to the kitchen.  She tried to hide the fact that something was wrong from Jim, her husband of 42 years, and even though his back was to her as she walked, he knew instantly something was amiss.

“Is your hip hurting again honey,” asked Jim?  He had turned to see her final two steps as she reached the kitchen sink; she was clearly favoring her left side.  “Hon, how bad is it?”

“It’s okay Jim, just a little stiff from the arthritis. I’ll be fine; go read your paper and rest,” Mary replied with just a little white lie.  Her hip and knee were on fire it seemed.

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Listening to Instructions

shipNate was a bully, and a braggart; he pushed his way into every conversation or meeting in the village and then always set out to prove his opinion was the only right one – which it rarely was. His height alone was intimidating at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, but add in broad shoulders and narrow waist; Nate was a man that you wanted to avoid being at odds with, but just couldn’t. He wouldn’t let you.

One day God spoke to Nate while he was saying his morning prayers. God asked him to do something that would be very important to his village and all the people in it.  God said, “Nate, I have chosen you to be my instrument of change, to do something of great importance.”  Nate was astonished; not really, he always thought God needed to consult him on big items.

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Every Day

1278When Seth Mooney was born a healthy beautiful boy his parents thanked the doctors and nurses who performed the delivery, the attendant who pushed Mom’s wheelchair to the waiting car, and almost every neighbor who stopped by the next week to give their congratulations.  They thanked the Pharmacist, their grocer, the nice lady at Target who sold them diapers, wipes, lotion and a dozen other necessities for young Seth.  They even thanked the mailman who delivered the letter and packages from family and friends across the country.  But they didn’t thank God for the most amazing miracle ever to happen to their young family. The Mooney’s are not unbelievers; they’ve been to church.  No the Mooney’s are part of the growing minority of people who thank their friends for a miracle from God.

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Going Down?

IMG_0961The Southwest flight from Phoenix landed in Sacramento on-time that Thursday night; a welcome end to a long and hot trip as witnessed by the sweat stains on the collar of Brad Smith’s white button down shirt.  Why do I ever wear long sleeves to Arizona? Because his boss thinks it’s more professional than wearing a polo shirt, even though it was 102 degrees by 9:00 am this morning, and his last sales call ended at 6:15 that evening (with a resounding and fully anticipate NO!)  Clearly rejection is professional when wearing a damp and smelly long sleeve shirt Brad thought as the plane landed.

The mechanical lady’s voice coming from the speaker on the air conditioned shuttle told Brad that he was headed toward the main terminal.  Rather than go straight to his car parked on the 5th level, which was normal, he was headed downstairs to retrieve his suitcase from the lower level.  The jogging gear Brad packed but did not use rendered his overhead bin sized suitcase too small, so he used the bigger one; ( note to Brad –  stop pretending you will ever exercise while traveling when all hotels that you stay at have a bar). The shuttle stopped when Brad wasn’t paying attention and he bumped the lady next to him.

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Those Things We Can Do; We Must Do

DSC_0606America ought to be a place where the treatment of all people equally and with fairness as one of our highest goals.  Our country is founded on that basic belief. We must fight for an equal opportunity for any individual to achieve their own goal.  But we cannot and should not provide for, nor promise an equal outcome for all Americans.  Every person has the right to dream their own dream and choose their own horizon.  The height of the sky is an individual’s choice; reaching their unique horizon ought to be the principal result of an individual’s effort and not of their circumstance, nor as a gift from the government.

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Checking the Box

to-do-list-photoEvery Saturday morning, just after our second cup of coffee, Lea and I make a list of what we need to accomplish before sleep overwhelms our tired and spent bodies late Sunday night.  The staples are always present: laundry, mow the lawns, grocery shop, and clean the pool.  We rarely list the fun things; movie, dinner out or play time with the grand kids, because we don’t want them to feel like a chore. Fun, although well planned, should be spontaneous by design. When we complete an item on the list we check it off with pride.  Often on Saturday afternoon we review our list together to assess our progress.  If we have done something not on the list and completed the task, we add it to the list so we can check it off.  Our system of measuring weekend accomplishments has taken decades to perfect and has managed to successfully keep full blown OCD at bay.  We have considered teaching classes on our method, but so far have decided against it. (However, if it ever makes the list we will do it).  Our weekend ritual of making and checking boxes for work activities is both functional and enjoyable for us, but I wonder, what else in my life has become a ritual of checking the box?

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Until the Ink is Dry

pen paperImagine the beginning of your life as a book without any words; blank pages beautifully bound in precious leather but absent any substance. Your life and mine is an unwritten story anxious to tell its tale. Now imagine a pen next to the book. The ink in the pen will create the lyrics of your life: love, joy pain, excitement, intrigue, and many thousands more.  Each page represents one day; God chooses the number of pages, only He knows the first day and the last. We create the experiences that fill the pages, deciding for ourselves the volume of life that each day will hold. So then, it is a partnership between ourself and God that creates the quality and fullness of the life we live, and that partnership is more evenly weighed than you may think.  

Jay, my brother-in-law, died this month.  It has been a time of emotional trauma as we navigate through unknown and unwanted waters.  Yet we somehow have made it past (sometimes reluctantly and always bruised) each hour of every day.  And we will survive the days to come, battered and tired beyond our human ability to comprehend, but survive we must, and we will.  

During this period, while writing an obituary for Jay and listening to the many entertainingly emotional stories arising from the pulpit and barstool, it is abundantly obvious to me that Jay’s book contained too few pages. His novel should have been Tolstoyick in nature, with pages of fine print numbered in the hundreds of thousands.  Still I believe the time of the last page was set by God for a reason I cannot comprehend, so I reluctantly choose not to question His contribution to the partnership.  This however, I know to be true; on the last day there was not a single drop of ink left in Jay’s pen.  He had filled each line on every page with life.  Richly laughing and loving through each chapter; every paragraph shouting for friends and family, Jay boldly placed all others in line before himself.

The adversity named diabetes struck him in the seventh chapter like the iceberg to the Titanic.  This time though, there was no shipwreck as Jay cast the berg aside like a melting snow-cone on a hot summer day.  Hard working and equally hard in play, Jay scribbled and printed in his book with an energy that was obvious and envied.  If the direction for his next adventure were unclear, Jay kept writing, knowing that every page would eventually be turned.  Near his end the pages turned slower, but that only gave Jay more time to spend filling the lines with laughter and hope.  His contribution to the partnership with God was at the highest level possible, making his book a timeless best seller.  Now, their partnership has become a sole proprietorship; the two merging into one, living on in endless fun and games.


What does your book like?  How many pages are blank, or only contain a few words?  How often do our pages speak of work and responsibility, of belongings and not of family or friends?  The ink is ours alone to use, so why do we let so many other people and “things” dictate what we write?  How many paragraphs begin and end with God? 

 Is it time to for all of us to seize our pen and write our own story!

The death of Jay has made me test my priorities and my values.  I have not used all of my vacation time for any year of the last ten, but I have more miles on Southwest and points at Hilton than most people you will meet.  Over 400 friends and family members attended the two memorial services held in Jay’s honor, and although he had only been retired for three years, no one spoke what he had accomplished at work; we spoke of friendship, commitment, and love.  

I am not questioning the need for a career; I question its priority in our book.  I don’t question the need for serious thought; I encourage the need for laughter.  I’m also not advocating only engaging in BIG adventures (vacations, travel), but also the important little things; such as attending kids sporting events, family game nights and regular dates with your spouse.  I’m suggesting less of the doldrums and more excitement; I am proposing a reassessment of priorities to whom, and away from what, from sometime to now!

I am changing my vocabulary to phrases that say; yes, I’ll try that, or sure let’s go, and I’m coming home now.  I don’t know the number of pages left in my book, but I think there is a lot of ink left in the pen.  I intend to use every drop, just like Jay.  

The Fox and the Rainbow Trout

red-fox2The typical Red Fox living in an ordinary forest is a little creature, about the size of a small dog, having white and red, or dark brown fur, and a fluffy tail that is equal in length to their body.  The most significant feature by far is their tail, which can grow to be very long and full of thick beautiful fur, standing out like the feathers of a peacock in bloom.  Mr. Fox lived in a common forest, but he was not the typical fox, for his tail was grander than all others, full of red and white fur and longer that any animal in the forest had ever seen.  He preened his tail daily, so everyone would notice how beautiful it was as he trotted through the forest, waving his tail high in the sky.

There is a stream that winds its way through the forest where Mr. Fox lives, home to many fish and frogs.  One of the fish is an 18 inch long Rainbow Trout.  This species of trout is known for the amazing array of colors on its scales; bright streaks of red, yellow and orange surrounded with black dots from head to tail.  Mr. Rainbow, as he likes to be called, is a beautiful and majestic creature; if you meet him just ask and he will tell you so.

One sunny day Mr. Fox was walking, no more like prancing, through the forest with his tail held high, when he decided to go to the wide spot in the stream, where the water is deep and moves slower.  On a calm day and when the sun is in the right place in the sky, you can see your reflection in the water as good as with any mirror in the finest home.  Mr. Fox frequented that place.  Mr. Rainbow liked that place in the river too, for there he could jump high out of the water, and the other animals in the forest could gaze upon his beauty.

So, as you would expect to happen, both Mr. Fox and Mr. Rainbow arrived at the wide, clear spot in the river at the same time.  Just as Mr. Fox was admiring his brilliant, brightly colored tail, Mr. Rainbow jumped high in the air, rippling the water as he splashed and blurring the beautiful image of his tail.

“Excuse me my dear fish, but your wild splashing is disturbing the calmness of the water.  Do you mind stopping!” asked Mr. Fox in his most deliberate voice.

“My name, whoever you are, is Mr. Rainbow, named as I am sure even you can see for the beauty of my scales.  Surely you can miss a few moments of gazing at yourself to look at real magnificence.  Just look at my beautiful rainbow when I jump into the air.”  Mr. Rainbow was feeling very full of himself today as jumped again, higher than ever.

“Well, well.  How can you even compare a few fishy scales to my splendid fur?  The water must be affecting your vision.  My tail is the envy of all the animals in the forest!”  Mr. Fox was not to be out done.  He would show this fish a thing or two. 

“Then you must not know many animals in the forest!” shouted Mr. Rainbow. (It really wasn’t very loud, but fish don’t have vocal chords so it was the best that he could muster).   Then Mr. Rainbow dove deep, and launched himself far into the afternoon sky, knowing that his splash would shake the water for quite some time.  As it turned out, Mr. Rainbow didn’t know everything that day.  At the peak of his leap, when his scales shined like brightly colored lights on a starless night, a shadow crossed over Mr. Rainbow a moment before the Eagle struck.  The trout was watching the changing expression on the fox and reacted with bitter surprise when the talons hit, grabbing Mr. Rainbow in a crushing vice as he was carried high into the sky.  The water in the river was abnormally calm as Mr. Fox watched the cycle of life, featuring Mr. Rainbow and Mr. Eagle; play out in dramatic reality just a few feet from the shore.  Fear, mixed with a sudden certainty of his vulnerability drenched the fox like a Midwest thunderstorm – so he ran. He ran as fast as he had ever run; jumping over fallen trees and boulders three times his size.  The frightened fox created holes through the brush and thorns where none existed.  Mr. Fox ran until he was home in his earthen den; sweaty, bleeding and dirty. His matted tail waited impatiently as Mr. Fox sat motionless, thinking of today’s events, and the fate of Mr. Rainbow.



Beware of becoming preoccupied with showing yourself to others as amazing, or extraordinary, because if you are, they will know without you telling them; and besides, it is God who knows you the best, and He already thinks that you are exceptionally, wonderfully, one-of-a-kind, perfect! 


Proverbs 16:18

    Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Psalm 10:4

    In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.