40 Years of Love

DSC_1004June came and went in a flash.  But in-between, God moved.  In the lead up to June I’d been excited about the upcoming celebration of my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.  When they met they were kids, literally.  My dad was in the 8th grade and my mom was in the 6th.  When they married they were hardly adults.  And yet, 40 years later, they have a beautiful legacy of love.

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Love is what highlights our lives.  Love is what stops one day from rolling into the next without direction or meaning.  Choosing love slows me down and helps me remember to live in the moment.  Maybe I learned that from my parents.

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Because of their choices I am part of a family who is founded in Christ’s firm love.  And so we, meaning my entire family (Katie, Michael, and their crazy five kid crew made the trek as did my younger sister Emmy), celebrated them in the best way possible, up in the mountains.  The mountains are love.  They slow life down and help us know how much we are loved.

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Being in the mountains gave us time to gather around a fire and laugh as we burned our marshmallows.  It gave us time to have deep conversations about our struggles and triumphs as we built a 400 piece Peanuts puzzle only to realize at the end that the box only contained 397 pieces.  The weekend was rainy but we made it outside for the hot tub and zip line.  Spending Uncle time with my nieces and nephews was amazing!

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I captured Emerson, the youngest, crawling for the first time.  I told stories with Breck, in the story he was born a T-Rex but actually a Velociraptor.  I played games and built puzzles with Addi and Linc.  I even started a tickle fight with Treagan.   Because my parents chose to love Christ and love each other day in and day out, I am blessed to be an uncle.  But even more amazing is how my nieces and nephews choosing a life of love and freedom in Christ.

 

As June was rushing by, Linc, my oldest nephew, asked to be baptized.   The morning of the big day he joined me in the living room as I spent time in prayer.  He woke up early, came and sat on the couch, and asked me to help him start a Bible reading plan.  I love that at eight he is making choices to live a life founded on love.  His baptism was beautiful.  I love Lincoln.

 

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My parents’ love has given me the ability to love my wife.  April and I are set to celebrate our second wedding anniversary on the 7th of July.  We are off on an adventure to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Amsterdam. What an adventure!  My prayer has been that this next month doesn’t flash by, but that God stops us, opens our eyes and our hearts so we can experience His love.

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Love is not scientific and so I have no clear idea how my parents did it, but, I would bet it all came down to their choices.  Years ago when my parents were younger my dad took Katie and me on a hike.  I was a baby and my older sister was old enough to complain about how difficult the hike was. My parents hadn’t packed any food, nor brought any water.  We were miserable.  My dad, in all his wisdom, created this beautiful simile, ” Life is like a mountain.  You just have to choose to get over it.”  Katie stated the obvious, “I hate life.”  Yet in love, there are times when it is difficult and you just have to choose to move through it.  My parents’ love is not a difficult mountain, it is warm, open, and consistent, and it, like my favorite mountains, has stood the test of time.  I am so proud that each day they choose to love even when it feels hard.  What an adventure!

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I am sure if you asked either of them, the 40 years came and went in a flash.  But in-between, God moved.

What To Do On The Last Day Of The World

Little Doomsday Preppers

If you haven’t heard, then let me tell you, December 21, 2012, was prophesied to be the day the world ends.  Of course if you haven’t heard about the end of the world, and you’re sitting around reading blogs, then well, you are the perfect audience for this message!

The people who have stockpiled their attics or basements with food, bought five generators, filled their bathtubs with water, sharpened their Katanas, and have been watching reruns of Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Chanel already know they have plenty to do today (whatever day this happens to be as the end of the world always seems to be coming).

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The Mayan calendar ends on the 21 of 2012, which is today, or if by chance the world doesn’t end, yesterday, or depending on when you get around to reading this, last year.

Two years ago on the winter’s solstice I was hiking around the ruins of Tikal, which was once one of the wealthiest Mayan kingdoms.  Sadly, their violent culture ended centuries ago.

We’re all going to end up like the Mayans!  If not today, or tomorrow, it will happen someday.  So, what do we do about this horrible news?

Good news!  I’ve got a few ideas.  However, this blog might not be the best for the people who have already hunkered down in their Zombie proof shelters.

First: Show your Neighbor some Love!  It’s the end of the world and I think now might be the time to knock on their door and invite them over for dinner.  This could be a great time to start a new friendship, everyone needs a friend at the end of the world.  But heck, if the night’s real bad just remember you wont have to see them tomorrow!

Second: Go play in the snow with some little kids, or puppies, or anything that brings you Joy.  Kids seem to be able to find an enormous amount of joy in the smallest things.  I can’t think of a better way to spend the last day of the world than hearing the laughter of a little kid.

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Third: Find a time during the day to relax.  I’ll go on a hike up through the mountains.  I know I can’t bring about world peace, but if I find a little peace for myself, maybe I’ll be able to find love and joy a little easier.  Besides nothing says Peace to me like the aspens that grow in the Colorado Rockies.

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Fourth: When the Zombies are pounding down your door and you’re at your whits end, be Patient.  You’ll be fine, their lack of fine motor skills will protect you, but you might need to wait a little for them to stumble out of your house.  You really will need patience when hanging out with the little kids (they ask millions of questions and wont hesitate to point out any of your flaws, like the gap you have in your teeth).

Fifth: Go to Walmart and look for the person with the shopping cart that screams “It’s the end of the world and I’m hoarding all of the supplies“, and and surprise them by paying for their stuff.  Don’t smirk or laugh at them either.  Be Kind, who knows they could share some of their Twinkies with you, oh wait . . . I guess the world is ending.

Sixth: When your neighbors come over for dinner and insist on showing you all of their Amway stuff, find real interest.  Show interest in them because that’s what Good people do.  Even take the next step and buy a little bit of what they are selling.  What could it hurt, the world is ending anyway.

Seventh: You know that friend who you think about every day, don’t give up on them, give them a call.  Yes, it’s the end of the world, but that’s the best time to tell someone you still love them.  Plus, you might be able to invite them in on some great Amway products.  In all honesty, be Faithful to your friends.  Tell them you’re thankful for them, even if they haven’t called in ages and sometimes you wish the Zombies would get them first.

Eighth: When you’re scared out of your mind because the Zombies have now broken down your front door and you’re wishing you’d watched Doomsday Preppers, remember that those Zombies have already lost their minds, so be Gentle with them.  In their thirst for brains, their wanton hunger has driven out their ability to love.  Yes, they want to eat your brain, but just maybe they really need is someone to gently hold their hand and show them compassion.

Ninth and Last: When all of the world has thrown itself into chaos, with looting and killing, drunkenness, partying with no sense of real joy, but of lust and carnal desire, and jealous hatred drives all their actions, show some Self-control.  As the world goes to hell, hold back and don’t go with them.  Continue to live life differently.  It will be worth it in the end.

Because when our world ends or just seems to be falling apart, into evilness, with senseless shootings, there can never be enough people who practice love and joyfulness, find peace, act patiently, show kindness, goodness and gentleness to others, and lastly act with self-control.

The Good LIfe

All Who Wander

 

“Dad, you know the Tolkien quote,” I started hesitantly.  My dad and I were about 45 minutes into our hike up to Lake Johnson and the trail had just vanished in an open meadow.

“Yeah, the one where Frodo sings, ‘The Road Goes Ever on and on, Down from the door where it began.  Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with weary feet, Until it joins some larger way, Where man paths and errands meet.  And wither then?  I cannot say.'”

Fortunately my dad did not sing, but unfortunately he’d said the wrong quote.  “No, Tolkien says, ‘not all who wander are lost.'”

“Yeah,” answered my dad.

“We’re wandering and we’re lost.”  Roads might go ever on, but ours was dead in the grass, consumed in the wild.  And if we wandered much longer, my 40 pound pack was going to be the death of me.

Can You Find Your Way To Lake Johnson?

My dad pulled out his map and I plopped off my backpack.  It looked like the trail was supposed to be leading to the West, but the fire road we’d tried after the original trail petered out was going East.  But neither of us are expert map readers and each time I tried to decipher the counter lines and trail dots my head spun. After a brief discussion about what we should do, I walked ahead, sans my pack, to check and see what was ahead.  The path vanished again, only to reappear a little higher up the hill.  After five minutes I knew this was no good.

We turned around and tried a trail that cut a sharp edge up the mountain.  Sadly, as promising as this trail seemed, it was the wrong one.  An hour and a-half in to what was supposed to be a 12 mile hike, my dad turned us back around and walked us back to the trailhead.

It was annoying to be back at the start, but I didn’t want to wander around and not reach Lake Johnson, so I followed.

Tolkien’s words repeating in my head, “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost.”  There are things unseen in the seen world, which I believe is a key part of Living Spiritually.  If I take everything for face value, I’ll miss the grand adventure God has for me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t want to see the deeper meaning of wandering.  I just wanted to be on the correct trail and to see my friends.

Maybe what the quote is really saying is, the point of life is in the journey, not just the destination.  Maybe we can wander if our goal isn’t the destination, but loving the moments we are in while we are wandering and feeling lost.

I took a deep breath and placed one foot in front of the other.  Quickly the trailhead slid behind us.  The sun was hot and my mood was still low.  We turned left at the fork in the trail, which meant taking the trail up to Stewart Lake instead of Lake Johnson.  We knew the trails should meet up, but that hadn’t been our plan.

As I moved mindlessly over the ground, passing Aspen trees and beautiful meadows filled with wildflowers, a quote from Jack Kerouac sprang to mind.  “Try the meditation of the trail, just walk along looking at the trail at your feet and don’t look about and just fall into a trance as the ground zips by . . . Trails are like that: you’re floating along in a Shakespearean Arden paradise and expect to see nymphs and fluteboys, then suddenly you’re struggling in a hot broiling sun of hell in dust and nettles and poison oak . . . just like life.”

Keep your head down and just keep going, I thought.

With my eyes glued to the trail I smacked head first into my dad’s pack.  He’d stopped for some reason.  “Hey!” said a familiar voice.  It was Philip, my friend we were hiking up to see.  He was on his way down the trail to pick up his brother from the airport.  He’s no nymph, but seeing him was very other worldly.  I’d felt lost and dejected as I hauled my pack up the trail, but he confirmed that we were going the correct way and that we’d see him the next day at camp.

Kerouac is dead wrong, I countered.  I can’t live life with my eyes closed to the magical world around me.  I don’t want to glide along until the trail ends or my life is over.  I want to keep my eyes open, even if what I see let’s me down.  Even if I get lost along the way.  After running in to Philip the trail opened up and the hike became easier.  And definitely prettier.

And so the road went ever on, to Stewart Lake and then to Lake Johnson.  My dad was right, though we were lost, we were still on the same road that led out of our front door, we were connected to the greater adventure along the way.  And while we hiked, I kept my eyes open and saw covey of grouse, Indian Paintbrushes, and a friend who I hadn’t seen in several years.

Tolkien is right, not all who wander are lost.

 

Finding Grace On I-25 Just North Of The Pecos Wilderness

Last week I hiked up into the heart of the Pecos Wilderness with my dad and some old friends.  It had been over a decade since I’d truly backpacked, not counting my winter hunting trips.  It was great to set up the tent, cast the rod and catch some fish, and to renew old friendships.

So I don’t wander off in this blog, like my dad and I did on our trek up to Stewart Lake, I’m going to graciously trek right to the point.  Though fishing was great, hiking was breathtaking, and reforming friendships over conversations about faith and serving in our own community was refreshing, what really hit me was the weather.

Yep, I’m going to talk about the weather.  Okay, I promise that my next blog will hike back into the realm of backpacking and what a joy it is to wander, especially when wandering into challenging conversations of faith and community.

I want to talk about weather, because I want to talk about grace.  Have you ever noticed how we can’t really control the weather?  It either rains or it doesn’t, especially when you’re out in the wild.  Grace often works the same way.  You either receive it or you don’t.  It’s never something you deserve.

As my dad and I hiked up the sun slowly baked us.  It was hot, and it stayed hot all week long.  The last time we’d been up in the Pecos Wilderness it had rained non stop.  I remember it being so wet we had a river in our tent.  Not this time.

It was weird that it didn’t rain.  I really didn’t mind the lack of rain, but it just felt weird.

As we hiked 9 miles down out of the wild it was so hot my feet started to burn.  I had to walk on my toes so my heals wouldn’t blister up.

What little water I had left at the end of the trail I dumped on my head just to cool off.  It felt amazing.  A little water can really be gracious on a hot day.

The water dripped off my bare head and shoulders onto the dry ground, evaporating immediately.

It wasn’t until we drove out of Las Vegas, NM that we felt the first drop of rain.  Or at least the Nisan Titan felt the rain.  The rain clouds looked like hands dragging their long fingers along the dry mesa tops as if they were scraping for last crumbs.

 

It was gorgeous.  But inside the cab I still felt parched.  We’d brought along two Dublin Dr Peppers for a celebratory drink at the end of the hike, but, as they’d been sitting in the hot truck all week, we were forced to wait until they could be cooled down with ice.   As we sep north on I-25 I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I popped open our two Dublin Dr Peppers.  They were ice cold.  As I swigged down the real sugar drink, I knew I’d just broken my sugar fast, but after the dry hike it was worth it.  Mine tasted phenomenal.  Probably as good as rain does after a long dry summer.

As we drove through Pueblo, Colorado the rain was coming down in sheets.  I was thankful we hadn’t faced this type of rain on our trip, ’cause now I was safe inside the cab of the truck with the AC blasting and no need for rain to cool me down.

Inside the cab we were listening to U2’s album All That You Can’t Leave Behind and as the rain died down the album came to a close.  Bono was singing about Grace.

Grace, she takes the blame.  She covers the shame. Removes the blame.  It could be her name.

It hit me, not like the soft rain we’d driven through in New Mexico, but like the drowning rain in Pueblo, we need grace just as we needed water on our hot hike.  I had to press repeat on my iPod so I could listen to it again.  It made me think, am I showing grace to the people around me or am I like the hot dusty trail I hiked on?

Am I a thirst quenching Dr Pepper or am I a hot pair of boots rubbing blisters?

Bono says, “Grace finds beauty in everything.  Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.”

Life Is A Highway And I’m Lost!

Of all the songs to have stuck in my head, “Life is a Highway,” sung first by Tom Cochrane, was the last song I’d have asked to be echoing in my brain.

I mean, yes, “life’s like a road you travel on.” I’ll accept that tired metaphor, but I’ll curse the lyrics, “Life is a highway and I’m gonna drive it all night long.”

But last Friday as I was on my way to a wedding I didn’t want to drive the road all night long.  I’d set out a good hour before the start of the ceremony, which should’ve given me plenty of time, as mapquest told me the drive would only take a little over half-an-hour.

With my directions printed out and in the seat next to me (I haven’t buckled yet and bought a smart phone), I headed south on Santa Fe Blvd, taking the old trail the Indians and Cowboys used to travel from Denver to Santa Fe, New Mexico, towards the little train stop community of Larkspur, CO.  Fortunately the road was free of horses and wagons, but unfortunately it was raining hard, slowing the traffic down just enough to make me worry.  Time was slipping by.  The wedding was at 5pm and I was pushing 4:45.  All I wanted to do was make to the wedding on time.

Sadly, as I reached Castle Rock, a town noted for the rock on the east side of town that looks like a, you guessed it, castle, I missed my turn.  Maybe it was because of the rain, but I am man enough to admit it, I was just absolutely turned around on my way to Crooked Willow Farms.

I was frustrated and lost.  Why hadn’t I asked some of my friends who I knew were going to the wedding to carpool?  Too late now, I though as I zipped around Castle Rock.

Sometimes when you are lost, okay, sometimes when I am lost I lose all self-respect and ask for directions.

I flicked on my blinker and pulled off the failed road I’d been driving, and stopped at the closest gas station to ask for directions.  “Okay, take your first left, then take a right on Founders, and then a left on 85.  Oh and get off on exit 184,” said the gas station clerk in a fast Asian dialect.  Time was ticking and so I didn’t ask her to clarify.

I should have.  If life is truly a highway and you don’t want to drive it all night long, always ask for clarification.

Back in the Honda Civic, I took my first left into a Wal-Mart parking lot.  Wait, I was lost, again!  What she didn’t say, was I needed to get on Interstate I-25 and then take my first left.  So, I turned around and merged onto 1-25 going south.  Instantly I realized I was going the wrong way.  If she wanted me to exit the highway at 184, then mile marker 179 sure was the wrong way.

Stuck on the highway, all night long! I don’t want to drive it, all night long!  Worried I wouldn’t be able to exit until Colorado Springs, which would’ve taken me an extra twenty miles away from my final destination, I started beating on the wheel.  “Get me off this stinking highway,” screamed.  I wanted to exit immediately, but I was stuck on my course, the guard rails blocking any attempt to ditch the road.

In a moment of clarity I realized, Larkspur is south of Castle Rock.  I wasn’t going the wrong way, I was just on a different road. But then I realized I didn’t have directions to the wedding from I-25 and I wasn’t sure when the exit for Larkspur would show itself.

It was already 5:20 and I felt demoralized.  I was going to ride this rainy road all night long.

By now I was cursing the fact I don’t have an iPhone.  I was screaming at the highway for not letting me exit so I could check my bearings.  And then, at mile marker 174 I saw an exit and took it.

The man at the Yogi Bear Jellystone mountain biking tour shop looked at me sympathetically and said, “Get back on to I-25 and go south one more mile.  Exit at 173 and you’re in Larkspur.  Now for Crooked Willow Farms take a right at Fox Road under the railroad and then curve around to Perry Road.  You’ll find your destination on your right.”

Larkspur was so close!  As I turned off into the little town, very late and rain still pouring down, I felt at ease.  I turned right onto Perry.  Wait, wasn’t Fox Road supposed to come first?  I crossed over the rail road and kept driving.

And then I saw the sign.  Hannah And Dave’s Wedding This Way!

I was on the wrong road, but it led me to the wedding anyway.  As I parked my car and snuck up to the outdoor venue I realized it didn’t matter that I was late.  This night wasn’t about me.  It was about my friends, and heck they were busy saying their vows, they wouldn’t notice my tardiness.

Even though it rained through the rest of the ceremony, the wedding and reception were fantastic.  And It dried up in time for me to dance like a mad man.  As I drove home, safely and without any detours, I started thinking about how life is really like a highway.

Back in Castle Rock I’d missed my turn.  I could’ve tried to figure things out on my own, but I decided to stop and ask someone.  That’s being open to letting other’s into my life.  Even more than being open to people, I find I need to be open to God.  Often times in life I get a little lost and all I need to do is stop and ask God for directions.

Even after I messed up the directions again, got on the highway the wrong way and took the wrong road, I still made it to the wedding.  If we trust God he’ll help us reach the correct destination.  No matter if we mess up along the way, he’ll get us back on track if we let him, and then maybe we’ll figure out that life’s not always about us, but the people we’re traveling to see.

So if you ever get lost in life or on the road, you just have to trust the signs, ask for directions, and keep driving all night long.

In-N-Out: My Weekend In San Diego

On June 30th I experienced the best fast food burger I’d ever eaten.  I went to In-N-Out Burger for the first time.  It was as good as advertised and well worth the 28 year wait.  Plus, eating at the burger joint, which has a much deserved cult like following, capped off an extremely great weekend.

The day before, I stumbled out of bed in Colorado, a perfect state to live in, save for the lack of In-N-Out Burgers, and boarded a plane at an unhealthy hour of 6:00-am for San Diego.

The real reason for my early flight was a wedding.  My good friend RJ was to be married on the beach behind the Catamaran Resort.  RJ and I were in a men’s life group in college called Rootz (The spelling is still being argued over).  Over the years our friendship deepened over our love of sports (I have to constantly forgive him for being a Patriots fan) and adventures.  Our friendship grew stronger when I moved to Guatemala.

No, RJ didn’t ever visit, he was too busy trying to find his life’s calling here in the states, and I don’t blame him, because if he hadn’t, he never would have met his future wife.  No, RJ was one of the few from Rootz who stayed in contact with me while I was in Guatemala.  His commitment to the friendship meant a ton to me, and so when I received the invitation to his wedding in the mail, I knew I needed to be there.

His wedding was at 3-pm on Friday, June 29th, the same day as my early flight.  I would’ve loved to have spent more time in San Diego, but on my meager budget I could only afford one night.  I boarded my plane in hot Colorado, leaving the horrible forest fires behind, and half a morning later I walked out of the San Diego Airport.  The clear blue sky and 70 degree temperature instantly made me love the city.

Around 2-pm I started making my way to the Catamaran Hotel with my friend Rob.  We’d decided to walk over to the wedding, only a three mile walk, which is nothing when the sky is clear blue sky and cool breeze comforts you along the way.  Walking is also a plus because Rob found a 20 dollar bill along the way.  My discovery wasn’t as cool, but when I saw that one of the wedding guests was wearing sandals I was ecstatic!  Without hesitation I peeled off my hot dress shoes and slid on my sandals.

The wedding was beautiful.  RJ and his wife, Andrea, couldn’t have asked for a better day.  Andrea was gorgeous and RJ looked stellar.  But I think the wedding could’ve been in bland Wichita (my apologies go out to Marinés, my only friend who lives in the little Kansas town) and I still would have been thrilled to be there.  Yes, it was a blast to dance the night away, to take a ferry across Mission Bay at midnight, but nothing compared to being there for my friend.

I wanted to be at the wedding to let RJ know I supported him and Andrea and that I would be praying for them as they took the next step in their lives.

I haven’t been able to attend all of the weddings that I’ve been invited to, but as I danced, ate, and spent a little time talking to RJ, I knew this was the best way I could say thank you for being my friend.

I believe strongly in staying connected with people.  Sometimes it takes only a phone call and sometimes it takes a plane ride.  I guess that’s why I went to the wedding, but it’s also why I went to In-N-Out Burger.  The day after the wedding, after a great breakfast with RJ and Andrea, I met up with another friend who lives in San Diego.   Kasey and I had worked together in Guatemala.  We hadn’t talked in almost a year, since we’d both moved back, but as we ate, our friendship felt instantly renewed.

Maybe that’s what having a Dr Pepper, animal style french fries, and a burger with special sauce will do.  Or maybe that’s what happens when you reach out to your friends.  After we ate our burgers Kasey drove me back to the airport.  I was exhausted.  My trip to San Diego truly had been in and out, but even though it was so quick, it was very much worth it.

For me, even a quick trip is worth reconnecting with friends and showing them that you care about them.  I mean if we didn’t have friends and family, who would we love and be loved by?  Or more importantly who would take us to In-N-Out Burger?