Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No Yellow Brick Road for Me

Some years ago, just ahead of my move to Arizona in 2000, I had the great good pleasure of working for a man named John - then President of the manufacturing company that employed the both of us. For ten years I was in many ways his understudy. I came to know a great deal about business, and even more about leadership under his tutelage. He became and remains to be my benchmark for sound leadership standards.

I never doubted John's humanity for a moment. He was anything but perfect, and even had a few quirks that drove me bats. Who do you know that doesn't like popcorn? So it isn't hero-worship that he inspired in me. No, John was not an idol-in-the-making. Short in stature, ordinary in looks, engaging in personality - he was simply authentic and humble, completely unafraid of revealing his warts or allowing another to take a bow. He and I had many a disagreement, and often I was taken back when he would suddenly sit back in his inimitable way and proclaim, "you're right." You just have to know that I didn't HAVE to be right, but the fact that he gave as much ground as he captured at times always left me feeling valued in ways I find difficult to describe. Better still was the manner in which he handled those times that I wasn't right, or when he chose to exercise his executive privilege in a particular decision. Firm and decisive, he managed to demonstrate a high regard for the opposing stance or idea with gracious warmth too. I still marvel: How'd he do that?

It was during my tenure as a business professional that I found myself musing more-and-more on the concepts associated with leadership in general, John's leadership in particular. With ever-increasing demands on my work life, I eventually graduated to a significant role that entailed a huge budget, governing three entire departments, and managing 26 people. Nothing in my upbringing had prepared me for so daunting a challenge, but God saw fit to place John a few paces ahead of me to demonstrate "how to" walk that path.

John never said so, but I know he was thorough in assessing his own leadership. I imagine him asking questions like these:

Where am I going?
Who's following me?
Why are they following me?
Where am I leading them?
Where do they want me to lead them?
Who am I following?
Where am I?

He knew where he was. He knew where he needed to go. He was all about the planning in between, and always taking into account the people that followed. He never asked that we travel the Yellow Brick Road to some vague or unreal destination. I copied his style.

Thank you, John. I never had to make excuses or apologies for you, or regret the methods or mapping you crafted for those of us coming behind you. But you're still wrong about the popcorn!


John is at the head of this table,
wearing the magician' cap.
He was and is a man loved by all!
(That's me, nearest on the right.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hide 'n Seek

When I was quite small and for a good many years, it was a nightly ritual for my dad to tuck me into bed at night. The process always began with the hiding game. He'd give me a head start, allowing me at least five minutes of stealthy maneuvers to find an obscuring place for myself. Then I'd hear his footsteps - loud, ominous, deliberate - followed by the usual running commentary: where'd she go? where's my Kathy hiding? she's found a really tough place this time! where'd she go? I can't find her!

It was difficult to remain hidden without squealing with delight and announcing my whereabouts. Fact is, I hid in the same place most every night. But dad played along, making the hiding game my favorite.

The neighborhood children often did the same thing as we wiled away the
warm summer evenings until the late hour ("late" being 7:00PM). I loved the hiding part best. There was an abundance of shrubbery, trees, buildings and vehicles to wiggle under or behind or within. I didn't even mind the finding part, being "it", and having to seek out my hiding buddies - though I was sometimes overcome with fright when one would jump out at me with a "boo!". Many hours could evaporate quickly with these joyous childhood pass times.

It is here that I can't help but think of all those animal babies being taught with play & frolic all the life skills (do animals have "life skills"?) they'll need in adulthood.

I guess that's why it surprises me that so few people enjoy the seeking part of life, content to meander this way or that without really considering what they might find if they actually did seek. Worse, some are themselves hiding and hoping never to be found (or found out).

Some things hide in really tough places; others in plain sight. The fun part still resides with the process, just as it did when I was a child.

Olly, olly, oxen free! I still love that sound.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Please Vote

Please don't miss the privilege of voting in the upcoming Presidential election. If you've not yet registered, it's as easy an ordering pizza. Click on the following link and just follow the simple directions. You can even vote from home by way of an Absentee Ballot.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER:

Blind Spots

It is commonly known that drivers have at least one blind spot when navigating the roadways. I have one in my own vehicle so I pay extra close attention when changing lanes or making turns. That blind spot could get me in a lot of trouble, especially if I don't acknowledge that it exists, or if I forget that it's there.

Therefore it comes as no surprise that I have spiritual blind spots too. Some fall into the category of those I'm not yet aware of - the things I don't know that I don't know. There are also those things that I do know of (at least on some level) and choose to ignore. But the ones that really get me in trouble are those that I know of and dress up in justifications -the kind of justifications that give me permission to do whatever I want regardless. They have my stamp of approval because I've labeled them something different, ie., they're my right, or my perogative, or my quirk, or what God told me to say/do. I might even decide they're nobody else's business.


That might all be well and good until (heavy emphasis on UNTIL) I go to change lanes or make a turn. I might just plow into someone else - maybe even someone else ignoring their own impaired vision. Blind spots are truly hazardous in more ways than one!

Best I get intentional if I plan to navigate life's highways. In addition to taking into account the many other road hazards, I must at the very least take into account those things that have my name on them. Thus I need to identify my personal blind spots and then be willing to own them and be accountable for them. That makes it rather tough when telling the other guy, the one I just ran over, "Golly ... I didn't even see you!"


Fender benders are costly - - and more serious collisions can even be deadly. So I will save myself a lot of grief if I don't lose sight of losing sight.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lest We Forget the Children


A Child's Heart
Author Unknown

A child's heart is full of love
Bearing all the burden
Holding on to every promise
Even the uncertain..
A child's tears happy or sad
Are real from within
The cry's come from their souls
Brought on by confusion..
A child thinks of only good
No matter what has happened
They love their mom and dad
But their souls will never mend..
Hold a child oh so close
Don't ever let them go
A gift from the Almighty
Like the first fallen snow..
Unconditional love
Is all that they say and more
To take advantage of that
Is to tear at God's core..
A child's heart is full of love
Not to bear the burden
But to love life to the fullest
Ever so certain...

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:1-6

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kermit Chimes In

Not Quite Settled

OK ... now I really am dragging out my soapbox. I must being watching way too much television and reading way too many news websites, because I'm just not buying the ongoing assault on my creationist views. No doubt what I'm about to say will be politically incorrect, and by some probably assessed and archaic (or neanderthalic).

To the Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens of the world, and to those that would posit evolution as a foregone fact (avoiding the truth that it is, in reality, nothing but theory) I offer the Greek concept of entropy as described for us by my friend Merriam as at least one component in the arsenal against their views:

1: a measure of the unavailable energy in a closed thermodynamic system that is also usually considered to be a measure of the system's disorder, that is a property of the system's state, and that varies directly with any reversible change in heat in the system and inversely with the temperature of the system; broadly : the degree of disorder or uncertainty in a system
2 a: the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity b: a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder
3: chaos, disorganization, randomness

Here are but two examples of entropy at work ... a dead car junkyard, and the ruins of a once-great civilization.

What's the rub? Well, the Big Bang theorists that opt to leave the Creator out of the picture altogether would have us believe that man is getting better and brighter with the passage of time; that a whole new world order is within our grasp IF ONLY we stupid mortals (did I say I'm standing on a soapbox?) would just get GREEN! (Can't you just hear Kermit the Frog singing "It Ain't Easy Being Green"?)

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all about good stewardship, and taking care of this amazing planet is right near the top of the list of things to steward. But the rub to me is that everything - and I do mean everything - breaks down and gets worse over time, not better. And that's no matter how much work men put into keeping it all from falling apart. Death heads the list of entropic realities, but so too every other natural as well as manmade system.

Nope ... I'm not buying their theories no matter how convincingly they offer them up. If there's order at all, and there is, it's because the Designer plans it that way. Present tense.

OK. Now that I've had my say I'll put away the soapbox for yet another day of sassy rumblings. Besides, it seems to be falling apart.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Straight from the Huckleberry Press

Where else but in the unbooming metropolis of Creston, Washington (population 232) will you find such incredible, spot-on news? While waiting for my huckleberry pancakes at the local diner, I stumbled upon this noteworthy piece.

Ramblings of a Retired Mind

I was thinking about how a status symbol of today is those cell phones that everyone has clipped onto their belt or purse. I can’t afford one. So, I’m wearing my garage door opener.

I also made a cover for my hearing aid and now I have what they call blue teeth, I think.

You know, I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people didn’t like me anyway.

I was thinking that women should put pictures of missing husbands on beer cans!

I was thinking about old age and decided that old age is ‘when you still have something on the ball, but you are just too tired to bounce it.’

I thought about making a fitness movie for folks my age, and call it ‘Pumping Rust’.

I’ve gotten that dreaded furniture disease. That’s when your chest is falling into your drawers!

When people see a cat’s litter box, they always say, ‘Oh, have you got a cat?’ Just once I want to say, ‘No, it’s for company!’

Employment application blanks always ask who is to be notified in case of an emergency. I think you should write, ‘A Good Doctor’!

Why do they put pictures of criminals up in the Post Office? What are we supposed to do...write to these men? Why don’t they just put their pictures on the postage stamps so the mailmen could look for them while they deliver the mail? Or better yet, arrest them while they are taking their pictures!

I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older. Then, it dawned on me, they were cramming for their finals. As for me, I’m just hoping God grades on the curve.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Homing


Our return flight to Arizona leaves this afternoon, but already my heart is making its way home. It's way ahead of my body as it moves in the directon of the faces and places that are its present castle. These kean homing instincts include visions of all things familiar, not the least of which are these ...

  • My office den, where my thinking chair & Bible
    wait; where my computer idles in anticipation
    of a flurry of words

  • My workspace, where my office-companions
    Bob & Art are toiling away without me

  • My cozy couch corner, complete with evening
    chats and snoozes

  • My tree-lined streets, where many a morning
    walk has inspired new thoughts or remodeled
    old ones

  • My kitichen, where nightly puttering is among
    my fondest doings

  • My family and friends who often come to swim
    or share that which is produced in the puttering
    place

  • My daily routines - from brain strain to play and
    everything in between

These are but a few of my heart's delights, making the process of homing a journey of great joy.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Roots

This is the youngest and only living of my father's siblings, Aunt Helen. At 96 she is one remarkable lady. Then again, she's always held that title. Frail and bent now, her mind is sharp and her eyes crystal clear. I found her reading Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation" and thought her picture ought to have been on the cover.



Cousins Hank and Dick (Pickle) engage in "chef wars".
Having memorialized pig Sooie, the bacon was by far
the best ever!


Monica, Kathleen, Emily, Bonnie, Mark, Nathan, Dick and Matthew.

Dick & Bonnie with Uncle Bob's jalopy.

We found ourselves enchanted by the valley's charms - a lazy hollow nestled between the plains of Spokane on the east side, and the rugged northern Cascade mountains on its west side. While Seattle bustled with the laying of concrete vertical as well as horizontal in the early 1900s, Okanogan was seeding wheat, planting orchards, and tending grazing cattle. Then, as now, the inhabitants of this land are devoted to faith and family. They travel life in the slow lane. It's where my grandparents chose to homestead, having journeyed from Tawas, Michigan to make a new home in a new and promising land.

This is also where my mother met my father in 1928. Their combined family roots run deep in this soil. Therefore my own do as well.

It’s been 16 years since last I visited. All the old-guard save for Aunt Helen has passed out of view now. The cousins, like me, are grey of hair and thick of middle. Yet there is something youthful and ever-so familiar in the glint of an eye, or a smile.

Time stands still here. I am able to look back and then forward without fear of whip-lash or stress fractures. It’s a pondering place if ever there was one, and just for a moment they’re all here again … Mom, Dad, Uncle Bob, Uncle Elmer, Uncle Martin, Ronnie, Aunt Evelyn. There’s a cavalcade of cars in Aunt Helen’s grassway (that random parking green adjacent her kitchen that is now a formal driveway), a flat of Bing cherries half eaten on the porch, and a batch of lively children playing hide-and-go-seek in the apple orchard. They’re planning on another of their night-time snipe hunts, with this one-time youngster waiting gleefully to the snickers and chuckles of the older cousins. I’m still looking for those snipes.

What a wonderful, rich heritage.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Time Stands Still

Our road trip has taken us well off the beaten path. We've stepped back in time while we treasure kin in the Okanogan Valley. Here the lazy Okanogan River snakes its way through apple orchards and horse ranches - virtually unchanged since the days of my childhood. I'll be writing more about this place and the people here - the best of which are family.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Granny Gap

Time for a break which means I'm headed off to the beautiful (well, sometimes beautiful ...) Pacific NW. Thus I'll take a breather from not only the Arizona heat, but the blogpsphere as well. Rest assured ... I'll be back! Probably with some sassy new sagas as well.

Monday, July 7, 2008

We're Not So Different

Running. Resting. Discovering. Seeking. Losing. Gaining. Finding.

Oh ... the many trails and detours we often take before finding our way to a little peace, a hand to reach to.

We're not so different.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Home

It's a compelling term, "home". It can conjur up thoughts charming, or thoughts alarming depending on your experience. I suppose most of us have a vision of what home is, or ought to be; and I'll just bet it's associated with safety, nurture and peace. I mean ... who'd want to think in terms of their ideal home being cold, scarey or cruel (unless, of course, you're a Stephen King fan)?
.
Merriam tells us that home is:
1 one's place of residence, house
2 social unit formed by a family living together
3 a familiar or usual setting
.
I've had a number of residences over the
years, but only one home. It is aptly identified as being where the heart is. That means that wherever my heart is, I'm home. Pretty simple. Not so easy.
.
There's the grass is greener syndrome - that insidious condition that would have us believe we can't be happy until _______ (fill in the blank). Also the one-upmanship between one homeowner and the other - that baffling quest for something as nice or nicer than the other guys. There's the lost condition - not knowing where you are, much less where is your home. Lots of things impede the heart from identifying its true home. Lots of things impede the heart's ability to be content where it is. .

For as long as I live home will look like this - the house of my childhood. It represents so much more than a mere abode could possibly convey.
.
As I said, I've lived in plenty of structures I've called home. Many of them are associated with precious memories, but some are not. Some contain memories of shattered dreams or personal failure; others fear. Some remind me of financial strife along life's journey, or sorrow. But most of them remind me that home is really where my heart resides - and that means that no matter where I rest my head at night, it's my home.
.
Funny, but my heart always takes me to this home - this literal place - when I have a longing for home. It is the home of my youth, but it's also the home of my dreams as well. In fact, I believe it looks just like the home I'll reside in for eternity (but remodeled to include a porch).
.
Home has to do with where one senses one belongs,
where one's roots are, where one's being can thrive.
There is nothing worse than a feeling
of homelessness - of not being able to find home.
(John Killings, "365 Simple Gifts from God")

Friday, July 4, 2008

Just One of the Brave


Michael A. Monsoor

April 5, 1981(1981-04-05) – September 29, 2006 (aged 25)
.
.
.
Michael Monsoor (foreground) with SEAL teammembers in Ramadi, Iraq
.
Place of death
Ramadi, Iraq
.
Service/branch
United States Navy
.
Years of service
2001-2006
.
Rank
Master-at-Arms Second Class
.
Unit
United States Navy SEALs, Team Three
.
Battles/wars
Iraq War
.
.
I didn't know this young man, though I wish I had. He represents all that is good and noble about the men and women that comprise the United States Military. He is like so many; the many we rarely hear about. Yet he was different as well. This young man literally layed down his life for his friends,and for his country.
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Thank you, Michael Monsoor for your sacrifice.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Let Freedom Ring

John 8:31-32, 36 "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free... So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

2 Cor 3:17 "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."

Galatians 5:1 "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

MAY WE NEVER FORGET THAT FREEDOM IS NOT FREE!


Delays Along the Way

WAIT
(Author Unknown)
.
Desperately, helplessly, longingly I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate,
And the Master so gently, said,
"Child you must wait."
.
My future and all to which I relate,
Hangs in the balance,and you tell me to WAIT?
I'm needing a "yes," a go-ahead sign,
Or a "no," to which I then can resign.
.
And Lord, you promised that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord, I've been asking, and this is my cry,
I'm weary of asking, I need a reply!
.
Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate;
As my Master replied, once again,
"You must wait."
So, I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut
And grumbled to God, "so I'm waiting... for what?"
.
He seemed then to kneel, and
His eyes wept with mine,
And He tenderly said,
"I could give you a sign."
.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun,
I could raise the dead, and cause the mountains to run.
All you seek I could give, and pleased you would be.
You would have what you want, but you would not know Me.
.
You'd not know the depth of My love for each saint.
You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.
You'd not learn to see through the clouds of despair,
You'd not learn to trust by knowing I'm there.
.
You'd not know the joy of resting in Me,
When darkness and silence were all you could see.
You'd never experience that fullness of love,
As the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove.
.
The glow of My comfort, late into the night,
The faith that I give, when you walk without sight.
The depth that's beyond getting just what you asked,
Of an infinite God, who makes what you have, last.
.
You'd never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that "My grace is sufficient for thee."
Yes, your dreams for your loved ones, overnight would come true,
But, oh the loss if I lost, what I'm doing in you!
.
So, be silent, My child, and in time you will see,
That the greatest of gifts is to get to know Me.
And though oft' My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all, is still WAIT.
.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My Special e-Peep


It is my great pleasure to introduce a very special e-Peep.
.
Elaine Olsen
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Elaine is perhaps my #1 fan (sometimes my ONLY fan, I think). She is also one amazing word-smith; a fellow blogger and a devotee of Merriam Webster. We are kindred spirits in that regard!
.
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I must warn you: Elaine speaks from the heart to the heart. Her love of the Lord attaches to her prolific writing, making us kindred spirits in this greater connection. At once you will know her.
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Visit with her for yourself and hear all about her life as a preacher's wife, mother of four, daughter treasured, and friend extraordinaire. You'll be glad you made the e-trip to North Carolina to meet her (and you can't beat the travel savings to get there!).

A Patriot's Heart

During the terrible night of September 13, 1814, the British fleet bombarded Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor. Francis Scott Key, a 34-year old lawyer, watched the attack from the deck of a British prisoner-exchange ship. For nearly 25 hours the British fleet fired their cannons at the American defenses. The morning following the battle Key turned his telescope to the fort and saw that the American flag was still waving. The flag above Fort McHenry was massive in size, each individual stripe measured two feet in width. The impressive sight inspired Key to write the poem that later became our national anthem - in honor to both the brave warriors on that long-ago battlefield, and to the power of God who blessed them that day.
.
Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight'
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.
.
And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
.
Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen, thro' the
mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
.
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner: oh, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
.
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
.
Oh, thus be it ever when free men shall stand,
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that has made and preserved us as a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust";
.
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
.
May our heav'n-rescued land and its populace never forget Who makes the land free, and peoples to be brave!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Die Has Been Cast

Incredible words from a young pastor in Zimbabwe, Africa, who was later martyred for his faith in Jesus:

"The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made - - I am a disciple of His. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I'm finished with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, depend on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor with power."

That just about says it all.

I Didn't Know That


As I meandered during my early morning constitutional earlier, I was again reminded of the many things I don't know that I don't know. It's sort of funny when you actually thing about it, but I wonder how many times I ponder or decide upon a choice or course of action without really having all the facts. Truth is: probably more times than I know.

Why is it we don't know what we don't know? Isn't that a silly question? It could be because we're too young; we haven't gathered enough education or life experience. Or it could be that we've lead an extremely sheltered existence. Then again, it could be that we just don't pay attention. Perhaps it's because we aren't supposed to know some things.

It doesn't really matter which it is (or does it?), I just know I am often the fool for attempting to assess something that appears this way or that, only to later discover that I didn't know what I didn't know before making my judgement call. Had I remembered that I often don't know, I might more often keep my thoughts to myself or ask more questions. Maybe I'd seek a bit more before thinking I'd found.