21 December 2015

That may have been the last big solo drive of my life

December 20, 2015

Left Waco, TX at 4am. Arrived in Victoria, MN at 830pm. If you don't stop at all, Google Maps says its a 16 hr drive. So I guess I wasted about 30 mins stopping for gas and driving less than expected in road construction areas.

Not a bad drive, just a grind. Getting through Fort Worth is always challenging. Texas border to Oklahoma City is somewhat scenic. Oklahoma City to Wichita is flat and fast. North of Wichita is the Flint Hills area, a most beautiful area of the country that most people have never heard of. Knute Rockne died near there and is commemorated very tastefully at a rest stop near his plane crash.

After leaving the Flint Hills the beauty turns into millions of acres of farmland, interupted briefly by the cities of Kansas City and Des Moines. During summer it can be nice to drive by acres of corn wheat and soybeans, but in the winter it is stark. From the Flint Hills to Minneapolis it is a grind that you just get through by force of will.

1080 miles.

In the hours before I left I drove around Waco and wished I had taken more time to see the place. It really is a special little spot with its own history and its own special mark on America. My youngest daughter has graduated from Baylor University. More than likely I will never go back to Waco, but one never knows for sure. I only know that next time I won't be the only one driving.

10 December 2015

I remember you! Weren't you that guy.....

In college I was in student government. It seemed important at the time and was the sort of thing that you list on your resume when you first leave college, before you have a real job. 

One of my college friends in student government is now in the insurance biz in Missouri, and has been for many years.

On his website he lists his bio and career accomplishments. What's still there for this now 60-yr old? His position in student government. In the 1970's. 

After all these years, that is one of the high points of his life. That is so terribly, terribly sad.

Lord, thank you for all the things that really matter, and for clearing my life of so many things that don't.

09 November 2015

Taking it with you....

Last week I chatted with a hospice patient. One who insisted he did not know why he was there and that he felt fine. Not resigned to his fate but a fighter who still has a few rounds left in him.

Somehow we got on the subject of retirement and finances and money. He told me... " I never wanted a lot of money, just enough to pay my bills. I never wanted to be rich. All the rich think about is how to keep what they have." That may not be an exact quote but it's close.

I thought about that statement over the weekend. I suppose there is some truth to it, but it also is full of error.

I know wealthy people who think a lot about how best to give their money away. How to use it for the Lord's work. How to be the stewards that He wants. I really dont know any who only focus on how to keep it, though I'm sure there are some.

For me, dollars are like rocks strewn along the road to righteousness. Some days there are just a few decisons to make and they are simple ones. They are like pebbles, little annoyances. Other days there are big decisions, boulders. They don't block the road, they never do. But they always distract, make you look the wrong way, or take a different path.

I have never heard anyone say that having more money brought them closer to Christ, though millions would testify that being without it certainly did.

04 November 2015

A thought last night on characters in the Prodigal Son Parable.

I have been all of them.

I have been the one who strayed into sin and squandered gifts from the Father.

I have been the one who was judgemental and unforgiving of a person who asks for forgiveness.

I have been the father who forgives a child.

I have been the servant, observing these things in the lives of others, just watching and waiting to be told what to do.

Which character am I right now?

03 November 2015

Post-game comments

Funeral homes have online guest books. You can leave comments about the deceased. It is a very impersonal way to connect to the family during one of their most personal and emotional experiences, the passing of a loved one. 

Today I ran across an entry I made on one of these a while back. It was for someone I had known for a few years who had passed away. Someone I did not really like, nor dislike.The type of person I would not go out of my way to see. Like a distant cousin you don't know very well.

I found myself thinking, "If I would not say these nice things to the person while they are alive, why I am writing them today?"

I am certainly giving the impression to his family that this person was someone I liked much more than I did.

Am I a bad person for doing this? Perhaps this is something we all do, which is the worst excuse there is. There are several ways to look at this.

1) I want to give the false impression to others that I am nicer than I am. That I cared for this person more than i actually did. 

2) In the passing I am reminded that in spite of our faults, we all have nice qualities. (how trite) I want the family to know that I remember nice things about their loved one. 

3) God is telling me that I was wrong to not have reflected His love toward this person. I rightfully feel guilt. I want to make amends but only with a gesture that is tiny. 

01 November 2015

Parting Gift

A hospice patient plays the harmonica. "Would you like to hear something?" Plays Blue eyes crying in the rain. I hum along.

30 October 2015

a revisit

I spent some time last night with my friend who was mentioned in my July post. The one with the rare muscle disease. I have seen her four or five times since then and we've become even better friends.

As i watched her try and eat, it occured to me that in a small way, she is experiencing a bit of the suffering of Christ. When on the cross he was trapped, in agonizing pain, unable to move. Could not feed himself, could not wipe his face, could not pick up a cup of water, could not cover himself.

While my friend is not nailed to a cross, she is also trapped and cannot move. She has to be fed, and covered and watched over. tapping out a few sentences takes an hour.

I told her what i was thinking, that she was experiencing a tiny bit of the suffering of Christ. I don't know if she agreed with me or not. She just looked at me. We shared a prayer. I went home. Got a glass of water all by myself. Fed myself. Put myself to bed.

29 October 2015

The small things become the big things

On weekends I volunteer at a hospice. I do little things like greet visitors, give tours, make coffee, answer the phone. Some days I do bigger things, comfort a family, be a companion to the dying, become their last new friend.

A few weeks ago I watched a one-year old proudly step across a room. She is my granddaughter and she is mastering the skill of walking. It reminded me of how common daily things we take for granted. A skill that it has taken her months to master she will quickly become accustomed to.

For many of us there will come a day when all these little things we think of as easy, become hard. Picking up a cup when thirsty and successfully putting it back down. Wrapping oneself in a blanket when cold. Not drooling on yourself. Being able to say "thank you", for a kindness. 

These are big deals on the front side of life and perhaps even bigger on the back side. All that time in between, we just do them.

11 September 2015

Labor Day

Since moving to Minnesota this day always turns my mind toward winter. Labor Day brings the mental checklist of things I have to do between now and the end of October. This year was no different.
  • Bring the boat off the lake
  • Pull in the dock and lift
  • Plow under the garden
  • Store the lawn furniture
  • Put away the hose
  • Get Christmas lights up
  • Cut the grass one last time
  • Fertilize the lawn
  • Plant spring bulbs
  • Schedule the snow plow guy
  • Store the hammock
  • Find the snowshoes
  • Get plenty of blue stuff for windshield washers
  • Crank up the snowblower
  • Set out the jack o' lantern and other fall stuff
It is also the day when I eat my one Cinnabon of the year.

18 June 2015


Off to the Cardinals/Twins game.

I have to confess that although I was born a mammal, my identity as a vertebrate has for many years been with a member of another animal group.

This guy....

14 June 2015

With the last of her strength

I have a new friend who has a terrible illness. A rare muscular disorder.

She cannot talk or walk or feed herself. She can only move her hands a little. She talks by pointing to letters on a keyboard. A simple sentence can take minutes and the frustration can bring tears to her eyes. It is a board very similar to the one below.

Her body is falling apart but not her soul.

She types out a message and asks that I send it as a text to her brother. A happy birthday wish. I do and see a bit of a smile on her face and tears on her cheeks.

She types, " Thx big time"
"God bless u"

As her pointer quivers in her failing hand, she points to these letters. P  R  A  Y.

She wants me to pray with her. I am a stranger to her. She does not know how I will respond, or if I am a Christian. But she is so helpless she is long past the point of shyness or embarrassment. So I pray and her tears flow again, not ones of frustration but of joy and happiness.

After this she asks me to read the Bible to her. Isaiah 54:14 " In righteousness you will be established; tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you."

She types again. 'God sent u"

And I think, no, God sent you to me as a reminder of how much I take for granted and how little time I have spent serving people like me new friend. On this Sunday morning I can go to church, sing a song, say a prayer, or I can not. This friend, with her last bit of strength, uses a failing finger to point me in the way I should go. As I leave she types, 'Luv Jesus'.