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Monday, August 31, 2015

A Good Day

When you live at the beach you see a lot of wild and crazy things. We’ve seen dolphins jumping 10’ out of the water, whales spouting and breaching, hundreds of pelicans dive bombing for fish and recently a large shark swimming within 20’ of the shore. But we’ve also seen crazy things wash up onto the beach like baby seals and a glass bottle with a message in it. This week however takes the cake. In the middle of the night a huge 50’ wooden sailing vessel mysteriously crashed onto the beach with no one on board.

Isn’t there an old saying…“The best days of your life are the day you buy your boat and the day you sell your boat.” I guess that’s true because boats can become a maintenance nightmare as they get old, but what about the day your boat becomes shipwrecked on a beach. That can’t be a good day!

When I saw that sailboat, beaten and battered and lying on its side in the sand, it reminded me of the story of the apostle Paul and all the hardships he endured. He was beaten, stoned, jailed multiple times, shipwrecked twice and one time drifted alone in the ocean for several days. I am sure he prayed for help every time and fortunately his prayers were answered. He survived and went on to write a large portion of the New Testament, but what impressed me most about Paul is how he never got upset about his troubles. Even as he was lying on the cold floor of a jail cell, shackled and beaten, he kept praising God. That can’t be a good day, but yet he believed that every day was a good day… and I think it was because he had such a strong, trusting relationship with God.

I admire Paul for his unrelenting faith and would love to be more like him. It’s a great goal, but to be honest, I’m not sure I can do it. I think back to 2003 when my wife was hospitalized with a very serious lung disorder. I remember praying over and over again for her to recover. Fortunately my prayers were answered and I immediately got down on my knees and thanked God profusely. But what if they weren’t? What if God said no? Would I still have been down my knees praising Him? That’s a tough question!

Even now I have friends who are struggling, one with cancer and one with a brain tumor. I find myself praying daily for my friends and I will keep on praying because I know the power of prayer, but more importantly I know the power of God. He gives us His grace and the promise of eternal life and I can’t think of anything better than that. And yet even beyond grace are all the other blessings we have during our short time on this earth. We have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to feel. We have the beauty of nature and the love that we share in our relationships, so that’s kind of like grace and goodies! Anyway, I guess from heaven’s perspective grace should be enough and I also guess that the day we go to heaven….well, that is definitely going to be a good day!
Call on God, but sail away from the rocks!
~ Indian Proverb

Monday, August 24, 2015

Getting Your Hands Dirty

Last week was kind of a long, tough week for me. I was super busy at work and had to start early every day, putting in long hours dealing with a lot of large projects, operational issues and employee reviews. By Thursday evening I was beat, so I told my wife I was only going to work a half day on Friday. She said that sounded great and that she would go in to the office with me that day.

When noon rolled around on Friday I was excited. I had it all worked out in my head. We would drive through a fast food place on the way home to save time. Then I would grab some beach towels, situate the umbrella just right, pour myself a cold ice tea and grab the latest edition of Sports Illustrated. It was going to be such a relaxing afternoon…and I was really looking forward to it.

But as soon as we got into the car and I asked her what she wanted for lunch, I knew I was in trouble. She had a slightly different vision, one that included lunch at her favorite little Italian restaurant, then shopping for plants and trees on the way home and me spending the rest of the day reworking our front planter area! In my head I was momentarily bummed but I didn’t want her to know it or feel bad. I had been telling her I would do that gardening work for a while, so I had to keep my word. We had a nice lunch at La Famiglia and then went to Home Depot and loaded up three full carts with plants, trees, flowers and top soil. It was nearly 3:00pm when we got home, but not too late to start digging. Our two front planter areas are fairly small but since I don’t have a wheelbarrow, I had to remove all the old rocks and top soil by hand with a 5-gallon bucket. It must have taken me about 35-40 trips just to clear the area before I could even start digging holes for the new plants. By the time the sun went down, I was so tired and so dirty I looked and felt just like that character Pig Pen in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

But something changed inside me as I did that gardening work. There’s something about working with the earth, digging down into it, giving new life to plants and trees and really getting your hands dirty that feels good. After I took a long hot shower, I went back out to the front of the house and admired the newly planted area. I realized that I felt a whole lot better having completed the gardening work, then I would have had I just been sitting under an umbrella…and it looked awesome! My wife actually is the one that deserves most of the credit though. She picked out the right plants and laid out the perfect design. All I did was put them in the earth. But then again…maybe we make good teammates that way!

And that got me thinking… I wonder if God felt really good when He was getting His hands dirty creating the earth and designing all of nature so perfectly. And…I wonder if God looks at us as His teammates on earth…because if so, we better not be afraid to get our hands dirty right along with Him!


I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station,
through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.
~ George Washington Carver

Monday, August 17, 2015

Life's Paragraph

Last week 23 of our family members spent an entire week together vacationing in Tahoe. And when I say together, I mean all of 23 us shared the same house. It was a beautiful four-story home that was secluded in a wooded section above South Lake Tahoe. The home had seven bedrooms and a huge game room with couches for the two teenage boys, so everyone had their own “private space” to get away from the chaos, but yet there really wasn’t a lot of chaos. Even though our group ranged from 2 year olds to 70 year olds we had a blast!  We took turns cooking dinners each night and we went fishing, hiking, golfing, gambling, para-sailing and swimming at the beach at Lake Tahoe.

Obviously I can’t say every moment was pure joy. For example things got pretty competitive at the family poker tournament mid-week, but I can say that taking a family vacation together is a great way to spend time with the people you love and re-ignite the reasons why you love each other. When you have to share a bathroom, wash dishes together, and take turns watching toddlers, you bond in a very special way that you’ll never forget. One of the most memorable moments was when my wife’s parents announced that they had a special gift for every family member. For over a year they had been working on-line with to put together a family genealogy album that listed family members dating all the way back to the 1600’s. What caught my attention was that there was a brief paragraph, just a few sentences, describing the life of each person. And that got me thinking… What would my “life’s paragraph” say?

As I pondered that question I thought about the fact that each one of us has a unique destiny. Each one of us is given special gifts from God and probably a certain destiny as well, but how many of us have the determination and good sense to use our gifts wisely (hopefully to serve others) and how many of us are truly able to fulfill our unique destiny. I am reminded of the story about the baby eagle who fell out of his nest and ended up being raised by chickens. From the floor of the barnyard he spots an eagle in the clouds and his heart stirs. “I can do that!” he whispers quietly. The other chickens laugh, but he knows better. He knows he was born different… born with a unique destiny.

As I look back on my life I can see that God did give me some special gifts and for that I am very thankful to Him. While I am using those gifts…I can’t say for sure I have fulfilled my destiny yet because I recognize that I still have a lot of learning and growing to do. But I can say that I truly love the journey I am on. Hey, maybe that’s what my “life’s paragraph” will say. He wasn’t the brightest guy on earth…but he was smart enough to appreciate every moment of life’s journey!

Family Vacation Picture - Lake Tahoe 2015

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have
 a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me."
~Erma Bombeck