Friday, January 04, 2019

It is Well

Today I will be questioned about everything I have ever done.

From the Book of Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals January 4:
Song “It is Well with My Soul”

As I sit across from my questioner my anxiety is high.

Psalm 23 You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me: you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup runs over.

How will I ever be able to do this? I am not sure I can do it on my own.

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

A text from a friend:
Gotcha.  “Be strong and courageous”.  Praying God goes before you and prepares your heart for the day.

It really is well with my soul.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Joy to the World

It is Christmas in Kazakhstan
There is a dusting of snow across the desert
The Christmas story is read
Behold the Lamb is playing on my way to work
Nothing can steal my joy today
Although there is plenty that tries
O come Emmanuel
God feels very near

Monday, December 17, 2018

Finding Christmas

I walked across the desert back to the room. It is snowing. Not hard. But enough flakes are coming out of the sky to change the feel and mood of my walk. It feels Christmasy.

This year I will spend Christmas in Kazakhstan away from family. There are people here - co-workers - that I will share a Christmas dinner with. Even with that being the case, I will be alone. Alone has been my theme for this year.

Growing up Christmas was for me, like most kids, a big deal. I looked forward to the holiday with a sense of wonder. Mom and dad made it that way for us. Dad would quote Scrooge often saying “bah humbug”, but when it came to it he loved Christmas too.

One year we got home from a hour long drive from our grandparents house on Christmas Eve. It was dark and cold and my brother and I were excited about this being the night that Santa would come. There was a knock at the door. Dad went away and was gone for a bit. He closed the door and he and mom came into our room and said “That was Santa. He can’t bring in your presents until you are asleep. He is going to the neighbor’s house and will swing back by. If you aren’t asleep he will have to move on.” We didn’t have a fireplace or a chimney for Santa to descend so it made perfect sense to us that he would knock on the door. We jumped into our PJs and turned off the light and tried our hardest to fall asleep. I realize now this was a sneaky way for mom and dad to get time alone on Christmas Eve but for us it added to the wonder of Christmas.

I remember mom getting together with my aunts and them making Christmas treats. One aunt made this hard red transparent candy that was cinnamon flavored and burned your tongue. There were cookies, cakes, chocolate and pecan sandies. Mom made peanut butter bon bons and turtles. Those two desserts mean Christmas to me. And they add to the wonder.

Most years we would dig through the TV guide to figure out when the movie ‘A Christmas Carol’ would come on. We loved the combination of a Christmas story mixed with a ghost story. It scared me and inspired me all at the same time. When our kids got to junior high their school would take them on a field trip around Christmas to the Alley Theater in Houston to see their on-stage version of A Christmas Carol. I would volunteer as a chaperone every year I could because I love the story so much. In recent years we have seen the play a couple of times in London. One version was an over the top glitzy version and another was a sparse stage. The later was much better. But every time I have seen A Christmas Carol performed in whatever format, it has caused in me a sense of wonder.

A while back Andrew Peterson wrote and recorded a Christmas album called ‘Behold the Lamb of God’. It is well written and tells the Christmas story in an original way with the appropriate brevity. The music sets the proper tone for every movement of the story. It is good to listen to the recorded version but what is even better is to see it performed live. Many of the past Christmases since it was released we have gone to see Andrew Peterson and his band of merry musicians perform ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ live. It is the story that matters most at Christmas and adds to the wonder.

This year while I am alone in Kazakhstan I want to, even long to, find Christmas wherever I can. I see it and feel it in the light snow as I walk. I downloaded ‘A Christmas Carol’ to read. Even though I have seen it performed I have never read Dickens’ words. I have just finished reading about the ghost of Christmas past and the story is even richer to me now as it goes from the page into my head. I walked to work this morning and listened to the live version of ‘Behold the Lamb of God’. I cried in a couple of places. It moved me to be grateful that God became a man for the benefit of all of humanity. When I get home after Christmas we will celebrate late with our kids on New Year’s. We are calling it New Christmas. I will make peanut butter bon bons and turtles. And I will feel the wonder and find Christmas wherever I can. Maybe Santa will even knock on the door.

Gather 'round ye children, come
Listen to the ol. old story

Of the pow'r of Death undone
By an infant born of glory

Andrew Peterson 'Gather Round ye Children Come'

Thursday, December 13, 2018


I like wild.

The trouble I got myself into included wild. Wild is part of the reason I kept going back. The trouble I got myself into was trouble because what I was doing was wrong and the wild part of it was wrong as well. Even though that is true wild is not always wrong.

In order to subdue my harmful desires there are boundaries and rules. Certain people have permission to ask probing questions and they come in various forms.
  •   How are you doing resisting tempting lustful thoughts? Have you looked when you shouldn’t?
  •  Do you really need to check your 401k everyday?
  •  Are you sure eating that way is healthy? How many drinks have you had this week?
  •  Are you working as hard as you could be?
  •  Have you reacted in anger to your family, friends or coworkers?
  •  Are you looking for something else when what you have is good enough to meet your needs?
  •  Are you doing what you do because it feeds your ego?

 Lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, anger, envy and pride - the things that could kill me.

I wonder if I can ever be good enough. Is perfection the only standard? If so I am doomed. Are these fences to protect another’s yard? Or are they a cage for the animal - taking what was once wild and making it tame?

Why can't you, be more like your older brother
Why can't you, do a little more for Jesus
Blood pressure
Do better!

 - Mutemath, Blood Pressure

I’m growing fond of broken people
Cause I see that I am one of them

- Mutemath, Pins and Needles

I hiked with my son into the mountains. We carried everything we needed to survive for a couple of days on our backs. I enjoyed so many parts of it. The strenuous walk through the snow. The warmth of a campfire while sipping a wee dram. The companionship of my son. The beauty of the fourteen thousand foot peaks surrounding the valley we camped in. Seeing the moose graze by the clear stream in the morning. I loved it because it was wild.

In the morning when I am at work I walk from my room through the desert for 2 miles to my office. In the evening I walk back. There is a bus that I refuse to ride. I do this in the summer heat and in the winter cold. I avoid barking dogs and a local who tried to hit me with his car. I enjoy it because it keeps me healthy. I like that people think that doing it is strange and even a bit noble and it feeds my ego. I need the mental space without people for my mind to wander and either prepare for or decompress from my day.

When I am at home I walk through the hills in the Texas hill country. I like that there are sweeping views. I like that the walk is steep in places. I sometimes see whitetail deer. I feel like this is the place I am supposed to be because the air smells like home. More than anything I love my daily walks when I am away for work and when I am at home because they are wild.

I work out most mornings. I ride a stationary bike. I row on a rowing machine. I ‘run’ on an elliptical. I walk/run on the treadmill. I lift weights. I don’t do all of those things every day. I work out because it makes me healthy. I like the feeling of sweating. I enjoy when I feel strong. And I like the way consistent exercise makes me look. More than any reason I do it because there is an aspect of wild in a good work out.

I dug a hole a bit over 44 inches in diameter and 10 inches deep just far enough away from the back porch. I removed rocks and dirt. I leveled the bottom of the hole and poured in paving sand and then started building a circle of brick pavers. Once the bricks were three layers thick and protruded from the ground couple of inches I put red lava rock in the bottom. I took flat rocks from the yard and paved the ground around it. In the dark of the morning after the fire pit was completed I built the first fire in it. I sat in a chair and stared into the glow and felt the warmth while I drank my morning coffee. I enjoyed seeing the thing I had built serve its purpose. I felt a sense of accomplishment of having conceived of and constructed something with my hands. I love our fire pit because there is something primal about a fire. I love it because it is wild.

Wrong is wrong.

Sometimes wild is wrong.

Sometimes wild is so right.

Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he is good. - C. S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe can’t escape it - there is something wild in the heart of every man. - John Eldredge, Wild at Heart

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Searching and Fearless

We made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.

List strengths and list weaknesses in every aspect and time-frame of life.

I am so weak.

Some know me and love me in spite of who I am.
Some barely know and believe I should be despised.

Who knows who I really am?

I want to be perfect.
I am not perfect.
Why can't I be perfect?

Is it okay that I am still in process?

For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. -David the King of the Jews

And in my dreams I come out clean
When I reach the other side
West of where the sun sets
Where rainbows never die
- The Steeldrivers

He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. - Paul the Apostle of Jesus

Tuesday, September 04, 2018


I work hard. I am good at my job, really good, and yet I am not paid the salary that matches my skill. If I had just a little more money I would be able to have the house that would be the envy of my guests. My car would not just be reliable, it would shout who I am to all of those who see me drive it. If I was paid what I am worth my wife and I could go out every once in a while for the dates we both desire. Is it too much to ask to live a life of comfort instead of worrying about finances? That would be the life.
Oh, to live the minimalistic life. A life of simplicity in a small house in the woods by a stream. I would eat the food I harvest from my own garden and enjoy eggs for breakfast from the chickens that live free range in my yard. I would only use the electricity produced from the solar farm in my open field. Living on just the basics I would require very little from the world around me. All the while enjoying the simple things like sitting in a porch swing and watching the sun go down. Money would not be important to me because I would not need much. That would be the life.

My world would be a better place if I could just have a few close friends who know absolutely everything about me and I know all there is to know about them. Despite the knowing we would still be close friends. I want to have friends who mutually share joy, hardships, food, drink and intellectual conversation.
The best place to live is in a world of my own making. To be alone. How can I know myself and know the true nature of God if I don't spend time exploring the depths of my mind, emotions and soul. To examine self in relation to everything around me in silence and solitude. To live a life of joy in my own company. To know what there is to know and do what there is to do ... all by myself.

I long for a romantic long term committed relationship with one person who will be at my bedside or I will be at theirs when one of us dies. I want to be with the person God assigned just for me from the foundation of creation. The one I can stick with through the joy and pain. No matter what comes we will be together forever.
I don't think they understand me. Maybe we committed ourselves to a lifelong relationship in haste without understanding. There is so much hurt and so many things we may never be able to get beyond in our relationship. Maybe we would both be better off if we would end it here and go out on our own. It's okay to blame it on me if it means we can both be free. "I know its hard to say 'throw it all away' but the odds are we'll be better off." -Mutemath

I ache to travel the world. To see the sights. To smell the smells and taste the food  and listen to the languages of other cultures. I have to walk the mountains, feel the sticky salt air of the oceans, taste the wine, coffee and whisky, and sleep under the moon and stars of the places unfamiliar to me.
What I really need is to be home in front of a fire in the cool of autumn. To work a garden and build a fence and improve by my own hand the land that is mine. To mold it to my will where it is my place. The place in the world I call my own and will live and never leave until the day I die.

"The fever's getting higher ... desire." U2

" Daddy, I want a squirrel." - Veruca Salt, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

"We are limited in every way but one: we have unlimited desire." - Kent Dunnington

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content."  - Paul the Apostle of Jesus

Saturday, September 01, 2018


"It's an occasional indulgence that does not control me" I say in a dismissive tone.

Setting it aside for a time feels right. It allows me to test myself and be at peace with who I am.

Indulging whenever there is a whim is to be like a child. Rub my beard and remember that I am a man.

Seeing the world differently when the lens of my desire is removed is a refreshing sight.

Eventually savoring it when it is enjoyed in its proper place is a hopeful aspiration.