musings on a Sunday travel day…

This last week it looked like my long-planned trip to Frankfurt wasn’t going to happen due to the ash cloud created by the spewing Icelandic volcano.

Tuesday-ish the ‘flight ban’ over Europe began to dissipate as did the ash cloud… so theBean & I decided to make the final decision to go/stay on Wednesday… prayed about it. Confronted Fear. Not necessarily fear of not getting back on schedule, but Fear as an ominous, lurking, dark cloud that would take any & every unknown & make the thought of it sinister. Menacing. Dangerous.

We don’t want to live with Fear. Bound by it. Making decisions, being preoccupied with ugly “what-if’s” that try to masquerade as Common Sense, but are really only a thinly veiled attempt to steal, kill, & destroy.

Which reminded us that we don’t have to live with Fear. That we have a Peace that guards & protects our hearts & minds in Christ Jesus.

And also reminded us that where Fear tries to lurk is in our minds… infiltrating thoughts & ideas, in the attempt to establish a mindset that is fully grounded in doubt, & fully devoid of the presence & promise of God in Christ Jesus.

So we prayed. Talked. Prayed some more. And it was decided when theBean said, “You need to go to Germany.”

And so I go… leaving today at 1:40 PST.

Walking through Philippians, thinking about life…

Our church family is currently going through through the book of Philippians… which for me means I get to spend time doing a few of my favorite things: lots of reading, researching, studying, & listening. In all of it, I’m finding myself really intrigued, captivated even, by the unfolding theme & message of Philippians.

The context of the letter is that it’s author, Paul, is writing to a church in a place called Philippi, a church that he helped to start. (Check THIS out for some background on it.)

The letter is sent to the Philippians while he’s in prison – in Rome, awaiting trial for his unswerving commitment to the declaration of the good news that people can have relationship with God & forgiveness of sins through the death & resurrection of Christ Jesus – he was specially commsioned to take this message to the Gentiles, something that really fired up some of the Jewish religious leaders… so much so that Paul was forced to defend himself in a Roman court of law.

One of the things that ‘gets’ me is that even though he’s in prison, it doesn’t seem to phase him. As a matter of fact, the main theme that keeps popping up throughout Philippians is Joy. And Rejoicing. And being joyful.


Prison seems like a worst-case scenario to me; the kind of circumstance that would naturally lead one to use all their energy, effort, & focus to try to get OUT. Instead, Paul writes that he is rejoicing at his circumstances… because being in prison served to have the good news/gospel message advanced throughout the whole imperial guard, & to all the other prisoners.

Further, other Christ-followers were able to observe his clear, consistent, & faithful example in the face of suffering, shame, & the unknown… & from it were encouraged to tell of this good news, to speak God’s Word, without fear.

That’s why Paul rejoices. The gospel is being lived & declared, even in prison.

I’m confronted by my own fears… wondering at my own life-circumstances. What would I be focusing on if I were in Paul’s shoes? (Sandals?) Makes me think of the difficulties & messes I’ve been in, where the only thing on my mind was crying out for God’s help & deliverance… and it seemed that my only declarations centered around the theme, “GET ME OUT OF HERE!”

Paul reminds me that even in the middle of a bad situation (& prison is BAD,) God is still at work in my life. He’s never left me, never abandoned me. Even more, He’s right there with me in the middle of my trouble. And somehow, someway, He can & does manage to turn the situation for His glory. Somehow Paul sees that; & its not that he doesn’t want out of prison, (he does!) he just wants God’s purposes & plans in, through, & around his life more.


Yesterday, there was an 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile. A short while after the quake, theBean & I received notice that, as a result of the quake, tsunamis were expected to be hitting various areas of the South Pacific, including Hawaii. Where our 13 year-old theWeez is on vacation with some of her best friends… There were several concerned phone calls we & she received, foretelling doom & gloom. And here we are, in Sparks, Nevada, unable to get through on the phone, let alone do anything to protect our girl.

Being several thousand miles away has its benefits. We prayed. Reminded ourselves that we dedicated Weez to the LORD when she was a baby. That He is our fortress. Our Rock. Our protector. And waited. Watching CNN, wondering what would happen.

Turns out, nothing did. Got a few calls through to theWeez. Talked. Prayed together. Laughed about her times in the sun. She made the Mendive volleyball team.


Got a call from Pasty at 8:30 this a.m. Words a dad never wants to hear. “There’s been an accident.”

Heart in throat. Cell cutting out. Expedition totaled. Ice. T-boned by another car. Mt. Rose Highway. And nothing.

Thinking back to yesterday. Breathe. Breathe. Call cell. Nothing. Text. Waiting. Praying. Reflecting on my Rock. Fortress. Protector.

Call cell. Brief connection. We’re ok. Some headaches. Paramedics are here. Cutting out again. Breathe. Breathe. Pray. Peace.

Text from iDoey. Everyone is mostly ok. Some pains. A couple in the car going to get checked out at the hospital, just in case. Cutting out again. Breathe. Breathe. Wait.

Times like this remind me that this is where my faith has opportunity to grow. To be put into practice. Times that are easy, where everything alls as it should be aren’t stretching. Times where there’s unknown. Temptation to fear. Worry. Panic. Confronted with faith. And the choice to believe that the LORD is in control, in the middle of my unknown.

Breathe. Breathe. Peace.

Everyone checked out ok – bumps & bruises. Soreness & a headache or two. The car is a mess, but its only a car.

God is good. And we’re thankful.

A Sunday Snow Day, & other musings…

When I went to bed last night, I saw that there was some snow. Checked the local forecast, which happened to call for a rain/snow mixture, tapering off around midnight. Ok. Beings as I usually leave the house around 7:30 to head to church, I mentally figured I’d give myself a couple extra minutes for the morning drive.

Woke up this morning to the surprise of Snow, with a capital S. 9″ to 12″ worth.

Snow like I haven’t seen since the January 2005 blizzard that threw Reno into a 2-week long funk of Snow Days for school-aged kids, & transportation issues galore.

Brother was already on it – he’d been calling & texting the house, trying to awaken me from my slumber. He was wondering – “Are we going to cancel church today?”

Shaking the cobwebs from my brain, thanking the LORD for a coffee machine that has a Magic Timer that allows it to be set to go off at the Desired Time in the a.m. Looking outside again. Consuming the nectar of the java bean. Watching the Snow fall, with flakes the size of silver dollars. Goodness.

Checked in with a couple of friends to get a report on other parts of the Reno/Sparks metroplex. It was just as bad (good?) all over. Ok. We’re canceling.

When it comes to canceling church, today was a no-brainer. Lots of Snow (with more falling,) little-to-no notice of the storm, messy roads… the only thing that really runs through my brain is, “Can we get the info communicated in time to those that need it?” Between email, Facebook, texting, & the 411 Mass Email Program that Mr. H is masterminding, I think we were able to get the word out.

Sitting inside with a full belly, hot coffee, & myBean, I’m pondering the falling Snow. The accumulated Snow. Thinking back to the last time Hillside canceled church & had a Snow Day. It was the 1st week of January, 2005, & we got absolutely slammed on a Saturday. I can remember struggling for about 30 seconds over the decision. Mostly because of a feeling deep inside that you really CAN’T cancel church. Almost like it was doing something bad.

So I prayed & asked God for clarity – was this sense from Him, or was it not? The gentle encouragement I received quickly was that I was feeling Fear, something that was most definitely NOT coming from Him. Fear of what people might think of me for canceling church. Fear of not measuring up. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown.

So I rejected the Fear. Smacked it away like it was a ping-pong ball. Said, (out loud even!) “I will NOT be afraid!”

And BOOM! It was outta here.

Not too long after the 2005 Snow Day, I was at a ministerial meeting & the topic turned to the big Snow that we’d recently had. When it came to my turn to talk, I shared that rather than try to ‘have church’ we’d decided to take a Snow Day. Talked about my confrontation with Fear, & how I responded.

One of the guys said that he would never, ever, ever cancel church, no matter what. I asked why, & the answer blew me away: “Because you can’t receive an offering if you cancel church.”

Another guy agreed, & added, “If you lose a Sunday offering, you’ll never get that money, cause it’s not like the people are going to give it the next week…”

Hmmm. So the reason to have church, to not cancel, is so that people can give money? And that if they don’t have the opportunity on that Sunday to give the money, that money is lost?

Ok. That sounded a lot like more Fear to me.

We can talk a great game about God being our provider, & sing the songs, quote the verses, but when confronted with Snow & people missing an offering opportunity, Fear shows up.

I’ve GOTTA believe that God is my Source & my Provider, for everything I need, in every area – & not look to or put my trust in people, offerings, or Publisher’s Clearinghouse, for provision. Because He has promised not to abandon us. Or forsake us. Or forget us. So say BOOM! to the Fear. Booyah. Hope that didn’t end up sounding like a rant. But, goodness!

And the neighbors are out riding their snowmobile down the street. Marvelous. Now THAT brings me joy.

TheWeez is off to Hawaii for 11 days. Lucky girl. Which means we’re down to 2 children. More like 2 mostly grown men. And probably less Taylor Swift playing in the house… One of the results of theWeez leaving is that theBean has gone into cleaning mode… in & around theWeez’s room, the loft area, & the upstairs.

Me? I’m watching the Olympics. Pondering going outside to watch the neighbors some more. Shovel a bit. Thank God for always watching out for me. & enjoy my Snow Day.

I’m sailing! I’m sailing! I sail…

NOTE & DISCLAIMER: I’m not sailing. Haven’t sailed. Don’t have any plans to sail. Not against it. Just wanted to share a What About Bob?! moment I had this weekend.

Last Saturday, I finished my 40th birthday celebration. I do realize that the date was February 13th, & that it was almost a full 5 months since my ‘real’ September 19th birthday… but a couple of scheduling conflicts kept the final celebration from taking place; most notably, Petey’s 6-week National Guard deployment to an unnamed location in the Middle-East.

See, as a part of the inevitable ‘taking stock of life’ that my birthday always brings me, I decided that there were a couple of things that I would like to change – habits, patterns, ways of living. (When I was getting ready to turn 25, I read a statistic that said something to the effect that a person develops most of the habits & skills they will have by the time they hit 25. So, I decided that I needed to learn to play guitar. And I did.)

One of the things I decided to change this year involved a decision I’d made about a particular food that I had chosen not to partake of since a rather negative experience from 22 years ago. Sushi. I had it once, & I didn’t like it one bit.

I decided I’d try it again.

I’ve never been a fish or seafood guy. Don’t exactly know why, other than the smell of fish & fishy-ness sets me off. A fish market is the worst. (Actually, any really strong smell has the potential to do that. Fish. Chemical-ly & flowery perfumes. Floral ‘plug-ins’ that are supposed to make the air smell better. Most air-fresheners. Except for the new Febreze that is like the ‘clothes fresh out of the dryer smell…’ But I digress.)

Growing up, my family ate fish. Trout. Shrimp. Crab. Salmon. Halibut. You get the picture. I didn’t. I can remember trying a few of them, & feeling the repulsion, revulsion, the nose-wrinkling displeasure of EWWW!

I’ve heard from plenty of people that I just needed to try “fill-in-the-blank” seafood, prepared in the “fill-in-the-blank” way, & that I would be a convert. I tried a few. Always ended with EWWW!

My friends Petey & Debi kept encouraging me to try sushi again. Not just any sushi, but sushi prepared by Iron Chef Heif: Chris Heifner. My friend Chris is an artist in the truest sense of the word – amazing musician. Worship leader. Painter. Writer. And sushi chef.

And so, the combination of their gentle encouragement, Iron Chef Heif’s skill, & a willingness/desire to change created the perfect storm: a 40th birthday sushi celebration where I would once again give sushi a chance.

It happened Saturday, around our counter, in the company of a few friends, good music (theBean’s 40’s swing/big-band faves,) some Sapporo (as a shout-out to the real sushi-masters,) & a healthy appetite.

I don’t really know what I ate, other than I ate at least one part (portion? slicing? proper terminology would be helpful,) from every roll that Iron Chef Heif made.

My reflections:

    -I don’t like fish eggs. “Caviar.” Big or small. Black, brown, or pink. But I ate it. Salty. Like tasting a fishy part of the ocean.

    -Spicy is better. Jalapenos, wasabe, & the hot red sauce (don’t recall what it was,) were very much enjoyed & appreciated.

    -Soy sauce. The more the better.

    -Enough is enough. The pace of the eating, balanced by the time necessary for the preparation allowed me to know I was feeling full before I’d reached the proverbial “Super-Bowl” or Thanksgiving full-ness. Which probably made the whole experience more enjoyable, in that I didn’t have the “I can’t believe I ate so much” regrets. Other than the little fish-egg leftovers I was picking out of my teeth for at least 3 hours after.

I’ve been asked if I liked the sushi. It was good. Different. Don’t really have anything currently in my world to compare it to. Not a negative experience. Just don’t know.

But I’ll let you know if I end up craving it.

So… Thank you Chris, for your hard work & artistic preparation. And Pete-Debi, for your encouragement. And friends for celebrating with me.

Did you know what’s happening? I’m growing.

A thought on Joseph & his brothers…

I was reading this morning where Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers – the very same brothers that had sold him into slavery years before…

Instead of getting his revenge on them, Joseph used his position of leadership in the nation of Egypt to provide a way for his father, brothers, & their families to escape the brunt of the worst famine in recent memory by being relocated from their homes in the Promised Land to Egypt.

The 11 brothers were loaded down with loads of the best produce & provision that Egypt had to offer to make the journey as pleasant as possible.

What stood out to me was the last thing that Joseph said to his brothers before they left with their caravan to bring their father & families back:

Don’t quarrel about all this on the way.

I laughed when I read it.

I laughed because here are 11 brothers whose lives have been utterly turned upside-down for the good; whose worries about the famine & what they would eat, & how they’d provide for their families in the present & foreseeable future had been answered; whose past lies, treachery, greed, & jealousy had finally been uncovered; & also whose brother, the one that they’d sold into slavery, was now the 2nd most powerful man in the world.


They had to go back to their father & confess what they’d done to him years prior. Come clean about the carefully crafted ‘stories’ they’d told over the years to keep up their deception. Look into the eyes & face of their father, the man who they had directly caused so much pain to with their actions.

All of that can make one feel fear.

And rather than confronting our fear, which makes us feel weak & powerless, we respond in anger, which makes us feel strong. Placing blame on others, doing anything to shift the weight of personal responsibility, if even in appearance, onto the shoulders of another.

Joseph knew his brothers. Knew what they’d be doing when they got home. And knew that in spite of all the good that was going to happen to them & theirs, they’d first have to confront their own sins & wrongdoing.

It’s a good word – in the face of having to walk through tough stuff:

Don’t quarrel on the way.

Saturday-ness in the Inclement Weather…

Just got in from shoveling. Again. It’s like a competition. This bout with the shovel was the best, because it was raining. Truly. Nothing like it, especially with the promise of more snow for the evening. Ahh.

I got to perform a wedding earlier this afternoon. Right before I went into the sanctuary, I stopped to look through the foyer windows & out into the world – amid the falling snow, I saw sun. Little blue sky. Rays sparkling off the plentiful snow piled on the ground. Beautiful, like myriad diamonds. What an environment to do a wedding in, I thought.

After the wedding, I was lurking outside the room where the pictures of the bride & groom & their families were being taken… thinking about the weather, wondering when in my life I’d learned to hate snow. Don’t know. At some point, the sheer joy that falling snow would bring had been replaced by a dread, a tangible negative response in my gut. Tried to pin the time down, but nothing came to mind. It’s fear.

Fear? Of snow? Why? Hmm.

Weez - 01/2005 SnowstormIs it from worrying about having to transport youth group kids from home to Camp in the mess of snow? Worrying about theBean traveling from Sonora to C-town when we were dating? Getting stranded during my Domino’s delivery days? Or is it more recent, from the blizzard of 2005?

Why fear?

Something comes to mind: Danger. Separation. Isolation. Being without. Lack.

Hmm. Not sure why, but the realization & beginnings of identification with the pit in my gut makes me feel better. I pray. Ask for a new way of seeing snow. For comfort. Truth. Confidence in my God’s care & provision for me.

I look outside again & see that there is a backhoe in the Church parking lot. Scraping the snow off the lot & the driveway. It’s Rod, a guy from Church – he found out we didn’t get the lot scraped after the big snow Monday & borrowed the backhoe from his workplace. Then, he came up on his day off & spent a few hours plowing & scraping the residual snow & ice from the lot. Went out & talked with him. He was beaming. Glad to help, to do ‘his part.’

I wept…

Now, it’s later, & I look at the winter wonderland that has enveloped all I can see around me. Flakes the size of Silver Dollars (remember those!?) are falling. I sense awe, & wonder. Ponder the beautiful blanket of snow that makes everything it covers a work of art. Amazing.

I want to go shovel again… maybe later.