“It’s your choice…”

“It’s your choice.”

Years ago, a German friend confronted me in the middle of one of my “minor” fits of anger using just those words.

“It’s your choice.”

His admonition didn’t alleviate the slow burn I was experiencing; it made it worse. He obviously didn’t understand that I was JUSTIFIED in my anger, & that it was BECAUSE a whole series of things had gone WRONG & I was DISAPPOINTED & when I tried to share my disappointment using my WORDS, my wife (seemingly, to me in my agitated slow burn of a fit) DISREGARDED my (righteous) frustration. It was like she MADE me escalate my anger.

A disclaimer: It wasn’t one of those loud, visibly angry episodes; rather, it was my preferred kind of fit… kind of storming around with a furrowed brow, abrupt movements, fierce silence… I was mad, after all. And I was justified in being mad; all the things that hadn’t gone the way I WANTED them to go MADE me mad. Not “feeling” heard made me even MADDER.

At this rate of simmer & feeding the fires of indignation, I could have a full blown rage going pretty quick. Here it comes.

My friend interrupted my huffy-puffy-ness with a question: “What’s wrong with you? Why are you acting this way?”

So I let him have it… both barrels of explanation & indignation at all the things that were going WRONG, all the areas I was FRUSTRATED, all the things other people were DOING to antagonize me…

He listened for a minute & then… shrugged his shoulders, made a disinterested (to me) expression, & told me, “It’s your choice.”

And then he walked away. Leaving me speechless. I couldn’t believe it. How could he SAY it was my CHOICE? I was RESPONDING. I was FEELING.

I was, I was, I was… what?

…I was choosing to give myself over to stupid anger. I was feeding it with bits of indignation & throwing the fuel of misunderstanding on as well.. I was working myself up towards a rage under the guise of something happening TO me, completely ignoring that the response was coming from a force of will & my chosen action.

The rebuke of my friend turned into a time of soul-searching. I couldn’t help but hear the whispered conviction of the Holy Spirit, emphasizing, firmly & gently, that this response that I’d conditioned myself to accept as normal & ok & NOT my fault (or my choice), was actually 100% me. It WAS my choice to respond in anger. It WAS my choice to allow the offense to escalate. It WAS my choice to engage in self-pity. It WAS my choice.

Which meant…

I could CHOOSE differently.

Maybe not in my own strength & abilities; its not an easy thing to undue & break out of past patterns of behavior, especially those with such a strong dopamine hit of self-righteous pity & anger. But I could ask Jesus to do a work in me, by the power of the Holy Spirit – to CHOOSE something different. To still FEEL & PROCESS, but not to give myself over to self-indulgently negative, self-focused pity parties, masked with the ugliness of an on-the-edge anger that threatened (or at least made noise about) blowing up & really losing it.

That was A turning point. Not necessarily THE turning point, but A turning point. From that day forward, I would hear my friend’s rebuke, flavored with extra by the Holy Spirit: “It’s your choice.” And because it was my choice, I could CHOOSE differently. Consistently. Choices that led to stronger relationship with my spouse & kids. Choices that would foster relationship, trust, & healthy predictability with others.

And that is still my prayer – that I CHOOSE well, in each moment where I am tempted to fall back into the well worn rut of what is now a 20 year ago path. I don’t want to fall back into that behavior, & neither do I want to lose ground that was gained with a lot of blood, sweat, & tears.

It’s your choice…

Deutschland 2023 – Days #15 & 16 “Fun with Alex & Linda, which mostly involved trying out new restaurants & street food… “

Day 15 – the afternoon & evening

We met Alex & Linda in the courtyard of the building where our flats are located, & made our way through the maze to one of the adjoining streets to meet our Uber. They typically employ 1 of 4 modes of transportation: walking, riding a bike, hiring an Uber/taxia, or (rarely) taking the public transportation system (combo of buses/S & U-bahn trains.) The driver dropped us off & it was just a short walk to Parma Pizza. To say it was a hole in the wall makes it seem bigger than it was… there were 3 or 4 tables crammed into 2 rooms, & the ‘kitchen’ was literally 2 steps from our table. Alex stepped into the kitchen twice & was reprimanded each time for violating the ‘chef’s’ space, but it’s not like he could access his seat without stepping into the kitchen. Inside of the rooms looked like a half-finished construction site where the workers had gone home for the weekend, leaving a bunch of stuff half-done, with tools & supplies strewn around the room. There were two guys in the kitchen area; one, the owner/chef, the other, a guy who kept sampling the box of wine on the edge of the super tiny refrigerator. He reminded me of someone who was probably a buddy of the owner who comes to hang out at his buddy’s place in the hopes he’ll be able to sponge some free food & drink if he hangs out long enough. The chef guy looked as though he was an Italian photographer just returned from a taxing & oh-so-draining photoshoot somewhere & by the way he acted, it sure didn’t seem like he was happy to have customers. I dubbed him “Artist Guy” & the other guy was “the Leech.” 

He finally got around to bringing us our menus & made a big show about the artistry of his pizzas… he took the time to explain several of the pizza options to us, in German & English, even though we already knew what we wanted to order. Once we ordered, he engaged in conversation with the Leech for about 15 minutes, seemingly forgetting we were there. Eventually our drink orders came, with our bottled water & the finest boxed red wine the kitchen had to offer placed hurriedly on the table so Artist guy could get back to his conversation.

He remembered we were there to EAT, so he frantically began to assemble the ingredients for the pizzas we’d ordered on his prep counter & then painstakingly made the pizzas, popping them 1 by 1 into the pizza oven on the far side of the kitchen. Good thing they only had to bake for about 90 seconds. Artist guy deposited the pizzas in front of us & stepped back into the kitchen. 

About this time, a younger guy arrived, complete with a dark mullet of curls on his head (theBean said they were the size of the classic pink 1 1/2″ sponge hair roller that hadn’t been brushed out after removing the curlers); he spoke only broken English & his native Italian, & he seemed to be there to do all the jobs Artist guy didn’t want to do.

Pizza was ok – I got a Salamewurst & Tomato & Mozzarella & theBean had a ham pizza (ham put on after the pizza cooked, much to her chagrin & displeasure.) We ate our fill & laughed a lot around the tiny table in the bizarre pizza place/construction zone while the Leech drank more wine & the Mullet guy went through the motions of cleaning & puttering around looking for something. 

We had a blast… time with Alex & Linda is always the BEST time. Good conversations on a variety of topics: Jesus, church life, health, exercise, conspiracy theories, Joe Rogan, specialty meal replacement shakes, work (Alex works in a start-up that does high end health supplements & Linda is a supervisor in the educational system, focusing much of her life on helping foreigners & others trying to make the best of school in Germany.)

Alex had us rolling with his active & quick sense of humor & Linda’s joy & love of life are evident in every conversation we had with her. Truly dear & much loved friends. 

After our meal, since it wasn’t raining (YES) we decided to stretch our legs & walk home through the dark back streets of Berlin’s Kreuzberg & Neukölln neighborhoods; it only took about 30 minutes & it was really refreshing, esp. considering how much we had sat around with little activity the first week of our trip. Went up to their flat for more talks & a late night glass of wine… eventually made our way across the courtyard to our flat & were in our room a minute later. It was a good day.


DAY 16 – Templehof, Street Food, & Crazy Kim’s

Woke up late & headed to the Cafe Bread for coffee & a breakfast pastry… guy from yesterday wasn’t working (bummer) & but the new girl hooked us up & quickly as we settled into our spot to read, enjoy our coffee & people watch. Alex worked until 1 p.m. & Linda until 5, so theBean & I went for a walk through the neighborhood & picked up some supplies from the local grocery store. When Alex called us, we met him outside at an Uber & made our way downtown for some “on the go” site-seeing & a quick stop for a ‘snack’ at Goldie’s Smashburger &.I’ve had smashburgers in the US & they were ok… nothing compared to a good 3×3 animal style, protein style, w/extra grilled onions & cheese, no tomato, no spread, ketchup & mustard please @ In-N-Out burger, but ok.  

This was > ok. This was incredible. Keep in mind, we stopped here for a snack… & also because we hadn’t had a burger our whole time in Germany. So of course, we ended up getting doubles, which were the size of my two fists together. We came at the perfect time, so no line. By the time we were done eating, the line had wandered down the block. We crushed our burgers (so good) & took turns sampling the fries until we couldn’t eat any more. This was, by far, the food highlight of our trip. 

After eating waaaay too much for a snack, we wanted to do some walking, so we made our way through the streets til we finally got to the old Templehof Airport (check out the link for Templehof above), the site of the Berlin airdrops that saved Berlin in 1948 & 1949 (go USA). This massive former airport is now a recreation area, where miles of former taxi & runways have been turned into places for exercise, (bikes, roller blades, scooters, & foot power), with large grassy areas here & there for picnics, kid-friendly recreation, & a couple designated dog parks. Very cool, & lots of places to stop & read about the history of the place. Spent about 90 minutes walking & ended up on the far side of the airport, where we (thank the Lord) found bathrooms that were open & available for usage, without any fee. (NOTE: most of the time to use a toilet in a store/restaurant in Germany/Europe, it will cost you at least 1 Euro. Put that on your list of Even More Things to be thankful for at home.) 

Caught an Uber home, with just enough time to rest, change clothes, & meet Linda to catch another Uber to our dinner place, Crazy Kim’s Korean. We got seated by Kim herself at a table in the entry way, & placed our orders. This restaurant was one they hadn’t been to before, but our coming to visit gave them an opportunity. Food was decent & there were 15 appetizer bites brought to our table (no choice in the matter) & it was fun to try different things. For our main dishes, I got bulgogi & theBean got Korean short-ribs.

But the highlight of the night, for me, was the 2 women who came in shortly after us. One of them HAD to be the owner’s daughter & the other seemed to be a beloved best friend, because Kim doted on the super fancy & chic ladies, dressed in what were probably pretty fashionable (definition: super weird clothes that real people don’t wear) all the while snapping photos of themselves, each other, & the little pocket sized dog the daughter brought in in her purse. If you’ve ever seen wanna-be IG ‘influencers’ in action, you have an idea of our entertainment for the duration of dinner. They helped themselves to all sorts of things behind the bar, often leaving their table to walk around the building, often retreating into the “private” & “Staff only”, only to emerge later & hit the bar again. So. Funny.

Finished dinner & made our way to our Uber outside. The drive home only took 5 minutes, so we had to be close, but it was raining & we’d already walked about 8 miles earlier in the day. As it was our last night, we made our way up to Alex & Linda’s flat again, & sat around their table trying to pack as many conversations as possible into the time we had left. So precious. 

We sadly made our way back to our flat to sleep the short night’s sleep that comes before the departure flight home. We’d made plans to come to their flat in the morning for a cup of coffee & hugs goodbye, so we knew we’d get to see them at least one more time before we left. 

Slept well, with dreams of home in our minds.

Deutschland 2023 – Days #14 & 15 – Neukölln – Berlin… Coffee please, & the Cafe Bread

This is (if I remember correctly) the first night I slept the WHOLE night without waking up at all; morning came gradually, a dim light through the drawn yet translucent curtains. Temperature was perfect & I probably could have slept longer except for the call of nature & the siren’s call of morning kaffee. Which we didn’t know how we would get, as we hadn’t really seen the coffee set up.

The set up was professional; a pro grade Italian machine, the kind that takes an apprenticeship & lots of practice to master. Fortunately, Nu, our host, offered to make us each a coffee (#FTW) & we savored each & every sip as we stood around the island in her kitchen, getting a chance to get to know a bit about her. She & her husband are professionals who are doing a few ‘start-up’ businesses including solar, Air Bnb, & a couple more I didn’t catch; one of her aspirations is to open her own coffee shop featuring the coffee of her homeland, VietNam. She wants to use the proceeds to support the women of a couple remote Vietnamese villages, much the same way we (& Hillside) support the women of Compassion First. She described the different hand-made goods they create for sale, from handkerchiefs to shawls to scarfs to… who knows what else. She described herself as ‘Christian” & when she found out we are pastors, she said, “My mom would be so happy that you are in my home. She is VERY Christian.”


We connected via text with Alex; he’s working during the days this week, so he gave us some options for local cafes & grocery stores to explore. Decided to take a walk along the Spree River  which rolls through & around entire sections of Berlin, especially the Neukölln section where our flat is located. Chose La Maison & walked the mile or so to get there; navigated the drink & brunch menu pretty easily & found a spot facing the river where theBean could bask in the morning sun. We split the lunch special (onion quiche with salad & a ham & cheese baguette) & savored the coffee while enjoying the very full cafe atmosphere. Alex later told us this is one of the most popular cafes in Berlin, especially for the increasingly elusive creature known as the “hipster.” There’s another favorite cafe of his that attracts one variety of hipster, known as the “very motivated entrepreneur hipsters” who are often involved in several start-up businesses. The other kind of hipster hangs out here, at La Maison: they are the “hipsters who live in their mom’s basement hipsters.” Yep. True story. That’s all you need to know to have a good insight to Alex’s sense of humor.


Found the Ekeda grocery story to pick up some necessities that will make the next few days easier to navigate & made our way back to Alex & Linda’s flat to meet them for a walk on their work-breaks. So good to see them! We walked in the opposite direction for about 20 minutes to another favorite spot of theirs, Nah am Wasser. THIS was even better than La Maison. If we lived here, we’d LIVE here. The 4 of us sat outside at a table near the entrance, in the sun(!) & enjoyed our talks about the day, Berlin, hipsters, Christianity, & myriad other topics. 

Alex had to head back towards his flat for another work meeting, so we crossed over the river with them & began the walk ‘home.’ They parted ways & we went back to our flat to read, rest, & recharge. I’m so glad we built these days into our schedule; days of rest & recharging after a pretty full time of travel, people, & ministry stuff. Even though we built in Sabbath rest days to the trip in each spot, I can feel that the time has been draining at times, probably because we’ve had to be “ON” (alert, being fully attentive at all times) pretty much the whole time. This has become more evident today as, when offered the opportunity, both theBean & I chose rest, naps, & quiet.


Alex & Linda made reservations for us at a Turkish restaurant called Adana Grillhaus at 6:30 p.m., a place about 1 1/2 miles by foot or 5 minutes by Uber. We’d planned to walk there & Uber back, but the rain was coming down hard, so Uber both ways. They couldn’t join us, so we navigated the interesting Uber ‘pickup spot’ procedures mostly seamlessly. For some reason, the app keeps telling us to go somewhere else to get picked up/to meet the car… usually its not far away, but it is very confusing trying to find the elusive pickup spot using the readout on the phone. But we managed.

Didn’t get any pictures of dinner, but I can tell you, we ate like kings. We got 2 entrees, which was probably 1 too many; the 18 inch long meat skewer (combos of pork, chicken, & beef) partnered with Turkish tortillas & toasted bread, with hummus & a good Turkish wine were so good. Didn’t eat too much, but not because I didn’t WANT to. 

I’ve been a little adventurous with food on the trip & I’ve tried to eat (or at least taste) whatever comes out on the plate. The Kebabs came with a long, slender grilled & mostly anonymous red pepper. I looked it up & deduced it was 1 of 2 kinds of Turkish pepper. Either it would be mild & sweet or it would be hot, to the level above a habañero. 50/50 odds, right? So, against theBean’s admonishments, I cut a piece of the pepper, smelled it, & popped it into my mouth. Evidently, about 1/4 tsp of the innards (seeds etc) came with it.

Not sweet. Hot. Hot. Hot. First thing, my lips went numb. Second, my tongue turned to lava. I cried out to the Lord & the heavens seemed to be made of brass. I drank the water, the wine, shook copious amounts of salt onto the crispy Turkish bread & took big bites of it, all with the hopes that somehow, someway, the feeling would return to my mouth, that I would have at least the stub of a tongue… the salty bread helped. About 15 minutes later (might have been 30 seconds,) my numb lips began to regain feeling & my mouth felt functional enough to take another bite of the kebab. And wow. The already incredible taste of the meat was elevated to levels of “we might eat this in heaven” food. So much so that I was tempted (but didn’t give in) by the thought of taking ANOTHER bite of the pepper to enhance the taste of dinner. 

As the rain poured, we caught an Uber back to our flat & I texted Alex our thanks for the reservations at the restaurant. Told him about the experience I had with the pepper. He texted me: “SPOILER ALERT. The chili might burn twice.” 

Oh goodness.


We headed to bed after an NCIS: LA & I once again cried to the Lord with my voice, asking that He have mercy on me & my guts, especially for the morning. Ended up sleeping about 10 hours, & woke up close to 11 a.m. Feeling great.

Thank you Jesus.

We threw on some sweats & baseball hats & went to the “Cafe Bread” located directly across the street from the flat for coffee & pastry or 2. It’s operated by a Turkish guy who is super personable & makes killer pour-over coffees. We each had 2, along with sharing a savory croissant filled with cheese & a sweet one with chocolate & vanilla. 

Plotting out the afternoon of Day #15 now… it’ll be a pizza dinner at Alex & Linda’s favorite place tonight.


 

Deutschland 2023 – Day 2… “Time with family…”

Sleep. It’s what we needed after a “i’m barely able to keep my eyes open but I’m pushing through it” travel day. Ended up crashing at about 8:30 p.m. according to my never-too-happy-with-my-sleep score Garmin watch.  And still, it tells me we got 11 hours (!) , albeit with a middle of the night “who/where/what am I doing?” moment followed by a couple hours of both of us trying to convince ourselves & each other that “Yes, we were indeed Ready, Willing, & not quite Able to return to the Land of Slumber.” But eventually we both dozed off again & slept well until about 9 a.m. 

Woke up to the smell of coffee & a spinach, bacon, onion, & shrooms frittata graciously prepared by the gifted Eddy & Laura. (In their 1st year of marriage, Laura made 365 different dinner meals for Eddy. For reals. She cooks like that & does mathematics {M.I.T.} too, ladies & gentlemen. But I digress…)

All the ‘kids’ (Taylor, Elliott, Max, & Kira) were either at school or in their space doing school online, so we settled down to Psalm 90, a prayer of thanksgiving, & to a couple hours of talks, interspersed with coffee & water refills & lots of laughter. 

We talked about family & the changes that come over time. About seasons of life & church, the  Working Genius assessment & how it can help within the context of life, relationships, church & work; God’s continued process of growth & healing in our lives; vulnerability, friendship, partnership, marriage, etc. Could have gone on for days.


The ‘boys’ come home from/finished up with school. I say ‘boys’ but they’re  20 & 18… young men.. both with a killer sense of humor, & definite/obvious gifts & applied intelligence. Taylor & Elliot added all sorts of joy & insight & perspectives to our conversations. 

In addition to pastoring a church Eddy is the VP at a worldwide company that does digital platforms for businesses, so he had to tackle some work meetings. My theBean & I started the process of getting ready, packing up & preparing for today’s travel by train to Baden-Baden late this afternoon to see our Julia.


The 90 minute train trip to Baden-Baden was uneventful & Julia met us right on the train exit. It’s been 7 years since we’ve seen her in person (we text & send Marco Polo’s to each other on the regular) & it was so good to see her! She swept us (& our luggage) into her car & transported us the 20 minutes or so to the house of her sister Linda & her incredible brother in law, Heiko. We first met them back in 2008 when they escorted teenage Julia to the US. For Hillsiders – imagine Cole had a German cousin who loved to cook & help as much as he does, (church, home, & Royal Rangers,) & add in a bevy of ATV’s, & you get a glimpse of this man.  

Also joining us @ the Casa de Tilgner (Heiko & Linda’s last name) were Julia & LInda’s parents, Klaus & Pia. Such gracious people who adopted us into their tribe when Julia originally came to stay with us. What a joy to be brought to the table of a family to celebrate life, eat great food (tonight it was round after round of different types of Flammkuchen – savory, veggie, & sweet) & tell stories, laugh til it hurt, & catch up on what God is doing & what is happening in their lives.

The time today (& the times over the last couple of days with the Dueck family) really make Acts 2:42 come to life… the powerful connection with God & each other that happens around shared meals, + shared time, space, & experiences. It requires that we give of ourselves, that we stretch into sharing a type of  ‘divine hospitality’ that reaches beyond the comfortable & invites the Holy Spirit to the table in a manner that develops, establishes, & maintains kingdom of God family connections. This is the way.

Around 11 pm, Julia drove us to her flat – so cute. After a quick tour, we headed to bed & ended up crashing pretty good shortly after midnight. Woke up the next morning to the smell of coffee (Julia has grown a lot & even incorporates coffee into her daily routine. If you know, you know.) I decided to finish this post (yesterday’s/Day 2’s) post & then dive into the day of fun, relaxation, & good talks. 

Thank you for your prayers – we are seeing the goodness of God & divine appointments set up for us on the daily. 

The pictures are Julia, theBean & Pia; theBean, Julia, Pia, Klaus, me, Heiko, & Linda; Klaus & me

On the way…

A big chunk of life happens “on the way.” Our on the way time could be when we’re driving to/from work. Walking our neighborhood or heading to our next appointment. Waiting in line while getting a coffee.  I believe much of our on the way time flies under our radar because our focus/our thoughts are on something else. Stuff like: 

What’s next. Where we’re headed. What we’ll do when we’re done with work. Our destination. What has to be done at the destination. Our ‘to-do’ lists. Afternoon snacks. 

I find that my on the way time is often “multi-tasking” time where I pop in my earbuds to listen to the audio book I want to read, or the podcast I’ve been meaning to catch up on, or zoning out to a favorite playlist. It can be a great way to get stuff done, but with these on the way time fillers, I don’t often take time to sit in silence & think or observe closely what’s going on around me.

You get it.


I was thinking on that this afternoon while I was sitting in the sauna… not much to do in the sauna except for sweat & drink my LMNT-filled Nalgene bottle while waiting for the timer to wind down to zero. One of the things that came up for me was something I read in Acts 3 .

Peter & John were on the way to their church for the 3 p.m. prayers & ended up having a conversation  with a guy who had been lame from birth, that turned into a Holy Spirit inspired healing & life transformation, that turned into a “What’s going on here?” moment that caused a couple of thousand people to have an encounter with Jesus Christ.  

Really cool stuff. And it made me think, & it made me wonder about my own usage of my on the way time.


Ultimately, the nudge I’m following here is to write out my desire to be more alert, aware, intentional, & present while I’m on the way. To take stock of where I am; to purposely build a little time into my schedule for on-purpose Holy Spirit interruptions to my day; to not immediately pop the ear buds in as soon as I sit in the drivers seat… or head into some other version of being on the way.

We’ll see what happens…

 

 

 

 

Learning patience, or “Is there a lesson or purpose in everything?” & other musings…

I like to know WHY… maybe its the bent I have towards teaching, or perhaps its because it makes difficult/frustrating situations more bearable if there is a discernible WHY.

Know what I mean? Where you can go, “Ahhhh. I get it now. THAT’s why that happened.”

At the same time, I’ve learned through experience, circumstances, & Scripture that sometimes “rain falls on the just & on the unjust.” That there is no easy correlation between something happening & the readily apparent REASON for that thing happening. Yes, it would be great if “everything happens for a reason,” or that the sources of frustration, pain, etc could be immediately & directly identified (& therefore, have the resulting pain mitigated, even if just a leeetle.)

But it doesn’t always. At least I think it doesn’t.

On the subject of patience & being content with trying circumstances… you may have heard me tell or write about the time we were on the way to Do Something in the City (back in the olden days, the 80s,) & my mom was driving our trusty manual transmission VW bus from our home in Golden Valley towards Civilization (it’s been a minute…. there was NOTHING in Golden Valley back in those days… just houses. If you wanted Things, you had to travel.) We were at the 4 way stop-light that was 395N, (now its a real life dedicated to Golden Valley off-ramp!) waiting for the light to change so we could hurry on our way (as fast as a 70’s VW bus could hurry.) The light changed & …. nothing. Clutch is popped. We’re not moving. This is Not Good.

This kind of thing didn’t happen much when my parents were driving, as both of them could navigate a VW shifter with the best of them. Just not this time. So, my mom went to start the car, & it took a bit for it to catch (not unusual for a VW bus – if you know, you know….) Finally the engine squirreled to life & we started to move, just in time to see & feel the WHOOSH of an 18-wheeler as it ran the red light at the intersection.

Any frustration we’d felt (ok, that I’d felt as an 11-year old backseat driver) melted away in awe… even I knew that if we’d pulled out when the light turned green, we’d have been a schmear of cream & tan German auto parts. Thank you Jesus – THIS was easy to see; we’d been spared from becoming schmear by a popped clutch.

But what about…?


 

Most Thursday mornings, we (me & some guys) meet for prayer & talks in the Loft at our church at the Crack O Doom/Dawn… 6 a.m. As a creature of habit & routine, I like to Be Ready & Prepped (whatever that means) so when its time to pray, I feel like its not the first thing I’m doing during the morning… (FWIW, this Ready & Prepped list involves coffee, reading & finishing my morning Bible time, & making sure our meeting space in the Loft is Ready-To-Go.

This Thursday started like they usually do: I rolled out of bed at 4:34 & hit the shower; quickly dressed & headed downstairs with My Stuff to make my coffee (& to prep theBean’s coffee cup so all she has to do is hit the “GO” button on the KCoffee machine.) Now, an aside – after talking with my friend Antonio before our last Snow Sunday at Hillside (where we only did online church because, SNOW,) I discovered that we both are what the kids might call “Bougie“/Boujee (aka “Extra Fancy) when it come to our coffee & how we like it/make it. I don’t know that I’d agree, but say I do – if Antonio is bougie, then I will be bougie with him. Good company, that man. Anyway, I digress.

In our pre-church discussions, we talked about how we USED to drink coffee (black as the night, strong as the universe,) & how we drink coffee NOW (you can ask Antonio how he takes his coffee & decide for yourself just how things have changed for him.) As for me – I like to PUT THINGS into my coffee:

That is it. And trust me. It is tasty & it is > black coffee.

I do this EVERY DAY, with little to no trouble, no mess, no wasted motion… except today, I dropped the plastic dish holding the chocolate salt. Which means I spilled the WHOLE dish on the counter & floor. This very fine, very powdery chocolate salt, all over. At 4:50 a.m. I gotta be on the road in 2, people.

Might have gotten a little huffy-puffy. I wasn’t leaving the mess for theBean, so cleaning it up NOW was a must. And so with broom (& vacuum) in hand, I made the best of the mess & cleaned it up. Even rescued some salt off the counter (hey! There’s a win for me.) But…

Turns out I overfilled the to-go mug I was using that day. My usual mug was in Eugene (my 2001 Land Rover beast machine, where it doesn’t belong,) so I used the backup to a backup. And I miscalculated the size of the cup. Which overflowed with coffee & MCT oil & creamer & chocolate salt. BAHHHH! (Or something like that) came out of my mouth – no big deal. I can do this. I’ve already conquered one dragon this morning – I’ll just take it sloooow & dump a little coffee out of the to-go cup into the sink & be on my way.. Except…

MCT oil is oily. Slippery even. So slippery on plastic that when I attempted to pick up my cup, I dropped it. And the liquid flowed as only liquid & oils & creams can flow. All over. Everywhere. On the counter. Into the cabinets. Into the drawers. Onto the floor. Here. There. Everywhere.

I saw red (& other angry things.) And then I KNEW I was going to be late for my routine. Late for prayer maybe. And this mess wasn’t going to clean itself.

And the second thought that came to my mind (the first one wasn’t helpful or constructive,) was this: “Ahhh. I remember the VW bus incident, & several others like it where I was spared something terrible by an unfortunate & frustration circumstances that bothered me tremendously in the moment, but turned out to be a Blessing in Disguise.. Maybe THIS is THAT…”

Almost as soon as the thought crossed my mind, I ‘heard/felt’ God speak, “What if this is just one of those things that happens? What if there’s no visible, easily traceable lesson to discover? What if THIS is just a THING that happened, & you get to CHOOSE how you will act/respond/move forward?”

Those thoughts stopped me in my oily, creamy, chocolate tracks… I didn’t like that idea. That was DUMB. Its better if there’s a REASON. Something I’m being spared from… But what if if IS just an opportunity to be patient, to slow down, to clean up, to laugh at myself? What if THAT is all THIS was?

It has to be enough, today. And so it was.


Got to the church at the same time as Matt – not late, but not on my schedule. Thought quite a bit about all the things I’d experienced that morning… All the frustrations. The messes. The (surprising) NEED for all of it to be more than just a life obstacle to navigate… one of those things that every single one of us faces all the time. Told the guys about it. Laughed together. 

Been thinking about it for 2 days now. I aim to choose patience whenever it comes to mind that it IS a choice how I respond. To not have to see or know the WHY about my (petty) inconveniences… or even the not-so-petty ones. I’m asking Jesus for transformation in my heart, mind, & character. To reflect Him. To laugh quicker. To slow down. Even if I can’t see the WHY or the lesson in it. 

2 things… (or some words to live by from my dad)

When I was a kid, my dad often reminded me 2 things that really helped at the time w/my interactions with my brothers. Both of these things stuck with me & I find I’m using them just about every day… so that I don’t antagonize or further exacerbate contentious situations, & so that I don’t get offended or weighed down by life & the messes it can bring. FWIW:

  • “Don’t throw wood on the fire.” This one is based on Proverbs 26:20/21 which states, “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.” Don’t intentionally stoke the fires of conflict.”

The main context for this one used to be my interactions with my 3 younger brothers… they LOVED to antagonize me (so it seemed) just to get a reaction (attention?) out of me. And yes, they did get plenty of reactions… After one such “reaction,” my dad pulled me aside & challenged me (admonished? rebuked? corrected? instructed? All of the above?) to NOT add to the antagonism with my own special brand of fire accelerant… He, for some reason, thought that I could control myself & not cause situations to escalate by taking those situations up a notch… hence the “don’t throw wood on the fire.”

I sure knew how fire worked – loved building & stoking campfires or our every-morning-fire in the Franklin stove so that I’d be warmed while I folded newspapers & prepped to head out on my route. If I didn’t put wood on the campfire, if I didn’t adequately stoke the stove, the fire would eventually burn out. And in these situations, THAT was the goal – to let the fires that I was invited (provoked? teased? prodded?) into stoking, just die out.

It initially seemed impossible; like I’d be losing something if I didn’t give a prompt & powerful response (in the form of a cord or 2 of proverbial wood,) but over time I saw (& experienced) the wisdom in those words. And I learned to avoid meaningless & even potentially dangerous situations by not adding to the heated emotions, loud/angry words, & the like.

  • Let stuff go – let the stuff that COULD bug you or get under your skin be LIKE WATER OFF A DUCK’S BACK.. just let it roll off. This one comes from Proverbs 25:28, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into without walls.” Self-control is a virtue; & exercising it means I have a choice about how I respond to & with others.

I like words. I mean, I REALLY like words. Reading good ones. Receiving spoken, life giving encouragements. Sharing the same with others, with interest. They can convey one’s feelings, thoughts, & affections; they can help to purge your soul, like a good power wash to a filthy sidewalk.

They can also be a snare, a corrosive agent eating its way deep into your being. The words (& actions) of others, when laid a hold of & pondered, internalized, & analyzed ad nauseam can completely sidetrack, derail, & paralyze a person.

That’s how it was for me… if people could get under my skin, antagonize & provoke me enough, I HAD to respond… often in even greater measure. Young Me couldn’t understand HOW a person (let alone me) could be on the receiving end of such vitriol, & NOT say or do (or SAY & DO) something.

You can probably see the problem: I was in bondage to the words, actions, & hostilities of others. And when others know they can get a rise out of you every time, they’ll use it Indiscriminately. And it sucks.

It might have been at Virginia Lake, on Lakeside in old west Reno. The ‘lake’ has ducks & geese aplenty, & we would often go play at the park, walk around the lake, & yes, feed the ducks & geese our old crusty bread. (This was back in the Days, before we were told that we are not Supposed to feed ducks & geese bread. Those were simpler times, & any stomach distress or empty calories that Young Me may have caused or contributed to the ducks & geese was 100% unintentional.)

As we were feeding ducks, I believe that my dad & I were verbally processing through the conundrum: “How does one NOT respond in kind when provoked? When They push all the right (wrong?) buttons & it feels like there is No Choice but to respond/retaliate?” The response I got (as best as I recall,) went something like this:

“See the ducks? They glide through the water. They swim in & through it, & it doesn’t weigh them down, it doesn’t slow them down. It just rolls right off of them, & then they keep going. They can go under the fountain & get sprayed with jets of water… & the water just rolls right off their little backs. THAT is what you can do when it seems people are pushing your buttons. When they’re antagonizing you, attempting to get you to lash out, to respond in your frustration. You can be like a duck – just let ALL of that roll off your back. Quack.”

And for some reason, it stuck. I knew i could be like a duck. I didn’t have to respond to provocation. I could have self-control & not give others the power to direct me & my life.

Maybe its over-simplified. Sure there are other mental processes that have to be engaged to work through how, why, & when a response is necessary/not necessary. But the “water off a duck’s back” sure gave Young Me a great picture to use to DO those other processes. Maybe it’ll help you, too.

A thought on conflict & other musings on a Friday…

This morning I was listening to one of the podcasts I try to catch weekly (The Ryen Russillo Podcast – its sports, entertainment, discussion on movies, & life advice.) Today’s episode featured a conversation with longtime NBA referee (& now Head of Referees) Monty McCutchen. Something McCutchen said about conflict really jumped out at me. Here’s my sum-up version (with apologies to Mr. McCutchen):

“I’ve been in this business for 30 years; I don’t try to avoid conflict, but rather to maximize the positive impact conflict can have on relationships. Think about it: if we’re both in the same field over a 30-year period of time, there will be countless opportunities where conflict can & will arise. It might be over a differing opinion over a call I make, it might be a personality clash, it could be anything. But  the fact that we BOTH are going to be interacting in each others lives for decades is enough reason to use conflict positively, as something that allows us to build & grow our relationship. Because our lives are about MORE than this conflict we’re having – if we both can keep that in mind, we can learn to embrace humility, recognize our own faults & challenges, & contend for lasting relationship. Because in the end, that’s what’s most important in life.”

I’ve been thinking about that statement all day… especially because in my experience, conflict is something that I don’t relish, let alone look forward to as a potential “growth opportunity.” (Honestly, most of the growth opportunities I seem to have encountered are as attractive as a novacaine-free root canal. But I digress…) This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered the “conflict leads to growth” idea, but it is the first time in a long time I’ve thought about it long enough to begin to grab ahold of & work on embracing it… again, not seeking conflict just to stir things up, but seeing conflict as an inevitability for people who have chosen to walk through life together. Maybe its in a workplace, family situation, or more pointedly for me & my life, in a church community.

Looking back, the greatest friends that I have in this life are people with which I’ve navigated significant conflict & come out the other side.

I’m going to be thinking on this some more…


In other news, I went to the doctor in January of this year for my annual checkup. As I just turned 50, I discovered that there are several recommended tests & procedures recommended for this man who is now of a certain age. Let’s just say there were lots of “discussions” about prostates, colons, & other fun & (exciting!) procedures that need to be undertaken as a part of the new “50 year old’s health & wellness journey.” I left the office that day not necessarily looking forward to what was in front of me.

Fast forward 6 months – I received an email with a reminder that I need to get a colonoscopy scheduled & performed as soon as possible. In the midst of the pandemic & other craziness of 2020, it had completely skipped my mind. Until yesterday. Oh joy.

I called & left a message & then received a return call a few short minutes later. The P.A. on the other end of the call started off the conversation saying, “So, I hear that you are wanting to schedule a colonoscopy…” Now, words MEAN things to me; I can’t say, “Yeah, I want to schedule this…” as – I HAVE NOT & DO NOT want to have this procedure, but my primary care doctor strongly recommended this for me. So I relayed this to the nice lady: “Want to schedule? No. Need to schedule at my Doc’s request? Yes.”

And she laughed.


Sweet iced tea is too sweet for me. But I love to  put a packet of Splenda in my Pure Leaf Unsweetened Black Tea. Go figure.


After an 18 month writing/blogging hiatus, I feel like I am beginning to get back in the swing of things. I missed this.

I’m back… or, how I finally found the internet in Prum, Germany

I’ve not been able to connect to the net for a while, so if you’ve been sending me emails or notes that haven’t been returned, I’m sorry. Please bear with me – today, 10 November, Shawn & I found the “Lothar Raum” which is where we are connecting to the net via an ethernet cable. Also, this is a long post – you’ve been warned.


Sunday, 8 November
Woke up early to have breakfast with Alex & Linda – a good German breakfast of bread, nutella, yogurt & mueslix… & coffee of course. I appreciate these people who have opened up their home & life to me, inviting me in to be a part of what they do.

Alex dropped me at TPLF at 10, & I spent time reconnecting with friends & mentally preparing for the Sunday speech. Worshipping with our sister church is a lot like being at home, with a pleasant comfort that comes from revisiting something familiar, something that you’ve been missing. It was especially fun to see Dudi on the keyboards ☺.

I spoke on John 15:1-11 – on Staying Connected, with 3 specific points about connection:

  • connecting to God,
  • connecting to our church & church leaders
  • connecting to the people in our church family.

    Speaking through an interpreter is mentally draining – esp. because it requires thinking in complete thoughts vs. in ‘sentences’ if that makes sense. I hit a tangible ‘wall’ in point #2 about connecting to church & church leaders – because of the German reticence to ‘trust’ those in leadership due to both the history of domineering leadership in Germany (WW2) & also the loss/removal of TPLF’s senior pastor 18 months ago. It was tough, but I know I did what I was supposed to & said what I needed to. And left the rest up to the Holy Spirit & the grace of God. Sigh.

    After church, I ate a döner with Shawn & Matty, then waited for Eddy to come pick us up to take us to the Pastors conference that I’ve been a part of for the last 4 years – really enjoyed the talking & laughing with the boys on the long (3 hour) drive to Prüm, on the western border of Germany near France & Luxemborg.


    Our evening at the conference was one of getting oriented to the youth hostel where we’re staying, & a service consisting of praise & worship. Afterwards, we spent time with the German pastors & talked at length about the life & times of the last year. I met a pastor from Kazachstan who was visiting Germany & the German conference to see how the FEGW (Foursquare Germany) functioned as a church movement. As I stood their & listened to amazing story after amazing story, it reminded me both of how incredible our God is, & how small I am.


    FEGW Conference, Day 2
    Peter Wenz, a pastor from Stuttgart is the presenter. The thing that jumped out at me is that he is very animated & full of life & a tangible joy. The topic for the week is “FAITH” – & learning to live ‘correctly’ – which he defined as being filled with the Word of God, filled with hope, & lead by the Spirit into a life that is greater than me, for a purpose that God intends. Our main texts for the session were Habakkuk 2:14 & Hebrews 11:6

    I love how he defined & discussed faith –
    • not as something nebulous or intangible, but as something that is a secret, Godly substance placed in the hearts of His people; this secret substance gives us Godly confidence & boldness, special hope, discernment, & supernatural abilities to accomplish God’s purposes.
    • Faith is a gift from God to stir us, to awaken us to be looking for opportunities to live for God & to intersect the lives of others for God.
    • Faith opens us to God’s realm, the really real realm, to live life in a way that is ‘overcoming’ (Romans 8:39)
    • Faith is real & integrated into our everyday life, & as we act on it causes truth to become ‘real & evident’ in our hearts & lives
    • Faith is real & tangible, & causes ordinary people to really live extraordinary lives.


    Session 2 addressed Mark 1:14,15 & the ministry of Jesus – he talked about Jesus’ 4 declarations:
    • The time is come
    • The Kingdom of God is at hand
    • It is time to Repent – to renew our minds & way of thinking to God’s
    • Believe – in Christ, & follow Him

    Things that stood out:
    • The main obstacle to faith is unbelief – a humanist intellectualism that opposes the purposes & plans of God
    • This unbelief is often centered in the religious upper-class of society
    • We ask God to increase our faith, & then we ‘stand’ in & exercise the faith that we have – not the letter of it, but the Spirit of it.

    Good stuff – lots of great testimonies & encouragements.

    Shawn, Matt & I ate lunch together, then walked to a store down the street for supplies (snacks & water.) The highlight of our walk was when Matt tried to engage the cashier in small talk with a little, “How you doin?” She just looked at him blankly – didn’t speak any English. Shawn translated for Matt, & the clerk, once she understood, just looked at Matt & said, “Bad. Bad.” We all got some good smiles from that. Went to an Austrian restaurant for a schnitzel, a hefe, & lots of good discussion then went back to the hostel for the evening.

    We’re learning all kinds of stuff about each other. Good times.


    FEGW Conference, Day 3
    I woke up at 1 a.m. to a dull ache in my right shoulder, waaaay down deep in the joint. It kept me up until about 4. Bummer way to start the day.

    Our final sessions with Peter Wenz centered on Ephesians 4:7-13 – which is a portion of scripture that is especially significant for me (on account of the fact that we spent more than 3 months in those verses last year at this time – he focused on the words “measure of grace,” something given by God for people to live & function in – & that the “some people” who’ve been given the role of being a pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet, or apostle are to be about the work of making disciples, spurring others on towards maturity in Christ.

    I especially enjoyed his discussion on how the body of Christ is to be “complementing” each other instead of “competing” with each other – with complementing being “to harmonize, go together better;” truly functioning like a body functions towards the same goal, not 100 unique ones.


    The boys & I are debating what we’ll do this afternoon during the ‘small group’ time – everyone else will be getting with the other pastors & leaders from their region & working on a project. We may be making another run to the store for snacks & supplies; Shawn found a “Sculpture Park” that we might be walking to, though the chill of our day, coupled with the ache in my shoulder makes a longer jaunt seem much less attractive… We will see.

  • The Fantastic Journey!… or how I managed to travel for 24 hours straight…

    I’ve known that my November 2009 trip to Germany was coming – months ago, when I booked my flights, I intentionally did 3 things to avoid known trouble spots:

  • Avoided any flight with the words “San” or “Francisco” included in it.
  • Put “I Heart Denver” in all my itinerary searches
  • Determined not to start my outbound voyage before 10 a.m.

    Lucky me, the first 2 things I did worked great – the 3rd? Not so much. Due to an Unforeseen Need To Cutback on the Number of Flights, my Reno-Denver leg was moved 3 times. So, I got to start my day at 5 a.m. so that I could make sure to get to the airport to make my 7:20 with time to spare. Sigh.


    Denver is a great airport; lots of great places to eat, spacious & clean concourses to walk (w/hand sanitizer every 10 steps,) & this time, friends to hang out with. Matty C & Earl W were both on board for the 1st leg of the trip – we hung out at the New Belgium Hub, ate omelettes & egg burritos, sampled the 1554 Black, & talked.

    A good time was had by all… a good time that was split up only by the next flight for me – Matty & Earl had somehow finagled a direct flight to Frankfurt out of Denver, albeit with a 7 hour layover in the aforementioned Denver Airport. At least it was a good one.

    Said my goodbyes & headed for Chicago – even landed there early due to a great tailwind. Only 90 minutes & I was to be off to Deutschland. Or so I thought.


    Literally as we were lining up for boarding, word came down from On High that there was an Un-named mechanical issue that needed to be resolved – the screen began flashing a modified departure time… 45 minutes further out. Ok.


    As our scheduled boarding time arrived, the voice from On High declared that our aircraft had been sent to the proverbial bullpen – & needed more repairs than could be gotten on the tarmac. The good news (& I use that phrase with my tongue firmly placed in my cheek, which caused me to bite it,) was that a replacement plane had been found to take us to the Fatherland… though it was only a mere 3 hours away. Which meant that our departure time would be just a little bit later than we’d initially thought…


    So, what to do? Get a bad attitude? Complain? Go flex my proverbial muscles for all the desk-counter personnel & ask them if they happened to know who I am? No. All of those jobs were already taken, with understudies even.

    The job that wasn’t taken was the one of the happy, content guy reading his book, who was also pleasant to be around, & occasionally even engaged in conversation with the people around him. So I took it.

    Not because I felt like that guy – precisely because I DIDN’T feel it. I was uncomfortable, grouchy, tired, hungry, frustrated, missing out on Game 6 of the Series, missing theBean & theFam something terrible already… I’ve been trying to grow in not just living by my feelings or by the attitude/outlook that tries to muscle its way to the surface… instead I tried to put on Christ. Keep a good attitude. Not focus on me & my disappointments.

    And I made it.


    Slept for 7 out of 8 1/2 hours of my flight. Woke up rested. Flight landed. Eventually made my way through passport control, baggage claim, & customs… found Alex G. Matty C & Earl W were located. Navigated the city (with a temperamental GPS to boot) & eventually got everyone where they needed to be for round 2…

    Ate the Hot & Spicy Pasta that Chef Alex made, with the 337 that theBean sent for Linda… enjoyed a Via together. Went for a walk through the park & the streets around Alex & Linda’s new neighborhood. Relaxing.

    Had a brief chat with theBean before she went to work. Ahhh.


    I’m looking forward to the rest of my time – starting with a good nights sleep. Good night now.