Close Up – PSL

What is it? Hint – It involves Pumpkin Spice.

Raise your hand if you know what PSL stands for.

Now raise your hand if you are overjoyed that you can now get all sorts of things with that flavor.

Yes, I’m talking about Pumpkin Spice Latte and the myriad of pumpkin spice products available.

A quick search revealed pumpkin spice –

  • Kit-Kat’s
  • Cheerios
  • candy corn
  • vodka
  • car polish
  • toilet paper
  • and, yes, many varieties of pumpkin spice coffee


What makes pumpkin spice so appealing?

What makes it so successful in marketing?

For me, the scent of pumpkin spice brings up many pleasant memories of fall.

  • Of Thanksgivings gathered at the table at my godparents’ home.
  • Of walking down frosty lanes thick with fallen leaves.
  • Of evenings by the fireplace enjoying hot cocoa and pumpkin pie.
  • Of carving pumpkins both as a kid and with my kids.
  • Of fun at fall festivals.
  • And of childhood excitement that Christmas was just around the corner.

Let’s face it. Fall is coming!

Here in Colorado, truckers are already required to carry chains with them through the mountains. Today (Labor Day), despite the high being 94f, we are expected to cool all the way down to 57f tonight.

I am tempted to grumble about the cold weather to come. I like long warm days, not the short cold days that will soon be here.

Instead I choose to be thankful.

  • For the love of family.
  • For the fellowship of friends.
  • For a warm, secure home.
  • For food on the table.
  • For the grace of God!
  • And even for the taste of pumpkin spice.

Let’s choose thankfulness early this year!

What are your favorite parts of Fall?

Do you have any cherished memories that come up at the scent of pumpkin spice?

Please share your answers in the chat below or on my Facebook or Instagram posts.

And if you guessed that today’s photo was of a pumpkin spice product, you’re right.

Introducing Pumpkin Spice Moon Pies available at a Cracker Barrel near you.

Close Up – Clarity

What is it? Today it is obscured.

I occasionally work in the mountains. The scenery is amazing. Snowcapped peaks and deep forested valleys are a feast for my eyes.

Then there was that one winter day a couple of years ago.

As I was leaving Granby, it was starting to snow. By the time I made it to Winter Park, it was coming down steadily.

Those who know the area know what’s coming next. Berthoud Pass.

If it’s snowing in Winter Park, it’s a blizzard on the pass.

But I had to get home and there was a steady stream of traffic heading to the pass, so I went for it.

My little Mazda 5 had good tires and I’d crossed this pass many times before. I wasn’t too worried. Maybe I should have been.

I concentrated on the taillights ahead of me and followed the tire tracks in the snow. Traffic was moving slowly so keeping up wasn’t a problem. There is a passing lane most of the way up the pass but there was no way I was going to pull out into the deeper snow.

The higher up the pass I went, the heavier the snow got.

I began to lose traction, but a careful foot on the throttle kept me going.

Then the taillights ahead of me disappeared! The tire tracks were almost impossible to see in the blinding snow. My sweaty hands gripped the wheel tightly as I forged ahead, knowing the drop off to the left was steep and long.

Through the haze of snow, taillights again appeared – two fuzzy dim red dots not far ahead.

I stuck close to those taillights.

My white knuckles and feather-light right foot got me over the pass. The snow was much lighter on the other side.

Sometimes our lives are like that drive over Berthoud Pass. The weather of our trials or distractions clouds our vision and makes our path slippery.

We could choose to stop until the weather passes. But we could end up stopping the progress of others.

We could forge on blindly on our own. But we could end up going off the proverbial cliff into destruction.

Or, we could choose to stick close to the light guiding our way.

During the darkest time of my life, I was depressed and scared of what the future held. I was tempted to crawl inside my shell and ignore everything and everyone.

What I chose to do changed my life. I dug into God’s Word and sought the help and companionship of friends.

I came out on the other side of that time with a clearer vision of the path of my life and deeper wisdom about how to stay on that path.

Are you in a dark time in your life?

I urge you to get closer to the Light. Seek wise friends. Read God’s Word in the Bible. Keep moving forward even when it seems like life is pushing you off the path!

Is your life sunny and clear?

That’s awesome! Be the light for others! And don’t forget to prepare for the next blizzard in your life.

May your guiding light always shine brighter than the storms!

The photo that inspired today’s blog was taken recently from the 52nd floor of a skyscraper in downtown Denver. Normally, this view would be of the rugged Rocky Mountains. With all the smoke from fires in California, Oregon and Washington, you can barely see the foothills!

Close Up – What Makes a Hero?

What is it? Read through to the end to find out!

I’m now afraid of wasps!

A few weeks ago, I was walking to the backyard with the mower running when I felt a sharp pain on my leg. I turned to look and saw nothing.

But I knew that feeling. I’d been stung.

A normal person who, like me, is allergic to bees and wasps would go right inside and take medicine.

I’m not normal.

I finished the lawn, went to the gas station, came home and only then loaded up on the Benadryl.

My leg blew up like a balloon. My leg still itches a little.

So, even though I drowned several nests in wasp killer, I hesitate each time I go to the side of the house.

Does that fear make me a non-hero?

What makes a hero?

The dictionary says it’s someone who is admired for courage, achievements, or noble qualities.

Or a type of sandwich.

What’s your definition?

Mine is simple – Someone who, despite obstacles or fears, acts for the benefit of others.

Keyword there is “acts.”

Who are the heroes in your life?

For me there was that lawyer who consistently took time from his busy life to lead a youth group and me when I was 16.

Then there’s that missionary who continues to serve in Honduras, feeding hundreds despite the loss of her husband to COVID.

I could also go way back to that great-uncle who lost his life in service to our country.

The list could go on and on. These people should be honored for their sacrifice and commitment!

But here’s the important take away from this for me:

What should I be doing to be the hero in other people’s lives?

Take a moment to reflect. Ask yourself, “Is there something I could give up in order to help others? Is there a fear getting in the way of me helping others?”

Keep it simple and then take it to the next step. Make the sacrifice. Do what it takes to move beyond your fears.

Be the hero that someone in your life needs today.

Feel free to share in the comments about those who are heroes in your life or what you will do to step up to that next level of boldness!

The photo, as you may have guessed, is Captain America’s shield, wielded here by my friend Sawyer to help make our church’s “At the Movies” series more memorable to those who attended.

Close Up – Under Pressure

What is it? It may give you relief. Read through to the end to find out.

Last year, I built a shed.

By that, I don’t mean assembled a kit. I’m too cheap for that.

I drew up plans, made a materials list, got plans approved by the HOA, and got to work.

About halfway through framing the first wall, my nail gun started getting wimpy. Nails were only going in part way. Then the trigger wouldn’t reset. Air leaked through the gun. A seal had blown.

That gun needs pressure to operate. Sometimes I do too.

I’ve been trying to post a blog once a week. I wrote one earlier in the week. I even got photos ready to go with it.

I didn’t like it. Maybe I’ll rework it and use it later. But now, I’m under pressure to get this written.

Then my daughter Felicia mentioned that she works well under pressure. That got me thinking.

My nail gun needs air pressure to work.

A balloon needs pressure to float.

My truck needs air pressure in the tires, oil and coolant pressure in the engine, and that ever important refrigerant pressure in the air conditioning.

The atmosphere needs pressure for us to breathe!

But add too much pressure and the balloon pops and the car boils over.

Is there pressure in your life?

That’s good.

Is there too much pressure?

That’s bad.

My air compressor has a switch that regulates the pressure. The pressure gets too low, it adds more. The pressure gets to where it is supposed to be, it stops adding.

How do you regulate the pressure in your life?

That’s an honest question. I struggle with that. Some days work is so busy it feels out of control. Sometimes my calendar gets so full that I forget things.

I do have my ways of relieving pressure. The work phone gets set aside when I get home. I try to keep my calendar under control. If I’m exhausted, I’m not afraid to put off non-essential tasks to have a time of relaxing.

If the pressure in my air compressor went out of control, there’s a little brass valve that will pop open. If that wasn’t there, it could explode, destroying the compressor and damaging everything around it.

What’s your safety valve? Do you have someone who will help you deal with life when things get out of control?

My wife, my family, and a few close friends provide that emergency relief for me.

It’s important for us to have pressure in our lives. It’s also important to keep that pressure under control. Take some time today to do some pressure control. Add a goal if you need more pressure. Get some relief if you need to reduce pressure. Get support if you need to safely blow off out of control pressure.

As for my picture of relief – yep, it’s the blow off valve on my air compressor.

Close Up – What’s it worth?

What is it?

So far, people have guessed street, pipe, snake, worm and a few other things. None of those were even close. What do you think it is? No cheating now. Read the story and then see if you can guess it:

Rachel entered the auction hall with trepidation. The familiar scents of her father’s possessions took her back to the good times they had together. Those times seemed distant memories as she approached the table laden with all he had left behind.

She would have liked to have held on to half of what was in this room, but the debts had to be paid. Even with this sale, she’d likely fall short.

As the auction progressed, Rachel’s spirits rose and fell. That antique desk brought only $150. The pair of lamps from his bedside, two dollars. But, the signed baseball brought almost a thousand.

She added the totals in her head. After the auction fees, she would be far short.

The bottom came with the last item.

Her father’s violin.

The case was tattered; its velvet lining flaked off at the touch. The neck was worn down to bare wood and the chin rest barely hung on to the scratched body.

The bidding started at a dollar. It went to 2, then 5, then 10.

And stopped.

Her eyes welled with tears.

“Going once.”

This couldn’t be happening!

“Going twice!”

Rachel sprang to her feet and snatched up the violin.

The auctioneer fell silent as a hushed murmur ran through the room.

She put rosin on the bow, quickly tuned the instrument by ear and began to play.

Joyous memories of family nights in front of the fireplace flooded through her mind and out through the strings. Her father’s love of Copland, Mozart, and Bach filled the room.

Rachel’s tears blurred her vision as she rapped up with a raucous rendition of the bluegrass tune Fire on the Mountain.

When she was done, she carefully placed the instrument back in it’s case and sat down to the stunned silence of the room.

The moment she sat the room burst into applause. Everyone in the room stood except for Rachel.

She only hoped she had encouraged the bidding.

The gavel fell as the auctioneer brought the room to order. “Okay, we were at ten dollars, do I hear 20?”

“100!” A man to the left raised his paddle.



The bidding came fast and furious. In a matter of seconds, it was over a thousand.

The auctioneer’s face glowed with delight. “We’re at 2500. Do I hear 3,000?  Going once,”

“Ten thousand dollars.” A man standing behind the back row raised his number paddle.”

Silence fell.

“Any other bids?”

“Going once. Going twice.”

The gavel fell.

“Sold to the gentleman in the back.”

Rachel was stunned.

She made her way to the payment counter to thank the man.

She began to worry as she waited. Would he walk out?

“We have his information from his bidding paddle, hun.” The woman taking the payments seemed to read her mind.

Finally, she spotted him making his way to the counter. He handed over a check which the clerk ran through a reader to verify.

“Thank you so much!” Rachel handed the violin, snug in it’s case, to the man.

He held it for a moment, gazing at it’s well-worn case.

“You can thank me by using it well.” He handed it back over. “I could scratch out a tune on this violin but you can make it sing to spread its joy. I only ask that you continue to play it.”

“I will”

If that story sounds familiar, that’s because it is a retelling of the poem, The Touch of the Master’s Hand by Myra ‘Brooks’ Welch and the song of the same title by Wayne Watson.

When I think of that story, I don’t think of the worth of the soul like the poem. I think of the talents that each person is given and how they can blossom when given over to the Master.

I’m no master violinist, but I hope to spread joy, hope, faith, and love through my words as I surrender them to God.

What talents do you have? Are you letting God use them? What would happen if you did? 

I challenge you today to step forward, dust off that talent God gave you, and, let it shine forth delight, enlightenment, peace, love, and joy. 

Oh, and that picture.

Wait for it.

You can thank my sister Renee Igo for sharing the photo and her music as she teaches and performs bluegrass, gospel, and classical music in her community.

Close Up – Change for Appearance Sake?

What is it?

I’ve shown this picture to several people. Some have said that it looks like muddy water. Maybe tar. Some say wood.

What is it?

We’ll get back to that.

For now, it is the opening image for a new blog series I’m calling “Close Up”. In each blog, we’ll take a look at a close-in view of a subject and see how it changes in light of the big picture.

Today we start with Change for Appearance Sake.

When I was a teenager, I hated haircuts. I don’t know if it was because of rebelliousness, laziness, or the fact that I hated strangers touching me. Maybe a little of each.

In college, I began to notice that people would make assumptions about me because of my hair. They expected that I would do drugs, party, or be less intelligent. I decided that I needed to update my look. I shaved the goatee and got my hair cut to a more average length.

Don’t get me wrong. I try to not judge people by their looks. But, let’s face it, appearances make a difference.

One thing I learned from Bible college is that I should dress to reach the people I want to influence.  If I show up at a senior center in cut-offs and t-shirt, most people there will tune me out.  Likewise, if I show up to a youth group in a suit and tie, I’ll be talking to a brick wall.

It’s a simple truth that appearances will affect how people view us.

So why the muddy water picture?

It’s not water but it was wet when I took the photo. And it illustrates another aspect of appearances.

 When I look at the staircase in our house I think, “It’s fine. The rails are sturdy and not super ugly. Sure, it might be dated it doesn’t matter.”

When I look at the bigger picture I see the difference this project will make when we go to sell the house when I retire. A few hundred dollars worth of new balusters and paint could add a couple thousand dollars in value. It also makes the house more pleasant to live in.

Appearance should never be the first factor in any major decision. But the big picture may bring into view the importance of appearance in a given situation.

Whether it’s for first impressions or a more pleasing, comfortable home, appearances do have worth.

Are there decisions in your life that involve appearance? I suggest that you don’t dismiss them just because appearances aren’t important. Rather, pray about it and make decisions based on all factors including appearance.

Oh yeah, that photo?

It’s a close up of the post at the top of our stairs, right after I painted it. It’s a work in progress but I think it’s looking good!

Don’t miss next week’s close up. We’ll have a little fun with story telling. I think you’ll enjoy it!

The Opposite of Love

I sat down today to edit and write some more on Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks. My latest revisions weren’t there! I opened my iPad to see if the revisions were there. I watched in horror as the older version overwrote my revisions!

All that work from my last Wil Clarey writing session was gone! The iPad must have been offline and didn’t save them! Aaargh!

That put me in a bad frame of mind for editing and writing Wil Clarey. So, I decided to write a blog instead.

How do you write a blog in a series about love when you’re ticked at your computer?

You write about the opposite of love.

You would think that my anger would put me in the right frame of mind for that. Right?


As I started typing, I remembered that anger is not the opposite of love.

What is?

Let me tell you a story.

I’ve always been a nerdy kid. I would play by myself with my cars and my train, making up stories as I acted them out with my toys.

I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I had my parents and my siblings.

Okay, my siblings didn’t want to hang out with their nerdy little brother. But my parents paid attention to me. Until…

When I was ten, my parents divorced. Mom worked hard to support us kids, so I didn’t get to see her as much. But I lived for those trips to Dad’s.

One day when I was twelve, I was so excited about my weekend with Dad that I sat out on the front steps waiting for him. I knew he had a long drive from Fresno to San Mateo to pick me up, so I tried to be patient.

The front porch of my home when I was 12

I waited.

And waited.

I began to worry that we would be getting in too late, but that was okay. We would still have Saturday and Sunday.

I waited.

And waited.

Then Mom came to the front door. “Your dad called.”

Was he just leaving now? Oh well I can wait more.

“He forgot it was his weekend, he’s not coming.”

I was devastated. I had never felt so lonely in my young life.

You see, anger and hatred are not the opposite of love, apathy is. I felt very unloved in that moment.

My dad did plenty to show his love for me over the years though it seemed to be difficult for him. Like all of us, he wrestled with his priorities, often coming down on the wrong side of that fight.

Like that day.

When he forgot.

Do you struggle with showing love? I have to admit that I can get pretty self-centered. In those times, it takes a conscious decision to show my love.

I have to remember to do things as simple as taking a break from writing to call my oldest daughter (which I just did). Other times, I have to remember to rearrange time or financial priorities to support a loved one. Either way, it takes an act of my will.

Do you feel like that lonely kid on the front steps, disappointed by the indifference of others? I wish I could say that time will heal, or you just need to move on. We both know that it isn’t that easy.

There is an easy step you can take towards healing.

It’s simple.

Show love to others.

Yep, that easy. When you make a conscious choice to do something to impact the lives of other people, it impacts your life just as much.

In this age when love is scarce and apathy abounds, impact your world through simple, conscious acts of loving and caring.

And share with the rest of us what that does for you and others!

A Writer’s Passion

What’s this all about?

Why has it taken me over two months to post another blog?

What do I really want to say to you?

My last few blogs have been about love. Today I want to go into the word “passion” in terms of what I “love” spending my time doing. What are my passions?

You may have heard it said that to see what a person values, look at their bank statements (Apparently I value eating!). I would add to that, look at their calendar. You value what you spend time on.

I value my God, my wife, my family, my church, and my writing. That’s where my passions are directed. That’s where my time has been going.

Writing is a passion of mine that has been playing second fiddle to my other passions lately. My attention has been going to making good things happen for my family and for the kids I teach. There’s some exciting stuff coming up! I’ll share more later, both here and on the Wandering Pen You-Tube channel. In some ways we are in for a wild ride!

But right now, I’ll concentrate on my passion for writing.

Reymons is progressing! The limited time I’ve spent writing it has been fun. My characters keep throwing surprises at me. That nice, neat outline I have of the story keeps being blown apart! Sometimes literally! I’m curious to see what will happen in the end. Will my planned ending pan out? Stay tuned.

I am also signed up to attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I am approaching it a little differently this year. Instead of intense planning and sweating over my elevator pitches and synopses, I am going there to learn and enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have copies of Wil Clarey and will meet with editors and agents. But I am taking a more relaxed attitude with me this year. I don’t have much time to prepare so I will soak in as much as I can and, if I can get someone interested in publishing Wil Clarey’s stories, great!

I won’t promise another blog before the conference. If something smacks me in the head, I’ll write it down and share it here.

If not, see you in June!

A Father’s Love

I once owned a diesel VW Rabbit. It was slow, but I could drive a thousand miles on a single fill-up.

Until that one day.

It started overheating. I added water. It kept overheating. I made it home, spewing white smoke behind me. Then I made it to the mechanic. The bill was staggering. You mechanics know why.

First, I added water when I should have added coolant. Worse, I added it when it was hot. I ignored the owner’s manual and the advice of experts and it cost me a new engine head instead of just a gasket. Lesson learned.

The designer of that engine knew what I needed to do.

How many times do I ignore the instructions of the Designer of my life?

Yes, I believe that Someone designed me.

I know that many reject that idea.

Some see God as a strict judge with a bunch of rules designed to control us. I can understand since that image has been perpetuated by religious people for centuries. If that was an accurate picture of God, I would probably reject that too.

But God is a Dad!

I have four kids. I’m far from perfect but my love for each of them is deep.

I’m not a very strict dad, but what rules I enforce, I do for their good. When my kids try to do things their own way, I feel for them. I know that they’ll have to deal with the consequences. Sometimes I have to intervene with some tough love. If I were to catch them intentionally hurting others, I would probably be angry at them.

How do you think God, who created the universe, would raise his children?

Wouldn’t He give His kids rules designed to help them grow into healthy adults that fit into this world?

When His kids wander away, don’t you think God’s heart breaks?

How would you feel if your kids denied that you even existed?

Jesus referred to God the Father as “Abba”. That means “Daddy”. That’s the kind of God I believe in. He loves us enough to provide commands designed for our good. He is fiercely protective of His kids. Try to harm them and you might experience the fierce side of His love.

No one obeys His commands perfectly. When you mess up, God made a way for you to be restored.

If you reject Him, He allows it. But that breaks His Daddy heart.

How do you see God?

Do you believe He exists?

Is He a strict judge?

Is He an egomaniac?

Or, like me, do you see a loving Daddy who wants the best for His kids?

If that’s true, how do we respond to that? Let’s talk about it.

A Little Romance

The room lit up with the glow of her blonde hair.

“Everyone, please welcome Anne.She just moved here from Oregon.” Mrs. Simms pointed to a desk. “Go ahead and have a seat there.”

She walked down the row – to the desk next to mine! The sun shone! Birds sang! Butterflies fluttered, in my stomach!

For the first time in my life, I was smitten! Second grade would never be the same!

I would say that was overdramatized, but, you know what it’s like. My innocent little world was turned upside down. Maybe girls didn’t have cooties!

Anne (not her real name) and I became friends. We played together after school at her house. I was too afraid to tell my parents and siblings that I had a friend who was a girl.

Then the impossible happened. She changed schools – some private school nearby.

I still rode my bike past her house often. I was too chicken to knock, but maybe she would come out.

A couple of years later she did. I panicked. I didn’t know what to say or do. I fled. She chased me for half a block before giving up. I rode faster than her. It was the worst thing I had done in my young life.

Life goes on. I’ve fallen in and out of love along the way. I am now deeply in love with my wife. Over the years I’ve discovered that love is not what I thought it was as a child.

Like most people, I thought love was an emotional rush. An attraction so deep that I never wanted to leave the object of my love. I had it exactly backwards.

That emotional rush never lasts. The attraction ebbs and flows. But that’s not love.

True romance is a commitment so deep that it generates those feelings all by itself. When you are committed to bring love, security, happiness, and peace to your partner, you do things that make you and them feel that emotional love.

I love my wife not because she’s beautiful (she is), talented (she is), or loving (she is). I love her because I am committed to her. My love is as imperfect as I am, but it’s true. True romance springs out of that.

If you are struggling with love this Valentine’s weekend, go back to the basics. Commit yourself to your spouse. Do those things that spark the feelings, even if it’s hard to dredge them up. I strongly recommend the movie (and/or book) “Fireproof” for ways to do that.

For those of you who are single (thanks for reading this far) I encourage you to shift your focus away from attraction and romance and towards being the kind of person you would want to love you back. Don’t settle for false romance based on feelings of attraction. Wait for the one who will commit to you for life.

In the meantime, we should all focus on the one who loves us so much that he laid down his life for us. God loves us more than words can express. He welcomes us with open arms. What better love could we hope to find?