At a men’s breakfast not long ago, we were asked two questions:
At the end of your life, what do you want people to say about you?
What are you doing now to make that happen?
Makes you think, huh?
I sat next to a teacher who wasn’t sure how to answer that second question. He was so wrapped up in the daily duties and pressures of teaching and raising a family that he hadn’t thought in those terms.
After his weak unsure answer, I had to speak.
“I never told Mr. Arnot of the impact he had on my life. Nor Mrs. Fender. Nor any of the other many teachers that profoundly influenced my life. You are making a difference just by being there and teaching faithfully.”
I didn’t get a college degree. I could have completed an education program but, after 3 years of college, I didn’t want to make the transfer and borrow yet more money to make it happen. Instead I took a career path in the technology field.
That hasn’t stopped me from teaching. I’ve trained new hires. I’ve instructed less experienced techs.
Over the years, I’ve also had the privilege of teaching in children’s church, Sunday school, and youth groups. While I was one of many voices that spoke into their lives, I’ve seen many of those kids grow up to be excellent men and women. I’d like to think I had a part in that.
All this is to say,
Those of you who are teachers by profession, realize that, even when it seems like your words are falling on deaf ears,
you are having a profound impact.
They may not admit it but students are learning from what you say and do and especially from how you say and do.
If you’ve never been a teacher, realize that you are one whether you like it or not.
You influence those around you by what you say and do and how you do it.
We are all teaching those around us.
What is it that you want to teach them?
What are you doing now to accomplish this?
Feel free to comment here or or my Facebook page how you have been influenced by others and how you would like to influence others.
Warm dog snuggled to my side; I gaze out on the snow melting on the deck.
Yup. It’s Winter.
I’m generally a happy kind of guy. But winter does a number on me.
And this week, sickness.
It’s just a cold (I tested negative for COVID twice), but it was enough to keep me from going to Winter Camp with my 6th grade students from church.
They’re good. Another youth leader stepped up and they have someone to lead them through the weekend.
And I’m here, nursing this crud.
What can I do?
When I first called in sick, I thought, “Great! I’ll have time to write.”
And I have written some. But, for the most part, I’ve been to cruddy feeling to engage my imagination.
Today, I feel like I’m in the middle of one of David’s Psalms where he starts out with “Woe is me” and ends up with “God is good and so is life.”
My cold symptoms are waning. I have a little more energy.
On top of that, the middle of winter was last Thursday! Spring is around the corner!
It’s weeks like this that I am reminded of my weak humanity. My human body has been weakened by a cold virus and taken my mental state with it.
I’ve given myself a break, literally. I worked from home Tuesday when symptoms started. Then I took Wednesday through Friday off work and stayed home from this weekend’s camp.
I won’t be foolish enough to overdo it today. I want to be well enough for church tomorrow. But I can channel my slowly returning energy into creative work, like this blog, and writing more on Wil Clarey Book 3 (Mystery at the Mill).
The bottom line to this ramble is:
cut yourself some slack.
If winter has you down, if sickness has been hitting you, or just the weight of life has been pushing your spirits down, it’s okay to take a break.
Regain your health. Rally your strength. Spring is coming with new life and new adventures!
If you’re stuck at the beginning of Psalm 73, keep reading, victory is on the way!
I know I haven’t posted much here lately. But I am still writing. Wil Clarey Book 3 is moving along at a slow but steady pace. But there’s another bit of writing that I’ve been consistent with this year.
For the past few years I have been posting a Bible reading schedule each day.
The schedule is not exclusive to me. I use the Life Journal reading plan from You Version. I just post it on Facebook to make it accessible to more people and to provide a forum to comment about the reading.
This year I challenged myself to write a commentary on each day’s reading. I have surprised myself by being consistent with that every day. (1 month so far)
Today’s commentary (actually tomorrow’s since I write them a day in advance) contains a little more passion than most. I decided that, even though I don’t want this blog to become preachy, this would be a good one to share.
Here’s the entry:
Reading for February 3, 2022
“But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.””
Acts of the Apostles 10:15 NLT
I admit, when I first saw this I thought, “See, vegans can’t use the Bible to back up their claims!”
That’s true. But this chapter goes way beyond food. In fact, the vision was intended for Peter to learn not to exclude people.
You might say, “But we don’t exclude people anymore.”
Okay, most people have suppressed the tendency toward racism, though it does still exist. But what about excluding people we see as failures.
It has gotten so bad that we now have a phrase for it. “Cancel Culture.”
Someone fails morally or ethically and we tend to think of them as no longer belonging to society. We stop buying their products, listening to their music, reading their books. You may even be tempted to think of them as less than human.
Let me declare right now that God loves each human being no matter what they have done. Their deeds may require they reap dire consequences, but God loves the death row inmate just as much as He loves me.
That’s a tough pill to swallow.
Are there people that you have thought of as not deserving God’s love? Do you think God loves each person enough to lay down His life for them? Can you make “cancel culture” a thing of the past?
If you are interested in following these Bible reading posts, search for the group “North Metro Life Journal” on Facebook.
One of the tools I often use when writing is the Character Interview. I pretend that I am sitting down with my character(s) and ask them questions that will help me determine how they will speak and react within the story line. I did that with Ashley and Carl from The Space Beyond. It was fun so I decided to share it with you.
Spoiler alert! The interview does contain spoilers so please click on Christmas Stories in the menu and read the story before you read this. It’s less than 5,000 words so it won’t take you long.
Also keep in mind that this interview is raw writing. Only the worst mistakes have been corrected.
One final thing before you read this and after you read the story:
In hind sight, I realize that I have painted foster parents in a rather poor light in the story. Please know that I hold foster parents in the highest regard. I have been one myself and I can tell you that it can be the toughest job in the world. The vast majority of foster parents pour their hearts and souls into the kids in their care. Carl’s point of view on his foster parents is rather negative. That is not my view on foster parents.
That’s out of the way so let me introduce you to Ashley Jones and Carl Mason…
Interview with Ashley Jones and Carl Mason.
Main Characters of “The Space Beyond – A Christmas Story”
Me – We’re on the front porch of the Jones family home in Pratt, Tennessee to talk with Ashley Jones and Carl Mason after their amazing adventure.
Hi Carl and Ashley. Glad you could join me. Can we start off with a little introduction? Just tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Carl – Hey, it’s great to be here. My name is Carl. Duh! I’m twelve and I live two houses down the road from Ashley. You can just see it over yonder, the white house with the red tin roof. I’ve known Ash since kindergarten. She’s like the sister I never had.
Ashley – You have two sisters!
Carl – They ain’t really my sisters, and they sure ain’t like you!
Ashley rolled her eyes.
Carl – Anyway, I was sayin’ before I was so rudely interrupted, We both go to Rolling Hills Middle School. It used to be Pratt Junior High. When they changed it to a middle school, everyone was joking about it being PMS so they changed the name to Rolling Hills.
Me (interrupting to stop this runaway train) – And what are you known for there?
Carl – Everything. I’m the fastest runner, the best pitcher, and the smartest thinker.
Ashley – Well, two out of three isn’t bad.
Carl – Whatcha sayin’ I aint good at? Oh yeah, I’m also the most modest!
Me – Okay, so you’re kinda the jock of RHMS?
Carl – Sure as shootin’! Oh, and I’m good at that too.
Me – At what?
Carl – Shootin’. Huntin’ too.
Ashley – He tends to overcompensate for his lack of self-confidence.
Carl – What you talking about!?
Ashley just stared at him.
Carl – Okay, I’m not really the best at most things, but I do have a good pitching arm.
Ashley – That much is true.
Me – What about you, Ashley?
Ashley – I’m Ashley Jones. I’ll be twelve next month. My parents are electrical engineers, or at least that’s what they told me before what happened last month. They moved here a few years before I was born. I’m their only child.
Me – What are you known for around here?
Ashley – I don’t know. Maybe for being different. I don’t get all gaga over boys and fashion and that stuff like some of the girls do.
Me – What kind of things do you like to do?
Carl – I forgot to say, Pa’s a foreman at the window factory. Ma stays at home ‘cause she takes care of us kids. I’m the oldest.
Ashley – Sorry, that’s the way he is. Always interrupting! Anyway, I love to read and hike and, when the wind allows, fly my kites. I can also whip his butt in most video games.
Carl – In your dreams.
Ashley – Trust me, you’re not in my dreams!
Ashley looked slightly to the side and blushed a little, clearly indicating her lie.
Me (speaking to Carl) – And I take it you like to play baseball?
Carl – And basketball and track and field. I’d like to play football, but coach says I’m too skinny.
Me – And you two are best friends?
Ashley and Carl replied at the same time.
Ashley – I tolerate him.
Doug – She tolerates me.
Me – you guys seem to have a connection. Is there anything romantic going on there?
Ashley – Heck no!
Carl – (Wrinkles his nose) With that? (Points at her).
Ashley – He’s not mature enough for anything romantic. And I have more refined taste.
Carl – I’ll have you know, half the girls in my class are pining for me.
Ashley – In your dreams!
Carl – I do have some amazing dreams.
Me – Okay, so nothing romantic, so why do you guys hang out so much together?
Carl – ‘Cause she has the better gaming console.
Ashley – And, despite his ignorance, Carl really is my best friend. I guess we’ve just known each other so long and being the only kid my age for two miles probably helped some too.
Carl – I reckon that’s true too.
Me – Do you guys like living in the country?
Ashley – Yeah! I love the peace and quiet and the sound of nature.
Carl – And the fields to practice my throwing and running.
Me – Okay, let’s move on to some hypotheticals. Let’s say you are attacked by some bad people – do you fight or run.
Carl – Fight, of course. Especially if I’m protecting someone (eyes shift to Ashley). I mean, you gotta do the right thing.
Ashley – Sometimes the right thing is to stop and evaluate the situation before jumping into an unwinnable fight (glances at Carl). But, that said, my mom taught me a lot of martial arts skills so nine times out of ten, I’m gonna fight.
Carl – She’s right about that, she’s bad ass! (Suddenly puts his hand over his mouth). Am I allowed to say that?
Me – It’s fine. You guys saw some pretty crazy things last month. Which of you is more likely to believe what doesn’t make sense?
Both – Me.
Ashley – My mom kinda prepared me with stories that I thought were from her imagination. Now I’m not so sure. Then again, Carl will believe anything so maybe he’s the more gullible.
Carl – Dang straight! That’s a good thing, right?
Me – Which of you is better at obeying your parents?
Carl – Me, you don’t cross Pa! Don’t get me wrong. He’s a good dad. But his word is law!
Ashley – My parents aren’t that strict but if they lay down the law, you know it’s for a good reason.
Me – Have your parents ever caught you in a lie?
Carl – One time, when I stole a candy bar from the Cracker Barrel. I tried to deny it but the chocolate on my shirt gave it away. I was only 7. Pa made me pay back four times what it cost.
Ashley – And gave you a whooping!
Carl – That’s a spanking. Folks around here still do that, you know. Still, you better not tell anyone. Might mess up their gig.
Me – What gig is that?
Carl – As foster parents. They need that money from the county. That’s Ma’s job.
Me – So I gather that you’re a foster child.
Carl – Me and my two sisters. Like I said, they ain’t my real sisters but they been with Ma and Pa since before I came. Little Joe is Ma and Pa’s child.
Me – What about you Ashley.
Ashley – I share everything with Mom. She’s cool. Dad can be a dork so I’m not so open with him. Still, the extent of my lying is saying I’m okay when I’m not.
Me – How well do you deal with pain?
Ashley – Physical or emotional?
Me – both.
Ashley – I can usually deal with physical pain. Mom gave me techniques to ease the suffering when I get hurt. For emotional pain – I think I’m better than average but it’s a lot tougher than physical pain.
Carl – I think I’m the opposite. It doesn’t bother me when people try to mess with my head, and I can deal with physical pain to a point and then it kinda stops me in my tracks.
Me – Do you cry easily?
Both – No.
Me – Do you have any scars from last month?
Carl – (Pulls up sleeve) You should see…
Ashley – (Stops Carl) Time will tell.
Me – What can you tell me about your adventures last month?
Ashley – Nothing, we’re sworn to secrecy until it’s published.
Carl – What she said – other than it was epic!
Me – Okay, can’t wait to read it on Christmas Eve!
I didn’t want to be there. Yes, I loved my mom but my step father….
It was my junior year in college. I had spent the last two Thanksgivings at my dad’s in Fresno. Now Dad had moved to Southern California and Mom had moved back from Virginia to San Bruno, just an hour north of me.
I had to go.
To be honest, I remember almost nothing of that holiday. I don’t even remember if any of my siblings made it there.
The food was good. The conversation polite if strained. I declined the invitation to spend the night. My little quiet room in Mount Hermon was far more appealing.
Life almost 40 years later is different. I cherish the time with family. I may not see eye to eye with them on everything, but our love for each other far outweighs any differences in opinion. I want to be with them as much as I can.
Did I handle that Thanksgiving of 1984 correctly? I don’t know. I know the fact that I spent so little time there hurt my mom, but she knew that she wasn’t the reason I kept the visit brief.
I did manage to avoid arguing with my stepdad. But that was more because I knew I couldn’t win any arguments with him. That man was more stubborn than, well, than even me. And that’s saying something.
So why would I share this story of my dysfunctional family Thanksgiving? There’s a couple of reasons.
First, if your family is full of love, peace, and forgiveness, be sure to give an extra round of thanks to God and to your family. (Thanks Fam!)
Second, if your family is dysfunctional, you’re not alone! I would urge you to come to your family get-togethers with as much love and patience and forgiveness as you can muster with God’s help. Love heals, though it may take time.
If your family is at a point where getting together is not an option, I urge you to get together with someone. I heard earlier this week of a couple that just moved to a neighborhood from another country. They posted on Next Door that they would like to share Thanksgiving with a local family if anyone would open their home to them. They got over 200 invitations!
So, if you are alone this Thanksgiving, reach out to those around you. If you make the effort, you may just find the true meaning of family love.
Feel free to share in the comments on the social media posts for this blog if you need a place to celebrate Thanksgiving or if you are willing to open your home to those in need this Thanksgiving.
I confess I feel a little like a hypocrite writing this because, with an at-risk daughter visiting us that day, I cannot have people outside the family over on Thanksgiving. But if your situation allows you to share, you may be amazed at the blessings sharing will bring!
Halloween has interesting memories for me. I started in the copier repair business during Halloween week 31 years ago. 15 years ago, on Halloween night, I drove away from Pennsylvania for a new life in Colorado.
Despite those memories, Halloween has never been a favorite holiday. The witches and goblins of my childhood Halloweens scared me (or is that scarred me). The vandalism and references to evil turned my adult mind away from the holiday.
So what does that have to do with this “Tales From the Copier” series?
I tried to think of the scariest parts of my job.
The answer –
Don’t get me wrong, most of my customers are awesome. Even most upset customers are reasonable.
But every now and then…
One day when I still lived in Pennsylvania, I was called to fix a problem machine out of my territory.
Before I even started, the customer yelled at me about how horrible our service was and how I could take this machine and….
You get the gist. The customer was right about the machine, but not our service. I made sure they got a replacement. But how rude!
More recently, I was in a federal court house working on a ten-year old machine that had one jam in the previous month.
The judge walked in, saw me working, and got inches from my face and read me the riot act
about how the machine jammed all the time and that I needed to replace it! That one was tough because the judge was dead wrong, both about the machine and how he treated me.
I bit my tongue and told him I would pass his concerns to my boss and would do my best to get the machine working properly. That placated him for the moment. I should mention that whenever I went back there, I tried to go when that judge was not in.
What makes us turn to anger so quickly?
Someone cuts us off in traffic and we tend to shout unkind words their way.
Our child pushes our buttons and we get stubborn and loud.
Someone expresses an opinion opposite ours and we get ballistically defensive.
Perhaps we’re not at peace with ourselves and our world.
Just saying the words “inner peace” sets some of us off. Our minds conjure up visions of eastern meditation that send up red flags of heresy.
Shouldn’t those of us who follow the Prince of Peace have the most inner peace?
Why don’t we?
I can only speak for myself. If I don’t spend time with God every day, my mood is tougher to control. I find that the more time I spend with God (reading Scripture and praying) the more peace I have.
I don’t spend hours a day communing with God. But I start my day with a short time of reading and prayer.
Throughout the day, as time and activity permit, I talk to God.
I love the spot in Nehemiah where he prays as he’s in conversation with the King (Nehemiah 2:4-5). The King asks him a question he’s afraid to answer straight so he prays on the spot and answers the King.
That’s what prayer is often like for me. I’ll be going about my day and something comes up so I talk to God in the moment. Often, it’s that quick moment of trying to get God’s perspective that calms me.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t always do that. I get cranky and occasionally angry.This blog is for me as much as it is for you!
The season when we sing about Peace On Earth is fast approaching.
I’ll make you a deal – I’ll try to seek God’s peace in this season.
Let me know in the comment how you bring peace in the midst of trouble.
Better yet, encourage us all with stories of where you’ve seen peace brought into a tough situation.
Thirty-one years ago, I started my career fixing copiers. In that time, I’ve met a lot of unique people, been to a lot of interesting places, and seen a lot of hilarious things. I’ve even caused a few of them myself.
Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned from some of the more unique
TALES FROM THE COPIER!
This week, we’ll go way back to the beginning.
Back in the 90’s, I had to wear white shirts and a tie to service copiers. Yup, those shirts weren’t so white by the end of the day.
One of those days, I was working on a machine that recycled toner. Pretty advanced for the day, right?
Well, this day, it wasn’t so advanced. The toner was clogging up and throwing off the machine. So, I went in to investigate.
I detached the recycle pipe and popped it open.
If you’ve seen the TV show “Lost”, it was a lot like the “black cloud”. It enveloped my face, my tie, and yes, that no longer white shirt.
My customer laughed, until she saw her grey tinted carpet.
Maybe I should have been a little more careful.
Maybe I should have vacuumed off some of that built-up toner first.
Lesson learned, right?
Fast forward several years.
I was working on a small copier in a truck dealer’s parts department. It was a dirty environment, and the machine needed a good cleaning. I figured I could get this done quickly and move on to the next call.
I was wrong.
I popped off the glass like I’d done thousands of times. I flipped it over to clean the underside.
It decided it was a good time to prove the law of gravity.
Onto the concrete floor.
You would not believe how many tiny shards of glass can come from a single 11×17 pane.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been in a hurry that day.
Maybe I should have handled that glass a little more carefully.
How often do we find ourselves rushing through life only to have our haste cost us?
Think about it.
We drive too fast only to get pulled over and given an expensive ticket.
We try to do too many things in the kitchen at once only to burn the main dish.
We rush through a busy day with our kids only to find that we never got any quality time with them.
What does haste make for you?
It makes me clumsy.
It makes me rude.
It makes me miss out on the important because I spent the whole day focused on the urgent.
What would it look like if we slowed down?
What if we could ignore some of those urgent things in favor of things or people that are more important?
Share your stories and thoughts, either here or on the social media posts.
A week ago, at 5:30 in the morning, I was on the porch of a cabin at our Fall Youth Retreat snuggled under a sleeping bag (I forgot a jacket) enjoying the quiet early morning.
It was a noisy crazy weekend so the quiet stillness of the early morning was like heaven.
I soaked up the sights of the slowly brightening sky while I absorbed the Word of God through the Bible.
Sounds pretty religious, huh?
The fact of the matter is,
I hate religion!
Okay, now I’m being harsh, but maybe I need to be. I mean, I can appreciate the amazing art inspired by religion. I certainly appreciate the generosity and benevolence inspired by religion.
But I hate it.
Specifically, I hate that religion has fooled millions into trying to earn their way into heaven.
This was a major topic of discussion between me and the 6th grade boys at the retreat. I am blessed with a group of kids that grew up going to church all their lives. They were very good at giving nice religious answers to my questions.
The challenge for me is to get their brains wrapped around the wonder and joy and life there is in trusting Jesus.
I grew up in church. A very religious church. I didn’t see that wonder until much later.
From an early age, I felt like there must be more than just obeying a bunch of rules.
Mind you, I was very good at obeying the rules, or at least making people think I was obeying the rules.
But, like every human, I didn’t obey them all the time. I always had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t being quite good enough.
Like the dawn that I enjoyed last week, the truth slowly crept up on me.
As I proceeded through life and through a variety of churches, I began to realize that my good would never completely erase my bad. Life began to turn upside down. Instead of relying on my good, I began to rely on my God.
My God came as a human (Jesus) to intervene for humanity.
My God took on the judgement for my bad behavior.
My God made the ultimate sacrifice so that His good would outweigh my bad.
My God loves me as a Father who would do anything to have His kids with Him for eternity.
My God gave commands not to stifle my freedom but to help me live in freedom.
My God doesn’t force me to obey but rejoices when I make wise decisions.
My God welcomes me with the greatest love of all time.
– My God is love! (1 John 4:8)
It is no coincidence that I love leading youth at camp. It was at a camp just over 44 years ago that I began my journey of faith in earnest.
What made me turn the corner was the love of God I saw in the people at that camp poured out on the campers and each other.
So the next time you’re tempted to call me religious, remember that I hate religion.
But I love God!
Do you hate religion? What about the Church? More importantly, what about God? Let’s talk about it. Feel free to comment below or on the Facebook and Instagram posts.
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!