Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tex “the Doggy” Walker

A little neighbor dog has visited us a few times.  His name is Tex Walker, a small black and white terrier with soft wiry hair.  As we were calling his people and then waiting for them to come, I couldn’t help but think of why Tex was out for a stroll on a drizzly day.  Being the name of Tex Walker of course made me think of a certain Walker, Texas Ranger television character.  And why would Tex Walker be out in the misty evening air?

So, I thought…

Squirrels were raiding the neighborhood, thieving varmints – chasing down walnuts and carrying them back to their winter stash.  They had been warned away by the law, but disregarded the warning.  So, Tex was sent out to deal them a final blow and stop their lawbreaking ways.  He chased them up one hill and down the next.  He followed their trail until he came to their secret hideout.  All alone, Tex made his way in stealthily to see what kind of mess was in his neighborhood.  And, with a flurry of activity, Tex scared off the desperado squirrels with a quick bark.  All was quiet once again as Tex restored the peace.

Okay – so maybe he was just a cute little dog out for a walk, exploring smells and sites.  But, isn’t imagination fun.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

That Kind of a Man

My grandfather just passed away, passed from this life into his eternal one.  The last week and few days have been a blur.  Shock, grief, rejoicing, more shock, numbness, grief, the emotions are in the rock tumbler and are being turned quite quickly.  As a result, much of the actual funerary proceedings, the viewing, funeral service, graveside service, and dinner; are more like short snippets of moments in my mind.  Some things are extraordinarily clear while others are just as if time passed in a fog. 

However, there was a moment at the viewing that did stand out and continues to.  Grandpa struggled with depression and anxiety for years, an illness that is as harmful as a cancer in its own way.  But, unlike cancer, you cannot see depression or anxiety, only the effects of them.  So, what was seen was a man struggling with life, facing each day with terrors of terror, exhaustion, and being jailed by his own mind.  If you have never felt such a thing, even its mildest form, I praise God.  But, I also urge you to be judicious in your judgments, because unless you have stepped in that to some degree, you have no idea what it is like. 

At the viewing, I remember to gentleman coming in, in their paramedic uniforms.  I greeted them, thanking them for coming and asked if they had been there after grandpa had passed away.  They told me no.  One had been a mechanic prior to being a paramedic and had known grandpa through that.  The other, well he had been at the house in the 1990s and early 2000s when there were many squad runs.  This man saw my grandpa in the clutches of the disease of depression.  He saw him when he was ill.  He saw him when he was certainly not his best.  And this man came to pay his respects.  I must have looked a bit dumb founded and overwhelmed, because he looked me in the eye and said, “He was a good man.” 

A good man in the most terrible of times, in times when he wasn’t sure he could go on.  He was a good man.  That impacted me.  That struck me as a psychological imprint that is indelible.  A good man in the hard things, not just the easy things and when times are good, but when times are bad.  I thank God that this paramedic has the eyes to see something beyond the immediacy of his work, his patient.  I thank God for a man that has compassion on his patients, that can see beyond the illness to the person.  That is also a good man.  Yes, grandpa – you were a good man in even the hard things.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

For Grandpa

Imagine if you would a very homey room, decorated and quite cozy.  A table is set up in the middle of the room to accommodate the feast that is being set.  The details are all being worked on; menu, centerpiece, arrangement of each plate, each glass, each decoration.  The air is alive with excitement and anticipation.  More guests are coming and the level of energy only increases at this prospect of such a well-attended celebration.  The attention paid to each facet is not one of obligation, tradition, normal routines, or a defined sense of expectation.  It is the attention that is paid to each detail when there is such love that you want every detail, every bite, every smell, and every subtle touch to be a gift. 

Isaiah 25: 6-9 says:
On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, 
the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.  The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.  The LORD has spoken.  In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. 
This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

A few years ago, grandpa was struggling with severe health problems.  The tension of the unknown, the what if, the will he be better grew on all of us.  I know it did on me.
But, God delights in comforting His children.  And, I was blessed to have a very vivid, very memorable dream.  I saw the room I just described a moment ago.  I saw the table being set.  I heard the laughter.  I felt the joy, anticipation, and the wholeness of the moment.  Here was now worry, no upset, no stress, no illness, no fear, none of the hard things that we have seen grandpa go through. There was only this very great preparation.
But, the table was not ready.  There were others coming and someone had to go get more tables and chairs.  It was going to be a very full room of many guests.  And, I know that they were preparing the feast for grandpa.      

They were preparing this banquet to welcome him home.

And it was a comfort.

John 14:1-7 says:
 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

The banquet was ready.  The meal was prepared and grandpa was brought home for the celebration.

And that also is a comfort.

I rejoice in knowing I will see grandpa again.  I rejoice in knowing what a great fulfillment of that planning of a banquet, in the visits that are being held, the friendships renewed.  I rejoice that grandpa is sitting with his Savior.  And I rejoice that I will see them both someday.

And that is comfort.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


It is ten years tomorrow since the horrible events of September 11 occurred.  All that are old enough to remember that day remember it with stories of where they were and what was going on.  I remember being home, I remember the stunned, shocked, horror.  I remember people pouring out of homes, businesses, schools, to reach out to neighbors, strangers, friends, and family.  I remember silent skies as the normal jets that go over, carrying people from destination to destination, were grounded.  But, my memories are those set in an Iowa town, miles and hours away from New York, D.C., and Pennsylvania.  So, the uncertainty was tempered with distance.
For those in those locations, the distance was no comfort.  And, our psyche demands that we at some point deal with the horrific around us.   One gallery, sitting very close to what was then Ground Zero, hit upon an idea that resonated with many, and served as an outlet by telling the story of what happened and was happening through stills.  Single moments caught in time by cameras, professional and amateur photographers alike provided these photos, and a collection of over five thousand photos were gathered.  The stories these photos tell is profound, provoking the heart to increase over the agony, tears to well, pride in the rescue workers and survivors to fill you to your toes, and the story of each still to tell part of the story.
In an attempt to tell the story and raise funds for children of those who were victims of this mass murder, the book and website was created, “Here is New York: A Democracy of Photographs”.  Now, ten years later, the website is kept alive by volunteers who recognize the importance of the voice of the people in the healing of our country.  It isn’t a pretty thing, not a pleasure like looking at photos of a child’s first birthday or the beautiful poses of a bride to be.  But, these stills tells a story that has hit us all. 
It is ten years tomorrow, and I have not forgotten.  I was at home.  I was beyond dismayed.  I wanted my friends and family, to just reach out to them.  I lit candles.  I hung a flag.  I was angry.  I was burdened.  I didn’t know what to think.  I am proud of those who served, in the immediate aftermath, and those who took on the new burden of being soldiers in far away troubled lands.  I am dismayed at the politicizing.  I am proud at the healing that has occurred.  I have not, nor will I forget. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Forward Looking

I admit that I have a love for NASA, flight, and space science in general.  It is fascinating, beautiful, and such a frontier of new possibilities.  And, I will also admit that it was time for the elegant orbiters to be phased out for new technology.  But, I do find it absolutely bitterly ironic that now; that the space shuttle program is done that it came as some sort of surprise.  I hear the question in the news, “What now?”  What do we do now?  And I hear well meaning, but ignorant statements, from others saying “Good riddance – a waste of money”. 

To the first I have to shake my head, what in heaven’s name did you think was going to happen when people said it was the last shuttle mission?  As I said before, I do think it was time for the shuttle to be phased out.  The technology used which was incredibly advanced in its design and use, needs to be updated.  And, there is a program being designed for the future.  A rocket and a capsule reminiscent of Apollo are in the works for future missions.  So, it is coming, but will take time to develop.

For the latter, I’d like to share a few “spin-off” products that have come from space science.  Unless of course, you would like to remove your scratch resistant glasses and skip this part.  Yes, scratch resistant lenses are a product that came from the science.  Or what about temper foam.  More than just Temperpedic mattresses, this also makes its way into motorcycle seats, padding for artificial limbs, and protection in racecars for drivers.  Measuring the temperature of stars with infrared temperatures led to thermometers that measure temperatures via the ear.  It is more accurate than the mercury, not to mention much faster.  Better ditch the shoes, because the soles of the running shoes have been impacted (pun intended J)by moon boots.  The lessons learned in creating these boots led to the athletic shoes we have now, which spread weight impact across the foot in athletic activities.  Dustbusters, cordless drills, and other cordless tools are a result of a need for working in space.  It would take quite the extension cord otherwise.  Home security systems have been developed, along with satellite technology, and insulation for more efficient heat and cool retention. 
A few of the others that have been impacted, brought about by, or further developed by NASA are:
  • ·         Toothpaste
  • ·         Cosmetics and lotions that are safe and effective
  • ·         A really cool smart valve that prevents scalding
  • ·         Sewage treatments
  • ·         Water softeners
  • ·         Remote control technology
  • ·         Enriched baby food
  • ·         Water purification
  • ·         Gardening in tight spaces
  • ·         Software – that you may be using right now
  • ·         New metal alloys that are stronger and can be made into more materials with less vibration and last longer
  • ·         Shock reduction materials in sports helmets, football gear, athletic protective pads for a variety of sports,
  • ·         Light bulb advances
  • ·         Carbon monoxide detectors
  • ·         UV blocking in glasses
  • ·         Pilot testing for flight stresses
  • ·         Cleaner engines
  • ·         Air filtration systems
  • ·         Scanners found everywhere from the grocery store to the airline gateway
  • ·         Plasma displays for TV’s and mega screens alike
  • ·         Truck design that is more efficient to move through the air, thus using less fuel
  • ·         Lubricants used in cars, homes, and oh yes – the space shuttle
  • ·         New power plant designs that help withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, and other disasters
  • ·         Chemical detectors that warn again dangerous chemicals
  • ·         Refrigerators at the grocery store that help keep the food safe
  • ·         Food imaging that can detect harmful chemicals in meats
  • ·         Light emitting medical treatments – so cool, being used as a form of ways to help treat cancer
  • ·         Artificial insulin pumps, artificial limbs, and artificial hips
  • ·         A heart pump that is based on the fuel system!
  • ·         Bridges that are better supported and thus safer
  • ·         Biodegradable cleaners
  • ·         Fire fighting gear and fire resistant materials

I look at this list, it isn’t complete, and am amazed at all of the products which have either been a direct result of or a trickle-down effect of the technology that has come about since the inception of the space program.  One man presented a goal for the country, a man on the moon.  He set up a timeline in a big public way, and what the expectation was for meeting this goal.  The country was enthused and imagination took flight along side of each rocket.  Then, we lost interest.  It wasn’t the latest and greatest.  Okay – yeah, we went to the moon.  And, we had a short view.  Unfortunately, our short view is still short.  We again have been caught in a time with a declining public interest in exploration.  Who will step up with a goal, something broad and expansive, amazing and imagination capturing?  Who will step forth and create new industry, new growth, and new possibilities?  Who will create the dreams of children for the future?  Who will watch the next great leap forward in science occur?  Who will be the next pilgrim of space?  Encourage your children to look up to the sky and dream.  Maybe, it will be them.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011


In the busy time of life, holiday weekends, work, school, activities, families, etc..  Stop and smell a flower.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Theater Ropes

Have you ever walked into a theater or maybe a line at the amusement park and there are these ropes, gently curving between poles?  They guide you into a certain path and out of another.  While quite useful in directing traffic, I think sometimes we intentionally and unintentionally create a box of theater ropes around ourselves.  And, again, in many places that is not only normal but appropriate.  It is the unspoken and spoken rules we live by in our world, the cultural laws that dictate how you address a stranger, how close you stand, what can you share and when it can be shared. 

But, is there any place where those ropes should not exist?  Someone mentioned that they always sit alone at church.  And, I couldn’t help but think – of all the places to sit, that is one where you shouldn’t feel alone.  Instead, you should feel surrounded by family and friends.  Still, how many times does the very opposite occur.  We sit in our little roped off box and hide from everyone else, as they hide from us.  Can’t you just imagine it?  A sanctuary full of people surrounded by little squares of velvet wrapped rope.  It is an odd picture, one that might be used to make a media statement.  Unfortunately, it is also a statement that is too often true.

So, how does that impact us?  What do we do?  Well, there are these little clasps at the end of the rope, connecting it to the pole.  Just reach up and undo the clasp.  Shake hands with the person next to you.  Invite them into your square, and vice versa.  The family of God should not need the surrounding of tiny squares, when we are directed to love each other as ourselves.  If there is one place where we should be able to drop the ropes, it is here.

I challenge each of us to reach out to someone you sit next to, say hello, offer a smile.  Don’t just go for someone new, but for the person who is sitting alone, the families, those who seem to have tons of friends.  Let’s drop the theater ropes and see what happens.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Some of the best people watching, I think, occurs in airports.  People from all over the place from all over the place, crammed into long hallways with security, mechanical apparatus, and loud speaker announcements that I can only pick a few words out of.  With the last few days of travel, I had ample opportunity to watch people.  From the fellow that I was enviously aware of snoring away in the seat (I really was ready to get some sleep), to the little girl who thought of the terminal as her giant play ground, they all have a destination they are trying to get to.
Life can be an airport terminal at times, transferring from one motion path to another.  And, we may feel stuck in the layover (forever!!).  For example, the time with a bum knee felt kind of like being stuck in the airport.  But, the nice thing is that eventually whatever the cause for the pause in the travel, it finally changes and soon you are off the ground.  Then, you can admire the snores of a nearby traveler or watch the clouds as you are moving on.