Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Countdown – Is It Too Early?

With less than fifty days till Christmas, I am hearing a variety of complaints that it is just too early with the Thanksgiving holiday coming and going in the ‘tween of now and the evergreen decked holiday.  Personally, I love fall and have no wish to hurry though the changing colors and the songs of the leaves scattering through the yard.  At the same time, I love Christmas.  The sounds, and smells, and the beautiful decorations!  So, what about that “rule” of when the decorations should go up?  Is there really any truth to it or is it just a bit of grumpy bunk of some people who just need some extra turkey?

So, with a chuckle and a scent of turkey, evergreen, and a wood fire I think of the concept of the Thanksgiving to Christmas timeline.  Skipping the whole shopping center décor (which is a matter of marketing, product movement, and economic studies), my own home will soon be the subject of a vigorous pre-Christmas cleaning before decorating.  That’s right folks – the trees (yes, there are quite a few more than one), will be up before the Thanksgiving turkey is thawed. 

That doesn’t mean I will be skipping the holiday of remembering the action of giving thanks.  Rather, it is that the attitude of giving thanks should be a daily one, not dependent upon the calendar.  I challenge those who are taking it upon themselves to be thankful daily during November to make it an opportunity instead of forming a habit of gratitude.  God is good, each day, every moment.  Now, I am a great grumbler, I think I would have fit right in with the Israelites.  So, this is a habit I am also working on.  Instead, let me give thanks for each day, each breath. 

Psalm 92:1-2 “It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night…”

So while not skipping Thanksgiving, and taking my time to love Christmas, I also am thinking of Mary and preparing for the birth of Christ.  Nine months of preparation… yeah, she definitely started her preparation before Thanksgiving.  (Yes, I know that there was no Thanksgiving holiday in her lifetime).  But, truly think about it – her preparation did start a long time before the month before birth.  What about a nine month celebration?  Or at least a two month celebration?  After all, the stars that the shepherds saw in the sky were planned far before Thanksgiving. 

Regardless of when you start celebrating, let’s just start celebrating.  Giving thanks for the many blessings, the many mercies of our Great God.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Down the Side Streets

Driving through small towns, I think side streets are so interesting.  Main Street gets the focus, the chamber attention, and little groups of community involved spirit.  Beyond that main focal point, there are side streets.  They don’t get the same drive through focus, but have many other little indicators of town flavor.  Potted plants, picket fences, wreathes, and the last of the fall flowers are arranged around mailboxes and cars parked in driveways.  Even though the focal attention is on main street, the town’s story is played out on the side streets and alley ways.

Back in town, I drive past alley ways and side streets to get to work.  In the last few days of misty fall rain, as the leaves have been pasted to streets and miscellaneous objects, the roadways have taken on a special kind of painted appeal.  Driving to work yesterday, I thought about how the side streets of a little town are kind of like the stories in life.  Main Street is the public view, the part that is carefully arranged for the view of the world.  My make-up is on, hair is done, the right shoes, etc…   But, the side streets are where the stories are that make up the interest.  Some of them are full of the scent of sweet memories, the sounds of laughter, and the lights of many candles, wood fires, and Christmas tree lights.  There are a few of the side streets that are darker, tattered and have tissues instead of the bright leaves.  But, I am relentlessly cleaning those out, steadily and slowly installing lamp posts along the way.  There are side streets with music, singing and instruments.  Don’t enter that one unless you are prepared for song to be interrupting your conversation at any moment, and in public.
No matter whether it is Main Street or on the side street, it is good to know that I don’t travel them alone.  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crashing Rhythms

   I once had a percussion instructor who believed that just about everything in our planet, and our lives had a rhythm.   The speed of the wind blowing….

I started writing this a few days ago, and since then the rhythm that has picked up in our lives hit an unexpected and new fast paced rhythm.  It hardly seems possible that just over a week ago; I was standing in a field with prairie dogs all around, barking and chirping to each other.  Then, we received a phone call that caused heart rates to pick up, and the relaxed rhythm of a vacation to swing into a staccato roll of forward movement.

Hospital… Stroke… Stable… Doctor… 

My grandfather had suffered from a stroke and was on his way to the large regional hospital for care.  Plans changed, we packed our bags, and headed home immediately.

The week to follow has been a blur, fast moving combinations have accompanied us.  Hospital, the tat-a-tat fast paced rhythm has moved to a steady and sweet pulse of caregivers who are seeking to bring healing and renewed strength to my grandfather.  Encouragement has changed the staccato to a steady heart beat, familiar and encouraging. 

Stroke, a new rhythm that is unfamiliar and moves at a speed that is hard to keep up with.  New vocabulary, new tests to understand, research; adrenaline rushed rhythms move into ones that are lagging with tired steps.   Yet, slowly a normalcy of pace resumes, with a few helpful naps allowed for.  The information comes, dropping in place slowly and filling in the syncopated feeling into more of a swing beat.

So many rhythms and changes in tempo have occurred.  In the midst of this, with rhythms that have felt more impacting than ones to be walked along with, I have been having a different rhythm in my head.  It is from a song that I love, “Never Going to Steal My Joy” by Mandisa.  If you aren’t familiar with it, I would highly suggest a quick Google look-up.  It is the strength in the words that I love, the staunch stance that though the rhythms may change or be those which crash in on us quickly and seem overpowering.  And while I think of those songs, I remember standing on the mountain, at a beautiful and quiet peaceful lake, with gentle sweet rhythms. 

In the peaceful movement of God’s rhythm of the crashing waves of life, I am reminded of someone who experienced crashing rhythms of his own.  David, as he penned what we call Psalm 121, was making his own declaration that amidst the rhythms that come at us syncopated, staccato, rushing, and tumbling, that there is Someone who is not thrown by the tympanic changes.

    Psalm 121
    I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
    My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
    He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
    Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
    The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
    The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
    The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
    The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for     

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Dragon’s Breath and Small Towns

The last few days have gone much too quickly, as the scenes have passed the car window.  Fumaroles and steep snow covered mountains have given way to rolling pine covered hills and a new town.  The parks are overwhelming in their grandeur.  The vast sizes of the landscape, where the next turn shows something new and then the next and the next, quickly has become overwhelming for me.  Sitting at Jenny Lake, watching the clear water lap against the rocky shore, and listening to the quiet of the place, I have felt completely overwhelmed as the thought occurs to me, if this is earth – what must heaven be like?
From the quiet of a lake shore to the fumaroles area of a Dragon’s Breath, I was fascinated by the steam moving against the cavern walls with such power that it created powerful waves.  An eco-system in a microcosm exists as the water is pushed out and then is distributed through a series of small chambers and caverns, filling small pools and then draining them.  They are left steaming from the scalding liquids and receiving another layer of mineral wash.  The sound of the water and steam sounds like a heart-beat.  It is as if the earth itself is opening a portal to hear her heart beat, slow and steady.

Leaving the caldera of Yellowstone, we moved through a series of small towns across Wyoming.  It was great to see towns, ranging from a population of around twenty five to nearly thirty thousand, spring up against the cattle dotted landscape.  So many little towns, remaining unknown to the majority of us, are scattered across the country.  They are a back bone of the country, in providing a variety of crops and products.  We saw production areas of benzonite and coal mines.  Cattle grazed among petroleum pumps with herds of antelope.  Beautiful horses ran down a sage covered slope, tossing their heads in the wind.  Post Offices, a restaurant, and  a city hall become the main features in the small areas.  Sometimes, they are all combined into one spot.  A really inventive entrepreneur combined a coffee shop and auto place.  I thought that was pretty well thought out, enjoy your coffee while you wait for an oil change.  Rivers and streams cut through land, helping to feed fields of potatoes and other crops. 

Oh beautiful land, I cannot wait to see what is along the next corner.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Couch in a Field

Yesterday took us from the Wyoming train yards of Cheyenne to the Tetons of Jackson Hole. Passing beautiful scenery along the way, hills dotted with blue tinged sage bushes changed to mountains trimmed in pristine white. Cattle poked along through the sage, munching as they walked. Well, all except one white faced bull, who after finding a good spot on the fence for a chin rub, looked very content. Slowly, the trees became more populous and the pines stood higher, flecked with tiny cones. 

Among all of the sights, smells and views in the middle of the day, a couch sat out in one of the fields. No building were around, just the cows and a couch in the middle of the ranch. Oher than thinking that it was a rather odd spot to put a couch, I didn’t give it much thought.  

When I was last in the Teton area, we were camping. I walked out of the laundry house and looked up at the night sky to see a sky I had never seen before – the Milky Way was spilled across the sky in brilliant color. I couldn’t keep from staring, mouth agape, doing some sort of a happy dance there in the dusty drive. 

My expectations were high coming back to this area; I have been dreaming of that sky. Last night, Dad and I headed out to the National Elk Refuge. Driving past the limits of town and keeping an eye out for elk, we kept looking to the sky. Sitting there with the heater running, we waited as the sun slowly went down. A moth fluttered against my window, and caused me to jump at the unexpected movement. Eventually, the sky darkened, the stars came out. Hello to the starry sky I had missed seeing. It was then I remembered the couch in the field. I have to give credit to whomever put it there. What a perfect spot to star gaze! Free of the glare of city lights, surrounded by curious cows, the view must be spectacular. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Misleading Distances

Yesterday was the first day of vacation, and after putting some loose ends behind us, we headed out on a long drive to Cheyenne, Wyoming.  As we traveled, I thought of the pioneers who moved across the west in wagon trains.  As they were full of hope and tired feet, I kept looking out and wondering what they thought of this land.  While creeks are still prominent and the land was rich for growing crops, I can see them looking at this with a sense of future potential.  Then, farther west, as the cliffs starting cropping out of the lands, maybe it was those who dreamed of raising cattle who saw the land as a place of opportunity. 
I did wonder, as the lands flatten out and distances are misleading, how that struck these travelers.  As they crossed the flat stretches, they would have seen for days in front of them what was next to travel.  But, I wondered if that was a comfort of knowing what was ahead, or a discouragement of perhaps not seeing the hills grow any closer. 
Distance can be misleading.  It can seem that the next turn, (metaphorically now), in life should be right now.   But, there it is way off in the shadowy haze of the horizon.  “How long Lord?” is a question I’m sure many lips have asked crossing through this land, and through life. 
But, the hills are growing closer and last night we even spotted mountains in the distance, rising up out of the plains.  I think I found my song to fit them, “Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains.  And the mountains in reply, echo back their glorious strain.  Gloria!”  Gloria indeed for a beautiful land, so diverse as we move through it.  What a beautiful way to kick off vacation, with realizing the diversity our earth has within it.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Music for the Trip

I watched a lovely fall concert yesterday of the local high school choirs.  The kids did a great job, as did their conductors and pianists.  One of the group I was with mentioned something about how people don’t necessarily go through life like in a musical, a.k.a. they don’t burst into song in random public places.  But, don’t you wish they would?

Even right now as I write this, I am finishing my day with “Simple Love” by Alison Krauss and Union Station playing softly in the background.  Music is like breathing, melodies come without thought, harmony without the need for written lines.  My world has always had a component of music to it, and what a journey of music it has been.  High school concerts, it reminds me of my own days of rehearsal rooms and practices.  Don’t really miss the rehearsal rooms, and I greatly enjoy the church choir, (we can be a bit rowdy – I warn you now!).  But, this isn’t the music that is in the scheduled time frames, this is the random music.  I hear the melodies; I hear it in the laughter of those walking by.  I hear it in the flapping of the birds wings, the leaves patter as they fall, the sounds of friends laughing.

The music woke me up this morning in a softly falling rain.  How I love that sound, gently lyrical as they bring out the fall elements even stronger.  Leave me snuggled in the bed with my book and listening to that rain, or even better on a porch swing listening to the sounds.

Heading out on vacation so very soon, and here I am burning last minute CD’s of music.  I find myself thinking about what music I want to hear when the mountains come into sight.  The only thing I can think of is “How Great Thou Art”.  How could I but look upon that and see anything but the work of the Creator, and His impeccable sense of the beautiful.  The structure of the land, it is musical itself.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vacation Count Down

Two days until vacation, hooray!  I always find that the closer I am to a vacation, the more I need it.  And, this is no exception.  With all the events of the last few months, especially as today is marking the one month of my grandpa’s death, this has been quite the summer.  But, now fall is here.  Fall, with it’s beautiful leaves and cooler temperatures.  And soon, it will find me in the mountains with snow, pine trees with that scent that strikes my nose as so clean and pure, and of course on the look-out for buffalo and moose. 

Vacation, such a wonderful concept, like a longer version of a Sabbath of sorts.  Sunday afternoons nearly always find someone in the house taking a nap.  I am not really much of a nap taker, as much as I may wish I was at times.  Often, I find myself far groggier after a nap than not.  With that said, I still am a firm believer in the need to recharge, to rest and recover ourselves after such busy schedules.  An article came across my desk not too long ago, stating that it really takes two weeks in our busy lives to truly disconnect, let ourselves relax, and then be able to go back to the work environment. 

So I will pack my bags, which are still in the basement waiting for the actual packing, charge the camera and head out the door.  I am looking for buffalo with snow dusted coats, the sound of elk in the dusk, the feel of Jenny Lake on my fingers, and the sound of wild horses running through the plains.  I am looking for a time to relax, breaking away from the daily pace of life.  I am looking for the site of the Milky Way spilled across the night sky in a moment that completely takes my breath.  I am looking for the quiet that only exists in groves of pine trees. 

And in the quiet… in the quiet I am reminded of a different time and a different need for quiet.  I am reminded of sitting in a sanctuary, soaking in words of grace.  The grace of Jesus, the grace that is much more inspiring and beautiful than even that spill of stars, just sitting in the quiet and soaking it in.  I am counting down to a time of sanctuary, of Sabbath, of finding the quiet in the trees, the song in the leaves, the rhythm of the tides, the percussion of the running hooves.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Courage in Small Talk

I met a beautiful young mom yesterday, with a swath of blond hair that was just beautiful.  I admired this young woman, because she did something which to me took a lot of courage.  But, let me back up first and set the stage. 
It was a beautiful day yesterday, clear skies and warmer temperatures.  Yesterday was also our Fall Festival at church.  It is a way to give back to the community for their support over the year, with music, food, games, etc…  The young mom mentioned above came with her two children, a toddler and little boy.  She led them through the games, they ate, they participated.  But, unlike many others who really didn’t know anyone there – she really participated.  She was part, with a running stream of conversation, trying out different activities, introducing herself to others, and helping her children join in with the others. 
I admire this ability to jump into a situation, surrounded by strangers, albeit friendly ones, and make yourself at home.  I think that this is something which demands courage.  Oh, I can make small talk, (the food, the location, hobbies, and weather), the kind of talk that goes no deeper than the food on the table.  But, to stay and really go out of your way to meet people and join in, that is not something I’m sure I would have done. 
It is a skill I admire, and I do equate it with courage.  I think it is a quiet kind of courage, that allows you to jump in like that.  I watched with admiration yesterday, and it was a reminder to myself of how there can be a great joy in making that step. 

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.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sidewalk Notions

The smell of steak on a charcoal grill hit me while walking down the sidewalk.  While not ready to give up my car, I am enjoying my walks.  The pace, with the yellow lab pushing me to keep walking faster and faster, is much slower than in the car.  And, even with the windows down the many details from the walks are completely missed at even twenty five miles an hour down quite neighborhood streets.  Instead, here I am huffing and puffing down the sidewalk and focusing on the details around me and trying to distract myself from the sweat and the burning legs. 
Walking down the sidewalk, I am noticing obviously the above mentioned steak on the charcoal grill.  And the garlic bread a few houses down!!  Just not fair to have to walk like that and smell those wonderful things! But are other, less edible, smells like laundry being done and fresh cut grass.  Small trees dot the landscape, framed out by a few larger trees.  I’m always so grateful for the shade they offer. 
Sidewalks look so steady and constant at a blur as I pass.  But, I’m coming to realize the dips, the slight twists and holes that have been worn by weather and use.  Steps and porch swings frame front doors and landscaping.  Summer flowers mingle with the more persistent of the summer weeds, as well as the bushes of peonies that are past their blooms. 
As I walk past, I like to think about the people who may live here.  There are often children dotted about the path, on scooters and bikes, or running between houses and looking for their friends.  Dogs of all shapes and sizes like to bark their greetings.  Cats stretch out on porches and lie in wait in the flowers. 
The sidewalk is an interesting spot where there is much to see.  And smell – that charcoal grilled steak and garlic bread…. Yumm!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Surgical Orchestra and Set Free

I have heard of operating rooms described as theaters, but I think an orchestra might be a better metaphor.  The anesthesiologist, he tuned up the room like the first violinist.  The surgeon, the conductor that controls the speed, action, and movement of the procedure, moves medical tools rather than a baton.  From this theater comes music of healing. 

It’s been nearly two months now since knee surgery.  And today, I received my free and clear from the surgeon.  What a great way to start a week! 

As I left the doctor’s office, I started thinking about the last few weeks.  I thought about how I have been supported by my family and friends.  I thought about how just a few weeks ago I could not have handled walking a half mile, let alone three.  I was surrounded by the caring of family and friends, and felt like I had my own private nursing staff!  No one could ask for better care.  Today, walking around the neighborhood, sweating and puffing along, I was excited to think of the change that only a few months can bring.  I felt set free.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wedding Anniversary Roses

My parents celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary yesterday with cards, cake, roses, and memories.  Thirty seven years is a wonderfully long time, and my dad has a tradition of one rose per year as a gift.  So, thirty seven long stem red roses grace the table, making quite the floral statement of celebration.  I was thinking about those roses and how if each one could talk, what it would say about the year it represented.  I know there would be times when the talk would be about lean budgets, worries, sadness, and aches.  But, I think there would be much more clamor about laughter, learning, sacrifice, giving, and togetherness.  And that was a lovely thought to me.  Because, it is easy to become caught up in the moment, whether it is ecstatic or tragic, and start to feel as if this is our whole life.  And yet, it isn’t.  The moment passes.  The extreme pain fades as healing occurs.  The laughter till you ache fades to sweet memories.  Then new moments occur, each also vivid and bright in the mind. 

If each rose would hold the voice of a year, and if I would think about what this new year would contain, I hope that this would be a sweet voice.  That it would be one of great health, joy, and wisdom. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Circuitous Route

I recently had an opportunity to go back to Ohio for a family reunion.  It was wonderful to see everyone, reveling in the laughter, the memories, a few tears, and lots of great food.  Driving each way eight hours makes for a long trip, and when people ask me here where I am going I say home.  Home… a complicated word for many.  I think of three things when I think of home, right now, future, and eternal.  Right now, my home is in a town that I had never heard of prior to moving here.  Musca…what?  I moved around a lot as a kid, so I was never sure how to answer the question – where are you from?  Well… at this age, it was this town and then that place at another age.  I’m not worried about my eternal home; heaven will be the perfect spot.  But, I do wonder about what home will be for me in the future. 
A place with a view, mountains, rivers, snow, beaches?  I don’t know there are so many possibilities.  And that is only the geography and climate.  What about the people, the culture, the neighbors?  Those are also really important.  I don’t know what that will look like or where it will be, on the other side of town or on the other side of the state.  But, the route is circuitous, meandering past potentials and pasts.  Isn’t it odd how things work, how we repeat some areas and then venture into new territories?  The trip back to Ohio was wonderful, a trip home.  Then, arrived back home in Iowa.  My next home, I don’t know – it’s rather exciting.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chicken Fajitas

I had chicken fajitas the other night, the smell of fajita seasoning, sautéing onions and green peppers permeated the kitchen.  The counter was full of containers with lettuce, olives, onions, sour cream, salsa, and cheese.  The smell hit me and my memory went back several years to fajitas in San Diego. 
It was an unexpected trip, coming out after my dad had emergency surgery while at a conference.  Trying to keep our costs down while there, my mom and I shared these enormous fajitas served at the hotel restaurant.  We would even have enough left over for another meal.  And the fajitas were good, packed with meat and dripping with this flavorful sauce. 
Our hostess at the restaurant, nearly every night there for a while, would take our order and we struck up conversations with her.  Mom and I were feeling pretty disconnected from everyone at this point, on the west coast without any contacts.  But, when we would finish up eating fajitas and ask for a box to take it back to the hotel room, we would find extra shells, meat, etc… tucked inside.  The gesture was small, the impact was enormous.   That small bit of love from a college student waitressing her way through to pay the bills, I pray that she is blessed back many many times over in her life.
So, I had fajitas the other night and they were really good.  They reminded me of that girl.  I wondered what she was doing, if she was still in California, and if she knew that she has an important impact on her world.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Day After Independence Day

   Last night I just couldn’t stay up to watch the fireworks.  So, I opted for an early bed time, knee propped up, book in hand, and sleep sitting heavy on my eyes.  I couldn’t see the fireworks, but I could hear the booms and sizzles as I lay there.  With the patriotic themes, music, and thoughts of the day, my mind turned to those who heard different booms on the nights in the days when the Declaration of Independence was written, adopted, and presented to the people.  As the word spread, battles had already been occurring.  Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Boston, and Montreal – many heard the boom of cannons and rifles. 
   I wondered about how they felt when they were hearing these booms, not the joy of fireworks and their beauty.  But, the sound of gunpowder launching an arsenal of bullets towards the enemy; there must have been many frayed nerves, stomachs upset with tension, the pounding of hearts.  The sound of hooves as horses and oxen moved men and artillery from place to place, the sound of feet moving together in marches across dirt roads.  The sounds of booms.
   And I also thought of different booms that occurred there shortly after attacks, after the war was over.  These were the booms of hammers, tools rebuilding and fixing up of homes and cities.  There were sounds of a new capital being built, saws moving through new wood, and celebrations that occurred. 
   Independence Day is a good day to celebrate with the boom of fireworks, so long as we don’t forget the booms that went into it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fireworks and Dreams

   Don’t you love fourth of July fireworks?  The colors, the sizzle sound that hisses through the air exploding with a concussive boom, only serves to highlight the intricate patterns of colored sparks.  Today is the fourth of July, a national holiday for us in the USA, marked with parades, cook-outs, orchestras, and of course - fireworks. 
   July fourth, the year 1776, in a hot Philadelphia room, the Continental Congress had been debating over a document written by Thomas Jefferson.  They had finally decided that the grievances between the colonies and England were much too drastic to allow for repairs to be made.  They had decided to take their lives into their hands, and consider a true separation from the mother country.  This compilation of doctors, farmers, lawyers… men of good standing in their community governments now debated as hotly as the temperature of that Philadelphia room.  They argued over words, ideas, potential outcomes, and the fate of what was a nation struggling to be born. 
    Finally, two hundred and thirty five years ago on this day, the majority of those present adopted the now famous document, The Declaration of Independence.  They knew that this signature in ink would be cause for hanging if the infant nation died in birth.  They knew that there were making decisions which could impact the in-cohesive colonies for the life times of themselves, their children, and grandchildren, and grandchildren to come.  Today, we celebrate the brave decision they made.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. 
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. 
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: 
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. 
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. 
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Let us be celebratory, let us be thankful, on this day.  As there are many other nations which have also lauded words to the high praise of a local people, only to see their fire stamped out with terrible violence. 
Happy Birthday to the United States of America!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Birthday Countdown

   My thirty-second birthday is just days away.  While that in and of itself is hard to believe, it is even harder to believe that I will be having knee surgery the day after.  But, with thirty one birthdays that have come and gone, with another one just round the bend, I have been thinking about my past birthdays.  We moved a lot when I was a kid.  No, I wasn’t a military brat, but a corporate one instead.  We moved with my dad’s job, taking us from places in Ohio to Kentucky to Florida to Ohio to Iowa.  I laugh now as I think of how many of the places I was completely unaware of their existence, let alone the people in them.  Now, I think of birthdays that were celebrated along the way.  I would imagine that some of the birthday celebrations would look a little quiet to those on the outside.  But, moving so much, the family bond has strengthened and those quiet family dinners, complete with cake and song, are precious to me. 
   Now, with this new birthday approaching, I have been bouncing back and forth between trying to decide what treat to take to work (chocolate or savory), and how to prepare for surgery.  The reaction most people have when they hear about one following the other, is a look like what are you thinking about combined with an unspoken, “really?”.  Yes – really! 
   So, with all of that this is my thought about that.  A new year is about to begin.  And, I can’t know what will come.  However, I am trying to look at it as an auspicious beginning to this year, as the beginning of knee health.  It’s a bit nerve wracking because we don’t really know what is wrong the knee.  Nothing on x-ray or MRI, just a persistent pain, that has kept me stuck and missing out on doing activities.  All of that leads me to my hope that this will be a year that is soon full of long walks, hikes, and being able to walk more than a block. 
   I still don’t know what I will take to work Thursday – gooey dessert or vegetables…