Friday, May 16, 2008

Iowa Bound

When we moved to San Antonio three and a half years ago, our plans were to stay for many, many years. We bought a house that we expected to be in when our kids to graduate high school, one that would have a good drive to work, etc.

As God would have it, we got an offer to move to Waterloo, Iowa to work for John Deere.

Growing up in Waterloo was difficult, considering it was during the farming crisis. This greatly affected John Deere and brought the area into a dark period that lasted for as long as I can remember. When I hear people talk about the unprecedented, booming economy of the 80's, I have a tough time relating to this.

Well, Waterloo/Cedar Falls has changed. I went back for a basketball reunion in 2005 and my class reunion in 2006 and was pleasantly surprised. The area is growing again and new houses and new businesses are going up everywhere.

So a friend of mine, Dave Flaherty, sent me a simple email, saying "Call me." That was the beginning of what would bring about a huge change in our lives. Dave and I grew up together in Waterloo, followed a friend of ours (Ed Kunath) to college at the US Merchant Marine Academy, and worked together at Ford Power Products in Detroit. As a matter of fact, I got a reference bonus for recommending Dave and Ed for employment.

Well Dave and Ed are back in Waterloo, and Dave is a John Deere employee. When I called him back, he told me about a job that sounded like a great opportunity, except it was in Iowa. When my wife Julie didn't freak out because it garnered the inevitability of snow, we decided to pursue it. A few months later and now Dave is getting a reference bonus. Seems fair. I get a great job at a company that just set a record for sales and revenue in the second quarter this year.

And now Ed, Dave and I get to have the same conversations we did as bachelors/roomates in Detroit about the three W's: work, women, and wheels. Except one "W" is now "Wives".

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The irony of fulfillment

I have learned over the years that things that consume my interest are things that I deem to give me some feeling of fulfillment. The human nature naturally feels that energy or effort poured into something will bring results to that something. In other words, if I want to feel fulfillment, I feel like I should do things for myself that would make me feel fulfilled. Most of these things involve pouring energy into my interests and things that I like. That should make me feel better right? I mean I'm doing things that I enjoy, right? Why is it that the feeling of enjoyment lasts only as long as the exercise itself, and I feel pretty empty when I'm done. I feel as through I need to reengage in the activity again. It can produce addictive behavior.

So here's the irony. I only find fulfillment that lasts when I pour energy into other people's lives. When I become selfless and think of other people's goals and desires and work to meet them, I find fulfillment that will last. It energizes me and I can ride the feeling for some time. It's really counterintuitive. I need to pour out of myself to feel filled inside.

Now, there is a catch. You can only pour out of yourself so much before you become completely drained and the possibility of a large bout of self indulgence looms. I have a theory that this is what happens to pastors that fall into sin. Their occupation requires an immense amount of giving of their lives, their time and their energy. If there is nothing pouring into them, they risk their career and family to find something that fills them up. The generic answer is that God must be the one that fills us up. Great answer, but how does this happen? Is it Bible reading, is it prayer, is it devotions? I have found that I can "devotion" myself to and still not feel filled. So what's the answer?

This has been my dilima over the last few years. How do I get filled? I have been reading John Eldredge's books for the second time. In Sacred Romance, he speaks of "Desert Communion". It is a process where one escapes from all the influences of the world for a period of time. During this time, one relaxes and empties the mind and heart of all the things that seem to consume them. We seem to keep our minds and our hearts busy. We never seem to take a break and give our minds and our hearts a break. And they desperately need a break. Not only do they need a break, but we need to just stop and listen. Listen to God. The first time I tried this, I realized how exhausted my heart and my mind really were. I never gave them a break. It felt wonderful.

When we look at the most selfless life ever lived, what do we find? What is it that the authors of the gospels seem to continually mention about Christ's actions. He found his alone time. He made time to get away. Christ was the example.

Next how did God structure the week? Is there any day that he made unique above the other days? Of course, the day of rest. But who really rests on this day? It is another day off of work on which we can get things done around the house. Why would we waste it on rest. I am growing to a point where I am almost convinced that this day should be taken very seriously. Our lives, our families, our hearts, our minds and our sanity may critically depend on it.

I am terrible at this. I live my life allowing way too much of the world's influence. Then I buy into the world's theories and demands and I'm back in the frustrating place looking for answers that I have already found, but cannot execute. I am overdue for a major lifestyle change. I wish I could speak from more long term experience on this theory. The times I have taken Desert Communion, it has felt like a huge burden was lifted. It's surprising that I don't do it more. Again, I need to change my influences.

I'll reread and edit this post later. Right now I need a break.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Angel in the post office

I have to admit, this made me tear up. It was on "Best of Craigslist" Not only did I verify this on Snopes, I found out that this happened at our post office, the one that serves our neighborhood, here in San Antonio.

This is one of the kindest things I've ever experienced. I have no way to know who sent it, but there is a kind soul working in the dead letter office of the US postal service. Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:

Dear God, Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick. I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith.

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith' in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies.' Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away. Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by. Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I am wherever there is love.

Love, God

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Caption Contest

Every once in a while you see a picture that earns undeserved attention for the subject of the picture. The picture below is on the front of USA Today, probably to the dismay of the lady in the center.

I feel badly for her because she is probably aghast at how she was captured by the photographer. But we will not let our silly, considerate feelings stand in the way of some fun. If she sees this she is welcome to enter the contest.

The challenge is to see who can come up with the funniest/most creative caption for this picture? The winner will be chosen by how hard I laugh. I'm actually saving another one just in case no one responds.

I'll even give you an example: "Obama eaten by supporter".

The people I know that have responded to this blog so far are very creative, so this could be good.

The winner gets a free one year subscription to this blog.

Good luck

Friday, January 4, 2008

Family picture

We recently just had our first professional family picture. It will be outdated soon so I thought I'd post it. We took the boys in for pictures and thought we'd sit down and do a family one. I'm surprised it turned out well, because Corbin had had enough.

I'm thinking of adding a halo over our oldest son Donovan's head. He appears to be trying to maintain innocence in this picture. Classic Donovan.

Julie is doing a great job of containing Corbin and getting him to feign a smile while I am trying to get Donovan to laugh so that he has a natural smile. I'm glad I failed.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


I am a popcorn purist. I'm a big fan of popcorn cooked in heated oil. I do like the occasional movie theatre microwave popcorn, but the best is made with this

We traditionally have used Orville Redenbacher oil with whatever popcorn seeds I can find. I haven't really found any difference in seeds. We also use popcorn salt which is very fine (small grains). I mix the oil, popcorn and some seasoning in the popper to cook and put butter in the top to melt and drip on the popcorn as it cooks.

When we found that my wife Julie is allergic to a few of the things found in the oil and salt, we were looking for alternatives to make the popcorn. It was a little depressing trying to imagine popcorn tasting as good as our original recipe.

My brother's wife, Laura, recommended using coconut oil to replace the popcorn oil. So Julie went out and found LouAna Coconut Oil. We popped the popcorn in the coconut oil only (without butter, too). After it was done we salted to taste and was delicious. It didn't taste as heavy as our original recipe and was really good. It was great that we could alter our diet for Julie's allergies and the food actually got better. I recommend this recipe for people without allergies. And it's healthier too. I did add a bit of popcorn seasoning to my bowl and it got even better.

Thanks for the tip Laura.