Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When We...

Bethany College, Bethany, WV

When we assemble 400+ men at Bethany College next year it will be awesome!

Isn't always amazing how things change and language is a powerful thing?

A year ago a group of men met for a time of fellowship and initial planning.  They exchanged ideas with an understanding that what they were setting out to do was going to be scrutinized and criticized because they were daring to do something different.  They departed with a level of excitement that would give them a sense of commitment to over the next year develop their initial plans.

This past weekend the group assembled again with a couple of changes in personnel, but essentially the same group met as before in the hope that their planning would be fruitful and worthwhile.

As the group met and even beforehand, it was evident that 'language' was going to play an integral part in the conversations and open discussions of the group.

Optimism has caught fire amongst the group members and the language of 'if we' has been replaced with more positive infectious statements such as 'we will' and 'when we'.

The men of this group are a dedicated lot.  They recognize that their efforts are a vital part of who they are.

These men are working with a level of 'x-treme faith'.  Their 'bold action' will lead men toward a pilgrimage to Bethany College, Bethany, WV next summer to be part of a gathering of Disciples Men.

The weekend was filled with many new ideas and the realization that ideas that were shared and put forth initially had now changed.  Ideas were becoming more and more interesting because of their enthusiasm.  It's their hope that the ideas will continue to grow and that when they come together again as a group the ideas will continue growing and changing.

Growing together as a small group will insure the same exchange of ideas and excitement for the 400+ men who will be attending the event next summer.  Growth and change were evident and very recognizable in the room where the group met and that's a good thing.  Their were a couple of instances where hopes might have been dashed, but readjustment was easily accomplished.  Before they knew it, any disappointment was overshadowed by some other suggestion of positive alternative.

Change is a good thing.  It's always beneficial to grow and be open to something new.  The world is a changing place and this group is very understanding of that fact.  It is because men have neglected to change that stagnation has ruled the day.  The change that this group of men are working to implement will keep change at the forefront of future men's events.

The men of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are going places as they continue to plan and implement the change that will be 'X-treme Faith-Bold Action: A Gathering of Disciples Men', July 13-15, 2012 at Bethany College, WV.

I'm proud to be a member of this planning group.  I will be sharing more about this event from time to time in this space.

Memorial Christian Church, Bethany, WV

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I know, I know...it's Wednesday!

Yeah, I know, I know...it's Wednesday and I'm just now getting around to posting for this week.

Been a busy week already.  So today's post will be brief.

It's amazing to see Gabriel grow.  He's well into his 6th month of life and it's crazy how much he's grown.  He's really enjoying life and thriving!  So...how about some pictures you might say...I can oblige. 

Have a great rest of your week. 

Do something positive for yourself and be optimistic for someone who might be down.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

After I Saw the Bird (A New Beginning)

As I read my good friend, Derek Maul's blog today, his statement,"What happened - and is happening - in Japan is a contributing cause to my spiritual restlessness. My desire to grow in faith is a form or restlessness. My commitment to discipleship emerges out of restlessness. Paying attention to being restless is a step in the process of moving closer to God." I sensed my own restlessness.

I too have been very restless because of the the sadness and heartbreak ongoing in Japan and other things going on in my life and my church, but today when I saw one of God's creatures my spiritual restlessness was transformed into spiritual contentedness and the assurance of a new beginning.

So today as I took my walk, I noticed a Mockingbird and his varied songs.  I watched the bird and thought about the beauty of just the sound.  I remembered the Mockingbird that would sit outside our bathroom window very early in the morning when I was a youngster.  A slice of nature serving as a reminder that spring approaches; new beginnings taking place.

After I saw the bird, I thought about how Japan will ultimately be restored by the tenacity and resilience of the human spirit; a common worldwide compassionate coming together; a new beginning. 

After I saw the bird, I thought about the many beautiful Flowering Bradford Pear trees that always seem to bloom around the time of my wife's birthday; between the second and third week of March.  They suddenly appeared today with their white blooms as reminders of not only her, but again of the coming spring; a new beginning.

After I saw the bird, I thought about the harsh economic realities my home church is currently experiencing and struggling through.  I pray that just as spring comes forth anew, a gathering fellowship will step out on the path of a faithful new beginning.

After I saw the bird, I thought of my son, Gabe and how blessed I am to have the opportunity to spend time with him everyday as he grows; understanding that each and every experience is truly for him, Kim and I a new beginning.

By taking a walk today I found time to focus, to notice the Mockingbird, to think about the newness of spring. As a follower of Jesus I am committed to moving closer, seeking out the beauty, the mystery and converting my restlessness into a new beginning.

Peace be with you on your walk today.


PS-And now for today's musical selection; I'm in the mood for some Jimi Hendrix and I really like this picture of him and his dad.  I'm a huge Jimi fan.  Hope you'll enjoy this song of his that comes to mind in talking about a new beginning.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Last week, as I was driving home from picking up my son from daycare, I heard part of an intriguing story on NPR about gourmet chef, Grant Achatz.  This artisan chef overcame the loss of taste due to tongue cancer.  How traumatic it must have been for him to deal with the loss of his taste when it is so vital to his livelihood and passion for cooking.  Achatz talked about some of his unique gourmet creations and how our senses react and are so involved in taste, sight and smell.  

Pictured here is his creation that perhaps some diners would see as, bizarre, strange, odd or even weird, but this story and his creation has, as he mentioned in the interview, stirred emotions and memories that I’ve since reflected upon.   He explained how patrons of his Chicago based restaurant, ‘Alinea’ sometime become emotional at the sight and smell of the pheasant with burning oak leaves presentation dish.

Now I must admit I did snicker a bit to myself when he said this.  But after I thought more about how our senses, particularly those of taste and smell affect us and give us such profound delight and joy through the food we eat, I began to understand more fully what he was talking about.  So I began thinking specifically about our sense of smell and memories that can be triggered. 

If I ever am around or perhaps just passing by where someone smoking a tobacco pipe, I automatically am transferred back to thoughts of grandfather.  The smell of the pipe tobacco ignites my mind with the image of the small worn out wooden desk that sat in the sort of den area of my grandparent’s home.  My mind flashes with the sight of numerous pipes along with small pouches or cans of tobacco in one of the desk drawers.  I can even taste the pipe in my mouth as I remember sitting a back of my parents Chevy II in our driveway as a young boy during a visit from grandpa, my ‘Paw Paw’.  

I also thought of the memorable smell of honeysuckle.  The smell of it today will transport me back to elementary school where a long chain link fence ran along the back of the playground area.  The fence seemed to always be covered in it.  It’s where I and other kids picked the tiny sweet flowers and sucked the nectar off them during recess.

How many of us can, upon smell of onions and peppers being grilled up in a skillet, transport ourselves suddenly by just closing our eyes back to a small town fair or carnival?  I’m not talking about today’s entertainment theme parks, I’m talking about those little fairs that came to town sometimes unannounced or the once a year county fair or how about the old time amusement park.  Of course the uniqueness of the onions and peppers comes from its combination with the aroma of deep fried confectionary concoctions, i.e. ‘funnel cakes, ‘elephant ears’.

I also remember the childhood smell of waiting for the school bus.  It’s such a non-descript sensation that I get as the summer comes to a close and autumn approaches.  It’s most profound early in the morning; the time I would have been waiting to catch the yellow ride. 

I can also easily transport myself without even thinking about or needing a smell to the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico near the ‘four corners’.  The smell of the hot dry summer air and the wind whipping in and out of vast canyons coupled with the abundance of silence creates a feeling, a sensation of peacefulness.   Now that’s one of those places you just have to close your eyes and think about because there’s really no smell that’s away from there that will trigger the memory. 

Then there’s my other favorite place to think about, sense and experience; the beach.  Here again another place hard to really capture in a smell away from the real deal.  Even those smelly candles can’t really cut it when it comes to recreating the smell of the ocean.  The ocean’s saltiness in the air is so refreshing and comforting.  Who doesn’t like the smell of the beach?!  The beach is a place of family trips and good times that I look forward to; this year especially since it’ll be our first trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with son, Gabe.  His young cousins are so very excited!

Who doesn’t like the smell of the beach? Well, I suppose there is someone who might not because of a traumatic or sad event that may have occurred in that locale during their life.  Smells can conjure up memories that are good as well as bad.

I can immediately think of two examples: Vietnam War veterans will tell you that they will never forget the smell of their first day ‘in-country’.   I suspect veterans who’ve served in Iraq or Afghanistan too have smells that can bring about memories they rather not remember.  I’m also sure the many thousands of people who were near the tragedy of 9/11 and the eventual collapse of the World Trade Center, will never forget the massive clouds of dust and the smells associated with that awful day.  Then too I remember the sight of grandpa's cold hardened leathered hands as he lay in the local funeral home and grandma telling me and my brothers as we peered in to make sure we touched his hands for good luck. 

Left to think about it we can all think of times like that and remember a smell, a sight, a sound a touch...good and bad.

I thought too this week about my small infant son, Gabe.  Yep...I can close my eyes and think about how he smells.  A smell I will never forget and think about years from now and smile.
What smells help you remember times and places in your life?  Have a great rest of the week!


Here's the link to the NPR story on Grant Achatz:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blank Street

Today's post is in support of my good friend, Ben Saunders.  He and Joey Schihl will be premiering the new documentary film, 'Blank Street', this coming Sunday at 2 PM at the historic Byrd Theater in Richmond, VA.

These two young men spent the better part of the summer of 2010 crisscrossing the Commonwealth of Virginia meeting all sorts of people and capturing their personal stories of hardship and struggle to make a life that is both meaningful and hopeful. 

Many of the areas Ben and Joey traveled to are places that economic despair hit years ago or places that people live everyday just trying to scratch out where their next meal is coming from.

It's the story of a man who lays his head nightly surrounded by cardboard in a gazebo and it's the story of a kind-hearted woman with countless problems of her own only wishing to bring simple joy daily to others.

If you're in the Richmond area this Sunday and want to see a story that hopes to, as the Blank Street Project webpage says, 'raise awareness of the issues that transcend borders, towns and streets' stop by for the FREE showing.  Come out see a great piece of work!  I've heard so much about this Virginia Interfaith Center sponsored project for over a year and have personally seen the excitement and hard work that these two young men have put into this presentation.

Their trek around the state in a 80's VW van named, 'Iris' was a worthwhile mission to capture and share the many stories that sadly for the most part would remain
unknown.  Thanks Ben and Joey and good luck Sunday!  It's my hope that Sunday is just the beginning for your efforts at conducting this type of mission work and that the stories you're sharing with others will make us think and more importantly act.

The Blank Street Project:


UPDATE!!! (March 5, 2011): Check out this news piece that ran last night on local TV news:

UPDATE #2- Congrats to Ben and Joey...the premier was a smashing success!  Well over 300 attended the free screening today, Sunday, March 6, 2011.