Monthly Archives: August 2009

This is not the vacation I had planned

I had not planned on spending my vacation medicated on the couch, but there you have it. Me, a pillow supporting my head, a book to read, and a bottle of anti-dizziness pills. Fun Times!

I had planned to take the last two weeks of August off from work so that I could rebuild my deck, which was showing far too much dry rot. My son, Jonathan, would be home, and able to help me do the heavy lifting. I had completed about 2/3 of the demolition work, removing the old decking and the bulk of the handrails. I had ordered the materials. But then vertigo took over and I found myself on the couch.

Thanks goodness for the generosity of gracious, gifted friends! Bob Butcher, a carpenter from our church, and his son, Alan, offered to come over and help with the deck. They showed up yesterday and together with Jonathan, tackled the project. In one day, the three men finished the demo work, replaced the support posts, beam, joists, and reinforced the stairway. Now all that remains is adding the decking, balustrades, and handrails. I am hopeful my balance will return soon so that I can pound a few nails of my own before the project is complete.

My son reminded me of King David’s experience in 1 Chronicles 22:6-10. David had wanted to build a temple for God. Instead, God said that his son, Solomon, would be the one to do the job. Sometimes, you have to allow others to help you accomplish your goals and dreams.

As I watched the men work, I was also reminded of Ephesians 4:16, where the body of Christ builds itself up as each member uses his/her gifts in service. Watching a gifted carpenter at work made me realize it would have taken me all week long to accomplish what they did in one day. I would have cautiously plodded along and made countless mistakes and false starts, while Bob knew exactly what to do and how to do it.

I am grateful for Bob, Alan, and Jonathan, and all their hard work. I am in their debt.


Promises made and kept

I have been thinking about marriage vows the past week.

I will be performing a wedding ceremony next weekend. In it, I will remind the couple of their roles and responsibilities in marriage. I will lead them through the process of making vows to each other. I will be encouraging them to reflect on the fact that the promises they make to one another are made in the presence of friends, family, and a God who remembers and will hold them accountable.

This past week, I have been on the receiving end of promises made some 28+ years ago. With the loss of my balance due to vertigo, I have been unable to do certain basic skills like walk, let alone drive. My ongoing dizziness has left me pretty weak and dependent. I am extremely grateful for my wife, Carol, who loves me “in sickness and in health.” She stayed with me for 7 hours in ER last Saturday. She has taken me to doctors appointments and supported me (literally) as I weaved from the car to the front door.

Outside of salvation, my wife is the best gift God has given me.

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Posted by on August 22, 2009 in Family & Friends, Weddings


When your body betrays you

The Scriptures tell us that our bodies are “fearfully and wonderfully made”  (Psalm 139:14). Yet, as one person observed, when the body breaks down, sometimes it is more fearful than wonderful.

I have experienced the fearful part to a degree as I have been suffering from vertigo this week. After my stay in ER on Saturday, I went to an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) doc to find out what was going on. After testing my hearing, balance, etc., he explained that most likely I am suffering from “vestibular neuronitis,”  a condition caused by a virus that attacks the inner ear and results in vertigo, or loss of balance. There is no trigger for the condition; it just suddenly appears without warning. There is also no treatment; you just have to wait for it to run its course in about a week or so.

While I don’t necessarily feel any better, at least I have a name to put on my experience and a prognosis as to what to expect. And since I still feel like Bambi on ice after six days, I probably still have a few more days on the couch before I can resume my life.

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Posted by on August 21, 2009 in Personal growth, Scripture


When you don’t have time for a long prayer

Last Saturday, I was on my twice weekly bike ride through the hills in our neighborhood. I was perhaps 2/3 of the way through my 5-mile circuit when I sensed something was not quite right. I felt myself drifting sideways and I had difficulty riding in a straight line. My only thought was, “God, get me home.”

After arriving home without incident, I became extremely dizzy, nauseous, and unable to stand or even sit. Everything was spinning. All I could do was lie on the floor at the foot of the stairway. After a call to 911 and an ambulance ride to the hospital, I spent the next seven hours in ER being treated for Vertigo.

Four days later, I am grateful that God answers prayer, especially ones that are short and to the point.

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Posted by on August 19, 2009 in Personal growth, Prayer


The hope of heaven

Yesterday afternoon, I presided at yet another funeral. One of the passages of Scripture that I read during the service was the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

In reflecting on this passage, there are two phrases that reflect twin realities I often see at funerals. In verse 13, Paul explains that a Christ-follower should not grieve like those who don’t have hope. In verse 18, Paul says that we are to encourage one another with the hope of heaven. 

I find it very easy to tell the Christians from the non-Christians at a funeral. One has hope while the other does not. You can see it in their faces. You can see it their good-byes to the loved one they lost. If a person is a Christ-follower, and the one who passed away was as well, there is comfort in the midst of grief. They have the assurance they will one day be reunited in heaven. Those who don’t have a relationship with Christ are devastated. They have no hope of seeing their loved one again.

The hope of heaven makes a huge difference in how we live life on earth.

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Posted by on August 14, 2009 in Funerals, Scripture, Theology


Can I DFA my bad habits?

Over the past few weeks, the Seattle Mariners have transformed their roster. We now have a new left fielder (Michael Saunders), backup outfielder (Ryan Langerhans), shortstop (Jack Wilson), backup infielder (Jack Hannahan), and three starting pitchers (Ian Snell, Luke French, and Ryan Rowland-Smith). That’s six new players (RRS was with the club at the beginning of the year and spent time on the DL) out of 25. One fourth of the team is new since June! (Oops. Make that seven new players as pitcher Doug Fister was called up from AAA Tacoma Friday afternoon.) That doesn’t even include the changes in the roster in the first half of the season.

To make room for these players, several players were traded and a few placed on the disabled list. Others were DFA’d or designated for assignment, meaning that the club had 10 days to either trade, release, or send the player to the minor leagues. 

Why can’t I transform my life so quickly? Why can’t I DFA the parts of my character that I don’t like? Could I trade away a bad habit and acquire a new one? Could I add a new character quality for one-to-be-named-later?

Perhaps my wishful thinking is not so unrealistic after all. DFAing bad habits and trading for new ones seems to be at the heart of Paul’s argument in Colossians 3:5-17.

In verses 5-11, Paul says to get rid of the habits that drag us down. Trade them. Release them. Retire them. Demote them. Designate them for assignment. Whatever term you want to use, Paul says to take them off like an old set of clothes. In verses 12-17, Paul instructs us to acquire and put on new character qualities.

In the same way that a baseball team trades away the players that no longer fit their system and acquire the players they think will help them become winners, so a Christ follower is to get rid of the habits that cause us to stumble and fall and acquire new ones that will help us live godly lives.


Watch the waterline when taking risks

Bill Gore, founder of W. L. Gore & Associates, articulated a helpful concept for decision making and risk taking, what he called the “waterline” principle. Think of being on a ship, and imagine that any decision gone bad will blow a hole in the side of the ship. If  you blow a hole above the waterline (where the ship won’t take on water and possibly sink), you can patch the hole, learn from the experience, and sail on. But if you blow a hole below the waterline, you can find yourself facing gushers of water pouring in, pulling you toward the ocean floor. And if it’s a big enough hole, you might go down really fast, just like some of the financial-company catastrophes in 2008.

To be clear, great enterprises do make big bets, but they avoid big bets that could blow holes below the waterline. When making risky bets and decisions in the face of ambiguous or conflicting data, ask three questions:

  1. What’s the upside, if events turn out well?
  2. What’s the downside, if events go very badly?
  3. Can you live with the downside? Truly?

Cited in How the mighty fall: And why some companies never give in, by Jim Collins

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Posted by on August 6, 2009 in Books, Leadership, Quotes