I went to EImagepcot in Orlando last year, and I made a discovery.  I like Bonsai trees.  They had a display there of some of the most incredible looking Bonsai of various shapes and sizes, and it really inspired me.  I thought to myself,  “Self (that’s what I call myself), that would make a nice fun hobby, and it may even teach you some patience that you sorely lack”.  So off I went on a road to discover the ancient Japanese art of Bonsai.  I started by reading a lot and purchasing a couple of small already shaped trees to study.  In my reading, I came across this quote from a very old quote (circa 970 AD) from a Japanese book talking about Bonsai:

 “A tree that is left growing in its natural state is a crude thing. It is only when it is kept close to human beings who fashion it with loving care that its shape and style acquire the ability to move one.”

 Fast forward to this last weekend, when I acquired a new “pre-bonsai specimen” for $5.98 from a local Lowes store, and believe me, it was a pretty ugly little bush.  A specimen is any tree, planting, bush whatever that has the potential to be shaped by a Bonsai artist (that’s what I am now – a Bonsai artist), into a smaller, beautiful, and more compact plant that shows its real individual beauty.  To create a Bonsai, you start by taking the specimen out of its large pot or digging it out of the ground and trimming out all the old big roots underneath that are determining its growth patterns up above.  Then you study the growth of the tree aboveground and develop a vision of what it could be if it was pruned and shaped.  As I set out to work on my new specimen, I was amazed at how painful it felt.  I was literally chopping off roots, cutting off large branches and pruning out some of the green growth, and each cut seemed destructive as I watched the pieces hit the table under the plant.  Now all the while I was doing this I was creating a vision in my mind of how it would look when I was done, but it still felt painful.

 And then of course God hit me between the eyes with a big Bonsai bang!  He has been doing the same thing with me for many years.  In my youth I grew into a gangly, unruly plant that grew in many directions based upon all the external influences I was exposed to.  When I came to know Him, I placed my life, limbs and leaves in His hands and he began to prune shape, wire and replant me into a vision only He has ever had for me.  It was an awesome reflection.  As I continued to prune that little plant from what was a specimen, I started looking at it in a much more positive light, and it was no longer painful, it was joyful.  As I trimmed, shaped, repotted and handled it, I did it with an eye not for what it had been in all its ugliness, but for what it would become when yielded to the Master’s touch (okay – now I graduated to Bonsai Master!).  So consider now the slightly edited old Japanese quote in this context:

 “A life that is left growing in its natural state is a crude thing. It is only when it is yielded to the Master who fashions it with loving care that its shape and style acquire the ability to live life to its fullest and experience all God has to offer“. 

 We are all specimens in this life.  We all know that if we yield to the Master’s touch we can become so much more, yet we still resist the shaping and pruning God tried to do.  This little lesson I learned from the tree is going to help me as I fight that resistance.  My prayer is for good pruning and shaping, but mostly for the ability to be yielding.  “God please help me to yield”.

 My little tree is a work in progress, just like I am.  It is already worth so much more to me than the $5.98 I paid for it.  I hope I will one day be worth more to God than what he paid for me!


imageSo I was doing my quiet time one day last week with a new online tool I found (quiettimediary.com – go check it out), and as part of my daily Bible reading plan I was reading Proverbs chapter 20. In verse 10 it says, “Differing weights and differing measures – the LORD detests them both”. When I read that, an incredibly intelligent and spiritual response popped into my mind. “Huh???”. I know – this never happens to you when you read the Bible, but it does to this simple minded fool. So as I have often done in the past, I just went on, filed the thing in my mind to ponder, and went on about my day.

Fast forward to early this week when I had to travel to Atlanta on business for a few days, and I found myself walking down the streets of downtown Atlanta looking at all the unique people. There were policeman, guys doing construction, guys and gals in suits, college students, and a few homeless people as well. For some reason, the thought popped into my mind that to God these people are all equal, and that he loves and measures them all exactly the same. Hmmm, wait a minute. Measures? Where did I recently see that? Oh yeah – Proverbs. So I scurried (I do that sometimes) back to the office and looked that verse up again. Ah-haaaaaa. Very cool. God uses the same weights and measures for EVERYONE. But do I? Do I value the homeless lady as much as the policeman or the lawyer? Do I apply different measures to them or weigh them on different scales? Ashamedly I have to admit I do. God hates differing weights and measures, and I am going to try and remember that everyone is equally valuable in His eye, and it should be the same for me.

Now before one of you great Bible scholars out there tell me that is not what that verse means, let me tell you that is what God showed me with the verse. I opened the Book, he planted the seed. I ran into a situation that made me think of the word “measures”, and God took me right back….., to HIS Word. Wow, what an incredible living guide to living our lives through God’s eyes. The Bible. So don’t fret if when you read it, you hear yourself go, “Huh”. Give the seed some time to grow, and God will reward it.

Thank you God – for that wonderful guide book! The B-I-B-L-E.

imageIt’s a new year, it’s a new day.  Thank God.  We have all just spent several weeks since Thanksgiving celebrating many different aspects of our lives on earth, most of which are related to our faith.  For Thanksgiving, we give thanks (to God) for all the bounty of things we have been provided with.  Then comes Christmas where we throw a huge birthday party for the coming of the Christ child.  Then comes New Year’s eve when we party hardy all night long, stay up way past our bedtimes, and get all excited about – the calendar resetting.  Huh?  Seems kinda silly when you think of it that way doesn’t it?  So what is the big significance of the difference between December 31st and January 1st?  For some of us it means a whole new year of vacation days have been allocated (woo-hoo!).  Or maybe it means a new year of health insurance benefits are available.  None of that did it for me so I did a little Google time on why we celebrate it, and came up with this from new-years-day.com:

The celebration of the new year is one of the oldest holidays. Many believe it was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago and that it marked the first New Moon after the Vernal Equinox. The Babylonian new year celebration lasted for eleven days. How did New Year’s Day move from the summer to the winter? A good question, especially since the spring is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. Today New Year’s Day is January 1st.  The month of January was named for their god, Janus, who is pictured with two heads. One looks forward, the other back, symbolizing a break between the old and new. The Greeks paraded a baby in a basket to represent the spirit of fertility. Christians adopted this symbol as the birth of the baby Jesus and continued what started as a pagan ritual. Today our New Year’s symbols are a newborn baby starting the next year and an old man winding up the last year.

Wow.  I did not know all that.  But I do have a suggestion on how to totally change your perspective on all this.  If the symbol today is of a new born child coming in, and an old man going out, then I submit to you that this is a holiday we can celebrate every day of every year!  One of the basic tenets of the Christian faith is that God creates a new man (baby) on the day of salvation, and the old man (sin nature) is done away with.  That occurs when we make a decision to follow Christ.  But what about after that?  You can get that rebirth anytime on any day you want it.  I do not mean another salvation experience, that is a onetime thing, but God has promised us an eternally full well of Grace that we can access anytime, any day.  Some of you will know I do this every time I take communion, I get a “fresh batch of Grace”, and a forgiveness and rebirth of sorts.  But you do not have to take communion or do anything else for that matter to have a rebirth.  You can do it every day, just by telling Him to give it to you.  Awesome.  I need it man, I need it every day.  Maybe we should name it “New Grace Day”?

So happy January 4th everyone.  And happy January 5th, 6th, 7th and so on.  Gonna be a lot of partying for me this year as I celebrate rebirth and re-commitment whenever I need it – how about you??

Happy New Grace Day!


Posted: December 7, 2011 in Lessons learned, My Life, Spiritual Thoughts

imagePeople rushing hither and thither.  Some running and looking excited, some just look tired and bored.  Tall people, short people, people of all races and ethnicity.  Everybody going somewhere, and they all depend on the actions of others to help them get there.  Some are alone, some are with others, but they all have one thing in common. Wanna guess where I am and what it is they have in common?

If you guessed the Atlanta airport, you are right.  Man oh man are there some funny looking people here (I know – I am one of them!).  As I watched them, I realized that they all have something in common.  They are all looking for a “connection”.  I liked that word, so I looked it up on my handy dandy iPhone.  Connection means, “The action of linking one thing to another”.  Okay, that makes sense, I see lots of people linking up around here with planes taking them somewhere they want to go, but it raised a larger question for me.  What am I connected to?  What do I want to connect to?  Of course right now I am wanting to connect to a plane to take me home to my wonderful wife and daughter, but I have lately realized that I want more than that.  I want to be connected to people, and have us work together to connect closer to God.  There have been a lot of times in my life where I was pretty alone, and it was by connecting with others I came through it.  I believe we all need that, and a while back I decided I wanted more of it.

So a couple of weeks ago, I got intentional about making some connections.  I got involved with a new process at  my church called “Huddles”.  Huddles connects 2 or 3 men together to help each other be accountable.  Accountable to God, to themselves, to their family and friends, etc.  I have met twice with one of my Huddle “connections”, and I have to tell you I have really, really enjoyed it. We have now invited another man into our group, and I really look forward to connecting more with him as well.  It just feels like it’s gonna be good!  There is a process for ladies as well called “Tangles”. 

Well, gotta go make my plane connection, so I will leave you with this verse:

I Cor 14:26 – “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.”

Sounds like we need each other, huh?  So go!  Get connected!

Life with no email ….

Posted: August 29, 2011 in My Life, My Work

SO for the last two days my email account I use for like …, everything, has been down.  I feel so out of touch, plus it is my work email so I have been up all night last couple nights working on and worrying about it.

imageI was once asked if I could have been born in any time period of life, when would that have been.  I do not know what year it was, but I want to live in the time where you sat on the front porch as a whole family, whittled and talked and watched the kids play.  Simple.  Uncomplicated., low paced. Restful.  All those things I want in my life but cannot get most times since things come at me faster than I can handle them.  Come to think of it, I want my porch on the beach like the picture here.

I wish God would do this:

Mark 4:39
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

How did it get like this? Is there a way to slow it all down and still be a part of society?

Here I am …, but why?

Posted: August 26, 2011 in My Life
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“Here I am…., On the road again.  Here I am…., up on the stage”.

You may recognize a few of the words from the Bob Seger song, “Turn the Page”.  This is what came to mind when I sat down to put keyboard to blog today.  Go check out the lyrics on that link, it could almost have been a song about blogging. 

It has been a while since I posted a blog entry, and I keep hearing Mandy Thompson tell (nag?  Encourage?) me to just stop and write, so here I go.  I thought I would just dive in and try to explain why I even want to blog my personal thoughts, since the words I blog seem to come from a place I do not readily connect to at a conscious level. Okay – that sounds strange, even to me.  What I mean by that is that I seem to have around 4 or so actual different levels of thought:

  • Public – These are the thoughts I have that I communicate verbally.  They are wayyy too guarded.  Think about it – you do this too, hide your real thoughts.
  • Private – Only for my own consumption.  Sorry – you would freak out if I shared those with you.  #tmi
  • God stuff – I know he hears all the thoughts, but sometimes I have specific conversations (thoughts because they are not always verbal), where I think differently and more honestly than I even do internally to myself.  And yeah – he talks back to me.  I hope that freaks all you atheists out.
  • Blogging – I try and mix all the above up into a written form that I want to share.  Why?  For one thing, I want to get your input, but it doesn’t matter if I do or not – just better if I do.  Secondly, I want to help you elicit a little honest thinking as I try and be relationally real at an appropriate level.  So if it makes you think a little bit…., Yayyy.

What comes out in my blogging category is a real hodgepodge of what is in my head, so can be wildly different from day to day.  But in some strange way it all comes together in a reasonable manner – or at least to me it does, your results may vary there.  It just serves a real clarifying purpose for me, as I try and organize my thinking.

So there – that’s why I am here, on the stage.  Weird, or does it make some sense to you?

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Connecting thoughts to words

Posted: June 6, 2011 in My Life

Oh my how I struggle with this.  I need to spend more time doing the oh so therapeutic spilling of my thoughts into this blog.

What I truly do not understand is why it is so hard to stop and take the time.  I enjoy it — I really do, but when it comes time to do it, it feels like a chore.  I make it worse by following people like Mandy Thompson, who totally makes me sick when I look at the apparent ease with which she is able to push good thoughts out into blogdom.

I struggle on …..