As a young man, a junior in my college career, I was given the unique opportunity to live abroad for a semester. I eventually spent roughly eight months living in the Netherlands while working with high school and college students in nine different countries. The core of what I was there for was to minister to and foster the spiritual growth and understanding of this group of students.

To say it was a special time in my life would be a dire understatement of the experience and its profound effects on my life both then and in decades to come.

When it came time to leave I was gifted with a tradition of a pair of wooden shoes, iconic of the Dutch culture, signed by the students and close church members I had shared so much of my life with. There were the usual notes of encouragement, well wishes, and we’ll miss you, one would hope for and in many ways expect. Then, there was this. “The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions.”  Thanks Alex. A well meant, if not misplaced attempt, at humor by a junior high student. The idiosyncrasies of junior high students, particularly boys, is, well, legend.

So here I am in 2017 finding myself being a bit more thoughtful than 2016. I am definitely wanting to be much more intentional in my actions, my thinking and my reactions to life as it comes to me.

I’m fresh off two weeks of vacation time at the end of the year. Time to spend with my family, focus on them, enjoy the holidays and what they should mean to me, and perhaps an unintentional time to decompress or purge myself of the massive amount of stimulus I encountered on an average day in 2016. This decompression was unintentionally facilitated by a week’s worth of sinus infection. Not having been ill to any real consequential degree in over three years; I’d forgotten what a joy it was to feel both disembodied and thick as a slab of concrete at Hoover Dam, all in the same instance. The cure truly is more harmful than the disease sometimes.

All of that left me seeking, as I stated, to be more intentional in my approach to everything. The renewed “perspective” of the Christmas season, morphed into a desire to see each moment for what it really is and not what it could be ginned up into. There is a certain amount of worry that is necessary if not beneficial, but so much more of it is of no use. It doesn’t serve a purpose except to preoccupy the mind, paralyze the person and terrorize the soul, and ultimately the spirit of the person.

The normal day’s modus operandi would be to begin by thinking of all the things needing to be done once I hit the door of the office: print this, verify that, request this information, begin checking this, receive those, direct them, and then before I know it my agenda is full and I have a purpose of action for the day. This, unfortunately, does not include the two text messages received as I drive into the office, which change the ranked importance of a number of the mentioned items above, or the remembered “potential tasks” for things that “may” have to be done this week in which case everything I’ve gone through previously will now be 75% changed and will leave me with a sense of disappointment and, if only on a small scale, a sense of failure at being the best at what I do.

So what happened today that was different? Me. I happened differently. I took the extra second or two to think more intentionally about what I was walking into to. All of the above was the same. Yes, the same. Print this, verify that, request this information, begin checking this, receive those, direct them, as well as, two text messages received as I drive into the office, which change the ranked importance of a number of the mentioned items above, AND the remembered “potential tasks” for things that “may” have to be done this week in which case everything I’ve gone through previously will now be 75% changed. All of that was the same. I was, however, different.

The list got built and I then told myself, “This WILL get changed and there is not anything you can do about it. You will adapt to the change and you will do all that you can do and only what you can do. The rest will fall where it will and it will be what it will be. I won’t be lazy or uncaring or defensive. Things will happen as God intends for them to happen and you will make the best of what you are given and leave everything, not to be confused with everything else, in His highly capable hands.”  Then the text messages came. “Well, you knew this was going to happen. This is not a conspiracy to make your life a living hell nor a personal attack from those you work for. This is life and life is happening and since I am walking to and fro and breathing in and out, life will happen to me. I’m not so special as to dare expect otherwise.”

Yeah, I know. All this sounds very vague and highly philosophical, and it is to a great extent. However, I’m trying to convey the practical matter of this vagueness and philosophy. I’m trying to, in the moment, practice the intentional thinking of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God.  If I have no control, or understanding or ability high enough, strong enough, powerful enough to cause me to happen to life, but I am in relationship with THE God who is all of those things, then why do I need to stress or worry or fear?  Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God.”  So the intentional thought was – “This is what is happening. Will the worry, or the mentally projected difficulties, or the stress I cause myself in either of those processes be beneficial to me or serve any purpose in solving these issues?  If the answer to any of those questions is no, then what should my next intentional thought be?” For me it is this. Lord, I am not in control of much. I am in control of who I trust. I am in control of what I will lean on for support emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I am intentionally choosing You. Given that I am choosing You (the Lord, Christ, Jesus, God) I am going to walk away secure in the knowledge that You will work this out using what gifts, talents and abilities you have given me or you will give me the grace and strength to walk through this if it can’t be solved. This is true of the logistical nightmare facing me at work or of the relationship with a difficult co-worker. It’s true of the laundry list of chores at home or the list of things I should do to prove once more to my wife and children, how precious they are to me. It’s true of my fragile emotions or my over developed and over used ego.

I know I will be less than completely successful at this approach. My hope is that if I can be even 10% more intentional in my daily thoughts and actions, that I will give more glory to God and receive more contentment for myself. Out of the overflow of this I want to see my family and relationships grow closer to the God who is at the center of all of this.

Thanks Alex. For once again reminding me, ever so inappropriately, that intentions have little purpose except to lead me down a path without hope. However, being intentional in my yielding to the Almighty God of the Universe will only give me hope on more levels than I can presently comprehend.

Christmas Perspective….

Daily life for me right now, like many people who will read this, can be summed up in one word…drama.

Between the two deaths my wife has experienced in her family, an uncle and an aunt, the hectic practice and performance schedule of a church Christmas program and two performances, the massive workload of training a new assistant, setting up a new store location and converting to a new system’s programming, to the craziness that is this particular time of year with budgets, and money and on and on and on….drama. In the midst of all of this I find myself grasping for perspective.

I’m not seeking solutions. In many of the instances mentioned above, the offending circumstances will either work themselves out with time and patience or there simply is no solution. Add to all of the aforementioned the fact that my family is to have our traditional Christmas get together at my home this year. This is a family that is riff with their own personal dramas and challenges and theirs like mine will work themselves out with time and patience or there is no immediate solution. Again, drama. Again, they as am I, may be grasping for perspective.

I arose this morning, like every other morning for the past 51 plus years. I walked to and fro and I breathed in and out and I faced this day’s tasks as all the days prior to this. I interacted with two truly awe inspiring children. Not so much for their individual brilliance or there staggering appearance although I think them as smart as or smarter than most and grateful they look more like their mother than me. No, I’m in awe because they are with me. In my house. Hugging me each morning and nestled under my chin each night and that they call me Daddy. I beheld a woman far more gracious and loving and beautiful than I deserve. I am a man with much pride and many failings and yet in the midst of this she walks in my world. This woman among women. Soft, smart, loving, sweet and kind. Gracing my harsh character and cleaning up if not brightening up my shambles of a life.

On Christmas Eve I’ll stand before two aging mothers, a brother, his sweet wife, his two sons and their wive and sons, a beloved sister and her renowned husband. I will see in each of them something that is also amazing and beautiful to me. Husbands loving their wives furiously, if not a times, ineptly.  Wives loving their husbands in the same way and all of them experiencing the same joy, frustration, and awe  in their own children that I experience in mine. I’ll see in them the collective decades of life experience. Of living, of heartache, of joy, of passion, of hope, of momentary defeats, of great successes and of the brokenness that we all have resident in our souls.

There is a verse in Hebrews 4:12  “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  I had always thought of soul and spirit as being pretty much one and the same. I’ve learned that “Soul” is that invisible dimension of our life that we are by nature. That person of thought and character. Who we naturally digress into being in our most unguarded or weakest moments. The soul man if you will. “Spirit” is what we are by supernatural rebirth. That which God ordained us to be and works persistently and consistently to mold us into being in our moments of breathing in and out and walking to and fro.

I am profoundly captured by the complexity of this time in my life and yet I am also profoundly struck by the simplicity of where and how perspective is obtained.  So where is this “perspective” that I seek. What is this thing that seems to be so elusive to almost everyone I know, to me.

Simply, I find it in the person of Jesus Christ. I see it in the creation I enjoy hiking in so much. In the natural beauty of this earth. I see it in the faces of my children, in the kiss from my bride, in the frailties of our parents, in the relationships of my siblings and their families, in the walking to and fro and the breathing in an out. It is in the miracle of a virgin birth. In the fact that not only did The Almighty God of the universe send his son to be the payment for my sin cursed soul, but He sent the only son he had. That before time was even time, He knew that there would be a Todd, and a Sharon, and a Noah, a Bailey, a Voncille, a Martha, a Waid, Debbie, Donna, Homer, Pete, Micah, Crystal, Abby, Eli and Brayden, and that each and everyone of them would be in need of a savior. He created everything and orchestrated everything that each of these would have the knowledge of this Savior. He does all of this so that I will know the glory that is His son Jesus and to have the same love for Christ that the Father has for His own son. Not an attempt to be more loving, but to have as much of that very same God love as I can possibly manage in this life before I can do it perfecting in a heaven that’s waiting for me.

The “perspective” is being in a constant state of acknowledgement that God made all of this with me and these and you the reader in mind. That He is doing what must be done to draw me closer to Him, whether that means joyful things or stressful things, pleasure or pain, it is what it must be for me to draw near to Him as He has drawn near to me. To acknowledge that there is a spark of divinity in all and thus they are valuable. His very breathe brought all into being. Whether I agree with your politics, your moral compass or your personal preferences, you were created by The Almighty God. Acknowledging that He is GOD and I am just Todd.

So this Christmas, this celebration, will be about the birth of my Savior and the rebirth of a God centered perspective.

Merry Christmas and may God bless us, every one.

Jeep modifications….

So the folks that know me in the real world know that I’m a bit of car guy and a new and somewhat passionate Jeep owner.  I can regale you with details ad nauseum about every car I have owned since I was a teenager driving a 1969 Chevelle up to my current ride. Every one of these vehicles has a special place in my heart, with one or two exceptions, and they all have special stories and memories attached to them. Almost every vehicle has had a name or a theme that defined it and my relationship to it. Yeah, I’m a car guy. That’s what car guys do. They are always my baby and they get tweaked and groomed and accessorized in some way to be personal and particular to me. The Jeep is no exception though the theme for this vehicle did not come easy. I’ve had the Jeep almost a year now and I spent a solid eight months just looking and thinking and sketching and wadding up and throwing away a multitude of ideas. Many had been done so many times that there didn’t seem to be anything original about what I was putting together. Some were just plain weak sauce and not worthy of my sweet Jeep.

Ultimately I decided on a theme. One Bad Apple. It’s obviously a Red Jeep but the thinking really goes a lot deeper than that. To the regular world the term One Bad Apple will relate to the red color of the Jeep much like a big red apple and the double entendre of the word bad meaning bad attitude or bad as in bad a$$, etc.  However the meaning is still much deeper than that. It’s a thought as old as Adam and Eve.

Think back to Genesis with me and that moment in the garden where the snake is talking to Eve and Adam and putting a thought in their head that God isn’t really who He says He is. Well the Bible tells us that the garden had, “every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”, Genesis 2:9.  They were told not to eat one thing out of thousands of options to eat. Now there is no scriptural basis for the thought that the fruit eaten was an apple. This is a western invention let’s say but the thought can apply none the less that one bad apple got us into an eternal mess.  The old phrase that one bad apple will spoil the bunch is true in my own heart and life. One area where I don’t surrender to God’s will or His direction can ruin every other area of my life by its relative disobedience and rebellion. For me, it’s a reminder that things are things and they are nice and nice to have but God is the creator of all things and I am fortunate to be blessed by them and to use them as a blessing among God’s creation and His created beings. It’s a reminder that everything is about choice and I need to choose wisely and with a thought to what God would have me do. I surely enjoy my Jeep and what I can do with it. A friend sent me a meme the other day that said, “Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy a Jeep and I’ve never seen anyone sad driving a Jeep.”  True. The Celtic tree design is a nod to my Scots-Irish lineage and another representation of the tree in the garden and how life is a cycle. I have to be certain to put the right and good and holy things into my life because what comes out is what I allow to be put in. Simple as that.

So there we are with a Jeep themed as “One Bad Apple”.  Here’s a few photos. Hope you enjoy them…..


That particular age…..the boy

Today is the day my son turns that particular age of 15.

As I hugged him this morning, as I do every morning before I embark on a days toil, I remarked to him, “You weren’t this big when we brought you home”. He was a big boy, no doubt, hitting the scales well over ten pounds. A fact made all the more ghastly given the diminutive nature of his mother. I carried him around many times with legs straddling my bicep and his head cradled in my hand like so much Spalding pig skin.

He fit so easily into my heart, my head and my life then. His life is so much more complicated these days. Then it was all nap times, poopie diapers, dad outings, bath nights and baby food. On my mid-week days off we would make a routine of running errands in the morning followed by the stop at Chic-fil-A to impress the moms there with what a well behaved and cute baby he was and what power dad I was. In truth, we were both full of something better left unmentioned.

These days there is the normal school drama but also band and its multitude of practices, friends, girls and the associated drama there of and a schedule that requires a White House debriefing a couple times a day between his mother and me. Life is moving a little fast some days.

To be sure, he is at that particular age of 15. Where his mother and I have grown a little more senile and he a complete Mensa candidate. Where his sister can, ever so unintentionally or completely intentionally, press his buttons in .025 hundredths of a second while he possesses the patience of Job, or job whichever version you are reading at the time. Where friends rule and family drools.

I take some comfort in knowing, this too shall pass. The day will come when family will once again, at least share an even podium position with friends. His sister will be viewed as a trusted ally, and mom and dad will once again have miraculously regained a wealth of cognitive function and life experience to be gleaned from readily and free of charge.

I miss the little football he was in his infancy. The toddler that seemed to be running for mayor speaking to every living soul in Wal-Mart. The grade school kid that thought I was King Kong and everyone worked for his daddy. I even miss the young man I hiked with just a few months ago on the AT. He is growing up, and away, and out of our lives an inch at a time, and while that is to be expected and is part of the nature of living… (snif)  Well, I don’t have to be THAT happy about.

I’m still gonna get my hug every morning. I’m still gonna wax poetic about him on a semi-regular basis and tell him that I love him every single time I walk away, drive away or end a conversation with him.  Even as he changes and grows, that will never change. Even if he is THAT particular age of 15

Appalachian Section Hike 2016 – Part 4

Part 4 see us finishing up the trip with footage from Saturday going from Clear Spring Shelter to Wesser Bald Shelter. Then the short half day on Sunday down to the Nantahala River.  This one is a bit longer than I like but there really wasn’t much use in cutting up Saturday to make two shorter videos. There’s still some good content here. Hope you’ve enjoyed the series. We have a couple hikes scheduled in October and November that I’ll be posting on when the time arrives.