Friday, June 30, 2006

Old Man

Holy Shit! My son turned 21 yesterday. Talk about making you stand up and take notice.

I guess life is full of milestones. But adulthood in children in an amazing one. I was looking at a blog friend of mine who posted a picture of his beautiful daughter earlier this week. I remember all of that. I remember the wonder of having a small child that is totally dependent on you.

But since I've got a 21 year old and an 18 year old now, all of that is nothing more than pleasant rememberances.

I wrote him a letter when he was in the 10th grade. I went back and read it to see if I was still on the same page as he enters his senior year of college. I think I am.

So here's the letter.

I hope that you are old enough to understand the importance of the link between our spiritual, emotional and physical lives. I hope you have experienced the correct balance between them so you know how to juggle your life in the proper order. I hope that you understand that to deny yourself and to take yourself out of your routine existence you experience each day is what is needed to help change and mold your perspective. I pray that you understand that there are very few absolutes in life and how you look at things determines how they actually are. You are coming to a place in your life where the decisions you make will affect you for the rest of your life. I have always had enough respect for you and your wishes to allow you to follow your own way. Many times I have not agreed with your way, but I continually tell myself that “it’s your life”. I have been criticized and thought poorly of by some of my friends and family for not taking a firmer hand with you but I have been rewarded time and time again for my faith in you. I believe in you. I always have. You have become a wonderful young man and one that I am so very proud to call my son.

You are very different from me, and that’s OK. I was completely different from my father. He didn’t appreciate that fact until late in his life and that was a huge loss for both of us. He died just as he was sorting out his hopes and dreams. I learned a valuable lesson from that and I pray that you will never have to because I plan to be there for you. I plan to be there for you to talk with and give advice to. I want to guide you but never lead you. When I volunteer advice to you I always try to do it in the manner of telling you what I would do and why, so you could have enough information and experience to make an informed decision. I don’t want to tell you how to do things, but like most people, I have learned the “hard way” and would spare you some of that pain if I can.

Growth and happiness are the key results from a life of exploration and adventure. People who stay safely shut away from all the dangers of life will never be able to experience the ups or the downs that define us. People who are afraid to fly never go anywhere. People who are afraid of crowds never learn what it is like to be a part of something larger than they are. People who are afraid to love because they don’t want to get hurt will never be loved. It is far better to love and get burned than to stay safely on the sidelines and never get a scratch or a bruise. I pray for you the wisdom and patience needed to start on the path that will lead you to happiness. With happiness comes security and fulfillment and a greater sense of how you fit into the world. I pray that you realize that you must take the initiative and venture out to do things to improve yourself. It’s not enough to do what “they” tell you to do. You must do more. You must lift twice the weights they tell you to and you must run farther and faster than they make you. You must swim and stretch and study. When you have gone the extra mile and put your best into your activities, you will find a satisfaction that you never knew existed. A life without excuses. A life in which you do your best, and win, lose or draw, that’s good enough.

I believe in you and I am so very proud of you. You are a much finer young man than I could have ever dreamed you would be. I love you with all my heart and promise to always be there for you.

My hopes and dreams for you are as simple as my philosophy for my own life. I hope that you find the energy to do for yourself what you would do for others. I pray that doing the right thing, no matter what the consequences, will always be more important to you than being right or winning. I dream that one day your heart will guide all your actions. I hope that you will come to understand the nature of God as I have. I pray that money and success will mean much less to you than the satisfaction of living an honorable life. Mostly I hope that you will come to the knowledge that the measure of a man is not where he lives but how he lives. I ask you to remember the five pillars of manhood: Wisdom, Strength, Courage, Honor and Love. Most of all…….Love. If we need to tattoo those on your arm to help remind you, please let me know.

I have never been concerned for the future with regards to you. You are approaching a time when the decisions you make will start you on a path that may last the rest of your life. I will endeavor to help guide you but more than that, I hope to be able to reassure you through trust, self-confidence and love that even if you choose poorly, you can always change directions. This is the dividing line between a good life and a plain old regular life. I will attempt to nurture in you the confidence that will allow you to explore many types of paths without feeling trapped. You are much too young to worry about “the rest of your life” but at the same time, you have to take steps in the right direction every day.

I hope you have been alive long enough to have gained a little perspective on the different types of people that exist in our world. I am now going to ask you to think back to youth baseball, 9-10 and 11-12. I realize that many of your memories will be of kid stuff but think of the larger picture. Try to remember how parents acted and think about what it did to the children. Not right then, but now as you know them. Think about the relationship between having to win, at any cost, and what that cost eventually was. Think about the relationships those young men had with their fathers and how it affects their lives today. I know you are smart enough to see what that type of life offers. Now look at the other side. Look at it from the side of baseball where it is a wonderful sport and it is a privilege to play. Look at it from the perspective that each child will get to play the same amount no matter what the talent level is. Look at how much our teams won with that philosophy and how much more fun and “growth” we had than they did. Did you ever think that because the best players on the team realized that the worst players on the team would be playing the game with them, the best players actually helped the worst players get better. It happened every time. Across the field many times we had teams that only played kids one inning. There was no motivation to improve those children and they eventually quit, which was just what the coach wanted anyway.

That is not life and it is not Christian. It’s sick, and it goes on every day in our world. Christ calls us to reject that kind of life and do the right thing. In closing the baseball argument, I ask you to think back specifically to all the “great” kids you played with. The best of the best players. We all know who they were, but I want you to think about how their parents approached the game. What were the parent’s attitudes towards their children and coaches. Did the parent’s actions affect the children’s sense of self-worth? What does that look life 7 years later? I’m not going to answer those for you, but please draw your own conclusions and learn something very important. That particular baseball lesson can actually be the guiding light of your life if you understand it.

I want you to understand that your relationship with God will be THE defining moment of your life. That relationship is never finished because there is no finish line. It’s a journey not a destination and it will last a lifetime. There will be times in your life when you love and praise God and then there will be those times when you want to curse God. If you pay attention, you will come to understand the nature of God through both of these acts. When life is not fair, God is there. When life is great, God is there. When it is quiet, God is there. When it is crowded and noisy, God is there. You must learn to pay attention, to listen, to see and to understand. Then you will know God and it will give you the confidence that you can only have when we know that someone is always with us. It may not turn out the way we wanted it to, but because we weren’t alone, it really didn’t matter so much. Forgiveness and Mercy are our greatest attributes and those can only come from the presence of God in our lives. Our greatest sin is Pride and that comes from a lack of humility because God is absent in our lives. I say words like the “presence” and “absence” of God in our lives as a way for you to understand these things but in reality, God is always there and it’s our job to know it. For if we don’t pay attention, we won’t know, we will just die. The quality of your life depends upon your understanding of God and developing your relationship with him. God wants us to live life abundantly. He wants us to enjoy ourselves in communion and fellowship with him and our fellow man (and woman, of course).

Scripture is our guidepost but it is never our God. Do not ever fall into the trap of the infallibility of scripture. In our part of the country there is a very odd Baptist belief that what is written in the bible is somehow real and true in all situations. The bible is a book inspired by God and written by the people of God and administered throughout history by the church of God. The beginning of the bible contains two (read ‘em) back to back creation stories. Which one is true? (That will send a Baptist minister into an actual dance if you ask it at the right time). Ask me later and I will explain that and anything else you have a question or comment about. Everything in the bible is a testament of the power and love of God. When you come to a true understanding of that, then the historical accuracy of the book won’t even matter to you. I will endeavor to guide and direct your study so you can be well grounded in your beliefs. You should always know what you believe and why you believe it. If not, it doesn’t count, because there is nothing worse than a person that believes something he doesn’t understand. That is the breeding ground of intolerance and ignorance. The opposite of faith is not unbelief but it is fear. The opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Indifference means not caring. Not caring means not doing. Not doing is the path that leads to misery.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

So as I look back, I see the lessons I tried to impart to him have taken root. They may not be where I would like for them to be - but they are there.

And what more can a father do for his son?

Life is amazing and we can either work towards something good or just accept that life throws stuff at us that we can't control. I am very statisfied at this point that everything is wonderful.

I'll get back to you on this subject on his 30th birthday!

Peace to you today.

Dam Beavers

This is an actual letter sent to a man named Ryan DeVries by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, State of Michigan.

Dear Mr. DeVries:

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:

Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond. A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department’s files shows that no permits have been issued.

Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2003.

Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff. Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.


David L. Price District Representative
Land and Water Management Division

** This is the actual response sent back: **

Dear Mr. Price,

Your certified letter dated 12/17/02 has been handed to me to respond to. I am the legal landowner but not the Contractor at 2088 Dagget, Pierson, Michigan. A couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood “debris” dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skillful use of natures building materials “debris.” I would like to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.

My first dam question to you is: (1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers or (2) do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request? If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued. Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994 being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.

I have several concerns. My first concern is...aren’t the beavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said representation, so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer. The Department’s dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event causing flooding is proof that this is a natural occurrence, which the Department is required to protect. In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling their dam names.

If you want the stream “restored” to a dam free-flow condition please contact the beavers, but if you are going to arrest them, they obviously did not pay any attention to your dam letter... they being unable to read English.

In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond. If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (Beavers) and the environment (Beavers’ Dams).

So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now. Why wait until 1/31/2003? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice then and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them then. In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to a real environmental quality (health) problem in the area. It is the bears! Bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone. If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your step! (The bears are not careful where they dump!)

Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.

Thank You,

Ryan DeVries & The Dam Beavers

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Warren Buffet gives thirty some odd billion dollars to charity.


I have been reading and listening to this story for a week or so since it was revealed and have been, like most people, just hearing it as another news story.

Roadside bombs in Iraq………numb to that one.

Israeli’s clash with Palestinians……….way numb to that one.

General Motors lays off 30,000………..who cares anymore.

But here is a guy, one of the richest men in the world and arguably either the smartest or luckiest investor in the history of betting, giving away all his goodies in the name of humanity.

Is this not an amazing story?

What would Jesus do? I posed that open-ended question in an earlier posting this week. Is this not what we are called to do in this world?

Do you have any idea how inspiring this is to the rest of the world? Do you remember the poor fat Sally Struthers infomercials whereby she said that for 78 cents per day you could make a child’s life better?

All of that is true. These billions of dollars are earmarked for two things – global healthcare and education.

This is remarkable.

We truly now have the resources for someone as smart as Bill Gates to figure out how to eradicate maybe 20 diseases that routinely kill millions of people in underdeveloped countries each year. To give the level of health care needed on a basic level to the world without all the bullshit that goes with our government giving grants.

I am in awe.

And I am also, for the first time, just a little impressed with the human race. So many times I feel like I am a voice in the wilderness proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord.

How can we be Christians and support the death penalty? How, how, how? There are so many things we do that make no sense to me that I am celebrating this one.

Chalk up one for the good guys.

I hope this will truly inspire others to give. I know we don’t have billions to disperse but every little bit helps. Give to your local church and see how it blesses you.

I love everyone and I want the best for all of us.

Let’s start today……….

Tuesday Morning Musing Club

Love is not a vague feeling or an abstract idea. When you love someone you want what is best for them. You want them to have so much more than you have ever wanted for yourself.

So if we take the love of Christ seriously, then we will work towards what is best for others. We will seek to bind the wounds that society inflicts on each of us. We will attempt to bring about healing, no matter what the cost.

Sometimes love bites you in the ass. But if the love is true, the bite fades quickly and a lesson is learned.

So today I give thanks for love and grace, the two most important components in my life and I pray for the strength to show those things in abundance to everyone else.

Especially to those that matter most.

Lord, make me an instrument of your love. Where there is hatred, let me give love and where there is doubt, let me show hope. Where there is sadness let me spread joy and where there is darkness, let me find the light switch.

I ask not to be consoled but to console. I ask not to be understood but to understand. For it is truly in the giving that we receive.

I understand – let me follow through.

Tuesday - The Day That Was

I am just a boy. I do boy things. I make boy mistakes. I guess we never grow out of that.

So today, my prayer is that I can withhold my boy-ness for a time and see what comes up.

No pun intended...............

Hug a stranger today. Pray for people with breast cancer. Visit someone in the hospital. Take a person you love to dinner.

Be humble and remember that no reward is worth the price of being wrong.


Friday, June 23, 2006


Seriously, what would Jesus do?

Lucky Boy

We live in deeds, not years.

We exist by thoughts, not breaths.

We love in feelings, not by numbers.

We should count the time by heartbeats.

I think of all the stuff that used to be important to me and I wonder what happened to that guy. Where did he go? Is it time or experience that teaches us that our “ideals” may be overstated?

These are the questions that pull at me when I lay down at night.

How I left those “ambitions” are still a mystery. I suppose that technically I rose to my heights in an orderly progression. But the truth is that I am still doing the same job I was hired to do right out of college. It’s just that instead of having 4 people working for me as I did then, that I now have 100+ that have to call me daddy.

So was it luck? Was it fate? If so, how did it happen when I wasn’t paying attention?

Anyway, I am blessed. In so many ways. I have a great job, that, like all jobs, has the ability to drive me freakin’ crazy. But it really is a great job.

We live in an amazing place where values still exist and we have the ability to do what we want. Be who we want. Experience what we want.

Yes my friends, life is very good.

And I am a lucky boy.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Reason To Believe

I am constantly amazed at how many people live such dreary lives and shuffle from here to there with no joy in their lives.

I want everyone to stop. Reach out. Feel the marvelous joy that is inherent in our world. There is love all around us and if we don't see it, well, it's our own fault.

There is beauty in abundance and you should view it with awe and accept it with grace. You should take the time to stop and truly smell the roses because they bloom so beautifully.

I have so many things to be thankful for and I promise that all through the summer I am going to take the time to recognize them and give thanks for them.

You should try that too. You'll be amazed at how your perspective is lifted.

Because like John Lennon said: And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.

The Week That Was

Well it's been a week since I've returned from Honduras and I actually feel like I may be caught up on my rest. It's so weird as you get older how much longer it takes you to recover from things. Daylights savings time kills me these days.

Geez, I'm only 45...............

Work still sucks but it is getting better. I think. At least I hope it is.

I am getting excited about the changes coming at my church. I'm waiting for Little Eddie to take the reins - even though he stood me up for lunch yesterday.

My daughter started working with me this week at work. I gave her a part time job so she would have a little structure and some money of her own. She's doing fine and it's great for me to be able to spend this time with her because I just don't get to spend as much time with her as I would like to. She will start college in the fall and according to our conversations this week, she will be moving into an apartment with her boyfriend soon. Oh boy. Nobody every prepared me to be a father to a girl. It's always a wild ride!

So this week will be a blur to me as I struggle to stay busy and keep my lonely mind off the fact that the woman that makes my sun rise and set is all the way across the country doing work among the Navajo Indians.

So say a little prayer for me - and for her. It really works, you know.

Hugs and kisses.........................

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Second Wind

We have our annual conference going on there’s not too much going on at church. But at the end of the conference there are the new appointments to start.

And for us, well, we’re coming home.

I don’t think I have ever been this excited about the future as I am right now. Our new pastor is our old pastor. But this time, he’s in charge. And plans will be made and visions will be seen. All that is wrong will be made right.

I pray for vision. I pray for communication of a vision. I pray to break the chains that shackle our hearts. I pray that we can throw off the bonds of propriety and shakes the gates around the fortress.

Each day we can do what we want to do and we really, really don’t have to pay attention to how things have always been done. We can choose to do what is right and damn people if they don’t think it’s proper.

Let’s have the courage of our convictions and make our little slice of the world the most exciting place we can find. Let our community be a chorus of many voices and opinions with one goal in mind.

I’m ready.

Are you?


Well I finally made it back. Got to the bottom of my desk and I am going to try to blog just a little better than I have been.

I spent a week in Honduras on a mission trip. I’m still very, very tired but I’m recovering. A few more six-packs and I think I’ll be there!

It is incredibly rewarding to serve those people over there. The mission was medical in nature and we ended up seeing somewhere around 4000 people. We also had a dental thing going where they pulled something in the range of 7000 teeth. That’s with just two dentists. I was careful not to shake their hands because I was afraid they would crush mine since they got so much exercise!

We had a pharmacy that filled all kinds of prescriptions. We had an eyeglass clinic where we distributed glasses for those that needed them.

But mostly, it was about serving others and allowing them to see what it means to serve Christ.

I, of course, was not allowed anywhere near anyone because I am just the cook.

I fed 73 people three huge meals a day plus snacks, drinks and other assorted housekeeping things.

It amazes me how fascinated people are when I pull off the logistical nightmare that it is when you live in the jungle for a week.

It’s easy for me. I plan well and can execute a plan so I don’t get all stressed out. But the work is very physically challenging. My back ended up hurting so bad that I wanted to die. I took a few shots of Toradol in my ass to help loosen things up.

I was blessed to go and come on the Hood’s private jet which makes my job so much easier. It sure is nice just to go to the airport and get on a plane and come straight home.

And home is exactly where I wanted to go.

Anyway, life is good. I am in love. My children are healthy. My dog loves me.

Yep, life is really good.

I pray yours is as well – and if not – just remember that you can change it. Each day we wake up we can choose our direction and our attitude.

So there’s your advice for today – Don’t be a victim of yourself.

Go forth and love, and love with all your heart because it is the only way to true freedom.