Questions About Life Goals

“Madden, would you like to go backpacking with me someday?” I asked. “Sure, Pops.”

I knew she would say yes to anything I suggested we do together, so I elaborated.

“That means we put food and clothes and sleeping bag and tent in our backpacks and hike up a long trail in the mountains and spend the night in the woods. It’s really hard work, but it is fun.”

“OK,” she said.

“How old do you think you should be for us to go together?”

“How about ten?”

“That’s perfect.” Since Madden is 6-1/2 I have 3-1/2 years to plan a trip.

I’ve had “Go backpacking with grandchildren” on my list of 100 Life Goals since I put my first list together in 2009, before I even had any grandchildren. It was one of several goals that was only partially up to me since who knew if there would be any grandchildren at all, and who knew if they would want to go backpacking, and who knew if I would still be healthy and mobile enough to do it when they got old enough. I still don’t know any of those for certain, except the first one.

That conversation reminded me that I should take advantage of my 60th-year transition and rebuild my 100 Life Goals list. Some of those original goals have been accomplished, and some others aren’t important to me anymore. One that needs to be modified: I made a goal to read 10,000 books, but at my current reading rate that will take another 135 years.

setting goalsI’ve been a goal setter and list maker as far back as I remember. Goal setting is about making moves now based on what you want your life to look like ten or twenty years from now. I make a list of New Year’s Goals almost every January 1, but the urge to create a big list of 100 Life Goals came after I read Mark Batterson’s book, Wild Goose Chase. It isn’t an easy project. Everyone can come up with four or five big goals they want to accomplish, but writing down 100 is hard.

I have scratched about 15 goals from my first list of 2009, things I no longer care enough about to do them. I need to replace those with current goals.

I’ve also accomplished about 16 of my first-list goals. I haven’t yet decided if I should replace them. Should a list be something I whittle away at until I’ve accomplished every last one, or should it be an expanding document that always has 100 goals on it? I don’t know. I suppose my Life Goal List will always be a rough draft because I intend to keep setting new goals and tweaking old ones.

I used to have my list of 100 Life Goals on my webpage, but I just checked and apparently my webpage is in the process of falling apart. I suppose I should add Rebuilding my Webpage to my list. I’ll post a link when I have my new list up and ready. I want to make it public because maybe someone out there can help me find a way to accomplish a few goals that seem impossible to me, but I’m not ready to publish it today since I need five or six more to finish out 100. Any suggestions?

What I’m really hoping to do is inspire and encourage you to start on your own list. Here is a link to Batterson’s tips for setting Life Goals, as well as examples to help you do it. If you type “100 Life Goals” into Google you’ll find many more examples from a wide variety of people.

It’s a worthy exercise, and I would love to see your list when you have it. Email a copy to me, and I’ll sent mine to you. Maybe we can help each other. Goal setting is stewardship; it’s making the most of the time, talent, and resources God has given you.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

I need your help. The primary reason people read these articles is because people like you share with friends, so please do. And thank you. Also, you can find more of my writing on my weekly blog, read insights on Tumblr, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Keep Exploring

As strange as it sounds, I don’t have a list of New Year’s Resolutions this year. It may be the first time in twenty years I haven’t published a list. Not because I’ve been so resolutely successful accomplishing all my past lists that I no longer have anything left to do, but because this is a landmark year for me and it’s put me to reflecting rather than goal setting. In 2016 I will turn 60 and I’m looking forward to it.

When I turned 50 it felt like freedom and release. I said goodbye to all expectations of being cool or hip or fashionable and started crediting my idiosyncrasies as eccentricities. It was great. I was finally living up to my gray hair and beard.

When I turned 40 I finally felt like an adult. (No, that’s not entirely correct. Even today I only feel like an adult about 50-60% of the time. I always think of adults as the men my dad’s generation, whatever age that happens to be.) But at 40 I could no longer hide behind my age. I was old enough to know stuff, old enough to stop blaming behavior on my upbringing, old enough to formulate my own opinions without basing them on some talk radio host or what the guys at work say, old enough to settle into my reading list and read the books I enjoy, old enough to learn new ideas.

When I turned 30, well, that one‘s still a blur in my memory. We had a six-year-old and a three-year-old and dadhood took its toll on my brain cells. The summer of my birthday we moved but didn’t move to California due to a promotion I got and then didn’t get. A few months later I was with my son Byron when he was hit by a car while we were all riding bikes one Saturday afternoon, and it changed my understanding of being a father and spiritual leader. It was the first time in my life I called upon God out of desperation and fear.

The year I turned 20 was my last of three summers touring with Continental Singers as a bass trombonist, and my segue into big-time college life at the University of Oklahoma. It was the beginning of my lifelong journey with personal discipleship, my introduction to daily spiritual practices and teaching, my first experience with leaders who deliberately invested in my life, and my first date with Cyndi Richardson. Little did I know I was starting the adventures that would define the rest of my future.

And so I’ve asked myself, what will it mean to turn 60. I’m not sure, we can only know lasting effects after the passage of time, but I have some ideas.

keep exploring backpackLast year my daughter, Katie, gave me a red and white patch that says “Keep Exploring.” In the 1970s I would’ve sewn it on my bell-bottomed blue jeans so that everyone else could see it, but this week Cyndi sewed it on my black backpack so that I would see it every day ... a permanent reminder of how I want to live.

The Keep Exploring movement was created by Alex and Bret, two young men from Flower Mound, Texas. Their webpage says this: “Keep Exploring is the simple idea that adventure can be found anywhere. We are trying to be better explorers by seeking out opportunities in everyday life. This is a collaborative movement - Everyone is invited. Start looking for new roads to take, old mountains to climb, and wild food to chew.”

Well, that’s who I want to be. Maybe not the chewing of wild food part, but I want my 60s to be years of exploring new ideas and trails and mountains and techniques and books and movies and relationships and influences and music.

A few Sundays ago I was cycling with my friend, Wes, and we were working through our increasing list of athletic ailments when Wes changed everything by saying: This is the best time of our lives. We’re finally old enough people listen to us. We can really make a difference.

I thought about what he said for a long time. Through the years I’ve been motivated by this thought: If I apply the weight of my life toward the people God has entrusted to me, I can change the world.

But now, as I enter my 60th year, even that seems too small. I no longer want to merely change the world … I want to change The Future. I am finally old enough, finally weighty enough, to speak truth into hearts and change the future.

And so I suppose I do have a New Year’s Resolution for 2016: Keep Exploring. I hope you’ll join me. Let’s explore together.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

I need your help. The primary reason people read these articles is because people like you share with friends, so please do. And thank you. Also, you can find more of my writing on my weekly blog, read insights on Tumblr, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.



Coffee and the Future

I’m nervous writing about coffee knowing my serious coffeephile friends who go to great lengths to make the best just roll their eyes at what I drink. But it’s become a topic coffee cupagain in our house since our coffee maker picked a fight with us. When we moved into our new house, seven years ago, one of the first additions was a Keurig single-cup coffee maker. Cyndi and her sister Tanya bought it for me since I seldom drank more than one cup when home, meaning I never wanted to make an entire pot.

The irony is that Cyndi and Tanya used my coffee maker at least 90% of the brews, Cyndi making her tea and Tanya making her coffee. In fact, they wore out that first Keurig before I had consumed 100 cups. That’s a guess, by the way. I didn’t log my cups.

Then they confiscated a Keurig that my dad wasn’t using, and wore it out.

A couple of weeks ago our third Keurig stopped flowing water, and the company agreed to replace it under warranty. Cyndi unpacked the new one – which will make a carafe of coffee as well as one cup – and tried making her tea. She immediately ran into Keurig’s new business model, which is to allow only official K-Cups to be used in their machines. Apparently they decided they were losing too much money with people buying coffee pods anywhere they chose, so they built something similar to Digital Rights Management (DRM) into their new machines. They will only work when the pods are authentic Keurig-brand K-Cups.

I can’t argue with their decision. They’re just trying to stay in business, and it’s the same strategy used by most printer manufacturers. But since their original machines did not have DRM, it now feels offensive and abusive.

Coffee is a big deal. People around the world drink more coffee than any other drink besides water: four hundred billion cups a year. A cup of Starbuck’s costs at least $16 per gallon, or about $672 per barrel. Even at that price, 24% of Starbuck’s customers still visit 16 times a month

Coffee also has nutritional value. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and a leading investigator of coffee, said, “Coffee is rich in antioxidants – substances in vegetables and fruits that deactivate disease-causing byproducts of the body’s metabolism.” In tests conducted at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, “coffee topped the list of foods that are densest in antioxidants, surpassing blueberries, broccoli, and most other produce.” Only chocolate, dried fruits, and dried beans ranked higher.

I wish that I enjoyed coffee more than I do. When I do drink it, I like simple, black coffee, decaf with no additives. (I drink decaf to protect my blood pressure.) I don’t want whipped cream in my coffee, or ice cream, or chocolate, or candy, or mint, or alcohol, or leaves, or foam, or anything else. Even though Cyndi uses our coffee maker (for making tea) significantly more often than I use it (to make coffee), I want it to work well and serve us. I like having the option.

The reason I get weirded out about something like limitations from a coffee maker is because it flags a deeper issue. Keurig is moving in the exact opposite direction from how I want to live the rest of my life. They want to increase limits and restrictions while I want a more open-source future.

Too many men my age load up their lives with rules and opinions and limitations, adding more each year. They have a growing list of ideas and people they complain about, and resist anything new or different.

I don’t want to live that way. I want to shed restrictions, not add more. I want to grow inclusive and not exclusive, generous and not needy, open and not closed, accepting and not combative. I want to embrace new ideas, not attack them.

How about you? What do you think? Maybe we should meet for coffee and talk about it.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

 I need your help. The primary reason people read these articles is because people like you share with friends, so please do. And thank you. Also, you can find more of my writing on my weekly blog, read insights on Tumblr, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Taking the Alternate Route

It a bright and cloudless day, 9:00 AM and 24*F, when I parked the at the Chamisa Trail trailhead on Hyde Park Road. We were in Santa Fe for the week while Cyndi Chamisa 3attended a workshop, and I had planned a two-hour hike to judge whether my knees were ready for our Iron Men Guadalupe Peak hike in two weeks. As I gathered my gear and studied the map I noticed there were two mostly-parallel trails. Then I saw a sign reading “Alternate Route More Difficult.” I decided the alternate route was the one for me; after all, this was intended to be a test.

While the regular trail followed the fall line across the face of the mountain the Alternate Route climbed straight up the drainage, meaning there were several steep climbs. I was very careful to keep from slipping and banging my knees. The trail was still covered with snow from yesterday’s storm but I was using trekking poles and they kept me stable on the ice.

For the first thirty minutes my hands were uncomfortable cold, painfully cold, even with my gloves. Still, it was a beautiful morning and an incredible hike. After about 45 minutes I reached a trail junction where the Alternate Route joined the original Chamisa Trail, as well as the Saddleback Trail, which in spite of its name followed a ridge line.

I followed the Saddleback Trail to the southwest for another 15 minutes, sticking to my original plan which was to go out for an hour then return. I wanted to give my knees a good test, but I also wanted to be able to function the rest of the day - two hours seemed realistic.

Chamisa 2On the way back toward the trailhead I kept thinking about that sign and the Alternate Route up the mountain. So often we willingly take the Alternate Route More Difficult in our everyday lives, not to make our journey harder but to it significance. We’re not satisfied with a simple easy hike through life, but take on challenging projects day after day.

I thought about how many times I’ve been driving across town to a potentially contentious church council meeting, or another late night Journey Group session, or even chewing over the Bible lesson I’m supposed to teach in two days and wondering where is the handle of the lesson, and wondered what it would be like to live a simpler life.

I remembered one time on the Guadalupe Peak Trail with Paul Ross, just as we finished the opening switchbacks and stopped to drink some water, when one of us said, There must be an easier way to do ministry. We both nodded in agreement even as we both knew neither of us would be satisfied following that easier way.

The alternate route, the more difficult route, the meaningful route, calls out to us. Following our calling is never the easier trail.

I spent years watching my parents live lives fully engaged with other people, giving away their talents and energy, choosing the Alternate Route More Difficult. And now, following that family tradition, I feel a deep-heart calling to help people live deeper lives with God. Even as I long for a simpler life I know I’ll never be happy if I’m not engaged with the Alternate Route.

And so, I’m encouraging you to choose the Alternate Route More Difficult. I’m urging you to find God’s calling on your life and live it out for the benefit of those who are following you. Why? Because that’s the harder way, the way that matters, the way that changes the world.


Would you like to know more about God’s calling for you? I am hosting a men’s weekend at my house in Midland, April 29 - May 1, with Gary Barkalow from The Noble Heart Ministry. Gary explains and coaches God’s Calling better than anyone, and you don’t want to miss this opportunity. Write to me at if you are interested and I’ll make sure you’re on my mailing list for more information.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

I need your help. The primary reason people read these articles is because people like you share with friends, so please do. And thank you. Also, you can find more of my writing on my weekly blog, read insights on Tumblr, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.


Dreaming Again

Yes, I will admit this right up front: I’m dreaming again. My new titanium knees have resurrected my hope of distance and adventure. Since July, I think of my life in two phases … BNK (before new knees) and ANK (after new knees). Not the handiest set of acronyms, I’ll admit, but the delineation is sure to loom large in my life.

Since I’m not supposed to run, at least not yet, I’ve been walking a lot. And I’ve been adding my walking mileage to my run log, the log I’ve kept since 1978. I write down the miles I walked in the same way I used to write down the miles I ran.

I don’t log all of my walking miles – as in, walking around the house or walking down the halls of my office, etc. – but I include miles I walk specifically for walking’s sake. It’s more about intention than frequency or pace.

In October, I walked 30 miles, at about 3 miles a pop, the most I’ve covered in one month since March 2013. In fact, of the 76 miles I’ve logged so far in 2015, 56 have happened in September and October.

This is representative of my new ANK life. I can cover ground again without little or no pain for the first time in about ten years. And even though I’m walking instead of running, my pace isn’t that much slower than my hobbling runs from just a few months ago

Why does this matter? Because it represents my return to dreaming - of long distances, marathons, epic hikes in the mountains, backpacking with my grandchildren, and covering significant ground with my feet. It represents the return of hope to my daily life.

I’ll log another 19 miles in the next couple of weeks, and when I do, it will put me over 37,000 lifetime running/walking miles. I doubt I’ll spend much time celebrating since it’s the sort of landmark that has little appeal to anyone other than the logger. Maybe I’ll have a milkshake.

mileage logHere’s the thing. I first started running in May 1978 to win the heart of a girl. I’d just completed my first senior year at the University of Oklahoma when I came home to Hobbs, New Mexico to work as a summer intern for Getty Oil Company. Within my first week home, I realized my well-thought plans for the summer were in trouble: the girl I’d dated the previous summer, who attended New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs, and whom I’d hoped to date again, had been seeing a track-and-field jock during the school year. He was a javelin thrower, of all things. How could I compete for her attention against a guy like that? I needed something besides good grades in college to win her back.

Once I understood my dilemma, I did something uncharacteristic for me - something that shaped the rest of my life. I decided to go for a run. If I had to compete with a jock for the affections of this girl it had to be something physical, and running seemed to be the easiest thing to take up. It was the first voluntary run of my life. In fact, other than an occasional touch football game or church softball game, it was my first voluntary attempt at any sport besides ping pong.

Never did I imagine that running would become instrumental in how I lived my life, how I planned my time, where I traveled for fun and leisure, how I met my friends, and how I ended up serving in local government. The daily dose of being alone on my feet became my best spiritual meditations. I didn’t intend for running to become such an integral part of my life. All I wanted to do on that fateful day in late May 1978, when I put on my shoes and stumbled through three miles, was to win back my girl.

And now, 37 years later, ANK, I’ve already planned a Guadalupe Peak hike in November and a 5K at Thanksgiving. Who knows where hope will take me next.


I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

 I need your help. If you enjoyed reading this, please share with your friends. You can find more of my writing on my weekly blog, read insights on Tumblr, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Breaking Patterns

Wednesday I walked for two miles, my first time to walk that far since surgery. Not only that, but my average pace was about eighteen minutes per mile, which I would’ve once considered slow, but in my current rehab era seemed quick. By the time I got back to the gym I was already rethinking my plan to enter the Kick for Kenya 5K and ready to move up to the 10K. I was feeling full of my own, new, bad self. I finished the workout with my regular prayer: (1) Thanks for keeping me safe, (2) Thanks for giving me the desire to keep moving, and (3) Thanks for one more turn.

But later Wednesday afternoon as I walked down the basement hallway connecting the parking garage to office elevators I discovered I was now praying, “Thank you for this talk, you know, it really eased my mind.”

It occurred to me I was praying with song lyrics, from the Chicago V album, released in 1972.

I hope it’s OK to pray in those terms. David prayed with poetry, surely I can pray in song lyrics.

Hoka CliftonI was so encouraged by my two-mile walk I drove to Run This Way and bought a pair of Hoka Clifton running shoes, which are extremely cushioned, not because I’m ready to start running again, which is the most frequent question I’m asked, I promise not to consider a return for six to twelve months, giving my legs time to completely heal and rebuild strength, but to make walking softer and more fun. And, to signal that a new day has arrived.

I knew I needed to jump-start this next phase of life. I’m certainly guilty of what Patricia Ryan Madison wrote, that “age produces an increased tendency to rely on known patterns, if not all-out petrifaction.” Buying those Hokas was a departure from my known patterns.

Sometimes incremental change, the very sort of change I’m most likely to make, doesn’t really change anything. We end up pushing things around, re-arranging furniture, making small tweaks, living our lives in the way. Sometime we need bold changes.

I’m using my summer of new knees as a launching pad for the next phase, or next remake, or next reboot, of life. After all, I’m firmly on the eve of my 6th decade and I don’t want to waste the opportunity to make the most of it. I don’t know how many more major fresh starts I have left.

I told my friend Rabon, in our conversation about the possibility of jazz lessons, that I wasn’t doing anything scary nowadays, and that scared me a little. I have a great tendency to settle into the things I do well, the things I like, and put off the things that scare me, the risky things. And I don’t mean risky, as in rock climbing or hang gliding – those are nothing. I mean the risky things that I might fail at and damage people’s impression of me and then I’m stuck living with that. How can I be brave if I don’t do scary things?

So besides jazz, the scary things I’m beginning to think about again are half-marathons or marathons, and long-distance backpacking. And finishing my next book, the one I’ve been massaging and manipulating for over a year. I have to stop worrying whether anyone will think it’s good writing, or a worthy topic, and write what’s on my heart. I need to let it go, to quote my granddaughters.

Sakyong Mipham wrote, “Movement is good for the body, and still is good for the mind. To lead a balanced life, we need to engage and be active, and to deepen and rest.” (Running With The Mind of Meditation) What Mipham didn’t say was that both movement and rest speak to our souls, and amplify our spiritual journey toward God.

St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." I expect to find continued rest in God as I find ways to break my known patterns. Who knows where this journey will lead.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

I need your help. If you enjoyed reading this, please share with your friends. You can find more of my writing on my weekly blog, read insights on Tumblr, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.


September Reboot

September is a season for fresh starts. In fact, since in my opinion September should be the beginning of fall, I’m taking advantage of this change of seasons by reengaging with my own life. I’ve always looked forward to the beginning of school season as a return to structure and predictability after the chaos of summer, and I still think of it that way even two years after Cyndi retired from teaching and decades after our own children finished school.

I don’t even mind the sudden intrusion of school zones. The yellow flashing lights are reminders we are finally back to normal and it is now time to reengage.

Because I am a creature of discipline and structure and process, I do my best work when I have a system that works, a place to record progress, and a reminder what to do next. I will go to great lengths of effort and time to find the best system, and once I’ve found it, I will not change my pattern unless forced by extreme circumstances.

For example, I have been using the same log for recording miles I’ve run (or now, biked) for over twenty years.

For example, I record my blood pressure, heart rate, and body weight every morning. I put the numbers into Excel so I can generate plots. I intend to track the physical factors that could actually kill me someday if I forget to take care of them.

For example, I have a black backpack I keep in my pickup, and it contains the items I need to begin each morning: my Daily Bible, my journal, and whatever book I happen to be reading. It also has other things, like reading glasses, pens, headphones, etc., but those are in the backpack to serve the first two items. So when I grab my backpack and head to my favorite booth, I know what to do with my first moments of the morning. And so, my day is better, happier, more productive, and more understanding.

trailI am currently working on the processes and projects that will carry me through this next season of life. It feels like I’m surfacing again from weeks of recovery, rehab, and house arrest, all due to knee replacement surgery. I feel like Gale and Evelle climbing out of the mud in Raising Arizona.

I’m happy to be riding my bike outside on the streets again, in the sun and wind, even if the doctor only allows me twenty minutes per ride per day. It is my return to discipline and routine, and I am happier for it.

I’ve also been paying close attention to how I walk, trying to erase the ten-year muscle memory of limping and waddling. I’m lifting my head and neck, keeping both feet pointing forward, using my core muscles, and bending my knees. To be honest, it feels awkward, like I’ve morphed from walking like Granny Clampett to walking like Chewbacca.

Lauren Winner wrote this in her book, Still, “Every ten years you have to remake everything. Reshape yourself. Reorient yourself. Reboot.” I intend September 2015 to be my next remake. My new knees will change who I am and what I do and say. They have already changed my dreams.

Whenever I record my (twenty minute) bike rides in my logbook I can see the future, and my future looks like longer rides, epic backpacking trips, long-distance walks, stronger legs, and pain-free knees. The return to pattern and discipline is the return to life.

I hope this September is your season for change, your opportunity for fresh starts. My challenge to you is this: Ask God to speak to you about your future; ask Him to give you the courage to start over and reboot.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

I need your help. If you enjoyed reading this, please share with your friends. You can find more of my writing on my weekly blog, read insights on Tumblr, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.


A Promise to Breathe

“What are you going to write about this week?” asked Cyndi. She was taking my happy birthday peach cobbler out of the oven (I’m not a cake man (the cobbler was amazing)). “I don’t know yet. I’m at a loss. And forgot today was Wednesday and my piece is due tomorrow.”

“What do you think I should write about?” I asked.

“Just don’t write about the lowering-your-pulse-contest-with-yourself you had in post-op. Nobody wants to hear about that.”

Before my surgery last week I assumed this slowed-down recovery time would be rich with insights and ideas. But the truth is, my journal - where I write daily - is surprisingly thin lately. Most of what I’ve written is about rehab exercises and medication and daily details. I anticipated more. I’d hoped to be more productive.

Cyndi pulled out her iPad and read this poem to me by Danna Faulds:

It only takes a reminder to breathe,

a moment to be still, and just like that,

something in me settles, softens, makes

space for imperfection. The harsh voice

of judgement drops to a whisper and I

remember again that life isn’t a rely

race; that we all will cross the finish

line; that waking up to life is what we 

were born for. As many times as I 

forget, to catch myself charging forward

without even knowing where I am going,

that many times I can make the choice

to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk

slowly into the mystery.

“It only takes a reminder to breathe, a moment to be still, and something in me settles.” Those are good words. As she read, my mind traveled back to a morning in the Guadalupe Mountains, at the junction of Tejas and Juniper Trails, when I sat on a fallen log planning to spend some time writing in my journal, but instead, I simply sat still and breathed and listened for a half hour and allowed the sounds of the forest to soak into my heart.

Tejas TrailThe significance of the moment surprised me. I am so process-driven in most of my life I seldom stop and listen just to stop and listen. It turned out that “doing nothing” was important to this “doing stuff” guy.

I told Cyndi, after she finished reading the poem, “That trail junction, sitting and breathing, became a thin spot for me. I stop and sit every time I hike past that fallen log.”

So what does that tell me about surgery rehab? Will it be one of my thin places if I’m prepared to slow down, sit, and breathe? How can I make this time as productive as I’d imagined?

For the past three months I’ve been looking forward to knee replacement surgery, or more accurately, to my new life on the other side. It’s hard to be patient and let the healing take place. I want to heal faster. I’m ready to be back on the trail.

Sit and breathe and wait.

I am so in love with the idea of a lifelong search for God, which for me is an active process, I forget about silence and listening.

So here is my challenge to myself for this summer. I will continue to work hard at rehab and recovery, but I’m determined to listen and breathe, not try to force the insights or plan good writing.

Sit and breathe and wait.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

 I need your help. If you enjoyed reading this, please share with your friends. You can find more of my writing on my weekly blog, read insights on Tumblr, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

When in Rome

Do you like to plan your vacations, or would you rather improvise and discover as you go? Me – I’m a planner, and I seldom take a trip without a list and a spreadsheet. But as I carry out my plans it’s usually the adhoc experiences that I talk most about when I get home. During our recent trip to Tuscany and Rome we visited the Villa de Piazzano, Cortona, Montalchino, Sant’Angelo in Colle, Actesino winery, Santa Croce Cathedral, Saint Mary of the Flowers Basilica, Arezzo, Parco il Prato, Fortezza Medicea (more than one of these), lots of piazzas, Assisi, Cathedral of St. Rufino, Basilica of St. Chiara, Chiesa Nuovo, Basilica St. Francis, Chiesa di San Pietro, Spanish Steps, Fontana di Trevi (but it had no water), Titus’ Arch, The Forum, The Imperial Palace, Palantine Hill, The Colosseum, the Vatican art gallery, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and well, lots more.

Trapizzano-3Writers much better than me have described all the places I mentioned better than I can, so I’m going to write about food. And since I can’t write about all the amazing food we ate, I’m going to write one Friday afternoon in Rome.

Our guide’s name was Anastasia Bizzarri, a Rome native who alternates her time between Italy and Florida. She wanted to take us away from “all the tourist food” in central Rome, so we went to a neighborhood called Testaccio. It was full and lively, and obviously preparing for some sort of weekend festival. We ducked into a small but modern restaurant called Trapizzino, named after their specialty - triangular-shaped “sandwiches” that could be carried around and eaten on the move - Roman street food. They were made from thick Roman pizza crust (more like sourdough bread) stuffed with a variety of “stews.” I had one stuffed with chicken cacciatore and another stuffed with some sort of spicy beef. They were wonderful, and as Cyndi and I stared at each other with our mouths too full to talk, we were both thinking the same thing – how can we make these back home.

Then Anastasia lead us to the Testaccio Market to sample cheese. Most of the shops had closed for the day except for one cheese stall and one meat stall. We skipped market-3the meat since it was mostly internal organs and other parts of the animal kingdom we preferred to avoid, but the cheese was excellent. We ate fresh Ricotta, which Anastasia said was especially good in Cappuccino, and a yogurt-like cheese called Stracchino.

The only reason we didn’t set up our camp in the market and eat cheese the rest of the evening was the promise of gelato. (Actually, Anastasia promised gelato that was so good we’d never be satisfied with any other … a mixed blessing, I’d say.)

She took us across the Tiber River into the neighborhood where she grew up, to her favorite gelato place, La Gourmandise Gelateria, owned by a Jim Croce lookalike. As it turned out, all her bragging was spot on. This was the best gelato ever.

gelato-2I had Madagascar Vanilla, Italian Pistachio, and Pear Crumble. I also tasted, from Cyndi and Anastasia, Apple & Sage (which was everyone’s favorite), and Saffron & Walnut. It was so unbelievably good, for once I was happy to have only a tiny spoon to eat it with … I wanted the experience to last as long as possible

The truth is I probably fill my life with too many certainties. I need more improvisation. I need to try more new things. If I can only figure how to add them to my spreadsheets.



“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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How Big

Do you have gifts and talents that you underestimate? The answer is: Yes, you do. We all do. We typically don’t recognize or understand our most powerful talents on our own, we need to hear from friends and family. In fact, it is unlikely we’ll ever understand our calling or purpose without the advice and counsel from people who are close around us. But we get glimpses, and for me that often comes through music or movies.

Cyndi and I often watch a movie in the evening while working on stuff (like family finances, writing the next book, managing a mobile home park, running a yoga studio, etc.) We tend to pick movies we’ve seen many times so we can follow along without being distracted by a story we don’t already know. And much to nephew Kevin’s dismay, when he is with us, as he often is, we typically choose non-exploding non-fighting movies.

This week we watched August Rush again. I’ve now seen this movie many times since my first viewing at a Wild at Heart Advanced Camp in May 2008, where it changed almost everything about my life, so I didn’t expect it to affect me in the same way as it has in the past. I supposed I’d built up some immunity.

I was wrong. The movie nailed me, once again, and I had to go sit by myself in my closet (I have a rocking chair in there) and absorb the message. Specifically, I internalized what God was saying to me before I let it get away.

There are a lot of movies that dig emotional responses out of me - no, that’s too weak a statement - there a lot of movies that make me cry. And each year the list of movies gets longer, either because I’m better at picking out movies, or because I’m getting softer. August Rush is one of those; it slips past the bare patch of my armored chest like Bard’s black arrow and sticks directly into my heart.

The movie is about a young orphaned boy named August Rush, a musical prodigy, who uses music to reach out to the parents he hopes to find. Only, when I watch it, it isn’t August Rush 1about music, but about writing and teaching.

In the movie, when a man asks August, “What do you want to be?” he answers with one word, “Found.” Not being lost is profound, and watching this movie helps me realize it’s my job to find people and lead them on the trail so they won’t be lost.

But the scene that penetrates my armor is when the head of a music conservatory asks young August, “Where does the music come from?” He answers, “It’s like someone is calling out to me. Writing it all down is like I’m calling back to them.” This is exactly what writing feels like to me.

Wednesday night after the movie finished I sat in my rocking chair with tears rolling down my cheeks, praying, again, “I’m sorry, I don’t know how big it is.”

“I’m sorry I continually underestimate what You’ve given to me. Because I don’t speak to big crowds or sell tons of books or have thousands of readers I underestimate the gift, and the result. Thank You for giving me so many turns, Thank You for lighting the fire inside to teach and write and give away and improve. Thank you for sharing insights and connections. I want to give them back to You.”

Here’s the thing. None of us understands our own influence. None of us knows how big it is because we don’t pay attention to the same things God pays attention to. We don’t notice the same results God sees. We don’t see hearts the same way God does – we are stuck in this present day and God sees the long-term benefit. All we can know is that we aren’t the heroes of our own stories, no matter how big. The heroes are the people who respond, who stand up and step forward, and we are simply lucky to be part of that.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

I need your help. If you enjoyed reading this, please share with your friends. You can find more of my writing on my weekly blog, read insights on Tumblr, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.