Do You Need Help?

Being reminded of your limitations is not pleasant. It’s hard being the one who needs help. It doesn’t seem very leaderly. And yet, it’s a blessing to be surrounded by friends and family willing support those limitations. That is good news; that is grace, indeed.

Early Friday morning a couple of weeks ago Cyndi and I noticed one of our two Pistache trees leaning against our house. I was driving home from early morning pump class at the gym and caught the non-vertical anomaly in my peripheral vision.

It had apparently rotted from the roots just below ground level. The trunk was not broken, but leaning at the surface, and there was no disturbance of the ground around it. The tree seemed somewhat stable in its lean, it wasn’t hurting the house, so we left it alone to drive to New Mexico for a family wedding.

That Sunday afternoon our friend and tree-whisperer, Miles, came over to look at the tree and give advice. He confirmed our fears. The tree was a goner. Even though the leaves were still green, its days were limited. He said we could straighten it up and stake it vertical but it would fall again someday, and it might be bigger, and it might land some something or someone we care about.

Since we are several months away from planting season we decided to leave our leaning tree the way it was for a while. At least it was throwing off shade.

And then last Wednesday night a fierce storm blew through the neighborhood. The next morning we noticed the tree was tree2still standing, but it was now leaning a different direction, against the porch. It seemed more unstable than before. It was time to take it down.

Remarkably, with no regard to my personal history, in full optimism, I borrowed a chainsaw from Clark. I say all that because my experience with chainsaws is they don’t start when I am holding them. Maybe they start and work all day for you but not for me. It is a glaring hole in my man card.

So Friday afternoon, even though Clark’s saw was almost new, used only once, I couldn’t get it started. I even put in a new spark plug, drained the fuel and replaced it, read the manual and followed all the steps. No joy.

My across-the-alley neighbor, Randy, saw my dilemma and loaned his electric chainsaw. I was able to start it, but smoke poured out of the motor, so I returned it before I destroyed it.

We borrowed another electric chainsaw from Cyndi’s sister, Tanya, but it was too dark to do anything safely so I decided to attack the tree the next day after my bike ride.

Saturday morning I rode a long way, getting home about noon, only to discover my tree had been cut down and the branches piled on the sidewalk near the street. Some lumberjack elves (I was going to say wood elves, but no one likes wood elves) did the job for me.

I went to eat lunch and do some writing before hauling away the tree branches. But, afterward, when I drove up to my house, there was Randy and his son pulling away. They had put all the branches in Randy’s pickup and were about to haul them off. I barely arrived in time to catch them. Randy jumped out of his truck, shook my hand, I told him thanks, and he took off to finish his good dead.

Besides being a good guy and great neighbor and the kind of friend we all hope to have, I think Randy fixed my problem partly because he felt sorry for me. Cyndi told him I was a chainsaw loser, so he took care of me.

Letting other people help you is often the hardest thing in the world. We are more comfortable giving than receiving. It is hard to accept help, even harder than admitting chainsaw incompetence.

One of the things I’ve learned these past few years is how I overrated self-sufficiency in my younger years. I used to consider it one of my best features. I liked that I could sneak through life without asking or needing much from anyone else. And while I still work hard to not be needy, I have learned the value of letting people help me. I was never as good at stuff as I thought. I need help. We must be willing to receive if we expect to know the grace of God. Only empty-handed people can understand grace.


“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.

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.


Most of the time wisdom and age travel together; sometimes age travels alone. For example, Wednesday morning I dribbled my breakfast burrito down the front of my shirt. It was quite depressing. I’ve been feeding myself for a long time; I should be a more reliable eater by now. There is a haunting voice in my head that says I should be past some of these problems. I should be further along.

As I drove away from the fine dining establishment where I’d sat reading and writing and dribbling, I wondered whether I should go home first to change shirts.

Had I still worked at Apache, which was filled with hopeful young adults when I was there, I would certainly go home to carl_fredricksenchange. I’d prefer not to be the old guy of the office shuffling aimlessly among the cubicles with dirty clothes.

I belong to a group at my church where I usually sit next a man who’s twenty years older than I am, and who wears predictable and persistent food stains on his black shirt. Every week. Sometimes the stains are new, and sometimes the old ones disappear, yet, he wears food stains regularly. I don’t want that to be people’s memory of me.

But I don’t work at Apache nowadays. I work for a smaller family-owned company, and there are four of us in the office on the busiest days. We are all in the same age group, meaning all of us have seen enough of life we aren’t easy to impress and hard to discourage. And so, I drove straight to the office without changing.

Besides, it wasn’t a white shirt, it was dark blue, and since I sit behind a desk behind my computer screen all day, the salsa stain wouldn’t be that obvious.

In my office building I kept my portfolio across my chest while riding the elevator with well-dressed stain-free classy people. Once again, I didn’t want to be that guy, even if I actually was that guy.

Later that day, during one of our frequent rambling office conversations, I learned that all three men working in the office had some sort of stain on their shirt, all from that morning. When I told my Apache story, and said I didn’t worry about embarrassing my age-group since everyone in the office was my age-group, Bob said, “And no one cares about your shirt. Isn’t it great!”

Wes, a great friend who also recently turned 60 years old, told me that one of his mentors – and let me stop right here and say how cool it is to still have mentors at 60, to know men I want to grow up to be like … Wes and I agreed about that – told him that the next ten to fifteen years will be the most influential of his life. His friend said: Don’t waste a day.

So my most influential years are beginning and I have salsa dribble on my shirt. Bummer.

Even the Apostle Paul realized he wasn’t yet who he hoped he’d be. He wrote in Romans 7, “I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.”

Here’s the thing about this story. Maybe what we offer the world isn’t a perfect life, a pristine story, or even a clean shirt. Perfect people have little effect on the world, and few people listen to their advice … their story is too unbelievable and their advice unfollowable if not completely irrelevant.

When we read the Bible we see that time after time God chose to work with those who limped through life wearing stained clothes. We are in good company.

Here’s the good news. I don’t dribble food on my clothes every day. I hope I have a stain-free shirt when you and I meet, but if I’m holding my portfolio across my chest, just don’t ask. Let me shuffle on my way to the old guy’s section.


“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.

Time for Restoration

Let me just say right up front: I’m having knee surgery next week and I can’t concentrate on much of anything else. Actually, it’s knee replacement, the first of two. And they tell me I’ll be home-bound for three weeks after each one. Counting the minimal interval between knees, I’ll be on injured reserve until September.

People ask if I’m nervous about it and my consistent answer is “no.” I don’t feel nervous, but the fact that it takes up a significant amount of my mental RAM tells a different story. It’s been hard for me to concentrate on normal projects, like paying bills, daily writing, cycling, and paying attention to Cyndi.

Not only that, but Cyndi gave me my Father’s Day / Birthday gift early – a Big Green Egg grill – and it’s even been hard to engage with that. Hard to see through the fog of distraction.

Usually when I get nervous about something my first defense is to start making lists … lists of things to do beforehand, lists of things to take with me, lists of things to consider and think about, and lists of projects to do afterward, and like that. A list is a plan of action, and having a plan to follow is more satisfying than fretting over what I might be forgetting. In fact, having a list in my hand relaxes me. A list lets my brain floaters settle. I know what to do next, I don’t have to keep guessing.

But my list for this surgery consists of only two items: (1) show up at the hospital on Wednesday, and (2) see what comes next. That isn’t enough list for me. I need more. It isn’t satisfying or soothing.

Don’t misunderstand my apprehension. I’m looking forward to this surgery. Or rather, looking forward to life on the other side. I’m ready for restoration, ready to get moving Berry and Cyndi on Trail 2again, ready to stop limping, ready to go to the mountain trails again with my guys, ready to chase God into The Bowl, ready to go on walks with Cyndi, ready to play with granddaughters without my knees being my first concern.

I’ve already been invited to join the Senior Cycling Group that owns the highway on Saturday mornings. “We have several artificial joints,” was what I heard them say.

We just vacationed in Italy, where I calculated I spent 35 hours on my knees over five days. It was brutal by the end of each day, but I decided I could recover and heal when we got home … I didn’t want to miss out on anything. The trip proved to me that I could do more than I thought, especially when doing it with great friends. It also confirmed that knee replacement was the right thing to do. I’m looking forward to many more trips like this one, with less pain.

I’m not complaining - I’m doing what writers do – I’m settling in, and finding my way, by putting thoughts on paper. Nowadays I’m more comfortable with winging my way through the near future than I used to be, but the idea of eight weeks of improvisation is stretching my newfound flexibility. I wish I had a better list.


“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

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.

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.

What Stories Do You Choose?

Last week I rode my bike on the White Rock Creek Trail located northeast of downtown Dallas, Texas. It was my first time to ride this entire trail, and my first time to circle the lake on a bike rather than on foot. After lunch on Friday I parked in the parking lot of Anderson Bonner Park, just south of 635, the northern trailhead, and changed into my cycling kit in the backseat of my Toyota Tacoma. Changing clothes in the car is something of a family identifier for us. Cyndi and I have changed into running gear in the parking lots of some very classy places. However, I must add, changing into cycling bibs and jersey was much harder than running shorts and T-shirt. There were several moments when I could have been arrested had anyone cared to look inside the tinted window.

white rock creek trailMy usual purpose for squeezing a run (or a ride) into a busy day is to reinforce an old memory. Memory is so fragile, and it changes over time in ways we aren’t aware, so I like to retrace old routes to reestablish the details.

It’s like rebuilding rock cairns on a mountain trail. They deteriorate over time, victims of weather, gravity, and animals, and they must be maintained to remain effective and mark the trail. It is the same with deep personal spiritual experiences. We have to reinforce them, remind ourselves they were real and not our imagination. If we don’t, they will deteriorate just like the rock cairns, victims of time, memory, and spiritual attack.

There are certain trails that I visit again and again, simply to rebuild the memories of a significant insight I had years ago. There are crossroads where I always stop and breathe the air and take in the view simply because God once spoke to me in that exact spot. There is even one trail in Prospect Park in Wheat Ridge Colorado where I once ran to reinforce my understanding of a friend; in this case, it was his spiritual encounter on the trial I was working on, not my own.

Penelope Lively wrote, “The memory that we live with is the moth-eaten version of our own past that each of us carries around, depends on. It is our ID; this is how we know who we are and where we have been.”

As a writer and as a teacher I often worry that I fall back on the same old stores time and time again. Surely I must be boring people in my repetition. Even worse, I find myself telling the same old stores to Cyndi, most often stores of our early days when we first fell in love with each other. And when I read back through old journals I am surprised how often I write about running at White Rock Lake or Lady Bird Trail, or about trips up the same old trails in the Guadalupe Mountains, or even the same stores from my Daily Bible. And, well, here I am, writing about those same things, again.

In his book, What Matters Most, Leonard Sweet wrote, “Just as the kinds of friends we choose decide the kind of person we become and the direction life takes, the stores we relate to most closely structure our identities. Some of the most important choices we make are our companion stories – the stories we choose to live with. It takes only a few basic stories, or what scholars call “deep structures,’ to organize human experiences.”

I suppose that’s why I love to write family stories. The more time I spend in them the more I see God at work in our lives. Each time I forage around in my old stories I reinforce the memory that God has been rescuing us all along.

What about you? What stories have you chosen to live with?


“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.

How Do You Play?

Do you do anything that you consider play? As adults, it’s difficult to find time for playing, but it is critical for long term happiness. I think playing is spiritual, also. So does one of my favorite writers, Leonard Sweet. In his book, The Well-Played Life, he wrote, “Some people fulfill themselves. Some people are full of themselves. Some people are just full of it. Disciples of Jesus are full of Christ. But we are mostly fully Christ when we are at play.”

Of course, it’s possible to play too much so that we ignore all our responsibilities, but that isn’t usually a problem … at least, not for the adults I know. For most of us it’s more likely we don’t play enough.

Today, Thursday, I played at noon. You may have heard reports of a crazy man cycling in the cold and wind on Mockingbird Street. Yes, that was me. I know, it was too cold for cycling, but being the stubborn guy that I am, I went anyway.

Here are the stats: 17.5 miles, 32*F, 23 mph wind from NNE (which means a head wind all the way home). It wasn’t my coldest ride of record. That was the Bike Club time trials in February 2012, when it was 28*F. But 32* is colder than I plan to ride again for a while. At least, until my fingers warm up.

And, I will admit, it wasn’t all about play. The only reason I rode today was so I could write about it. It follows in a long string of things I’ve done just so I could understand them better and write about them.

But that’s not all. Last Saturday I rode 51 miles, the furthest I’ve ridden in five months, and I felt great afterwards. I felt so strong and manly all I’ve wanted to do is get back on my bike and be even manlier.

I didn’t feel very manly riding east into the cold wind today at noon. And it didn’t feel like I was playing. It felt more like I didn’t have a choice but to keep spinning so I could get home and warm up.

However, for me cycling outside is play, no matter how harsh the conditions; cycling indoors on a trainer in a controlled environment is merely working out. One is play, the other is exercise. One feeds my heart and soul, the other strengthens my body.

A few years ago, when Cyndi was still teaching 5-th grade, she was working on a “Meet-the-Faculty” bulletin board in the front hallway of her school. She asked each teacher to list three dreams – as in, three places they dreamed of going someday, or three things they wanted to do, or people they wanted to meet, if time and money were no object.

B&C on the trailCyndi and I love these sorts of exercises. Not only do we get to dream and play together, we learn about each other all over again. But it was surprising to us that some of the teachers wouldn’t play along. They weren’t interested in having three dreams. They gave up dreaming years ago. It’s too bad they’ve forgotten how to play.

In his book This Running Life, Dr. George Sheehan wrote: “I discovered that play is an attitude as well as an action. That action is, of course, essential. Play must be a total activity, a purifying discipline that uses the body with passion and intensity and absorption. Without a playful attitude, work is labor, sex is lust, and religion is rules. But with play, work become craft, sex become love, and religion becomes the freedom to be a child in the kingdom.”

I believe finding time in our busy lives for play is crucial for our spiritual health. It doesn’t have to by cycling or running. It doesn’t have to be sports or games or adventures. It might be reading, or watching movies. It might be wrestling with your kids.

Having play time is one of the ways we leave room in our schedule for God to show up. It’s one of the few times our brains are relaxed enough to enjoy new ideas and hear new insights.

How about you? What do you do for play? How long has it been?


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

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Having Fun in the Cold

I will admit I’m not always tough enough to ride in the cold wind. In February there are more days when I choose not to ride than when I choose to ride, especially when the temperature is in the 30’s. But around here the cold doesn’t last long; in fact, really cold days are rare, so taking on the weather is not a daily chore but an occasional fun adventure.

Which brings me to last Monday, a holiday, popularly known as President’s Day. It was the perfect day to organize a group bike ride since most of my cycling buddies had the day off and since most of us had already finished our obligatory weekend chores.

The Saturday and Sunday before had been sunny and in the 70’s and suitable for shorts and T-shirts, but when I woke up at 7:30 AM Monday morning I discovered it was 34*. I texted to my fellow cyclists, Cory and Brian: “34* Is morning still good?”

We bounced texts back and forth, none of us wanting to pull the plug on riding in the cold. Finally, I knew it was my duty to make the call since I was the oldest of the group. I texted: “OK. Let’s wait until noon.”

Feb 2015 rideWe met at my house at noon in all our cold weather gear. However, by delaying the start 3-1/2 hours we only gained 5* in warmth and now the wind was picking up so it was hard to know if we’d improved our situation. But we didn’t get all dressed up for nothing. We had to ride. And there is the rule of guys: Choose discomfort, even death, over looking bad.

Once we started riding, the cold wasn’t such a big problem. It was the wind. But the wind is always the main problem when cycling in West Texas, since we have no hills to climb. At Monday noon it was blowing from the north and west at 14 mph and increasing. We knew it wouldn’t let up until September.

Just before we left on our ride I saw a post from friend (and half-cousin-in-law) Michael, who said he was going golfing in shorts and a polo shirt, in Seattle. I posted back, “I am going cycling in all my cold-weather gear, in Texas.”

It was a great ride, and a prime reminder of why we do things together like this. We discussed Sunday’s Bible study lesson on prayer, learned of common career backgrounds as youth pastors, shared kid stories, shared a few cycling war stories, and made fun of our cycling friends who missed the ride.

Our northern friends might not consider what we did to be true cold-weather riding, but it was as cold as I plan to ride unless I buy lots more winter gear. Our southern friends might ask why we didn’t exercise inside instead, but, well, for me, riding on a stationary bike or running on a treadmill inside, no matter how bad the weather, is simply exercise ... a workout … it is just work.

But riding or running outside, even in the cold and wind, especially with friends who’ll share the discomfort, is play … an adventure … it’s fun.

And we don’t have to dig out our winter gear very often. If cold weather in Texas lasted for weeks, or for months, riding would lose all semblance of fun. But it doesn’t, so it is.

Later, that Monday night, I read from Christine Carter’s book, The Sweet Spot. “In today’s hyper-busy world, most people don’t rest or rejuvenate much. We don’t allow ourselves the “non-instrumental” activities in life.” Ms. Carter believes that because we don’t schedule fun into our lives we become less effective, less efficient, and grumpier over time.

I wrote in the margin of my book, “Today’s ride was fun, rejuvenating, and it made me happy. I’m feeling more effective and efficient already. I can’t wait to ride together in 100* this summer.


“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.