Rick and Monique

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Birds and Christmas


So, yesterday I'm scooping snow after yet another wintery night, wishing I was on a bike, scooter or motorcycle and I said "This Scoopin' is for the birds!" I then got into my car, slid out of the driveway and headed off into the snowy city and ran some errands, simultaneously wishing I was on a bike, scooter or motorcycle and I said "Drivin' in the snow is for the birds!" I then realized I was getting a doozy of a cold and I said "This cold is for the birds!"

But then I realized something. We scooped so we could get out of the driveway safely, so that we could do errands, so that we could do good things for people, and get enough fuel so that we could get to Sioux Falls and my parent's house in good order.

We left the house, anticipating a pleasant four hour drive.  But first we simply wanted to get a bite to eat before hitting the interstate. However, the roads were stuffed with traffic and had slowed to a crawl, and I thought that this might be easier if I were on a bike, scooter or motorcycle, but instead said "This traffic is for the birds!"  

Then I realized mid-sneeze-n-sniffle that sometimes life doesn't happen as we think it might or should.

I have the freedom to celebrate with my family one of the most amazing events in history, Christ's birth. 

The car was warm and comfortable. I felt a twinge of guilt, and that moment I understood that it wasn't so bad to do all the things that might have otherwise been left for the birds.

God bless all of you and Merry Christmas

Monday, December 22, 2008

Silent Night Holy Night?


I've heard that St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf Germany is where the song we know as "Silent Night" composed by Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr was first sung in 1818.

Silent Night--Dr. Jim Schaap wrote in his blog that Christ didn't show up with a pleasant knock on the door.  He said "Jesus intrudes into our humdrum, shocking us with his sudden presence." In the beginning was the Word and the Words were from Christ, not with a knock but with power, and whoosh in 60 million years or 6 thousand years or 6 days the world was. That's what we know about God, He draws, asserts and changes. It was the same thing the day God said it was time and Christ was born. A quiet knock? Hardly. With a rush of dragons and Angelic swords and fists in the midst of eternity Christ came.

He might have come silently, maybe he didn't cry? Maybe he came on December 25th in the midst of a perfect Middle Eastern snow. But I don't think so.

Maybe we got one night of peace before Joseph had his dream to flee to Egypt, before the wise men received their dream to take a different route, before Herod murdered a throng of children? Maybe the wail of the hungry was not heard that night? Maybe thieves remained in their lair? Maybe we got one silent night before Rome tortured the Jews and it's own people, before the Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus? Maybe we got one silent night before Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Saddam Hussein? Maybe we had a few quiet moments before Sarajevo, Darfur, Ethiopia, and Columbia? It's possible we had a moment before Columbine. Maybe there was one single night before 9/11/2001 when silence reigned. Maybe the Angels got a few z's before 11 Israeli Athletes were murdered at the world's ultimate celebration of peace, the 1972 Olympics. Before Nero and many others burned and tortured Christians, maybe time stood still for one night?

Maybe the Angels took one night off? Maybe the rocks were not crying out? Maybe all of creation does not groan and plead for the day of the Lord? Maybe that night Simeon and Anna were not fervently praying that the Messiah would come soon? Maybe the Elect gave God one night for His angels to gather in a happy sing-a-long. Or maybe not.

I'm quite sure the night was not silent, but deafening. The night was not silent, but it was most holy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What do you know of Light?


There is never another day when you will get to see the light for the first time. To be born again--not only an apt description of the moment you first see God, it's the only one. Imagine the battle taken from dark places, a struggle ensues, a push, a gasp, a wail--your body, your head misshapen. Everything about where you were seems so warm, so right and yet for some reason you feel compelled to burst forth and all the while the blood and sweat and cries of the one who gave you birth covers you from head to toe. Lux Aurumque--turn on the light in your own home and your satisfied and glad for it. You take your steps, retrieve this or that, move through your home...it's been only moments and you've forgotten the light.

But to be born again is to know that even if you had ever seen the light before, the place you were was so dark, so heavy, so...internal, as to have forgotten light existed. The relief...the joy that comes from even a sliver leaves one feeling foreign but adopted, resplendent yet dumb-founded, like hearing a language without voice and completely unfamiliar as to never gain understanding. Like being stripped naked without feeling sacrificed but completely borne. A light not only overwhelming, but absolutely stunning--stunned into silence--stunned into such an awe-filled existence as to never again express the first day you saw light.

Let me tell you something. I've a Christmas story I'll tell you each and every year until you hear my voice. You may not believe the Christmas story, I understand that. But if you hear it told, I want you to know the full story.

You already know the story in Luke 2. A Census was called and Mary and her Husband, both descendents of King David left for Bethlehem to be counted. Mary, a virgin, was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. They entered Bethlehem where the Son of God was born. Hosts of Angels visited Shepherds in the night and announced the birth. Folklore tell us that a sweet Choir of happy angels visited the Shepherds and while the Shepherds lay face down on the ground the Angels enjoyed a little sing-a-long. Fat baby angel swirling around the sky firing rubber "joy" arrows at the Shepherds.

Until you read the story told in Revelation 12. Satan, a mighty dragon waited at the doorstep of the birth so that he might kill the Christ. But God's Angels were there and they swooped Him up to Heaven while his mother fled to safety in the desert. A mighty war ensued in the heavens...a battle greater than all wars in time and space put together. Michael and his soldiers, God's Army, commanded to surround God's son at his birth and take him to his Father in Heaven. He would not be devoured by Satan under any circumstances. The one task complete, God turned towards Satan and directed His army at them. They swooped into the battlefield with such fury as to shake the heavens and God's army conquered the Devil's army with might and surety. Satan and the other angels were all hurled to earth--the place where Satan himself tried to murder the mother of the Christ. When she escaped Satan vowed to reek havoc on her offspring, namely those who are adopted children of Light...those who know God...and those who, as with His son, shall never be taken. Yet Satan vows to bring you misery and hopes to take you to such dark places where even your own fingers float into memory.

Luke 2 says that a host of angels appeared before the Shepherds and that they were very much afraid. If Angels, weapons gleaming, armed to the teeth, appeared before you, would you not fall prostrate? DO YOU HEAR ME? They asked. "Do not fear", they said, "We mean you no harm."

"Glory to God in the Highest" they said. It's like the confident cry of the United States Marines..."Hoo-rahh" they say, Semper Fi. A group of men and women so ardently in love with their country, so beholden to their task, patriotic to the bone...hoo-rahh. Take that times a million, maybe more. A race of Angels persistently, joyfully and without a second thought lift their voices in the most joyful, fierce, loyal, proud, yet humble cry of any age up until this very day. Listen...I said LISTEN--"GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE ON WHOM HIS FAVOR RESTS!" Angels, battle hardened angels, honed their skills, ripped their muscles and sharpened their tools--hoo-rahh, Glory to God in the Highest, Hoo-rahh. The greatest war of any time and space would occur..."DO YOU HEAR ME?" They would knock Satan's guts straight out his back...

And we have them "Sweetly singing oe'r the plain." No. Absurd. NO! NO! A host is an army and by all that lives and breathes an eternal war raged amongst beings whose strength we could never comprehend, acting as a language no man could even recognize as such, and even so, scripture says that they were sent to serve us.

Sweetly singing. Comical. Cute. But untrue.

Some of you might not believe the story told in Scripture. In my opinion Santa's harder to believe than the story of the birth of Christ God's Son.  But even then, should you hear the story of Christ's birth told this year, keep in mind that, at least for me, I'm glad the full Angelic power showed up that night.  Ripped, ironclad Hosts drew their most powerful weapons and witnessed God's son enter Earth. I would've fallen over too.

What do you know of light?

I'll tell the story again next year.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Aging: Prose and Perspicuity whatever that means.

We all age right?  Well, it was my Brother-in-law's 40th birthday and I wrote him a little ditty about turning 40.  I thought I might share it with you how's that sound?  I removed some of the more brother-in-law-ey stuff which means I added and subtracted a bit here and there so that now it's a poem about anyone who might be getting anywhere in age.  This ditty is my Ode To Forty but just put your age in there and see how it works?



Ode to Forty (Good Luck With That One!)

Some people like pork, some people like peas. Some people like land, some people like seas. But nobody likes Forty it’s time to say why. The one who likes forty is the one who’s brain tied. The one who likes forty is the one who just lied.

It’s like drinking the river when all you wanted was tea. It’s like shootin’ your leg off to be all you can be. It’s suckin the prunes before ridin’ the dunes. It’s like a half-cup o’coffee or trees without leaves. It’s like freezing cold winds on a white summer beach.

But wait! Wait wait! I’m starting to sway. Forty’s not bad I’m willing to say. Senility’s helpful when your spouse says “NO WAY!” Senility works when the bed must get made.

Senility rocks when having some fun, when you’re riding the coasters, maybe backwards on one. Senility works when you’re surfing the sun. Senility’s fun when you’re trying to run.

Ok I really can’t talk, I’ll be there soon. I think forty’s the best and it’s worth a short swoon. While to some Forty may feel a lot like you’ve lost it, like vegetable candy or farts in the closet. Instead forty’s the best, to that point I won’t rest! At forty you’ll test some small youngster’s strength. You’ll out think him, out talk him and debate him at length! The poor little tyke will surely not last. You’ll think harder and won’t jump your boundaries so fast.

You’ll lose your stupidity and eat your breakfast. It’s simply a shame that forty won’t last.

I can’t wait till I’m there, an envious place. Isn’t it sad now I’ve lost the forty’s race? So for me it’s boo-hoo but congrats to you. I hope forty’s to you a lot like the loo. Newspaper in hand and something to do.

I’m sure you’re the best and the top of the chart. A good mid-life stop made to look like fine art. You’re mettle’s not spent and your wisdom won’t flee. You turn on your heels a slight giggle of glee. What’s directly in front of you, a shiny green tree. And up at the tree-top your delighted to see. The doe-doe bird in the tree-top is a man of twenty.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Playful Holidays

Holidays remind us about thankfulness, about charity, about the truth of God, about community and about turkey, ham, chili and eggnog.  Well...maybe holidays aren't about all those things, some of them are adjectives of the reality. But Holidays are about something.  

I saw a mother play with her son on Friday night at a church Christmas gathering. I loved hearing the music and listening to the story of Christ's birth being told from beginning to end. And I loved that a mother would stick her tongue out at her boy in playful petulance.  He laughed and so did she.

A family that plays together.  Never does that take away from responsibility, work or earning potential. Sometimes you sweat, sometimes you argue, sometimes families endure strain.  But you can tell a successful and safe family when you watch them play.  A son's flung tongue greeted by his mother's laughter reveals safety.  I'm part of a great, playful and safe family.  More importantly, I am part of another safe but even greater, wider, joyful, and much larger family--otherwise known as the body of Christ--Read John 10. 

There's a difference between desperate faith and confident faith.  Confident faith is a communal faith.  Have you seen us play?  I get safety.  I know hope.

I found a safe lad and a safe mom Friday night.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crazy Who? What? Huh?



So...Monique says to me a couple of days ago, "Honey I need some Groceries" and gives me a list. I go get the groceries. The skies are blue, the wind is barely blowing, I'm having a good day. I go to the grocery store, a feat of some regard. I get groceries and treat myself to an Egg Nog as an award. It is the Holiday Season afterall and I start by giving a gift to myself. I walk around, try a couple samples. I'm sweating actually, not that you needed to know, but I didn't think I'd be there long enough to take off a jacket, but it's a big store and I always underestimate my soddy skills in a grocery stores. But I'm still in a good mood and I'm having a great time. I pay for the groceries. The checkout clerk is a nice lady. I tell a joke. She laughs. I laugh that she laughs because I screw up the joke. I put the groceries in the vehicle and go home, thanking God the whole way for a nice day. My wife, my dear lovely wife comes outside and says...,"So did anyone at the grocery store think you're crazy too?" What? Hmmm...??

Can You Figure Out What She's Talking About???? Hmmm....did she just call me crazy? Might've been the rosy I pulled in the driveway.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Own Story--Thankful


I think I spent too much life ignoring myself. Truthfully, for much of my life I lacked an element of sincerity because I always wanted my story to be bigger than it was. In kindergarten, for instance, I lied about sliding down the fireman pole during a field trip to the fire station. There are many other instances proving my need to be bigger than I was. I relate much of my need to a pretty knocked out confidence issue in light of my handicap Spina Bifida. It's sad to reveal these things because as I do, one must also realize how many ways I've been blessed in the family I grew up with, the amazing wife I've privileged to be with, and the friends I enjoy and love. But most of all Spina Bifida has blessed me and others! What about my blessings did I need to be bigger than they were--a question for the ages I suppose? Before you get all boo-hoo and break out the mini-violin, let me assure you that I'm not writing anything to get it off my chest. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I don't...that sort of describes human kind. All I wanted you to know is that I had so often wanted a story that was bigger than myself that I wasn't aware of who I had become and how great of a life that meant for me. I became a gullible pushover...loveable but gullible...wicked effin gullible. But in the mean time I played ball, sang in choirs, traveled the country...good good stuff.

It's taken awhile, but these days I wake up in the morning and I want to be Rick, that's it. It's not like that happened just yesterday. My eyes have been more open for years now. As Rick I can sit down and write some poetry, lick up some Whiskey, sip some Wine, I can mentor people, build a deck, I can enjoy great things with my friends, I can try to start a business, ride a bicycle or scooter or motorcycle, I can play guitar, I can study Scripture, tell a few jokes and I can roll a little cookie dough. Some days, I wake up and I'm lazy, I can't think straight, I'm sore and a little pissed off. I'm not necessarily good with that, but I wake up me.

Today I used up a little gas and took a cool motorcycle ride. Not everything works right for me. Sometimes I feel like a curse and sometimes a blessing. But a little motorcycle ride opens my world right up.

Last September Monique and I vacationed in Yellowstone. We woke up each morning and discovered the true meaning of honesty. All we had to do was spread our arms and be thankful.

I'm a lot more like that these days than I used to be. Thankful I mean. And I'm good with my own story. It's not big. But it is great.

Oh yes...This post needs one more thing. I am intensely thankful for Monique. She is a bright star. A separation from her would be like ripping skin from my body.

I am profoundly thankful for her and I am profoundly thankful that I get to keep my skin.

Happy Thanksgiving

Friday, November 14, 2008

BARRAGE

I, Monique and Anne-Michelle saw the music group Barrage last night. Correction...the talent chosen to open for Barrage was the hosting High School Orchestra, so we saw them too. They played a weird mish-mash of notes that mostly resembled a song. Maybe it was intended that they create a surreal and craggy environment, transferring us from a high-school auditorium into LSD land! They played the song standing up, so I'll give them an "A" for effort but they were mostly mishmashy. The parents were proud. The orchestra played a number with Barrage later in the show and played reasonably well that time. 

But, Barrage blew my mind. The 8 person band--an eclectic recipe created by adding one part German, 4 parts Canada, one part Arizona, one part Nashville and one part Hanover Pennsylvania, rose like yeast in a seriously heated school auditorium (like someone turn down the heat!) and cooked a musical meal containing all the musical food groups. The guitarist, drummer, base guitarist and 5 violinists swirled around the floor playing classical to jazz to modern, to bluegrass to rock-n-roll. Fingers pressed strings, rocked bows, strummed frets and rocked beats at tempos that sometimes defied time and space. Can one really fly through strings at the exact moment the bow passes while swaying back and forth and up and down and all around? I'd say it's like the game where you have to draw a house with an "x" in the middle without your pen/pencil ever leaving the paper. One solves the puzzle when one crosses the border of the house itself...when one "colors" outside the lines...when one draws slightly outside the house can one solve the puzzle--a life metaphor I would suppose. I believe last night the concert took me on an inter-dimensional journey. I felt a little dizzy at the end. Try crossing several dimensions in one night and see how you feel.

My dizzieness might've been attributed to the wicked hot auditorium and the lack of water available...naw...that's not right...the inter-dimensional party is a better story.

That's how it happened from my point of view. Check Barrage out if you get the chance.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gXrKvmcHpI

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blog's Purpose--Think Think Think

Y'know, I've struggled. Most bloggers write purposefully. Some write about their families, others write about deals they've found, others write about technology and others write to make people laugh. I've struggled to know my purpose. Sometimes I write stories about my day, sometimes about politics, religion. Sometimes I write comically and sometimes I write seriously. Readers are important to me. Everyone wants people to enjoy what they've produced in whatever manner they've produced it. I'm no different.

Some people get 16 responses and some get none. It's easier to respond to a simple story and I think that's great. Maybe ya'll want to know more about my day to day!? You're lives are profoundly interesting to me, maybe I should give you more of mine? Maybe my blog will evolve that way.

Writing's important to me. I try to give words as much meaning and respect as they're due. I've got an eclectic blog of every kind of subject and sometimes they'll bog you down and sometimes they won't. But I think I intend to make you think about stuff. I could do that more light heartedly and fluidly. I could do that using stories that might be more fun to read. Sometimes I do that. Sometimes I write poems that I struggle to understand when I reread them later. What I do know is that I felt something passionately and sometimes indescribably when I wrote it.

My friend Steph writes about motorcycles and she writes passionately. My blog isn't as focused, but I hope you know my passion. I believe that none of us lives indifferently. We all feel something. I believe we don't live as individuals, but as a community. Your passion does something to my life. Some people are wary of fanatics. I'm more wary of non-fanatics.

SO I don't really have a focused purpose, but I hope you know my passion and I hope I can inspire you to think, even when it's difficult.

Therefore my purpose right now...get people to ask and answer good questions...too few of us brave questions. So I'll ask a few questions about things that I don't even really know the answer to. Crimeny, sometimes I don't even know where the questions come from! But I'll questions that interest me in one form or another. I'm sure sometimes you'll be profoundly bored by my thoughts. None-the-less I'm interested in how you think and what you want me to know about your thoughts.

QUESTION # 1
Do you think that a physical death was always God's intent or not? We're mandated to be fruitful and multiply...what does this mean? IF we were intended to "live" forever before the fall, how would we be dealing with the many millions or billions of people that would not be dead right now? Our cities would be greater by millions, we'd populate every inch of this world, and our resources would be prolificly used don't you think? Is it possible to "tap out" our resources? If Adam and Eve had not sinned, do you think that God might've put an end to the "be fruitful and multiply" eventually?

Hmmm. Think.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Today it Rains, Tomorrow it doesn't, Lord willing

In all things be thankful. I'm good with that.

It was a most interesting election season and I paid attention. I don't think I'm fully excited by the result but I can't be solemnly disappointed either. The process worked as it was supposed to and I played my part, as I'll continue doing. My voice works as long as it's allowed.

I guess I just wasn't one of those who waited with bated breath and those whose eyes dried out in front of my television. I voted and was pleased by the opportunity.

I have a few thoughts concerning the election season and concerning Barak Obama.

Voters pay less attention than I want to give them credit for. So easy it was for the American people to potentially move this country into a system much different than I believe was originally intended. Added to that, news professionals today report about Barak's tax plan... that my taxes will actually increase by quite a jump, not decrease, as he claims. Time will tell.

Another comment. Just as I wouldn't hire a college professor right out of grade school, I could not hire someone with as little executive experience as Obama. You wouldn't hire an 9 year old to teach your adult children would you? You might say you would simply for the argument, but you wouldn't. In relation to this, I learned a few days ago that, although he talks about crossing the political lines, he's never actually headed up a bi-partisan effort and votes along party lines 100% of the time...the "great unifier" actually hasn't done much of the sort politically--when he's there that is. He's missed a ton of votes in his short political career. Maybe all stats are skewed, I'm not sure.

And his social plans, though they resonate with my social responsibilities in some ways, I believe that Government actually waters down social efforts at the grass roots level. Over-arching social plans cost way more than their effectiveness justifies. Even such ideas as minimum wage only provides a token... mere tokens to a public deceived by a propagandized perception of generosity. I'm okay with some controls and I'm alright with regulation. But, the government threatens to be "fair" by taking my money and moving it around. Since the government has ideas about spreading the wealth, the policy actually removes some of my ability to be generous. Government's added attempt toward generosity actually causes American apathy and doesn't improve empathy. These are thoughts only of course. I'm not the economist in the family. Besides I have the freedom to engage in effective social efforts right now, using methods in the free non-profit market in a country filled with people whom are already the most generous people in the world...and all that without the President's decree.

Lastly, I've heard a thousand times today..."He's the first black man to become President"... this is true, a hard fact. In its own right, America entered an exciting new historical chapter/dispensation. But is race really our first consideration? Really?

African American Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas speaks against affirmative action, calling it "positive discrimination", and that AA succeeds more readily at dividing races one above another (read "My Grandfather's Son" by Clarence Thomas). Most believe Thomas actually benefitted professionally from Affirmative Action. But what can be said is that he knows its negative side from the inside. For similar reasons, it's possible that voting from a purely racial decision is a mistake. Now before ya'll freak out, I'm sure voters didn't base their decisions solely on the racial divide. I'd be naive to suggest the possibility. I didn't vote on race at all. But polls today suggest race was a major factor.

I'm personally going to watch and see. I can assume and presuppose, but he might do very well. I don't panic. But, while I'll respect him as my President, I'll have to learn to trust him. I can tell you that I won't regard Mr. Obama with the reckless hate and careless vitriol that has been shown President Bush. I hope to be better. Congratulations to our new President Elect. Obama may be a positive force in some ways and on some topics. I'll be thankful for them. It was a day. Today it rains, tomorrow it doesn't, Lord willing (James 4:13-15).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fashion

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." Oscar Wilde wrote that, said that, thought that...I'm not sure in which order. He's funny. But because stuff changes all the time, I relish sameness these days.

We do that...change on purpose, why? I'm wearing an old shirt that I've had for 9 years or so. The temperature set at about 57 degrees this lovely morning, but this old long sleeve flannel comforts me. So does my coffee. I'm not sad or depressed this morning. I was outside for a few minutes and my day started with a satisfying flourished breaths of fresh air. No, I'm not in a bad mood, I simply love the comfort I get from something that's lasted more than a few months.

I changed the way I get around these days, at least for three seasons. We ride bikes, a scooter or a motorcycle. The bikes set in the garage but live on the road. They're all relatively new, but not like fashion. In this case, I pursued change in order to find the constant...and to save money on gas of course. One's always a slave to fashion or looking good. There's freedom on the bike...any one of them. We pursue fashion like a finish line, except we realize we haven't won anything but the yearly rite to the color of the year. On bikes you pursue glory...rivers and roads, wildlife, wind, hills, prairie, grass, sloughs, lakes, people, exercise, breath...

Oscar Wilde isn't entirely correct. I think it's ok to renew your senses by changing things up a little bit. I'm certainly happy that I don't have my black moon pants anymore. Y'know, the ones with the tapered leg and pockets everywhere. Refreshment does a man good. I refresh coffee, my clothes, my body in the shower, and even my computer from time to time. I've even refreshed my personality...a feat made of years, and yet there's parts of my personality, the id of Rick, that I can't seem to shake. I've owned some clothes for 9 years and bought new ones last week. Constancy and change have merit and walk hand in hand. God even refreshes nature through a cataclysmic killer called Winter! I'm just kidding, winter actually refreshes a land that wouldn't do well if it had to bloom all year round. Nature needs a rest so it can come back strong again in Spring.

I think Oscar Wilde meant that desperate pursuits make you even more desperate, not that life and passions don't change.

So today I'm thankful for refreshment and Oscar. Tomorrow change comes once again in the form of a new President. I get the feeling from watching "elect me" speeches and peering into the mind of the people who watch them, that rhetoric and desire for power, are a lot like fashion...ugly. But Wednesday, if it's not too cold, I'll get on a bike and find what hasn't changed, and revel in it. Constancy and change. Winter's coming. I'm still not in panic mode.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Carte Blanche

Trust changes your life. Military training forces you to trust your men and women with your life. Marriage forces you to trust your money, your time, your work, your play time with your spouse. Trust gives friends and family charge over an estate, an account, or a vehicle. Trust gives your family and friends room to care for your children, feed them, discipline them and bathe them. Trust means you'll receive personal information about something great or something terrible. Trust means asking for help or asking for prayer. Trust forces you to trust your company with your salary and benefits. Trust offers the trusted carte blanche for even one tiny part of your life...no small feat. You even trust people with compliments. How you respond to the compliment shows them how much or how little they're truly trusted. Trust even gives your enemies time during a cease fire. So much of our lives exists within trust that even when you want to complain about the trusted, one part of your life becomes theirs anyway. Sometimes we're distrustful and believe that no one understands, no one can do what you can do better than you, or you mistakenly believe that no one cares. I hope we all realize how good it is to give our lives to others.

Dear friends of ours are missionaries in Africa. They often ask for prayer about very personal things. They trust us to pray for them, their work and the people that they work with in Africa. They trust us to pray for them there. Do they ask the people where they are at to pray for their friends in the States, the people they love at home? I think they do. Do you?

Our lives change because we trust people. Carte Blanche. A small term with a huge meaning.

Yesterday Monique gave our friend and her hairdresser Elani carte blanche with her hair. Elani couldn't quite grasp that someone gave her such freedom...it took several assurances before she believed she was fully trusted. She didn't break the trust either. Elani is seriously skilled and she had so much fun on Monique's hair and I had so much fun watching the transformation! Monique's life is different because she trusted Elani!

Monique...what a babe! She's stunning. She was so excited about changing things up and looked forward to yesterday for several weeks. Her hair had gone flat, was too thick, too long and too unruly! It's now a lighter, shorter, layered, graceful, naturally curly, beautiful head.

Her husband is a little bit crazy in the head...she went a little crazy on top of the head! She's got some blond, brown and some Auburn red in it. Actually the change was quite radical and different, but Elani didn't go completely nuts, but instead turned an already beautiful woman into an Elegant Queen. Maybe Monique's trust in Elani might change my life a bit!

Yes, trust is a good thing. How's it changed your life?

The pics are a little blurry...I was snapping without thinking...told you my inner head was a bit off! Either way it was fun and I hope you enjoy the pics.
























Friday, October 24, 2008

Panic Mode

I'm not in panic mode. I'm just not. But I am sometimes afraid that we'll lose my America. I don't even really know that means, but I'm sometimes I'm afraid I'll lose it anyway. It seems this election threatens ideology itself. Ideology allows groups to engage eachother and challenge each other. Sometimes that leads to war and I hate that. But you have to stand for something while allowing the fruit of growth which sometimes stems from opposing views. We've gone to a place as a country where truth is replaced by ridicule. Sarah Palen isn't a bad person, but she's been abused with such vitriol as to make you believe she's either a common criminal or else she can't see her bum from her elbow. It seems there's no more acceptance of the debate. We're no longer about something except change. Dangerous. Hitlers are born from such a mantra.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I can feed the hungry, I can clothe the naked, I can heal the sick, I can minister to the lost and I can make safe the afraid as a conservative. I can give time and money to charity. I can work to educate people about one thing or the next. I can do that as a conservative. But that doesn't make an opposing view of any less worth. They can do the same things from their point of view. I simply want that you're not afraid of mine. One can't learn and grow if they don't allow others to pass through their world.

I wrote a comment about a political blog a friend wrote and it went something like this:

I dare say arguments often look like hate, but aren't. I have strong feelings on the topic of say...abortion. I hate abortion. It should be illegal. I also believe that "distribution of wealth" smacks of something I don't want to be part of. The government crosses my American made line in that regard. FDR's "New Deal" wasn't new at all, but was this country's first major turn toward a desire to like everyone else, even though we shed much blood to be different. We weren't perfect, nor are we now. But I'm not afraid to be right as much as I'm not afraid to learn. Either way, I don't hate through my feelings. I think it's possible that a person such as yourself has to see people as hateful in order to justify feelings of victimhood or minority segregation etc. Why must people insert one group of people in one basket?

We were with liberal "friends" the other night and Monique and I hoped we were in a safe enough environment to give an opinion or two. Instead people like me were torn apart. They had to insert one motive or emotion into the other ito give their vitriol merit. But these attitudes are not one-sided (although they seem to me that they are sometimes). Conservatives and Liberals work each other over. And they don't use substance, but slander. We weren't torn apart for a useful reason. And on the flip side of an argument about abortion for instance--Obama's support for abortion rights doesn't make him a murderer, I know that...I would hope my side of the debate doesn't come to such blows.

I'm not in panic mode. I'm really not. The stock market hit the tank again today. Politics sucks. But I'm not running from either because I can take advantage of a down market. And if I say I'm for the debate than I must engage the debate. Truth be told, I enjoy the debate.

I'm safe and I can't be snatched from that safe place. Hope. Furthermore, as a Christian, I'm also called to love my leaders and so I shall. If God reigns then I am thoroughly not in panic mode.

I met with a friend this morning. He needed to hear some things. Christians know what I mean, but I truly felt that God was simply slapping my lips together this morning. Blablabla slap slap slap. I felt amazed and joyful. I'm not wise enough to fully know how to respond in the ways I did this morning. My friend had needs, God supplied them through my lips. He does speak through me, because His Spirit searches the deep things of God and this morning I know God is. I'm glad to have such assurance, such hope. I'm glad He works and I and enjoy watching what God is doing. He's given me a great seat in a stadium full of miracles.

On the way home, I saw a guy in a full rain suit and full-faced helmet, riding his motorcycle to whatever destination. That guy knows what he can do and ways he can be, so that gray clouds and rain and cold air do not hurt him. He wears his armor and rides on. My rain suit, my armor sets lightly upon my body. My armor of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness gentleness and self control, virtually unbreakable. My armor restrains those who victimize me, who cause me to need them to justify their power. Their intention? Smash ideology instead of allowing it to flourish...and I'm talking about those on either side of an opinion.

Rain falls and almost always replenishes a thirsty earth. I, of God's will, by the blood of Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit am going for a walk in the rain.

God the lip-slapper. No, I'm not going to panic.

Monday, October 20, 2008

You Are Most Welcome

I went to a city wide men's ministry "conference" this weekend. I was actually one of the presenters on Saturday morning and I enjoyed the experience. A young black man came up to me and shook my hand firmly and said, "Hey man, God bless you." We talked for about ten minutes. The time moved us to one place where this man said, "I wish that men celebrated what they have in common, we'd enjoy life so much more." The statement wasn't trite, but I don't remember feeling that the statement affected me profoundly...a simple statement, but one he admitted only thinking about but never expressing until that day. This morning I have a different view.

My friend Neal was at the conference and he describes a hug he gave and received during one exciting moment and he describes the hug in this way, "When my eyes were closed I could only see and feel and imagine and know that this was the embrace of God." (read his blog--click here)

Imagine understanding that amongst my family and my friends I experience a lighter yoke, a burden lifted, a comfortable place, a graceful and merciful place, and a safe place.

Some of my friends were with me last night...we sat on our deck around a fire burning in the fire pit and we enjoyed hot dogs, smores and "smoreo's (you figure that one out...we're going to market that one someday!). We covered many topics of interest...the Dodgers, College Football, Marriage, Family, bowling etc. We also grazed the edge, mere edges of the political scene, and of our particular church situations and a few ideas about religion itself. One friend, Julie, said that she doesn't express her views easily in some circles for a variety of reasons. One reason centers around safety. In some circles her views would be exploited and vilified. A quick epiphany rolled through my head...the man who said he wished we would celebrate what we had in common. While his statement doesn't give me a full view of relationships and culture, I understand that amongst friends we can celebrate what we have in common and what we don't. You're safe here. I said something to the effect that so many conversations have been wasted in anger and immaturity. I enjoy a conversation where differences are exposed but not exploited. I enjoy a conversation where new things are learned, and where commonalities are reinforced. But I relish the environments in which I'm allowed to safely present myself. I don't do that easily.

We enjoyed a John Ortberg study before last night's "smoreo" fest. One moment gave me opportunity to say that we know that Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden light, but we seem to prefer the heaviness sometimes. I don't understand why. We don't often accept challenges as exciting opportunities. Instead, we give ourselves reasons why situations and challenges should be met with anger and discontent.

You're safe here. You're safe amongst friends and family. Julie is most welcome in my home and is allowed to think as she pleases in my home. That's something I hope we have in common. I hope that she, and others are willing to learn and change and grow, but I'm glad that she and others are brave enough to feel something important, and I'm glad that can happen in my home.

My horizontal relationships reflect my vertical relationship with God. I understand safety, because I have felt profoundly unsafe. My hope is that when you, my family and my friends, and even those whom I don't know well come into my home, that you feel you've been welcomed and hugged by God Himself.

I hope.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

THE ABATE TOYS-FOR-TOTS RUN--Hear the Thunder?





The years of the bikes. I believe we've entered an era in our lives. Does that happen to you? It's not quite a mid-life crisis. I don't feel a crisis. It's an era.

Last year Monique and I experienced the quintessential accomplishment either of us have tried. We broke through several glass ceilings that week and many of you know which ceilings were shattered. This year we did something again! I can't say that the experience of last Sunday reached to RAGBRAI heights, but I can say that we broke yet another ceiling.



We and our friends Dan and Stephanie participated in our first bike rally on Sunday! The ABATE toys-for-tots run occurs every year. ABATE dedicates itself to rider education, rider freedom and watching and defending rider rights in the political realm. TO some rider freedom means you don't have to wear helmets. To some rider freedom means you have the freedom to gear up to the max. To some rider freedom means you don't have to do anything about your own hygiene. I mean really.

Actually there were people of every kind there. Our friends Dan and Steph invited us to attend and, while intimidated, we decided we'd take advantage of yet another opportunity to experience something we'd never done! RAGBRAI gave us untold confidence. So, we went to church, came home, changed clothes, made sure we had our toy for the tots and geared up. Dan and Steph showed up and so, we planted our crazy butts onto the seat and headed down the interstate to a parking lot just east of the Capitol. We got there early and so we took off again because Dan had to finish off his biker repertoire with a soda and a cigar. I succumbed to peer pressure (not really much pressure) and found myself a cigar.


We returned to the lot and watched the bikers and their bikes roll on in. There were cruisers, choppers, sport bikes, crotch rockets, and well, there were what could best be described as "beasts." There was a three-wheeler harley which I found out there that they had reverse! He backed right into the spot. How easy is that? I just have to believe that every time I walk my bike in and out of spots that I'm working on my conditioning. Anyway, we saw bikes...one with a barbie doll strapped to the front (say what?), we saw older bikes with side-cars on it. Some were shiny and chromed and others were just wicked sweet. We saw bikes that hadn't been washed in 30 years! Supposedly there's a group of bikers who believe it a badge of honor to have a hardcore bike. Beer Bellies, Black Vests, holey jeans, and dirty freakin bikes makes one more bad-ass. Oh well...I could take 'im. There was an older woman who'd obviously been riding a long time. She was geared up in black leather and jeans and rode a yellow Honda Shadow. It was a cool bike and a cool chick.



One chopper was painted yellow and the tank was overlayed with a spider web, home to a menacing black widow...very cool. The "official" bike was attached to a sleigh, a symbol of the charitable event that would give many young but struggling children something to enjoy. In fact it felt good to be part of something where this many people gathers together in order to make a child's day, and maybe even change their perspective on life. We don't get to meet the tots, but we gave ourselves a chance to pray for them. Monique and I got some molding clay and a stamping package. The kids might make a mess, especially with the clay...but I hope they enjoy themselves.

Everyone walked around and checked out everyone's ride. I was checkin out the rides but you wouldn't believe some of the people either! One of them was dressed up as Santa Claus. Another leathered and jeaned man who looked like he seen more tussles than operas in his life, was wearing reindeer antlers! Huh? I laughed.



Some people were clean cut, others were hardened. Some were in good shape and some had beer advertisements for stomachs. But everyone was there for the tots! It's ironic how quickly we judge those who look a mess, but these people of every kind were ready with their big stuffed animals and play-do and I was inspired. And the people we talked to were cool. And I find it interesting how many American Flags I saw attached to bikes, or helmets or fenders...good stuff.

Before the walk around Dan and I sat on the grass, talked politics and bikers and smoked cigars. Dan's just a bit older than I am. Why is that important? It isn't. I just wanted to feel young again. Either way, I give him the credit for giving me the impetus to finally purchase a motorcycle. He'd been turning me in that direction for a few years now! I've wanted one for over 20 years. Monique never thought about it until I mentioned it one day. What kind of brain-fart coerced her into believing she wanted to take the Motorcycle course, I'll never know. But I'm so glad her brain farted. Monique is so awesome and I'm proud that she's in a place where she can enjoy this. She's stoked that Steph also has her license. Some day they'll hit the roads together on their own bikes. I just know it.




The triumph got a few hard looks and one biker dude used to own a Triumph and wished he'd never gotten rid of it! I think he was kinda checkin Monique out too, but I'm a biker dude now too which I believe gives me the natural ability to use numchucks. I didn't know where I was going to get a pair of "chucks" but it was alright...after googling awhile, He moved on without incident. Either way, Dan, Steph and Monique and I were getting more excited by the minute.

We were in the parking lot a bit over an hour until 1 o'clock, the time that everyone was to fire up the bikes and proceed to the destination where everyone would drop off their toys for the tots and party it up! We did, the noise came all at once! Exhilarating! You could feel the rumble in your feet on the ground. Big time whoa. I let Dan lead me into the line of probably 2000 bikes and we rolled out of the east parking lot into the Capitol City...a place we would rule if only for 1/2 hour.



We headed down the road, a regular city road. Cops were at every interesection holding traffic in toe while we rumbled through, 3-4 or 5 wide! We rode through stoplights, stop signs and every kind of normal traffic obstacles. I laughed at the prospect that the cops who are usually chasin some of these people, were actually helping them avoid traffic laws! Totally sweet. I couldn't dreamed it. It was a triumphant procession made up of 2 miles of bikers. One looked down the road, looked left and right and all you saw were bikes and riders! We were so nervous but it was 10 seconds and Monique was raising her hands, fingers in the victory position and screaming...WOOO HOOOO! YAHOOOOOO! TOTALLY COOOOOOOL! Steph was doing the same thing. I was near euphoria amongst the noise. I've seen miles of bicycles on the roads of Iowa and now this! It's not the same accomplishment as RAGBRAI, but could you see us 4 wide, rolling down the road at 45 miles per hour on a motorcycle? Neither of us could explain to each other how accomplished we felt through the ride and through the event itself.

Put into perspective, we didn't save a life, we didn't build a house, we didn't get a job..., but there are children who will know that there are people out there who have their backs. And we had fun, so much fun. All we did was give a toy to a tot, and do something we'd never imagined doing. Ever. But in my mind there are many ways one contributes to society and doing good things that build confidence allows me and us to inspire someone else to do something they've never done. It's also given us ideas how we can inspire people who've come through years of struggle or had to overcome a recent tragedy. That's important I think.

The ground thundered under thousands of two and three wheeled roaring machines. The lot of us were in our element. We stopped at the south edge of town and added ourselves to the throng of toy-tossing ruffians. Most stayed for a meal and some drinks. Everyone was standing around talking and enjoying themselves. We knew why we were there. It was simply a charitable thing to do. But these freedom loving people find many reasons to get together. They love being around eachother. I find the culture interesting. There's honest respect between bikers. Many will go out of their way to assist you in any way and others can't wait to talk bikes with someone. Car people just don't understand. I don't either really, but I'm learning. I take that back, the classic car culture knows what I mean. Cyclists know what I mean. There's an intangible something about camaraderie. When you meet another biker on the road, most will give you the one or two finger wave. They always know you're there. I love it. And there are quite a few events in and around town that we think we'll find time to attend next year.

One year, RAGBRAI. This year, ABATE Toys for Tots. Next year we're putting them both together! That'll be great eh? A single year full of two-wheels, antlered bikers, whirr and roar. Amazing. You're welcome to join us. Please do. In fact I full hope you would.

For another perspective on the event, read Stephanie's blog by clicking HERE!







Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Death and Silliness: A Poem

There may be a day when I'm not there. I may die. That's it. I'll be in Heaven and you'll be here.  

The very same day that happens you'll miss the silliness. You'll wonder why no one is brushing your teeth with his tongue. You'll realize that life isn't a series a events not to be trusted and constantly questioned. You'll realize that experience simply is.  

You'll find my shirts in the closet, and my shoes on the floor. I hope you'll know that all of life is a wild stab in the dark, but that I was your ray of light.  

You'll miss the silliness. Not because you knew it would happen--you did. You won't miss it because it's the only time you couldn't question what something, anything, is. Silliness makes no sense. Because life is a series of plans and habits that help you achieve success or cleanliness, you'll miss the silliness.  

You'll see the half-drunk diet mountain dew in the refrigerator. The remote control will be on the table beside the couch. You'll see my pillow, and ruffled sheets. You'll think about my ball and glove and wonder where we stashed it away. My shaver will be on the shower wall and my toothbrush in the holder. The coffee pot doesn't poor well. I poured coffee today. You'll see my stain tomorrow. But I may not be there and you'll miss the silliness.  

You'll wonder if you saw the good in me today. You'll wonder how many thoughts you had today.  

But you'll miss the silliness. Not because of what it was, or who I am. But because of how you felt when it happened.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Predictions

At the beginning of each year does anyone have an inkling about where they'll go by the beginning of the next year? I don't. I never have. The first day of kindergarten I had no idea about the first day of first grade. My first day of college never clued me into the fact that it would be 8 years before my last one. The first day I met Monique did not bring with it a vision of the day I would marry her which could not predict the days that would follow.

Yesterday I awoke and touched my wife's skin.

I believe I've come across a mantra, more like the mantra found me. Her body has aged, but her skin...I know it. I used to go outside in the morning and touch the dew. I couldn't feel much on my feet, but I could feel the cool of the dew. I knew I was alive in the morning. It is the same now. I'm desperate to acknowledge those who've lost their spouses. It's got to be as if your own skin were ripped from your body.

I worshipped yesterday. The band played their music. I realized I hadn't played my guitar in months. I couldn't. I couldn't seem to find my voice. I missed my guitar yesterday and realized, on a day I couldn't have predicted before the day happened, that I'm ready to play again. Music remains constant. Someone always plays. I want that.

Miracles are not a mystery. Neither is music. Neither is nature. God doesn't make it difficult to see him. It's more difficult to believe there is no God than to believe he exists! Touch skin, listen to music, hear words, touch the leaf of a tree, put fire to logs...those who can't see Him are rendered unexcused. And all of this shall be in communion with others. Sometimes someone else's voice guides you to your own genius...at least the place from where you shall make your own stand, and that with others.

Sometimes the mystery isn't whether you'll stand, but when. But then, just because I wasn't playing guitar doesn't mean I'd missed my life, or wasn't standing within it. What is Jesus doing?

Monique asked me what it was about her skin? I told her that I've tracked all my unpredictable days with one constant--from one touch I can tell whether she is sore, calm, stressed, satisfied, in love. I mean it. I know from her movements, the sound of her sigh...even the day when she existed at the tip of her breath, a strangled gasp. I know her because I touched her. I fiercely love her and, in all her days she will know what that means, simply because I touch her. She knows that each morning she leaves the house, that her bridegroom bears little wealth or worth until her worth has been tended and realized. There's consistency amongst the unpredictable.

I don't know my days. Heck, I didn't know it would take 20 years for the L.A. Dodgers to make it to the Division Championship nor did I understand it would take 30 years to realize my dream as a motorcyclist! I thought I knew that my company would be up and running by now, but instead it will be soon. God does what he does. It's awesome that I could tell and hear my family's stories last week. I was reminded that I've wanted a motorcycle since I was 15 or before that even! I know more about my Dad's experience from Viet Nam. I know more about my sisters' lives and about my mother's health. It's fantastic that I am allowed to enjoy small-talk--even very small talk. The weather IS nice today and I don't mind telling you that you look good today. Your teeth are white and yes, I did sleep pretty well last night, thanks. We should talk, even if the words and the topic are small. Life isn't always made up of a constant barrage of big words.

It's pretty sweet that I and friends and family get to enjoy a little October baseball with our favorite teams. It's a sweet thing to hit the road on two wheels. I played a few chords today. Indescribable. Words and lives mean nothing unless you're willing to share with them...protect them.

I can't predict any of my days, and some things are constant. They intermingle somehow. I don't have an angle on predictions, but if you know me then trust me. Learn how to enjoy God in all things. I haven't...I couldn't predict that either. But I know from experience that it's worth it. Enjoy God.

I never say as much as I want, nor do I often write as effectively as I know how. Either way, I touch my wife's skin, then I step outside and Lord willing, I see the light.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Birthday Parties and Warm Sun...Prodigious Man















So, it's Thursday.   I wrote a few days ago about things and ways passed down through generations and I hoped and still hope for more stories...but I can't wait for ya'll any longer I'm movin on! 

Last weekend Monique and I celebrated my nephew Lucas's 1st birthday in Omaha, NE.  He has his own blog did ya know that? That oughta tell you something of his smarts... click here to see what he's been up to for the last year!  Someone has said one thing about every baby that's ever existed in the world...ever.  They've said "I just can't believe how much he's grown!"  Well, you're standing right there, what's not to believe?  And yet there I was. I had just gotten off our motorcycle and I saw the little boy and said "boy has he grown!"  Duh.  Everyone knows he's grown right?  I'm usually not stuck with something to say and one could hope for something profound.  But somehow I felt the need to teach everyone around me that children do grow.  How about that?  Lesson learned.  I'm not going to repeat it now.  Testing next Wednesday.

But, aw crap, I can't help myself.  He's a big boy.  I said it one more time.  How else do you want me to say it? His blog shows what one year can do for a young man.  It's amazing.  He's one year old.  I loved being at the hospital after he was born.  I loved being there when the court officially decreed he would forever be a Beaumont.  I loved being there for big number 1 and, Lord willing, I'll be there for a lot more of this and that. But number one was a big-time party in the park on a beautiful day in Omaha.

He opened presents...well, I would say that his cousins Leah Hostetler and Bryson Perry opened his presents for him.  Come to think of it, they also pretty much commandeered the proceedings and made sure that all the toys he received were in good condition by playing with all of them as much as possible.  They even argued over Lucas's toys!  But Lucas got in a few turns with his new train set and took a few rides on his new stuffed Alligator.  Ahhh birthdays amongst youngsters is really a family affair.  Watching Lucas enjoy and destroy a birthday cupcake was also sweet.  There's nothing more beautiful than to watch what a  budding young muscle-bound boy can do with birthday cake!  Actually he eats everything--his birthday hat, his toys, his mother's shoulder, his uncle's nose.... The day was great.  We stayed at the Beaumont's house.  Monique and I left for Mike and Gina's for a couple hours simply because a certain young lady wanted a ride on a motorcycle.

We rode in on the motorcycle.  WHAT?  HELLOOOOO!  It's true.  Barely 2 months on two wheels and only one week removed from our fastest and longest ride, we had another epiphany that one could've interpreted as a brain-fart and decided it would be fun to ride to Omaha!  We were right.  Saturday was a blast.  The wind wasn't a factor.  The chill crept in early in the morning and so we stopped so I could add layers.  Monique unfairly tucked in behind me.  She's lucky I have wide shoulders.  I'm beginning to understand why cyclists wear leather this time of year.  Monique and I talked the whole way and y'know what?  I loved that.  The car provides radio/cd listening opportunities.  The car provides the passenger the chance to read.  We talk too of course.  But the Triumph doesn't offer these things and so we put our headsets on and talked.  Way cool.

I gave mom and Leah a ride.  Leah looked like a martian in that big helmet of Monique's.  We got her fitted with all the necessary clothing that righted her with the Elgersma safety regulations and off we went.  Leah talked the whole way and I mean the whole way.  We went around the block twice because I was having so much fun listening to her talk.  "Which way now uncle Rick?"  "Let's go fast uncle Rick."  "There's a lot of wind Uncle Rick!"  I took mom out on the open road and burned the gears out for her a little bit...I've wanted that experience since I was 15 years old, maybe earlier.  It'd be my luck to pop the clutch, but miracle of all miracles, I was awesome! hee hee.  

We watched "Enchanted" that night.  It's a weird movie.  Pastor Mike at Lutheran Church of Hope really liked the movie.  Umm...it was a weird movie.  Singing people, singing cartoons.  That's what I have to say about that. Oh, and the cartoons had more powers on earth than the real people who actually lived there!  It's amazing to me that a non-human cartoon with human like skin can get an average pigeon to clean an entire apartment. That's no fair.  I have to clean my own house.  Toodaloo...come here birdy birdy birdy...nope.  No luck.

Go back to planet Andalusia is what I say.

We rode home after church Sunday.  I must first say that the CRC in Omaha is a vibrant and loving church.  They enjoy God and eachother and that's good to see.  Love that.  Anyway, the ride home started out brilliant.  We stopped in Fontanelle and it wasn't long before a couple of bikers stopped at the Gas Station we were at!  They were headed back from Des Moines and headed back home to Council Bluffs...ironic right?  Well, we talked for awhile and we talked bikes..."bike speak" amongst bikers caters to the linguists of the road.  Phrases like low-side and high-side, laying rubber down, pulled the saddles, loadin the gears, etc. ring solidly in my memory.  Being new bikers we faked it as good as possible and really enjoyed the conversation.  

And what's up with Des Moines!  It's warm the whole way until we get 30 miles out of Des Moines and temperatures head downward like 20 degrees!  I was less worried about the falling stock market and more worried about falling snot rivers...cold.  We rode into Winterset and I again put on more layers and Monique bought a sweater at Pamida.  I stopped at Hardees at 3 in the afternoon to warm up.  I'm investing in leather.  None-the-less Monique and I absolutely loved riding.  I suppose we had a bit of a butt and back ache and well, it seems Monique's foot went to sleep just before Winterset, but really...you can't hardly vacuum your living room without risking a little pain and suffering and riding the motorcycle is not work believe me.  It takes quite a lot of energy to maintain concentration...the best bikers stay friggin focused man and that's alright, because safety makes for a comfortable, sweet ride.

SO, that's that.  Happy birthday Lucas, we love you!  For those of you who don't know that human's grow, He is such a growin boy.  He's funny, his personality is easy, he's smart, he's cuddly, friendly, generous and playful. He gave me a hug...more like a nuzzle on Sunday Morning and ol' Uncle Rick's heart gave in.  

It won't be long and young Leah turns 5.  Smokin Joe Dimaggio.  Aaron, Katherine, Arn and Will...the whole lot keeps changing.  I talked to Aaron on the phone last week and the man can carry a conversation!  There's going to be a lot of life to live around and with them and I'm excited.  After all, I've only celebrated my 8th anniversary of my 29th Birthday.  A lot of life and birthday cake to go, Lord Willing.  

I've got a few pictures here...I'll probably add more later because I'm sure I'm going to receive a few more good ones...we didn't bring our camera so we have to rely on the other picture people in the family!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Completely Unoriginal Me

Did I tell you that we found Dutch Chocolade Vla in Denver a couple weeks ago? We did. Vla is pudding-ish, but a little lighter. We were so excited I can't begin to describe it. I never thought I'd see such a thing in the United States until an obscure tiny little Dutch shop kitty-corner from Cousin Riekje, owned by a true-blood Dutch woman straight from the Mother Country, carried the delectable treat to the U.S. God Bless that woman! But I got to thinking about my excitement...an emotion rooted in the memory of being in Holland with friends and family, enjoying conversation, laughter and gliding each smooth bite into a delightful part of history.

Monique made Dutch meatballs, mashed potatoes, peas and green beans the two nights ago. Our friends Byron and Annette Harrison and Linda Long arrived at our house two or three hours before dinner and we wanted to make them something special to celebrate their arrival.

Dutch meatballs...I'm not sure why they're particularly "Dutch" except that the mix of spices used are a particularly "Dutch" taste. I love them to be sure, and mixed with a lovely Cote Du Rhone, the feast resonates in memory.

We've experienced more changes than I can imagine. "Mawwage...Mawwage is what bwings us togethaaaa...today. Mawaage, that blessed awangement, the dweam within a dweam..." We quote our favorite movie "The Princess Bride" often and laugh. But Mawage...or Marriage is what brings Monique and I together daily. We wake new every morning but some things do not change. Some things are absolute. I got to thinking about Dutch meatballs and discovered something.

I'll get to the point through my own story. I'm my own man. I relish my ability to be unpredictable. Many of you have heard me say that before. I feel as if I am I guess. I love to be original. I like to discover new ideas, new tastes, my own humor, new actions, new experiences. Most certainly the last few years of our lives have been anything but predictable...then Dutch Meatballs wafted through the air into my nostrils.

Traditions hold lives together and give them meaning. I'm entirely irritated with "ists" and "isms" and other suffixes that elude to a similar meaning...Am I a Calivinist? A pragmatist? A protaganist? Am I a Lutheran or a Weslyan? No, I'm a CHRISTIAN! Duh. I'm a lot of things. However, before I throw the baby out with the bathwater (so to speak), I accept that men and women before me created new ideas about many that I should latch onto. Calvin and Luther were pioneers, Thomas Edison was a pioneer...I can't stop using lamps because I'm sick of history and wish to instead make my own path...I'm certainly not going to throw out a theological idea because I didn't think of it. History means something...I'm not entirely original. I'm at least partially an "ist" as long as I continue to test my "isms" with reality and change my paradigm when necessary. History gives me and my life meaning. I'd be no one if my parents hadn't taught me words, ideas, meanings, verses--all having their own historical significance whether they be embedded prolific printing press, archeological sites, or the paths walked by Christ himself.

I'm my own man, attached a tangible safety line filled with the things that make my life possible. I am original, there's no one who looks like me. But I've got blood pursing through my veins that hails from Nederland and with it comes rites of Dutch passage that include Vla, Gebak, and Dutch meatballs. Someone figured out long ago what makes them particularly good and somehow my mother-in-law inherited the recipe and thus my wife now makes Dutch meatballs. I'm so thankful now that I'm rooted and in some ways, completely unoriginal. Talented hands created an age old recipe the other night. Maybe she throws in her own two-cents worth from time to time and dabbles with the ingredients a bit...maybe...but I don't think so. She cooks Dutch meatballs a certain way, a time-perfected method. She fries, then boils, then spices, then cooks then...it's all there. Taste--always. Enjoy--absolutely. But life and thrill are much more than the experience of new things...they're only meaningful if the people and things and ways of life have meaning and the people, friends and family you love and who love you around you care....The people, ways and things give us history and meaning. My dad warned me never to disparage his good name, meaning part of me isn't original but rooted.

I am the completely blessed and unoriginal me.

No one is an island. One can't give today meaning if you don't tend to your foundation. Your friends won't care if you don't care about them and history will forget you if you don't give it mind. I think we enjoyed the meatballs and potatoes and enjoyed the company of friends, not because we were giving them something brand new, but because we weren't.

Think about that and get back to me will ya?


Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Inner Biker Dude and my Hot Biker Chick

Alright, I think that I can call myself a bicyclist...anyone who can do 500 miles in one week is an honest cyclist.  I think I can call myself a hiker...anyone who can climb mountains and walk several miles at a time in rougher terrain can be called a hiker (I even wore the backpack some of the time!).  As many of you know, we also own a scooter and a motorcycle and, until tonight, we were simply a couple of people who fired up the engines and took a few motorized two-wheeled road rolls.  

This evening I called my friend Dan about something and Dan, an avid motorcyclist worked his inner biker dude into the conversation and asked if Monique and I wanted to ride with he and his wife Stephanie.  I looked at Monique and asked, "Do you want to ride with Dan and Steph?"   She looked at me nervously, a crooked smile grew on her face, her eyes found their suspicious position and she said..."umm...maybe?"  I've heard that "maybe" before and that "maybe" meant "Dan's going to make us go fast and I'm going to pee my pants."  So I said, "I don't know, maybe."  But then Dan said, "C'mon, it will be fun."  A bike purchase comes with an "inner biker dude" at no extra cost.  My "inner biker dude" started an inner rally cry that I couldn't ignore and so I asked Monique one more time and she in her "holy toledo" voice said..."ok that's fine."  See, we also got an "inner biker chick" at no extra cost--a real deal if you ask me.  She's a capable rider already and so her inner biker chick stepped up to the throttle and lit a fire inside of her.  She showered up first...we had just returned from a 15 miles bicycle ride and now we were off again!  Dan and Steph showed up and it wasn't 10 minutes and we were ready to ride!  We fired up the Triumph, put 'er in first and headed out of the drive-way.  

Now, it doesn't take much to find a good excuse to ride the scoot or the motorcycle.  I could need to borrow sugar from my next door neighbor and I'd probably ride one of the bikes to their house.   But, I know Dan and Dan likes to get out of town.  But the issue with those out-of-town roads are the out-of-town speed limits!  We headed west and it was just a few ticks of a clock and we were out of town...fifty-five miles per hour...sixty miles per hour...sixty-one miles per hour...

You have to understand that Dan and Steph are old-hats.  They recently returned from a bike trip to Sturgis and eighty miles per hour might as well be 20 to Dan.  He took me out on a ride about a month ago and hit the interstate with me in tow.  That was the first time I'd toppled the fifty-mile-an-hour mark and we beat that by about 20 miles per hour!  I was seeing plaid.  I entered a new dimension.  SO, tonight the prospect of doing that again seemed daunting.  Sixty felt a bit fast and my helmet sort of buffeted in the wind.  I "white-knuckled" the first few miles at speed and I "white-knuckled" hard enough to create a skin-graft on my handle-bars.  But just when I felt my hands beginning to melt to the throttle, a funny thing happened...I started having a blarny ball!  The free "inner-biker-dude" that came with the bike talked me down--I relaxed and started to enjoy the ride.  I started to look around, can you believe that?  The world was less plaid and more auburn, yellow, red and green as the sun began to set...it was beautiful!  Monique and I have communicators so we started talking to eachother.  Monique's free-with-the-bike "inner biker chick" had her relaxed before my slow to the punch "inner biker dude" had me relaxed!  She was lovin' it and so we rode and we rode well.  We held the appropriate second position behind Dan and Steph and all in all we did about 50 miles out in the wide open Iowa.  We came to a slower car and at the point when I had resigned myself to following Dan around the slow-poke, the road split into another lane!  We had a lane for the slow-duds, and a lane for Dan and Steph and, by extension, Monique and I.  My inner biker dude injected me with courage and Dan ripped it up past the slower car and I drafted behind...it was ok, but was kind of one of those moments when fear clouded all vision except that part of the road that was within twenty feet of the bike itself...and it too was plaid...a plaid road, but a good, smooth  road!  We made it!  yahoo!  Thanks again to Dan who forced me to find another level in the annals of biker life. 

We ate in Adel, enjoyed their company and then headed for home.   The ride home gave my hands that sweet "melt-to-the-handlebars" feeling again, why?  We were fully ensconced into night time (it was 8:30-ish p.m.) and the road we chose to take us home told me I could throttle up to sixty-five wicked miles per hour!  Gulp.  I had a vision of my wife's "holy toledo" look and if it weren't dark outside I could've seen that I was well into "plaid world" again...gulp, gulp, gulp, breath breath...don't hyper-ventilate...the manual says "grip the handle bars firmly" not "melt the handle-bars to a nub."   But, it was another five miles and that free inner biker dude started paying dividends again.  The air was cool...more like cold but who's keepin track anyway?  Either way, the ride was priceless--my wife and I talked and enjoyed a ride in the sweet Iowa night.  Relax right?  I did, we did.  We couldn't see anything other than Dan's tail-lights but I had a beautiful motorcycle sunset in my memory.  It was a great great ride.  I would do it again.  

Dan and Steph, but I think especially Steph are consummate Harley people.  Steph absolutely loves being on the bike but she's thoroughly in love with Harley Davidson.  That being said, she's hilarious about this biker stuff.  She blurted "I'm so excited that you guys wanted to ride tonight!"  As if she need us to ride, she doesn't.  But she then said, "I know, I'm a dork!"  But I didn't think that way, Monique and I anticipated, then thoroughly enjoyed an opportunity to become true "riders."  Furthermore, we relished the opportunity to ride with our friends.  

Monique and I are geared up to the max--gloves, jackets, boots, helmets.  We don't have the bullet proof vests yet, but ya never know.  Either way, it makes us feel safer.  However, no matter how much you gear up or don't, the engine vibrating beneath your body, the engine firing well, the wind over the body...it's all very very cool.  

We're hooked.  The free stuff that comes from the bike have become priceless.  I get to watch Monique transform yet again (Her personal growth over the last 15 years has been astounding).  Dan and Steph are two of our good friends, they're really cool people, and we have yet another way to spend some time with them.  That's got to be a good thing.   It's a good thing except that it's an hour later and my hands hurt and they're still vibrating...I think next time I might not grip the bars so hard, although if I do my forearms will be ripped in no time...a little fear might be good for me yea?  Sweet.

I'm running out of titles.  I'm a cyclist, motorcyclist, scooterist, writer-poet, friend, husband, cousin, uncle, nephew, son-in-law, brother-in-law, brother, son, adventurer, hiker, patriot.  And now I come with a nearly new and totally free "inner-biker dude."  I used to believe that the coup-de-gras title might be "Dad" and that title would be pretty cool...maybe some day I'll know what that means.  But, I'm going to be content with the many spectacular titles God's let me and my beautiful wife wear...tonight me and my hot little biker chick are well aware of that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What side of eternity? We're back home

We rose out of Southern Colorado onto and over Wolf Pass.  The clouds hung over as if giving picture to the weight of thought.  Wolf pass--invisible to us as if another dimension lies on the other side.  Monique and I found truth in the imagery because the moment we passed through the Wolf's misty blanket, our road once again became about destination.  One almost heard the sucking noises as the life we knew for 2 weeks fell into history.  We lived a life where time was merely a flicker that lit the path to what would be an adventure.  Time's only signature revealed itself tellingly but simply in me in that each adventure changed me.  No one requests the fullness of time and experience without being profoundly changed in it. I'm merely living on one side of eternal life nestled in the hand whose grasp shall never waiver.

We rose again over the continental divide, the road clear once again except for the unbending choices in time...the same river flows to the Pacific and to the Atlantic...two directions and I choose neither.  A host of the wild tread those paths and a host of men will find it and time will do to them the same as I.  But we passed the east and west, heading to our own nest.  The wild takes no stock in my appearance with them or the lack of it.  My heart nests in the breath of my bride and we're connected to the place all men must be, with each other...more importantly with those we love...with our family.  Like in the hand of the Father, there's safety amongst those we love and who love us.  

The wild only performs as their Creator has asked of them and we were thoroughly with them there.  While we found ourselves profoundly aware of God and profoundly changed in Yellowstone, we're also profoundly responsible to take these changes to those who can see them, know them and use them.  It was exciting and peaceful to be with Mom and Dad in an inspiring week we will always know together.  We had a blast with Gerrits and Susie Kasper on a fantastic whirlwind two days.  I caught a Dodger game and a post-game beer with my brother Rob, and I spent time with Jess and my loving niece and nephew.  We enjoyed the company of Mom and Dad, Gina, Mike, Annette and Mitch and their beautiful children.  It's great to be my own kid again when the kids want to play zerbert, or football, or hide-n-seek, or ride a bicycle with me...but I love the time for much greater reasons than that.  We had fun and enjoyed conversation and connected as we should.  We were thrilled to see Anne Michelle and to be with her again and we were excited to see Dutchie and we're excited to be with all our friends at home.  We love being home again...simply because Man was never intended not to find rest, not to know a home, not to be found with loved ones...even in the places of the world where that seems impossible.  

It's sometimes frustrating to wake up one day to the next different than I was the day before.  Even a new cut on my finger signifies that I did something different yesterday from today--until I take stock of where I am on this side of eternal life...my role as a social, responsible, intelligent, loving, just human being.  The wiles of the wild nest somewhere between time and eternity and they die, but not in the psyche of those who were with them in their dimension.  Memory escapes time sometimes and I'm glad because I hope that's what it's always like living on any side of eternal life.