Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”
Christine and I started an adventure a decade ago that we labeled: LIFE II. We decided to live full on with adventures fueled by passion and integrated with our love of God, faith in Jesus and our connection to His creation.
Not everyday has been easy and we have traversed many dangerous precipices along this pathway. Some of our seasons have been foggy and step-by-step; while others have stunned us by their clarity of color and peaceful energy. There have been moments where we’ve wandered at the edge of darkness with God’s light faded and obscure. While other times we found ourselves experiencing the grip of His hand on our shoulder leading us in grace and truth.
NEVER has it ceased to be an adventure! We have NEVER taken for granted that which we have been given as temporary gifts to be enjoyed and employed for God’s glory. We are thankful and grateful for each step of this great life adventure.
We are saying “so long” to Lover’s Key as we felt the time was right to move on to a new adventure. This morning I walked the beach that became a precious friend back in 2010 when I first walked it’s shores and collected its treasure of shells and memories. It’s salt water has calmed my soul more often than not. It has been at times a soothing spa of calm in the midst of turbulence.
I visited the most familiar of its beach relics this morning. I’ve photographed it’s beckoning branches every time I’ve walked this seemingly sacred sand.
My kids and grandkids have passed by and played in its sun bleached arms with memorial shells adorning their fingers.
I have become wealthy many times over with the joy of collecting sand dollars and shells to fill my pockets and treasure bags. We have shared our beach and it’s blessings with countless friends and family, and even strangers from around the globe.
The new residents of Lovers Key Beach Club 106 take their keys to future memories, sand in the toes, and shell collecting. Christine and I will ALWAYS love Lovers Key and will most likely visit from time-to-time…but it will no longer be our home away from home. We will return as guests…old friends if you will…recounting days past.
“You are as close to us as breathing, yet You are farther than the farthermost star.”
—Gates of Prayer: The New Union Prayer Book
I am not a professionally trained medical expert, so anything I have to say about a human’s breathing function, is strictly based on self-analysis and awareness through focused experience.
Yep…I wear a CPap to bed at night and go to sleep looking very charming…and sounding like Darth Vader entering his galactic album REM cycle. My wife Christine has reconciled herself to the lesser of two slumber-time evils: Darth Vader breathing or hibernating grizzly bear snoring (which is also her description of me the first time in our relationship when she attempted to wake me to stop the horrendous volume). Apparently my subsequent growl was frightening. Sorry.
When you cease the all-important function of breath moving to and fro providing combustion and exhaust…your engine can fail….heart attack, stroke, etc. And so I bought a CPap and have slept like a quiet baby ever since. When I go to my state of repose, and mask up with a long hose extending from my head to a distant air managing unit; I purposefully consider each and every subsequent breath as it ebbs and flows from my nose covered with a sealed air mask. It relaxes me instantly. If I did not go to sleep instantly, I can imagine being so in sync with this most important and vital God-created mechanism for our life existence here in the mortality of earth’s atmospheric realm, that I would praise and worship Him marveling at the order and mechanism of His creation from the birth of our existence.
I have become increasingly aware of the intimacy of breathing.
This morning, I took my customary stroll in the mountains (always a huge smile on my face) and as always I break out in worship praying and singing my praise to God!
“All the waymy Savior leads me; cheers each winding path I tread…”
He intimately meets me in His creation! Everywhere I look I see His glorious hand, mind and heart! I see His love for me and feel His breathe on my very skin! I breathe Him in and expell my fears, my weaknesses, my lusts, my unforgiving nature…my impatience and my darkness.
For my social agenda tree-huggers out there, please do not start rejoicing in my conversion to Pantheism or some over-wrought aura of environmentalism (though I love and treat with respect my environment). I am not a Pantheistic, whereby I believe everything around me in creation is God or that God is in everything. No. But God created Everything!
In fact, as I sat by my mountain stream within the forest yesterday, I marveled at the great and amazing faith of an evolutionist or an agnostic…one who believes this all just happened by accident…a cosmic expanse of a cell….whatever explanation “science” has provided to direct one’s thinking. Quite a lot less evidence to support that science-fueled faith!! Especially as I am sitting where I sit. Especially as I breathe…in and out. As my senses are assaulted with fresh pine and mountain water rushing over great boulders and little pebbles, I marvel at the great faith of an atheist. As the birds sing and I see a swaying wildflower blooming from a crack in a rock at the river’s edge.
I breathe in and out…and rejoice in that intimacy (in the moment) with my Creator, my God, my Savior and the Holy Spirit.
“All the way my Savior leads me, and He cheers each winding path I tread!” Hallelujah!
Back in the mountains, time to write as inspiration abounds!
This year we found ourselves bogged down in Kansas City with projects, very little time with kids and grandkids, and temperatures reaching toward 100 degrees. It was stifling to our lifestyle! Don’t get me wrong…the time with kids, grandkids and dear friends is always precious and irreplaceable; but we found ourselves traveling down a blistering highway across a scorching hot Kansas as fast as we could to get to the higher elevations of Colorado!
Without thinking, in our brain-boiled fog, we drove in one day from 3000 ft elevation, to one of our favorite camping spots at 10000 ft elevation. Remember, that’s us wintering in Florida at 0 elevation, then planting ourselves in Missouri and Kansas at 500 ft elevation. And through that whole period of time I abandoned my diet for the most part…and it has consequences. The type of consequences that are negative anywhere, but at 10000 ft? Priceless!! And Breathless!!
I do not remember where I first latched onto the moniker “rare air,” as referencing being in higher elevations where oxygen is in shorter supply, but so invigorating…but I use it here in the mountains. Rare air is a big part of our love of the mountains!
But it has magnified my unattended physicality and resulting high blood pressure (complete with battling swelling feet due to “venous insufficiency”) and general aching joints.
Therefore, in the rare air of the mountains it is “do-or-die” and get back to the basics of health and fitness. In reality…I am carrying far too much baggage to be in this atmosphere requiring me to be at my 63 year old best.
Hebrews 12:1: “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. Let us run with endurance then race God has set before us. (NLT)
In simplifying terms, RARE AIR = SPIRITUAL LIFE! Taking stock of my spiritual health requires me to first of all identify those things I’ve been doing that cause me to sin and weigh me down from the rare air of spiritual living.
Wish this part was easier, but as Charles Swindoll once wrote, we humans “have a bent towards sin.” It comes natural to sin, to degrade, to break down, to stall, to live rotely…to breathe shallowly stagnate and dead air. We become accustomed to doing that which we were created NOT to do!
Secondly, striving for “rare air” must become my most expedient task; both physically and spiritually. Once you get a breath of fresh rare air…you do not want to leave! It changes how you view the world…in the moment.
We, more often than not, take for granted the Wes Albrights of our lives!
We go about our business believing we understand freedom to be and do that which presents itself in our paths. We think we understand our rights and the equality of all persons. We rationalize the ease of our lives as earned through our own efforts and hard work. We believe we conquer strife in our daily walk…not having ever tasted the salt of sweat and the sight of blood born battles.
Wes Albright is daily all these things: courageous, ready, competent, trained, steady, straight, trustworthy, caring, generous, and fair, firm, and consistent.
Wes Albright is a soldier every day! A warrior when called upon to excercise his gifts…for mankind and country. A patriot not afraid to question …of whom you could trust: with orders received and orders given.
Colonel Wes Albright is a soldier and a gentleman!
My friend Wes Albright received his honor and reward a few days ago as he left this field of battle and passed into the peace of eternal life with our Creator God and His Son, the Savior Jesus Christ!
I never knew Wes as a soldier in battle as he served faithfully in our armed forces securing the ease of life and freedom I enjoy.
But when I met Wes some 12 years ago…I recognized a man of distinction and worthy of my utmost respect…though he demanded neither. Through Wes I understood patience and saw what it meant to be a husband…through thick and thin. He exhibited a wisdom of life experience most of us could not possibly attain…or appreciate fully.
Each word and sentence he spoke to me seemed measured and provoked by thought and deliberation. So much so…that as he communicated his message, I found myself pondering it’s clarity and depth with more intention than the usual.
I did not always agree with Wes Albright…but I always took time to re-evaluate my position more carefully based on his ideas and thoughts. In essence, a man of life depth such as Wes would either confirm, challenge, or strengthen your convictions.
Wes’ heart spoke so clearly to my wife Christine that she considered him THE father-figure in her life. He has left a void that will never be replaced and a legacy that will never be surpassed in measure and breadth.
I found Wes Albright the man to be spiritual…though he didn’t wear theology on his sleeve. He exhibited the values of faith more clearly in life action than most theologians I’ve met. He breathed his faith in and out as he walked and spoke and reacted to those who were dear and those he barely knew. The very definition of character is understood by WHO YOU ARE when no one is looking. That is who you ARE.
Wes Albright had faults, I’m sure. We all are frail creation marred by the reality and eventuality of a sin nature that often exceeds our ability to dim it in essence. We cannot live among family and friends without others having a glimpse of our battle-bent armor. That is the privilege and blessing of grace…and more importantly, forgiveness.
My mind goes to a larger-than-life Old Testament Biblical figure, chosen by God as yet a ruddy-faced youth shepherding sheep in the wilderness. God knew David the sheep herder long before He made him David the warrior and King of Israel…His chosen people!
David was exceptional as a warrior though had a strong independent mind at times…and sometimes withstood against the plan of God. He made great and small mistakes in his life as he succumbed to the temptation and the great things of power this life may offer one of great gifted ness.
But here is the thing…David was ALWAYS a man after God’s own heart. God knew all that David would do as a warrior, a man, a husband, a father…and a King. And still chose him. He gave him exceeding and abundant grace. He gave him the strength and courage to face the consequences of his wrong actions. And brought David into the light of His mercy upon his seeking God’s forgiveness. David ALWAYS loved God.
Micah 6:8 has always seemed a clear scomatic for living an acceptable life before mankind and God. “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Easier read than accomplished. But in my experience, it defines who Wes Albright was to me.
I would be remiss to not express how very clear it was to those who knew Wes in recent years, that it is his devoted mate, partner, and best friend Mike that completed him in so many ways. She drew the best out of Wes allowing us to experience his best version. She is a virtuos woman of whom Wes worshipped the ground she walked upon. She was the queen to her King. He needed her so much more than she required of him. Most will not understand what that means. They married to give to the other..not to get what they thought they needed.
Please read Psalm 61 with your mind upon soldiers and warriors like Colonel Wes Albright … and pray for our country to stand upon the solid foundation that has been established through the blood and sacrifice of others.
I close with a warriors prayer as I imagine Wes entering Heaven with a thankful and praising heart…dropping to his knees before the King he so valiantly served in this life. What a privilege it is to have known Wes Albright and to serve a gracious Savior in Jesus Christ. Be always in the moment!
Brave warriors, should fate find us in battle, May our cause be just. May our leaders have clear vision. May our courage not falter. May we be triumphant an earn victory as we show mercy to our enemies.
May our efforts bring lasting peace. May our sacrifice be always appreciated by those we serve. May we return to our loved ones unharmed. Should we be harmed, may our wounds heal. Should we perish in the struggle, may God embrace us and find for us a place in His Kingdom.
I was perusing the social media during this global pandemic (didn’t anticipate writing these words last year at this time), when I came across a You Tube of a supermodel at the top of a skyscraper (under construction) standing on the steel girders with her photographer. I almost immediately closed it as the panic began to overwhelm my chest. But sitting in my lazy boy chair, I decided to “gut” it out.
You see… I have a fear of heights, coupled with…you guessed it…a fear of falling from those fear-filled heights.
So back to me being brave in my recliner and gutting it out. I continued to watch their video documentation of various “poses” struck in high heels and a designer dress. If I almost lost it internally when she leaned off the girder while holding the hand of her handler; imagine the gripping fear when she stepped off dangling in mid air employing only the wrist to wrist hand hold method. It was too much visual for me…I couldn’t manage that much fear even from the safety of my lazy boy. Proof text found in the grip depressions of my chair’s leather arm rest.
Fear is the anticipation of losing control. It is the knowledge of what COULD happen, based on empirical evidence of what has happened. We examine the voracity of the potential and our ability to control it. We then react.
The Covid 19 Pandemic, we find ourselves unwitting partners in, represents a global-based reality that most of us have Never experienced; or even imagined its potential consequence! We are thrust into uncharted territory without clear answers and solutions and amidst a developed lack of trust in who we can believe and look to for truth and leadership in this storm.
I take my mind’s eye to the hull of a boat, of all places in the Sea of Galilee. I am holding on to an eyelet anchored in the side of the boat as the boat is tossed nearly vertical and then waves hit my face and fill the boat with the sea water as it comes back down.
Others are in the boat, several fishermen with years of experience on the sea under various conditions. This fact should fill me with a measure of confidence as I watch through salt-stung eyes as two are desperately attempting to manage the oars to bring us under control. Braver and stronger than I am, they wrestle with the boat, the waves, and their own wavering faith in their potential…but continue striving.
But even as I take a measure of comfort in their power in the midst of this unprecedented storm…I see and feel their fear and hear their screams of desperation. I lose all hope…first in my mind, then it grips my heart. I am at the mercy of the wind and the waves, and as they tear at my body and bruise my face…I succumb to total fear.
Most of us can remember a time we felt the profound loss of control and paralyzing fear. Some of us manage it better than others, depending our level of experience and perspective. The experience of loss is the constant reminder that we are mere mortals, after all.
Loss of a job with no prospects in sight. Death of a friend or loved one. A dreaded, then realized crippling disease or life-ending cancer. A pandemic. A virus that Advil doesn’t cure. Dangling from the girder 50 stories high, with only a wrist-to-wrist hold on someone we don’t know their capacity to save us from peril. I’m 230 pounds… my immediate reality is that the one standing on the ledge is going to save themselves. And the quickest way to do that is to release me. And that thought makes me lose all sense of control.
Back to the boat. I see another man at the front of boat… curled up asleep. Peaceful even. I rub my stinging eyes as another wave nearly washes me over. The other sea worn fishermen are screaming his name and, wait, their trying to wake him up to help them as they fight for control.
They shout this man’s name again, “Jesus! Don’t you care that we are in peril! We are perishing in this wave surging sea! Wake up, Jesus!
“And on that day, when evening was come, He saith unto them, Let us go over unto the other side. And leaving the multitude, they take Him with them, even as He was, in the boat. And other boats were with Him. And there ariseth a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the boat, insomuch that the boat was now filling. And He Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish? And He awoke, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And He said unto them, Why are ye fearful? have ye not yet faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? MARK 4:35-41 (R.V.)
Many of us, in the storm, have forgotten who Jesus is. We see his humanity, as he sleeps in the boat, riding out the same waves as are slamming into our face. We find ourselves hopeless. Some of us in the boat have never experienced His Deity and the grace manifested through salvation. And so we are fearful.
And some of us know what He can do as the Creator and King of Kings…the one of whom death holds no sting! We cry out, “ Don’t you care that we are perishing! Jesus! Wake up! Save us!” We question in the midst of the storm.
No matter what our view is, Jesus woke up in that boat and He spoke peace upon that storm and calmed the sea. His humanity shows he feels our fears and the stinging eyes from the waves. His Diety proves He is in control as He speaks a word and the world spinning out of control becomes peaceful.
Jesus is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for…and the EVIDENCE of things not seen. It requires FAITH in the One sleeping calmly in the boat, who is capable of controlling the wind and the waves.
Get to know the man Jesus and know that he is God. Trust Him. And your faith will strengthen and your ability to be peaceful will be clear!
We completed a long trek across the United States this week by returning to the familiar, the comfortable and most definitely the place that moves me most: Lover’s Key!
I left our condo at 5am with my coffee and an anticipation of revisiting an old friend…a beach filled with memories, space, visual cues that prod and poke my external shell until I exhale fully…and find myself.
It was dark…awaiting the dawn is precious time when you can smell and hear waves swirling the sand beneath your feet. As I approached the shadowy bridge I would cross under, I saw a cigarette glow and heard voices. Warily, I stopped to grasp and assess what situation may unfold. I was about to embark on a moment, a present time stalling itself so that it could absorb me in a timeless pause.
Cautiously, I moved on to walk under the bridge a few steps from the shadowy pillars of the bridge…when out of the darkness steps a man with a dusky voice proclaiming, “You’re a fedora man!” Not the expected at 5 am, beneath a bridge, on Black Island on Lover’s Key. I hesitated to answer as I quickly took inventory of my situation. He was younger than me, about the same size and if he was intent on harming me…he had an unorthodox style: a guitar around his shoulders, a can of cucumber water in his front shirt pocket, and yes, a fedora tilted slightly forward on his head. I responded carefully, as someone else was still in the shadows behind the pillars, “What ya doing out here this morning?”
“Just singing songs for my mom…the acoustics are perfect under this bridge,” he countered. I knew I was present…in this moment.
I stepped through the darkness into the shadows under the bridge to meet Matt Freed and his momma, Anna Freed. Matt asked me what kind of music I like. I mumbled something about country. He queries further, asking my thoughts regarding the Zac Brown band. I gave him a thumbs up. My new friend asked me to accompany him into the water…in the dark…under the bridge…where, apparently the acoustics are the best. And he serenaded me and his mom with “Island Song.” Under the bridge, in the dark, on the beach.
We walked out of the water and he asked if I play the guitar. I nodded and launched into my story of teaching myself to play at 11, trading guitars with my sister without her knowledge, and choosing an Ibanez 12 string instead of a high school class ring, purchased by my mom as a graduation gift. Thus began our swapping family stories until the sun began to rise as dawn awakened. He closed our “in the moment” with a love story of his poppy and the love of his life, following his fearful days in Vietnam. His Poppy challenged Matt on his death bed to not waste his great gift.
Matt then shared one last song, one he had written about his mom called, “Anna.” We walked back in the water and stood together. Myself and a man freed by his Poppy to do what he loved. Matt Freed and I shared numbers, hugged, and I walked on down the shore to contemplate my good fortune…in this moment.
You see…we are often held bound by proposed necessities, the tyranny of the urgent, an impasse caused by the imminence of living. Matt’s Poppy “Freed” him by a death bed blessing. To pursue that which he is called toward…a destiny changed by his involvement in each moment.
Show people you happen upon, the grace of God; by re-enforcing that god-like image you see in them when upon you meet…Present-in the moment.
Creep past the hours like the shorter hand on the clock Hanging on a wall of a schoolhouse somewhere We wait for the bell And we dream of somewhere elseDaydreaming, daydreaming all the time Daydreaming, daydreaming into the night Daydreaming, daydreaming all the time Daydreaming, daydreaming into the night And I’m alright
We sit around a lot of campfires: vivid in-the-moment enhancers. For daydreamers, a campfire feeds your imagination addiction, taking you down the infamous rabbit hole of inherent plausibility. A campfire rarely results in a male species dominated “nothing box” haze, but rather, blazes a maze of tunnels in and through the past, present and potential of our lives!
Last evening was unremarkable as fires go…but then Christine asked a question, “What kind of kid were you?” She gave example that she was a hider. Loved to find hiding places and hang out there. Ok. Interesting.
Back to me…I replied that I could have been characterized as a “daydreamer.” My imagination was wild and free. Oh sure, there was the typical child plans to be a superhero, policeman, fireman, truck driver, Lemans race car driver…you know, all the usual trains leaving the station with no clear track to return.
Here’s the deal: I still daydream! A lot! I’m 61! I still develop both realistic and unrealistic “plans” that could happen…or not.
Here’s the cool part: God often meets me in that recessed internal daydream place! As the reel is clicking and the tape is rolling, God is directing the lines of the script…making suggestions and rewrites as the thoughts flourish. He reminds me of the past and it’s relevance or lessons. He makes me think of scripture I’ve read and it’s meaning to me as I live and breathe in my moments.
Is this a new look at “prayer?”
Some truths to hang our daydreams upon:
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. ..
The Lord—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Plug these time-worn understandings of scripture regarding God the Father’s intimacy with His creation-children and sit back on your camp chair and fire gaze…it might clarify a few things.
God meets you in the moment and in your heart and mind.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23.
This intentional tranquility doesn’t happen as often as I need it to…but this morning I’m in the moment. In my boat…well, kayak. In the center of the glass-like surface of Lake Wanatchee in Washington state. Floating. Musing. Calming my mind so I can listen. Watching the easy ripples take my frustrations and challenges to a safe distance from the boat.
Here’s what I inherently know: I’m flawed…deeply and darkly flawed. We all are. Thanks to Adam. But the good news is grace. Salvation. Jesus. Eternity settled. Hope secured! Once for all time.
Kenny Cheney recorded a song that I immediately resonated with; in that quiet private inside-me spot. The place that feels intense emotion…all the time.
A Better Boat (partial)
“I hate waiting, ain’t no patience in these hands I’m not complaining, sometimes it’s hard to change a man I think I’m stronger than I was, I let God do what he does
I breathe in, I breathe out Got friends to call who let me talk about What ain’t working, what’s still hurtin’ All the things I feel like cussing out Now and then I let it go Around the waves I can’t control I’m learning how to build a better boat”
We brought a borrowed kayak along with one of our usual kayaks while traveling this summer. It is frightening to put on the water if there are any wind or waves to negotiate. It was not built for me. Not much for a rudder, so it responds quickly to any sudden lean or movement or outside influencer…such as waves.
On the other hand… my usual kayak…the one I’m used to, and it fits like a well worn pair of pants…is easy. Safe. It has a well-placed rudder that manages the wind and the waves.
Rudders, in a kayak, help stabilize your travel on the water. They provide “tracking,” the ability to stay on course as you paddle to your destination. A rudder actually goes below the surface… deeper than the waves.
I have felt the sting of the waves the last few years. I’ve been holding on to a boat with a diminished rudder. Oh I can see the shoreline of my ultimate destination…the hope of my salvation, but I’m working so hard to stay on surface…with a diminished rudder.
Maybe you’ve felt the waves trying to capsize your boat. It either forces you to hold your breath, or it takes your breath away. We find ourselves in a world of chaos (cannot type the word without thinking of KAOS-the evil entity from tv sitcom “Get Smart”) and a veritable storm right outside our safe harbors. Uncertainty and civil unrest, division among family and friends. We find ourselves in a rocking boat and we are taking on water.
Getting out in my better boat in a tranquil setting has sharpened the clarity of my true destination. The solitude has allowed me to listen and allow God’s Word…yes, His voice…to be the rudder in my faith. Being still. Reminding myself about trust. Bonding spirit-creation to Spirit-Creator. Listening to the Author of my course.
I close these musings with closed eyes; thinking of the disciples in the middle of a tempest in the Sea of Galilee. They feared they would perish in the storm. A noted contrast in the story is Jesus asleep in the boat. Ponder that. They cried out in their utter fear to Jesus. He stood and with a word…calmed the storm. Fully understand…these disciples were the ones He chose. Believers! Faithful! Sitting under the teaching of the Master! Disciples! Terrified by the storm within touching distance of Jesus!
Trust in the Lord-with all your heart.
Do not lean upon your own mind, thoughts, feelings or concerns or misdeeds or flawed actions.
Every time you step in the boat…consider the rudder…Jesus. Know Him!
He will navigate you through every storm and lead to to calm water.