Building A Better Boat

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.
Be still!

Friday Night Rodeo: One Definition of God and Country

Seeing America one town at a time will make you rethink the condition of this country! If you are on Facebook or watching the news…don’t believe for a moment that the reality you are being offered is anything at all resembling the real America. It is only a chosen select reality…one designed to deliver a sucker punch. The sad reality is that our country is being defined in our mind… rather than in our experience.

Many of my regular readers of Present-inthemonent, know and follow our Facebook posts offering snapshots of our travels as fulltime RV’ers. Of course we visit many famous landmarks and national treasures and love our historical places and faces. But we also are committing a measure of our adventures, going to small towns and meeting America’s great citizens.

Small towns like Dubois, Wyoming (preferably known as “Never Sweat, Wyoming”). That’s right! The town of Dubois had decided to register their post office as the good ole town of “Never Sweat.” But the resident who made the trip to the state office didn’t like the town resident’s chosen name, so he named it after himself: DuBois…pronounced all French-like as Dubwah. The town residents were so incensed by Dubois’ actions that they prounced it for all time the incorrect pronunciation: DuBoyz!

In small town DuBois, we have decided everything is big and dramatic. From the landscape to the people’s lifestyle and character. You want a slice of American pie? Come visit the amazing and humble people of Dubois.

I have hiked here on the Continental Divide, the Shoshone National Forest, and to one of the largest glacier fields in the United States.

Our Rv backs up to the Wind River and all of its powerful and swift energy roaring downstream!

I’ve met and chewed the fat with Monte (beloved and respected uncle of our server at The Cowboy Cafe…which offers a mighty delicious Huckleberry Pie). Monte may be found in a local trader shop…the one with a piano on the boardwalk out front (Monte is the guy in the derby hat playing the piano and carving moose antlers). He will tell you with serious passion about the history replete with Indian lore and mountain men traders. His eyes dance as he gives you the insider details defining life in these pronounced mountains.

No less grandiose and dramatic is the daily life of a local ranch family. Hardened by the strength it takes to do the mundane and magnificent functions of daily life, the people here reflect peace and respect in action. They do it full speed and slow all at the same time.

And so we decided to attend the every Friday night rodeo tonight. Crossing the furious Wind River on a sturdy and stately wooden beam bridge, we drove up the rocky hillside to park near the lights of the DuBois rodeo arena. The smell of hay and horses prepares you for the melding of humankind and the animals we raise on farms and ranches outside the city lights. The sounds of critters mixed with playing children and conversing adults, to the dusty sight of wranglers and Levi’s, boots and belt buckles.

We found ourselves in America. I watched as mutten-bustin’ toddlers hung on for dear life to earn a dollar and hear the applause of the town. Young ladies barrel racing and young men watching the young ladies. Men…Marlboro men it seems…riding horses more comfortably than most ride a bike….lean and strong, and proud.

I saw hard work in their play, their competition, and the lines around their eyes. In a word I saw respect.

I felt safe and secure in the fact that these folks are my fellow Americans…rich in grace and strong in family. Community. Unfettered Spirit!

As the rider galloped around the arena with the flag of the United States of America…these dramatic and peaceful people exuded united strength as they stood at attention with hands and hats covering their proud hearts.

I was filled with patriotism as I heard a local child sing our national anthem and heard their prayer thanking God in Jesus’ name for country, family, and friends.

I was proud to be an American as I mingled with local Dubois, Wyoming families on old wooden bleachers on this Friday night under lights by the Wind River.

Jesus answered the question, “Which is the great commandment in the law?”

(Matthew 22:37-39) Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The dramatic and peaceful people of Dubois, Wyoming are living in the moment and have not forgotten Whom it is they serve. I saw love of country and love of neighbor and love of God. Present. In the moment.

Time Well Spent

As many of you already know, my mom Helen took her amazing journey into her eternal home in God’s presence and to be with her beloved husband Cedric a few days ago. I had just returned to Florida the day prior to her passing after spending nearly a week with her in her final hours.

This was time well spent for me…perhaps for her as well.

It has been a year of getting to know my mom, really for the first time, as an individual heart and soul apart from dad. As most who know, my Pops was hands on with people and held a more public persona than mom. Mom was a bit more reserved and content to operate under dad’s wing so to speak. They were married a blessed 67 years, with a noteworthy commitment to their marriage and life together.

And so…it is not surprising that I find myself, having spent a significantly greater amount of time in personal one-on-one with mom this year, coming away with a sharpened appreciation for her depth of faith, incredible quick wit…and most profoundly: her deep passion for those who give kindness and compassion without reservation.

This brings me to the mention of a few people, I am aware of, whom made her life special. First and foremost is mom’s only daughter Becky. Almost always the unsung hero (familiarity often rewards with being taken for granted) for her daily post of standing in the gap for both our parents,. Becky sacrificed many freedoms and pleasures as the constant on call chosen one of us siblings. She needs to know now from me how much mom and dad valued her love and care… and how much this brother appreciates her endless challenging task. I love you Becky!

Equal to my sister’s status as tops in love and care for mom is her true number one son Nick! From combing mom’s hair to clipping her nails…well, truly, if you know Nick…I cannot tell you anything you do not already know well.

I apologize if I leave anyone out, as my view is self-limiting. But beautiful souls of love and care in these last months for mom include…my cousin Kerin, mom’s sister Joyce and brother Kenny, and Dave and Lynn Pestotnik, true neighbors indeed!

As I prayed with mom and read scripture to her the week she died, she almost always requested Psalm 23…it is the Psalm to the Shepherd. It describes an in-the-moment and present relationship with God our Father as He is our Shepherd in a daily path in this life. It may serve as a fitting mantra describing how mom’s soul felt toward her God and Savior!

Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Time well spent…the sacrifice of my sister and Nick, the gift of presence and prayer offered in recent days by loving family and neighbors…in the company of Helen Hall. Indeed, Helen Hall! Not the wife of Cedric or the mom of Becky, Brian, Brent and Blake…but a person of great individual value and praiseworthy faith: Helen Hall!

I have personally chosen not to return again to Iowa right now for her service for friends and family. You know how I feel toward you all who will grieve her passing. And I bid you to grieve well. I have chosen to have a personal Brent Hall family-time of memorial and goodby at her and Pops grave this Spring. My kids desire to say goodby and Spring will be when it most fits their and my respective life circumstances; as I have one daughter rehabbing from a serious motorcycle accident and cannot travel yet, and a daughter and son-in-law in fulltime ministry (holidays are busy and stressful) and a son who works a job that is at its peak of his requirement.

So I am choosing a Spring memorial trip to Sparks cemetery with my kids and grandkids to celebrate the lives of their Grandma Helen Letter J (named such by my eldest daughter Sarah) and of course to renew our memories of their Papa…my Pops.

For those wishing to join the memorial service this Monday, December 17, 2018 at 11:00 AM at the Evangelical Free Church in Boone, Iowa.

In my final thought regarding Helen Hall…it would be her greatest joy here and in Heaven for you to KNOW her Shepherd and the Savior Jesus Christ personally this Christmas season. If you want to know how you can be sure…I would love to tell you about the greatest live story of all time. It will be time well spent! God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Neither Here Nor There…

Often in my past life as a pastor, I would mention the great understatements found in God’s Holy written Word. For example a casual reading of Genesis 22 reads like an average everyday occurrence. But plug in the known emotions surrounding Abraham as he dutifully obeyed God when he instructed him to take his only son Isaac to Mt Moriah and offer him up as a burnt sacrifice. The words are like a story…but you have to infuse the overwhelming confusion, and fear, and pain and sadness that would have crippled any one of us. As he was about to plunge the knife into his son The text tells us God called out Abraham’s name…twice! Abraham answered, “here I am Lord!” Genuine understatement.

Or how about Matthew 27:17, where we read about the murderous prisoner named Barabbas whom Pilate released when the crowd wanted to crucify Jesus the Christ instead of Barabbas? The understatement here is that we never learn anything more about Barabbas whom was quite literally the first person saved by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. I want to know more about Barabbas!!!

Scripture records many incidents of human creation coming face-to-face with magnificent angelic beings serving at the pleasure of Almighty God on mankind’s behalf. I’ve always felt rather incredulous as I read about these angel confrontations as they are described in the Word of God. Understatements like, “the angels appeared before them, and they were greatly afraid.” Or, “sorely afraid,” or “greatly terrified.”

I’m pretty sure the description of my reaction to an angel appearing before me would be loud and magnificent included adjectives would be necessary.

Talk about being ” in the moment.”

I find myself in a sudden moment of time that the emotive reality is and will be understated in my writing compared to my living it.

I have come to the bedside of my dying mother who finds herself neither here nor there in her present state of transitioning between life and that moment we call death. I’ve tried to be intimately empathic with mom in order to get some sense as to how it feels to be in this moment of captured time. Time between when a person really lives, vibrant, involved…empassioned in the very act of breathing and interacting among the living saints this side of Heaven. To that instant when God’s holy and terrifyingly majestic angels take a dead ones soul to the feet of the very one whom was sacrificed once for all, including Barabbas as a sort of firstfruit.

In clarity…my mom is somewhere in between, in transit if you will…caught unwillingly without the strength or will to live nor the capacity to hasten her aching heart toward an expedient delivery to her promised estate. I watch her lying helpless and afraid and sure and confident in that state of being no one is aware of until they live it at death.

It is both at once a terrible time in waiting for a magnificent moment of release. I ponder the reasons for delay. My reasons? I want to hang onto the woman I’ve only this year come to an understanding about who she really is. Her wit and candor…her resilient beliefs and faith in her destined outcome. Her ability to laugh and cry in the same moment of thought. I’ve come to see her strength which had been cleverly disguised by my dad’s long shadow. I’ve pondered who she must have been as that girl of 13 with the dreams and aspirations all young ladies most certainly have.

As I lay on her bed with my arms around this frail shell of my mom…does she feel the safe comfort that I felt as she drew me to herself when I was afraid as a child? Does she sense my fear of living without her or is her hesitancy to leave those she loves the reason she hangs on.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell her I’ll be ok without her…that it’s ok to let go of this life…perhaps. Or I will just tell her in this moment of transition that I’m at her side until the angels bid me farewell. I don’t know. I’ve never been here in this moment…present.

I know this: it is an incredulous understatement to calmly state that death is a process. It is terrifying and amazing! It is wonderful and uncertain! It is most assuredly grace and anxiety, sadness and peace.

Watching mom walk her final pathway to this certain end to start her beautiful eternity makes me cry, laugh, and sing and pray with unprecedented passion for life and death and in-the-moment in-between. Mom…I will cherish your final lesson to me of how to live while dying. P.S. Tell dad I really miss him.

Proud to be From Iowa!

I read the following Facebook post and would love to pass it on, as it qualifies as an “Present-inthemoment ” story. What a great challenge by Iowa farmer Jeff Ditzenberger, to be willing to pause and take a few moments to elevate someone else’s life! I applaud you sir!!

Here is his story in its entirety:

Today is a day I’ll not soon forget..

As I was combining today, I was unloading into the auger cart and I saw a vehicle go by a couple times slowly and then pull over and stop. I had a minor repair to make and the vehicle stayed… I was a little concerned until I happened to catch 3 little sets of eyes looking out windows.

I went over and they rolled down the window and I asked if they needed anything and the lady explained their grandchildren were visiting from Florida and had never seen “farmer stuff” up close. There were 2 boys and a little girl.. I’d assume they were between the ages of 6 and 9. The two boys were all giddy but the little girl, while sweet and excited was pretty quiet.

I also happen to notice that she kept turning away from me and there was a scar or a birthmark or something on her face… And I felt really bad trying to figure out what it was because I was feeling like I’m staring at her..

The grandmother and her husband thanked me for stopping and saying hi and said they would get going because they knew farmers were busy this time of the year… And I said be careful and have a good trip…

It was then that one of the boys said are you going to be going soon cuz we would like to see what that machine does… the grandmother quickly quieted them and I said would it be okay if I took them for a ride…

She then said No we’re sure your way too busy for that and I said no I’m by myself for now I’ve got time so she asked the two boys if they wanted to go and of course they did but the little girl stayed back.

I asked her again if she wanted to go and she said no thank you and so the boys and I went and got in the combine and we made one round and came back… While in the combine I said why didn’t your sister want to come… they said shes shy. I then, because of curiosity, asked them about her face… And they told me it was a birthmark and that she gets picked on about it a lot.

After their ride I walked them back over to their grandparents car and I said to the little girl How come you didn’t want to go for a ride? And she said well the boys always say that that kind of stuff is just for boys not for girls…

I laughed and said You know, there are girl farmers AND I even had a young girl in that cab just yesterday. Would you like a ride? She looked at her Grandma and she said go ahead if you want.

I then asked the grandmother if she had a smartphone and knew how to video… She laughed and said I have grandchildren of course I know how to video… So I told her have your phone ready and when you see me turn on the yellow flashing lights video the combine.

The little girl and I got in the cab and I turned the machine around and went back into the field at the end of it and came back facing her grandparents vehicle. I then said to her…here.. you can turn the steering wheel… she first looked at me like I was on crack cocaine… But I finally convinced her and I told her not everybody gets to do this but people that are part of the special face Club definitely get to…but its a secret reason why you get to drive so you cant tell anyone. We even pinky swore on it…

The smile she had made this old tired grumpy mans heart soft and there must have been some Bean dust in the cab because my allergies started acting up just a little bit… So I let her “steer” and turned on the yellow lights on the way back so her Grandma could video tape her “driving by”.

We got out of the combine and she still had a huge smile on her face and ran over to her grandma and was a little Chatterbox did you see me did you see me I got to drive I got to drive… Her brothers were obviously a little miffed… And ask her why she got to drive… I was afraid she was going to tell them why… But with all the sass of a little brunette girl with her hair in a pony she looked at them both matter-of-factly and said Because girls CAN farm.

My allergies started acting up a little bit again as she came back running over to me and gave me a huge hug and told me thank you… The grandfather came over and patted me on the shoulder shook my hand said I don’t know what you said to her…but that’s the biggest smile we’ve seen on her this vacation so far… the boys shook my hand and thanked me and got back into the vehicle and drove away… Leaving me to my thoughts

And all I could think of was if one of the combines hadnt broke down yesterday, I wouldn’t have been in that field this morning, and I wouldnt have been by myself and we would have been really pushed wherever we were at to keep up with everything…and it proved to me once again everything happens for a reason…

All three of their faces were on my mind the rest of the day but mostly hers… not because of her birthmark, because of her genuine smile in the confidence that she showed when she got to get out of that combine and “brag” a little to the boys.

My gramps told me long ago to always be patient with children and people you come in contact with. I remember the countless times that he would let me “drive” the tractor… and the exhilaration and happiness that I felt during that time… And I swore that I was going to make other people feel that way when I got older… and I’ve definitely failed at that numerous times.. but I’m trying..

But, Im kind of thinking maybe that’s what I did today or maybe that little girl made me feel like that little boy with his Gramps all those years ago.

30 minutes out of 24 hours… I need to do that more often….

Today was a good day… and one I shall not soon forget.

Bolts in Your Leg-The Unintended Symptom of Life!

I remember the day I received the call from my daughter Sarah. “Dad…I bought a motorcycle!”

Like every good parent I responded with a lie. “That’s awesome Sarah!” All the while imagining the worst regarding my firstborn, my long anticipated and longed for baby girl. Oh, the concerns are the same whether your baby girl is 10 years old or, well, let’s just say one that has over-extended the age of 30 by some.

To be fair, it wasn’t a total fabrication of excitement for her purchase. Having rode a few motorcycles in my day, I understood the rush of riding, holding on to all that instant power-raw and exposed as you are. I saw pictures of her motorcycle and had a sudden pulse of “bike envy.”

In fact, the longer I let it sink in regarding Sarah and a motorcycle…the more accepting the risk seemed to be. She has looked for a defining niche. That life style that one can sink their teeth into and embrace with every nuance presented. The camaraderie of a club, a movement, the rides with like-minded risk-takers. I was suddenly thrilled for Sarah. I was proud of her for not accepting status quo as a concession prize of mere existence! “That’s right, Sarah Hall…do not settle for the mundane safety of daily life!”

I remember the day I received the call from my daughter Sarah. “Dad, I’m in the hospital. I’ve had a motorcycle accident.” She adds quickly, “Its not life threatening!”

As I’ve sat in her hospital room, I have turned that phrase over in my mind in nearly every meaning context possible. “It’s not life threatening.”

And certainly physically speaking, she will most likely live from the affectual intentions of a shattered tibia bone.

But several things speak to me as I watch a loving and worrisome mother stand guard over her daughter in her season of weakness. Parents do not have the luxury of accepting easily risk-taking decisions by our children. It is not in our parental DNA to do so with any measure of calm. The fear and pain-assimilation exhibited by my daughter’s mom is nothing short of reality in expression. Her heart is now visibly beating outside her chest for all to see…and feel. Dads may indeed mask it with jokes and stupid sentences, but inwardly the breath has left our body.

Life-threatening does not only relate to the potential outcome of life-ending.

Our lives, in these situations, will most likely hold the threat of financial setback. This can be immediate and often include collateral damage. A mother who takes a leave of absence from a much needed income. No insurance covers that. No army could stop her. Parents, step parents, siblings, and friends stepping out and reaching up for resources to assist and prove their care and concern.

Life-threatening in regard to your future plans. This lifestyle may be altered. “Do I continue to ride?” The answer might seem like a no-brainer to Sarah’s mom and dad….but, remember: biking is her passion. It defined her to others, and more importantly: to herself! That may be the real cost of the term “life-threatening!”

I would be surprised, as Sarah is bemoaning her pain and discomfort of having four bolts and a playground jungle-gym attached into her leg, a blood clot, and lungs filled with fluid; if many of these paralyzing thoughts are not also taking her breath away. Sometimes the greatest life threat can be imagining how life may be forever altered. It is the stepping from one season to the next…one unseen and untested…wondering if when the leg heals, will I still have my footing?

Some of us are blessed with very clear “watershed” moments presented to us in undeniable fashion. A chance to prove and test our mettle…to be an example of fortitude and embracing of change without reservation.

If I were to speak to my daughter, my firstborn, the girl who first taught me to be a father…I would say with clarity:

“Sarah…this is a life-threatening injury! It threatens to change everything about you to this point. It is a single moment of hours of reflection. It will be a snap shot of who you have been and who you will become, as you reflect back in a future day.

You have proven your bravery in taking risks that threaten life’s status quo. You have moved to new lands and acquired life standing friends. You have faced down financial ruin more than once and found a way to say, ” not today!” You chose a lifestyle of risk with power and possibilities…it offered confidence and fiber of truth.

Sarah, you only need to trust yourself to make decisions that embolden who you are and who you will be. Yes, you will walk with crutches…but do not need them in your life to be happy, capable, and truly inventive.

This is your watershed moment. Realize it’s unintended pain as an intentional valued friend. A friend who doesn’t speak what you want to hear, but challenges you to step into a new light…one you have not yet conceived as possible.

Sarah…these bolts in your leg are not life-threatening! They are life-altering and symptoms of what it takes to stretch beyond the ordinary. And know this, my daughter, those who love you no matter what you do, will be standing by to cheer you on to greater levels of living! My only fear for you today is that you will allow fear to overtake you. God has written, ” you have not been given a spirit of fear, but of of strength, power, and a sound mind.” Be bold to take the reigns of the rest of your life. Be in this moment for all your worth!”

I Love You,


A $100 Grave

Yesterday, in the chill damp mist of the early afternoon, I met a man I’ve never met before and may never see again. We met down a narrow lane off of a muddy gravel road in nearly the center of rural Iowa-Boone County; to be precise enough. Only two other people on earth knew we were meeting. His vehicle pulled into the empty parking some 15 minutes post my own arrival. My truck was evident, though it’s silver color on the misty overcast day nearly made it unremarkable in presence. As the man exited his SUV, his appearance was as I expected: thin, coat and tie, and appearance disheveled in a small town sort of way. I opened my door and met him in the mist of grayness and simultaneously greeted and shook his hand.

I asked him a question I have never before uttered to another soul and it struck me as a peculiar moment: “How much for a grave?” His answer was as simple as my question and equally peculiar as a course of conversation: “It is a $100 grave.”

So let me review. Yesterday, on a misty afternoon in the center of rural Iowa, I paid a man $100 cash for the location where my grieving friends and family will deposit my body or ashes after the breathe of mortality leaves my body for all time.

I then walked over and stood on the dirt that will be shoveled over a box holding my remains, and I turned 360 degrees so as to take in the panorama of my graveside view.

A couple thoughts seeped into the strangeness of this moment.

First, I couldn’t believe I bought a burial plot for a mere $100. The familiar adage, “you get what you pay for,” seemed oddly mistaken as I looked at the substance, scope, and breadth of my cash purchase. I couldn’t imagine that Forest Lawn looks much different , though perhaps less creeping charley.

Secondly…I reviewed life expectancy statistics, and proceeded to calculate how long it would be before my three kids would bury my remains, chuckling as my son recounts for his sisters the infamous story of my “water slide” adventure. I always enjoy their epic laughter as they imagine that moment of my horror. It is a family favorite.

Finally I reach for some spiritual insights to ponder as I stand upon my $100 grave. Scripture records, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread til you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis3:19)

My dust infused into this 6 x 6 plot doesn’t change it much. In actuality, I’m paying $100 for perpetual lawn mowing!!

But then remembered that Joseph of Arithamea (John 19:38-42) also bought a new grave that was only used for three days. Certainly, a grave priced at any amount divided by the number of moments three days accumulates, would be a very expensive grave indeed.

Scripture, in fact, insinuates that my dust will NOT stay in the grave in perpetuity! (1 Corinthians 15:51f) “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed….thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

So why the necessity of a $100 plot of ground?

I turned and saw my parents grave stone and saw the date of my dad’s death.

It is at this place that I review the sacred. I ponder what worship really means to me. I examine my life fails in the light of profound future grace. I release anxieties of temporal life in exchange for eternal promises.

It is at this place I come knees bent in the reality of how brief my time was with someone I really loved. It is at this place I rejoice as I am reminded of how much of him is in me. I can weep here without reservation. I can only sing eternal songs from this place…from my soul.

This $100 grave, in the center of Iowa, is for the living to glimpse the eternal! Priceless!

Saint Iola…set apart!

“I’ve been too busy,” was the reply I offered when asked if I have written anything lately. The answer given, though partially correct, must give ground to the truth of the matter: I have hidden myself from inspiration!

There are many strata of things that inspire. Minor notes of inspiration do not often compel one to such things as writing prose, composing music, or finding cures for common ills. No, rather, they make you pause and smile and perhaps briefly reflect on a similar memory or shared occasion. Major inspirations knock you down, bones to ground, with an overwhelming and inherent necessity to leap buildings in a single bound…for a cause greater than oneself.

Enter stage right: Saint Iola!

Now Saint Iola accidentally popped into my viewfinder suddenly though I was previously aware of her existence. In fact…spoke with her not sixty minutes prior. But this incident of inspiration that would be classified as somewhere between minor and major in its impelling characteristics, became an astounding “in-the-moment” awareness. A flash of clarity that included early life memories…the kind that you know changed who you had become. Chew on that for a minute or two, because if it doesn’t hit you “in-the-moment” then it can be somewhat complex.

And in addition, it seems that inspiration hits me when I visit my mom in the care center in my home town more often than not. Maybe because I have great respect for the generations that have paved my pathways and allowed to acquire gifts that only they could give. Maybe it’s the plight of the suffering of aged ones, who find themselves alone at a time of life they most need someone. Possibly it’s watching care givers who give to those in great need regardless of the glamorous duty they are presented. Truly, all of those realities make me reflect on my blessings and at the same time feel humbled by their evidential status of greatness exceeding my own inadequacies.

It was in this place that I “saw” Saint Iola for the set-apart one that she is.

Iola was my sixth grade Sunday School teacher…for more than a few years for many of us because we loved her so. She didn’t teach so much as she exhibited behavior and compelled us to emulate her example. She led us on a path of self and God discovery and showed us where those paths could merge…indeed with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Now it was several years later that my relationship with Christ was confirmed…but sixth grade was when we understood its veracity and our necessity.

Now many of my Catholic friends are scratching their heads and looking up in the canonical lists of saints the name “Iola.” Probably you will not see it as Iola is still among the living. My Protestant friends may argue as to whether a person should be called a Saint rather than a believer if they are not a messianic Jew. Well I’m not going to parse those particular hairs on either head…as it degrades from the intent of my in-the-moment experience earlier today.

David Foster Estes offers this adequate description of the label ” Saint:”

When God consecrates and claims moral beings for Himself and His service, He demands that they should go on to be fit for and worthy of the relation in which He has placed them, and so we read of certain actions as performed “worthily of the saints” (Romans 16:2) and as such “as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3). The thought of the holy character of the “saints,” which is now so common as almost completely to obscure the real thought of the New Testament writers, already lay in their thinking very close to their conception of saintship as consecration by God to be His own.

Iola was gracious, humble, firm, knowing, and loved without reservation the charges that God presented in service to Him! She was one consecrated by God and set apart to service. And she spent her life in the pursuit of God.

It was the clarity of that fact that I saw and was immediately thrust “in-the-moment” where time stood still and I instantly saw her as God intended for me.

Saint Iola…I am humbled and grateful in your presence because you show me Jesus…even today, 48 years later!

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