•April 15, 2014 • 10 Comments


Recently Dr. Henry Cloud tweeted that, “Certainty is one of the weakest positions in life. Curiosity is one of the most powerful. Certainty prohibits learning, curiosity fuels change.”

The glasses in the photo above are very much like the ones I wore for years during the eighties. Sort of Brown Bannister/John Lennon glasses. Decades ago. There is no shortage of questions in life. Sometimes, however, it feels like there is a shortage of answers. Things of which I felt certain as I looked at my world through those glasses are not necessarily so certain now. Or at least they have been questioned in one way or another since then.

I am currently reading a book by Erwin McMannus called “The Artisan Soul” and am challenged by this thought he shares:  “I see this reality all around me — men and women who refuse to stop growing, dreaming, and risking. In some ways, it’s like a second childhood with all the benefits of the wisdom accumulated over time. You need both the wisdom and the wonder…”  

May you find ways to live with both certainty and curiosity today. To grow, dream, and risk with both wisdom and wonder.

“To be wise is to be eternally curious.”   – Frederick Buechner



Warming Trends

•March 2, 2014 • 3 Comments

One of those things that many of us love up here in the northlands is that change-of-the-seasons thing. And at this point in our winter, the change is the thing we might most be longing for. Tonight there is a predicted record low for March 2nd of -22 degrees. That’s without the wind, of course. It has been a relatively long stretch of winter with way too many days and nights of below-zero temperatures.

Yet there are subtle signs of change of season starting to happen. Although the landscape has been laden with heavy snow and ice for a long while, there are occasional hints at the increasing power of the sunlight, as days get longer and nights get shorter. As the sun’s rays hit the snow on the south sides of the roof, out of the wind, there is melting that occurs. Such as the icicle photo. Even on days with temperatures near zero, ice melts and water droplets cannot resist the pull of gravity. There is some beauty in that. Some hope.

I have always been one of those who love the change into Spring. It is just a more hopeful time of year somehow. And I don’t think I am alone when it comes to that kind of longing, at least for those of us up in the tundra, as I call it. With it comes more freedom, more energy, more movement, more creativity. It is time.

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“For behold, the winter is past…the flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”   – Song of Solomon 2:11-12

Coloring: In & Outside the Lines.

•December 10, 2013 • 5 Comments


I am in a writing mode these days. Hopefully a creative writing mode.  Trying to compile another project that is in some ways similar to “Thirty-One Days” that I completed last year.  Photography and journal-like writing. Quotations from authors that change me. Scripture. Perhaps even written prayer.


I’ve not blogged much at all, as those of you who follow this site may or may not have noticed, but am trying to dig in to this project, tentatively called “Plateaus.” At this point I am projecting it to be a sort of Lenten meditation kind of thing. A way to travel through the season starting on Ash Wednesday and leading up the Easter. I would appreciate your prayers as I continue to grapple with expressing some of the movements of my heart…


Four Things…

•October 22, 2013 • 5 Comments

Lately there has been a wrestling in my soul. As one of my friends says, “You counselor types are always a little conflicted.” I don’t know about the always part of that assessment, but, yes, I have a certain ongoing dissonance of one sort or another. I ask questions of life, of God, of myself. Although I have a certain love and respect for mystery, I continue to seek, to question. I generally don’t take things at face value. I like to know what is under the surface, as that helps me make sense of what is more visible to the naked eye.

So my wrestling heart, mind, soul grabbed a mocha with an extra shot of espresso this morning on the way to work, and then stopped in this place not quite halfway to the office. Along the Winnebago River in Fertile, Iowa. And I just sat there with mocha in hand, camera ready, and the quiet peacefulness of running water, steadily flowing by. And it was great for me to slow down a while, relax my breathing, and think and pray intentionally instead of in the more commonly reactive way.

I didn’t get out of my Jeep today, but just snapped a few photos through open windows. These four shots are reminders to me today of things that seem worth remembering as I face life in this season: flow, roots, gateways, millstones.

When I sit at this place and listen to the sound of water FLOW past me, I am reminded that life is in some way always about movement. It doesn’t really stop or stand still, even when we slow down enough to pay attention to how it moves by us. It is fluid and that fluidity is largely beyond our control.

In the movement of life, it serves us well to be ROOTED. When much around us is moving and changing, it is necessary to have a medium out of which we take most of our nutrients for growth. I think often of Ephesians 3:17- and the encouragement to let our roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.

Although many things are out of our control, there is always choice. There are fences and boundaries, but there is also some kind of GATEWAY. Something that comes next. This is an act of faith most days, more than a response to what is visible, obvious.

And the MILLSTONE. I love and hate the millstone. I resist what its function is in my life, and yet I know that I need those things that are millstones to me. Those things that sharpen my dulled edges.  Those things that break through my protective shell and expose the substance of who I am and what I have to offer.

If I am disciplined and find or take the time in the coming days/weeks, I hope to spend more time thinking and writing about these themes: flow, roots, gateways, and the millstone. I would value your thoughts as well, if you’d like to respond…

Cats In The Cradle.

•October 14, 2013 • 7 Comments

Back when I had more hair on my head than on my back, I listened to Harry Chapin sing his timeless “Cats in the Cradle” and was changed by it somehow. True artists do that, you know. Express truth in ways that can turn us around, make us ask hard questions, and be more honest as we face the guy in the mirror.  This song paints such an accurate canvas of so many fathers and sons. There were certainly brush strokes on the canvas that depicted Norm and I. And as many young adolescent males set out to do, I determined to do some things differently than my dad and I did. Looking back at it now, I see some idealism and arrogance there [on my part]. But I also see some healthy energy. Some appropriate individualism mixed with respectful carrying on of all that my father gave to me and tried to instill in me as masculine values.

IMG_8811So this past weekend Jonathan came home from college. And although this college-kid-coming-home-for-the-weekend thing is new to us as parents, I find myself preparing to see him a little over the course of a weekend and be OK with that. Like Harry says, “Well he came home from college just the other day, so much like a man I just had to say, “Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?’ He shook his head, and then said with a smile…” You probably know the rest of that phrase.

I am just being a little more than a little grateful right now, as Jon and I had several trips to the woods and cut and split three loads of firewood. A lot of noise from the chainsaw and the blows of axes and wedges and sledge hammers, but some quiet conversation moments in the middle of it all as well. I subtly watch him work out of the corner of my eye, and I wish I had some of that stamina back. I work really hard to keep going and pretend that my shoulders and back are not as tied up in knots as they really are. [Advil has become a close friend of mine over the last years. She's just there for me like nobody else.]

Times gathered around the kitchen counter. Around the dinner table. More than just proximity. More than just eat and run. This morning I sat in the garage, near the stacks of firewood, and watched as the Chevy truck drove down the drive, on the way back to South Dakota, and was filled with a wide mix of thoughts and feelings. Way too many to type out here. Brushstrokes on a canvas that is still being painted. Each little brushstroke counts. Each moment.  Brushstrokes and moments combine over time, layer upon layer of color and texture and depth.

Alternate Route.

•October 10, 2013 • 2 Comments

While I was in the drive through waiting for a cup of coffee, my secretary called to tell me that my 9AM appointment had cancelled. I happened to have my camera along, and now, with an extra hour, coffee, and the beginning of Autumn colors all around, I started planning an alternate route to work. Stopping on the wrong side of the road, emergency flashers on, taking little side roads and turn-arounds, a couple of calls from friends, I ended up with a few glimpses of the north Iowa landscape as it looks right now. Was a great start to the day!

Even though I am not normally the “hymn guy”  any more in respect to all of the church songs I grew up singing, sometimes timeless lyrics from some of those  hymns come back to me…

“For the beauty of the Earth, For the glory of the skies, For the love which from our birth, Over and around us lies…”

There are times when the beauty of nature around me and the creation itself, point me back to the Creator. Spring and Fall are often the seasons that do this to me in the most pronounced ways. The alternate route to work this morning left me with a sense of quiet awe, and gratitude for beauty. How beauty captures my attention. How it raises my consciousness. How it puts me in a different perspective of who I am in relation to the world around me and the God of all creation.

“Lord of all to You we raise, This our hymn of grateful praise.”


•August 2, 2013 • 4 Comments

I love how this tree looks at sunset. I’ve been trying to time my commute past it for a long time, to catch the sun bringing out both the life and the death in it. Something about this tree has stirred me for months. It’s divided in a way, showing life and growth as well as death and dying. And as I age, I see the risk of this kind of division in my life. There are parts of me that seem alive and growing, and there are parts of me that look more like dying. Like death. And even though it may not be as obvious in my life as it is in this old oak tree, it is there all the same. 

 One hint telling us that we might just be at risk for the dead branch syndrome, comes when these two words leave our mouths; “I know.” Because I think we all start to die a little when we say, “I know” very often. When my kids say it to me. When my clients say it to me. When I say it to someone, anyone who might be trying to pass some  knowledge or wisdom along to me. 

In his book entitled, Humilitas, John Dickson says this; “..Chesterton argued that human pride is in fact the engine of mediocrity. It fools us into believing that we have “arrived,” that we are complete, that there is little else to learn. Humility, by contrast,…reminds us that we are small and incomplete and so urges us on toward the heights of artistic, scientific and societal endeavor.”


I’ve been thinking a lot about Chesterton’s few, but powerfully descriptive words; Human pride is in fact the engine of mediocrity. And I’ve been thinking about this old oak tree along Highway 9 in north Iowa. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not quite ready to have that big of a dead spot in the middle of my life. I don’t want any sort of pride from what I’ve already learned or accomplished or experienced to drive me into a state of not taking any more in. Of not letting any more out. I want to wrestle with what it means to be urged “toward the heights of artistic, scientific and societal endeavor” in my life. Right here. Right now. To be a little more childlike when it comes to looking at life with wonder. With a sense of optimism and expectation. In the words of Anne Lamott, “I was once again the world’s oldest toddler.” There is still much to learn and experience in our lives. There is much to offer. And that will likely not happen when we face life with our arms crossed and lips dripping with the words, “I know.”


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