How The Nature Of Man Affects The Nature Of Our Marriage Relationship

It was one of those sleeps that when you wake up it takes a few minutes for everything to come into focus.  God had caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, removed a rib from his side and used it to fashion Eve.  It’s uncertain what first caught Adam’s eye but one thing is certain, Eve was striking.  “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of man.”  The Genesis account teaches us about the nature of man and the nature of the marriage relationship.

From chapter two we know that God placed Adam in the Garden second only to Him; to maintain and care for it.  Specifically, God gave Adam the responsibility to name all of the animals.  The power to name is the power to lead.  Part of man’s nature is that he is a leader.

As Adam was naming and cataloging the creation, certainly he noticed Mr. and Mrs. Giraffe and Mr. and Mrs. Rhinoceros and Mr. and Mrs. Alligator, etc…  Watching the creation propagate the earth, Adam realized that he had no counter part.  However, life in the Garden was helping develop the second nature of man; creation was teaching Adam to love even before Eve was made.   Part of man’s nature is that he is a lover.

Listen up:  How we lead and how we love affects the nature of our marriage relationship, which is also found in Genesis.

One of the natures of relationship found in Genesis is that there’s a partnership.  Eve was fashioned from one of Adam’s ribs; part of him.  In a marriage, there’s a partnership.

The second nature is found in 2:24-25, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family.  The man and his wife were both naked, but they were not ashamed.”  Genesis 2:24-25

Another translation says that the two ‘will become one flesh’.  In this case of the union of husband and wife, when the two become one, there’s permanency; the second nature of marriage relationship.

Let’s put this all together:  How we lead and how we love affects the nature of our marriage relationship, which is partnership and permanency.

Stop and think about any marital strife you’ve experienced.  No matter what it is, the strife can be traced back either to a failure in leadership or a lack of love.

Here’s a sampling of common strifes gripping marriages that I encounter almost weekly as a pastor:

Arguing over finances?  Poor leadership.

Extramarital affair?  Lack of love.

Addictions?  Poor leadership and lack of love.

Drifted or grown apart?  Poor leadership and lack of love.

Lack of convictions or godly values?  Poor leadership.

Differences in parenting styles?  Poor leadership and lack of love.

A failure in leadership or a lack of love can and will affect a marriage partnership and its permanency.  Let us lead and love well.

God’s Expectation: Be A Good Steward!

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a Gatorade bottle being placed on the ground through the cracked driver’s door of a running Honda Passport.  I witnessed the sequence of a pulled back hand, a closed-door and the appearance of backup lights indicating the exit of an individual apparently ignorant of what it means to be a proper steward of the earth.

The next moment found my index finger tapping on the driver’s side glass and my eyes meeting the sheepish stare of a caught litterbug.  The driver opened her door slightly and I opened my mouth.

“Are you really going to litter like that?”, I asked.

“It was his bottle,” she responded, pointing to someone in the back seat.

Somewhat dissatisfied with her answer and noticing three other pupils, I asked again.

“Are you really going to litter like that?”

“No,” she said embarrassingly picking up the bottle.

This entire conversation occurred in the parking lot of Redamak’s in New Buffalo, on the shores of Lake Michigan.  I flew to the area to attend meetings at Willow Community Church 25 miles northwest of Chicago.  I had just finished having dinner with friends who live in the area when I exited the restaurant and headed to the back of the building where the main parking lot is situated.  Those who know me know that I’m no environmentalist in the political sense of that word.  However, I do believe God expects us to exercise proper stewardship of the world.

God is the Creator who loves and cares for nature, but not over His love and care for humanity.  Man, above all created things, has been given stewardship responsibilities over the earth.  After the debacle in the garden, enmity developed between man and nature.  As a result, Adam was forced to exploit his physical environment to survive.  This is one of the many effects of sin.

The Christ-follower’s view of the environment needs to be garnered as God intended it.  Understand that the natural flora in which God placed Adam required no exploitation for him to survive; everything for sustenance was provided.  Genesis 1:28 teaches us, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.”  The words, ‘subdue’ and ‘rule’ were given to Adam before he sinned and contextually cannot give us permission to abuse and distort nature.  On the contrary, the context promotes stewardship.

Biblical stewardship is probably best illustrated with the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).  The scriptural definition of stewardship is caring for someone else’s property with the goal of improving that property.  So subduing and ruling, with regard to the environment, mean caring for God’s property as God’s chosen steward, thereby making it better.  We are to intelligently manage the resources God has given us, using all diligent care to preserve and protect them.

The Bible also teaches that God did not create nature primarily for man’s use.  The earth and everything in it are God’s and for His good pleasure (Psalm 24:1).  Throughout scripture, God demonstrates that He personally cares for nature and finds absolute joy in His creation (Psalm 104:10-14).

As followers of Christ, we should be known as good and proper stewards of God’s creation.  Begin today subduing the earth as God intended – as a diligent steward.  Rule over all created things, as a conscientious steward.  This was God’s expectation for Adam and subsequently, it is God’s expectation for us.

Praying for you.

Job’s Resolve

Without a doubt, the story of Job is one of the most mesmerizing, puzzling and unpopular narratives in the Bible.  Job was a godly, moral and blameless man whose life personifies a bad movie script.  In Scene One, everything he owns is stripped from him.  Then, some freak desert tornado incises the house where his kids are having a shindig, collapsing the roof and smothering everyone inside except one courier.  As if that isn’t enough, Scene Two leaves Job scraping his carcass with glass just to relieve pain left by head to toe lesions.  Torture, agony and despair are inferior words that pale in comparison to the reality of the situation.

Job is a universal and personal story; a tale, perhaps, too close to home.  It’s conceivable to cry, sympathize and identify with Job because we are not sheltered by unspeakable pain.  I’m encouraged by Job.  His life is a profile of courage in the face of adversity.  He did not give up on his character, give in to his pain, or give way to Satan.

I’d like draw attention to Job’s resolve in Job 31:1, “I made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I entertain thoughts against a virgin?”   This verse and resolve, seems oddly placed considering the underlying message of the Book of Job.  But, follow me here…

Job has been running on reserves for a while now.  Like anyone in his situation, Job is confused and hurt, both emotionally and physically.   About out of gas, he begins to reminisce; hoping someone left behind five gallons of fuel for him to find.  There’s got to be something there to help him get through another day.

Like an artist, Job paints a picture of his former happiness.  He was prosperous; even his foot print showed evidence of abundance.  Job’s riches, benevolence and kind treatment of the needy had earned him respect.  Reports of his philanthropy could be heard in the neighboring towns and back patters were on every corner.  Gone.  They’re all gone.  It’s all gone; reduced to a distant memory.  There isn’t any lasting happiness to be mined in the days gone by.  In this life you cannot retrace former footsteps to pick fruit from a joy tree.  Your feet will trod wherever your eyes lead.  Job, the former no longer remains – it’s gone – so why go looking for it?  There’s a reason God put eyes in the front of our heads.

Job is in a dangerous and precarious position right now.  Ask any alcoholic.  Inquire of anyone addicted to pornography.  Question anyone struggling with an abusive lifestyle and they’ll tell you they’re hardest hit with temptation when their emotional tank is nearing empty.  Job’s emotional tank was depleted and lust came crouching at the door of his mind.  Consider Job’s resolve again from Job 31:1, “I made a covenant with my eyes, how then could I entertain thoughts against a virgin?”  It makes more sense now, doesn’t it?

Now, let’s apply this to men universally.  Guys, any time we’re tired, hungry or lonely we are more susceptible to temptation.  You don’t have to be an alcoholic to be tempted by alcohol.  Incidentally, you don’t have to be addicted to pornography to be tempted by images on your computer screen.  Our enemy, the devil, knows that when fatigue, hunger or loneliness bumps into temptation all men are at risk.

Pray and ask God to give you the resolve of Job.  Know, understand and manage your tipping points.  Don’t give the enemy a foothold in your life.  Quit trying to convince yourself that you deserve “it” because “it” always leads to sin, regret and pain.  There isn’t a man on the planet who doesn’t need accountability in at least one area of his life that is prone to sin.  For Job, obviously it was lust.  For you, I don’t know.  For me, well, that’s between me and my accountability group.

The Shoe

It’s been nearly six months since Selena and I spent our 20th Anniversary in Playa Hermosa in the country of Costa Rica. Someone described Costa Rica as like visiting the Niagara Waterfalls, the Grand Canyon, the Amazon River, and Hawaii all in one place. The dramatic landscape is filled with great variance because it is between two continents and two oceans. This convergence of land and water makes the region a great bottleneck, rich in ecological diversity.

The first full day in Costa Rica was spent where you’d expect – the beach. While at the beach I found this green suede sneaker wedged between two rocks. I’ve often wondered what the story is behind that shoe. Who did it belong to? Where did it hail from? How did it get there? The following paragraphs are my imaginary answers to these questions:

The Shoe:

It’d been a few weeks since he saw Rose who decided the two hour drive from Memphis to her sister’s house in Tupelo wasn’t out of the question. She had just suffered for twenty clicks of the annual marathon sponsored by St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Twenty-six point two miles translated into five hours of nothing better to do than reminisce about the events of the last year and search for anything that would remind her why this challenge meant so much. The last time Rose and Mary were together was when their father died eleven months earlier. He was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer delivered by a brain tumor; lasting only five of the predicted fourteen weeks. Watching the cancer syphon their father’s life was like watching a cruel wino guzzle a bottle he just stole from the corner liquor store. It would be good to see Mary.

To Dirk, the most striking thing about Rose wasn’t her plenteous beauty but the affectionate, placid way she approached life. It was her mild nature he was uncontrollably gathered to the moment they met at the book store on West Main in downtown Charlottesville. Something from Burke’s seemed appropriate for his soon-to-graduate-from-high-school cousin Mitch whom he remembered being a better than average student. Seeing Rose perusing a library of best-sellers a few aisles over seemed predetermined. It was one of those euphoric moments with rays of light accompanied by a cheery crescendoing chord he was sure everyone in the store saw and heard. However, neither light, music nor other patrons seemed to deter Dirk as a book by John Grisham instantly rose to the top of his list of lame gift ideas. As fate would have it, Dirk just finished his transaction when Rose and he met at the exit of the store.

Offering to get the door for her was something her father would have done for her mother, thought Rose. In an instant, Rose was taken to a surreal place watching her deceased parents interact only to be interrupted as quickly as it began by Dirk’s next words.

“So, you like books?”, a question he immediately regretted. Rose’s giggle seemed to relieve at least some of the pressure caused by his shoe fighting with his tongue for space in his ever narrowing mouth.

“Why would you ask that?”  continuing the giggle…

Relieved that his first question wasn’t ignored altogether and knowing the impasse his previous inquest was about to create, he quickly took a different angle.

“I was hoping to get a present for my cousin who’s graduating next week from high school”, he said wondering if she’d even care.

“And, were you successful?”

“Yes, Grisham’s latest work…”

The fact that John Grisham makes a home in Charlottesville made this gift for Mitch a bit too cliche’ but Dirk didn’t care given his present circumstances.

The conversation remained light and exploratory until Dirk and Rose were suddenly snapped into reality by the loud voice of a tennis coach teaching a group of students at Forest Hills Park some nine or ten blocks away from Burke’s Book Store. Dirk was as surprised as Rose at their current location since neither of them lived in that general direction. In fact, Dirk drove downtown for his graduation shopping trip and was in and out of many of the downtown stores. Rose, on the other hand, lived in an apartment on nearby Church Street within walking distance to her job at Martha Jefferson Hospital, the bookstore and the newly discovered Forest Hills Park.

What was it about Dirk that allowed Rose to walk aimlessly with a perfect stranger to a park she’d never been to before? As the thought was resonating in her mind, Dirk asked if he could buy her lunch. “There’s a quaint Chinese restaurant near the bookstore that I passed while shopping”, he offered. “Do you have time to get something to eat?” Rose was familiar with Yaun Ho Chinese Restaurant and had eaten there before. It was quaint, she was enjoying herself and she was hungry… Within moments they were walking again volleying questions like the tennis ball they’d been watching a few minutes before.

Sitting at the table, Rose couldn’t help but notice the resemblance of some of Dirk’s features compared to her father’s. She missed him. It had been three months since he was laid to rest with full military honors at Morningside Cemetery in Brattleboro, Vermont. It was Dirk’s strong yet seemingly gentle eyes that Rose first noticed as they were exiting Burke’s. Next was his square chin that housed straight white teeth. “Daddy’s eyes and chin…” the thought of which brought her an ever increasing sense of comfort and security; things she’d been missing for a while now. Rose’s probing conversation resembled something less than an interview but something more than just casual interest.  The two shared about their childhood, teenaged and young adult lives until the meal began arriving; first egg drop soup followed by a couple other courses.

After lunch, Dirk quickly snatched up the check and distributed the strangely unwrapped fortune cookies. Scanning the bill gave Rose the permission to open her cookie first. “Do not mistake temptation for opportunity” was the equivalent of a fire hose set on a Weber grill with briquettes barely producing white edges. As they were sharing an awkward and nervous laugh together, Dirk reluctantly began to crack open his light dessert comprised of flour, sugar and vanilla. “How could a perfect morning and seeming perfect afternoon be ruined by six lousy words on a little piece of pink paper?”, thought Dirk.  “Who makes up this stuff anyway?”

The next six letters couldn’t have been more disturbing:  HELP ME!

As confusion was beginning to grip Dirk’s countenance, he passed the feeble paper to Rose who after reading it scanned the restaurant for anyone in a desperate situation or hidden cameras thinking possibility they were on a TV reality show and didn’t know it.

“What do you suppose it means”, Rose whispered?

“I’m not sure. Do you think it’s a joke?”

“Hard to say”, not remembering anything about the waitress that seemed out of place. “Look at this paper…it’s white and the note is hand written. What should we do?”

“I’m not sure right now”, said Dirk. “Let’s get out of here and talk about it outside. We can’t risk anyone overhearing us right now.” Near the exit, Dirk made special notice of the cashier as he paid for lunch wondering if she wrote the note or acted strange in any way. “I’m freaked out”, Rose offered as they quickly scampered away from the regal memory being forged at Yuan Ho’s. The thieving hand written note was about to change their lives in ways they were unprepared for.

Outside the restaurant there was a strange sense of normalcy as they stood on the sidewalk trying to decide which direction to go. The warm, humid air outside mixed with anxious sweat slapped Dirk in the face like a soaked dish towel. Two things kept him from running away; one no more obvious than the other.

“What should we do?”, asked Rose. Hesitating for only a moment Dirk said, “I think we should look around. I’ll explore behind the restaurant in the alley and you stay here. Here is my cell number. What’s yours?” The reality of the situation made him regret asking for Rose’s number that way. “If we see anything strange text me or I’ll text you and we’ll meet again. I’m only going to the back of the building.” The couple exchanged cell numbers and Dirk headed to the alley separating Main Street and Maury Avenue while Rose tried not looking suspicious near the front of the restaurant.

The non-public nature of an alley keeps it dingy. The lack of light, collection of trash and narrow passages are enough to add caution to any one’s momentum. Turning into the alley, Dirk was asking himself, “which one of these is Yuan’s?” Since none of the doors were labeled, he found himself counting spaces and comparing them with his very limited knowledge of the store fronts on the street side. “It’s got to be one of these”, Dirk thought choosing one of three doors.

Finally, Dirk narrowed it down to one door concluding a restaurant would be throwing away food that would be dripping grease and juices on the ground, which would collect more dirt, grim and dust than one discarding non-food items. The path in front of this door was darker presumably from collecting more dirt and grim which seemed to match his conclusion. “This has to be the restaurant, but now what do I do”, Dirk silently asked himself as he noticed a rusty ladder five feet from the ground affixed to the side of the building on the opposite side of the alley. The ladder led to a metal deck about two stories above the restaurant door and could provide a decent vantage point in which to view any suspicious activity. Without a moments hesitation, Dirk used his arms to begin climbing the ladder until his feet touched the bottom rung and quickly approached the deck. Getting onto the platform, he sat down; back against the wall, facing the restaurant door and pulled out his cell phone.

Sending Rose a text, Dirk wrote, “Dirk here. In the alley and found a place to watch from about 2 stories up. What are you doing?” After pushing send on his phone Dirk started noticing other things about the alley that might prove helpful during the stakeout. His platform was just one in this series of platforms and one of several other sets of ladders and platforms throughout the alley on both sides. Also, handle-less metal doors seemed to provide egress onto the platforms but would need to be opened from the inside. As he began wondering what was inside his door, his phone vibrated.  It was Rose.

“I’m scared.  I don’t know what I’m doing.” Dirk responded, “Can you come back here? If so, I’ll meet you on the ground and help you up the ladder.” A few seconds later his phone produced this reply, “OK”. Dirk responded, “I’ll meet you in the alley. Come quickly.”

Within seconds, Dirk was descending from his observation deck. He felt like a fish out of water waiting for Rose who decided running would attract too much unneeded attention. Every second seemed like ten and Dirk struggled to act naturally when someone from the other side of the alley opened their door, emptied the trash and looked suspiciously his way before disappearing through the same door.

Just as Dirk was beginning to wonder what happened to Rose, she approached him from the opposite direction he expected which startled him. Together they approached the ladder and Dirk helped Rose get her foot on the first rung. Hearing Rose climb and making sure the no one was watching them make their way to the platform, Dirk grabbed the ladder and started his ascend.

The haste of the moment robbed Dirk of the opportunity to give Rose instructions about how to actually get onto the deck at the top of the ladder which ended about twelve inches above the surface of the platform. Getting onto the deck proved to be a little tricky for Rose who paused until Dirk was right below her and could tell her what to do. “Just get to the top of the ladder, put your hands onto the deck and pull yourself up.” Rose’s beauty was equalled by her frailty. Her upper body strength was barely sufficient to pull herself through the twenty-eight inch square hole cut into the expanded metal deck.

Just as Rose made it to the platform, Dirk heard someone opening the restaurant door. The only part of his body not frozen were his eyes which he used to watch someone wearing a white apron carry out two loads of trash and smoke a cigarette. Seeing the alley door close gave Dirk permission to break his frozen state. Since Dirk was at the top of the ladder, he pulled himself onto the platform. Using the wall for extra leverage, he clipped his heal on the metal deck while he pulled his leg through the opening which jarred his shoe loose and sent it tumbling to the ground below. In Dirk’s mind, the shoe couldn’t have crashed any slower.  The few choices he had at that instant narrowed to one when the restaurant door opened again leaving Dirk and Rose in frozen animation and exposed.  It was the apron wielding restaurant worker coming out to smoke another cigarette.

It takes the average person seven minutes to finish a cigarette. Considering it would take all of one second for the restaurant worker to notice the shoe, he had about four hundred and twenty opportunities to do so.

To Be Continued…

The Morning After

The combined scent of insect repellent, sun screen and munitions is especially aromatic at 12:30 in the morning.  There I stood – a place where minutes earlier thousands had observed bright lights ruling the skies synchronized to modern melodies and broadcast throughout our fair city during an event called Celebrate Freedom – a community outreach sponsored by Harvest Church.  The hanging smoke left an eerie scene as the portable light poles broadcast luminance throughout the breadth of the park.

Fast forward a few hours of abhorrent sleep and now I’m back at the park; full day-light and ready to put this event to rest.  Gathered with a handful of post-event volunteers, we set out with trash bags to pick up the remains left by the crowd the day before.  I wondered what was going through the mind of the metal detector jockey watching me gather scattered debris as I watched her intently searching for anything as slight as a coin bearing the image of Abraham Lincoln.

Take a long look at this picture.  Imagine, if you can, how this water bottle was forced into this shape.  Imagine the energy it took to manipulate the molecules in this plastic for it to remain in this condition long after the handler’s will was exacted upon it.  Now, imagine where I found this bottle; thoughtlessly discarded thirty-feet from a red recycle bin and forty-feet from a faithful black trash can.

All this trash picking has left me thinking about the human condition.  Why do people litter?  Are people really that lazy? Is it accidental?  Or do they just not care?  My friend Duffy offers the infractors the benefit of thinking it’s mostly accidental.  Maybe; because 94% of people polled think that littering is an important environmental issue.

We live in a plastic convenience culture; virtually every human being on this planet uses plastic materials directly and indirectly every single day.  Our children begin life on earth by using some 210 milion pounds of plastic diaper liners each year.  We give them plastic milk bottles, plastic toys, and buy their food in plastic jars, paying with plastic credit/debit cards.

Every year we eat and drink from some thirty-four billion newly manufactured bottles and containers.  We patronize fast food restaurants and buy products that consume another fourteen billion pounds of plastic.  In total, our Nation produces an estimated sixty billion tons of plastic material every year.  Each of us, on average, uses 190 pounds of plastic annually:  bottled water, fast food packaging, furniture, syringes, computers and CD’s, DVD’s, packing materials, garbage bags and so much more.

When you consider that this plastic does not biodegrade and remains in our ecosystems permanently, we are looking at an incredibly high volume of accumulated plastic trash that has been building up since the 1950’s.

The truth is, we all know about the problem.  Now its time to act on it.  But if you already do have proper and responsible waste disposal habits, remember that you can make a difference by encouraging others to follow your example.  When we dispose of our garbage properly, instead of polluting our environment, it does more than just help keep our locale neat and tidy – it makes you feel like you’re making a difference.


I met a guy a couple weeks ago named Richard in the Elkhorn Yacht Club parking lot on Thanksgiving day.  My eyes were fixed on him as he fiddled with some fishing gear at the tailgate of his rusty, vintage 1970’s Ford pickup.  After several minutes, I approached him and asked if I could take his picture.  Specifically I asked, “Sir, do you mind if I take your picture?”

“Yes, I mind” was his quick reply.

However dissatisfied with his answer, I compliantly said, “ok”.

As I was turning to walk away he asked, “Why do you want my picture?”

“It’s because you typify a sailor and I wanted a picture of a sailor.  And, I just think you look really cool.”

Responding to my compliment he said, “Ok, you can take my picture.”

I quickly snapped one shot trying to balance unfavorable luminance with Richard’s seeming crepuscular demeanor.

I put out my hand and while Richard reciprocated, I thanked him.  I mentioned living in Montana and being down at Moss Landing for Thanksgiving with my sister, a resident of California.

“Montana, hmm…Montana.  I think my son lives in Montana.  Is there a place there called, Palistal or Teliscal…?”

“You mean, Kalispell?”, I offered.

“Yeah, yeah…Kalispell.  That’s where he lives.”

Kalispell is in the northwest corner of Montana and a several hour drive from where I lay my head most nights.  It’s located seven miles from Flathead Lake and 31 miles from of Glacier National Park.  It’s a place known for ice-carved mountains and inviting beauty.

It didn’t take a detective to conclude Richard’s lack of relationship with his son.  I mean, he didn’t even know how to enunciate Kalispell…  Brining my hunch to fruition I said, “Richard, I’m just going to guess that you don’t know your son very well.  I never knew my father and it’s been the single biggest void of my life.  You need to know that it’s probably your son’s single biggest void also.”

It’s uncertain who was more stunned by my allegation.  I expected Richard to disregard my personal history lesson by getting back to his fishing tackle or worse, by throwing a hay-maker my way.  Yet, instead of enmity, Richard starred at me; obviously taken to a place 1200 miles north of our position.  He was engaged.  As he sat on the tailgate jutting out from the rear of his rust-bucket, I told him my story.  It’s a story that concludes with God, my heavenly Father, filling the void left by my earthly father.  It’s a story that illustrates God’s plan for my life through a relationship with Jesus Christ, my sin bearer.  It’s a story that offers forgiveness, understanding and hope for a better tomorrow.  It’s a beautiful story.

Our conversation ended two hours later with me inviting him to eat Thanksgiving dinner with my family.  His reaction confirmed he wouldn’t show.  He’s a loner who allowed me a rare opportunity to invade his isolation for just a couple of hours.  I encouraged him to call his son and to get reacquainted.  For Richard’s and his son’s sake, I hope he does.

The Seal That Is Changing My Life

Actually, all I could do is stare; mouth wide open getting angrier by the moment.  At a distance, the lonely seal just looked out of place, separated from the community almost as if it was ostracized.  A withdrawn seal among a community of seals – and I mean a community!  They were laying all over each other, busy and active, barking and jawing each other.  But not this one.  This one was different.  This one was detached.  This one was declining.

I recently got home from spending a week at Moss Landing over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Moss Landing is a small beach community about 10 miles north of Monterey on the central coast of California.  It’s a striking place with rocky waterfronts, coarse, sandy shores and thousands of barking sea lions.

It was Thanksgiving day.  My sister was busily preparing a wonderful feast complete with roasted turkey, wild rice and mashed potatoes.  While she was crashing pots and pans in the kitchen, I wanted to witness crashing waves.  I knew there was a dock full of sea lions about a mile away, near Elkhorn Slough, so Selena and I headed there lugging our cameras.  We gingerly strolled up the pavement barely able to hear each other talk because of the noise and breeze produced by dozens of passing vehicles annoyingly hugging the shoulder.  About the time you get to the bridge spanning the Slough is the about the time you start hearing barking seals.  Halfway across the overpass you begin seeing literally hundreds of seals bathing in the sun.  We quickly made our way to the jagged shoreline taking dozens of pictures of these extremely social mammals.

It was fun to watch them interact with each other.  They were spry, energetic and playful.  I wondered for a moment what an existence would be like with not much to care about other than when the next meal would be brought in by the tide.  The next moment was spent observing the scars left from close encounters with propellers resident on many of their backs and sides.  It was while I was agonizing over their disfigurement that I noticed one disunited, motionless seal fixed on the very edge of the dock.  I had to get a closer look.

Aided by my new vantage point, I could see the problem; a wrapped fishing line had caused a one and a half inch laceration around the seals neck.  It was dying; all because of the carelessness of a fisherman too preoccupied to care about the peril his monofilament, with a tensile strength greater than steel,  would cause.  My stomach turned as my spirit burned.  Honestly, I cannot find the words to describe how angry I was at that moment.

As I was fantasizing about the slow, painful death of the careless fisherman with my steal-like hands wrapped around his neck, I was struck with a two by four of reality.  I’m no better, except my carelessness doesn’t include fishing line.  My imprint on the environment doesn’t look like a scar on the back of some seal in central California.  My signature is left on nature every time I don’t turn the water off while I’m brushing my teeth or drinking coffee from a paper cup all because it’s more convenient than a washable mug.  Every time I lazily leave lights on I’m wasting the resources of my world.

Today, I’m more “green” than I’ve ever been.  I’m changing my life.  I’m respecting the world that God created more today than I did before this painful experience.  I’m shutting the water off when I brush my teeth.  I’m turning lights off.  I’m using a washable, ceramic mug to drink my coffee around my office.  My footprint will be smaller now because of the careless death of a California Sea Lion.  Will you join me?

Click here to see pictures of more seals and surroundings of Moss Landing.

An Attitude of Ingratitude

How often do we find ourselves prompting our children to say, “thank you”?  Whenever they’re offered a treat from a friend or someone helps them out we find ourselves asking, “Now, what do you say?”  We want our children to be respectful and use good manners, which is why we teach them to say, “thank you”. It’s funny that we need to be taught to say something so simple.

On November 1st, 1990 Fox aired an episode of the The Simpson’s depicting the family sitting down for a meal.  Before they ate, Homer asks Bart to give thanks.  Here is what Bart prays, “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.”  Undoubtedly, the producers of the show intended Bart’s prayer to be amusing.  However, I don’t think they knew they were touching on the dark side of prosperity.

After the Exodus from Egypt, God instructed the nation of Israel that He would be leading them to the land already prepared for their habitation.  It would be a land flowing with milk and honey; a land filled with vineyards and olive groves that others had planted. But God warned them that with prosperity would come the danger of forgetting God.  They would be tempted to look around at their wealth and take credit for what God had given them.  It happened.

The same mentality exists today. We relish unprecedented wealth and yet we fail to recognize that its source is God.  Why?  The short answer is sin.  We take our wealth for granted.  We feel we deserve it.  We imagine that we created it.  We are guilty of the very thing God warned the Israelites of.  We have developed an attitude of ingratitude.

Although prosperity is a blessing from God, it can have a chilling effect on our love for Him and on our gratitude for His blessings. What is the remedy? Should we give everything we own away and take a vow of poverty? That might work temporarily but it does nothing at the heart level.  Here are four observances I have been weaving into the fabric of my life as I have been converging on the fourth Thursday of November:  1)  Thankful people focus on what they have – not what they don’t have.  2)  Thankful people admit they have more than they deserve.  3)  Thankful people know that thankfulness needs to be developed.  And, 4)  Thankful people gauge blessings by things other than money.

It’s vitally important to be thankful – not just one day a year, but every day because it needs to be the pattern of our lives.  To borrow a seemingly trite question, what are you thankful for?

Uncommon Freedom

A desire for freedom…it’s what causes every eighteen year old, who checked out at age sixteen, to get their own palace after graduation.  A desire for freedom is at the core of independence.

I was in and out of the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport this week.  On my way to Concourse “A”, and walking through Concourse “C”, I noticed a middle-aged woman performing ballet in the midsection of the concourse while passerby’s struggled to avoid her flailing arms and legs.  Three thoughts expeditiously came to mind as I scurried by on the moving walkway, 1)  boy, that lady’s crazy, 2) wow, she must really like ballet and/or is really bored, and/or really needs some exercise; she even performed a pirouette as I glided by chuckling, and 3) she must be secure in who she is and is discharging a level of freedom, that most, including myself, refuse.  Perhaps she’d found the symmetry of all three.  However, 50%, 25%, and 25%, respectively, isn’t really symmetry – it just means she’s crazy…

That whole scene got me thinking about freedom.  Let’s define the term from Webster’s Dictionary.  Freedom:  the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under restraint.  Since the debacle in the Garden every person, society, and culture has been pursuing freedom.  But, freedom from what?

Adam and Eve started a dual paradox by resisting God’s command that actually led to bondage (paradox one).  And now this inherited, sin inspired bondage can only be rectified by submission (paradox two).  In other words, because of sin we are only truly free in as much as we submit to God through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  The Bible says in John 8:36, “If the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed.”  That’s the essence of the Gospel and it’s authentic freedom…


In 1957, Leave It To Beaver premiered on CBS portraying the ideal family to 171 million Americans glued to 47 million televisions in 39 million homes.  A few months later, American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark, goes national when it moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and Studio “B”.  Dwight D. Eisenhower was President.  The Pink Flamingo was created by Union Products worker, Don Featherstone.  The Gyrating rocker, Elvis Presley, emerges as one of the world’s first rock stars.  The most popular toys?  Slinkys, Hula Hoops and Frisbees. The children’s book, “Cat in the Hat” is written by Theodore Geisel as Dr. Suess and Mr. Whipple begins selling us Squeezably Soft Charmin.  Eveready markets the first AA alkaline batteries for use in portable transistor radios – cutting edge technology on both counts.

Prices were much different:  The average car sold for $2749 while the average production worker made $82.32 per week.  The cost of a first rate postage stamp was only 3 cents.  The average cost of a new house was $12,200 while the cost of renting a like home was $90 a month.  Gasoline was 24 cents a gallon.  Bacon was 60 cents a pound.  Eggs 28 cents a dozen.

A decade before my birth, 1957 was also the last year a child born in America was permitted to openly pray at the beginning of a school day in the nation’s public school system.  On June 25, l962, 39 million students were forbidden to do what they and their predecessors had been doing since the founding of our nation.  This has come at a tremendous price. The New York school children, which prompted the Engel vs. Vitale ruling, had simply prayed: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee and beg Thy blessing over us, our parents, our teachers and our nation.”  America has experienced radical decline in each of the four areas of the children’s prayer: youth, family, education, national life.

In a subsequent ruling, Abington Township School District v. Schempp, the Supreme Court of the United States declared school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools in the United States to be unconstitutional on June 17, 1963.  This too, has been costly.

Today we face what seems to be a hopeless condition in America.  Gross immorality has engulfed the land.  Crime has taken over the streets.  Sexual promiscuity and perversion fills every corner of society.  Drunkenness and drug abuse is everywhere.  God has been rejected by most of our citizens.  How far the United States has drifted?

The only hope for turning this nation back to God is for those of us who claim the name of Christ to turn back to God.  God said in 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people which are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  Let’s start praying, seeking and turning today…