The Joy of Weddings

This summer I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the nuptials of two nieces, one in Colorado and the other in California. And, thanks to both couples, I have memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Jenny & Evan

My niece Jenny is one of the most genuine people you could ever meet. She is happy, confident, loves nature, and welcomes everybody with arms open wide. Evan is a very talented musician. I admire anybody who can play the guitar and draw you into a song by the way he interprets and presents the lyrics, and Evan is one of those musicians.

Jenny and Evan exchanging their vows.

Jenny and Evan exchanging their vows.

Jenny and Evan enjoy the music scene in Grand Junction, Colorado. They also enjoy rafting, hiking and camping in the many beautiful areas of the western slope in Colorado. They are blessed with a tight group of friends, referred to as their “Friend Family” who are as genuine inside and out as are Jenny and Evan.

Consistent with their love of music and the mountains, Jenny & Evan selected Ridgway State Park in western Colorado as the venue for their lovely wedding. The nuptials themselves were celebrated at the Visitor Center Overlook – a beautiful spot overlooking the Ridgway Reservoir. As we walked down the short trail from the parking area to the overlook it was easy to see why they love this place so much, for the view was simply breathtaking.

The reception was also at Ridgway, in a pavilion in the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk area of the park. Offering a 360 degree panoramic view of the western Rockies, we all relaxed and enjoyed the celebration. Given their involvement in the Grand Junction music scene, many of the Friend Family brought their instruments – we had guitars, a mandolin, a banjo, drums…you name it they brought it. All of us enjoyed some of the best musicians from the Grand Junction music scene taking the stage and jamming together; it was an experience that this music lover enjoyed immensely. It was one of those nights that, for me anyway, ended much too quickly.

Bailey & Brett

My niece Bailey is a lovely woman of faith. Her tastes tend toward simple and sophisticated. She has a heart for those less fortunate and her smile lights up the room. Bailey met Brett as they both worked for the Daily Skiff student newspaper at Texas Christian University. They met some six-plus years ago. Brett impresses me as a genuinely kind and caring man, absolutely perfect for my niece. I liked him immediately upon meeting him a few years ago, even though he beat the snot out of me in Laser Tag! Brett is a native of Pasadena, California and upon graduating from TCU Bailey followed him out there.

Bailey & Brett

Bailey & Brett

Bailey has adopted Pasadena as her home, and as such, having her wedding there was the logical choice. The venue was the beautiful Altadena Country Club, where I understand Brett’s parents are long-time members.

The wedding ceremony took place on a beautiful lawn enclosed by large, perfectly groomed hedges. The bridesmaids and the bride herself entered from a landing above us, then descended the stairs to their waiting guests. The ceremony itself was beautifully Christian. The pastor talked about how the joining of a man and a woman in holy matrimony is akin to Christ offering Himself to his beloved creation – in essence His bride, the church.

The reception featured a DJ – one of the best I’ve heard in a long time – a nice sit-down dinner and an open bar. During dinner the DJ spun classics by such greats as Frank Sinatra. After dinner many of us enjoyed cigars on the veranda as the DJ spun current era dance tunes. Yours truly, along with several others of us older folks, shared the dance floor with Bailey & Brett and their friends and had a marvelous time dancing to the beat. Of course, it didn’t hurt in my mind that I was burning calories at the same time!

The Joy of Weddings

The pastor at Bailey & Brett’s wedding reminded us that Jesus Himself enjoyed weddings. In fact, it was at a wedding that Jesus performed His first miracle as he turned several jugs of water into the finest of wines.

I enjoy weddings, too. Weddings are an object lesson in love. Every time I attend a wedding I remember the day I married my lovely wife. I remember my sisters’ weddings and how I was one of the young people breaking a sweat as I broke moves on the dance floor. This summer, at Jenny and Bailey’s weddings, I enjoyed being one of the adults. I enjoyed watching my nieces, their new husbands and their friends celebrating love and friendship. I enjoyed meeting Evan’s and Brett’s friends and family who are now part of my family – what a gift!

My lovely bride and me. 12.28.1991

My lovely bride and me. 12.28.1991

I not only enjoy my memories and the day at hand, but I look ahead to the weddings of my daughter and my son. Yes, someday it will be DeLisa’s and my turn. At Bailey & Brett’s rehearsal dinner, Brett’s mom Cathy told us that she had been praying for Bailey since the day Brett was born. I, too, lift up the young man and young woman who will one day join with my daughter and my son as life partners though holy matrimony. Of course, no rush!

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Photo credits: All taken by yours truly on my iPhone 5s

The Voice Behind You

Adversity and affliction are good things. Yes, I’m serious. We all face adversity and affliction at certain points in our lives. While usually manageable, sometimes it seems they are about to overtake us and we become discouraged, frustrated, or angry. If you are in that situation, I offer here a different perspective for consideration.

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help. As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ~ Isaiah 30:19-21

Have you ever considered the notion that adversity and affliction could be our teachers? Have you ever considered them as bread and water? When we are walking with God, adversity and affliction are all of these things.

Adversity and Affliction as Our Teachers

We all experience difficult times in life; times during which adversity and affliction seem to rule the day. As they are happening, life can be difficult. It can be painful. We may feel as if we are in a deep, dark cave with no escape in sight. All we want is to be out of the cave and back in the light. Once we are delivered from the cave we take a deep breath and move on. As I consider those times I realize in hindsight that they have molded and shaped me into the man I am today. I learned lessons from having gone through those difficulties. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, adversity and affliction were teaching me some very important life lessons.

God teaches us here that adversity and affliction are, in fact, teachers. He uses these difficult times for our ultimate good! Knowing that, and walking through life trusting the Lord, I now handle adversity and affliction completely differently than I did in the past. Instead of anger, I am eager. Instead of downcast, I am positive. Instead of experiencing stress, I experience peace. I trust God: I know I am being taught. I know the difficulties will end. And I know that, upon escaping the cave, I will look back and appreciate the lessons I have learned.

Adversity and Affliction as Bread and Water

This blew me away the first time I read this. Why does God refer to “the bread of adversity and the water of affliction?” Bread and water are the basic nutrients of life. Prisoners being punished used to be put on bread and water diets – no pleasure food, just the basic nutrients needed to keep them alive as they served their punishment. As Israel traveled through the desert after their release from Egypt, God provided manna and water to nourish them on their journey. Bread and water are important to nourishing and preserving life. Could it be that adversity and affliction are somehow important, too?

Just as I can look back on times of adversity and affliction in my life and realize I have learned lessons from having experienced them, I also realize in hindsight that I am a better person for having experienced these things. I have gained confidence. I have gained wisdom. I have gained compassion. My faith in God has been strengthened. I am a better man, and even more important, I am a better Christian. Indeed, I have been greatly nourished through the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, and I thank God for that nourishment.

The Voice Behind You

God’s promise given to us through the prophet Isaiah (30:21) in this passage is one of my favorites in Scripture:

“Whether you look to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it.’”

Read it again. And again. Do you hear the compassion? Do you hear the caring? Do you hear the Love? You see, when we walk with God we are never alone. He is always there, teaching us, nourishing us, guiding us, and loving us. Adversity and affliction will come. It’s OK. God has proven time and time again that He will use them for our ultimate good. God cares about your life and He cares about mine. He cares about what is happening to you and to me right this very moment. His path is perfect, and when we tune in to Him, He will show us the way out of that cave. At all times, but especially during times of adversity and affliction, we must listen for His voice. We must be in His Word. We must be in prayer. And we must listen.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, thank you for your unfailing mercy, grace and love. Thank you for the lessons you have taught me thus far in my life, and thank you for being that voice behind me, showing me the way. Help me, Lord, to be in your Word and to walk with You through all my remaining days. Through Jesus I pray, AMEN.

Abuse and Use of Power

American politics seem to be getting nastier by the day, from both sides of the political spectrum. I am disappointed in the Grand Jury’s decision to indict Texas Governor Rick Perry, not to mention the fact that charges were brought in the first place. I am equally as disappointed in John Boehner’s talk of a lawsuit against the president. This sort of activity – seeking any means by which to take down political opponents – will bring this country down. It is a waste of taxpayer money as it distracts us from the important issues playing out day by day. Such activity is in no way good for the country – it is intended only to forward the personal agenda of the individual initiating the divisive action.

We voters must wake up and rise above the partisan kool-aid being served up by both political parties. We must demand true leadership from those we elect to serve in our state and federal governments. We must stop drawing conclusions based on social media soundbites and the so-called “experts” on the so-called cable news channels. We must expel from office those who abuse their power and demand real leadership from those whom we elect to serve us. They work for us – never forget that.

Friends, we have the power of the vote. We don’t have to agree on everything, but for the health of our great nation we must agree on this: we must agree to use our power of the vote wisely. We must dig deeper than Facebook, Fox, MSNBC, and the rest. We must reject the partisan kool-aid and insist on facts. We must demand that those elected to serve do so for the good of the nation, not to forward their own selfish personal agendas. On this, each of us, whether liberal or conservative, should be able to unite.

This Place is Perfect

Sometimes it takes others’ eyes to help us fully appreciate what God has given us. Such was the case with me and our house on Lake Tyler.

Built in 1964, situated on about an acre of land and measuring at about 1,400 square feet, our lake house was previously owned by my mother-in-law. Darla was a certified Master Gardener, and “back in the day” she kept the grounds and gardens immaculately groomed. She planted gardens, each with a plant type or color theme and installed brick walkways among them. When we would visit, we always spent the first hour or so walking her gardens with her as she proudly showed us her latest additions. To say that Darla had a green thumb would be a gross understatement; Darla had a gift. She enjoyed nurturing her gift and, even today, we enjoy the results.

Darla moved out of the house in 2008. With no full time resident since that time, the gardens have not been properly tended. Brick walkways that were once beautiful garden pathways are now overgrown with weeds. Garden nooks and crannies, some featuring ornamental ponds and others featuring shaded arbors and park-like benches, are obscured and overgrown. I sat on one of the benches recently and it nearly collapsed as I lowered my weight onto its rotted boards. I no longer mow the lawn, for there is no lawn – now I groom my weeds. The exterior of the house needs a paint job, but first we must power wash the cobwebs from their positions under the eaves. Succinctly stated, the place needs work, and work is what I see when I pull up the driveway. My frustration grew to the point to which my wife and I recently agreed to put the lake house on the market. That was the case, anyway, until last weekend.

Last weekend we had five college friends join us for a weekend at the lake. As the weekend approached I was nervous, and even a bit embarrassed, given the run-down condition of the gardens and the home’s exterior. I was concerned about allowing my friends to see our property in this condition, so much so that I considered moving the event to our home in Keller to spare me the stress. I’m glad I didn’t.

My friends were awestruck. They gushed over the open space and the gardens they could see. They appreciated the lake views and speculated with us how the views will be improved when the brush along the channel is cleared. One fished from the yard and remarked how this would be a desirable vacation rental.

“Really,” said I, “somebody would actually pay to rent this place for a weekend?” I was shocked.

“Of course,” he said. “There are lots of people looking for an inexpensive weekend getaway. This place is perfect.”

“This place is perfect.” That phrase hung in the air as I contemplated the magnitude of what my good friend had just told me. As he continued to fish I looked around me and began to see our house and yard from his perspective. And I was sorry – sorry that I had adopted such a negative attitude about this beautiful gift that God has given us.

Yes, the place needs work. But you know what? My friend was right: This place is perfect. And it is not for sale.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” ~ Psalms 118:1

8.9.2014 Enjoying a delicious home-cooked Brazilian feast courtesy of the Dunn's.

8.9.2014 Enjoying a delicious home-cooked Brazilian feast courtesy of the Dunn’s.

The Art of Vacation 2 (Sequel to “The Art of Vacation” posted 3/25/2014)

“Aaahhhhh!” That utterance, offered by yours truly this morning, is the essence of having achieved a clean and refreshing break from routine through the Art of Vacation. And what a vacation it was!

A Celebration of True Love

Our family vacation commenced with a two-day drive to beautiful Ouray, Colorado where we would join with family from all over the country in celebrating the nuptials of my niece, Jenny.

Panoramic taken from outside our room at the Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs

Panoramic taken from outside our room at the Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs

A Celebration of True Friendship

Upon returning from Colorado June 30, we prepared for the arrival of our friends from Roanoke, Virginia the next day. When they arrived at DFW Airport we hit the ground running, spending lots of time catching up on each other’s families while we played tourist in my home town.

Dealey Plaza, the site of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, was our first tourist stop. Offering an audio tour through the events of that fateful day, the museum on the sixth floor of the old Texas Book Depository is extremely well done. If you live in the Metroplex or find yourself visiting here you must put this on your bucket list.

We lightened the mood on July 3 by visiting downtown Grapevine, Texas. This historical area features several Texas wineries along with cool shops offering everything from fine chocolates to antiques to Texas apparel & souvenirs. Grapevine also offers several fine restaurants to suit any taste. We were apparently so caught up in the excitement that none of us took any pictures!

Independence Day, July 4, found us in the historical Fort Worth Stockyards, one of my favorite places to visit. We took in the sights and sounds of this beautiful historical district and celebrated our freedom at the Stockyards Rodeo – you can’t get much more Americana than that!

Our friends departed for home Saturday afternoon, and we spent the remainder of the day relaxing at home as we recharged the proverbial batteries.

The Art of Vacation

As I prepared to leave the office for vacation I put the wheels in motion by letting my coworkers know that they will hear from me when I return to the office on Monday, July 7. I updated my voice mail greeting to state clearly that I am not checking it, and my email auto-reply clearly states the same. And I kept my word. Today I returned to work reenergized, refreshed, and ready.

Have you lost the Art of Vacation? If so, find it. Reclaim it. Live it. I promise you won’t regret it.

“Everybody’s Got an Angle”

Ah, the wisdom of the great entertainer Bob Wallace, portrayed by Bing Crosby in White Christmas. “Everybody’s got an angle.” Bob speaks this line in the context of discussing people’s motivation for the things they do. And, as I consider his statement, I’ve concluded that he is correct. Everybody, indeed, has an angle.

The immediate connotation of an angle tends to be negative. It implies that people use each other or misrepresent circumstances for their own gain. It implies that people’s motivations aren’t necessarily for good. In Bob Wallace’s case, he was talking about a letter written by Betty Haynes that lured Wallace & Davis to Vermont under a false pretense. Haynes was seeking an audition with Wallace & Davis, and believing they would not likely grant her request, she wrote a letter about her brother, an old army buddy of Wallace & Davis, that opened the door. Wallace understood that Betty Haynes had worked a false pretense (her “angle”) but was OK with it in the context of his world view because the end result was good for all four of them, as well as for General Waverly.

What do you seek, and what are you willing to do to achieve your goals? What is your angle? What motivates you?

Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” ~ 1 Kings 3:6-9

Before his passing, King David made his son, Solomon, his successor to the throne with God’s blessing. Solomon could have asked God for anything, yet what was his request? His request was that God would give him an understanding heart and wisdom to discern between good and evil, right and wrong. He didn’t ask for fame; he didn’t ask for wealth; he didn’t ask for a long life or even for world peace. His request was simply that God would make him wise so that Solomon could effectively govern the people. What was God’s response to Solomon’s prayer?

God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.” ~ 1 Kings 3:11-14

This was Solomon’s angle: that he be given wisdom from God so that he could be effective and God pleasing in his role as king. There is nothing negative here. This is a man who knew his place (king over Israel, but subject to the sovereign God) and simply wanted to serve honorably. Solomon prayed from his heart and God knew that; God therefore honored Solomon’s prayer, and then some.

Like most reading this post, I work for a living. I work for and with people whose motives are very honorable, but there are also those whose motives tend towards the selfish and dishonorable. Many in the work place are outstanding mentors to those whom they oversee, but others view colleagues and coworkers as rungs on the ladder of success, to be climbed over for one’s own personal gain. Some will misrepresent facts, as did Betty Haynes, to further their cause. We all know people who fit into both categories. Both types of people have an angle.

Business these days can be very competitive. How does one succeed in a competitive environment in which, for many, the accumulation of money and power is often the “be all, end all” of motivation? I thank God for the example He offers through King Solomon. I pray that God would give me a heart that seeks Him as purely and genuinely as Solomon did. I pray that God would grant me the wisdom to serve Him honorably in all that I do. I pray that He would show me my faults and help me correct them. I pray that God will put honorable people in my path from whom I can learn, while also giving me the opportunity to serve Him by serving others whether as husband, father, boss, or colleague.

Obstacles and circumstances will come, and each presents an opportunity to work an angle. No matter what obstacles or opportunities come my way, I pray that serving God will always be at the forefront of everything I do.

Everybody’s got an angle. What’s yours?

#roadwarriorprobs

I credit my good friend John Adams with coining the hashtag #roadwarriorprobs. He uses it frequently, and I’ve adopted it as one of my favorites. We use it to describe the good, the bad, and even the ugly that we who travel frequently face from time to time. I like it so much, that I’m bound and determined to grow its use in the vast, wonderful realm of social media.

#roadwarriorprobs – the business trip that takes an unexpected turn as the flight home on Thursday is replaced at the last minute by a drive to the next destination to address an urgent situation that has just come up. When this happens, is your glass half full or is it half empty?

 

Relaxing in the Executive Lounge at the Hilton Hotel in Oak Lawn, IL. 5.22.2014

Relaxing in the Executive Lounge at the Hilton Hotel in Oak Lawn, IL. 5.22.2014

#roadwarriorprobs – that moment when you’re sitting up in bed at the local Hampton Inn watching the Duck Dynasty clan, knowing that many of your friends and family envision you enjoying a lavish dinner or a night out on the town.

 

My view at the Hampton Inn. Living large! 3.21.2014

My view at the Hampton Inn. Living large! 5.21.2014

#roadwarriorprobs – speaking of that lavish dinner, there are perks to business travel. One of my favorites comes in the form of relationships, and enjoying a fine meal in the company of people who I’ve come to genuinely like over the years to the point of considering them true friends.

 

The Cowboy Ribeye at St Elmo Steakhouse, Indianapolis, IN. 5.21.2014

The Cowboy Ribeye at St Elmo Steakhouse, Indianapolis, IN. 5.21.2014

#roadwarriorprobs – the snowstorm that wreaks havoc on your travel schedule as it transforms a major US city into a beautiful winter wonderland. Do you stay inside and fret or do you get out and enjoy the beauty?

 

Original image taken on Broad Street, just north of the Doubletree, looking at City Hall just a few blocks up. 1.1.2014

Original image taken on Broad Street, just north of the Doubletree, looking at City Hall just a few blocks up.  Philadelphia, PA 1.1.2014

#roadwarriorprobs – that sigh of relief that comes when the wheels go up, you’re in the air, and you are finally able to unwind as you look forward to seeing your family upon arriving home.

 

Blogging at 30,000 feet

Blogging at 30,000 feet

And last but not least…

#roadwarriorprobs – sharing the fun with the one you love.

My wife and me enjoying the beautiful pool at the Ritz Carlton Beach Resort, Naples, FL. 2.15.2014

My wife and me enjoying the beautiful pool at the Ritz Carlton Beach Resort, Naples, FL. 2.15.2014

None of these are problems per se. They are the little curve balls life throws us, sometimes when we are least expecting it. Life is what you make it, and I’ve learned over the years to appreciate these times. And when God blesses me with an unexpected moment while I’m away from home you’re likely to see me share it on social media with my favorite hashtag. Fellow road warriors, feel free to join me!

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