Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding

     I've been avoiding TV this week, especially the news.  Okay, generally I try to avoid TV news as much as possible, because I dont't need experts to tell me half-truths and how I should think about them.  This week however, the news was just too difficult for me to bear.  I don't mean the massive tornadoes wreaking havoc through the south.  It's not the massacre of protesters in Syria that bothers me so much, or even the Federal Reserve's renewed commitment to devaluing the dollar so we can pay even more for gas and food.  No, to be honest, I just can't bear to hear one more news anchor discuss the royal wedding.

    Okay, at this point, I should probably advise all women to stop reading.  What I am going to write in the next paragraph or two will almost certainly offend a lot of the female persuasion.  If you are feeling insulted or upset, then stop reading and go turn on The View to find out what William and Kate are having for breakfast tomorrow.  You will enjoy that much more than this blog today.  Consider yourself warned.

    I HATE weddings.  Take notice, I did not say marriage.  Marriage is wonderful.  Marriage is real.  Marriage is two people having to learn to sort out their personal issues and live together without killing each other. More than that, marriage is about learning to serve and sacrifice for someone you love.  Marriage is fun at times and hard at other times.  Marriage is a commitment, you don't give up when it gets hard, you just try harder. Marriage means you often won't get what you want and you will often be misunderstood or feel unappreciated.  I'm not knocking marriage.  I love being married and I love my wife, but it has taken a lot of work for us to hang in there.  I'm not an easy person to live with.  I am a far better person because of Karlye and that's why God gave her to me. He knew that without her, I would be incomplete.

     Weddings just confuse me.  I'm all for celebrating marriage, but let's be realistic.  Getting married is not the challenge, it's just the starting point.  Half of marriages will fail miserably.  Weddings I remember from childhood were small ceremonies with friends and families.  Afterward you ate cake and butter mints, drank a little punch, then went home.  Somehow that has changed.  Weddings now are gala events with extravagant decorations, full meals, and never ending receptions.  Weddings are  the brides one day to have her way.  It is  her day to demand everything she wants delivered perfectly the way she wants it, even if it means treating her family and friends horribly (I have seen Bridezillas thanks to Karlye). Her parents are expected to burn though 15 years of savings in 4 hours so that everyone sees how special their baby girl is.  By the time the wedding is over, a year or more of planing and preparation has been put into making everything about that day perfect, but almost no energy has been expended preparing for marriage.  I have been told that the reason this is so important, is because the bride needs one day in her life to be a princess.  So, from what I understand, extravagant weddings are big girls playing make-believe.  I told you I would offend you.

     This is why when I hear people fawning all over the royal wedding, my hackles rise.  This is the ideal that has shaped our wedding ceremonies.  This is what we try and mimic.  The whole world is aflutter with the ceremony of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  Meanwhile I sit and shake my head at it all.  It seems to me, so opposite of what marriage requires of us.
     Gracie, someday you may read this.  If so, I want you to know that you are precious to me, and the day I give you to another man, I will do so with tears in my eyes.  Tears of joy for what you have become as well as tears of sadness for how quickly the years stole my baby girl from me.  I want you to marry a Godly man and live with him in love and respect for each other for the rest of your lives.  No one will be happier for you on that day than I will be. Unfortunately, I know that I most likely won't have much input or influence at that time.  So I want to write down a few thoughts on the subject of weddings now, while that day still seems impossibly far away.
     First of all, marriage is about selflessness and sacrifice.  How completely backward it seems to start out on that journey, pretending to be royalty, demanding everything be the way you want it to be.  Too many brides and grooms wake up the day after the wedding wondering where all the pomp and flowers and extravagant decorations have gone.  The allusion of being a princess has evaporated and the bride no longer can have the world, just for the asking. That can be a hard reality to return to.  My prayer for you is that at your wedding you and the man God has prepared for you can celebrate your love, devotion, and commitment to one another while sill being grounded in reality instead of recreating some Disney fairy tale that you can never live up to.  Don't be a bride who always is looking back at the wedding ceremony as the highest point in her marriage.  Instead, build on that day and make each year better so that each anniversary makes that day pale in comparison.

     Don't fall into the trap of believing that spending lots of money on a wedding will make one bit of difference in your marriage.  I have seen parents go broke throwing huge ceremonies for their daughter, only to see the marriage crash and burn a few years later.  I have seen couples go a whole years salary into debt , just to call it quits before their 2nd anniversary.  Invest instead in you spouse, invest in your relationship, not in pretty flowers that will be thrown away when you leave the church.

     Realize that marriage changes you forever.  You will never lose who you are as a person, but you will no longer be just one person; yo will be a couple.    Your husband will be part of you and you will be part of him.  You will change each other.  His strength will complement you as yours will him.  In marriage the biggest mistake you can make is to try and be two single people living together.  God will have bound you together as one.  You function as a single unit. The hardest lesson your mother and I have had to learn was how to be a team.  Too often I have viewed our marriage as a struggle of my way verses hers.  My darkest hours of life were spent with your mom and me struggling against each other instead of working together.  Don't waste precious time separated from your soul mate.

     Don't try and change your spouse.  Both of you will just become frustrated and angry.  You can only change yourself.  Focus on that and let God change him.  Marriage is kind of like one of those rock tumblers.  You take sharp jagged rocks without much beauty and place them in a cannister with sand and grit.  Then they get tumbled around together for days on end banging against each other, rubbing off on one another, until ultimately the rough edges have smoothed out and their true color and beauty is fully displayed beneath a glossy flawless surface.  I think that is what God intended to happen between a man and woman in marriage.  Your mom and I still have a lot of tumbling to do, but I can start to see how she is softening out my rougher edges and making me a better person.  It's a change that comes from yielding to each other and holding on to each other through the years and trials of life.

     Learn about marriage while you are young.  Watch your mother and me.  Learn from our mistakes, Lord knows I make a lot of them.  When we do something worth emulating, remember that.  I want our relationship to be strong, so that you will know how to relate to your spouse someday.  I want to treat your mother in a way that shows you how a man should treat his wife.  It is my constant prayer that I don't screw up and mess you kids up for life.  Learn from your mom how to be a good mother and wife.  She is terrific at it and is getting better every day.  Unfortunately, God didn't give you perfect parents, but we try.  You make it your goal to do a better job than we do and you'll do just fine.
     Having got all that off my chest, I guess I should say I really don't hate weddings.  I just hate weddings the way they are sold to us on TV.  I think shows like Platinum Weddings, and Bridezillas give us such a false view of what God intended for marriage.  I think that obsessing about royal weddings distracts and entertains us, but also teaches us unhealthy lessons.  Money, celebrity, pomp, and circumstance all make for good television.  Hard work, selfless love, and a reliance on God's grace and forgiveness is what makes for a lifetime of joy and satisfaction in marriage.  Why can't television teach us that?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


     I don't often stop to think just how much the world has changed since I was the age my kids are now.  We have become so immune to technological amazement that we forget what life was like without it.  I was complaining the other day about having my bandwidth reduced to a 150 gigabyte per month limit.  When I graduated from college the internet didn't even exist and large programs took up 3 or 4 1.1 megabyte HDD floppy drives.  Shoot my computer had a whopping 40 megabyte hard drive.
     It's not just computers, it's HDTV and satellites. It's cell phones and GPS.  It's social networking and Netflix.  I spent 10 minutes trying to explain why you couldn't download the pictures out of a 35mm camera to my 6-year-old. 
     Yeah, the world has changed, and somehow I missed it.

     My kids think that if they can't watch a particular show on TV or Netflix or the DVR, that they are being made to suffer.  They never can find anything to watch out of 200 stations on TV.  The have DS's, 3DS's, Leapsters, A Wii with tons of free games courtesy of Nintendo.  They have computers and an Xbox 360.  They have a room with so many toys that the floor has disappeared.  They are always bored. THere is never anything to do in our house, or so I am often told.
     I was the oldest of 10 kids.  We had everything we needed, but sometimes there weren't a lot of extras.  We used an antenna to pick up TV stations and a lot of re-runs were still in black and white. We didn't have a computer in our house.  Somehow, we all made it.  We generally weren't bored.  We entertained ourselves.  In the process, we had a lot of fun and made a lot of memories.  I am afraid sometimes our kids are missing out on the really important things because their lives are too full of the unimportant ones.
     Not that I am any better.  I would throw a fit if my internet was cut off.  Even on vacation we are constantly looking for some way to get online.  I recently paid 5 bucks to log on in an airplane to fill 2 hours of down time.  I do most of my communicating with people outside of my immediate family without ever seeing them or hearing their voice, thanks to the wonderment of the internet.
    We have become addicted to technology as a society.  Could we survive without it?  Recently a study by some group of smart people said that the GPS system going down would seriously endanger people's lives.  Maybe it is too late and technology is just a part of who we are as humans, but then again, maybe we are just growing soft.
     I'm one of those people who thinks that things are going to get really bad before they get better.  I Look at the debt we have that we cannot pay, I see the value of the dollar dropping.  I look at food prices getting higher while the packages are getting smaller, and I don't think that somehow, just because we've had everything we wanted our whole lives, we will be immune to the laws of economics.  As a father of 5 I really wonder how I'm going to feed them next year, let alone get them raised and educated. 
     I had a great example in my father and mother who managed to get 10 kids to adulthood and never let any of us starve.  I have the example of my great grandparents who struggled through the Great Depression and grandparents who learned the value of hard work from them and rebuilt their lives after World War II.  Have I learned enough though?  Could I do the same?
     Maybe I will find out.  It's not something I look forward to, but I want to be prepared to.  I am realizing how much that I have now that seems indispensable to my daily life that could easily be given up.  We are going to attempt a garden this year.  My grandfathers both taught me how, but I have forgotten.  I want to get out in the dirt with my children and relearn as they learn for the first time how sweat and a lot of hard work can be rewarding like nothing else.  I want to focus more on us as a family doing things together.  I want to learn to power down the technology so that if the lights ever do go out we will know that there is a world more real and important than any virtual one.  Sure technology is a wonderful blessing, but we should learn to use it instead of being controlled by it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

     One week.  That's all it took for for the crowds who cheered His arrival as a Messiah to hand Him over to be put to death.  I'm not sure what it was that changed their minds about Him so quickly.  Perhaps he didn't single-handedly run the Romans out of Jerusalem.  They may have lost patience waiting for some great miracle which never came.  Most likely they just wanted a a diversion from their lives and He provided an adequate spectacle. It didn't matter if it was a parade through town on a donkey's back or a violent public execution. Maybe we can never know.  I don't suppose the specifics matter.  The mob saw Him as a cheap form of entertainment.  They missed His true purpose.  One day they cheered Him as king, seven days later they cheered his death.  Most probably didn't care either way, they craved the sensationalism.
     We haven't changed all that much as humans.  We cheer celebrities and clamor for their autographs and cheer more when their lives fall apart.  In the area of religion, we are moved to tears by a charismatic speaker only to forget the next day why it even affected us.   Somehow, we never stop long enough to ask ourselves what or even if we believe.  We love the fanfare and the thrill of the crowd.  Maybe because in all the the noise of the mob, we don't have to face the hard questions that hit us when we are alone.
     Who am I?

     Why am I here?
     What do I believe?

     What is my purpose?

     Christ came to answer those questions.  He came to tell us who were were.  He came to show us what our purpose was.  He came to show us our depravity and then restore us back to what we were created to be.  The masses heard Him.  They flocked to Him to hear him speak.  Most left not understanding a thing he said.  Again, we are no different today.

     God is love.  That is a popular sentiment today.  A true statement no doubt, but not in the way we understand it.  His love was not one of warm, fuzzy feelings and happy stories.  His was a bloody sacrificial love.  It was the kind of love that a parent would feel watching a child die of leukemia, wishing they could trade places.  He being God could do that.  He saw us lost in sin, wandering with no purpose.  He saw us living meaningless lives pursuing wealth, fame, power and  popularity.  He saw us walking headlong into hell, rejecting the One who created us and cared for us.  He saw us dead while we yet moved about from day today.  He knew that we could never come to Him on our own.  He knew that being perfect, His presence would destroy us in our imperfection.  He traded places.  He came and lived among men whom he knew would mock and reject him.  He took on our sin and became our Sacrifice. 
     We mocked Him then as we mock Him now.  We beat Him, scourged Him, killed Him because it was easier to destroy the Messenger than to listen to His message.  He took it all, the pain, the torture, the rejection, the hatred.  He bore the consequence of our sin, because being God, only He could pay the penalty for the accumulated sins of mankind.

     He offers us each individually that gift.  All we need do is claim it.  He bought us back from a self imposed slavery.  He does not force us to accept.  Most still reject and mock Him.  For those who chose to accept His payment he offers to take the worthless things we cling to that do not satisfy and instead fill the void with Himself.

     Today, you can mock Him.  You can continue to try and find meaning in money, sex, work, or power.  You will end up unsatisfied.  Don't believe me?  Read the front of the tabloids in the grocery store check-out.

     Maybe you've reached the breaking point.  Maybe  you've tried all the rest and know how empty you still are.  Maybe you have been broken and scarred enough from your own efforts that you finally understand how lost you are on your own.  If that's the case, then He calls to you. 

     Good Friday.  The crowd doesn't really understand the meaning.  We remember the darkest day in human history.  The day we beat our Creator to a bloody mess and nailed him to a wooden beam and watched Him die.  But through His death, we can find all that we truly long for.  Just take a good hard look inside until you understand your emptiness, then let Him fill it for you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It seemed like a good idea at the time

    When one thinks of medical emergencies, traumatic internal nostril injury is not usually something that readily comes to mind.  In my medical experience, I can only recall two instances of serious accidents involving the inside lining of someone's nose.  One I saw this week.  The other I inflicted upon myself as a young boy.  This is not a particularly easy area of the body to injure.  From experience, I can say with certainty that such accidents, while extremely rare, are not any any way enjoyable.  Well, at least not to the injuree.  Witnesses and family members seem to find the situation quite comical.
     I'd like to tell you that it takes a particular amount of skill to do serious harm to the nasal mucosa.  I'd like to say that it takes some planning and foresight to cause extensive damage to the nether regions of one's proboscis.  Unfortunately, all I can glean from my limited experience of such trauma is that it really only takes a healthy dose of bad luck and some poor decision making on the part of the victim.
     My personal drama started when my parents decided to paint the living room.  Let me fill in the details.  Mom and Dad had decided that the room needed a fresh coat of light green pain, if my memory serves me.  Following the standard protocol of most paint jobs, the furniture had been moved to the center of the room.  Drop cloths had been placed on the floor.  The base boards and window frames had been masked with tape, and the outlet covers had been removed.  To remove these, a screw driver had been utilized.  This was not just a plain old ordinary screw driver.  It was one of those solid, heavy, weighted varieties with interchangeable tips.  Now if you know anything about outlet cover screws, you of course will recollect that they accept the thin flat head variety of screwdriver and so that tip was the one that had been placed in my dads screwdriver that particular day.   Also, lying about on the floor were several unused fuzzy tubes that slide onto the paint roller.  I had wandered into the room and picked up one of those tubes. 
     Of course as any self respecting boy would do, I began using the tube as a telescope.  I then proceeded to do the old trick of making a hole in my hand with an optical illusion. If you have never done this or have no idea what I am talking about, try taking a piece of paper and rolling it into a tube.  Hold the tube in your right hand and look through it with your right eye.  Now move your left hand in front of your face (about a foot away) and bring the tube into contact with the right-hand side of your palm.  If you do this correctly, then with both eyes open, it will appear that the center of the tube passes through your left hand.  Believe me, it works.
  Growing bored of this tick, I picked up the previously mentioned screwdriver and was pleased to find that it fit perfectly into the paint roller tube with just enough room to fill it while still being able to slide freely within.  Up to this point I had not done anything remotely hazardous.  Then suddenly I had a really interesting idea.  Laying down with my back to the floor I held the tube up above my head and looked through the tube at the ceiling.  I then held the handle of the screw driver with my other hand and placed the screwdriver point down into the tube.  I began moving the screwdriver in and out of the tube watch with amazement as the tip moved back and forth first toward my eye and then away.  I don't know how long I laid there doing that, watching shiny metal slide up and down like a piston in an engine.  For some reason I found it totally mesmerizing.  Then my fingers slipped and I watched in horror as the screwdriver transformed into a projectile propelled by gravity at my face.  I count myself very lucky to this day to have two working eyes.  I think my guardian angel must have nudged the tube ever so slightly, because instead of impaling my eyeball, the tip of the screwdriver shot up my nostril without coming into contact with any part of my face and drove itself deep within my sinus, slicing through the soft tissue of my nasal lining as it went until it lodged with a wet thud about 3 inches deep into my head.  It was a one in a million shot.  Talk about a nose bleed.    To this day, I don't know what I was thinking, but it sure seemed like a good idea at the time.
     In hadn't thought about that incident for years.  It came back to me yesterday when I saw a gentleman in my office with 3rd degree burns up inside of both of his nostrils.  He had been driving while using oxygen which was delivered through a nasal canula.  I've heard of people on oxygen lighting themselves on fire by trying to light a cigarette.  I'd never seen it actually happen before.  Forget for a moment that someone with lungs so bad that they have to breath oxygen through a hose still smokes.  He really was trying to be safe.  He apparently had turned off the flow of oxygen prior to lighting up.  He then set the canister down in the seat beside him and in the process had unknowingly turn the flow of oxygen back on slightly.  He put his cigarette in his mouth flicked his Bic, and whoosh! With a sudden explosion he had flaming plastic melting into the lining of his nose as flames literally cooked his sinuses as lit his mustache and hair on fire.
     I guess in a way we are both lucky that nothing more serious happened to either of us.  We certainly both learned a painful lesson through our experiences.  I will never again dangle a heavy sharp object above my face and I don't think he will ever try to save time by not removing his oxygen before having a smoke.  The more important lesson though is one that I'm not sure I've quite mastered.  You see, God gave us common sense for a reason.  We choose to ignore it at our own peril.
     In my own life I know I have courted danger many times by taking needless short cuts and risks.  I'm pretty sure from observations of the general population that most folks are guilty of the same crime.  We see politicians who refuse to make the tough decision for fear it might cost them the next election.  We see business men that try to pull a fast one to save a little money.  Students cheat on a test because they want a grade without putting in the effort to learn.  We do these things because sometimes we get away with it.  We see the easy way out and think, "What the heck, no one will notice if I cut a corner this one time."  It is a dangerous gamble we take, because eventually we will slip up.  Rest assured, we will get caught and there are consequences for making stupid decisions.  No one gets away with it forever.  Just ask Tiger Woods.
     I've heard it said that character is how we act when no one is watching.  I don't care what people say, character matters.  I want my children to know that.  I want to be their example.  I want them to make the tough choice to do what's right and stand by it even when everyone else is mocking them for their stance.  I know they will make poor decisions along the way.  I know that I have. I still do from time to time.  Hopefully they won't see that very often and when they do I will be man enough to admit it to them and rectify the situation.  I don't want them to believe that I am perfect.  I just hope they see that I am not satisfied with my imperfection.  I also know that they aren't perfect either.  I realize that part of parenting is to let them fail in the small things and then face the consequences of their mistakes.  That's the only way they will ever learn to avoid the big mistakes. 
     Sometimes it takes a serious nasal trauma to drive that lesson home.  Hopefully my kids have more common sense than I did.  Then again, maybe Karlye has a point about me putting my screwdrivers away when I'm done with them.

Monday, April 18, 2011


     The other day, while riding in the car, Will asked me what the biggest number was.  It was such a simple question to him.  Little did he know that science and math geek within his dad would jump on the chance to stretch his mind a little with this teachable moment.  I was quite proud of Caleb, my 6 year old, for chiming in with, "It's pi Will, pi never ends!" I of course said that he was right, the string of decimals in number π never ended, but π itself was only a little more than 3 and so wasn't really very big.  I mentioned that someone might say that infinity was the largest number, but infinity wasn't really a number, just an idea of something that had no limit.  I then told them that the biggest number that anyone had ever named was a google.  That got their attention.  They had heard of Google before. Yes, before it was a synonym for a web search, a google did have another definition.  I explained that if you wrote down a 1 with 100 zeros behind it, that would be a google.  After that I started thinking of how I might help them understand just how big that number was.   When I finally got ready to enlighten them, I looked back to see that will had fallen asleep and Caleb was playing his Nintendo 3DS.  I however was just getting started.  I was lost in my own little world for a while trying to imagine for myself how big numbers could be and how I could make myself understand the sheer size of such big numbers.  Soon I was waxing philosophical.

     So here is a little essay on numbers.  Definitely not the most intriguing of topics, but for a nerd like me, kind of fun:
     I am 40 years old.  That's roughly 1.278 billion seconds old.  If I live to a ripe old age, my heart might beat about 3 billion times.  I probably have a little less than 100,000 hairs on my head.  There are about 10 trillion cells in my body.  There are currently about 7.1 billion people living on the earth.  The United States' debt is fast approaching 14.3 trillion dollars.  The unfunded liabilities of the US (the national debt plus money promised as payment to to Social Security recipients, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) is around $200 trillion.  The total value of all the assets in the US is around $110 trillion.  The total value of all the combined assets in the world is somewhere around $1000 trillion.
     We hear numbers tossed around so much that we take them for granted and never stop to think about their size.  Sure we can understand a hundred or a thousand, but once we start talking about millions and billions, it becomes hard for the human mind to comprehend such large numbers.
     How much is a million?  Well, a 12 ounce soda can would hold about a million grains of sand.  It would take 83 12 packs of sand to hold a billion grains of sand.  A large football stadium can hold around 83,000 people. (Arrowhead in Kansas City holds 81,425).  If every person in a sold out crowd held a 12 pack of sand cans, That would be about a trillion grains of sand.  If every grain of sand on the earth were put in soda cans and distributed evenly to every person on earth, we would each have 140 million 12 packs of sand stacked up in our back yard.  That's a lot of sand.  Psalm 139:17-18 says, "How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand'.  God must think of us a lot.  It is comforting to me to know that He cares so much about us.
     1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 grains of sand on the earth seems like an awfully big number.  It is, but there are 1000 times as many atoms in your body all working miraculously in perfect harmony to keep us alive.  Modern science would have us believe that this is all a product of chance.  Common sense tells me it speaks of an ingenious Architect.
      While the numbers of the minuscule are astounding, the numbers of the immeasurably large also are mind boggling.  The Earth, as large as it is (some 25,000 miles in circumference), is only a grain of sand itself on the scale of the universe.  It is one of 8 planets (poor Pluto no longer gets counted as a planet) circling our sun.  The Sun is one of 100 billion stars swirling around in the Milky Way galaxy.  The Milky Way is only one of 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe.  That makes our Sun one of 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.  That means that there are possibly almost as many planets in the universe as there are grains of sand on the Earth.   The observable universe is about 20 billion light years across.  That's roughly 5.9 billion trillion or 5,900,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles across.  Consequently, it is estimated that the universe contains about 1x10^79 atoms.  That's a 1 followed by 79 zeros!  Modern science tells us that all of this vast amount of stuff sprang out of nothing, spontaneously.  I believe that it was spoken into existence by an infinitely powerful Creator.  We know that the universe is here.  We know it had to come from somewhere.  Either it made itself out of nothing, or it was created by something or Someone.  There aren't a lot of other possibilities.  I guess it just boils down to a matter of which you chose to believe.  When you take it back to the beginning, all you have is your faith.
  Oh, and if you were wondering, it would take all the atoms in a billion trillion universes the size of ours to add up to a google.  That's about as many universes as grains of sand on the earth. So Will, if you are still wondering, I'd say that yeah, a google is about the largest number I can think of.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Vacation - Part IV

     It is my favorite part of the day.  The rest of the world is sleeping.  My little ones too are snuggled away, lost in dreams that will fade forever with the coming of the dawn.  My face is warmed with an overdose of sun.  There is a cool breeze and a quiet peace.  For a moment I am alone.

      Where I sit on a third story balcony, 20 years ago there was some empty coastline.  50 years before that a shallow ocean washed over this spot.  Then a war came to Europe and the US Navy needed a submarine base.  The ocean floor was dredged to deepen the harbor and the sand and sediment were piled in this spot, among others.  This island grew.  Prior to that a small suspended highway brought cars to this end of the line destination.  The highway was built on the steel of a railroad that a hurricane had damaged in 1935.  The railroad had been built between 1905 an 1912.  The railroad had reshaped much of the island.  Prior to the railroad, ships had brought men and women here.  The US Navy had used this island as a port to maintain their blockade of the Confederates. Before that, the Navy had fought pirates from this island.  Before the United States laid claim to the island, the Spanish had used it as a port of trade.  The Spanish had discovered an empty island with sun-bleached human bones scattered on the shore.  The were the remains of a group of Native Americans who had fled here to escape the attacks of a hostile enemy tribe.  That was 500 years ago.  Before that for countless ages, coral grew and fed the fish.  At one point the Florida Keys were a barrier reef that during the last ice age was exposed to the air and became a chain of islands.

     I find that little piece of history interesting.  I spent quite a while the other day trying to track down a map of this island made before everything was reshaped by civilization.  I'd like to be able to watch it all happen in reverse.  I wish I could sit 10 miles up in the sky and watch time roll back peeling layer after layer away until the first little coral set up shop.  I have always hoped God kept videos of His handiwork.  I would love to spend a good portion of the first part of eternity just watching the highlight reels of creation.  It fascinates me too to see how man can take God's canvas and paint our own mural.  How we can build a city on a pile of sand in the middle of the ocean.  It is a testament to our creative ability and ingenuity.  That was a virtue at one point in time.  It was part of being created in the image of God, that we too would create and build.  It was what separated us from all the rest of creation.

     Now we have forgotten God and worship the coral.  We deny that we are different, that we are higher than the other creatures.  We want to pay penance for desecrating the natural state of things rather than see that God provided the architecture and let us decorate the walls.  I think at times, He might even get pleasure at looking at what we've made.  I know I enjoy seeing the pictures my children hang on the refrigerator door.  I also think that those people who moan about the sanctity of nature and the evil of the presence of man are quite hypocritical.  After all, I can look off shore and see small little un-inhabited little islands.  The are all very pristine and natural, and yet somehow I don't see any boats hauling vacationers out to stay for a week in the true beauty of the natural setting.  Somehow everyone seems quite content to sit in their air conditioned hotel rooms with flush toilets and continental breakfasts.

     I want my children to be good stewards of the world that God created for them.  I want them to appreciate it, and respect it, but never worship it.  I want them to know the world as a wonderful gift from God rather than believe as they are being taught in school and on TV, that it IS god.

     Well, tomorrow we head home.  I am glad about that.  Yes I know there is no ocean there and the weather will be cold and rainy.  It is home though.  It is familiar and safe.  I know my place at home.  I am grounded at home.  Karlye will never understand that about me.  For me, home is not a place I need to escape from, but rather a place I can retreat to.  It is where I recharge.  Vacations deplete me, being home refills me.

     Caleb and I had a great day together, fishing on the ocean.  He is quite convinced that he is one of the worlds great fishermen.  It was such a treat to share that experience with him.  He is a good kid.  Strong headed and tenacious.  If we can teach him to live for what really matters, nothing will ever distract him.  He has a confidence in himself that I never possessed.  My challenge will be to nurture that confidence, help him learn humility, and teach him to dedicate his life to serving God.

     We leave Key west in the morning.  I'm not sure that Key West will miss us.  There is still a trail of dried brown spots, up the 3 flights of stairs to our room, marking the trail of Josiah  after his accident in the pool.  Grace added a few more of them yesterday when I had her at the pool with the 3 older boys.  Josiah didn't want me to miss out on the embarrassment Karlye got to experience without me the other day.  I was sitting there with the 4 of them when he started shouting at the top of his lungs, "GRACE POOPED IN THE POOL!  DAD, COME HERE, GRACE POOPED IN THE POOL!"

I suppose I should get some sleep.  Tomorrow promises to be a long, arduous day of travel.  We will arrive home late with kids who have fallen asleep in their car seats and have to be scraped out and carried sobbing to their beds.  I can tuck them into their own beds.  I will feel content.  We will have survived another vacation with no serious injury or missing persons reports.  We will have made some great memories. I will most likely be the last one awake.  As I turn out the last of the lights and tuck myself into my own bed, I will sleep a deep sleep knowing that our family has somehow been enriched by this week.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Vacation - Part III

     My kids amaze me with their boundless energy, their endless enthusiasm, and tireless fascination with the world around them.  They also have a way of driving me absolutely batty with their whining, loud obnoxious noises, and willful defiance.  Vacation seems to bring it all out, the good and the bad.  Not just in them either.  Their father as well.  I think it has a lot to do with lots of people in close proximity, in a change of environment, with no naps and a complete disregard for normal schedules and routines.  Those things effect the kids too.

     I'd like to pretend that I'm super-dad.  I am not.  I'm starting to become super-grumpy dad.  That's not how I want them to remember me.  So, tomorrow I will work hard at making memories with the kids.  Yes, we will probably have way too much planned for what I want.  I will try and be understanding of and caring to my wife, who does not know how to relax on a vacation.  I know that this is an important week for her, and I need to make it as special as I can.  I can do better than I have been doing.

     Not that we haven't had a great time.  We have taken in the trained cat show put on by the crazy man with a fake French accent.  We have had great sea food, except for the kids who won't eat anything but chicken fingers.  We learned the history of the last 500 years on Key West as well as the architectural styles of the houses built in the 1800's.  The boys got to make pretzels with Dave, the pretzel guy.  A wonderful, friendly man with a New York accent, who is friends and neighbors with my in-laws.  We ate hot dogs with all varieties of mustard on pretzel buns.  We got to hold hermit crabs, and conchs, and horseshoe crabs, and sea cucumbers at the aquarium.  We even got to touch a shark.  Of course, we also had chocolate dipped frozen key lime pie on a stick.  We have snorkeled (the kids have anyway), and splashed on the beach, and played in the pool.  We have hunted geckos and chased iguanas.  It has been a fun and eventful trip. 

     The best part of the whole trip for me has been taking pictures of the kids.  They have been so fun to watch and record. Will is growing up so fast, he wants to have me all to himself.  He wants to do what I am doing and be where I am.  I know he is so much like me.  I have to spend more time with him, getting to know him.  He's 8 now and that seems so young, but in 5 more years he'll be a teenager, and 5 years after that he'll be heading out into the world.  Time moves too quickly.

     Caleb is so fascinated with animals.  He is so inquisitive.  It has been fun to watch him study and take things in.  He has been running around with a camera taking pictures for his kindergarten journal.  He is so proud of them.  We bought the two older boys underwater disposable instamatic cameras for the beach the other day.  Caleb wanted to know why you could only take 27 pictures.  I told him that it was because that's all the film they had in them.  "What's film?"  I tried to explain about negatives and darkrooms and processors and prints.  "Yeah, but can't you just print them out on the computer when we get home?"  I'm getting old.  I must seem a dinosaur to him.

   Josiah is, well, unique. He is the quirkiest of our kids.  It doesn't help that he's trapped in the middle never getting the respect or privileges that the older kids get, and never getting the attention of the younger kids.  He can be the sweetest kid of all and then other times.... Jo just wants to be like Will and Caleb at this point.  Joe also made Karlye's day when he was with her at the pool surrounded by other guests when he began shouting "I pooped in my pants!" so that everyone one would make sure and stare.  I did have to help with clean-up, but unfortunately missed the show.

     Gracie is as cute as can be, which is good, because she is starting to develop an attitude about everything.  I guess independence is a good thing, but we are going to have our hands full with this one.  I'm told all the time that she will have me wrapped around her finger.  We'll see.  We'll see.

     Elijah is starting to really become a part of the family.  He's developing his own personality.  he loves to entertain.  He likes to explore.  He doesn't like to sit still.  I am enjoying him fight for his own place in the chaos of our family.

Well, who knows what tomorrow brings?

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Vacation - Part II

     We made it to Key West without much excitement.  Unlike the last time we made the trip six years ago, we did not have a baby who screamed for 4 straight hours.  Sure the kids got a little fussy after a while, but they were fascinated enough by the ocean that they did not get too fussy.  My father-in-law had rented us a really great place and his wife had dinner waiting for us there when we arrived.  It was wonderful.  We ate and my in-laws went home.  The kids were watching TV and climbing on the couch, when Will says, "Ewwwh!  What smells like poop."  Let's just say that our little girl had exceeded the capacity of her pull-up and the white cloth couch now had a very not-white stain.  Less than thirty minutes in our room, and we had already achieved our all time most embarrassing family vacation moment. Not too shabby, if you ask me. 

There is a great view off our back balcony too.

This morning Caleb sat out there and stared for quite a bit. "I could sit here forever.  This is the perfect view", he told Karlye.  We had a mini church service out there after breakfast.  We read Genesis 1 and talked about creation with the kids. 

 Next it was off to the pool.  The kids almost didn't get to go.  They had been asking nonstop since we had arrived, and were all walking around the room in rubber flippers.  Then someone started whacking someone with a snorkel tube, prompting the best quote of the day, "The next person to hit another person loses a fin."

Josiah entertained the other guests with his attire.  You would never know the kid wasn't a native.

Everyone finally got to swim.

    After a while we packed up and headed to Grandpa's condo for lunch.  Then we hiked down to the beach.

 Elijah's first beach moment.

Will didn't write this, but he was quite fascinated with it when he found it.

     Ten little feet all lined up in the sand.

Grace chasing some seagulls.

    I am having a lot of fun relaxing and trying out my new 75-300 mm zoom lens that I got last year for my birthday.  I have probably enjoyed it too much, based on the reaction I've been getting from my spouse when she sees me pull out the camera.
     I'd really like to take time and write something meaningful or insightful, and I may yet have a chance.  Taking 5 kids on vacation is not conducive to blogging, I'm learning.  It's quiet now.  The two littlest ones are fast asleep.  The three older boys are staying with Grandpa and Chris the rest of the week (suckers!).  I'm listening to the crickets chirp and finally have a chance to stop for a while and think.
     I realize that as much as I fight taking these big long distance family vacations, that I do enjoy watching the kids amazement at all the new and exciting things that they never dreamed of back at home.  Yes, it's a hassle, and yeah, I prefer the mountains to the beach, but I am glad to be able to make these memories with my children.  I hope they will understand as they grow how important these times are.  I hope that they will not turn into teenagers that are so used to these kind of vacations that they stop appreciating them and the times like these that we have together.  I'm not sure I know how to accomplish that. At least for now, I see the wonder in their eyes, and I know that they are having the time of their lives.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Vacation - Part I

    Well, it has begun.  I'm sitting here waiting for our plane to arrive, risking bodily harm for not paying close enough attention while I type.  Karlye is in her hyper-alert drill sergeant mode that she assumes whenever we travel en masse.  I'm not letting it bother me, because I realize that if left in charge, there is a good chance that we would leave a child somewhere.

     I am remarkably relaxed for traveling with all 5 kids.  We've never attempted it with that many.  Our previous record was 4.  Usually I'm a bundle of nerves.  I'm not sure why.  The kids generally behave better in public than at home.  I think I just don't want people to see the chaos that we accept as normal.  I think I also hate the looks that we get from people when the see us checking a small moving van worth of baggage through security.  I know what they are thinking.  They are afraid we will sit behind them.  I think that they have heard the story of the gooey chocolate chip cookie that one of our sweethearts flung at the back of some business mans head on a certain Midwest flight.  They are afraid that someone will scream for the entire 3 hours of the flight.  I hope not.  No guarantees, but so far so good.  Karlye has confirmed that we are the only family with children on the plane.  All eyes will be on us.  Maybe we will sit near the engine...

     Now we are cruising at 30,000+ feet.  Ours aren't the only kids.  I still heard a couple of snarky comments as we boarded the already mostly full flight.
     "At least I wont be the only one screaming when the pressure changes."
     "Let me know when you start crying, I'll join you"
     We're flying to Florida, so Grandma's and Grandpa's outnumber us all.  They are forgiving.  You can see the look of understanding tinged with guilt.  They have been there before.  Most have just just spent a week fulfilling their grand-parental duties.  They've loved on little Johny and Sue until they've has their fill and are fleeing back to their sunny retreat far away from the phone calls asking, "Do you think you could watch the kids for us tonight?"
     I personally love hearing kids scream on planes, as long as they are not mine.  That way I know that I am not alone, that my kids are not abnormal.  Right now though it is mine who is starting to squeal.  Elijah is trying to make up his mind if he is happy or very upset.  He's giggling a lot and occasionally the giggles transition into an irritated shriek.  I think he's had his fill.  Only an hour to go.  Grace and Josiah have gotten bored watching Tangled on my phone and are now giving the men in front of them shiatsu massages through the seat with their feet.  Ahhh, yes! I just heard a howl from several rows back.  It was a big one too; I'd say a 9 or 10 year old by the sound of it.  My two oldest have been perfect.  Thank you so much Nintendo.  Thank you for making us Nintendo Brand Ambassadors,  Thank you for flying Karlye and I to Seattle and showing us around your headquarters, but mostly thank you for giving us two free Nintendo 3DS's.  It's like we hypnotized Will.

     Well, the little girl 3 rows back is really making a scene now.  Keep it up honey, everyone is watching you and not my kids.  Yeah, I saw that dirty look you just shot back there buddy, now aren't you glad it's MY kid your sitting in front of?
     Fifty minutes left.  I'd love to take a nap, but I think that's considered child neglect on a plane isn't it?  Karlye is running back to the restroom and Elijah is on the opposite of the plane from me really starting to get worked up.  I can't get to him, so I'm just trying to make faces to quiet him.  It isn't working.  I'll pretend I am not related.  No, that's not working  either.  The look alike kids in look-alike clothes are giving me away.  Wait, he fell asleep.  Just like that.  Nice, I'll tell Karlye I just have a skill with babies that she doesn't possess.  I'm sure she'll buy that.
      Now Caleb is bored and starting to whine.  We are starting to descend.  The worst is almost over and it wasn't that bad.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


     Today was one of those days that can take a weeks worth of worry and extinguish it in one deep draught of sun-infused air.  The earth is waking up and the last traces of winter's chill are melting away as shades of green seep into the brown blanket left by autumn. It was my afternoon off today and that made it all the better.
     Karlye took advantage of my presence to escape the chaos of motherhood for a few hours and left me in charge of the house while she did whatever it is that women do at malls.  The two youngest munchkins were in their rooms, purportedly taking naps.  That left me and Josiah, our 4 year old alone for some rare one-on-one male bonding time.
     Jo immediately decided that today we would have a day of sports.  We would start with football he informed me.  He would be the "hutter" and I would throw him the ball.  It was wonderful.  We played one on one, four-year-old rules, no holds barred football.  He moved me to the top of the yard, near the house. He grabbed the green and black Nerf ball.  He squatted in front of me.  "Hut, Hut,...Hike!"  He spiked the ball into the ground and ran.  I then was instructed to run and grab the ball and then throw it to him.  It took several tries and some kind but constructive criticism before I managed to pass the ball properly (not to high, not too low, not too fast).  On the 4th or 5th attempt, I finally got it right and was rewarded with an ear-to-ear grin when he caught it and clutched it to his chest.  After 3 or for more successful passes, he took off running circles around me shouting, "Now tackle me." Both of is giggling, I chased him a couple of circuits around the swing set and then he sprinted for the fence, just before I caught him he threw the ball into the wooden planks and shouted "Touchdown!"  I tackled him anyway, actually it was more tickling than tackling.  Sure, it was a late hit, but he didn't call foul.
     Next was baseball.  He explained to me that in real baseball each guy got 3 chances.  I pitched the little plastic ball. He missed.  I pitched again, and smack the ball flew over my head. "Home run!" he shouted, "Now you have to hit me with the ball before I slide, Dad."  I chased after the ball and he ran zig-zags and figure 8's.  As I ran towards him, he slid to the ground.  "Safe" he declared,  "I made it to base."  His new position now became home plate and the same sequence was repeated a few more times.  When he missed 3 times, he told me he was out and now it was my turn. We went back and forth for a while.  There were no balls, just 3 chances.  All hits were home runs, unless he declared them fouls.  I was the best game of baseball ever.  The game ended abruptly when he declared, "Now basketball."
    In basketball, when the 4-year-old starts with the ball, he stands near the basket and dribbles 2 or 3 times, during which the parent must try to steal the ball. If the child manages to retain possession of the ball he then, holds it tightly to his chest and runs to the basket to shoot.  The parent can use any method to prevent the shot from going in including tickling the shooter.  There is a lot of laughing involved.  Once a basket is made, then Dad gets possession of the ball, and a new set of rules kicks in.  Now we are playing teams and my role is to let him run to the basket so that I can pass him the ball and he can make the layup.
     Now, I'm the kind of guy who hates the new way of playing team sports where no score is taken and everyone is the winner.  I think kids need to learn to win with dignity and lose with honor, but today was something different.  This wasn't competition, this was a moment of togetherness.  It was a chance for a four year old boy to teach a man 10 times his age to remember what it was like to be a child. With five children, I seldom get to spend this kind of time with just one of them.  Maybe I'm hoping too much, but I'd like to think that this is one of those memories we both can share, just between the two of us, far into the future.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thirty dollars

    Gracie is at such a great age.  Part of me wishes I could freeze her in time so that she always tells me what she said this morning as I left for work, "Daddy, I need to give you a kiss because I will miss you so much."  I know that soon it will be more common to hear, "You are ruining my life."  All I want is to keep her my little girl as long as possible and all she wants is to grow up 'big like mommy'.  She will win that contest; she has time on her side.  I will just have to take and enjoy each day that I have with her until some lousy punk steals her away from me.
     This morning as I brushed my teeth, she walked into the bathroom with her pink pajamas and pink frilly tutu.  Walking past me she went to the scale, stepped on and stared at the digital flickering numbers for a a few seconds then got off walked over to me and said very proudly, "Daddy, I'm thirty dollars.  I'm getting so big."
    Thirty dollars?  Hugely undervalued. At that moment I would have given any price for that little girl.  Thirty dollars.  If only.  I start adding up the cost of raising 5 kids.  How much for food, for clothes, for school, for eye surgeries, for broken arms, for college, for weddings.  The practical, fiscal side of me starts to panic a little.  I look at little Grace as she dances off in her tutu.  Here is one of my five greatest treasures.  Every other investment I make will all be spent and gone once I leave this earth, but they will be there passing on to their children whatever impressions I leave on their lives.  They are the most important thing I can invest in.
    I wonder, how do you place a value on a child's life, or any life for that matter?  I ride the time machine in my mind forward a few years, and there will be a thousand voices telling my little girl that value is indeed measured on a scale.  Magazines and movies tell our little girls that weighing more or less than perfection lessens your worth as a person.  Others will tell her that her value lies in her beauty, or the clothes she wears, or the people she hangs out with or doesn't hang out with.  She will be pressured to believe her worth is based on popularity.  There will be many scales that she is expected to stand on so that others can judge her value as a person.
     I know better.  I know that she is a priceless treasure and that she should never sell herself out for any price.  How do I teach her that in the few years left in which she will listen to me?  She scares me, because she is different from my boys.  I don't know if I have the necessary skills to raise a daughter.  I know one thing though.  A daughter needs her father to love and cherish her.  I've dealt with enough families to see that girls crave acceptance from their daddy and that those who never receive it will often search everywhere to find it in some other relationship.  I've seen the broken spirits of women who have sold themselves out because they thought they finally found someone who appreciated their true worth only to find that she was just another one of his conquests.  I've seen women who have been crushed so many times that they no longer believe they have any value left.
     I won't let that happen to any of my children, but especially my Gracie.  I want to make an effort to tell her every day how special she is.  I want to nurture her strengths.  I want to love her enough to discipline her when she needs it, but always let her know that no matter what, she is my precious little girl.  That won't change even as she grows into a young woman.
    I want to strive to be a better husband to my wife because I want her to know how a man should cherish his wife.  I want to do such a good job that she will not settle for anything less in her future husband.  I will have to work at it, because I often fail at treating my wife like she deserves.  It will mean learning to listen better, learning to be less critical, sacrificing more of what I want.  I promised my father-in-law that I would take care of and love his little girl.  I believe that the  best way to teach Grace that she is valuable is to show her how much I love and value her mother.  I will fail often.  I'm not the most sensitive guy in the world.   When I do lose my temper or become to harsh or critical, I want to be humble enough to admit it to my family  and show them that the only real failure is the failure to keep trying.
    Thirty dollars?  Priceless.  That's what she is to me.  How do you put a value on a human life?  We humans are poor judges of what is valuable.  We prize what is most transient and ignore the eternal.  I want my children to know the value of their lives and to respect the value of the lives of those around them.  I want them to see past the lies of those who airbrush smiles on the empty lives of celebrities.  I want them to know that the Creator of the universe thought them so valuable as to bleed and die so that they might know True Love.  I will do my best to show them that same kind of love.  I will pray that as they grow and leave my protection, that they will ignore the meters and scales the world tries to measure them with.
     Gracie, you are infinitely valuable just because you are my daughter.  Never forget that.

Monday, April 4, 2011


     Today was one of those days that, had I been someone else, I might have been asking myself to sign a work excuse.  I sat in the room trying to focus on the nice lady talking to me.  All the while my head was pounding, I was feeling chills and sweating at the same time.  I thought there might be a twinge of nausea coming on as well. It took an act of will to keep my eyes open.  I wanted to go home and crawl back into bed.  Playing hooky for two days has its price though.  My friendly computer screen reminded me of the 80 plus items I needed to sign off on, the 20 scripts I needed to refill and the 10 questions that patients were waiting for a response on.  I also had to run to the nursing home over lunch to see patients, because no one remembered to block off time on my schedule.
    Maybe it was all the traveling this weekend.  Maybe I'm catching some bug.  All I know is that it was not turning out to be a banner day in my life.  The temperature had dropped 45 degrees overnight. I was tired and grouchy and had already snapped at my wife.  I wasn't winning any awards for Mr. Compassion today.  I pressed on though. Two hours, 4 ibuprofen, and 30 oz of coffee later, I almost felt human.
   But then there was Mary.  Mary is 93 years old and nearly deaf. Her back is warped with arthritis.  She sits in a wheel chair all day and watches The Price Is Right at the nursing home.  Mary is one of those amazing people who always smiles.  She is one of the happiest people I have ever met, and I really don't know why.  Most of us would be miserable to live the way she lives.  Many would say her life no longer has any value, that she is just an old lady who is no longer contributing to society.  Mary never seems to see it that way.
  "WELL HELLO DOCTOR!" she yells as I step into the room.  The smile on her face is genuine.  She is truly happy to see me.  She loves company.  "I FEEL GREAT TODAY", she assures me and everyone in a 300 yard radius.  "HOW ARE YOU DOING?", she asks.
     "Oh fine," I lie, too quietly for her to even hear.  
    "WELL GREAT, THAT MAKES TWO OF US THEN!" she says as she grabs my hand.
    So I spend a few extra moments listening again to the story of how well her new heating unit works in the room. She tells me with great relish of how she diagnosed why her toilet didn't flush and then explained it to the young boy they sent in to fix it.  She asks about my kids, and talks about the weather which she never gets outside to experience.  I stay a little longer, because her attitude is contagious, and I want to catch it.  She is healing me.  She is a 93 year old battery charging me up for the rest of the day.
     I leave feeling better and a little bit ashamed.  I had been feeling sorry for myself and in so doing had forgotten the joy of being alive one more day.  There are very few Mary's in this world, people who meet life head on with a joyful smile. I wonder what it is that causes the richest and most successful among us to self destruct on the front of tabloids, always miserable, always searching for the happiness they tell us comes from fame and money.  The Mary's of the world know something that the rest of us seem too blind to see.  Happiness is not the byproduct of good health,  money, fame, or success.  Joy is not dependent on anything.  You just have to live it despite what the world dishes out to you.  
     I have a lot of practicing to do.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


     What a weekend it was. My wife and I got an all expense paid trip to Seattle courtesy of Nintendo to check out the new Nintendo 3DS.  Why?  Well, as I was reminded, it was simply because we lived in "the middle of nowhere".  There we were rubbing elbows with folks who have all made a name for themselves as bloggers and YouTube phenoms, and we had the distinction of being nobodies.
     After 8 hours of cramped seating in the back end of airplanes, I realized just how much I enjoy living here in the middle of nowhere.  Seeing my little Gracie tonight reminded me of just how much I love being just a Dad.
     My wife is all nerves when she boards a plane and never manages to relax until the final touchdown.  I, on the other hand am never bothered by flying, until I'm at home tucked in bed all alone with my thoughts.  You see, I don't mind the take offs or landings.  I don't worry about bombs, or holes in the fuselage, or crashing to the earth.  There is something more metaphysical that haunts me every time I fly.  It has to do with my perspective.
     I'm addicted to window seats.  I love to watch the world slip away from me when the plane takes off.  I love to see the shape of things from 30,000 feet up in the air.  I press my forehead to the window and watch the familiar things in life turn to miniatures as if hit with some magical shrink ray.  It's Google Earth in 3D.  I see rivers and try to understand the way they have carved and shaped the landscape.  I watch the colors and patterns of the earth shift from planes to mountains to deserts.  On top of it all, I see the thumbprint of mankind, webs of roads, circles of irrigated green, and thousands of towns scattered and interconnected that stretch out as far as the eye can see.
    It is the cities that do it to me every time.  The silver lines of interstate dotted with crawling specks draw me in first.  I get a sudden vertigo.  I realize that each dot contains some mother driving home from work or a family on vacation.  That silver vein is flowing with a million dreams and stories and each dreamer or story teller is unaware of the vastness of the the world around them. 
     I see the thousands of houses lined up in rows and columns. Some full of joy, some full of sadness, some barely surviving.  From a plane window it is impossible to tell which is which.  From that perspective they are all just miniscule boxes that the specks on the highway come and go from.  Neither $150,000 or $1,000,000 looks all that impressive from 6 miles up.
     I look inside the plane.  Here are some hundred odd people.  I may not know any of them, but I can understand them, because they fit a perspective my mind can grasp.  Down below me is something too far removed from my reality to understand.  To think that I too am just one of those countless specks is too much for me.  I feel small and meaningless, and so I look back inside to plane to block out the specks and choose to focus on the hundred people around me that are on my scale.  Tonight though, I know it will haunt me, this knowledge of my true position in the grand scheme of life.
     Tonight, I will wonder if this is how God sees us.  Are we just microbes on a petri dish?  Does our greatest achievement, the sum of our life's effort appear as nothing more than a microscopic box? Would He notice if I vanished?  Even if I accomplished a thousand-fold more than I am capable of, how would I stand out in such a vast world of specks?  I struggle with despair as I see myself shrunk down to the scale of the world viewed from the window of a passenger jet.  I am caught between two worlds,  the one inside the plane and the one outside.  I can't seem to find a middle ground and I can't rectify the two.  That is the dread of flying that haunts me.
     Tonight though, as I come back to my familiar place, here in the middle of nowhere, I think I have grasped something that eluded me before.  I have a role in this world that is perfectly suited for my scale.  I am not a speck, just like no one is a speck.  This universe of ours is endlessly complex on countless levels.  Galaxies, solar systems, planets, men, cells and atoms all reflect the creativity of God.  We can appreciate that complexity even if we can only experience it personally at the level in which we live and function.  God alone can experience it at all levels.  The beauty of a hundred billion swirling galaxies does not diminish in the least the wondrous joy of being a husband to my wife or a father to my five children.  I find great solace in the fact that the Creator who spins the stars and orders electrons in there shells also cares about the burdens that I and eight billion other people carry.
     This weekend, I met some amazing people.  We all came from different walks of life.  We came from all over the country.  I'm sure that there were huge differences in our beliefs and hopes and dreams.  We shared a common experience though, and that allowed us to enjoy getting to know each other.  So as I close my eyes to sleep tonight, perhaps I won't be haunted by some paradox of perspectives.  I think I am beginning to understand that while I had a glimpse of how vast this thing called humanity really is, my role is just to reach out to those around me that I am lucky enough to walk along with for a while and do my best to understand them and work with them to make a difference in the world in accordance with the gifts God has given me.  That is enough.