Telling the Story

The body of a 3-year-old Syrian boy named Alan washed up on a beach in Greece. It was a horrific image. It was a terrible story, and we couldn’t shake it. We knew we needed to engage this global crisis but how? What would we do?

Then our friend named Shane told us that he was already working with refugees in Sicily. He was meeting people in the camps and on the streets; men and women from places like Somalia, Ghana, Eritrea, Gambia, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leon. He invited us to come to Sicily and see what was happening there. He invited us to meet refugees, hear their stories and offer love.

And so, last October my wife and I found ourselves walking the streets of Catania, Sicily, late at night, in the red-light district, talking with refugees, hearing their stories, telling them how glad we were that they made it safe, and getting to know them.

In the mornings we would travel to the camps and build relationships with young men, boys really; some as young as 11, who traveled thousands of miles on their own, across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean in search of safety. Along the way, they watched people die terrible deaths and witnessed things they still cannot talk about it. They need someone to come alongside them, to love them, to hug them, to play soccer with them, to laugh with them, and sometimes, to cry with them. Their faces and names are burned into our memories. Their stories are burned into our hearts.

The entire week was heartbreaking, but God has given us joy despite it. We came home with more questions than answers, and yet we still have peace.  Despite the terrible pain experienced by so many in this global event, we know that we doing exactly what we are to do.

We’ve told friends and family about the experience. We’ve told co-workers and neighbors. We’ve shared with church staff and pastors and this weekend I had the chance to present our story to the main campus of Grace Community Church. Over the course of two days and four services, I was able to share a brief snapshot of our trip and a little of our experience.

I’m so grateful for those who have helped us tell the story. I’m so thankful for those who have been interested in the problem and all who are willing to help.

Lemons

There is no better ingredient in cooking than a little lemon juice or shavings of the peel. It adds depth of flavor and character. It charges the meal with a zing that would otherwise be lacking. Mixed with butter in just the right combination and it becomes a sauce that is perfect for fish or chicken.

In the right proportion, with the right combination of ingredients, in the right dishes, lemons are bright and perky.

But grab a lemon and suck on it raw. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Continue reading “Lemons”

Tony P’s Pizza and You

Are you interested in a good place to eat? How about a good bar tender who will keep you entertained for hours with stories of youthful antics and misadventures? If so, you’ll love Tony P’s Bar & Pizzeria in Denver.

IMG_20170123_201936_326.jpg
Tony P’s Balcony first brought Matt in the door and is a great addition to the facade.

This local joint serves up some of the best pizza and has a killer bar upstairs. A New Orleans style balcony is the perfect place to enjoy a cold beer as you watch the traffic roll past. The wings are fantastic. The sliders are excellent. The pizza is amazing. In fact, the only complaint is that the canola are too small!

I visited the establishment last week as my wife’s company gathered for after-hours socializing. Knowing no one, I found myself at the bar talking to the tender and mastermind behind the upstairs gathering place. Matt held court, regaling me with stories of his life’s experiences that have taken him from Chicago to New Orleans, Michigan, Minnesota, and currently Denver.

If you decide to stop in, ask Matt about his undefeated kickboxing career (you’ll get to see his scar), his brother’s band, the family business of flipping houses, his time in the market, and his work in the Big Easy.

img_20170123_201732_723
Matt mixes a cocktail for a enthusiastic customer.

He performs well-practiced acrobatic maneuvers with cocktail shakers and can juggle limes with grace and ease. He has opinions about sports, music, and how to run a successful bar. And don’t let his bravado fool you, his opinions have paid big dividends.

It was an enjoyable evening and Matt was a big part of that fun. The next time you are in Denver, swing buy Tony P’s and tell Matt I said hello. I’m sure he’ll remember me. He’s that kind of a guy.

Frosty Mornings

I’m a big fan of winter. The colder, the better. There is something magical about the crystals that form in the air and gently gather, covering everything in a blanket of white. Even more beautiful and rare is the hoar frost that can cover leaves and limbs. The delicate structures capture the light and send it gleaming in prismatic brilliance.

I know winter isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I’m so very grateful for the beauty that is found on a winter’s frosty morning.

20161228_085612

On the Water’s Edge

We live near Morse Reservoir in Indiana. Our neighborhood surrounds one small section of this 1500 acre lake. From our home, we can walk to a good fishing spot or to the clubhouse beach where we can swim in the warm green water. In the spring we enjoy hot air balloons sailing quietly overhead as they try to get a good glimpse of the sparkling surface. In the summer we hear speedboats powering across the lake pulling people on tubes and skis.

Living near the lake, this is one of my favorite seasons of the year. The Canadian Geese begin practicing their flying in preparation for their journey back north. Every morning and evening we enjoy hundreds of geese honking and crying to one another as they soar over our home, their wings flapping in practiced rhythm. Occasionally they fly quite low, just skimming the rooftops of the neighborhood in a perfect V-formation, the air rushing over their wings creating an impressive jet engine sound.

The waters of Morse represent life and the northbound geese are its ambassadors. They declare the beginning of a new year and the never-ending circle of life.

I am so very grateful for our home’s location, the waters of Mores, and especially the geese.

An Unsolved Mystery

My wife and I took a trip last year to visit the Grand Canyon and Mt. Zion National Parks. Along the way back to Phoenix, we stopped to view some ancient Indian ruins. One of the points of interest was a blowhole. At this location, are rushes in or out, depending on the time of day and the weather conditions.

What is fascinating about this hole-in-the-ground is that no one knows what is beneath. Researchers estimate that various caverns are feeding the wind. These caves might be as large as 50 miles long and 165 feet by 165 feet in diameter, no one knows for sure. There isn’t a scientist, a geologist, a mathematician, or engineer who can say with certainty what causes the hole to blow or what is under that opening in the earth.

I love that. So often we think we have to have all of life’s answers. We have to be the masters of knowledge. We can’t go very long without filling in the blanks.

But the Arizona Blowholes, along with so many other things in our lives, remain a mystery. We can feel the wind pushing out of the ground without knowing from where it blows. It is reassuring that God knows the truth. I don’t need to worry about it.

As is a truth in my life; in the midst of dark, hidden spaces of my concerns and my worries, I am confident that God knows which way the wind will blow.  Even though I may not ever be able to plumb the cavernous depths beneath my days, God knows every crook and cranny.

I’m so very grateful that I don’t have to concern myself with the source of the wind that blows. I only need to tell God my concerns and celebrate his knowledge of the mysteries that surround me.

Good Friends Are Hard To Find

Dave and I have been friends since 1987 and over the years we’ve developed a holiday tradition. We’ve had a long-standing commitment to gather our families together during the New Year’s Holiday. But this year it didn’t happen. I went to bed on New Year’s eve feeling sick and woke up feeling even worse. So we didn’t go to their house as planned.

We didn’t get to work on our traditional puzzle or watch our traditional football together. We didn’t gorge ourselves on cookies and ham. We didn’t laugh until we cried or play guitar hero until our fingers were sore.

This year, my good friend and his wife had to celebrate without us. And it just wasn’t the same. We’ll see one another very soon…I’m committed to that, but the separation has gone on too long.

Good friends are a rare thing in my life. I have lots of friendships but I can count on one hand those who have stood with me through thick and thin, over the years, despite space and time. Dave is one of those. We’ve known one another for nearly 30-years and in that time we have become closer than brothers. He gets me, and I get him.  And yet, we still like one another!

Today, I’m grateful for my good, dear friend. I cannot wait to see his face again.