Star Gazing

Originally Posted December 2015 –

I believe the soul is the very being of who you are.  It is the essence of your existence.  It is the principal of your presence.  It matters more than anything…and I mean, more than ANYTHING.  More than your job, more than your house, more than your car, more than your marriage, more than your family, even more than your dog.  And, if this is true, and I’m just thinking out loud, but if this is true…why do we waste time on things that do not feed our soul?  Why do we invest in things that distract us from becoming who we are truly meant to be at the very center of our spirit?

Why don’t we create a space in our life, our home, our work, our commute, and our relationships that feeds this soul, this part of us that will move from this world to the next even as our bodies lie rotting in the grave?  Why instead, do we seek to entertain and numb the senses?  Why do we stress about the money and the drive and the work and the bills and the, and the, and the?  Why don’t we look for ways to renew our soul, to feed the very core of our beings?  Why don’t we seek solace?  Why don’t we pursue purpose?  Why don’t we want wisdom?  Why don’t we ask for answers?

As I write this, I am attending a day-long personal Advent retreat.  I am sitting alone in a cloistered room in the upper level of this three-story, turn-of-the-century home studying the Christmas story and the Wise Men who so committedly pursued the star in the sky in order to see a king in a stable.  It was their purpose.  It was their passion.

This amazing home and the time “away” has giving me the opportunity to reflect on the “Stars” in my own life; those things which guide me into the presence of God.  They may be people, events, places, or even experiences.  And to be honest, as I’ve pondered this idea and searched for the guiding light of my life, I’ve realized that, sadly, I have very few.  Or rather, I am awareof very few: I suspect the stars are there but I’m simply unable to see them clearly.  I’m too distracted by the blinding glare of the false illumination in my world.

I am reminded of our trip to Yellowstone Park in 2009.  We were driving from one end of the park to the other and because of the heavy traffic and the great distance, we found ourselves shy of our destination very late at night in a high plateau in the park. There were no cities, no street lights, and no other cars for miles.  We were there, alone, in the darkness.  We stopped the car and turned out all the lights and sat on the hood, looking up into a sky that was unlike any I’d ever seen before.  Without man-made ambient light to limit our vision, we were able to see stars in a way we’d never seen them before.  The clarity and intensity of those heavenly bodies was breath-taking.  They spanned the night sky and left us at a loss for words, in awe of their scope and grandeur.

As I think about the search for stars in my life that leads me, I realize that there is no time in my life when I am not blinded by the ambient distractions a busy world.  Understand, I don’t blame anyone but myself.  I’ve erected the lights.  I’ve cultivated the distractions.  I’ve created the lack of space and time for careful observation and sky gazing.

The sad truth is that I fail to carve out time that is purely committed to this endeavor.  Instead, I fill my hours with television, movies, busy work, worry and games – as many distractions as possible, diversions of every kind.  As a result, I fail to feed by soul, exercise my body, and manage my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

And so, it begs the question:  What would I need to do to renew my soul on a daily basis?  What space do I need to create that will allow me to find peace, discover grace, and feed my soul?  And if you are like me, and I suspect you are, what do you need to do?  What space do you need to create?

Let’s be honest; when is the last time you truly looked at the stars?

A Wall of Yogurt, More or Less

My local grocery has dedicated an entire wall to one product.

I recently stopped in my local Kroger to pick up a few things for our dinner. Being the good husband that I am, when my wife asked that I stop by the dairy section to find non-fat yogurt, I didn’t flinch…until I actually got to the yogurt section.

That’s right. My local store doesn’t just have a few yogurts from which to choose; they have an entire section. It spans 30-40 feet and has every possible manufacturer, flavor, texture, and size; Greek, fruit on the bottom, fat free, full fat, and many, many more. I marveled. I gaped. I shook my head in disbelief. I stood back and gawked. I took a picture to show my friends.

I was amazed but I was not impressed. In truth, I was disgusted.

In a world that struggles with providing fresh water for many of its citizens resulting in catastrophic consequenceshunger and poverty for a vast majority resulting in devastating famines and global migrations, my local grocery carries an absolute glut of dairy products that reflect massive resource uses and a hubris that is staggering in its scope. When nearly 14% of all Americans live below the poverty level, and are unable to afford even the most basic of needs, let alone every possible configuration of yogurt, it’s a shame to see this overabundance of curdled milk.

Don’t get me wrong, I like dairy products; cheeses of all kinds, milk, cream and butter. I’ve even been known to eat yogurt from time to time. But the sheer height and width of this wall embarrassed me. It is quite a bit more than a milk sensitivity. I’m hardly lactose intolerant. I just cannot comprehend the disparity between a wall of dairy and the world in which we live.

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.

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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.

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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.

Warm Days, Warm Heart

There are beautiful summer days when the sun shines bright but never too hot.  There are wonderful mid-year days when the warm breezes blow in a sweet fragrance of blooming flowers and freshly mown grass.  There are perfect evenings where cricket song is punctuated by the dancing flash of lightning bugs’ glow.

For the summer days that have gone before and those that are yet to come, I give thanks.  They keep my heart warm during the cold winter months.