“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” - Albert Einstein

Monday, October 29, 2007

Does this sign make sense?

I saw this sign in the grocery store. Does it make sense to you? Brenda laughed and said I would be the one to notice something like this.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


About a mile into my 4-mail hike I realized how few times I have actually been alone in the woods. As a child, I was drawn to the wilderness, but at the same time I was afraid of it. I was afraid of a lot of things through my childhood: rabid loafer wolves (a result of reading Ol' Yeller at age 7), snakes, heights, unknown things lurking behind doors or under beds, and breaking yet another arm or leg. Outdoor Life was a favorite magazine, but the tales of survival in the"this happened to me" section fed my fear of facing nature on my own.
In a recent goals workshop one of the questions I had to answer was what motivates and drives me. I always look first to give a positive response, but in a moment of uncomfortable clarity I realized that much of my motivation has come from fear. I didn't want to admit it or write it as my answer, but I'm driven by fear of letting down the people closest to me. This fear has caused me to "play it safe" even though to most people I probably seem to be a "risk taker". But even as a child when my biggest goal was to see how far I could fly my bike through the air I always had a wide margin of safety. I see the extreme sports shows of high-flying stunts and painful crashes and know I was never that brave. (Or perhaps I was never that crazy.)
God has delivered me from many of my childhood fears. But some of those fears have morphed into monsters in my subconscious and are not so well defined. I think God is urging me to step out into the wilderness with Him and find my motivation and security from faith in His provision.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Elan wrote a piece on happiness. http://elantz.blogspot.com/2007/10/happiness.html Rather than put my thoughts in her comments box I decided to respond here.
It irks me when I hear people talk about "the wealthy" when they mention their luxurious houses and lifestyle and then end with the phrase, "But they aren't really happy." I believe this comment is often based on envy. People who are not happy either would like to trade places with the wealthy with the belief that, given the chance, they could have all those things and be happier than the average "miserable wealthy person". Or their envy causes them to wish their unhappiness with life on anyone more fortunate than them.
In my experience, I don't see that "the wealthy" are any more or less happy than anyone else. I think our society places such a strong link between material possessions and happiness that our understanding of happiness is skewed. A songwriter put it this way: "It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you have." The poor and wealthy alike can be miserable from buying the lie that things bring happiness. The poor and wealthy alike can be happy by understanding that happiness is more a decision than a circumstance. As the Apostle Paul says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain."
Wanting what you have sounds simple, but I've come to see that it is actually quite a complex process. We realized some years ago that we had many things we really didn't want. Our lives had filled with clutter and things that we got because it was "too good a deal to pass up" . We saw that the homes we worked in had a lot less stuff, but stuff in them fit with the homeowners' lifestyle and needs. We began the process of getting rid of a lot of our stuff. We try to make this a regular process now. One of our criteria for purchasing anything new is "do we really want it" followed by "do we have a place for it". We've not yet perfected this process, but we are working on it. And we are much happier now than we were 5 years ago.

Ragtime in Kansas City

I never thought that "Ragtime" and "flute" would be used in the same sentence let alone the same performance, but Jeff and Anne Barnhart make it work. Dale bought tickets to the performance at a fund-raising silent auction in Ft. Scott. The concert was sponsored by the Kansas City Ragtime Revelry. Jeff interspersed the history of some of the songs and their composers throughout the performance. Anne played the flute and acted as straightman to Jeff's humor. She performed the song "Summertime" while leaning inside the grand piano. The piano strings began to sing in sympathetic vibration to the notes of the flute. The sound was hauntingly beautiful.
Brenda & I were definitely the youngest people there. Of the 100 or so attendees I would guess the average age to be over 75.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mortgages Multiplying

We've been paying the mortgage on the house on 12th St. in KCK for over a year. The things I've done to market it have not been very effective. I decided to use a FSBO listing service that will list it on the internet as well as magazines found in grocery store racks. I hope this will get us an offer on it.
Our other house in KCK developed a mold problem. With no central air, the humidity in the basement rose and provided a perfect climate for mildew. The tenants had adverse reactions to the mold. They moved out the first of the month, and I'm getting ready to tackle the water and mold problems so we can get it rented again.
Today I also discovered that our tenants moved out of the house in Merriam. I stopped by and the neighbor said they had been in a rush to get out before the first of the month. We went to inspect the house this evening & it isn't in as bad a shape as I had imagined. We still have a lot of work to do, but it could have been much worse. We're going to start by ripping out the smelly carpet on Saturday. We're going to put it on the market for sale or rent-to-own, whichever comes first.
The end result is that now we have 3 mortgage payments besides the mortgage on our own home. Also, after being booked 6 weeks ahead for work all this summer, we've seen a slowdown. Our prayers have become increasingly fervent as the summer progressed. I believe we have been complacent in the past few years and taken God's blessings somewhat for granted. We haven't had the times, as in the past, of having to ask God to send us work for the next month. Perhaps we should have kept that intensity even when His blessings were rolling in.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Pinetop, AZ

Pinetop, AZ is 170 miles NE of Phoenix. It's 17 1/2 hours of driving time from Kansas City. The land is vast. From the Flint Hills in Kansas, the mesas of New Mexico, and the desert of Arizona, we saw lots of open spaces. Pinetop, however, is 6000 feet in elevation and covered with Ponderosa pine trees.

The highlight of our trip was a 2-hour horseback ride through the forest. It was the off-season and we were the only 2 people in the "group". Johnny, our guide, saw that we had some experience with riding and took us off the main route. We were fording streams and picking our way over fallen logs. A storm moved in near the end of our ride, and we got wet.

We also went to see the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. We were amazed at the size and quantity of petrified wood. We learned that much of it has been taken away, both before and since the park was established.

We stopped on the trip home to see the Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, NM. At dusk the balloons were sitting on the ground with their envelopes filled with hot air. Pilots would let loose yellow flame from the burner to light up the entire balloon. We wended our way through throngs of people and balloons as night fell punctuated by the hiss and roar of propane burners. A man from one of the ground crews told us that this is the largest balloon rally in the world: over 700 balloons. We regretted not being able to stay longer, but we had to get back on the road home.