Tuesday, February 7, 2012


So, Hiking is the thing…

I have a friend who’s taken it upon himself to help me get in shape. We hike Skinners Butte twice a week. He likes to mix it up... make me wear a 30 lb. pack some of the time. Make me run up the switchbacks. Make me carry weights out in front of me at a 90 degree angle. Make me follow him as he runs like a wild beast on and off the trail over logs and branches at a precarious angle on a steep hill at what most would probably call a normal pace—but feels like breakneck to me. Some days I tell him he’s a jerk. Some days I tell him he’s mean. At the end I always thank him.

He’s a true friend who’s taking this journey with me. I’m blessed to know him. He’s also a mentor to me. Did I mention he’s nearly 60? Yes. He is. And currently he’s kicking my butt. But… he genuinely wants to see me reach the day when I’m kicking his. And that is a large part of what makes this worthwhile. Not the chance to kick his butt—I don’t really feel the need to do that, but I believe I will eventually. It’s that he believes I will. He sees in me something beyond my somewhat flabby surface. And yes… he pushes me. But he’s gotten me to where I’m starting to push myself again. I don’t think I’d have ever gotten there without his belief in me and willingness to take on the challenge of leading me though this.

Which brings me to today.

We started out at the base of the trail and he said he’d take the pack the first trip unless I wanted to. I opted to start. It felt like I made better time than ever up to the top. It was tiring, but when we’d made our trek up, halfway down, back up steep craziness, and back to the bottom and I handed the pack over. I felt so light. For a minute I felt I could trot my way to the top. We rounded a switchback and were making our way along the familiar path when he suddenly cut the switchback and went right up the hill side. My words…?  “For real?”
It was less than 30 (maybe less than 20) feet from one trail to the other, but we both jogged it. When we hit the next trail, I was spent. I thought, No way. Were not even a quarter of the way to the top and I’ve still got the half-trip down and the “stairs” (the aforementioned steep craziness). God… I can’t do this. I mean… I’m sure I can. You made with more than this… right? But my body was saying, “No. He didn’t.” and I followed up with, I’ve always just been the short game… I’ve never had a long game. I don’t really persevere .Then God told me—yes. Told me…. No. Not audibly, but still—

Persevere. That’s what I’m teaching you.

Now I have to mention, my friend was outdistancing me like nobody’s business… WITH THE PACK ON!! When I realized I was at risk of not persevering (I wanted to stop in my tracks), I was sort of startled into action.

I want to persevere!

A flash of memories—of not persevering—came to me.

I quickened my pace.

When my friend reached the next switchback, he paused a moment. I thanked him for waiting, and he turned and cut up the side of the butte. Again I thought, For REAL!?

But I followed. It was steep, but there were a great many rocks or limbs that actually made it easier to find footing, and though it was hard I was keeping up. At one point he pause to point out poison oak. I asked how can I tell. He said, “I just know.” So I said again. “How can I tell?”

His answer?  “I can’t really tell you right now.” (the leaves were gone.)

I chose to trust him and avoided it. 45 seconds later we reached the next trail. We both let out a half-grunted “Whooooo!” from what we hat to exert to get there. I looked up. I knew this stretch of trail. It’s one of my favorites, because when I see it, I know we’re almost to the top. That detour had taken us from about half way to 90% there. 

Sometimes I trudge that last stretch, sometimes I jog it. This time I walked and pondered.

God had really spoken to me. He used my friend as a symbol of Himself. I followed His lead. Took His challenge. Did what seemed hard (starting with the pack). Felt lighter when I reached the goal He set (pack up and back to the base). And nearly got derailed when He took me a direction I didn’t want to go.  Had to pray and work thought my emotions while facing an unpleasant truth about myself.

Then He paused for me. Let my new fire catch me up the place He stood. Then He diverted again and took me up into the wild unpaved. As we went He warned me of danger. When I asked how to know if it was dangerous, he basically told me I’d just have to trust him—how very like God. I want information so I can comprehend the dangers about me. He just wants me to believe and steer clear of what will harm me—and though it was difficult, and I couldn’t avoid a loud outcry when I reached the next trail, He had taken me nearly all the way to the goal. All the trail I was dreading on that side of the butte was behind me, and I only had to follow.

When I reached the top, I had to catch my breath, but was quickly on my way again and sharing with my friend what God had just done.

I did have to trudge the last stretch of the “stairs” (at that point there is nothing that resembles a stair), but up top I had the energy to jog to catch up with my friend and jog part way down.  When we reached the bottom, it was pushup time. And I did the thing I was afraid to; I did those pushups wearing the 30 lb pack. I did fewer than I do without the pack, but more than I thought I could. And… I actually persevered :o)

I share all this because I am always amazed by the ways God speaks. Today it was the trail… and my friend—who sort of stood in and unwittingly symbolized God. Not that God needs a stand in, but sometimes…. He does that that just for us.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Wept... Actually I Still Weep

I am astounded by how much the loss of my father still affects me after all these years.  I was driving back from a work training when I heard an announcer on the radio talking about some wedding package give away. I didn’t hear much of what she said, but it sounded intriguing enough that it got me thinking. December this year my wife and I will celebrate our ten year anniversary (It’s hard to believe it been anywhere near that long).  We talked a lot early on about doing a vow renewal at ten years. So, I thought… Hmmm. Some wedding package giveaway… that could come in handy. And then I started thinking about the where and the how and the who… Who would we have perform the ceremony.  We could see if the original pastor could do it….

And you see, that’s when it hit me. I MISS my dad.  I miss him in a way there aren’t words for.

When my wife and I got married we had a dual minister wedding. Our old pastor… and my dad (who was the associate pastor of the church we attended at the time).

You see… we can’t have the original pastor do it… at least not both of them.  Three months after co-performing our wedding ceremony my father died from what I’ll call “complications in his cancer treatment”. Long story, but suffice it to say… he’s gone.

As I drove, that thought struck with a renewed weight. It was like I’d just heard he was gone for the first time; only worse because I didn’t have the numbing shock of discovery to dull the pain.

He is gone.

My body convulsed at the thought. My breath shuddered. I winced from the emotion. A moment later I made the decision to pull over and let those feelings run. I turned a corner, stopped the car, and wept.  I wept for the loss of my father. I wept for the selfishness that robbed me of time with him for most of his last year. I wept for the first half of my years when he was alive that we had no relationship. I wept for hidden fears that somehow I could have helped him so those complications would not have arisen. I wept for the past. I wept that my daughter will not know my father. And I wept that my heart is so torn between selfishness and Godliness.

Though he spent his fair share of years on the selfish side of things, my Father ended his life much farther on the Godly side. And I long for the same.

One wave of emotion followed another and it felt gutwrenchingly... good to let those emotions out. I Miss my dad. I always will. I don’t know that time actually heals all wounds. I think that might be someone’s made up hogwash.

Time seems to only clarify this wound. I see it in starker contrast as time goes by. I am grateful to God for the father he gave me, and I’m grateful for the latter half of my years when dad was alive. He was a great father and good friend.

I love you, Pop. It’s been almost nine years. I wish I could see you. I wish you were here to speak some of your direct and folksy wisdom to me. I wish I could give you another hug, and apologize for being so unavailable that last year. But, under all that I wish I could look you in the eye and thank you for showing me what a good father, what a good man, looks like.

I know one day I will be able to thank you face to face. By then I pray my child (or children) will feel about me the way I do about you.

You were, and forever are… the best.

I thank God for you.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Adventure Worth Sharing

“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure…”

Powerful words… spoken by Gandalf in the trailer for The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey (which is coming out this December, and I wish it was sooner.)

The words didn't really strike me at first, but something in this trailer stirred me. Yes… it looks to be awesome—beyond possibly the other three films—but that wasn’t it.

I downloaded the video and watched it a few times and nearly every time I got chills.  I thought it was just the dwarves’ song of the Misty Mountains (which is amazing and stirring in its own right), but it was still something more.

Bilbo replies that he is, “…a Baggins, of Bag End.” He is especially convinced of the of Bag End bit. It is his identity, and he “can’t” go traipsing off on some adventure.

How often am I like that?

Bilbo is being invited to discover there is more to him than he’s aware. That he is capable of taking the adventure he’s called to—head on—and going there and back again.

Later in the preview he asks Gandalf, “Can you promise I will come back?”
Gandalf says, “No… and if you do, you will not be the same.”

Over and over this movie trailer stirred me.  So much that I pulled the audio from the video and set it to repeat on my work computer. With my headphones plugged in and laying on the desk, I worked my usual day. At whiles I’d feel the desire to hear that song again. So I’d pick up an earbud and pop it in.

“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure…”

Those were the first words to greet my ear. I didn’t really think about it. I was waiting for the snippit of song to begin. I listened, enjoyed it, and set the earbud back down.  Later I put the earbud in again.

“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure…”

Funny that’s the exact place it was last time I put this earpiece in.

Later. I want to hear that song.

(Still on repeat) Earbud in:

“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure…”

And later. Earbud in…

“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure…”

About that time I heard it. I’d been hearing it… but suddenly I heard it...

“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure…”

What are the odds of that phrase being the first to my ears each time? It was uncanny.

God speaks in whatever way we’ll hear. That day it was in the voice of Ian Mckellen, as Gandalf.

“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure… that someone is you.  Share it with me…”

But I’m a Baggins of Bag End. I’m just what I am. I’m not strong enough for adventure, or worthy of adventure, or prepared for it even.

Still… “I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure…”

Over the subsequent day’s God’s been inviting me into a more real life than I’ve been living. I’m afraid that at this point—much like Bilbo in the beginning of the story—I’m not very good at it… and I’m a little whiny. But, I’m encouraged. I see the challenging road ahead and I know that God is bringing me There and Back Again.

And, like Gandalf said, “…if you do you will not be the same.”

Bilbo Baggins returned a changed Hobbit, a stronger Hobbit, a Hobbit who knew who he was and what he was capable of—of being an adventurer, taking life’s trials head on, and succeeding in what he was called to do.

I’m taking this adventure wherever God takes me… even if it’s “Far over the Misty Mountains cold, to dungeons deep and caverns old.” Or to a cave with a dragon, or to a different home, or job or… whatever he calls me to.

And when I have reached the goal… I will not be the same. And that is a comforting thought (to me.)

If he’s calling you to an adventure, say yes. There’s no guarantee of safety, but it is guaranteed to be good.


On an "authorly" note, if you haven't had a chance to read my "How to be a Hero" short story, here's the link:
     How to Be a Hero - Amazon

And, here is a link to another short story I wrote for Lulu.com's NaNoWriMo Short Story Contest.  It's only 600 words and it should be free if the issues Lulu was having are fixed.  Either way, I think it's worth it.  (a very different style than my usual, but I enjoyed writing it, so hopefully you'll enjoy it as well.)
     The PENN - Lulu.com

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Man on a Corner

I was struck in my heart today… but before I can explain it, let me set a mental stage. 

It starts with this word: Panhandler (or even possibly homeless)

You may have noticed there are those who sit, almost smugly, on a particular street corner and beg for money—every day. I find myself very not inclined to give them money. Perhaps it’s a sense that if they were really trying to do something about their situation, really trying to build a life—instead of just inhabiting one—they wouldn’t be there every day, begging... more like expecting

Then there are those others… the guys I’ll gladly give my money to. You often see them in more metropolitan areas. They’ll rush out—with Windex and paper towels in hand—when you’re stopped at a long light, and they’ll ask if they can wash your window in exchange for a dime or two. I’ve had a pretty stellar window washing by one of those guys. I wondered, how did he do that so fast? I would have taken twice as long as the light was red. Yet he completed a great job in time for me to pay him, allowing him to get out of the street before the light even changed. Like I said, I gladly give money to those guys. They’re offering something. They understand giving. Yes… giving to get, but their approach doesn’t seem selfish to me—just focused.

Today I saw a man sitting on the corner. I’d never seen him before, and looking at him, I could see he wasn’t sitting there because he expected something, but he wasn’t offering anything either. He wasn't offering anything because he didn’t feel he had anything to offer. Short on hope, panhandling was his only option. That's how he seemed and how I regarded him—how I’ll remember him. He had a sign. It simply read: 

I Need.

I read it, and involuntarily said, “You and me both, Buddy."

I sensed his desperation, and it roused a similar desperation in me. I didn’t stop. I felt I had nothing to offer him. 

As I passed by I whispered my apology to the air. Then I thought I have so much—meaning so much stuff—in essence I’m rich (but not in dollars), yet I have almost nothing to give... at this time in my life definitely no money to give. I thought of how unimportant so many of the things I own are. And how I just neededthis, or just needed to do… that. How so much of what I own serves no valuable purpose. I have a friend who is selling his PS3 to try to buy something more useful. When I asked him why he bought it originally. He paused and said, "To say I had a PS3." He shook his head and added, "It seems so stupid... when I say it out loud." I told him, "Yeah... it does, but a lot of people wouldn't have been that honest." 

Sure his PS3 was a waste, but I’ve wasted much too. If I hadn’t, I would have been able to give more, help more, provide for others more often. I feel badly that I didn’t even try to encourage the man on the corner. 

That was a moment when my own—self induced—desperation struck me. I Need. 

Yes, I need money just like everyone, and frankly need it badly now, but... I Need.

I Need... to be more giving.

I Need... to be less taking.

I Need... to be the man I long to be; who cares for others most; who lives a life of humble service; who asks what can I give? (even if the giving gets me something... am I giving with that intent?) am I living a life I would be proud to share with others...? to say this is how you should live?

I Need... to encourage others... and I will... I can... I have the ability to succeed written into my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual DNA. I just have to keep that in mind.

So to you who might be like me: Think about the man whose sign read “I Need” (send a prayer up for him) and ask yourself—as I’m now doing—even while I need, how can I be better prepared to give?

To you who have it down better than I. Keep it up. The world needs you, and guys like me do finally get a clue.

For this moment this is what I have to give….


Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Man I Know

There’s a man I know who’s also my friend
One of the dearest I’ve had since God knows when
He reminds me of dad and somewhat of me
I hope to be like both of them equally
He has a good heart and he is unafraid
To look at his life and call a spade a spade
And to look at me and do the same

Sometimes things he says are epic in scope
Like a lifeline thrown or a spiritual rope
That reaches into the struggles I face
And reminds me of both God’s correction and grace
I’ve placed him in precarious positions at times
When not taking or calling for a needed lifeline
Amazingly he’s still a friend of mine

I can’t find the words to say how much he means
Even when I’ve made him face difficult things
That leave him in the place of being God’s hammer
In my life—which is not a position of glamour
Nor is it a position that he likes to fill
But one he handles with grace and skill
Even if it’s against his will

I’m grateful for his willingness—saddened by the need
That would not have come if I had emptied
Myself of my self and given not taken
But the time is now here that I have awakened
And my friend as God’s hammer helped that to be
Where it goes from here? God knows and we’ll see
My friend was an excellent friend to me

For letting him down and driving him there
I can’t find the words, as a friend he is rare
I’m sorry feels weak, for so heartfelt a friend
But I am and I pray that what’s broken will mend
This man I know is a mentor to me
And as a friend most faithful is he
And as close to what God intended true man to be
As I may ever see

Monday, May 23, 2011

Timbri Bay - Battles I Face

I was trying to decide what to write about today, and I recalled a poem that I wrote several months back that I haven't posted, so I'll be posting it here momentarily. (By the time you read this, it will already be posted.)

The first half of this poem just poured out of me one day when I was walking oblivious to any pitfalls or danger, and feeling very much impervious to failure.  The second half I wrote later that day when I found I had fallen short of being who I hoped to be that day.  My current hope and prayer is that I'll stay the first guy moving forward. (side note... this poem may find its way into a later Treasures of Darkness ~ Treasures of Light story. Having been written---as my imagination sees it---by Melfall the Woodsman.)


Timbri Bay -By Geno Allen

I leapt into the jaws of death,
And strangely there did I find rest,
But not the rest long slept in peace,
You see my Lord yet had good plans for me.

A villain sought to strike my heart,
But by my Master's perfect art,
The villain's hand was stayed that day,
When I went to battle near Timbri bay.

Another plunged into the strife,
A villain swiftly took his life,
What difference was ‘tween he and I,
That I should so live and he should so die?

I pondered this deep in my heart,
And wondered at his failing part.
A question rose to me that day,
Why did I choose to leap into the fray?

I thought it out and answered right.
“My Lord did call me out to fight.”
Another question yet remained,
Why leapt that man to fight near Timbri bay?

The answer there I do not know,
But this I’ll share before I go;
It is death's jaws of which I speak…
Before choosing one’s course one first must seek.


Simply put, I'm both guys... but I strive to be guy number one. I'd write more, but I'm sleepy.

God, please help me be guy number one... I very much appreciate it!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Brothers in Arms

“A band of Brothers… Brothers in Arms.

That is what I long for. Men who know the strength of standing on faith in God. Men who bolster my faith when it is failing… whose faith I can bolster in turn.  Men who stand—together. Unashamed. Men who need not be ashamed, for they have fought the good fight. I do not wish to live (or die) a coward. Someone who simply fell before the onslaught of his enemies.  I will not live to be a man who neglects his God.  Not simply “his god”… but, God… The God.  The Father of Christ Jesus. I will stand for Him. That God. The Only True God. But I cannot stand alone.

I need a Band of Brothers… Brothers in Arms… Ones who take up the sword of prayer on my behalf. Ones who I can stand for when their enemy seeks to suppress them.  Men with the call of God on their lives. Who daily (or by moment) give God his Glory and Due Praise.  Men who encourage me to do the same.  Men who may see the fear in my eyes—the fear that would seek to take the very heart of me—but do not scorn it. Rather they take up the challenge of lifting my heart up to God. And men who pass the challenge on to me… to lift my own heart as well… to seek my God… so in my times of battle, and in their times of need, I can stand strong. So in their time of Battle I have a mind sound enough to do the same for them.

I need a heart for brotherhood… and men with hearts the same. Not the simple friendship born of simple interaction wherein little of merit passes between myself and they.  I need Brothers, Fathers, Friends… of the intimate bond that only comes from facing down our enemies and fighting side by side; when we stand and face a common foe… and know that God is on our side—but not just God (though in truth he is enough) also our Band of Brothers… our Brothers in Arms.  They that know our hearts… that have seen our fears, our failures, but stand and love us just the same—no. Love us all the more—who see us in the wearying moments that creep upon us wherein we feel we cannot stand. Who see us truly in those moments and hold us up, reminding us to seek first our God for victory in battle. Men who glory in our salvation… who glory in our God… who stand with us… And who, as brothers aught to, will heft us up upon their shoulders when victory is won.

I need a Band of Brothers… Brother in Arms.”

This was my heart's cry a while back. I passed it on to a few friends who I felt could understand.  And it dawned on me... This is really every man's heart cry (especially if they are a Christian, but even those who aren't Christian, though they may word it somewhat differently.) We may be suck at building these kinds of relationships, but it is what we need.  No matter what. 

So this little blog post rings out as a challenge to myself and others:

Build a Band of Brothers, Brother's in Arms.

I have stood firm in more of my battles since that call went out... and it is largely because Brothers answered the call.... and I was (mostly) unafraid to call out for help in my times of struggle.

God is good... and he is the one who placed that longing in us. 

Thanks for that, God.  You're awesome, and I love you!

Yours Alway,