Category Archives: Arizona

Chronicles of a Chronic Complainer

 

Evening sun highlights ridges and clouds at the Grand Canyon

Evening sun highlights ridges and clouds at the Grand Canyon

 

Yes, I’m a card-carying member of The Chronic Complainers Club.

Oh sure, I have had stretches of success in recent years at being mostly thankful, seeing my world for the blessings contained in it, growing in daily gratitude. And I’ve written much about these good things.

But I cannot deny that lately my inner curmudgeon has found me again. My focus has turned toward a few unpleasant circumstances that have been bringing me down. As I’ve fallen into the old trap of dwelling on these negative thoughts, I’ve lost a positive perspective and have become miserable and cranky.

Today I’ve been reminded that being a critic of daily circumstances profits nothing. It initiates a downward spiral of mood and energy, dragging with it not only my own soul but also the heart of anyone within reach of the poisonous negativity.

My dear wife has tried to warn me that Chronic Complainer had moved back in, but of course the Curmudgeon was in no mood to concede.

It took a few texts with a dear friend over the topic of local weather to fully open my eyes to the reality of the attitude I have been cultivating. My friend lives in a region of bountiful lush green forests and rivers…that exist because of bountiful fall, winter, and spring rains. While my friend craves sunshine, she maintains a patient and hopeful vigil for it, and when the clouds break for even a few minutes to reveal temporary rays of sun, or a delicious orange-creamsicle sunrise before a return to plodding rain, she celebrates those brief moments – tasting, savoring, joyfully thanking God for his goodness in creation.

 

Sunrise and sunset can be equally glorious in Everglades National Park

Sunrise and sunset can be equally glorious in Everglades National Park

 

What a stark contrast to the texts I had been writing her lately. I’d been focusing narrowly on my discomfort with humidity and heat, and my world had shrunk to consist of nothing but my own misery and an obsessive desperation to fix the problem.

But her refusal to play victim during her long dark rainy season suddenly shone like a beacon of light into my own discouragement. I felt hope awaken as I realized that complaining is a choice. I don’t have to be a slave to discouragement. I’ve been granted the power to choose what I focus on. My mindset is up to me.

Hmm, mindset.
Mind. Set.
To set the mind.

Suddenly I’m reminded of the wisdom of an ancient man, a follower of Jesus named Paul, who wanted to encourage a group of new Jesus followers in their attitudes and actions, and so he said,

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)

Paul wanted these young Christians to overflow with joy at the excellence and beauty that is their savior Jesus, and to be filled with thankfulness at all the incredible spiritual blessings that were now theirs because of the powerful grace and love of Christ. And he understood that it came about by setting their minds.

Set your mind. Be intentional. Take control of what’s coming into your brain, and focus it on the good.

 

The simple goodness of a flowering cherry tree branch against blue sky backdrop

The simple goodness of a flowering cherry tree branch against blue sky backdrop

 

In my next blog I’ll delve into a practical everyday way that I hope can effectively set my mind – a tool for enabling the hope-filled, joyful, positive life outlook that pushes the curmudgeon out the door.

In the meantime, I’m keeping my Chronic Complainers Club membership card tucked away in my wallet as a reminder, because I know full well that I’ll be needing to have this talk with myself again…

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Mystery is Spoiled by a Word

 

On this last day of 2015 I am reflecting on the images created since I began this blog. I’m filled with gratitude for the majesty of God I’ve been blessed to experience, and for the photographic work that resulted.

I leave you now with a gallery of my favorites from the first 18 months of blogging, trusting that the pictures will speak for themselves and reveal the fingerprint of the Divine…

 

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“Mystery is spoiled by a word.”

– Brennan Manning
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[PLEASE CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO BRING UP CAROUSEL VIEW]


The Significance of Feeling Insignificant

 

Canyon Layers After Storm

 

As far back as I can remember, I have longed to feel that I mattered. To believe that I am somebody. To somehow find, in this crowded world of billions, even a small significance to my existence on planet earth.

To put it more accurately, I’ve been driven by the fear of being insignificant.

This fear propelled my performance in school, in work, and in relationships. And the motivation to matter did not always end well. It took more than four decades of life to begin understanding the complexities behind the drive to be accepted and acknowledged, and thankfully recent years have seen an end to this fear dominating the deep places of my being. Oh, don’t get me wrong – I still desire to live a useful life, to have some value – but it’s not the debilitating desperate pursuit it once was.

Last night as I walked up to the edge of the south rim of the Grand Canyon, I was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of this spectacular natural wonder of our world. The dimensions of this canyon opening up before my eyes my brain could not calculate. Big beyond belief. Swallowed up in these overwhelming visuals, I felt an emotion recognizable, yet also different:

I felt insignificant.

 

I've visited the Grand Canyon many times but the views still make me gasp in awe

I’ve visited the Grand Canyon many times but still gasp in awe at the views

 

But this was not the old familiar fear. It was not an emotion of tortuous longing to be somebody. It was instead a wonderfully peaceful feeling overtaking all of me. It was gratitude for being a lowly insignificant human creature, in the face of significant grandeur created by a significant God. It was the freedom and joy of knowing I no longer have to be significant in the measure of the old way, because I have found a significant rest in the One who loves me without condition.

You see, there is another canyon. Its vastness is infinite. Its depth is immeasurable. To walk up to its edge and peer over makes the heart stop in sheer awe. The Grand Canyon is a dried-up creek bed in comparison.

It is the breathtaking canyon of God’s love.

Its mind-boggling swath was carved through the rocky rebellious soil of the human heart by the unstoppable onrushing waters of the grace of Christ. The One who lived and bled and died and conquered and ascended for me, and for all weary earth travelers who simply trust in his kindness.

 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, 
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:38-39)

An autumn thunderstorm passes over the grandiosity of the Grand Canyon

An autumn thunderstorm passes over the grandiosity of the Grand Canyon


Thirty Years, and Counting

 

There are few people on this planet I’d want to travel with for eights weeks holed up in a 7 x 10-foot camper.

Ok. There is no one I’d choose to do that with. I don’t think I’d be sane for more than a week in such conditions 🙂

With the exception of one person: my high school sweetheart and bride of 30 years, Wendy. That one fact speaks volumes about our compatibility, and how we have survived and thrived in thirty years of life stuff together.

In 2008 we took a 2-month sabbatical and hit the road in our Toyota Tundra outfitted with a tiny Four Wheel Pop-up Truck Camper, making a loop around America starting from our home near Seattle, WA.

 

Camping in our pop-up truck camper overlooking the Upper Mississippi Valley

Camping in our pop-up truck camper overlooking the Upper Mississippi Valley

 

We headed south through Yosemite, desert poppy blooms, the Grand Canyon, and the tasty red & green chile dishes of New Mexico. We made our way east through sublime Texas hill country, lush green Arkansas hills, and legendary Great Smoky Mountain National Park (accompanied by piles of mouth-watering barbecue along the route).

 

The waterfalls of Yosemite National Park were our first scenic stop

The waterfalls of Yosemite National Park were our first scenic stop

 

Wildflowers in the Texas hill country were a colorful highlight of our road trip

Wildflowers in the Texas hill country were a colorful highlight of our road trip

 

Turning north we discovered the intimate and peaceful splendor of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the colonial history scattered all over Virginia and magically preserved Williamsburg, and the varied wildlife and Atlantic beaches of Assateague Island National Seashore.

 

The old Methodist church in idyllic Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountain N.P.

The old Methodist church in idyllic Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountain N.P.

 

Dogwood and fresh spring greens decorate a foggy forest on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Dogwood and fresh spring greens decorate a foggy forest on the Blue Ridge Parkway

 

Westward we drove, seemingly back in time through Pennsylvania Amish country, to the shores of Lake Superior, up the Mississippi River Valley in Iowa and Wisconsin, through picturesque Minnesota forests and other-wordly Dakota badlands, and finally to the glory of Yellowstone.

 

As we gawked at the Amish in Pennsylvania, the Amish sheep gawked at us.

As we gawked at the Amish in Pennsylvania, the Amish sheep gawked at us

 

The 1891 Dubuque, Iowa courthouse is a historical gem

The 1891 Dubuque, Iowa courthouse is a historical gem

 

The memories from this adventure are among the very best of my life so far. The photographs from that trip I share today are a tribute to that fantastic time, to the extravagant beauty that is our America.

But more importantly, these memories and images are a tribute to our 30th wedding anniversary that we celebrate this weekend. They are a tribute to my life partner, Wendy. Her grace, her wisdom, her steadfastness. Her beauty that begins outwardly and then keeps on going deep into her spirit. When folks wonder how we made it to thirty years of marriage and counting, I just point to her!

Most days I thank God for the small blessings I get to enjoy, whether it’s the taste explosion of morning bacon, an afternoon bike ride amid lush Florida beauty, or settling in with a fine adult beverage in the evening. But when I thank the Creator for this amazing woman my wife is, I’m talking about a blessing that far eclipses all other things. Wendy is THE blessing for me in this life. All else pales next to knowing her, loving her, sharing this joy-pain-laughter life adventure with her.

She is my great love.

As we celebrate our three decades of marriage this weekend, I’ll be dreaming of the next opportunity to hole up in a tiny camper again (ok, perhaps a more spacious trailer this time) with my very best friend and lover and continue our explorations of America together…

 

Seemingly endless ridges are layered at sunset at Grand Canyon National Park

Seemingly endless ridges are layered at sunset at Grand Canyon National Park

 


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