Day 1,242 – Thankful for Unexpected Spiritual Learning

When I came to training this week I was firmly focused on very tactical and technical learning. I usually come to events like this with the mindset of strategic learning. Instead this has been a well of spiritual learning (and healing).

Funny how I go into something thinking I know exactly what I need. My mind is already made up of knowing that I will hear exactly what I expect. In some ways I am wasting my time in this mindset. If I already know what I am going to learn I can just skip it, right? My head was already pulling in this direction before I came to Nashville. Imagine my surprise as I’ve really noticed more focus on spiritual learning (and healing) over the past few days.

There’d already been a small handful of moments in which I’d had lessons along those lines, but today I was hit head on. This morning was our prayer breakfast. Yes, our organization has a beautiful prayer breakfast which is truly 100% and it’s something that I’ve grown to appreciate more and more each year.

Our speaker this morning was Annie F. Downs, an author, podcaster, and speaker who pretty much blew my mind. She shared a couple of stories that really helped me see the world just a little differently, but both in deeply profound ways. Annie walked us through a personal event and tied it back to a story form the Bible that I don’t really remember hearing; the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

I’ll share my own super condensed version of the story to give you context and then get to the good stuff… the specific lessons that hit me so hard today in a wonderful way.

Three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to the idol of a false god that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, commanded all to do. Their faith in God told them they were only to bow to their God. Nebuchadnezzar was obviously very angry and ordered them to be thrown into the fire, specifically the furnace that was so hot that it was used to cast the idol. He chides the three young men and asks them who their god is who will deliver them from his fire. They respond that their God will save them, but even if he doesn’t they are still only serving their God, not his false god. As the guards push them towards the fire the guards die from the fire and the heat. Nebuchadnezzar looks into the furnace to watch their death and sees that their shackles have been burned away. He also sees them completely unscathed by the fire. He also sees a fourth person walking with them in the fire. All three came out of the fire unharmed and unbound. Like I said, this is the super short version, check out Daniel 3 in the Bible of your choice for the full story.

There were several points that Annie made that hit me right in the heart in positive ways.

First off, they didn’t know how the story would end. We have the benefit of being able to read the story and see the way it ends, but they did not. In each of our lives we never have the opportunity to see the end until after it’s come. We can only look backwards to connect the dot, not forwards. We have to trust that we are in a specific situation for a reason and it is our duty to help find the reason.

Next, only the shackles were burned off in the fire. Sometimes we have incredibly difficult challenges and struggles in our lives to face. In those times we must remember that sometimes we need those to burn away what may be holding us back. The struggle or fire may hurt, but it’s in order to help heal us. This is tough because we don’t like pain, but sometimes it has to happen to help us be healed. Think of it as a spiritual band aid being ripped off. Through the pain our healing begins.

Finally, and this line is continuing to haunt my thoughts, “but even if He doesn’t…” Things aren’t always going to turn out as we’d hoped. It doesn’t mean The Big Dude Upstairs doesn’t care about us or or wish us ill will, it’s just that we don’t always have the full vision of the how and why of our life. He gets the big picture because The Big Dude Upstairs is The Big Picture (btw – I can’t help but giggle seeing that the auto type feature of my iPad now follows up the words ‘The Big” with “Dude Upstairs”). Even if God doesn’t do exactly what we’d hoped it doesn’t mean that we should act differently. We should always focus on doing, acting, and loving the way He wants us to, regardless of it may put us in His favor. I need to remember to do the right thing even if He isn’t going to make things better / easier / healed. My faith must grow stronger than asking for a bargain or proof. I know, it’s not all the way fleshed out but that’s one of the reasons I blog… it helps me work stuff out.

After Annie’s presentation and a wonderful rest of the prayer breakfast my heart and brain were both full. My head has been spinning ever since as I think through that story and see so many new facets of it and apply it to so many different aspects of my life.

Another interesting thing along those lines have been several somewhat serendipitous conversations that have also helped me focus on why I do what I do. Not just work, but the way I act in general. How and why do I maintain my optimism and positivity? How much has a mindset of gratitude improved my life? How have I turned my mess (lack of gratitude) into my message?

While I was anticipating technical answers to practical challenges my soul has been filled and renewed with a much more important type of learning, spiritual learning.


Day 1,241 – Thankful for Hiking and Running In New Zealand This Morning

Sadly, I was not ACTUALLY hiking and running in New Zealand. Fortunately I had the next best things; a treadmill showing videos of hiking in New Zealand and memories of being on those trails in real life.

I definitely prefer running outdoors to being on the “dreadmill” but sometimes it’s just easier. This morning was one of those times. When I got on the treadmill there was an option of watching a hiking trails. Seeing tours of both the north and south islands of New Zealand had me grinning from ear to ear. Without a second thought I fired up the North Island and I was off!

It was pretty wild to be hiring along the same trail I’d hiked before to get to Cathedral Cove. I remembered many of the twists and turns and we hiked as a family. While I watched the screen show more and more locations I’d been to I would occasionally space out and get lost in my memories.

What a wonderful start to the day. Exercise always feels great, but to do it while being mentally transported back in time a couple of years was amazing. My time in New Zealand was amongst one of my favorite family vacations ever (for numerous reasons) and to be reminded of that experience was priceless. After we retire we plan on spending our first winter living in New Zealand and I think of it as one of my “homes.” The others include The Big Island of Hawaii and La Crosse. This morning I got to spend some time at home while I exercised – perfect!


Day 1,240 – Thankful for an $11.96 Investment that Continues to Pay Off

I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget buying Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. The boys and I were in the San Francisco airport on our way out to Australia and I was in the mood for a good book for our long flight. We were passing time waiting for our flight and we popped into the bookstore. I knew what I was looking for and highly doubted I’d find it in the tiny airport bookstore with a very limited selection. The book I was looking for was almost 2,000 years old and wasn’t on the bestseller list. As luck would have it I found one lone copy buried off to the side of a shelf. Next thing I knew I had invested $11.96 in myself.

Fast forward to two plus years later and here I am spending time re-reading it for the umpteenth time. I am continually amazed at how often I find a new nugget of information that I somehow missed before. Sometimes there was an idea that made sense but I didn’t have the right experiences to provide context. Maybe I just wans’t ready for it the first few reads. Whatever the reason, I am continuing to learn each time I pick it up.

Over the past couple of years I’ve brought it along with me anytime I’ve travelled and am sure to pick it up at least a few times. It’s possibly my most prized travel possession. I’ve learned from it, lived life better due to it, found joy in it, created joy from lessons learned from it, and so many more things to learn from it. All that for less than $12.00; that’s a pretty solid investment!

Quick side note, what really caught my brain yesterday and today was the beginning of the book. To start Marcus shares what he learned from the most important people in his life and points out what he has learned from each of them. This process in of itself has had the gears in my head turning ever since. If I were to write this who would I write about? What would I credit them for? What an excellent thought experiment!


Day 1,239 – Thankful for Running Into Bitter Cold Winds and Drifting Snow, Olympic Memories, Waterproof Socks, and Running with My Soulmate

This morning the weather was putting up a pretty solid fight to keep Becky and I from running outside. There were inches of fresh snow. The temperature was cool, but not frigid. The wind was BRUTAL! It was blowing over 20 miles per hour. Not only did that make it feel bitterly cold, but it caused the snow to drift in crazy patterns which made running a little more crazy. Also, when you’re a due my size the wind adds a whole other level of resistance training.

The crazy thing was that I’m thankful I ran in it today. It was pretty harsh at the beginning, but it made for a memorable run. The wind also helped me feel like I really earned my miles today. Long story short, I really enjoyed the struggle and the test of my grit and attitude selection. To be clear, I don’t necessarily want to run in 20+ mph gusts anytime soon, but today it added an excellent extra challenge for which I am grateful.

Part of what made the run even more awesome were the memories I had come back to me. While I was initially thinking about how difficult it was to run in the snow like this I thought back to the Olympics back when I was a kid. There was the amazing Russian wrestler (real wrestling, not WWE) who trained in Siberia. During a mini documentary about him they showed him on a training run in Siberia. He was running, actually running, in snow that was up to his chest. It was wild!!! To think, I was mentally complaining about running in 3″ of snow. Talk about a reality check.

This also got me thinking back to watching those Olympics when I learned how the greats retired from their sport. Once the wrestler has completed his last match he sits on the mat, takes off his shoes, and leaves them on the mat. When I saw an Olympian do this at the end of his competition it was amongst the dozen most emotional things I’ve witnessed in my life. I really can’t explain it, but as a wrestler you give more to your sport than any other sport I’ve participated in. To offer this one last slice of you after you’ve left it all on the mat many times is an incredible thing. If you’ve never wrestled, trust me, it is truly a sight to behold and even the toughest of wrestlers will not have a dry eye.

All these memories from running in the snow, how cool is that?

I’m also supremely thankful for my waterproof socks. Thanks Amazon for providing me a very inexpensive way to help keep my feet warm and dry while running in the snow. For less than $15 I’ve been able to enjoy runs in snow, slush, and puddles in total comfort!

Last, and most importantly, I’m thankful for a morning run with my soulmate. Life is busy, often ridiculously so. Our time on an early morning run like that is music to my soul. Sometimes we talk the entire time, other times we’re both quiet and waking up. Regardless, it is time for the two of us to be together (along with the girls) enjoying many of the things we both love – nature, outdoors, solitude, peace, calm, quiet,exercise, and time together. Each of the days in which my morning starts with a run with Becky is a little brighter and more vibrant than the rest. I am so grateful for our morning runs.

All that from one run in the morning, crazy huh?


Day 1,238 – Thankful for Learning From the Best, Serving the Best, and Loving with the Best

Today I’m thankful for a handful of different things for a wide variety of reasons.  The one common goal is that I am thankful for everyone in my life today.

Our boys aren’t perfect and they make their mistakes.  In some cases some are worse than others.  In others their response is worse than others.  When these situations happen I am so thankful for my parents.  They taught me how to balance love with discipline in order to teach very valuable life lessons.  I drew from them and my experiences from them on several occasions today and I’m thankful for learning from the best.

In working with my teams today I was struck by how thankful I am for each of them.  They each bring their unique skill sets along with their unique personalities in a quest to help people find work.  I am so blessed to have the opportunity to serve them.  Each day they push themselves out of their comfort zones to help others and strive to be better than they were the day before (which is all types of difficult when you’re starting at awesome).  Having them around me helps me find reservoirs of strength and inspiration.  I am so thankful for them.

Last, this evening I was able to spend time talking with my family.  We spent time on the couch, time together and time in small groups.  We ate dinner as a family and enjoyed time and love together.  This wasn’t just with my boys and Becky, I was also able to spend time on the phone with my mom and brother.  Throw in time talking and texting with close friends and there was a whole lot of love today.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to share love with the best family and friends a person could ask for.

I certainly hope I have many more days, weeks, months, years, and decades with each and everyone of the people who have touched my life today.  If this was the last I would go knowing that I had more than my fair share of the best in my life and especially today.  Love you all – including those I didn’t have the opportunity to talk with today!



Day 1,237 – Thankful for Scouting Successes

Tonight was the Court of Honor for the Scouts.  It’s an opportunity for the boys to celebrate the successes they are having in Scouting and to be recognized for their efforts.   This one was especially cool for us for a handful of reasons.

This was the first Court of Honor since Gavin has really amped up his scouting focus.  We’d missed the last one due to soccer so he had a handful of merit badges to collect this time including Crime Preventing, Finger Printing, Indian Lore, Wood Carving, Archery, Geocaching, Aviation, Family Life, & First Aid.  Throw in a rank advancement and he had a stack of patches…  Special thanks to Becky who’s in the process of attaching said patches as I type this!  As the chaplain of his troop Gavin started the meeting off with a prayer.  In normal Gavin fashion he left us all chuckling as he wrapped it up.  The kid cracks me up!

Earlier in the day Gavin and I worked on some orienteering as well.  We had instructions showing distances and directions and it was up to him to use a compass.  The directions took us all throughout the neighborhood and we had a blast joking around while learning ways to find a landmark to head towards.  What an awesome way to spend time on a weekend together!

The Court of Honor had an emcee I was excited to see also, Dominic!  As the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) of Troop  15 he was one of the people taking the lead in handing out awards and keeping the program on track.  The first time he was an emcee I was at soccer with Gavin so I was even more excited for this time.  He did an awesome job and was upbeat and smiling the entire time.  I’m so proud of how willingness to put himself out there and talk in front of a room full of peers and adults.  Seeing him in a leadership role like this had my heart smiling the entire time.

I was also super proud of him as he earned his Life Scout rank today!  This is the last level up before Eagle and is a big deal to reach.  He has put a ton of time and effort into Scouts and I’m so thankful to see it all keep paying off for him.  Next up for him will be a focus on an Eagle project; can’t wait to see what he decides to do for it!

The day has been wonderful (with the exception of realizing that there is such a thing as too much bacon, but that’s a story for a different blog).  Lots of family time, much accomplished, and progress made.  All that said, I’ve so thankful for all of the Scouting successes for the boys today.  I’m grateful for these milestones to help them see the progress and successes they’re having in their Scouting life.





Day 1,236 – Thankful for Awesome Vacation Memories Rekindled Through Photographs

Day 1,236 – Thankful for Awesome Vacation Memories Rekindled Through Photographs

A picture is worth a thousand words.

You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?Anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles.

You don’t take a photograph, you make it.

A good snapshot keeps the moment from running away.

We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.

Each of those quotes are spot on for me today.

Dominic is doing a presentation at Scouts tomorrow on Isle Royale. There was a little computer glitch which led me to hop on the laptop to help out. While fixing the issue I figured I’d make Dominic’s life a little easier by getting all the photos from our trip copied into a shared folder.

In doing so I stumbled onto a moment of vacation remembrance bliss. Seeing the photos from that vacation brought back a flood of wonderful memories. Once again I’m amazed at the ability of a photograph to transport me back to days of travel.

So many wonderful memories…