Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sweet 16: Thinking on Marriage

 Sixteen years ago...

Mary Beth agreed...that's a weak way of putting it. She committed with her whole heart to do life with me, not just the good parts of life but all of it: the unexpected parts, the terrifying parts and the ugly parts. She vowed to me saying, "No matter how things go, you will never do this thing alone!" Her commitment has been as sure as the rising of the sun. 

Sixteen years ago...

We began a journey together. For 90% of our journey it's been 65 degrees and sunny: a clearly marked trail, the sound of rushing streams, spectacular vistas and a gentle breeze. Yet, we've also walked through scorching valleys, been attacked by mosquito armies, struggled to catch our breath as we plodded our way in the thin air of jagged mountains. There were moments we thought our journey might come to an end, but it has just begun. While dehydrated in the valleys and straining on the mountain slopes our relational muscles grew stronger, our marital VO2 max increased, and our resting heart-rate improved. The struggles of the journey have better equipped us for the journey. The best trails are on the horizon.

Sixteen years ago...

I fell in love with Mary Beth: her smile, her tiny nose, her gentle hands, her sweet disposition, her care for the marginalized, the contrast of her jet black hair against her snow white skin, her capacity to love, and a genuine ability to enter the suffering of others. Many times we tell our spouses on relational marker moments, "I love you the same as I did when we first married." I don't. I love her more. What I thought was love in 1998 was primarily hormones, infatuation and a longing to be around Mary Beth. Today, I've just begun to understand love...a choice to put the best interest of The Other in front of yourself. Most of what I've learned about love Mary Beth has taught me. 

So, Mary Beth...I don't love you like I did that night in Corpus Christi, I love you more. I commit to keep learning to love so that 16 years from now I will love you more than I do today.

Sixteen years ago...

Something began that is not yet finished. Mary Beth, we will see this to the end! I love you!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

5:00 - 8:00: Where are you?

Alastair Humphreys, British adventurer, says, "We all have our 8:00 - 5:00 jobs but what are we doing from 5:00 - 8:00?" Yes, we have responsibilities, many that even spillover into afterwork hours: kids, yards, errands...but there are those windows of opportunity that invite us to explore, to play, to be. During those moments, "Where are you?"


God designed you to move, to plant your feet on something other than asphalt or tile, to navigate your surroundings on something other than an automobile or mouse, to feel the breeze in your face, the squishy mud between your toes, the flowing water around your body. Paddle, run, ride, climb, hike, swim, walk...God designed you to move through his creation.

I'm no athlete, cut from the 8th grade basketball team, out-sprinted by offensive linemen, striking out in slow pitch softball, but I crave movement. So do you! When I move I feel alive, find peace, sleep better, live healthier and sense God.

It does not take much: just a fire to seize those small windows of opportunity. Wake up a bit early. Eat a sandwich at your desk to free up the lunch hour. Work hard so you can clock out 30 minutes early. Commute by bike. the door and start walking.

5:00 - 8:00...where are you?

Monday, May 19, 2014

24 Hours: Michael Jackson, Yosemite and the Edge of Death

My comments: BLACK
Kent's Comments: RED

Pepperdine Bible Lectures, a yearly pilgrimage to the stunning Pepperdine campus in Malibu, California with hopes of seeing movie stars, gorging yourself on seafood, soaking up some sun, connecting with old friends...oh yeah, and attending great classes by a variety of gifted Church of Christ presenters, ended with just enough time for Kent Rogers (a.k.a Gigantor) (don't fail to mention your a.k.a., Tiny!) and I to take a mach 3 trip to Yosemite! Oh, we did!

And when I say Mach 3, I'm not kidding (this video is in real time). You know the saying, "Believe nothing what you hear, and only half of what you see"?  Two words: Editing trickery! By the way, Mary Beth, I'm not the one driving! I'm in fervent prayer, clutching the sole handrail and on the verge of blowing dollar hotdogs all over Kent's rental. True statement. Are people supposed to be that pale?

I told myself a year ago, "If you have a chance to see...GO! Go see, experience, explore...even if it is only for a few hours. You never know when you will die." I said that to myself, perhaps aloud. That's just weird.  Five hours to Yosemite and so 24-hours is all I would need. Well, there was one more thing... a certain someone willing to make this crazy dash with me! I knew the guy, JKR.

He agreed under one condition, that we make a stop at Neverland Ranch! Yes, the home of Michael Jackson, not simply a gate to his former residence but a mecca for children of the 80's! Instead of a moment of silence, we performed a few spontaneous moves in his honor (Spontaneous, yet well rehearsed for many adolescent years in front of bedroom mirrors). You have no proof.  Ow!

On the light post next to our heads we added our initials to the hundreds of other MJ fans from Europe to Brazil, proof we were there, somehow linking our moonwalk attempts (Attempts? Come on, we were smooth criminals) with countless others.

We rolled into the southern part of Yosemite around 6:30 the last camping site available in the whole park, one I had reserved two months ago. Some might say I lucked out. I call it divine intervention! Our campsite was perfect...this river lulled us to sleep in a perfect 50 degree night!  It was indeed an amazing spot.  Mind you, separate and apart from, sleeping arrangements! "Lulled us to sleep" sounded a little iffy.

Our tent was perfect...well, at least it was perfect for me. Like I've told Kent 100 times, "It sucks to be tall!"  3-man tent?!? Lie!  3-Hobbit tent maybe!  Which makes sense that this is CT's favorite camping coverage, and also conveniently explains his a.k.a (see above).

Our dinner was perfect...well, okay it wasn't bad for $1.00 hotdogs. Actually 8 for $1, BBQ chips, Peanut Butter, Jelly, hotdog buns, (oh, the peanut butter & jelly hotdogs were delicious...really) vanilla wafers, can-o-chili (of course, half of it fell into the fire & ash...but still edible), fresh California Cherries (and strawberries) purchased on the side of the highway, and a goody bag from Kent's cousin.


Oh yeah! And we had 4 chicken nuggets Kent purchased in order to procure plastic ware: Fried-grilled Chicken McNuggets. Mmmm-mmm, tasty!

The next morning we took a 45-minute drive ending with a 1/4-mile pass through a tunnel. As we exited the tunnel...we saw this! My head exploded! "Hello, Yosemite Valley!" #breathtaking
#spectacular #toomuchtotakein #hashtag

We had about 6 hours (Lie. I have no idea how he calculates time...oh yeah, Mach 3 time) until we needed to head back to Los Angeles, so while Kent was preoccupied purchasing a cup of coffee...Yes, there is a coffee shop on the valley floor along with any other luxury you might want, and yes, Kent had to get his cup of coffee. I think he was a little bummed they didn't have a Caramel Macchiato. Hey, I was roughin' it with an actual styrofoam cup. I almost asked him if he wanted to make a pedicure appointment too.  If I would've known we were gonna do a 20-mile hike in 3 hours I would've gotten the appointment! Hey, don't judge. Anyway, while he was busy pampering himself, I asked a park employee, "Okay, I have one day. I don't care how long or how hard the hike is (obviously oblivious to the concerns of any other person in this adventure), what will allow me to see most of the park?" I never planned to tell Kent exactly what I asked.
Finally a bit of truth.

She told me, "Take a 4-mile hike (Lie. 4.6 mi) up to Glacier Point and then take the 8-mile Panorama Trail (Lie. 8.5 mi) back down!" Sounds perfect! So we began the hike on the valley floor...

And worked our way up seeing lots of..."boom!" my torso exploded because I'd already lost my head...awe-inspiring scenes!

Until we found our lunch spot: Glacier Point. We requested a table with a view. Yeah, truly amazing. You don't see that every day.

And ate the best PBJ Hotdogs I've ever eaten! Seriously, we were so hungry even peanut-butter on a hotdog bun was likened unto a gourmet entre!

And made a new friend who joined us for lunch! Is that legal? (rabies!)

And then 5 minutes later saw this!  Thought so.

 Then we began to make our way back down a trail that would lead us past three different sections of a massive waterfall. Ah, new backgrounds for my worship songs on Sunday.

Once we made it back to the valley floor we somehow managed to be on the opposite side of the valley...and our car.  Somehow? Really? Somehow?!? We could have waited for a Yosemite shuttle to get us back to our starting location but I figured I could make better time on foot. Of course you did. Wrong! I took off on a run, asked for directions, was sent the long route, ran through the souvenir shop, past the coffee bar (maybe you should've gotten a pedicure!), across a bridge...and a 5k later arrived back at the car.  Seriously? A 5k after the 24-mile hike?!? Once I got in the car I realized personal cars weren't allowed where Kent was waiting. So, I had to park the car a 1/2-mile from Kent and go find him. Needless to say, he was tired of waiting...from all that sitting while God knows what you were doing. But this last journey was worth it...while running through the valley floor I came across a black bear crossing the street only 40 feet in front of me. Cherry on top!

We had one last stop before we left Yosemite National Park...The Giant Sequoias. It is believed that Grizzly, the tree on the right, is 1800 years old. It's older than the final form of your Bible. It is said to have endured more than 150 forest fires! And in that single moment, God's creation swallowed me up in its grandeur!

Yosemite is one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen. These pictures fail to do justice to the majesty and the awe-inspiring beauty of God's artwork. It was even better to have shared such an experience with a great friend! No lie. We won't soon forget the majestic views and great adventure. Ditto to the "shared experience" remark. #friendsarefriendsforever #:)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Road Party (Part III): Same Name Mountain

This is Part III of the Taylor clan's Spring Break 2014 mad-dash to New Mexico, twenty-six Chevy Traverse hours logged one way. Our destination? Grants, NM to see friends, to celebrate victories over cancer, and to see the mountain! Part III is about the mountain, the same name mountain!

One of my spiritual mentors taught me the phrase:

Thin Spaces

...places where God's presence is thick.
...places where translucence is all that separates heaven and earth.
...places where you sense God's Kingdom blooming in wintered Creation.
...places where bushes catch fire but do not burn.
...places where God whispers in your ear.

Thin spaces are often moments in time: weddings, funerals, meaningful conversations, pivotal moments, but sometimes they are an actual latitude and longitude, a geographical pinpoint on the global map to which you can return time and time again.

Although I always feel God's presence in nature's sanctuary: hiking a trail, kayaking a river, running through trees, or staring into infinite midnight around a campfire...Mt Taylor is a geographical thin space. It's not the most beautiful of mountains, not the tallest, or the most dangerous, but I have a connection to it. You might even say I have a relationship with it.
  • Perhaps it's because I first discovered my love for the outdoors under it's golden-leafed aspen
  • Or logged hundreds of miles running up and down its high desert single-tracks
  • Or took my oldest son, then a toddler, on a Sunday afternoon hike to a mountain spring only to have him fall asleep on my shoulders
  • Or stood speechless as a cow elk broke from the trees a few feet in front of me, turned and then galloped up the snow-covered trail
  • Or the days I spent nestled under pine trees practicing lectio divina
  • Or the the dozens of times I stood on its summit
  • Or because it taught me to cross-country ski through blisters, cold and frustration
  • Or the nights eating and laughing around the fire with family and friends  
  • Or the way it welcomed me after my prodigal return with open arms, as if I had never left
I cried on this mountain. I laughed on this mountain. I healed on this mountain. I discovered more of God on this mountain. It is a thin space.

I hope you find a Mt. Taylor!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Road Party (Part II): Kingdom in Small Packages

Read Road Party part I HERE.

Jesus never said, "The kingdom of God is like Chuck Norris, a quick roundhouse to the temple of a broken world."


"The kingdom of God is like Wrestlemania with bulging neck-vein laden threats."


"The kingdom of God is like a Sly movie of fanfare explosions."

Jesus says:

God's kingdom is like yeast that a woman works into the dough for dozens of loaves of barley bread - and waits while the dough rises. (Matthew 13:33)

Most of God's reign breaks into the world without headlines: subtly, covertly, humbly.

North Point, Willow Creek, Saddleback, Life Church, New Spring...We all know these churches, churches for which I'm thankful and pastors who have greatly shaped my ministry. I call Andy Stanley my digital mentor. He speaks into my life without knowing I exist, and I'm not going to lie, sometimes I wish I could be the next Andy Stanley. Most pastors I know wish their church were next in the line of superstars (whether we admit it or not).

But for every North Point, 100 churches exist who will never hold a conference, whose pastors the White House will never invite to the National Prayer Breakfast, whose music ranges between fair and "eww," and believe it or not, who might not have a website (gasp). Yet here, in these kingdom harbors, heaven touches earth:
  • The gospel is preached.
  • The gospel is lived.
  • The hungry are fed.
  • The wounded are healed.
  • The lost are found.
  • Grace is extended.
  • Communities are improved.
  • People are loved.
  • Teens are mentored.
  • Elderly are nurtured.
  • Disciples are made.
  • The resurrection is practiced.
  • Jesus is Lord.
Grants Church of Christ is one such community: a diverse church, a theologically rich church, a loving church, a progressive church. I first preached at Grants C of C. It raised me as a preacher: offered me grace, gave to me sacrificially, and most importantly loved me. I'm forever indebted to this wonderful community of Christians. 

After a 5-year absence, my family returned to visit our dear friends at the Grants C of C this Spring Break. One of my best friends Matt Clark serves alongside the Grants C of C Jesus-followers and is doing a phenomenal job. He is a legit pastor, in the truest sense of the word...not just to the church but to the community. 

I'm thankful for Grants C of C and the thousand other Churches leavening all the nooks and crannies of God's creation. The video below highlights a bit of our time in Grants, NM.