Saturday, April 4, 2015

Beginner Biker - But Ready to Pedal

I love the idea of biking. Gliding through the woods, streams, roads with nothing but wind in your ears...awesome.

But am I a biker? No.

I have a crappy bike I bought at Walmart when we first got married with dreams of cycling around town in blissful glee.

I wanted to start biking then...instead we went twice in 22 years. 

Each year I also dream of using the bike to further my health and exercise.

I go once a year…at best.

Why? Because one of the pedals was never attached right…or it was flawed in manufacturing. It basically loosens up every ride so by the end I’m favoring that pedal so it doesn’t fall off. As a result I don’t get very far and it’s really slow going. I try to fix it by getting my tools out, and for a while it seems tight, but after a while it loosens again. 

Once I took the whole pedal assembly apart and put it back together but … nothing. It’s just a crappy bike. 

As a result, I don’t get far on my journey on my bike because I can’t push down as hard as I need onto that pedal. Once I tried to use just one pedal, you know, push down, then move your toe and pull up? But that was just dumb...a whole lot of extra work trying to find my own way to use this other than the way it was designed.


Over the past 2 weeks I’ve been listening to Andy Stanley’s “Brand New” message during lunch at work. Then last Sunday our message at church talked about the same thing. It went something like, 

If you only remember one thing about following Jesus, it’s this:

Love God, Love others

Even more to the point:

Your love of Jesus is shown through how you love others

Doug, our pastor, used an analogy of a bike frame…asking if we need to re-frame our faith from doing things that help ME get closer to God (worship, church, read, …all good things), and instead focus on loving others (serving, feeding, getting your hands dirty) summary asking in any interaction with our fellow humans, “What does Love require of me today”?. Which for me is terrifying: is my true love for Jesus measurable through how I love others?

This has preoccupied my thoughts ever since.


Including thinking about my crappy bike.

When I took the bike analogy further, it seems that for me, the whole Jesus-journey is like pedaling. To “Love God”, I push down really hard on my good pedal. But, I can only go so far down the journey God wants me to travel. To go farther, I have to push down on the “Love Others” pedal. You know, that broken, flawed pedal. The one that I’m not good at…the one that constantly reminds me I’m flawed…and others are flawed.

It’s one thing to “Love God”…I can do that alone. Not involve anyone else, and it’s fairly clean. Even the struggles with sin and failure are my own private conversation with God. 

It’s a completely different story to “Love Others”. That involves pushing on this flawed pedal. It is hard, it’s messy, and it makes me slip, causing pain and sometimes bloody pain.

I wonder if all along I've been trying to use the "Love God" pedal by know, push down, then move your toe and pull up so you can push down again? How dumb. It's exhausting, I waste an entire pedal's worth of energy, and to be blunt, it's not how the bike was designed. The bike is designed to push down on one pedal so you are in the position to push down on the other pedal.

If I take the analogy to it’s conclusion, I know that I can only reach my destination on my bike if I push down on the first pedal, and use the energy gained from that first push to push down on the second pedal. Each time I push I exert energy tha brings the ability to push the other pedal...

If I think of this point again:

Your love of Jesus is shown through how you love others

Then that tells me that the journey God wants me to take can ONLY be fulfilled if I first love God, then use the energy I’ve gained to love others. And when all my energy in loving others is sapped, I can turn and love God again. Soon, I’m gathering speed and it feels like one pedal is helping me with the other...and soon I feel like both are feeding each other and I could be flying down this path…

...much farther along the journey that God wants me to take than I ever would have if I just tried to push the same pedal over and over. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Be A Fuse Box

Last week a young woman came to live with us. Her first evening we gave her a heater since our basement guest room was quite cold. Later we also gave her a hair dryer.

A few mornings later she walked up stairs and hesitantly said, “There’s a problem”...the lights had blown out when she tried to run both the heater and hair dryer in her room at the same time. She thought some permanent damage had happened.

“No worries”, I said.

We walked down to the furnace room, and I introduced her to the fuse box:

Wonderful thing, a fuse box. Instead of a big, expensive, difficult-to-repair problem involving replacing wiring or putting out fires, it was a simple fix;  I simply switched the circuit breaker back on and showed her how she could fix it herself next time. Her response? “Thanks. I guess I know I can’t run both at the same time now”.

In that moment she learned a lesson; and while she experienced some inconvenience, no damage was done.

Now, as I think about it, I hope and pray that we can be her fuse box for many situations over the next months…financial, education, job, health, etc...

…where she can try things out, and if she fails, instead of being a major event, we can just show her what happened, help her embed what she learned and not suffer any real long-term damage.

I guess that’s what I hope I’m doing for my kids, too. Providing an environment where they can fail fast, fail safe, and while there may be some pain, some recovery involved on their part, it won’t be anything serious.


I later went to go look at other heaters, and found that some heaters have their own fuse box built into the power cord. This way the heater will trigger it’s own fuse, and it can control its own safety and not be dependent on someone else's fuse box. 

That’s what I really hope we build into both this young woman and my kids. I want to help them build their own fuse box so that when they go out on their own, they are equipped to handle what comes, prepared with fuses with certain limits so that they don’t get damaged when something unexpected comes their way.

Each of their fuse boxes will be different…since some can handle more stress than others…some can handle more social difficulties than others…and some can handle more financial risk than others. But by helping each young person build their own fuse box, they will have custom limits based on how they are wired.

…how they are wired...

Each one is wired uniquely. Maybe it’s my mission to help them figure out what gauge wiring they have so that their fuse box is built for THEM…what they can handle, not based on my expectations of what I WISH they could handle.

Fuse boxes are also equipped with a ground wire…so that if a traumatic event happens, the excessive load can be taken on by a greater power…like how a ground wire transfers damaging energy from a lightning strike through the wire into the Earth. Maybe a really great fuse box for this young woman’s life and our kids lives is to never forget the ground wire…never forget to depend on something...someone...greater than them. That their faith can bring them through times that would have completely blown out their fuse box, and while they may have pain, while they may need to recover, they would have a foundation to re-build on that will never abandon them.

In the end, I want them to thrive on their own…live life to the fullest, and not worry. Having their own fuse box (with ground wire) in their inner furnace room may help them do just that.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Just Doing What She Loves

"Just do what you love...don't worry about what others think"

The wisdom of Eddie And The Cruisers II continues to inspire...

...and just in time. I just got back from my Julia's gymnastics meet. The meet itself was OK, but frustrating...for me (and for her). I know she struggled, and in my hopes to raise her spirit, I didn't feel I took any good pictures. After processing them I feel there are some decent shots, but not great (I am used to getting her in the perfect the top of the leap, at the perfect position)... I played with Lightroom to see if I could tease out some good shots.

You know what?

I captured Julia's character:

Precision...from 20/hr a week dedication

Perfection...during warmups

Focus...and not caring what others think solitude do what she loves

Effortless...backed by tons of effort

Friendship...with a coach who cares

Mounting up...after scratching bars what life throws her way

Balance...during struggles

Alone...but determined

Processing emotion when down...

Massaging...and resolving

Solitude...and a decision

Deciding to perform her best...doing what she loves

Thank you, J.  I really love watching you do what you love.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Christmas Orchid

This dog is nothing if not photogenic. I could take photos of her all day...her expressions, colorings, eyes, and honestly, she really wears a bow well!

(click to enlarge)
    1/8 at f/4.5  ISO3200   28mm           Lens: Nikkor 18-55mm
Edited in Lightroom for color and some spot exposure changes

It was during this 'shoot' that I realized my close-up kit lens is lacking. My dad got a f/1.8 35mm lens that was just fantastic! However, I did my best with my kit lens. I kept her still while I used a longer exposure so enough light would come in but not so long it would get blurry. I also bought a cheap $7 wired remote trigger so the camera wouldn't shake on the tripod when I pressed it. My camera does have a 2sec and 10 sec delay mode, but for a doggie, that's pretty long to stay still!

Of course, Christmas is a great time for photos, what with the colors, gifts, and lights in the background. But, at least for me, the subject of the photo is what makes it memorable.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas 2014 - Capturing What’s Important

Sometimes what’s truly important stares at me in the face all year long, and I not only ignore it, I antagonize it because this year was all about ME. Only when I pause long enough to rest, look around, look at my past year, do I notice.

What did I notice this week?

It’s captured in this photo:

A family I love, and who, I think, loves each other through all kinds of adventures good and bad.

History of past Christmases sprinkled across the tree…reminding me of how many adventure we’ve had.

A tired Greg who felt quite unsuccessful this year. But also that the things I struggled with? Not anywhere in the photo.

A 11 year old son who I am more impressed with every day…who is caring, thoughtful, and so smart that he actually could do anything he set his mind to. 

An almost 14 year old daughter who delights me with her confidence, laughter, and the way she feigns disgust with certain school subjects yet aces them. Her exploration into acting and singing fills me with antici...pation with what adventures will unfold before her.

Another almost 14 year old daughter who impresses me with her attitude and determination. Whether it’s taking instruction from me in math, the way she stays on top of school work, or the way she puts 20 hours of gymnastics in to become the best gymnast she can be. Her curiosity will propel her far.

A wife whom I adore so much. I haven’t told her that much this year. Like I said, most of the year was about me and my valley. She’s solo parented when I traveled, had her own valley yet was supportive and understanding the whole year...and she spoke her mind when I needed it.  Her picking the most awesome songs for her to sing and me to play this year have been wonderfully therapeutic. For me, my journey through this life sparkles because of her…not much different than the tree in the photo sparkles because of the lights that surround it.

An almost 18 year old son whom I am so proud of. He’s ready to launch, has his thrusters on, and is just waiting for graduation day to blast off. First to basic training, then to university, then to who-knows-where. All I know is that I can’t wait to watch through my telescope how his adventures unfold.

A dog. A damn dog. A heart-stealing, character-building, couldn’t-engineer-a-cuter-animal dog that through training, has taught me more than I ever imagined.

Finally, upon closer inspection, this photo captures a hopefully successful, but probably poor, attempt to bookend this family with LOVE and Jesus…on one side to approach every interaction this family has with a goal to build up, cherish, support, and teach how to act in the world, and on the other side build a foundation of faith in Jesus that can guide and inform each member of this family in everything they do.

For me, I cherish this photo. My hope is to be more intentional with what is in this photo. To not let little things distract me. Maybe I’ll have to write more to help focus…more posts, more songs...

Who knows, maybe the next year will be filled with awesomeness and adventures…not just because I'm more intentional with what I do, but because I'm more intentional with how I react to what happens.

Here’s to an amazing 2015.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What's Made Me Smile

September was a very difficult month. The details aren’t important, and compared to others struggling, my difficulties related to career, purpose, fear, value, and future are pretty lame.

However, it has made me pay attention to when I smile…

1) When my daughters choose AC/DC
My daughters are awesome and they like all kinds of music. Mostly country and pop, but sometimes hard rock (Flyleaf). Last week they were searching stations and all these songs blurted out of the radio…”na”, “no”, “ICK”, and then they turned it to classic rock. AC/DC…and they kept it. Later that week they stopped when they heard Aerosmith.

I instantly broke into a wide “Proud Dad” smile. Of all the crap that’s on the radio…they pick the SAME SONG I chose when I was their age, and feared my dad would find out! But this time, their dad smiled, and sang along.

2) When pup catches a frisbee
Ever since this damn dog arrived, I’ve invested countless hours training it so it would behave and be a reasonable member of the household. But beyond all the effort, when I throw a sailing frisbee, and she bolts down the yard…and catches it, it just makes me smile. Lately it’s been the first thing in the day that makes me smile...which is sad when it happens at 5:50pm, but it is just that much more appreciated.

What an amazing dog (dammit)

3) When the band hits the accents
I played last weekend with my wife singing and my oldest son drumming. Just that thought makes me smile, but in one song there’s a big build-up, with an accent on the “4 and”. We all nailed it, and it brought a smile.

Not just in a “love playing” kind of smile, but in a “What a rare treat to be so in sync with this young man whom I am so proud of … who he is and who he’s becoming ... that I cherish every moment I’m even around him... and delight when we’re playing music together and HITTING THE “4 AND”!!

4) When the ball gets past me
My youngest has recently been interested in soccer. Nearly daily when I get home from work, I’m worn out and sad (see above struggles).  One of the first things he asks is, “You wanna play soccer?” It’s usually the last thing I want to do, but I go out and do it. I’m not exercising enough so I figured 15 minutes of running around and jogging in place while goalie is something…and then he scores.

What a great feeling to play my best and be bested by my youngest. He scores, shows hustle, and I just can’t keep from smiling.

5) When my wife takes my hand
Lately I’ve been so distracted when I walk from point A to B that it completely surprises me when she walks up and holds my hand. That small gesture reaffirms that she still wants me around. I’m not sure why. I’ve seriously not earned any “you’re worthwhile” points. It sometimes surprises me when she still smiles at me. But it really makes me smile.

Maybe that’s what’s wrong with me…I’m so focused on how to improve career, purpose, fear, value, and future, that I am forgetting that what makes me smile (relationships and music) really have nothing to do with that.

Maybe THAT’S what I should focus on and the rest will work itself out.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I Love Where I Live

I honestly can’t tell you what our future holds in Rochester. I hope to host a double wedding here someday. I hope to compose the 'next great song out here. I hope to be here when they wheel me into hospice. However, I’m (hopefully) only 1/2 done with living and that’s a long time. My job might pull (or push) me to move to Austin, I might take some future opportunity to who-knows-where, or I might get fed up with the cold winters and just find something warmer.


All I know right now is that this summer has been fantastic where I am right now. This is my yard. My kids grew up here, I know every inch of these 5 acres of land, and when we have friends and family over and our yard is used, it means everything to me. Offering this space up for reunions, campfires, puppy play, kid summer fun, is what it’s here for.

Sometimes I sit out here and play guitar and write songs…but not often enough. Sometimes we fetch. Sometimes we walk the path through the park looking for wild raspberries. Sometimes we stand on the porch watching the rain come in from the view you see here.

No matter what happens, I cherish this Hinterland as the place where Karyn and I made, and continue to make, a great life. Is it hard? Time-consuming? Overwhelming? 


But nothing worth anything is easy…

…and right now where we are is precious.

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