Meanwhile, back at the ranch (Frontier, that is)

I picked up my daughter, Caroline, in Nashville a few days ago after she returned from a month on the Work Crew at Frontier Ranch. We drove back toward Charlotte, and it was so much fun to listen to her talking about the same buildings that I came to know so well in the 1980s and 90s. As she was telling me about her month, I had such vivid pictures in my head of all the places at Frontier, even though the people have changed.

This picture is of Caroline with my two of my nieces at Frontier Ranch just a few weeks ago on one of the nights in which the folks that work at camp recreate a scene from the frontier days each week. That night is one of the most fun nights of the entire week for campers and the camp staff, and when my brother sent me the picture of the girls, it immediately took me back in time. . . exactly 21 summers ago I was also in character and costume on the same night of the week.

This was me in 1993. I’m not sure how I got stuck with the “monk suit,” but it was pretty fitting (pun intended) since I left for seminary that fall. The scene I was part of was a marriage ceremony—again fitting since I’ve now done a bunch of those for real (sans monk suit)! As you can see from the smile on my face, I was having a pretty good time that summer. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I grew up at Frontier. One of the ways I grew up was learning to laugh at myself. I came to understand something that summer: one of the ways to get kids to see the incredible life that God offers is to show them how to laugh—at self and others.

I think this ability to laugh at oneself became a lost art in our culture—particularly when the “political correctness” umbrella got opened up indoors, but it’s making a comeback. One of the things I love about social media is that we are learning to laugh at ourselves again. To be sure, there’s a fine line between laughing at someone (in the “making fun of” sense) and laughing with someone’s foibles as simply part of being human. But, I think we are learning to not take ourselves so seriously again.

One of the most dangerous things about religion is that it can take the fun out of life. One of the most dangerous things about a lack of spiritual honesty is that we think that freedom means we can do whatever we want.

Makes me think of a couple of classic quotes from C. S. Lewis:

An ever-increasing craving for an ever-diminishing pleasure. . . (Lewis, Screwtape Letters)


We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

If you want to start receiving this blog via email, click here.
Yo... if you’re reading this as an email, you already get it, get it?

Brush with greatness

While at Wake Forest, we’d occasionally hear a fraternity brother stand up at a Sigma Chi meeting and announce a “Brush with Greatness.” It was a sighting or encounter with a famous person. Well, I’ve had a lot of those in my life. But Tuesday was possibly the coolest one I’ve ever had. Read More...

The Frontier.2

In July of 1992, I sat on the deck of a friend’s house in Colorado and watched an amazing lightning storm. I thought about how we are often looking for a new adventure—usually “somewhere out there” where the lightning strikes—when the journey is, more than likely, a heart-and-head trail instead of a mountain hike (though I’ve lost count of the times that a hike brought clarity to my heart and head). A song started brewing, and here’s what came out. I’ll write more about it tomorrow.

For now, here are the lyrics (which I originally wrote on the back of a Frontier Ranch paper placemat that I still have)...

And Simon Cowell, you just leave that duct tape right where it is.

The Frontier.1

Frontier Ranch is one of my very favorite places on this earth. I grew up there. I don’t mean that it’s the place where I spent my childhood; I mean I grew up there. I learned about life, faith, God, and myself there. As I look at this picture of the Frontier Ranch sign, it occurs to me that, sometimes, reflections only happen in the rear view. The sign is backwards only because I’m looking back at where I came from to get there. Read More...

In the Zone

I think that perhaps one of life’s most underrated pleasures is driving west through a state like Tennessee and having to be somewhere at a certain time. . . and then realizing that you have an extra hour to chill the next morning. Read More...

Show the Way - Verse 1

Fear can be debilitating. Period. It can paralyze even the best of us.

Fear wakes us from dreams and washes us in doubts.

Fear has our culture by the throat, and therefore, has us also in its talons. It “seems to be cutting off our life,” as Willard says above. I see Facebook posts and emails every single day that are primarily fear-based—even if couched in political or religious language. Fear is often used as the motivator to get people to do something (or not do something).

Mortar Management

I mentioned mortar in yesterday’s post. I said that mortar holds things together by filling in the gaps left over by irregular shapes, and that we need mortar in our own lives because we are all irregular-shaped people with a need for something or someone to hold us together in community.

The Problem of Evil in 3 minutes

When I was pressure-washing last spring, I blew some mortar loose from the stonework at our house. I took a photo to remind me to ask my guy if he could fix it, and when I saw this picture on my phone today, it got me thinking about mortar—which holds things together by filling in the gaps left over by irregular shapes. We need mortar in our own lives because we are all irregular-shaped people with a need for something or someone to hold us together in community. That thought reminded me of a song lyric I heard decades ago (#gettingolder), “It is love who mixed the mortar...” which promptly propelled me into a time machine. . .

Tuesday Tidbit—#5: Recycling Schedule

CLT Recycling
My son and I were rolling out the trash cans tonight, and I paused to ponder whether or not it was the week to roll out the recycling bins as well. As we rolled the cans out I thought of a way to solve this problem. If you live in Charlotte, you can do this on your iPhone. . . Read More...

A Moleskine morning

At the end of last week, I spent some time at my painted-baton-passing friend’s house. We were shooting the breeze and talked again of watercolor painting, which he does pretty much every single day. He showed me a Moleskine journal that had his first watercolor painting in it, and I said, “Do you have a lot of those journals going way back?”

He chuckled and responded, “C’mon. Let me show you.” Read More...

Passing a painted baton

Earlier this week I was in a coffee shop with a friend, and I was telling him about an art project I am working on where I have to create something on a 12” x 12” canvas. I’d been thinking about doing it on my iPad in my favorite app, Paper 53, and then making a digital print for the canvas.

He said, “You ought to just paint it.” I told him that if I could actually paint I probably would! :)

He replied, “I can teach you to paint watercolors in 10 minutes.”

I said, “If you can teach me in 10 minutes, I’m in.” Read More...

ME Week—Friday

Mary Liz - Maggie
Our dog, Maggie, is mostly deaf. She doesn’t like a lot of sudden movements or loud noises. I think this is part of the reason that Maggie sits with Mary Liz, because she knows this and is careful to protect Maggie in this regard.

It strikes me that we all need people in our lives who know our weaknesses and are careful to protect us from what or who might harm us. I need people— like Maggie needs Mary Liz— to help me “hear” what I’ve tuned out, turned off, or just plain gone deaf towards. We all need people to feel safe with— even if safety comes from someone keeping us from doing what we think we want to do. I watch Mary Liz care for and protect Maggie, and I realize that there is a reason Maggie wants to sit close to my daughter. Read More...

ME Week—Thursday

MEC Windy Gap 0002
As a dad, I believe that one of the most important things I can do is to figure out what my kids are really passionate about and give them the ability to pursue that passion. However God has wired them to think and dream and do—part of my role is to give them a pasture to play and experiment in. Sometimes it involves leaps of joy and other times it involves skinned knees. Pastures can have fences to give structure and boundaries—and to keep out unwanted distractions. Sometimes the wide open spaces with room to go at a full gallup are the best places to learn about freedom and responsibility.

ME Week—Wednesday

A friend in Richmond once told me, “We don’t raise children; we raise adults. They are just children for a little while.”

This picture is of the first day of school for Mary Elizabeth. I remember how beautiful she looked in her cute dress, white sweater and red bow and how huge the backpack looked on her tiny frame. . . I remember the feeling of putting my little girl on a school bus at the end of our street and thinking, “This is a game changer.”

Tuesday Tidbits—#4: iPhone pics—dark subject fix

IMG_3775 - Version 2
Have you ever tried to take a picture with an iPhone but the people looked too dark even on a sunny day with a bright sky?. . . When I first tried to take this picture, the sky was fine, but they were way too dark. Then I fixed it using the steps below and voilà!

Without getting into “the why” about cameras and light exposure, here’s a quick tip for fixing this problem.

ME week—Monday

Well, I’ve been waiting on this week for a while now. It’s ME week! Not in the personal pronoun sense but in the Mary Elizabeth sense. I’ve waited till this week to do it because, for the first time in a very long time, she’s the only one of our kids home all week, and she’s leaving for college next month.

Right is Write

In a world of Siri, keyboards, and cut/copy/paste, I virtually quit writing with my hands in favor of more efficient methods.

But there’s just something about getting and giving handwritten letters and notes. It may not be as efficient, but it’s probably more effective. I’m trying to do it more frequently these days. Read More...

Out punting my coverage

What I loved about yesterday. . .

After 26 years of dating. . .

With 5 other seats in the room open. . .

And she still chose to sit in the chair with me.


Happy 4th of July! Today I am thankful for every man and woman who has ever been a part of defending our nation’s freedom. In this freedom frame of mind, I offer these quotes. . .

“Any nation which for an extended period puts pleasure before liberty is likely to lose the liberty it misused.” —A. W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God

“There are laws that enslave men, and laws that set them free.” —from the movie, First Knight (starring Sean Connery as King Arthur) Read More...

New Meaning to Family Road Trips

My son, Steady, and I were watching a movie last night, and he asked me to pause it for a moment. Then he said, “Why do you think we only use 10% of our brains?” For a few minutes, we were out of “Clear and Present Danger,” (pun intended), and we talked about our brains, about heaven, and about space.

He said, “What do you think we’ll be able to do?”

I said, “I’m not sure, but I think it would be cool if we could go anywhere in the universe.”