Sunday, November 7, 2010

It Goes By In A Flash

To borrow a comment from my wife's last blog, also posted several months ago, "I kind of stink at blogging right now". Time is ever fleeting and I wish I could say I have not wasted the time here or there that I could have used to assemble the collage of thoughts that run through my head into something that might be interesting, if only for my benefit.

But the occasion of Mallory's 16th birthday and an fairly well executed surprise party required me to make a short speech. I was not sure how well I would do at that in terms of riding a wave of emotion, so I set out to capture the thoughts I wanted to convey in writing. Having done this, it is I suppose now something that I can publish. The photos are from a slide show (funny we use that term still - I wonder if Mallory or many of her 16 year old friends have ever seen a real 35mm "slide"?) Joy and I, well mostly Joy assembled to run in the background throughout the evening.

In Recognition of MalloryNovember 10, 2010

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
(Henry David Thoreau)

Even as a baby the brightest - and most mischievous of smiles as she threw herself into everything with great enthusiasm!

The first of many sporting adventures. Also that classic Mallory look - "Are you serious? You think I'm going to do what?"

Self confident and an attitude that she can conquer about anything.

They say our children are mirrors, reflecting the best and worst of our character.

With Mallory, sometimes I fear as parents we may get too much credit and our many failings are obscured. As she has matured into a young woman these past few years, we have marveled at how she has grown in confidence, grace and godliness. We have also realized that as parents we are largely past the phase where we influence and mould her character, and we are now mostly in a care and maintenance role, providing a little guidance here or there.

I have thought about how in some small way we have influenced Mallory, and three things we have done openly and obviously come to mind:
1. Joy and I have loved God and struggled (in a good way) to find meaning, reality and purpose in our faith,
2. As husband and wife, we have grown more and more deeply in love with each other and we let that affection show, and
3. As parents, we have unreservedly loved both of our children.

I am not sure how much these things have mattered, but I guess I like to think they have. But in some way, Mallory as with all other children was created to be the special and unique person she is. All we have done is loved her and given her the freedom to become that person. I think this really hit home when she went to Haiti for most of the summer last year. Different people asked me if I was worried about her going off there and I realized that I was not. She was in God’s hands. She always had been. We had just been given the blessing of raising her as a child.
I could spend a long time describing what it is we love about Mallory. But one of the great things about Mal is you know who she is and so I don’t really need to spend a lot of time telling you. She is confident in who she is and makes friends easily. She is not a wallflower or some quiet church mouse hiding in the shadows. Rather, she is always somewhere near the center of whatever is going on.
She is not shy. Whether or not you like it, you will know how she feels about what is going on, and if she doesn’t like it, she will not only say so, she will try to do something about it. We love her passion, her energy and how she embraces life. We also love her tender spirit, her practical faith, and the strength of her convictions, especially that she hates injustice.

All of you here have in some way been a part of her life, some for a long time, some of you for less than a year. You are all in some way impacting Mal, and being impacted by her. We want to thank you so much for joining with us in celebrating “finally” her sweet 16th.

And so to Mallory I say;

You have found your voice, and you are writing your own songs. Stay true to that voice.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wealthy Beyond Imagination

From My Journal, May 26th, 2010
Proverbs 1-3, Romans 7
Scripture: Proverbs 1:19
So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;
It takes away the life of its owners.

Observation:I was driving yesterday and there was a song on the radio with repetitive lyrics along the theme of “I want to be rich”. By the wonders of Google, I have discovered that this is sung by an artist with the name “Calloway” and the words (and title of the song) are in fact “I wanna be rich”. Anyway – it got me to thinking about:
  • How rich is rich enough,
  • Am I rich enough,
  • How would being rich be different, and so on.
I came to the conclusion that we are always comparing against others. I am rich in worldly terms – from various statistics I have heard quoted, probably somewhere in the top 10%, maybe 5% (or better) of world population in terms of material wealth. Not bad huh – so why don’t I feel rich. Because when I compare what I have amassed against that of others – and someone will always have a bigger pile.

So in simply material terms, am I rich enough – the answer would have to be yes. But if I were even richer, well then – I could have MORE stuff – but I don’t have room for all my stuff now – especially the stuff I never use, so I would need a bigger house – and so the futile striving continues… how long until the absurdity of this sinks in?

What if I measured wealth differently? Do I measure wealth differently? I think in part I do, but part of me still likes to compare also.

Do I measure wealth by the love I have known – from my wife, my children, my family and my friends. If I was to do this and this alone, I would know how wealthy I really am.
But better yet than this, I know the love of God. I know that:
"God's care for humanity was so great that he sent his unique Son among us, so that those who count on him might not lead a futile and failing existence, but have the undying life of God Himself."
(John 3:16 Dallas Willard translation)

Because I know this, I have life – my life is not being taken away.

Because God created me for the primary purpose of relationship with Him. The fall damaged this, the fall alienated me from God, from His creation, from other people – even from myself. But through Jesus, these broken relationships are restored - forever.

Praise God!

Action:So more counting my blessings – and less comparing to others. That’s it really.
And maybe a different song in my head – one of my favorite lyrics from “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North…

Why are you still searching, as if I’m not enough
Prayer:Lord, help me not only to realize how rich I am, but to act like I am rich and give what makes me wealthy away.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
When it is in the power of your hand to do so.
Proverbs 3:27.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reflections from the Christensen Family in Littleton

This was written as a Christmas letter just before I started blogging. It was such an eventful year for us full of emotional highs and lows. We sang a song a week ago in church that has meant so much to me in the wake of the events of just on a year ago when our sister in law Karla went home to our only true home in heaven - Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redmann. Then on the web journal / blog of a good friend Phil McCallum, there it was again. It made me think of what I had written, and decided to use it as the subject matter of a blog, trying to be a little creative with music video as that had been a theme in the letter. Now if you were not as inept as I at the art of blogging and such, you could probably make the music video links pop up in a new window. But me - not so much, so you'll just have to hit the back button after the video to return to the blog. Enjoy...

What an interesting year this has been. It seems to have flown by such as the days do when you have so much going on you fall into bed exhausted at the end of them. So as in years past, here is a snapshot of our 2009. Some of you will have been very close to our goings on, and for others well, maybe we will get to see more of you next year. As our friends are scattered all over the world however, this is just the way of things.

An early highlight was a weekend in the mountains with three other families near the Sol Vista ski resort. It is after all not just what you do, but who you do it with that matters. The Ezman, Papay and Wilkin families have become an intimate part of our life and this was a fun weekend of skiing, kids being kids, cards, and just hanging out.

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking

And racing around to come up behind you again

Somewhere about this time, we also threw an “Australia Day” party. We invited people to come as you would if you were in Australia (where January means sweltering midsummer heat) and a good number rose to the occasion venturing out in beachwear or Steve Irwin attire on a chilly winters evening. Peter did “prawns on the barbie”, we served vegemite on toast and fairy bread – and a good time was had by all.
Our family suffered a terrible loss early in the year with the sudden and unexpected passing of our sister in-law Karla. No matter what we believe and how strong our faith, we all struggle with an event like this. Perhaps the words of her oldest daughter Courtney say it best…

"There was a plan for my mom's life, and I believe that it's still in the works (it'll be a legacy). There's not been a single mistake in any of this. I am so blessed to see firsthand God's grace, comfort, peace, and most of all, organization. He is good, and his fruits endure, even in the midst of tragedy."

All of these lines across my face

Tell you the story of who I am

So many stories of where I've been

And how I got to where I am

But these stories don't mean anything

When you've got no one to tell them to

It's true...I was made for you

The Story - Brandi Carlile

This year the girls saw their first snow days – which meant they got to spend not 1, but 2 days just before spring break snuggled up at home, instead of at school. Joy thinks Peter knows something he is not telling as he was out of town (stranded as flights into Denver were mostly cancelled) not only for this sump of heavy spring snow, but also when it happened AGAIN in the fall! Oh well – shoveling is good exercise and the driveway thankfully is not too long (easy for Peter to say when he is stuck in Dallas!). The puppies love the fresh snow – but then they don’t do any shoveling either.
Well we have been back in Denver and in our own home for two years so we embarked on our first major home renovation project. We love to entertain – there is something special about bringing people together from all the diverse parts of our lives in informal gatherings and just seeing what happens. But our kitchen was frankly, not very well laid out – and as everybody knows – parties invariably congregate around the kitchen. The new kitchen is largely in thanks to a lot of help and great advice from Joy’s brother Jeff and our brother in-law Mike. It looks great and gives that part of the house a completely different feel. Peter still has some trim and finish work to do – and now that the weather has turned colder; and outdoor pursuits such as hockey, soccer and golf are pretty much done for a while; this will soon be underway. Joy LOVES her new kitchen!

But there never seems to be enough time

To do the things that you want to do

Once you find them

Time in a Bottle - Jim Croce

Sport is something Peter enjoys, something Jillian seems to inherited from him, and if it involves a social aspect – something Mallory can also enjoy. This year Jilly got back into field hockey bringing a new dimension to our lives. In May she played with an under 12 mixed team from Colorado in the “Cal Cup” a large tournament in LA. The kids did amazingly well, competing mostly against club teams who have been together for some time and were only just held out finishing runners up. She and two other girls from this team were invited to play with a high school team (girls 3-6 years older) in the Colorado State games where they also finished runners up (Peter played with an adult team in this tournament also – they did not fare so well!). After playing in some summer programs, Jilly was nominated for the US Field Hockey Association “Futures Program” which will be some top level coaching – and more weekends come the new year – oh well – she loves it. Mallory decided to give field hockey a go also (having played one season in Australia) and played on the JV team for Golden high school. She had a great time, making new friends as she always does, and even picked up a few skills along the way. Both girls are now playing in a winter indoor league.
My best friend gave me the best advice
He said each day's a gift and not a given right
Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind
And try to take the path less traveled by
That first step you take is the longest stride

If this song lyric fits anyone in our family, it would be Mallory. Mal informed us at the beginning of the year that she really wanted to go on a missions trip – didn’t know where – didn’t know what she would be doing – but she wanted to do it. She has a sensitive spirit and a genuine desire to care for others. This led to her spending almost 8 weeks this summer with a team that went to Haiti to assist in building an orphanage for Hope in the Light Ministry. Her team was organized and prepared through a youth short term mission organization, Teen Missions International. It should come as no surprise that going from our comfortable middle class life in an American suburb, to working (hard) in one of the poorest nations in the world was an eye opening and life changing experience. We were fortunate that we could tie into her initial training in Florida by going out with here a week in advance and enjoying a relaxing family holiday at Cocoa beach.

While Mal was in Haiti, some extremely affordable tickets were available for travel to Australia, and this turned into a 2nd unplanned family vacation in the short gap between Mal coming back from Haiti, Jilly’s summer of hockey, and the start of the school year. We had such a great time – Brisbane provided the best mid winter weather imaginable, the kids got to go to the Ekka (a huge “state fair”) and we spent a lot of time enjoying the company of family and friends. We were truly blessed to have been able to do this and that if fit into an otherwise crazy summer schedule.

Since the resumption of school, we have Joy working quite a lot as a substitute teacher, Peter and Joy operating a 24/7 taxi service (although Mallory will have her drivers license learners permit next week – can you believe that), the girls involvement in soccer, hockey, choir, piano and of course a jam packed social schedule and once in a while, Peter and Joy enjoying some adult company – either with each other or with some of the many good friends we have made or reconnected with in returning to Denver.

God has woven an incredible web for our lives with friends; reconnecting with ones from West Virginia, Farmington, and Australia. We enjoyed spending some time in Oklahoma to celebrate the wedding of Laurel and Chris – Laurel being the daughter of Phil and Leslie, pastors of an amazing church we were part of in Australia. We also were able to spend some time on this trip with Joy’s older brother Jerry who lives in Tulsa – and are very much looking forward to an unprecedented third family vacation in Cancun just before Christmas with most of Joy’s family to celebrate Jerry’s 50th.

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's "all as it should be"
Blessed be Your name
And blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

You give and take away You give and take away
My heart will choose to say Lord, blessed be Your name

I will bless Your name

Our blessings this year – even a year of great loss - have been many. As Mallory got to see firsthand in Haiti – we are amazingly blessed to live in the comfort we do. We have been blessed also by the birth of Reese, Mike and Jenny’s first child and our youngest nephew. And we look forward to the arrival of the next generation – our oldest niece Courtney and her husband Adam are expecting their first in the New Year.

We hope and pray this Christmas will be merry and blessed for you.

Peter, Joy, Mallory and Jillian

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rationalization or Hardness of Heart?

I had not thought starting out that daily journaling would provide some of the thoughts I would like to share on my blog. But then I'm not sure I thought about the content much at all - so that is fine. I had thought earlier of sharing my goals for the year (aka New Years Resolutions but without all the usual expectations of failure). Perhaps I still should. Making a public declaration kind of forces your hand...

Scripture: Mark 6:52
For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.

Observation:I am sure there are many things that cause our hearts to be hardened. The reference here is to one of Jesus’ miracles, this time feeding 5,000 men (plus women & children) with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. In verse 37 of this chapter after Jesus tells them “You give them something to eat.”, they respond in a way I can understand and relate to; “Are you serious?”. Of course I can relate, I mean if Jesus said that to me, how would I react – how do I react? Are there 5,000 homeless people in the Denver area? Almost certainly the number is significantly higher than that.

A friend wrote in her blog yesterday:

I am not a church building hater. Actually, I have always dreamed of a building packed with clothes. So many clothes that you have to sit on them just to fit in the sanctuary. A kitchen with a hot meal always ready, not a trendy coffee shop. A food pantry opened 24/7. Beds and showers for those who need it. I have held on to this vision for 18 years.


I have a vision where the CHURCH takes care of those in need instead of the government. I have a vision of children being able to break the cycle of poverty. I have the vision where if someone is cold, hungry or wet then believers will step in and provide. I have a vision where churches stop putting their money into planting more flowers or repaving their perfect parking lot and invest the money into people instead.

This is quite a challenge – and not just lofty words, this is a young woman who has been in the trenches serving God amongst the unloved and disenfranchised people in her community and further afield most of her life. I think I felt compelled to capture this because it illustrates the point not because it is my point.

My point is simply that doubting God, not trusting in Him hardens my heart.

It doesn’t really matter what God is asking me or anyone else to do. It might involve the homeless, it might be the poor, it might be orphans, it might be unreached people in a far away land or a thousand other things. If we doubt what He tells us to do, if we don’t trust Him to have our back on this then our heart becomes hardened. He not us is how these things that are so immense, so overpowering, so much bigger than ourselves can get done, but do we really believe that – do I really believe that?

I see this in myself and others – I just never recognized it as hardness of heart. I think the preferred term is rationalization…

Application:I feel a burden for the poor or homeless. I don’t know why that gets me more than anything else but I’m pretty sure it is something God has put in me, not just white suburban middle class guilt. So the question is then how will this make a difference in my life? For me I think it must be to figure out exactly what this burden means – it has to mean something more tangible than doing the odd small thing here and there – things that are well within myself and MY capability to accomplish. What should I be doing that I need to rely on God to accomplish?

Prayer:Lord, at the risk of being told something I am not comfortable with, I want to open my heart to You to know more clearly what it is that You want me to be doing. And with that, the strength and courage to trust in You and pursue it.

To be clear and ensure no one who recognizes the photo above thinks it is a message about Jesus with no tangible evidence to back it up, this is the Denver Rescue Mission - a group of people with an incredible ministry to the poor and homeless.
Denver Rescue Mission

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

God Meeting Our Needs Is A Blessing

Scripture: Leviticus 26:3-4
“If you walk in my statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.

It would be easy to package these verses up and claim that doing what God commands and following His rules will result in blessing. And that would be true, however I think sometimes we equate blessing with something extra – something special – something perhaps more than we deserve. What jumps out at me from this passage is that we will indeed receive a blessing. God meeting our needs is a blessing.

This can play out in several ways as described in following verses; “Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage…”; “I will give peace in the land”; “make you fruitful, multiply you”; “My soul shall not abhor you” (forgiveness); and perhaps most importantly, “I will walk among you”.

This is not “name it and claim it”, just God wanting us to be whole, and many of these blessings are not material things at all.

Lord, help me firstly to follow you – to obey you. Lord in this fallen world, many do not have all they need, and yet you have blessed me already with more than I need which is certainly more than I deserve. Help me to be thankful for what I have, and not to waste my time or desires on something more. Rather help me to share that blessing with others in need – especially those who need to know what it is like to walk with you.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Part 3 - Friends for Life or "BFF"

I mentioned our retreat at Winter Park in my last post. Ron Widdifield was an elder at Believers and he and his wife Pat were the adult supervision for the weekend. As it was a church group retreat, there needed to be some spirituality so Ron had a short time sharing some of his life learnings with us. He said something that I think is profound in that it’s truth has been evident ever since. It was in my words something along the lines of,

“These times and the strong friendships you build in your 20’s are so very important as these perhaps more than any others will be some of the closest friends throughout your life”

Not only have these words stuck with me for nearly 20 years, so too have many of the friends I made during those years. Living in many different places from that time to now has led to amazing opportunities to make new friends. It also adds the challenge of keeping up with them as you move on. Some stay closer than others for a bunch of different reasons. I think how much time you invest in one another has a fair bit to do with it, and that can happen in a short span of time. That doesn’t make some of those you feel like you have drifted away from less significant. Geography can have a lot to do with it. We also move through different phases of life – right now we are in the surviving teenagers phase – well it’s not all that bad. And then there is time…

I mentioned Todd Lansing in my last post. Todd and I were part of a group of guys who met weekly to share a meal, what God was teaching us and what was going on in our lives so as to hold each other accountable. Dennis Farmer who I also mentioned was in that group. You have to be committed to growing as a Godly man to be in a setting like that with your father in law! We also played basketball together, sometimes pick-up games and for one season with others I mentioned, Frank Muehlbauer and Jim Tisdall and other guys they knew. We went camping with the extended Farmer family where fishing and trail bike riding filled days in remote parts of the Rockies. I mentioned skiing and we also had some seasons of mixed volleyball with others from church. I mentioned a cute girl before – she also played volleyball, although I do remember her little sister Jenny was quite a good player – she could jump higher than I could, and she’s not even 5 feet tall! Todd was the obvious choice to be my best man when the time came for that.

It’s funny the snapshots you remember before you start a deeper relationship with someone. There was the baseball episode I mentioned last post. I remember a rather animated and very loud game of Taboo at the Winter Park retreat. I remember her looking quite stunning, complete with a hat at her brother, Jason’s wedding. There was volleyball of course, and then the time she stole (she might use the word relocated) my motorbike. I think a defining moment however was a long conversation we had at a young adults get together at Frank Muehlbauer’s place. I was actually dating someone else at the time and so it was a really open conversation with no real agenda. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about, but I remember thinking as I drove home that night that this “young girl” (it’s OK – she thought I was “old”) was a person of substance.

I also mentioned Robyn Parker. I hired Robyn initially as a receptionist but it was a small company and her ability and other changes allowed her to assume the role of office manager. Most of those early years Robyn was a single mother. I remember the harrowing times as her youngest Justin struggled with an illness for a long time that no one could diagnose. I remember helping repair the door to her trailer home after her ex busted it down. I remember having pizza nights about once a week and watching some TV show I can’t begin to recollect with her and the kids. I remember her trying to pair me up with some friends, and so as a good friend, it made sense that Robyn was the first person I told when I finally asked that cute girl out – and then took her over to meet her, eat pizza and pay no attention whatsoever to that TV show!

Todd had known Joy and her family for years. Although married, he and Denise were regulars in the young adults group at church; after all it was about being young adults, not being single and looking for that to change. I had been in Denver a little over 2 ½ years and known Joy pretty much the whole time when I decided I would like to ask her out. After a regular Saturday morning men’s group meeting at Mark Reeds place I decided to broach the idea of asking Joy out with Todd. Todd and I have always valued that strong friendship allows you to speak forthrightly to one another, so I didn’t let it deter me one bit that he told me something to the effect that “Joy was way out of my league”. I mean at face value, he was probably right, but from my perspective, I didn’t have a lot to lose.

The idea of asking a beautiful lady out is easy, but turning into reality can be a little more challenging. Oddly, it was not so much a fear of rejection, but concern that it could change the nature of our friendship which I had come to enjoy and value. I think I must have started dialing her number at least a dozen times before mustering the courage to punch in the whole thing. After chatting for a while about nothing I found a way to throw in the invitation to go to Oktoberfest. Not your typical first date with a nice young lady from church, but I’m Australian; I enjoy beer and I don’t apologize for that.

Now would you guess something as simple as a few beers, a bratwurst and a stroll around Larimer Square would turn into a 12 hour marathon? I think it may be fair to assume we had the longest first date in history. It started with a birthday celebration for Joy’s niece Carrie. I don’t think I had met her brother Jeff before – probably necessary that I know he worked in a local county sheriff’s police force. As I knew half of Joy’s family (she is one of 8 kids) this was not to intimidating. Then we got to go downtown. Joy likes beer too – definitely a plus I figured. Followed this with dinner at 240 Union – then (and maybe still) an outstanding seafood restaurant. We wrapped up the evening late with coffee at a Perkins (its still “our Perkins”) restaurant – I think we must have talked for a couple of hours and the next day was a work day – but who cared. Between dinner and coffee there was one other event. If a family birthday was not likely to be a little overwhelming on your first date, try going to a Dionne Warwick concert (yes Dionne Warwick) with Joys mother AND her grandmother. Yes she was definitely worth it!

And as if September 20, 1992 wasn’t noteworthy enough based on it being our first date, it was also the first game in Brett Favre’s remarkable streak of games played in the NFL. It’s probably a special day for him too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Part 2 - Making A New Home

From a work perspective, moving to Denver certainly was an amazing opportunity. From growing up on a farm outside a small town, I don’t think I would have ever imagined that at 25 I would be managing someone else’s business on the other side of the world. Rightly or wrongly, my dreams were never that big – and perhaps to my discredit, still are not. And an amazing opportunity it certainly was. I got to broaden my experience which at that time had mostly been confined to Australia with a few jaunts to Asia to working all over the United States, and in addition travelling and working in Canada, Mexico, Columbia and South Africa.

This is not to say it was all wine and roses. I was only 25, had little business experience, and in particular, no experience at least in a professional sense managing a team of people, all of whom other than the receptionist were older than myself. I made many mistakes, but found that group of people at Exploration Computer Services to be for the most part extremely forgiving. They were more than willing to offer advice (which certainly in some cases translates “told me what I was doing wrong”), but I think for the most part, I was willing to listen and over time we formed a solid team and friendships or at least familiar acquaintances which have lasted to this day.

It has been a real pleasure to be working again professionally with Lori who I know I rubbed the wrong way possibly most of all in the early days. I have also enjoyed getting back in touch and even the occasional get together since being back in Denver with office managers Robyn (Chapman) Parker and Tammy Joyce, and other engineers Kim Knerr, Dereck Prince and Bev Zabel. In time I may track down the others.

Shortly after arriving, I found a church to be a part of. Believers Christian Fellowship met close to my office at Colorado Christian University. The idea of a Christian university was certainly unfamiliar in my Australian experience, and although I probably expected there to be quite a lot of young people, there really wasn’t. None the less, it felt like the right place to be, the teaching was solid and so I settled in. One of the people I met early on turned out to manage an apartment complex just across the road from the university campus. Figuring that even if there were college students living there, being a Christian University it would not be like living near the university I went to, and the rent was affordable, I moved into my first apartment. Oh – I was somewhat wrong about the students thing – but on the whole they were OK! The world is so small now though as I have since connected with Pam (Eflin) Healy who was a neighbor from back then on FaceBook. I did become good friends though with a young couple Stu and Lori Sprecher who were about my age. Stu was later to be one of my groomsmen.

I travelled a lot with work. Seemed like for a while I was going to West Virginia every other week, Texas a lot of the weeks in-between, and then just to break up the monotony, a couple of weeks in South Africa. That trip was truly amazing. It was before Mandela was freed and the country came under majority rule. I felt safe enough although I guess there was a certain amount of tension. One of the things I have enjoyed travelling the world is worshipping in a strange country. At least this was in English, although there is something special about having little understanding of the words, yet full comprehension of the message they convey. Worship in any language is a universal language. With South Africa still under apartheid, there were no direct flights and while this seemed to me to be a petty and pointless gesture, especially given the racial problems in some parts of the US but it meant having to fly via London – so I took a week off and had a look around the UK. One of the fringe benefits of the job I guess.

While much of the travelling of course involved flying, I love to drive. As my wife will agree we got our male/female stereotypes crossed up there. Joy just likes to get there – me – I like the scenic routes. My first big road trip was from Denver to just south of Houston. I was part of a choir (that probably has a few of year shaking your heads) performing an Australian composed oratorio put on by friends Lee and Debbie Lemson who I connected with from prior church connections in Australia. One weekend (I think there were 4 performances over 2 weekends) I tacked it onto one of those many work trips to Texas – the other – well I just drove down. I got a speeding ticket just a few miles from Bay City – destination of that weekends concerts. I figured the policeman would be understanding – I had a lot to learn about how small US towns raise revenue. And I guess in hindsight, a young guy, driving a sports car registered 1,200 miles away, claiming to be in a hurry to get to a concert in rural Texas. Hadn’t really thought of it from that angle until just now – probably wouldn’t have believed me either…

About that time I also remember having a week in West Virginia, followed by a week in Texas. Steve Jacobs who was looking after my car back in Sydney (remember I was only going for 18 months – seriously) was in Philadelphia doing something with Honeywell. So instead of going home for the weekend, I went to Philly and had a great time catching up with Steve and checking out some American icons – Valley Forge and the Liberty Bell stand out. Luggage didn’t make it to Texas but you got to love 24/7 stores (unless you work for one maybe). Shopping for clothes and toiletries late on a rainy Sunday night in East Texas at a 24 hour drug store – just another part of the American experience.

Settling in at Believers was not hard. In the fall, this big guy Todd Lansing organized a softball team. I figured that wasn’t too different to cricket – how hard could it be so put my name down. I learned three things at least. 1: Playing 3rd base, you are not supposed to catch line drives with your bare hand – and certainly not twice off the same guy in the same game. I remember Jim Tisdall coming over from short stop and asking what exactly I said after the 2nd one – lucky it wasn’t a church league. 2. If they throw a poor wide pitch, you are not allowed to step toward it to pound it – at least not if it involves stepping on home plate – you’re OUT. Stupid rule. 3. There was this kind of cute girl with really long hair and just a little bit of competitive spirit – I remember her stamping her foot in disgust one time she got struck out. More on her later…

A week or two into softball season, I got stuck on a trip to West Virginia. I called Todd to let him know I couldn’t make it. I think that kind of made an impression – most people who for some reason or other were not going to turn up from just down the road didn’t bother to call. Seemed the right thing to do and I think was the start of a lifelong friendship. But fringe benefits strike again – figured no point going home the next morning – off to spend a weekend exploring Baltimore and Washington DC.

There were two more events that stick in my mind from that first year. Football season rolls around and Todd and his lovely wife Denise tended most Sundays to end up at her mom and dad’s place to watch the Broncos. Dennis and Marge Farmer are amazing folk – Dennis to me became a spiritual father / mentor over the next few years. I am sure in no small way he has been a big influence on the husband and father I strive to be. Anyway there must have been quite a bunch of us there one Sunday and I think we realized most of the younger adults were born in ’64. We jokingly decided we should form a club and do something which turned into a weekend retreat for any young adults from Believers at the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch camp near Winter Park. Todd and I learned to ski that weekend. Good friends Frank Muehlbauer and Jim Tisdall patiently spent the day coaxing Todd and I down the slopes. I still love skiing – have never tried it anywhere but Colorado. Guess once you’ve tasted heaven, nothing else is ever the same.

The last was my first Christmas in the USA. This was not my first Christmas away from home, but it was certainly the furthest away I had been. Another road trip was in order to spend this special day at the home of Debbie Lemson’s folks in Drexel Missouri. This means driving across Kansas. I don’t know why I didn’t learn the first time – YOU DON”T NEED TO DO THIS MORE THAN ONCE! Good times.

to be continued…

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Twenty Years On...

I was amused and challenged re-reading the blog of a young friend Adam Ludwig this past week. He said in the first of 3 posts in March last year:

i feel as though there isn't much male influence in this world of blogging. i might find out why soon.

As there are only 2 or 3 other male authored blogs I have followed (and I use the word “followed” loosely), and one of those has not been active since 2007, I am starting to think he might be onto something. So after my initial efforts, no doubt associated with being on vacation and having time on my hands, I am with this post at least breaking the 3 blog barrier. And while they probably won’t read this – Ron and Adam – you really should resume writing…

Anyway all of that has very little to do with the title and so having no doubt broken many of the rules of writing, I will get back to that.

This past week marked the 20th anniversary of my moving to Denver. In some ways that seems like a long time ago and although it probably sounds cliché, in some ways it seems like it was only yesterday. Mostly however, it seems a long time ago. When my boss at the time asked me in August of the previous year to think about the possibility of taking the assignment, to be honest I was not overly enthusiastic.

I know it must have seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime to a young man of 24. I don’t really know whether when asked what I thought about it my boss was surprised or pleased when I responded that I would give it some thought during my imminent month long visit to the Denver office. I always liked to assume he was pleased that if I was going to manage his business in Denver that I didn’t rush into things just because it might have sounded exciting, but that more than likely would be giving myself too much credit. The hesitation was real as I was firstly rather surprised by this last minute revelation just before my first trip to visit Denver, and as I mentioned above, it just was not something I had any desire or interest to do. It wasn’t that I had a negative opinion of the idea, I just had never thought of such a possibility. And besides, my life in Australia was just great at that point.

Probably a good thing I asked God what He thought and through the sermon at some out of the way church I stumbled upon (was led too is no doubt more accurate) at the end of that first visit to Denver, I felt clearly that I was to take the position if it was officially offered to me. And so with a handshake agreement, no real idea what I would be paid or any of the other normal considerations, except a commitment to stay in Denver at least 18 months, the adventure began.

Probably broke another rule of writing in not making clear at outset that this was going to be a series. That wasn’t my original intent, in fact in the original draft, I was excusing the 6 year spell of this past 20 years spent in Australia as I feared how long this might get. Those fears were well founded so this will be installment 1 of I really don’t know how many.

to be continued…