I Want to Move

On another cool spring morning, I slipped out the back door and into the darkness. For the past 12 months, these early morning walks have been part of my morning routine. 

As I started down the street, my mind began to wander to the news, the craziness all around us, what the future held, and how EVERYTHING had changed so quickly. In a few short weeks, life has gone from predictable to uncertain.

In times of stress, I find myself focusing on the worst. How could everything go so wrong? Why do WE have to be affected? Can’t this just hurry up and be done? 

Walking, my head down, focused on the few feet in front of me as my mind dug a depressing hole to focus on. But as I reached the corner, I was forced to look up to make sure there were no cars on the empty road, and my eye caught a glimpse of something bright. There, cresting the horizon, was the most amazing sunrise. The orange and yellow were burning through the clouds, refracting across the horizon, forcing the dark back. I stopped as I watched the amazing miracle of a new day. 

I noticed how fresh the air felt, and I heard the birds singing all around me. There wasn’t a single car on the street, and nature’s sounds had taken the place of machines. I remembered the day before seeing families walking together in our neighborhood where cars normally speed past. I thought about the kids I’ve seen these last few weeks racing their bikes around the block, about the friendly, but physically distant “hello’s” we have exchanged with our neighbors, some that we didn’t know existed before everyone was forced to stay at home. And we somehow feel a deeper connection than before, some camaraderie, with those neighbors as we live through this time in history together. 

Yes, there is life in this neighborhood.

As I continued walking, my mental list went from tracking my woes, to count my blessings: 

can walk outside, and even enjoy a nearby park with a small creek beside the trail.

We have food in the pantry.

Yes, I am quarantined, but I can’t think of another 4 people that I would want on my “quaranteam” with me!

Internet! I can’t imagine what life would be like to have to quarantine before broadband.

Zoom, FaceTime, and any other video chat. While it’s not a good as face time, having video calling is so much better than if this had happened 10 years ago. 

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Walking past a bunny nibbling on the dew-coated grass, I thought about how grateful I am for our church’s media ministry. At first, it was an extension of the church, in the past 6 weeks, it has become the only way we have to worship together.

Then there are the Sabbath School classes, giving my three kids something to look forward to each Sabbath. Each one, including my 3-year-old, looks forward to their own Zoom class.

While I may not be on the frontlines, I’m thankful for each essential worker, from the doctors, nurses, and healthcare providers who are seeing patients each day, to the grocery workers, trash collectors, and truck drivers who make sure we have basic needs cared for.

Watching the sunrise reset my day to focus on the positive helped me see where God was already working around me. It opened my eyes to help me see that while there is plenty of darkness around, the light of the SON will shine through.

Yes, these last 6 weeks have been crazy, but it has helped us to focus on what’s important. This “great pause” in time, with plans canceled, work postponed, values reset, has brought so many things back in focus. 

On another recent walk with my 15-year-old son, I pushed Malia, my 3-year-old, in her stroller. 

It was a sunny early afternoon, and out of nowhere, Malia said, “I want to move.” 

“What did you say?” I inquired, wondering what her statement meant.

“I want to move!” she empathically replied. 

“Where do you want to move to?”

“I want to move to Heaven, so we can see Jesus.” 

Yes, so do I, honey. So. do. I.

Reaching for Less

“… pre-diabetic, pre-hypertension, obese…” the words faded away as the “lifestyle counselor” reviewed the numbers scribbled on the page in front of her. She probably said more, but by that time, I had tuned her out.

The conversation was taking place at my work’s annual employee wellness screening. It’s something I’ve done countless times before. But this time, something was different.

Her words kept coming back to mind as I stewed, mad that yet again, I was struggling with my weight. I knew she was correct. My pants were fitting tighter and tighter. And I never stood on the scales when I had a choice, after all, the numbers mocked me when they shone back up at me.

Ten years ago I lost nearly 40 lbs over the course of a summer, but as I reached within 10 lbs of my goal, life got in the way, and I fizzled out. In the last 10 years, the weight on the scales has kept climbing.

As I continued to think about the words of the “lifestyle counselor”, I realized that it was in my hands to make a change. I was tired of cloths not fitting, feeling out of breath as I climbed the stairs, and concerned about my overall health.

That was 15 lbs ago.

A month or so back, I visited my cardiologist and found that not only has my resting heart rate dropped, but my blood pressure is now notably lower.

And today, I finished a 5k. My time didn’t make any records, but I couldn’t be happier to see the progress.

I’m still “in-progress”, my belts are getting loser, but I’m headed down and I can’t wait!

A Place to Call Home

In May, I visited Hong Kong twice, once on either side of a trip to China. Both times, across the street from my hotel, was a wet market, three stories of vendors and stalls. After meetings the first time, I snuck away to wander the aisles, taking in the smells of fresh meat, vegetables and fruits that you won’t find on the average supermarket shelf in a western country. On the second visit, a short overnight stay, I wondered the noisy streets of Tsuen Wan, smelling the humid night air, hearing the sounds of language foreign to my recent past, tasting the goods from vendors. 

Today I walked into a Maryland Asian market with my kids. As I entered the store I was smacked in the face with memories: the smells of my childhood. The odor overwhelmed me with memories of Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, and Nepal. 

THESE are the smells of my childhood.

My kids muttered under their breath, “that’s dad”, as I filled the cart with papaya, mangos and other goodies from far across the sea. 

As a third-culture kid who moved regularly, even in the United States, I don’t have the joy of going back to a single place that is filled with memories, family, and friends. From my birth, not far from where I live now, to the time I got married, I had never lived anywhere longer then 3 years. The places I lived have given me rich memories, allowing me to see things many of my peers in school couldn’t imagine. Yet I never have felt I had a place to call home. A place I could visit that was comfortable and brought back the warm memories built over time. 

Until today. When I walked into that market, it hit me that THIS is home. Not a single address, but the sights, tastes, sounds and smells of far off lands. These smells are part of my “home”, the anchors in my memories, the hooks that I can use to trace my past to my present. 

Never Once

Twice this week I woke up to messages saying “I’m ok”. Friends where checking in, first from Beirut, and today from Paris. But I’m reminded that these acts, these cities are yet another line to add to the list. Before them have been other events in other cities, London, New York, Washingon DC.

While it’s easy to become absorbed with fear from what is happening, we must remember this planet we are living on is in the middle of a cosmic battlefield, and these acts are but skirmishes in a greater war that has been played out across this earth for that last 6000+ years.

As I considered these recent events today, the pastor, speaking on trust, read Habakkuk 1:2-4

“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.”

Doesn’t that ring true? So much senseless violence that leads to fear, distrust, and in many cases, more violence. And we are called to something greater, to hope. In fact, we are reminded that God has “plans to give [us] hope and a future.”

When Christ came to this earth, he fought, and won, the war. And then he promised to be with us and not forsake us. Yet still 2000 years have past. And still skirmishes are being fought. And casualties happen. Each. And. Every. Day. Last night, the words of Matt Redman’s “Never Once” came to mind. The song is about looking back and seeing where God has led and the chorus says:

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Yes, God is faithful. He will never once leave us.

#prayforBeirut #prayforParis #prayforPeople

Social Media, Church Websites and Mission

I recently shared a seminar at the Upper Columbia Conference camp meeting titled “Social Media, Church Websites and Mission.” The goal of the talk is to share how the importance of a good church website, why social media is important and how to get started.

I learned a lot while preparing the talk, and have come to realize there is so much the local church can do to promote what they are doing and build a better community.

Download a PDF of “Social Media, Church Websites and Mission.”

Yosemite

I’m nothing, if not a sucker for a good video and these are certainly amazing examples of some great photography/videography. The work was done over the course of 45 days by Colin Delehanty and Sheldon Neill:

A 200+ mile backpacking experience through Yosemite National Park captured by Colin Delehanty and Sheldon Neill. This project was filmed over the course of 10 months. We spent a combined 45 days in the park capturing the images in this video.

Yosemite HD

Yosemite HD II

The videos were filmed with a Canon 5D Mark III and a motion controlled dolly. (A complete list of the equipment.)

Learn more about the project and the team behind it at ProjectYose.com.

3 things I admire about my Dad

As I listened to a half-dozen people in church give tributes to their dad, my thoughts drifted, as could be expected, to my Dad, and the things I have learned from him. Dad has always been the man I looked up to, wanted to be like, and turned to for advice. Whether needing help with a home improvement project or needing council about deeper matters, Dad has always been there.

Adventure & Love of the Outdoors

Dad and Me, on top of Thorong La in NepalFrom an early age I learned that Dad loved a good adventure, especially if it meant standing on the top of a mountain somewhere. He always liked the tune “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” because he always wanted “to see what he could see.” You didn’t know what was on the other side of a ridge unless you climbed to the top to see. Dad took a picture of me, as a baby, laying in the middle of his climbing rope. While we haven’t done much rock climbing together, we have summited many peaks and hiked many miles “to see what we could see.” Dad’s love of adventure has taken me to the top of many of the highest peaks in the Northwest and when he and Mom came to visit me in Nepal, while I spent a year there during college, I got to pay him back by taking him trekking amount some of the tallest peaks in the world! Pictured here are Dad and at the top of Thorong La Pass in the Nepali Himalaya, at 17,769 ft.

I leaned persistence from him too. Over and over we would try for a peak, even if we were turned back by bad weather, altitude sickness, or time. Once we spent 18 hours in a cramped tent, camped on Inter Glacier on Mt Rainier playing Tic-Tac-Toe and Hangman on the only piece of paper we had, waiting for the rain to stop. (It never did stop and finally bailed on the second day!)

In all the climbing he took me on as a kid, there was only one time he carried my pack out. I had been at summer camp and sprained my ankle (on the first day). After a week of hobbling along on crutches, because I didn’t want to leave camp early, Dad arrived to pick me up and take me on our next scheduled adventure, to the top of Mt. Adams. He asked me if I still wanted to go and I insisted on going. A sprained ankle wasn’t going to stop me! However by the time we arrived at the false summit, I wasn’t so sure about continuing. While I’m sure he was disappointed, Dad didn’t complain when I asked to turn around due to my ankle pain. When we got to the bottom of our 2 mile glacade off the false summit, Dad offered to carry my pack, an offer I couldn’t refuse at that point.

Hiking, camping and being in nature has always been a way for him to relax and unwind from work. There were a few years that we would spend nearly every summer weekend camping at Mt. Rainer.

As I have gotten older, I realize that he passed down to me his love of adventure and the outdoors. While I don’t get out nearly enough, it is relaxing to me to spend time in nature, and if I can get to the top of a mountain, that is even better!

Passionate Ministry

When it came time to find a career and to to college, Dad looked to his father for inspiration but still charted his own course. My grandfather, Bapa, was a Seventh-day Adventist minister and a medical doctor who dedicated his life to teaching others. He spent his whole career in various roles at Loma Linda University. When my Dad went to college, he too became a minister. He soon realized that he could combine health with his ministry and returned to school to get a doctorate in public health. After finishing that, his career has been spent mixing health, teaching and ministry. Dad’s desire to follow his passion in ministry has taken our family to many corners of the world.

Another love my father has is technology. We have always had some kind of new technological piece in the house, from the Kay-Pro computer when others were using typewriters, to ‘modern’ 8086 PC’s when he sold his Kay-Pro. Dad bought a ‘portable phone’ (a nine-pound bag phone) when cell phones were unheard of, to the  plotters he bought to make overhead transparencies with beautiful color!

The summer after graduating from high school, I came home to find my Dad had a book on his desk, The HTML 3.2 Bible, a book nearly 4 inches thick with everything you needed to know about HTML. He got me started that summer and that is a skill I still use to this day!

Dad has always taken his love of health, technology and ministry and woven it together in a way that I have always admired. And as I think about how I work and spend my time, looking to my Dad’s life is a model for me.

Faithfulness to God

The last trait, but probably most important one, is my Dad’s faithfulness to God. Long before I was a part of his life, Dad dedicated his life and talents to God. He looked to the example of his father and set out to use his own unique talents in new ways. I have watched my Dad work in jobs that were extremely difficult at times, yet never complain. He has always put others before himself.

As I have grown older and more independent, I have had times where I needed career, family, or life advice. Dad is always willing to listen carefully, is never judgmental and always reminds me that no matter what choice I make, he is praying for me each day and will continue to do so, no matter what.

In his current job, he is called to spend many days on the road, away from home. While I know he love to teach and and share, I know he misses Mom and being at home. But he never complains, because he knows that God has called him to this job.

Dad’s love for God is evident in the way he lives his life. He is a listener and teacher, an explorer and adventurer, a father and role-model.

But to me, he’s Dad.

Live Each Day

This morning I was reading Genesis 24. It’s the story of Abraham sending his trusted servant to find a wife for his son. I have read this story a hundred times before but this morning as I was reading, what struck me was the sudden change. When Rebekah and her family woke that morning, the had no clue that that day would be different. She didn’t know that her choices that day would be recorded in history for generations to come, that she would become the chosen wife and mother of a nation based on her actions that day. But she got up, and went about her day as if it was any other. She helped at home, carried water, and lived her life as she did every other day.

Each morning we have the same choice but for most it won’t seem like one. Rebekah didn’t decide that she was going to be kind that day or that she would choose one person to be nice to. She did what she always did. She offered the water to the servant, not knowing who he was.

Rebekah could have walked on by, not caring for the needs of others. She had things to do. The water was needed back home and she needed to get it there. But she chose to put others needs above her own. She chose to serve, to give. It was one act, but it was not something new. It was the same thing she would have done if any other thirsty traveler had asked for a drink. She was just being Rebekah. And it changed her life FOREVER.

Marketing Your Website: Is SEO worth it?

With my recent job change, I have taken a new interest some new buzz words: social media, online marketing, marketing strategy, search engine optimization, etc. That last one, search engine optimization, or SEO, has always been a tricky one for me. I have met many people who feel they need to trick Google into indexing their site and that by placing the right links in the right places, you will get a better search ranking. I even talked with one ‘expert’ who told me that by embeding popular YouTube videos on his site about sunflower seeds, (not the real topic), he got more traffic and place better in the rankings for searches on “sunflower seeds” then if he just had actual, realavent content on his site.

This recent article form Inc.com highlights “6 Big Myths about SEO” and it struck a nerve with me. What it really comes down to is not tricks and links, but real, good content. Want a good inbound link? Get a good review of your services. Want people to come back to your site? Give them a realavent reason, not a list of videos that has nothing to do with what your site is about!

Websites, marketing, social media, and yes, SEO, is about one thing: Do you have the content that someone wants? Are you giving your audience a reason to comeback? If not, then it’s time for a change!

Customer Service and the Post Office

Went to the Post Office this afternoon to mail a letter that I needed some kind of confirmation on. I asked the only clerk there and was then even more confused by her answers.

Finally after deciding on a product, she started working on my letter. Another clerk had arrived and the first clerk set my letter down on the counter and said “She will help you finish. It’s time for my break.”

My mouth almost dropped to the floor. The other clerk (clearly her superior ) saw my reaction and then told the first clerk to finish what she started. The first clerk questioned her saying she needed her break before a certain time.

And some wonder why the Post Office is failing? That, my friend, is basic customer service!