Ice & Pine

We recently had the first snow of 2016 in the Portland/Vancouver area, and in true Pacific Northwest fashion, finished the storm off with a round of freezing rain.  Driving to work and around town I noticed many trees fallen and limbs down – arborists were busy today I’m sure!

On the college campus where I work, we have a monstrous redwood tree that towers over our administration building – it’s a giant, and I’m grateful with each wind storm that it doesn’t lose more branches than it does or topple over in the rain-soaked ground we often have!

Below the tree today was a remnant of frozen rain ice pellets mixed with snow and a very cool texture of cedar twigs and cones over the top. Technically, a cedar is not a pine like my title suggests, but it definitely made for a great Christmas season photo!  I’ve cropped these into desktop and iPhone sizes for a nature / winter background offering – enjoy!

(click the link below for your appropriate device size/resolution, and save the image on the redirected page)

Desktop Backgrounds



iPhone Backgrounds




Property Law as Viewed in the Eyes of a Toddler



I’ve been listening to to “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” by John Maxwell (great stuff!) and came across this illustration that pretty much sums up reality for many a parent or caregiver of toddler & preschool age children.  It’s humorous, but also reinforces to me the role we have in helping our kids realize they are not the center of the universe, but growing in an ability to prefer others, etc.  We have our work cut out for us, don’t we! 🙂

Property Law as Viewed in the Eyes of a Toddler
  “If I like it, it’s mine.
    If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
    If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
    If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
    If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
    If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
    If it looks like it’s mine, it’s mine.
    If I saw it first, it’s mine.
    If I can see it, it’s mine.
    If I think it’s mine, it’s mine.
    If I want it, it’s mine.
    If I need it, it’s mine (yes, I know the difference between “want” and “need”!)
    If I say it’s mine, it’s mine.
    If you don’t stop me from playing with it, it’s mine.
    If you tell me I can play with it, it’s mine.
    If it will upset me too much when you take it away from me, it’s mine.
    If I can play with it better than you can, it’s mine.
    If I play with it long enough, it’s mine.
    If you are playing with something and you put it down, it’s mine.
    If it’s broken, it’s yours (no wait, all the pieces are mine).”

Taken from Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell.

(photo credit : jbenbb)

Review: Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs


“Love and Respect” is a compact table-top edition that touches on what Dr. Eggerichs calls the two deepest needs of a woman and man, respectively, in a marital relationship.  The cover tag line succinctly notes the simplicity in these two needs, but also the complexity in achieving them.  A wife needs constant affirmation and love from her husband, and her husband needs to know the confidence, respect, and trust that only a wife can give him.  The premise of the book is that when these two characteristics are present in a marriage, it has opportunity to flourish and deepen.

It appears this book is a summarized version of the full edition of “Love and Respect”.  One could read through several pages or a section of it and come away with some great wisdom and encouragements to help couples focus on each other’s needs.  I found some statements to be redundant throughout the book, but this could be simply to reinforce the message every way possible.  The challenge with this is to not be so repetitive that you lose the impact and attention of the reader.  One aspect of the book’s readability I found to be a negative after a while was each page shifting in background color, font, font size, and contrast.  The lack of design cohesiveness was distracting after reading more than a few pages.  Stripes contrasted to floral grunge elements, etc.   Despite these elements however, there is solid Biblical wisdom for marriages here, and anyone who takes to heart just a few of these principles would be better equipped to meet their spouse’s needs.  Without having read the full book, I would envision being more willing to recommend the hopeful full in-depth treatment that this edition would seem to echo.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I review for BookSneeze®

What are You Really Saying?

In his book, Presentation Zen, author Garr Reynolds makes this statement:

“Remember that we are living in a time where fundamental human talents are in great demand. Anyone – indeed any machine – can read a list of features or give a stream of facts to an audience. That’s not what we need or want. What we year for is to listen to an intelligent and evocative – perhaps at times even provocative – human being who teaches us, or inspires us, or who stimulates us with knowledge plus meaning, context, and emotion in a way that is memorable.”

Garr hits the nail on the head in what I consider to be the highest concern anyone giving a business presentation, class lecture or speaking engagement, or even in face to face conversation. Constant communication never stops, so the probelm people have isn’t finding information or new material, but they need help in discovering application from that information with meaning that will impact them.

The flip side of this is recognizing not all communication is truly useful or worthwhile if meaningful application isn’t present (and a lot of communication out there is void of this). As a teacher, parent, and friend, this causes me to think about what I am communicating in every situation. Am I helping bring meaning, inspiration, or context to those I am teaching or speaking to? Or just factual info with zero effect?

How about you? Who has impacted your life with how they spoke & communicated to you? Why did they make such a difference when others may not have?

Photo by vagabondrhythm

Tried & True

Do you find yourself shying away from content (books, web articles, manuals, resources, etc) if it’s older than a few years or even months?  Web content generally has an even shorter lifespan allowed before we might consciously or subconsciously consider it “out of date”, or past the point of relevance. The pace of change in our western culture is astronomical compared to even one decade ago –  now info and discoveries in certain fields of study progress leaps and bounds in a 6-month period.

As a result we can tend to filter out content beyond this subconscious lifespan threshold.  I know because I often succumb to this as I’m researching online but consider things irrelevant when I see a particular dated timestamp.

A habit like this can easily infiltrate nearly every area of our lives. We allow only the latest/greatest/most up to date (fill in the blank) of anything to penetrate our minds and true attention. In constant pursuit of the latest tech innovation, news headline, or development of something that caught our attention an hour earlier, we rarely, if ever, stop to ponder and remember.

From the perspective of worship, this tendency can be downright dangerous given that what may be “old news” is intrinsically tied to our present and future worship.  To stop, ponder, meditate, and remember the historically significant dealings of God with humanity as well as with our own personal lives is essential to bring us to a place of: thankfulness.

While the world moves onward at it’s blistering pace, let’s not forget to pause the Facebook feed and news headlines ticker tape long enough to meditate and get grateful about the miracles & victories of the past. They are the foundation stones for the present and future worship of God.

“I see the limits to everything human, but the horizons can’t contain your commands! Oh, how I love all you’ve revealed; I reverently ponder it all the day long.”
Psalm 119:96-97 (MSG)


A deeper sense of remembrance, thankfulness and appreciation are things I’m trying to develop more in my life for seasons and holidays of the year that were never intended simply to be commercial gold-mines, but carry significance and meaning in their observance.  Especially as followers of Christ.  That’s one reason I love the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays so much.  Above all else, they are a chance to let thankfulness and awe at the provision of God gain emphasized priority in our lives.

Veterans Day comes and goes quickly in the fall season and isn’t as widely celebrated as the others I’ve mentioned.  But today I am remembering one of my grandfathers, Marvin Larson, a man-among-men Norwegian farmer who served in the United States Air Force during the 2nd World War.  His tour of duty took him initially through the sand-dunes and heat of Northern Africa up north into the European theatre in Italy, pushing back Nazi and Italian armies that had overrun the continent.  He was a side gunner in a B-26 Maurader Bomber, one of the most rugged and dependable moderate bombers USAF had at the time.

As a boy, I remember him talking about some of his experiences, some of them that were extremely frightening and even then probably watered-down for my young ears.  Like the time he found himself separated from his group while in northern Italy and found himself on the wrong side of the battle line, hiding in the darkness not knowing if he’d be able to make it back over without getting caught or shot.  He showed me the yearbook from his air division, with still some of the most amazing war footage photos I’ve ever seen.  It was beyond belief seeing these shots of planes that he and his buddies were in every day, tangled up in dogfights with German Messerschmitts, and seeing the anti-aircraft shells exploding mere yards away on all sides of a bomber heading towards it’s run.  One of the most vivid images I’ll never forget was a B-26 just like his that was struck by the wing of a German plane plummeting out of the sky, with the  entire back half of the plane nearly severed off, saved what turned out to be just a couple bolts keeping the bomber’s fuselage still connected intact until it could crash land.  He said it made it home.

Men like my grandpa have served our country for over two centuries.  They faced fear and death and fought the armies of wicked dictators, and then came home and built families and communities that have been the backbone of our nation.  The impression my grandfather made on me before his passing in 2004 as a man of character and strength who loved his country and fellow man has been great.  Great men and women like this serve our nation, keeping us safe and protected.  On this Veteran’s and Remembrance Day, I thank and honor my grandfather and all those in uniform.

Marvin Larson  – 1919-2004

A Pumpkin Story

Halloween is one of those holidays that can be an issue for Christian families, trying to reconcile the general evil and darkness that pervades the season with what is truly exciting activities.  I mean, what kid doesn’t like dressing up as his or her favorite character and get a haul of candy on the same day?  But all believers have to wrestle with their level of participation in this season.

Carving pumpkins is a standard Halloween tradition, but one that has some not-so-fabulous roots from a Christian perspective.  Our family, however, has adopted an alternative practice that turns carving jack o’lanterns into a very teachable moment, and has now become an annual illustration of the saving work of Jesus’ salvation in us.  We tell a story as we carve them, that goes a bit like this:

1.     Sin – The pumpkin is just like each of us, and the state of our heart before we gave our lives to Jesus.  There’s nothing clean or nice in us, just like the icky guts of a pumpkin.  Not sure about you, but my kid’s noses turn at the sight and feel of a pumpkin’s innards!  Easy illustration.

2.     Salvation & Forgiveness – It’s a lot of work to clean the inside out of a pumpkin, and not a pretty process.  Same with our hearts.  But Jesus died & rose again, making a way for us to experience radical change, and be clean from the inside out.

3.     Change & Regeneration – We don’t just keep the goodness of what Jesus has done for us hidden inside.  It shows on the outside, how we act, even visibly by the joy on our faces!  Lots of pumpkins are made to look as mean and evil as possible; ours big, toothy smiles.  After all, Christ gives us life and life abundantly, and joy! Psalm 16:11.

4.     The Holy Spirit – Just like the disciples experienced in Acts 13:52, we have joy, and we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  The illuminating power of the Spirit fills our hearts and minds, and shines bright so others can’t miss it!  We let the candle inside the pumpkin symbolize this.

You can develop this as simply or in detail as needed with your kids, depending on their age and understanding. Just an encouragement not to hold back though: my wife and I are continually amazed at the perception our 4 year-old daughter has in spiritual matters, even the things we expect to not quite make sense yet.  It’s simple faith, even when she asks questions.  And that’s dialogue that we love to have, especially in helping kids understand why as Christ followers we might treat things a little differently than everyone.  Even pumpkins.