Our topic: Have you ever been disappointed by God?

My friend Ken
My friend Ken and I are reading and talking about Yancey's Disappointment With God

If you sat down on your couch with a coffee, you could probably develop quickly a list of items where God seemed to ignore your well-being.  Right?  Maybe it's a health issue for you or a loved one.  A lost job resulting in bills that can't be paid.  A child that is really sick or perhaps is a prodigal.

What about it?  Why do all these bad things happen to good people?  My friend Ken and I have spent more than six months talking each week over the phone about one chapter in Philip Yancey's book "Disappointment With God."

We are on Chapter 23 where Yancey is getting into what happened to Job in the Bible's Old Testament.  Job was part of a wager between Satan and God.  The devil said that Job would remain faithful to God during a time of testing because God provided a protective hedge.  Take the hedge away.  Will Job turn on God?

Why did God allow this to happen to Job?  Why did God allow more than 250 girls and young women to be molested by a  doctor in central Michigan who treated gymnasts through Michigan State University?  

I've not seen any pat answers to those questions.  Perhaps God will open our hearts and lead us to some answers as we continue with the book and with Job.  Our once-a-week call is in an hour.  

Disappointment With God
The Philip Yancey book that my friend Ken and I are reading.


In my next life, I'd consider being a lexicographer


Words have always fascinated me.  I remember paging through the big, old Webster's dictionary in my grade school searching the pages for different words and I'd try to use them when I got home.

This interest in words stayed with me through a career in journalism and then political staff work where I always got involved in writing something.  I even loved watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding where a common focus was how many words started with the Greeks.

Then I read this article in the New York Times about the headquarters for Merriam-Webster's Dictionary and how they have professional lexicographers who do nothing but work with words in all their various aspects.  

Donald Trump thinks he has power.  Go to Merriam-Webster's website and watch the video on "serial commas."  How many arguments have been started about whether you should use it?  

Think of how words and their changing use has affected our culture.  Through the years the meaning of a word can change completely.

Read this book--of stillness and storm--before you go on either a short or long term mission trip




When I came back from a mission trip to Haiti and to the West African country of Mali, I fantasized about what it would be like to serve as missionaries on a long term basis.  I surmised that such a move would be challenging for sure, but I wasn't aware how not being prepared could suck the life out of your good intentions until I read this book "of stillness and storm" by Michele Phoenix

This novel was written in a style that shows the real grittiness of many mission fields and how poor communication between a couple on the field can have a life-changing impact for a family.  

It's like reading Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck where you can taste an everyday life that leaves you tired and hopeless and feeling dirty.  

The best of intentions, even those where the hand of God feels close can leave you tired and broken without the proper preparation and communication.

I'd highly recommend this book for anybody contemplating a mission trip this next year, either short or long-term.  It will add layers of understanding to real life on the mission field.

What should you be thinking about as you get ready to turn 70-years-old?

Me and my granddaughter.
My granddaughter and I check out the day's news.

I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers born in 1946 right after the end of World War II which means that I turn 70-years-old in less than a week.  It's just a number, right?

I've never been an obituary reader, but over the past year, I've paid more attention to the ages of those who are being written about.  And I've noticed that a whole lot more of them are around my age.  In my mind, this means that I need to carefully pick where I want to concentrate my attention.

Life circumstances can turn on a dime at any age, but it seems to happen more quickly when you're older.  Am I ready?  In my spare moments while going up and down steps, walking in the neighborhood, cleaning out the garage, I try to both strengthen both my physical and my spiritual heart.  They both need to be strong as I enter this next phase of my life.

In reading a biography about a young woman who suffered through a virulent case of cancer where she transparently writes about the experience, I came across this quote:

In the absence of comforts and friends, is Jesus enough?

Her name is Kara Tippetts and her book is "The Hardest Peace"--expecting grace in the midst of life's hard. Her writing as lit a spark in my thinking about how to deal with what lies ahead.  

Watch this "All Is Well" video when hope for any reason seems to be far-away

All Is Well
This is from the "All Is Well" book.  See the video below.

I was sitting with about 25 guys from the Jackson Prison segregation unit many years ago listening to a recording on a small cassette recorder on a long table.  Some were sitting, while some were standing so they could hear what was being said.

They were listening to a kid's Christmas book titled "All Is Well" by Frank Peretti about a young girl being raised by her mother.  They had little money and it seemed like they had little hope.  Their world, it seemed, was crumbling.  And, it wouldn't be long before they would hit rock bottom with a splat.

The little girl didn't see it that way.  She was able to see the world through a different lens.  

When this played in our prison Bible study, you could hear a pin drop.  These guys were looking for hope.  This story made them rethink the places where they put their hope.  It made a difference for some of them.  That night just before Christmas, there was some peace in that prison meeting room and there was hope.


Reading and talking about prayer at lunch on Tuesdays with my friend Ken


A picture of the cover of the book Prayer.
This is the book we are reading. The picture was taken by Flare, an iPhone photo app which I am testing with the beta team.

As a child, I prayed every night before going to bed with my mother.  I would pray the "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" prayer and I would always have a tag line on the end about a need or a concern.

I grew up in a conservative Lutheran Church where it seemed that pastors and church staffers were the official prayer people.  There were tons of written prayers available in prayer books and devotional booklets.  The thought seemed to be that reading a prayer was the main way of talking with God.

As I got older, those prayers seemed like a prison where the boundaries of prayer were what was on paper and that seemed to box in my view of God and his relationship to me.  My church seemed to foster the notion  that there was a special language of prayer.  Pastors seemed to have it, along with a few others.  I was left with the impression that God would hear their prayers before mine.

My view of prayer has matured.  Today for lunch I will be joining my friend Ken for some talk about prayer in each of our lives and about a book "Prayer" by Philip Yancey.  His book pulls apart the whole topic and provokes thought in the reader.  

I feel I've abdicated a lot of opportunities to grow and do good by not praying more.  In this next year, I want to keep moving forward in that area.

Every dad should read Clifford the dog to his kids


My son reads Clifford to my grandson. Just think of all the new neurons being fired up.


I love talking with my wife about children's literature.  As a senior citizen, I've gotten away from kids' books, but I'm moving back to them with my young grandkids.

My wife, a retired third grade teacher, this week told me about Patricia Polacco, a well-known children's author who hails from Lansing.  She showed me examples of her books which she had from her classroom days.  I'm intrigued by how these books can light fires of curiosity and learning with kids.

For Valentines Day this year, she sent a Clifford the dog book to our seven-month old grandson in St. Louis.  This lucky little guy has parents who love to read to him.  Check the look on his face in this picture.  He's really liking it.


My wife's classroom bulletin board on reading from more than twelve years ago


My wife, a retired third grade teacher, always had outstanding bulletin boards in her classroom.


When my wife was a third grade teacher, I always enjoyed going in her classroom which I did often after I retired.  Through bulletin boards, books, displays and toys, she had created an environment that produced curiosity.  

Students realized that learning could be fun and empowering.  I found this picture of a bulletin board she had more than twelve years ago.  

What about your child's classroom?  Does the teacher take time to put up relevant bulletin boards?

Our kids were a beneficiary of having a mom who was a teacher.  Their curiosity was always encouraged.  We exposed them to all kinds of learning opportunities.  That was fun.  I know my kids are passing that on to their kids, our grandkids.

I need to watch this Marvin Williams sermon again on listening to God through the Bible

Over the course of my life, I have struggled with being intentional in reading the Bible. I know that it's God's word to people and that he uses it to speak to them. I need to watch this sermon again from our church Sunday where visiting pastor Marvin Williams talks about the role of the Bible and how God uses it to speak to us.

Would this be a good cover shot for my book of letters to my grandson?



He loves rainbow ice cream.
My grandson Xavier shows that eating ice cream can trump just about any other pleasure.


I'll never forget the day that I got a call from a nephew I never knew I had.  He had been on a hunt for his grandfather, my dad, and found me on the web.  

He was looking for information about the rest of his family.  His mother was my sister, actually half sister, and somebody I never met.

I want my grandchildren to know their grandfather and what made him tick.  There are plenty of stories that might shine a light on questions they could ask eventually.  Maybe, I can help with that.

It's not a story where I'm expecting readers to get out their little finger violins and play them.  No, not at all.  But, can my grandson and granddaughter learn more about themselves by knowing their background, at least part of it?

There's plenty for them to be proud of.  That includes both my side and my wife's sides of the family.  I've been amassing information for awhile.  

What do you know about your grandparents?  Would you like to know more?  Would it have made a difference?  

My cousin just published a critically-acclaimed children's book, "Missing: Mrs. Cornblossom"


My cousin, Colleen Anderson, wrote this children's book and is coming to Lansing to share it.

I'm looking forward to my cousin Colleen Anderson's visit to the Everybody Reads bookstore at 2019 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing.  She will talk about and read from her new children's book, "Missing: Mrs. Cornblossom."  It happens from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8.

My wife, a retired third-grade teacher, calls it an easy-to-read story for the classroom and a good chapter book for young students to read.  

Her book is just a continuation of a lifetime of storytelling that I grew-up with when our families lived in Bay City.  She was always writing stories, drawing pictures, writing poety in grade school and high school and it never stopped after she moved to West Virginia as a volunteer who helped an economically depressed area start Cabin Creek Quilts.

Continue reading "My cousin just published a critically-acclaimed children's book, "Missing: Mrs. Cornblossom"" »

It would be way too easy to put down the Michigan-made movie "Water Walk"


A small town Michigan newspaper editor wrote this book about his relationship with his son and how they tried to fix it with a canoe trip.
The movie is based on this book.

I got an email from the publicist for the Michigan-made movie "Water Walk" asking me to review it for my blog.  I clicked on the link and it got my attention because of the topic, the relationship between fathers and sons.


It's based on a story from a book by Steve Faulkner, a northern Michigan newspaper editor, who lost touch with his teenage son and found the chasm between the two of them almost uncrossable.  They just didn't know how to communicate together.

We went to the first showing for the movie at Celebration Cinema in Lansing.  There were two other people in that theater beside my wife and myself.  It was an uh-oh moment that the lack of attendance meant that the movie was a real dog.  As senior citizens, young ones, we paid the $7 per person rate. There was always the supper afterward at the nearby Applebees, we figured.

Here's what we saw:  A movie that could be watched at two different levels.  Look at it through Hollywood eyes and look at it through the lens of accomplished film-makers, you will leave really disappointed.  

The sound quality wasn't quite at the sweet spot and there were times when scenes had a few seconds where they seemed like they were shot with a Flip video camera.  And there were times when the actors seemed like they were reading their lines off of que cards.  That feeling wasn't terrible, but it was there.

Look at it from another level and it told a story that cuts to the heart.  A father and a son give their relationship one last try.  They were going to recreate the canoe adventure of explorers Father Marquette and Joliet from northern Michigan to St. Louis.  Remember this is based on a real story.

The dad was a workaholic and the son was getting ready to go to college.  And then the dad loses his job.  The door opens for this trip and they go through it.

The photography along the water part of their trip, particularly, the part down the Mississippi was beautiful.  

Did the filmmaker pull it off?  Kind of, sort of.  I'm anxious to read the book that the dad, Steve Faulkner wrote about the experience.  

Does he expose more layers to his relationship with his son?  The film peeked over the edge to another layer, but never quite made it.  What about the complexity of interaction that exists between fathers and sons and those who are estranged?  I didn't see it in this film.  It portrayed it as coming far too easy.

Well, should you go?  It depends on your expectations and the filter that you view it through.  

I thank God for the relationship I have had with my son.  There were the several hundred grocery shopping trips preceded by drinking cappucinno, our trips around the country to various Promise Keeper events.  Those memories are treasured.  I hope that relationship can grow as we go through the transitions of life.

Would I want him and my son-in-law to see this movie or read the book?  Yes.  I just ordered the book from Amazon and I'd be happy to lend it to them when I'm done reading it.


I was just looking for an excuse to buy the book "Inside Apple" for my son

In a post yesterday, I pondered whether my son Justin read my blog and whether he would read that post where I offered to buy him a book about the corporate culture at Apple computer.  It's a book that had him written all over it.  He's always been fascinated by organizations and how they work and how they stay viable.

And I knew he's a Kindle user on his iPad and that he reads a lot particularly on his bus ride to and from work.  I was sure he had heard of "Inside Apple" by Adam Lashinsky of Fortune magazine, but I knew that he probably had a stack of unread books on his iPad.

I still thought it would be a neat gift for those days when the bus is caught in traffic.  So, I got him the book by purchasing a gift card where all he had to do to get the book was click on a link.  It's a great way to buy somebody a gift.

Yes, he does read my blog.  I knew that.  And I'm happy that we have that point of contact through blogging.

Next, I have to find out about kid's books on the Kindle.  My almost two-year-old grandson in Bosnia is a prime candidate.  Then there's my daughter, my daughter-in-law and my son-in-law.  I love buying people books.  

Here's a status report on the book I'm writing about being a baby-boomer turned senior citizen


Justin and i pose in front of the U.S. Capitol
This is almost the exact same spot that my son and I posed for a picture more than a decade ago.

 Becoming a senior citizen

I'm writing this for my grandkids and for anybody else who's interested in a story about how a member of the first class of baby-boomers is doing with life as a senior citizen.  

I've been looking over my shoulder at my past and have tried to share what I've learned.  I'm a firm believer that we can learn from each other.

I've written approximately 20,000 words of notes and now is the time for me to start stringing them together in one place and leave them for my grandchildren.  

I have only one, but I assume I'll have more. And I hope to validate others who have had experiences similar to mine.  I hope that I can shed some light and hope.

"So what," you ask?

Why should you be interested in my story and what I've learned and which I'll start sharing in this blog soon?

Some questions

  • Are you the child of a parent who has been derelict in his or her duties?  
  • Are you a single-mom left with kids who are suffering because of an errant father?
  • Are you a retired baby-boomer looking at all the time that has passed and how litte is left?  
  • Are you the sibling of somebody who is suffering horribly from a broken relationship?

My biological father

During the past sixty-years I've let my primary identity be determined by my father who abandoned me and my mom in 1948.  He simply vanished.  

There was no word from him period.  Then I found him when I was in my twenties.  He completely disowned me.  I was left with a ton of anger and no place to put it.

Continue reading "Here's a status report on the book I'm writing about being a baby-boomer turned senior citizen" »

This picture is proof that my wife practices what she preaches

My wife has restarted her blog originally-aimed at third grade families.  She's a retired third grade teacher who left the classroom with a still-burning passion for helping kids learn especially those in lower elementary school. 

Most recently, Gladys has had a series of posts about the importance of reading aloud to your kids.  She breaks her observations into age-groups and provides very usable suggestions. 

Yeah, but, did she do it with our kids?  Yes, yes and yes.  Our living room couch had butt imprints from her and our kids where they would sit down and she would read to them.    Here's proof in this picture:


One of my all-time favorite family pictures

Should "King's Cross" by Tim Keller be added to my should read list?

Jesus Just saw interview on Morning Joe with author Tim Keller about his new book "King's Cross."  It's about the life of Jesus.  Keller says that even though religion and church might be falling in public esteem, Jesus is more popular than ever.  Has anybody read this?  Worth a read?

Jesus, he says, still rocks the world and is more popular than ever.  There's lots of interest in who he was, is and what he did.

Keller says he tries to let the story of Jesus Christ speak for itself without commentary.


Here's the MSNBC Morning Joe interview with Pastor Tim Keller about the book:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

BOOK: Consider "To Account For Murder" by Judge William Whitbeck

Book I'm happy that Michigan State University doesn't have a football game this weekend to distract me from reading Judge William Whitbeck's "To Account For Murder" which is receiving great reviews as a thriller and a whodunit with a big political twist.

It's historical fiction that's based on a real event when a Michigan state senator was killed in the forties and during a time when the state's politics was driven by corruption. 

Last night's book-signing at the Michigan Historical Center in downtown Lansing was packed with readers who wanted to get their books signed by Whitbeck, the chief-judge of the state's Court of Appeals and wanted to hear him tell the "who, what, when, where, how, why and so-what" of the book and then read from it's first chapter.

If you're looking for a gift for the readers on your Christmas gift list, then this is worth looking at. 

I will share my reaction to to book after I read it this weekend.  It can be purchased from Amazon.  It's also available for the Kindle.

Here's a quick video look at last night's packed  book-signing.

Read this book if you are a "fatherless" son or daughter

Donald miller Donald Miller's book "Father Fiction: Chapters For A Fatherless Generation" has touched my heart and my soul like few others.  The Bible has given me hope for the future, but this book has helped me understand who I am and how my life has been affected by being fatherless.

The reason I write this post is to awaken the thousands who have experienced the same situation where you have never known your father and have felt abandoned by him.  You feel the existence of a black hole in your identity that you just can't quite put your heart around.

Being almost 64-years-old, I hesitate to write about this because I might seem like a "sissy" who should have just grown out of it.  At this point in my life, it would be almost easier to talk about erectile dysfunction than talk about the sting of never knowing my father who walked out of my life when I was a baby and who disowned me when I was in my twenties after finding him.

But, I know there are thousands like me of all ages who have never faced or dealt with what happened to them and don't fully understand what they feel and that they are not alone.

The author grew-up fatherless and dealt with the whole continuum of emotions and experiences.  It's something that shapes your whole life and affects who you regard yourself. 

When I read Miller's book, I felt internal tears and all I could think was that this guy gets it.  He's been there and I'm not as abnormal as I thought. 

There's a price to pay when a dad throws away his position as a dad and its his kids who pick up the check.  They pay.  It has happened in the past and it continues to happen.

I will read Miller's book again and maybe I'll cry on the outside and maybe I won't.  There's a thick scar there. 

What concerns me the most are the young kids growing up now who don't know their father. 

They need to understand what they feel and how to deal with it.

This book helps.

"The Noticer" by Andy Andrews came at just the right time in my life


I'm a 63-year-old baby-boomer who has been struggling with getting into the next chapter of my life.

My kids are grown and have moved away.  I've been retired for a few years and I feel like I'm spinning my image from farm5.static.flickr.com wheels in my effort to gain traction about what to do next in my life and it has been bugging me.

Then I was presented with the opportunity to read "The Noticer" by Andy Andrews and published by Thomas Nelson.  It's a easy-to-read and a short book that packs a useful look at life and what the future holds for just about everybody regardless of their age or situation.

The story revolves around the conversations of an old man named Jones with a variety of different people in a small Gulf coast town who were experiencing life challenges which made them doubt their future.

Jones ran into a young homeless man trying to deal with the loss of his parents and any semblance of normalcy in his life.  There was a young businessman married and with a child on the way who was so driven that he ignored what was important and was standing on the edge of a cliff.  There was a couple who loved each other but who lost the ability to communicate that to each other and were on the edge of divorce.

The person who struck a chord with me was a senior citizen in her seventies who felt she had no more to contribute to life and death was the only thing in the future.  I knew that that could be me in another decade if not sooner.

It was the old man Jones who came along and took an interest in each individual and asked questions that helped them see their situation from a different perspective.  It's all a matter of how you view obstacles and challenges.  I get it. 

For the past several days, I've been looking for a Jones in my life.  I'm married to one.  But, I think I've come to the conclusion that it's time for me to assume that role in the lives of others.  I'm old enojugh and I've learned some things and I continue to learn.  I want to be a "Noticer." 

I recommend the book for anybody looking for a way to find answers to the whole myriad of life situations.

I will read it again, either on my Kindle or in my paper version.

Why am I not dead yet?

I admit that I've struggled with the transition from the having a day job part of the world to being retired.

It has made me think more about my own mortality and it has helped me clarify what is really important in my life.  I've tried to shuck off everything in my life that I find unimportant and do with intention those things that matter to me. 

I feel that if I didn't do this then I would more than likely start losing traction in my daily life and start looking at the question posed by Michael Hyatt in his blog post, "Why You Aren't Dead Yet."  He's the CEO at Thomas Nelson Publishers and has effectively engaged blogging and other social media to develop relationships around the world.

In this post, he describes a conversation with an elderly friend who Hyatt describes as being a source of wisdom and as a "living treasure."  His friend asked him if he felt that he had anything left to contribute to the world.  Were his best days over?

How do you respond?

Hyatt then shares: " I then began to make an argument that I first learned in The Noticer by Andy Andrews. In the book, Jones, the personification of wisdom, makes six points to Willow, a seventy-six year old lady, who had given up hope that she had anything left to contribute. (see chapter 6, pp. 83–85)."

The six points he lists are:

  1. God has a purpose for every single person.
  2. You won’t die until that purpose is fulfilled.
  3. If you are still alive, then you haven’t completed what you were put on earth to do.
  4. If you haven’t completed what you were put on earth to do, then your very purpose hasn’t been fulfilled.
  5. If your purpose hasn’t been fulfilled, then the most important part of your life is still ahead.
  6. You have yet to make your most important contribution.

Michael Hyatt, thank you for sharing that.  As a 63-year-old baby-boomer still trying to grab onto this senior citizen thing and onto my new place in life, I find this post helpful, really helpful.  I will check out the book.  I hope others do too.

Do you or somebody you know share the same challenge?