Tuesday, May 31, 2011


What do you do for recreation? Tennis? Golf? Reading? Running? Travel? You may be aware that recreation is big business. Billions of dollars are spent by human beings to enjoy recreation.

The word recreation is a truly amazing concept to me - the idea that we can experience "creation again" or "creation renewal". What recharges and recreates people varies dramatically from one person to the next. One friend loves to ride motorcycles and takes 3000 mile rides to Canada and back, while his wife loves to curl up with a good book. Both feel "recreated" when they are able to do these things that they routinely are not able to do.

The people who cannot understand how a 10 mile run on a hilly trail would be recreation are often the people who enjoy sitting by the pool and sipping on their favorite cold beverage. Both experiences help people recover from the daily grind of life.

God, our creator, designed us to last a long time, if we understand the need for recreation along the way. Even in the creation story of Genesis we can see this principle at work - on the Sabbath God rested. The cycle of taking "sabbath" is a re-creation principle. We need time to stop work - to get recharged - to reflect - to rest - so that we are ready for the challenges that are ahead.

So as we begin the summer months - take time for recreation - get recharged so that you can be better at everything - a better spouse, a better parent, a better servant of Christ, a better friend.

Just thinking, Steve

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

He Writes the Songs

Bob Dylan turned 70 this week. He is one of the most unusual human beings that has ever come along. His interviews, which have been few and far between, leave most people with a big question mark - who is this guy and what did he just say? He is not a a PR guy - he has never been fashionable but he can do one thing - he can write a song. His voice is odd, his stage presence is non-existent, and his concern for what the audience thinks is not even on his radar - but he can write a song.

Those who have followed his career for the past 50 years have seen him develop the craft of song writing in ways that are almost beyond comparison. He is a poet but he seems to have no agenda. People have always wanted him to explain his songs - he refuses. He is not political, not interested in what the critics think and has little interest in discussing his songs - he just writes and sings the songs. The songs are just "Blowin' in the Wind" - make of them what you will.

I read about a great painter who was asked about one of his great paintings - "What is this work about?' - he shrugged his shoulders and said, "What do you think it is about?"

Dylan often tells the truth in his songs in a clever way - like the song "Gotta Serve Somebody". With this almost hypnotic feel he keeps saying, whoever you are, you're gonna serve somebody - it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna serve somebody.

Songs are often one of the most powerful ways to make people think about their lives, even if the songwriter was just writing a song.

Perhaps this is why the Psalms speak to us the way they do - they are after all songs - songs of the soul. Sometimes the Psalm writer is broken hearted and in a pit and the song comes from that place. Sometimes the Psalm writer is celebrating victory and the song lifts us up and celebrates our faith in God. There is nothing quite like a song to touch the human heart.

When my daughter was just a baby we would sing to her songs that we made up and as we held her in our arms and sang those songs her eyes would light up with joy!

Scripture pictures God singing over us - what an amazing and powerful image of his love for us - our God singing over us! (Zeph. 3:17)

I will never be a Dylan - songwriting is not my gift - but I do have so many songs in my heart. The gift of a song that touches something deep inside the human spirit - I am thankful.

Makes me want to sing!

Just thinking, (and singing) Steve

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why the Powerful Fall

Without even mentioning a single name everyone of us can think of a wealthy, powerful, influential person who seemed to have everything you could ever dream of having in this life take a huge fall. The story seems to repeat itself over and over again. What is it about gaining huge amounts of wealth, power, and notoriety that sets people up for such a dramatic collapse?

The sad reality is we almost expect our politicians, power brokers, celebrities, sports figures to crash and burn in their personal lives. We can almost see it coming. Sometimes when I see a great college athlete that signs some huge multi-million dollar deal at the age of 22 my heart just aches for them. For many of them they are totally unprepared for all that will come their way as a result of the money: the pressure to perform, and the ups and downs of public opinion. Fans can one moment worship a young player and the next want to crucify them.

Richard Foster is one of my favorite writers. Some years ago he wrote a book entitled: Money, Sex and Power. The title was soon changed to The Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money, Sex, and Power. The book addresses the truth that money, sex and power must be disciplined - managed properly or they have the potential to destroy your family life, your marriage, your business, and your reputation.

My heart truly goes out to people who cannot see the danger of these powerful human drives when they are not under control and managed wisely. They are a train wreck waiting to happen.

I remember Jesus words about money - Jesus talked about money all the time, even though he never had any. He knew money was a big deal. His words are direct and clear:
"You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24)

Just think about that for a while and then ask yourself a simple question: Is money (or sex or power) a rival God for me?

For all those who have made the headlines lately, I wish they could have stepped back earlier in life when all the money and power came their way and honestly asked themselves that question. Perhaps they could have saved themselves so much heart ache and loss.

Sobering for all of us who have so much of this worlds stuff.

Just thinking, Steve

Monday, May 9, 2011

Simple Pleasures

I have a personal list of simple pleasures.

Here is a partial list:
1. A good nights rest.
2. A good meal with good friends.
3. A good run on a cool morning.
4. Reading a good book on my back deck, with an ice cold drink and a crisp apple to snack on.
5. A day with my Grand kids.
6. An evening enjoying good live music with my lover and best friend, Linda.
7. Watching a good movie, with popcorn, of course.
8. A long walk on the beach on a warm, sunny day.
9. Planning a trip to a place I have never been before.
10. An afternoon mowing, trimming, and watering my yard and garden.

When I make a list like this I realize that simple pleasures are really the best of all. Who likes anything that is complicated and expensive and stressful?

One fellow was interviewed on the grand occasion of reaching his 100th birthday. The question I remember vividly was this: What has been your greatest joy? He smiled big and said, "The simple pleasures of good food and good friends - I love being with people."

I sat in a restaurant recently enjoying a nice meal with my dear Linda. We ate, laughed, talked about our day, our Grand Kids, and shared a dessert. Nearby a family of five surrounded a table with large plates of food - not one smile on any face. Dad looked like he was about to explode, Mom kept sending text messages all during the meal, the three kids looked as if they would have rather been in solitary confinement. My heart went out to them. The simple pleasure of a good meal together wasted. I imagined that away from that table Dad was fighting hard to make enough money to keep all those kids in clothes and save for college. Mom worked countless hours both in her career and at home so that the texting was therapy or an addiction to cope with it all. And those unhappy kids - insecure, trying to figure out how to grow up, look cool, and of course, never make life easy for their parents.

Oh, that we could all see the value in a simpler life - free of the constant stress and clutter and frustration and anger that had that family by the throat.

One more simple pleasure - finishing this blog. Good night, my friends!

Just thinking, Steve Yates

Monday, May 2, 2011

Staying Power

I love to hear couples talk about their long journey together in marriage. My own parents were married over 60 years. I know several couples who have been married 50 plus and 60 plus years. That makes my 37 years seem like not long at all. I have noticed that couples who have these marriages that have lasted 5 and 6 decades long have one thing in common: they all have a great sense of humor.

They can just look at each other and say a little code word and they will both laugh with great gusto. Trying to be married without humor is like taking a cold bath - you can do it but it will just make you shiver. Laughter with someone who knows your little oddities and finds your strangeness attractive is a rare and special gift. Every marriage has challenges and bumps in the road - sometimes things are not funny. But most of what we face in marriage can be enriched by a childlike joy that helps us laugh together, even when others do not get the joke! That secret place of intimate joy is remarkable.

Staying power - the ability to stay together and to find genuine joy in the journey is something very special. People who have been married 5, 10, 15 , or even 20 years make no impression on me. Their marriage may be wonderful and healthy and praise God for it! What lights my fire is a life of marriage - being married for most of your life and finding it an exciting and joyous adventure - now that gets my attention.

I am celebrating the great joy of a life together with the person who knows me inside out and still thinks I am funny, clever and odd in all the right ways!

Give us another 10 years or so and someone can say "Now that couple has staying power." Whether you have been hitched for 5 years or 50 years my prayer for you is staying power!

Just thinking, Steve Yates