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Why the name, “Muddy Shoes”?

THIS IS THE VERY FIRST ENTRY … Left at the top to explain the title.

A new blog.  Fresh perspectives.

Why the name, “Muddy Shoes”?

First, it has been said that we should never talk about someone unless we have walked a mile in their shoes.  We should try to see the world from their perspective.  It is about empathy – understanding their feelings, their point of view, their situation.  It’s a great principle in building and strengthening relationships.

Second, we all wear different kinds and different sizes of shoes.  Shoes can represent our personal style, our personality, and even what our particular life event.  Garth Brooks said wearing boots might ruin a black tie affair (though many of my fellow Texans might disagree on this cultural norm).

Third, we should realize that in our journey in life, our shoes get muddied.  Life gets messy.  Not only our life, but the life of others too.  The mud gives insight to what we have gone through and where we have traveled.

So, it is the desire of this blog to share life principles that help us understand our walk in life and strengthen our relationships with others.  These principles will impact our home life, our business life, our leadership skills, our daily walk, and just might give us a clearer understanding of what we go through in life.

Knocked Down but Not Out

These words can empower. These words can comfort. These words can make the difference. But not just the words – but the actual actions behind the words.

His name is the epitome of boxing. Yet he isn’t even real character. He is the rag to riches story that makes every one cheer for him. He rose to fame, he lost it all, yet he was true to himself.  And now, a new generation’s story has taken his mantle and moves forward.

Rocky Balboa

Just saying the name makes me start humming the famous movie tune and has me looking for stairs to run up (not that I run up stairs much anymore!) A scene from Rocky 5 crossed by desktop today and it got me thinking … It is near the end of the movie, Rocky is back where he started … the streets of Philadelphia. He tried to help an up and coming boxer, Tommy Gunn; but Tommy got too big for his britches and tried to move on – yet Tommy couldn’t do that without tearing down Rocky. And in the bar, where Tommy yells down at Rocky, and eventually hits Rocky’s brother-in-law, Rocky tells Tommy that he will fight him … but his ring is outside (the streets!)

Like all the movies, Rocky seems to be beaten and not getting up. But as his brain is rattled and memories flash like a horror movie scare reel, Rocky hears Mickey Goldmill yelling at him – that cantankerous old trainer who saw in Rocky something great, something deeper, something more. Mickey yells for Rocky to get up – one more round – get off the mat you bum (though he doesn’t use the word ‘bum’) … Get up. But the last thing Mickey says before Rocky’s memory fades and the now famous fight music starts is “I Love You.”

I LOVE YOU!

These words can empower. These words can comfort. These words can make the difference. But not just the words – but the actual love behind the words.

I don’t know what you are going though. I don’t know how hard life is. You may feel like some prize fighter has pounded on you and you are in the gutter wondering if there is ever a way up. But you need to know … God truly loves you. He sent His Son to pay the penalty, to take the true beating that you (and I) deserve.

Hear the words today … right now … God is saying, “I Love You!”

And maybe, just maybe you might be the person to say it to someone else that really needs to hear it.

Be that someone today – say it. Tell someone you love them and God loves them!

These words can empower. These words can comfort. These words can make the difference. But not just the words – but the actual love behind the words.

I Love You!

The Raid on Trump’s Residence

Don’t write this article off yet. I am not going to get political, well not very political. This is not about the justification or the politicization or the ramifications of the raid. This is about the concept that the one event can be seen from so many angles and twisted to the truth that each person’s point of view desires.

  • Some say it will keep Trump out of the 2024 election … others say it will be the catalyst that makes him decide to run get into the election.
  • Some say it was politically motivated, thus unwarranted … some say it was the true result of judicial investigation, thus warranted.
  • Some reporters are delighted … some reporters are appalled.
  • It is about Jan 6 … it is about illegally stored security documents … it is about hatred for Trump … it is about justice … it is about abuse of power (DOJ or Trump, doesn’t matter) … and so on and so on

Today, it is so hard to really know what to believe in what you hear … no matter from whom the message originates. 

Truth. How does one know? In this case, I just don’t know what to believe.

Absolute truth is so hard to know today. And to be blunt – I can honestly say I truly only know one absolute truth. And that is the truth of the Word – the written Word (The Bible) and the Living Word (Jesus).  As one scholar put it …

The culture doesn’t dictate truth, the Gospel dictates truth

Vodie Baucham

And based on this – we need to get to know the real truth more. Rightly dividing it. Bringing every thought captive to it. Building our lives on it.

I ask one question today – are you spending more time getting to know the Truth or are you spending more time twisting what you hear to what you want to be truth – relative to you and your way of thinking?  I pray it’s the former.

Netflix has Stranger Things – Prime matches with Paper Girls

The following is a discussion of a new Amazon Prime video series.

I am not nor ever have been a 12 year old girl. I don’t think I can even imagine that. I don’t get many of the things they face. But I know that what these four 12-year old is not normal. Time travel … time wars … dinosaurs … meeting your older self. This is a weird series.

Amazon just recently dropped online the entire series, eight episodes, of Paper Girls.  This is not a recommendation, just a thoughtful internal dialogue put to paper.

Now, the sci-fi geek in me loves it. Four innocent tween-agers are grabbed off their paper routes in a sleepy suburb of Cleveland – yes, Cleveland.  It starts on the early morning of November 1, 1988. They are taken to 2019 and later to July 1999.  But the catch is the time war is really further in earth’s timeline and they just fight it in the past by some traveling and some trying to eliminate travelers. And these four get plopped down in the middle of it.  Twists in the story line, coming of age for young girls, giant robot battles, you watching your older selves die, medical fireflies healing laser shots, and more make this story enjoyable.  Tie in classic rock and cool 20th century culture … this was pretty cool. But it wasn’t without flaws – and some major flaws.

Now, the sci-fi geek in me loves it. Four innocent tween-agers are grabbed off their paper routes in a sleepy suburb of Cleveland – yes, Cleveland.  It starts on the early morning of November 1, 1988. They are taken to 2019 and later to July 1999.  But the catch is the time war is really further in earth’s timeline and they just fight it in the past by some traveling and some trying to eliminate travelers. And these four get plopped down in the middle of it.  Twists in the story line, coming of age for young girls, giant robot battles, you watching your older selves die, medical fireflies healing laser shots, and more make this story enjoyable.  Tie in classic rock and cool 20th century culture … this was pretty cool. But it wasn’t without flaws – and some major flaws.

I hated the language – especially of tweenagers. I mean way too much F bombs and foul mouth lingo. I could have done without the 20 minute confab on feminine hygiene (but it is 12 year old girls with minimal adult assistance)

There is a little woke messaging – but interestingly, very little of it – a little, but very little. This was actually very surprising and quite refreshing.

There is no place in these episodes where there is any discussion for God. Religion is trivialized are just part of one’s culture. The Jewish girl talk of her upcoming batmitzphah. The Asian tween discusses honoring ancestors. There is a mention of hell, but laughed off as “not in our beliefs.” 

Very little positive roles for males in this story.

So what is good? What opens honest and relevant discussion? 

  • The young girls get to see a glimpse of where life takes them, how their dreams get shattered or fulfilled. This is truly deep. How often do we a adults look back and ask, “How did I get here?” In this series, the tweens get to see their future self and evaluate consequences of decisions. It’s about choices.
  • Fate is discussed. A great look at do we control our destiny? Is there someone in charge? Can we make different choices if we grasp where we are headed? Fate. It’s about consequences.
  • There is strength in numbers. They realize they lasted so long in the vexing situation because they stick together. It’s about friendships.
  • Based of comic books.  No I haven’t read them, probably won’t … but I love comic books.
  • A fresh look at how culture changes 1988-1999-2019.

In the end, well … I won’t ruin that. Except to say, season one does not bring this storyline to a conclusion.

Bottom line – I can not recommend this for kids because of the language. And it could have worked just as well without 95% of the foul language. If they could do this story without that, I would whole heartedly recommend it.

Parents – know what is out there.

Buttermilk Trail – Richmond VA

Last week, I was in Richmond so I took advantage of some of the city’s urban trails. Richmond has some pretty good trails … my personal favorite is Belle Isle. But I headed Southside of the James River and decided to do the Buttermilk Trail/Belle Isle/James River North Bank loop – about a 6+ mile loop categorized as moderate. I took Peg-Leg Pete with me – my trusted sock-monkey who loves adventure.

I’ve done Belle Island several times and have been on Buttermilk – but never done the whole loop. I started early, since I dropped my wife at the airport around 530a. I had a great breakfast at Moore Street Cafe and headed over to the Forest Hills area of Richmond. Very few urban trails in the Richmond area were open so early, so I was glad to find the James River Park having their parking lots available.

The trek started normal – it’s an urban trail, keep that in mind. I was on a well travelled path, it was not very secluded, I could always hear traffic, the railroad tracks ran along the trail and it has a well-graffitied set of rail cars parked on one of the parallel tracks. I pondered if these were there to block the view of the river as well as the city’s building across the river.

The trail was more a trial-bike trail with ups, down, some bridges over a various gully, and more. It has some historical markers to let you know about the area and how it got the name Buttermilk – which was from the Buttermilk Spring where farmers in the 1800’s cooled their milk before market.

I crossed the river portion between the Buttermilk and Belle by hop scotching across the rocks. There was a bridge a little further down – but I choose the rocks. To get there, the city has provided a short pedestrian bridge to cross over the railroad tracks without harm. I say pedestrian, for you had to walk up 3 flights of stairs to get above the rails.

Belle Island was great. You get more of the escapism there (no pun intended since it used to be a prison-of-war camp location during the civil war.)

If you want to know more about Bell Isle, check out Trip Advisor’s page here. Here are some of their pictures …

Now – here’s where my trek took a weird turn. I got to the Belle Isle parking lot. I had dropped some my water along the way (probably during rock jumping) and it was still early morning. BUT the heat index had already hit over 100F. I was drenched, tired and figured I ate too big of a breakfast. SO I checked AllTrails and it said I was less than 2 miles in and over 4 miles to go. Normally six is pretty easy, but I made excuses … food, heat, too long meandering on the rocks and the island itself, new Merrel Moab 3s (I pretended I hadn’t broke them in.) The remainder of the trial was new to me – trees? shade? asphalt? I did something I normally would never do. But since I was on an urban trail, and I could never do this in the Blue Ridge – I called a cab. Yep, was gonna hitch a ride back to my car. Oh the adventurer in me – I told myself I would try a new restaurant to make up for it.

I waited – 10 min … 15 min … 25 min. I surrendered to not having a cab. I decided to walk back over the shorter distance I had already traversed – so I called to cancel the cab. Hey, I had a 25 minute rest period.

I went back – took the bridge and made it back to my car. But it seemed a LOT longer than 2 miles. A LOT LONGER!

Here is why. When using AllTrails as the guide, I didn’t take into account that Buttermilk Trail has about 4 parking areas spread out along Riverside Rd. You can jump into the trail at various points. And I jumped in on the far north point (not the main starting point according to the app.) This walking some on the trail before even getting to the official start of the trail. Thus, on this hike, I HAD walked the majority of the trail – and therefore the shorter conclusion to the hike would’ve been to continue on the loop. But no, I had to go back as an in-and-back, thus making my hike even longer.What a noob move.

At least I didn’t pay for a cab – I did get to walk in shade – and I got to cross the bridge I had missed the first time through.

All in all – I was outside, I was in nature, I hiked. That is a good day.

Friday’s Friends

Occasionally, I like to share thoughts from other wise sages. Today’s is from one who isn’t so much a friend, but my brother. Literally. My older brother … Jon.

So here is his thoughts on …

STUFF … How to handle it all … by Jon Estes

Stuff is important, or some stuff is. Growing up, we had stuff. Stuff we used and stuff we did not use and stuff we were not allowed to touch. In the mid-’70s my parents bought new living room furniture. Even then as a preteen to teenager, I thought the sofa was ugly, so being told not to touch it or sit on it did not bother me. It did though cause me to think. To think about stuff.

My favorite, contemporary theologian made the following statement… “God does not mind us owning stuff but He does mind stuff owning us.” – Dr. V. Bauchum

I still have stuff in my life but it is mostly just stuff. Important when I need it, unimportant when I do not. I have refused to let stuff own me. Do not misunderstand what I am saying. There is stuff in my life that I see as valuable and precious. I would hate to lose it or see it broken but I refuse to set it in a cabinet to look at or in a drawer to remain unused. That just seems silly. An example would be a pen given to me by a dear couple I value greatly. It is a very expensive pen and due to the cost, it is not one I would have purchased It looked expensive, it wrote excellently, and it made a statement to people who know and appreciate fine writing instruments. I have loaned it to people to write something but I waited till they were done and made sure I got it back. Not because of the pen and its intrinsic value but because of the value I put on the people who gave it to me. When I used the pen, I thought of this family.

Did you catch the past tense there? Yeah… past tense. A few weeks ago, I dropped the gifted pen and it hit the ground in such a specific way that it broke the barrel. I still have the pen but I do not carry it as it is in two pieces. I still enjoy the pen. I see it broken and it now brings different thoughts to my mind. It not only reminds me that God has put precious people in my life (for which I am eternally grateful) but God has put me around people who are broken. They have been hurt or are in a situation that makes them feel like there is no escape. I want them to know God is bigger than any hurt we have and more than capable of carrying us through any situation that we face. You see… We are not “stuff” to God. We are His favorite creation. He loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die in our place so that we could be offered something we could not earn… Salvation.

Let us make a commitment to put the “stuff” behind us and begin walking right with God.

Hebrews 12:1 – …let us throw off all the stuff that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…

Stuff can be cool… God is always awesome.

……..l

Check out Jon’s page here.

Lessons from a Little Mouse

I wrote I am in the Metaverse now. Is that capitalized? One word? Two? So many questions. I haven’t bought too many apps – first trying to take advantage of the free stuff.  Though, I did buy one game – Moss. The little mouse ventures through a wonderfully created world of crazy crabs, friendly frogs and sneaky sprites. Me? I am The Reader that accompanies him and assists where I can.

As I go through this adventure (in moderation), I am learning a few principles …

  • Hit the crabs quick and mercilessly … he who hesitates is lost
  • Learn which button jumps and which button swings the sword .. we need to learn what works and what doesn’t … we are pragmatic people after all
  • Learn to listen … the mouse gets advice from sages and others on the journey’s path … the mouse gives advice to The Reader on which way to go and how to act

But the biggie lessons is so important and needed in this world.  It is about the health of the mouse …

  • Occasionally the mouse needs to have me restore his health … and there are so many times we need to stop, rest, and be restored by our Lord … that’s what the Sabbath rest is all about

But here is the dangerous lesson we actually have to learn …

Death is final

In Moss, the mouse dies. Dies a lot. Sometimes by my actions (fall into the water, etc) and sometimes by accident (shot by a crazy crab’s fire bomb).  But in the game, the mouse immediately comes back to life. He shakes off the water and is ready to continue the journey. He never is completely lost or never completely out of the game.

Oh, if life was such that way. But it isn’t. There is a point that when we make decisions that are costly, consequential, or careless, the results are real. No do-overs.

And because of that, we need to take this life serious as we prepare for the next, and final life. It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgement.

God’s grace is great. He gives so many chances. But when all is said and done, well, all is said and done.

Don’t take chances with eternity. Really, don’t take chances.

Do You Know Your Neighbor?

I have moved a lot. My brother and I compete on who has moved the most. He wins in distance (can’t compete with his time in Nigeria and UAE … I think he went there not on missions or church work but to beat me in the game.). But I think I beat him in number of abodes.  I blame my father for this. He moved a lot too. I don’t remember anywhere over 4 years – often even shorter.

But to move on (no pun intended) … as I have relocated through the years, I really can’t remember many of my neighbors. And interestingly, the closer I lived to people, the less I really knew them. Oh, I knew work habits of coming and goings, I learned entertainment preferences (thin apartment walls share that information), and I learned food choices by aromas and trash, like which pizza establishments they liked by the empty boxes.  But I didn’t really get to know … them. 

Where I live now, neighbors are not so close physically, but I know them by name and more (except the ones directly across the street who just looks out the window and doesn’t open the door when I come by – maybe Covid put them on the defensive?) I am actually getting a new neighbor. They are putting in their new abode this very month. I’ll have to get to know them too!

BACK TO THE POINT … I grew up more on Captain Kangaroo and Looney Tunes and less Mister Rogers. But, let’s be honest, Mr. Rogers is the “MAN”, the GOAT, the neighbor we all want. I once read that his station wagon was stolen. However, when the car thief learned it was Mr. Rogers, he returned the vehicle with a note of apology.

And what is Mr. Roger’s theme phrase? – “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

The Bible talks a lot of getting to know our neighbor, of having a spirit of hospitality. 

  • Leviticus shares When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt
  • In the Greek, hospitality is from the word that literally means “love of strangers”
  • We are told that in entertaining strangers, we might be entertaining angels
  • Jesus hung out with a variety of people, making use of their hospitality and encouraging us to be caring and hospitable
  • Hospitality is a Spiritual gift (though not limited to those with such gift)

We are in a world where are more likely to hang out with like minded people. But we are encouraged to not show preferential treatment – we are to love others. Jesus was the great example of this. 

I get birds of a feather – but that is NOT what hospitality is all about.

Previously (6/29/2018), I wrote some practical ways of showing hospitality. These are directed more to connect with guests and church neighbors but the principles fit well – just substitute “neighbor” for “guest.” Let me just repost those here …

– Make a list of those inside and outside your church/organization that you would like to encourage through an invitation for a meal. (Individuals, a family, a specific subset (singles, military spouses, college students away from home, seniors, shut ins, international students, business travelers at local inn, etc)

– Put it on your calendar to start as soon as possible. If you put it off, it will be forgotten.

– Think spontaneous too. Invite the first time guest right after church.

– Pray for joy through the process and during the time of interaction with your guest.

– Be flexible, it doesn’t have to be at your home. Think hanging out at the local diner, have a coffee or smoothie (can you say Sweet Frog). Or maybe just a serendipitous gathering. I love the ‘turquoise table’ story I heard on the radio last week. A delivery truck left the heavy picnic table in the front yard. The home owner decided to leave it, paint it turquoise, and use it to connect to her neighbors. Within minutes, neighbors stopped by and the rest is history. This practice is spreading … around the world!

– Don’t be discouraged at ‘no’ or if it has speedbumps. Just keep at it and let them know they are valued. Stay at it. Romans 12.13 says to be constant, or persistent in our practice of hospitality.

– On a smaller scale, it could be simple sitting with guests at church, be part of greeter/connection ministry, etc.

There are no strangers here – only friends you have not met!

William Butler Yeats

Bottom Line – We are blessed to be a blessing. Hospitality is a way to do that. Get to know your neighbors!

I Am In The Meta World

Last week, I entered a whole new world. I purchased an Oculus Quest II. I really wanted to wait for the Apple VR Glasses (I am too invested in Apple World to escape!) but they are now talking of release in the third quarter 2024 – wowza.  So, Meta … Here I come.

It is pretty cool. I have visited Petra, Rome, Venice and Zion National Park so far. And though you can’t walk around too much – it does the walking for you. To be clearer, you kind of hover. Can you say vertigo? You are the drone – you are there, 100 feet in the air – on the corner of a castle wall – deep inside the Great Coral Reefs.  I felt I was falling, sinking, hovering.

I’ve watched movies as if in I-Max, looked at instagram posts of my grandkid filling an entire wall, and played Moss helping a cute little mouse through a 3-D VR world. Coolness to the max.

It’s got some improving to do. I desire a reader app (preferably one that can use iBooks) where I can sit in famous libraries, by a fireside, or under a shady tree in the warm Summer days – reading.

The battery is kind of short-lived, 2 hours or so. But, the interface, the level of technology, the personal world one dives into is worth the price I paid.

However, I realize I was alone. I watched the movie in an empty virtual theater. I saw hundreds walking around historic locations, but couldn’t smile, nod, or talk to any one of them. The only interactivity I had was with a cute, yet mute, little mouse – who wasn’t real!

We are tuning out the real world for a fake. We are thinking we are escaping the chaotic world, while at the same time actually voluntarily enslaving ourselves in the world of the Matrix.

This isn’t new. I’ve switched paper books for iBooks long ago. I waste hours fixating my eyes at a tiny little phone/tablet to see FB, Twitter, IG and more. I prefer texts over phone calls.

The Oculus Quest II does the same, just better. And the mask makes me more … alone.

Hopefully, I will learn how to interact with others in the Meta World. The technology continues to improve.

But what does this teach me, and you?

The tech is cool. Take advantage of it. But moderation is the key. Don’t get obsessed, don’t get lost in it, don’t be enslaved by it.

I took my wife to Rome. She loved it. (Unfortunately I can’t afford the real trip but this was good.) But I would rather spend 30 minutes with her in the local park much more than “see” famous sites for hours.

COME LET US REASON, TOGETHER … FORSAKE NOT THE ASSEMBLING OF THE CHURCH FAMILY.

We need each other. I need other people. So do you.

But for a bit, in moderation, I am enjoying some Meta World time too.

He’s Back! (but he is not in control)

In the classic movie The Shining, there is a horrifying yet tantalizing scene of Jack Nicholson axing through a door declaring crazily, “Here’s Johnny.” In this renewed creative work of mine, I kind of feel like that scene where I am axing through the door of busy-ness, of distractions, of creative mind-block and more … in a crazy world. I sometimes feel like Nicholson and life is driving me crazy, and I sometimes feel like my world is inside the room and the rest of the world is axing into it. 

Nicholson shows me one truth though – I am not in control.  In the movie, it is the snow and isolation that seems to be the impetus of the craziness. But it is so much more too. There is another line he  says that kind of points to the way I feel the world is coming at me …

I’m not going to hurt you … I’m just going to bash your brains in.  

OUCH!

I am not in control.

  • The storm causes spots on the highway that yields to a car hydroplaning off the road: I am not in control
  • I am walking a trail in perfectly dry and (semi) clean shoes when I step in a muddy water hole, or a pile of something else: I am not in control
  • I eat my vegetables and exercise, yet I am diagnosed with a life altering, or life ending disease: I am not in control
  • I have a paper to finish for school and the power is knocked out for hours: I am not in control
  • I think I’ve found the girl with whom I want to spend my life and my parents make me move 2000 miles away: I am not in control
  • I raise a child, teach him Biblical, Christocentric world view, yet he rebels and turns to the ways of the world not the Word: I am not in control
  • I buy and build a home that I try to use to honor God and a storm destroys it in seconds: I am not in control
  • I leave my child for 30 seconds to get something and a tragedy hits that from which I will never recover: I am not in control
  • The office catches on fire, the car breaks down, a pandemic hits the world, wall street crashes because politicians bicker over minutae while Rome burns, the love of my life dies of cancer, I’m left alone with no family, no friends, no hope

It’s as if the world is saying — I’m not going to hurt you … I’m just going to bash your brains in.  

Soooo – It’s Monday, August 1st. I am returning to Muddy Shoes from an extended hiatus, and what do I write about? I am not in control. Life gets muddy this way.

QUESTION: So how do you get through all this? How does one survive a world that clearly shows you that ‘you are not in control’? 

ANSWER: You get to know the One who is control. You learn His ways. Trust His power. Rely on His providence. Live according to His principles. You Fix Your Eyes on Him. Run the race, muddy shoes and all, with chaos and mayhem all around, with life trying to bash your brains in, but run it knowing He understands, He ran it too, and He is in control.

Fix your eyes on Jesus.

As I start Muddy Shoes back up, I hope together we see more of life’s funny mayhem and the Lord’s powerful faithfulness. We can fix our eyes together – and let’s start doing it today. Just one day at a time. One section of the race. Just Monday. Just today. You are not in control, but He is – so fix your eyes on Jesus.

image from Instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BEpAtEJRxlE/

—— Pics from The Shining are used.