image courtesy of photo

image courtesy of photo

I suppose it was due to my blue collar raisin’ that I didn’t get why Mr. Rogers changed his shoes at the beginning of each show. It wasn’t wet or muddy and he didn’t have a mom or wife yelling at him to leave his clod-hoppers outside. I suppose it was a tradition he learned and he was just tryin’ to pass it on.

It may have been like that in Mr. Rogers neighborhood, but not one of our neighbors when I was a kid wore sweaters with ties… In our old neighborhood ties were for marryin’ and buryin’.

Neighbors and neighborhoods are a peculiar affair in our modern world. Who we end up living with around us, and especially right next door, is like playing the lottery or spin the bottle. We’ve been extremely fortunate or blessed with our neighbors over the years and numerous moves, but that’s not always the case.

When I was a kid, our mom and dad’s best friends had a modern day Hatfield’s and McCoy’s type of feud with their next door neighbors. Our parents’ friends lived in the fanciest section of our little town with the perfect cliche name, “Bel-Air Estates”, but that didn’t make it perfect.

They and their next door neighbors couldn’t agree on whose side of the property line the block fence separating them landed on. That was just the fuel to flame their down right disdain for one another’s families.

That family feud finally manifested itself in a good ole fashioned fist-tuh-cuffs that earned my dad’s friend a black eye. It didn’t take long to figure out that there is no such thing as the perfect next door neighbors… since none of us are perfect… but I’ve also learned that you can come pretty close.

Occasionally in life we have crazy opportunities that we’d never even dream of drop into our laps. Our oldest daughter and her husband live in our neighborhood, down and around the block from us. They live on a corner lot so they increased their chances of getting a good next door neighbor by about fifty percent.

The couple next door to them have lived in their home since 1989. During that time the home where the newlyweds now live was occupied by the sister of the lady who lives next door to them. For sisters who not only love one another but like each other as well, that has to be a once in a lifetime gift.

Time marches on and the inevitable happens in life; change… The neighbor’s sister and husband had to move on and then sometime later the couple that lived next door to our kin, time caught up with. It’s time for them to move on as well, rumor is into their daughter’s house who’ll help look out after them in coming years.

The elderly couple that live next door to the kids had three offers the first day their home was on the market. The fact that one of those offers was from the new bride next door’s younger sister was all she needed to pass the baton and gift to our girls. The next generation of sisters live side by side now.

There are no coincidences in life. Hills and valleys, ups and downs. When a Divinely appointed gift falls in place we just need to be thankful for each day we get to share and enjoy it… Then when it’s time… pass it on…


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picture courtesy of

There are some days in life that seem to run together like watercolors in the rain. But there are other days. Those are the days that stand out in life – the ones that refuse to be labeled a typical day and can’t be washed or wished away.

Those one-of-a-kind-days are personal, even if they do blend like a glass of water tossed into a river to folks who can’t see the significance in the particular day of another’s life.

She looked just like another car on the road of life, blending into civilization and traffic like another leaf falling in Autumn. It was another Monday and she was just another commuter running later than she had planned. Some of it her fault, although she blamed her alarm clock, some of it my fault.

We have a tradition and I wasn’t going to be yielding the importance of it or the significance of the day to time. I was proud of her as I watched her pull away. I was a little nervous for her. I thought about all the other days like this one; she was so young she can’t remember the first ones.

I have to admit I worry a bit and am always concerned about her safety as she slipped into anonymity on the busy city streets. I was also somber… Of all the years of our tradition and practice I knew that would be the last one.

I smiled inside at how clean the car was. The sun sparkled off the rims that until the day before looked more like giant chocolate donuts. I stood in the driveway remembering the day before; a triple digit Arizona afternoon and her, less than thrilled to be forced by her dad to run the car through the budget car wash.

Lucky for us one of her favorite businesses and hangout for kids her age was right next door to the car wash. We stood in the sweltering outside line exchanging small talk. We talked about different colleges, and some of the treacherous highways it takes to get to them. We strolled back slowly to the car wash, her sipping her green tea and me my hot coffee that I thought was crazy to consume in the desert heat when I was her age… like she does now.

I hung around the house that morning, the special day, one of those minor milestone days. She was anxious and in a rush to get out of the house and even more so when I first asked her if she wanted to pray.

Our youngest’s first reaction was less than appreciative, but her demeanor changed quickly. She knew the significance of the day and the importance of our actions that goes supernaturally beyond a ritual.

The three of us, my wife, youngest daughter, and I huddled up in the hallway like we’ve done for a decade and a half now as I prayed for her on her first day of school. It was the first day of her last year in high school.

There will be different days and each one will bring reasons to pray. I thought about all the prayers that I’ve sent up on my family’s behalf… it quickly dawned on me how often I’ve forgotten or taken the answer to those prayers for granted.

May the days that stand out, and all the others that blend like watercolors in the rain, paint a breathtaking rendering of the hand and grace of God in the lives of His beloved… including my little one in the car with the rims that tend to look like giant chocolate donuts…


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image courtesy

I was spreading ink above the light green lines on my yellow legal pad of paper in a quaint restaurant in our community when I heard, “I’m so sorry to bother you, but I have a huge favor to ask you,” she said warmly, lowering her head between her shoulders slightly with an awkward and genuine smile.

It was out of the norm for the manager of my favorite writing restaurant to be asking me questions outside the normal, “How was your meal today?”, type of ones. I’m a regular and with enough time, in this case, a couple of years, folks get to know each other in their community.

Most of the employees at the friendly neighborhood restaurant I know by name and vice versa. We know things about each other; marital status, kids, and occupation type of information.

“I know you’re a contractor and I was hoping you could take a look at a problem we’re having in our kitchen?” she asked.

“Sure,” I answered, set my favorite pen down and followed her into the guts of the french style eatery. Things always look different from the inside out, not nearly as orderly as you’d think. The computerized meal ticket screen that tells the chefs what to cook, right smack next to the searing heat lamps, was mounted too high for the vertically challenged chefs to reach and respond.

The mounting bracket had three massive screws in the clamp part of the bracket and someone had almost completely stripped the soft chrome screws. I stood on the chair that the person before me who had failed stood to assess the problem in the sweltering kitchen… This at the place where I go when I get the rare down time to get some writing done…

“You gotta screwdriver?” I asked the manager.

“Sure!” she said enthusiastically and disappeared. She reappeared a long few minutes later and handed me a tiny phillips head screwdriver.

“That’s why the screws are stripped,” I told her, “Do you have a regular slotted screwdriver?” I asked.

“Sure!” she answered and vanished again.

“She put you to work, huh?” some of the employees asked chuckling.

“I’m workin’ off my meal,” I told them.

The manager showed back up with what looked like a toy screwdriver, “That’s not big enough – It needs to be a wide and thicker head… let me check my truck,” I told her with little hope of having the proper tools that I try not to carry anymore…

I fished out a dusty slotted screwdriver that was about half the size I needed out of my driver’s side door compartment. By the time I wrestled the damaged screws loose enough with my undersized screwdriver to slide the monitor down, the heat lamps had me cooking like a Thanksgiving turkey. The manager graciously handed me a towel to dry myself off with.

“Thank you so much!” the manager said as I was leaving the kitchen, “Your next meal is on us!” she added.

Community isn’t always convenient. I suppose if I kept to myself and was short and grouchy with the folks I see often they’d never bother me by asking for help. But that’s not what we’re called to or designed for, not to mention the gratification that comes from helping others, even if in small ways, we’d be missing out on.

When I got back to my table I spotted my pen sitting on the floor underneath the not perfectly level table. I picked it up and noticed the delicate tip smashed sideways…

I’m not sayin’ community is always convenient…


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image courtesy of

In some ways, it was really just dirt and rocks next to water, but in other ways it seemed like heaven on earth. The frigid waters start their journey toward the devil’s bedroom up in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. We didn’t give two thoughts about where the rushing waters were running from, not really about the rugged beauty either. The rushing river looked more like the perfect double dog dare.

The current of the Colorado River was life threatening all by itself. What made it even more menacing was the height of the dirt, rock, and loose sand towering far above the green river that had chosen the path of least resistance beside the rocks thousands of years before.

We weren’t looking for a history lesson, we were looking for a thrill. Some kids were participants and some were spectators. Looking back now, it’s apparent that all of us had different motivations for jumping off the cliffs from dizzying heights.

Some of my big brother’s friends nicknamed me “Fearless Floyd”, but I wasn’t fearless, I just learned how to act like I was.

There was a kid, I believe whose name was Jim, if my memory isn’t stumbling, who was a few years older than me. Jim had shoulder length hair, singed blonde on the edges by the searing Arizona sun like most of us. He was stocky, well built naturally.

What stood out the most about Jim was his absolute absence of common sense and fear. Most of us would stalk the edge of the sixty to eighty-foot cliffs like we were sneaking up on the rapid river below, but not Jim.

Jim would shed his t-shirt and meager affects twenty or thirty feet back from the edge upon his arrival. Then he’d turn and sprint like a madman possessed toward the edge of the cliffs and let out a “WOOOOO-HOOOOO!!!” as he launched himself into the arms of gravity.

Jim didn’t give a second thought to any boats that he wouldn’t be able to see until he was airborne. He knew the odds were in his favor… not to mention the additional juice he got out of rolling the dice with his young life.

I’m one of those firm believers that actions do the talking for us in this life and you can tell a lot about kids by watching them closely. Some of the other kids wouldn’t jump off the cliff that was known to everyone in town as “Suicide”.

They’d crawl like scared billy goats across the heaven on earth to conquer the smaller jumps into the heart-shocking drink. Others of us searched deep into our soul and guts to find just enough courage to face the mountain, gravity, and the Colorado River.

It’s peculiar how we’re all wired by God differently. I’m also fascinated with how often the actions taken in childhood depict the life and actions that lie ahead of a person.

Which cliff a person chooses, regardless of the reason, says everything about the life they’ll live… and where they’ll land.

It starts with perspective… then the approach.


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image courtesy of

I have checklists. Sometimes mental, most times in my barely readable chicken scratch on my legal pad, but always urgent things to do, and clearing the multiplying checklist is my daily priority.

One of the items on my daily checklist was to meet and exchange a preliminary design of a plan and to give a brief overview. My fellow multi-tasker and I devised a scheme to cheat the clock a tad by meeting in a shopping center parking lot right off the loop 101 interstate.

I was on time, she was tardy to the party… not by much, but I count minutes like an inmate does his last sixty… I had my truck backed into a space backward, strategically parked under the shade of a healthy Palo Verde tree. I was making and taking phone calls, devouring my checklist like Pac-man does cookies and cherries.

I spotted a little gold single cab Ford Ranger make its way into the parking lot and move with uncertainty diagonally across the empty rows in the ghostlike parking lot. He stopped two rows across from where I was parked with my windows down and driver’s door open.

I could hear the starter cranking the little engine that didn’t want to until it finally coughed and fired and made it all of across another row of parking spaces when it called it quits for good just across from where I was parked.

I could see the dark complexioned man with the smooth shaved head that sported gold-framed sunglasses that have been reborn from the seventies, lean over his steering wheel as he held the key and ignition twisted in the forward start position.

He continued to crank the little engine that wouldn’t until it was obvious the mini pick-up had taken the rugged-looking young man as far as it was going to in its present condition.

The tall and well-built man took matters into his own hands, legs, and feet. He hopped out and shoved the little floundering truck with ease across one more row of the faded parking lot and spaces, just one space down from me under the next available desert shade tree.

By the time I finally got off the phone he was off his too and back inside his truck, his chin buried in his chest.

“Is it overheated or not getting gas?” I called out to him.

His head snapped in surprise, “Uhh – it’s gas – I’m outta gas,” he answered with chagrin.

“I gotta meeting here any minute now. When I’m done I’ll help you out,” I told him.

His dark eyebrows rose above the gold-framed sunglasses in surprise and question, “You sure?” he asked.

“I’m sure,” I answered, “Soon as I’m done I’ll take you to the gas station.”

As I drove the young man to the gas station we talked about peripheral details that don’t truly matter to total strangers. I told him about the time I ran out of gas eighty miles out into the desert in the middle of the summer. I chuckled at what was once a serious mistake. He smiled with understanding and gratitude.

Sometimes I think we’re not called to be the voice of God… just His heart and hands…

It’s an amazing gift to hear truly genuine thankfulness in another person’s voice. That day I was divinely reminded that sometimes our urgent checklists aren’t quite as pressing as we make them out to be…