Monday, December 22, 2008

P4E.097 A Wedding Blessing

Another new era has begun in my home. Another fork in the road taken. Donia and Davey married this past weekend. So, now we have three sons and a daughter!

As I was helping to set up the wedding facilities on Friday a magical moment took my breath away. I was walking down the hill towards the pond and gigantic oak tree under which Dave and Donia would be wed. The sky was crystal blue in between storms that came before and after the wedding. There was no wind, but suddenly, a swirling wind picked up bright yellow leaves from the ground and the trees to my left. The leaves danced above my head in a silent mini-tornado. I felt no wind on the ground and the earth was wet, so there was no dust. Only bright yellow leaves silently twirling and swirling up in a column to the crystal blue sky. As I bent back to watch this incredible sight, I could see two hawks, perfectly centered, gliding and whirling high above the flickering column of yellow leaves.

I don't necessarily believe in "good omens," or "bad omens," but I know how I felt when this happened. Awestruck. I could feel the presence of God. A harmony with the universe that He created. A peace in knowing that He is there and communicating through His creation. I felt loved because He thought enough of me to put me in that exact spot in place and time to experience that magical moment. There was also a tinge of envy, overwhelmed by inspiration at the sight of the two hawks doing and being exactly what God made them to do and be.

So, this is my blessing on Donia and Dave:

That they may be awestruck by the presence of God and be at harmony with the universe that He created. That they may experience peace, knowing that He is there and communicating with them. That they may love each other enough to arrange magical moments for each other and appreciate them when their Creator sends them their way. That they may be inspired to do exactly what God made them to do and be exactly who God made them to be.

My Blessing on you Dave and Donia! Dad

Peace, Kim

Thursday, December 18, 2008

P4E.096 The Gang Banger

It's not often that you'll find a gang-banger and an architect crying in the middle of a foggy road.
This is how it came to pass:

My wife, Gwen, wouldn't even look at the house when she went by it. The house is a few blocks from where we live, at the elbow of where the street turns into an older tract of homes. We drive by it to get to our house. Everyone in the neighborhood acknowledges that the people who live there are "Mexican Mafia." The young men wear their "beaters" (the kind of white undershirt that has thin straps over the shoulders and a scoop neck. The stereotype is that guys that wear this kind of undershirt beat their wives and girlfriends.), their baggy, saggy pants and their tattoos. The obligatory Oakland Raiders' flag hangs in the garage. There were always a few young men loitering in the driveway and talking on their cell phones who would stare down every passerby who intruded into their "hood." Last year a man was shot and killed in an empty field between the MM house and ours. There may be nothing to it, but my impression is that ever since that shooting things have really calmed down at the MM house. Not as many cars. Garage door always closed. No young men out front to administer the "stare-down." Now there's even Christmas lights hanging on the eaves.

Before we put him to sleep, Gwen would routinely take Dunkin, our yellow Labrador Retriever, to a small local park to train and play. One day a short, dark man who defined the word "burly" came into the park with his big Rottweiler on a fierce looking collar and chain. He sported shaded glasses, a moustache, and a crew cut. Elaborate, colorful tattoos were visible on the side of his thick neck. He watched Gwen as she trained and played with Dunkin. They were the only ones in the park that can't be seen from the road. My wife is not easily threatened and confronts situations squarely and without pause. It's so like her that she went up to the burly man and struck up a conversation. To her surprise, he smiled and complimented her training and Dunkin. He bent down and petted Dunkin. Dunkin and the Rotty got along fine. He explained that he was training his Rottweiler. They exchanged pleasantries. The man's name was Tito and his dog's name was Onyx. Where did he live? Well, his house was right at the elbow of the road that turns into the older tract of homes...
Tito, was in fact the father at the MM house. I was eventually introduced, shook his vice-like hand and found him to be quite pleasant. Tito's back has lately been giving him problems, so sometimes his dark-hooded sons would walk Onyx past our house and they would also stop and chat. Now, whenever we pass the Tito's house we smile and wave at our friends.

And, so it came to pass that one morning I was driving down our street. A burly grey figure emerged from the fog walking with a cane and a big Rottweiler. I stopped in the middle of the road and rolled down my window. Tito detoured and came up to the car. We had not had a chance to tell Tito that we had put Dunkin down. The fog swirled around us and as I told him, tears welled up in my eyes. Tito told me what a great dog he thought Dunkin was and, looking down at Onyx, that he couldn't imagine how we were feeling. Tito reached his great, tattooed hand into the car and rubbed my shoulder. "You're making me want to cry."
And he did.

Peace, Kim

This post is being shared at LL Barkat's
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Monday, December 15, 2008

P4E.095 No Whining Allowed

My family went to the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship Dog Show this last weekend, in Long Beach, California. My wife, Gwen, is a long time dog obedience trainer and has shown dogs in the conformation ring as well. She and my son, Ben, have also done agility training with our yellow labs.

We spent some time watching the obedience competition and became interested in one particular competitive team, Donna Rock and her Doberman Pinscher, Annie. At this high level of obedience, competitors do several exercises with their dogs. They heel their dogs with no leash. They take a small dumbbell from the judge, throw it over a jump and ask their dog to retrieve it, going over the jump to get the dumbbell and over again to bring it back, sit and give the dumbbell back to them, when asked. Then the competitor hands the dumbbell back to the judge and goes to the next exercise. Three identical gloves are dropped in the ring. They ask their dog to retrieve a particular glove by pointing to it. The competitor then takes the glove from the dog's mouth and hands it to the judge. They send their dog away from them and ask them to sit about 25 yards away. Then they give no voice commands, only hand signals to come, stop and lay down, sit and finish coming to sit in front of them. Each exercise is judged as to how precisely the dog does each exercise and how well human and dog work together as a team.

We were not the only ones keeping our eyes on Donna and Annie. In fact, all eyes in the arena were glued to them as they performed. The reason, you see, was that Donna was born with no arms. This meant that while other competitors wore shoes in the ring, Donna went barefoot. While the others took the dumbbell from the judge and threw it with their hands, Donna used her feet. All of hers were "foot" commands. Donna and Annie won their quarter-final competition. We later found out that in 2005, Donna lost her home, belongings and even her place of work to Hurricane Katrina. We couldn't stay to see how she and Annie fared in the semi-finals, but she is a winner in our book.

As a man and a husband there are so many times when I feel like whining and complaining (sometimes, I do whine and complain). I look for ways out of uneasy or distasteful situations. I'm not motivated to get creative to get difficult things done. But when I see someone like Donna Rock...well, I understand why there's "no whining allowed." No excuses either.

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

P4E.094 Ignored

Since about Thanksgiving, the Moon, Venus and Jupiter have been doing a sort of dance in the early evening sky. As the three brightest objects in the night sky, you can hardly miss their celestial ballet. They've been in a straight line and lately have formed the points of a triangle. It seems that they are communicating just by the fact that they are so close to each other in the sky and the similarities that they share.

By contrast, it feels like the architect that I have been working with and I have been clumsily stumbling over each other in the dark. My inability to impress on him the value of our schedule and the responsibilities I had assigned to him has resulted in an inferior design proposal and in our nearly missing an important deadline. I have been angry, frustrated and impatient with the circumstances. But, the words of my mentor, Ken Nair, return to me. "Anger, frustration and impatience are a secondary emotions. What are you feeling that's making you angry, frustrated and impatient? What are the primary emotions?"

Ken's words always prompt me towards self-examination and how the circumstances make me feel. When the architect paid no attention to the schedule I had put forward, I felt de-valued. When my phone calls and e-mails went unanswered, it was if I had been unheard. When my suggestions were not heeded, I felt dismissed. When he failed to live up to the responsibilities he was assigned, I really felt ignored. Ignored. That was the primary emotion.

I hate being ignored. I want to be taken notice of and paid attention to. I want to be understood. I want my opinions to count for something. I need to feel that my efforts are valued, not dismissed. When the architect ignored me, it made me feel un-important. More of Ken's words ring in my ears. "Now that you've identified some emotions, do you think that Christ ever felt these same emotions?" Certainly, Christ must have felt ignored throughout a lot of His ministry. Example: He performs a miracle and strictly tells those He's healed not to tell anyone. They spread the story all over the countryside. I wonder, did He hate being ignored as much as I do?

Ken usually asks one more question, "Have you made someone close to you feel ignored?" Because his is a marriage ministry, Ken's usually angling towards my wife (and my children). Yes, I'm sure I have made Gwen feel ignored. When I think about how the architect made me feel ignored, I understand how I make others feel that same emotion.

When I go with my own understanding and stop communicating I make others feel unheard. When I stop asking questions, I make others feel unimportant. When I put distance between myself and others, they feel de-valued. When I don't take Gwen's help and advice, especially when it comes to relationships, I make her feel dismissed. When I don't return phone calls or e-mails I make others feel ignored.

Communication can be like dancing. You cannot ignore your dancing partner. You stay close. Maybe even touch. You look at each other. Movements are synchronized, because you pay attention to each other. You become one. Yet you are separate. You reflect each other in your similarities, but maintain your individuality. When it's good it can be beautiful. Like Jupiter and Venus and the Moon.

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
Letter from James

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

P4E.093 Man's Best Friend

Today begins a new era in my home. It's the first day without Dunkin. Yesterday, Gwen and I took our 4yr. old yellow Labrador retriever, Dunkin, to the vet and put him to sleep. He had fought cancer for a couple of months. He was very uncomfortable and we knew we were making the right, but extremely difficult, decision. Words cannot express the loss of our friend and companion. Dunkin was the sort of dog about whom they coined the phrase, "man's best friend." He gave and gave and never complained. Really. Not even a whimper. The hard thing about opening your heart and caring is that sometimes you get hurt. There's been a lot of crying around our home.

Dunkin was really Gwen's dog. She has thanked me several times for being there for her during Dunkin's illness and when we put him to sleep. It hasn't always been so. Gwen is a very strong person. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. This has been a double-edged sword for her. Because she is so strong there have been many times where I've held back. Held back from caring. Held back from helping. Held back from "being there" for her, because I knew she could handle things on her own. In a way, I encouraged her strength and independence all the way to where she found that she really didn't need me for anything anymore. I worked and she took care of literally everything else. It shames me to tell you that she even painted the trim on our house all by herself because I wouldn't get involved. One day I bought her a paint brush and gave it to her to help in her efforts. Gwen has faced all sorts of grueling or gruesome or daunting circumstances without me because I was too cowardly or wimpy to "be there" for her. I wouldn't risk getting hurt or putting myself out too much. After all, she's strong. She can handle it. That's the "helpmate" she's supposed to be right?

Thankfully, I don't think that way anymore. Gwen is still strong. But, now she inspires me to be stronger. Now I am willing to take on the grueling or gruesome tasks, the daunting circumstances and risk being hurt by caring. Not perfectly, but the mindset is there. So, instead of Gwen taking Dunkin to be put to sleep alone or with a friend, I went with her. Because I love her. Because I loved Dunkin. We risked opening our hearts to him and we got hurt. We cried alot. But, it was worth it. I hope I can be (and I'm working towards being) the sort of person that Gwen needs and can count on. One who will give and give and never complain. Not even a whimper. I want to be that woman's best friend. Because I love her. God help me.

"Love...does not seek its own...bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails..."
The Apostle Paul to the Corinthians.

Peace, Kim

Sunday, November 9, 2008

P4E.092 For Davey: Physics Meets Romance

My middle son, Davey, has asked Donia to marry him. As parents, we're very happy for them. For me, it brings so many emotions and thoughts. Here's one of my streams of thought / emotion:

Wait, didn't Davey just graduate from high school and weren't we just sending him off to Biola University?
Wasn't it just yesterday that he was the all-star Pony League baseball player?
It wasn't too many Thanksgivings ago that he was born at the hospital in Laguna Beach, was it?
Didn't I just ask Gwen to marry me?

It's 1977. Jake Feldman is my Statics professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He's not very tall, but he comes across big. Big personality, big voice, big gestures, big hands, big eyes, big nose, big smile. He wears baggy, khaki-colored clothes, Earth shoes and has a penchant for suspenders. Long, tousled, brown, curly hair sits above perfectly round eye-glasses. He brings passion (and humor) to what might otherwise be a deadly-dull class.

"Your friends, will let you down," says Jake. "Your parents will let you down. Your brothers and sisters will let you down. Your girlfriend will let you down. Your wife will let you down. But, Statics ...Statics will never let you down. It's a friend for life."

We buy white baseball shirts, with long red sleeves and piping, and silk screen them with a red heart and, in big cursive letters, "Statics...a friend for life." We wear them proudly around campus.

So, what did Jake mean about Statics never letting you down? About it being a "friend for life"? Statics is a branch of mechanics that analyses how forces keep a body at rest or at constant velocity. It communicates rules and mathematical equations that hold true. There is a consistency about Statics. If you ask probing questions and seek answers, Statics leads you to equilibrium and structural integrity. Statics gave us foundational knowledge that we used later in our strength of materials and structural engineering classes. Somehow our understanding of the physical universe and how it works gave us a sense of its unyielding honesty and its solid reality. Statics is a friend for life and it has taught me some valuable character qualities that I will strive to always keep in mind.

Our Statics class treks out to Poly Canyon, where students have erected all sorts of experimental structures in the pursuit of understanding the design and building process. Near dusk, we end up sitting and talking on one of many rolling hills of rock outcroppings, wheat-like grass and oak trees that surround the campus. Jake perches on a rock, arms hanging over his crossed legs, completely at ease. As the sun begins to set, the discussion turns to my recent engagement to be married. The whole landscape around us is bathed in the dusky sunset. The air moves the grass like sea-waves and literally seems to be infused with gold and yellow and orange hues. Just as the sun is dipping below the horizon, I use the word "fiancee." Jake turns slowly and narrows his eyes at me with a wistful grin. His face is bathed in a golden orange glow. The sun glints off his round glasses and the breeze rustles his curly brown locks. He closes his eyes and repeats the word, "Fiancee," letting the end of the word linger under his breath. "Now there's a word a haven't heard in a long time..." He opens his eyes. His grin broadens and he gives me a look that lets me know that he understands exactly where I'm at and wishes he could be there again.

Even now my spirit thrills to think of that moment. A moment to relish the romance of being engaged and having a "fiancee." To have my whole life before me and the thought of sharing it with the woman I love. I really thought of nothing else. There was nothing else.

Carpe' Diem, Davey, Carpe' Diem.

Friday, October 24, 2008

P4E.091 A Fork in the Road

It feels so much like I, personally, and we, as a country, are standing at a fork in the road...

There's many expressions for this place. A "fork in the road." A "pregnant pause." Standing "on the brink." "Hanging in the balance." "Holding your breath." "Look before you leap." The "suspense is killing me." I wish I could "see what's coming around the bend." I'm "waiting for the other shoe to drop." It's the "calm before the storm."

It's that place where potential energy has built to a climax and we're "filled with anticipation" as to how it's going to be released. Everything seems "on hold," waiting for some known, or unknown, occurrence to trigger or precipitate action.

I / We are approaching what could be an epochal event which, I believe, will mark the start of a new era. I can feel the anticipation of it. With regard to the country, it seems plain that around half of the people will be disappointed and the other half will be elated with the outcome. What will we do with that disappointment? What will we do with the exultation of success? Personally, there is an anxiousness that will not go away until that precipitating event occurs. It's a place of great expectations and great anxiety.

Charles Dickens opened his classic "A Tale of Two Cities," about the French Revolution, with this famous line:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way."

That's the way I feel right now. Like I'm standing at a fork in the road. Should I / we go left? Or should I / we go right? High or low? In any case, I / we will soon stop "sitting on the fence" and "either fish or cut bait."

Only time will tell...

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." The Apostle Paul to the Romans

Guard your heart, Kim

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

P4E.090 Perspective Redux

Sometimes problems that look big ARE, in fact, big.

On September 1st, a friend's son woke up "to realize he could not move the left side of his body. He has developed a tumor in the front right side of his brain. The tumor caused major brain swelling and a stroke which is what led to the paralysis. He began to re-gain some use of his body and the doctors were waiting for the swelling to go down before going in to remove the tumor. They put him on assisted breathing to help him relax to make the swelling go down faster. He has also been heavily medicated because of the tremendous pain in his head...(He) is only 24 years old and is very healthy. He does not drink or smoke or do drugs. He works very very hard to provide for his family. He is scheduled to get married on Sep. 23rd. Doctors say that working 100 hour weeks and planning a wedding is the ammo for the tumor and trigger for the strokes."

I saw my friend last Friday. His son is still in the hospital and his condition has gone up and down since the initial stroke. He has been fully aware of some very painful procedures that have had to be performed without anesthetics. My friend shook my hand, gave me a hug and thanked me for all the prayers. He seemed so strong and up beat. I had to swallow hard to keep the lump in my throat down and blinked away tears that started to form.

I know that they say that God gives you strength to endure hardships and that at a certain point you realize you have no choice but to go on. I wonder about myself... My two older sons are right in the same age range, 23 and 26.

For now, I continue to pray for my friend's son, I say to myself "There, but for the grace of God, go I," and I try to keep my own problems in perspective. I'm going to Christ to keep from feeling overwhelmed and to remain strong for those closest to me who are counting on me.

God help me.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

Peace, Kim

Thursday, October 9, 2008

P4E.089 Perspective

"He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands"
Traditional Spiritual

Over the last few nights, the Moon appears to be losing the race with Jupiter across the southern sky. A few nights ago, Jupiter hung beautifully just above the half Moon. A few nights later, Jupiter appeared to be "preceding" the moon and last night Jupiter was far ahead of the Moon as they made their way from east to west in the southern night sky.

I say "appeared" because these nighttime observations and the words we use to describe them are based on one perspective, as we "see" them from the Earth. Looked at another way, the Moon and Jupiter don't "move" across the night sky, they come into and out of our view as the Earth turns.

To us, the Moon looks much larger and brighter than Jupiter. Yet, Jupiter is approximately 64,000 times bigger than our Moon. It looks like a pinpoint of light by comparison to the Moon because it is over 1600 times further away from the Earth than the Moon is. Neither of these heavenly bodies "emit" light, they are both reflecting light from our own Sun.

Because of the distance from the Earth to the Moon and from the Earth to Jupiter we are actually seeing a reflection of light from the past. It takes the reflected light only around 1.2 seconds to get from the Moon to the Earth. But, it takes over 43 minutes for reflected light to get from Jupiter to the Earth. So, we never see the "actual" relationship between Jupiter and the Moon at any given moment.

Why do I bring this up? The stock market in plunging, the economy is worrisome, there's war, and there's an important election coming up. I'm searching for new tools to address my anxious nature so that I don't continue to disappoint those closest to me. I know that answers lie in His Word and Creation.

I'm realizing that I have a microscopic, singular, point of view on my problems and worries. If I could only learn to get out of myself and move away from my circumstances and see them from a different perspective, I wouldn't be so consumed and affected by them. Being able to see my circumstances in 3 or 4 dimensions would put them in a different light. Maybe the problems I see as "big" are really small. And, maybe those that appear "minor" are, in fact, huge. Maybe all of my problems and worries are small when I consider the One who made and is saving me.

"Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?'" "…But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Matthew 6: 31, 33, 34

Peace, Kim

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

P4E.088 Disappointed

"Something is not right with me,
Something is not right with me,
Something is not right with me,
How was I supposed to know?

Something is not right with me,
Something is not right with me,
Something is not right with me,
Trying not to let it show..."

Cold War Kids

Have you ever disappointed a loved one? Have you ever known that you were performing below a loved one's expectations and then had her point it out? What was your response? I wonder if it was like mine. I felt defensive. Yes, even though I knew I was underperforming, I was defensive. Even though I knew I was wrong, I didn't like it when my wrong attitude was pointed out to me.

That's how strong the flesh is. I was mulling it in my mind. I tried not to let it show. But, Gwen caught it just the same. She asked me if I was mad that she had told me she was disappointed. Busted! I sighed and said, "No, not mad. Discouraged." I could understand and maybe even deal with Gwen being mad at me for underperforming. But, disappointed! There's no quick fix for disappointment. There's loss of trust and respect. You don't earn that back overnight. It felt like I'd lost a costly battle and it was going to take a lot of energy, effort and time to win back hard fought ground.

It is going to take a lot of energy, effort, and time to win back hard fought ground. But, I know that the prize is worth it. I can win back trust by being consistently trustworthy. I can win back faith by being consistently faithful. I can win back optimism by being consistently optimistic. I can win back hope by being consistently hopeful. I can win back respect by consistently earning respect. I can win back encouragement by being consistently encouraging. I won't give up.

I also know that something is not right with me and that I need help to overcome my melancholy ways. I'm committing to getting that help.

I want to make sure that I don't come off as someone who's "getting it." I truly am going through a trough in my attitude, marriage and ways. It's been a rough last few months. I am always profoundly affected by work and money issues. Personal issues get compounded by work and money issues. I'm asking for your thoughts and prayers. Thanks!

Peace, Kim

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

P4E.087 My Old Ways

One of the great things about having a 15 year old son, is that he keeps me up with some music I might never, otherwise, be exposed to.

As an example, if it weren't for Ben, I wouldn't have heard of (or even thought to listen to) a band called Dr. Dog and their song "My Old Ways," part of whose lyrics go:

"...But, I don't ever wanna go back
To my old ways
Cheatin' and creepin' around
I don't ever wanna go back
To the old days
I'm leaving the dead underground
I don't ever wanna go
No, I don't ever wanna go back
To my o-o-o-o-o-o-o-old ways again
I don't wanna go back
To my o-o-o-o-o-o-o-old ways again..."

I've given my wife, Gwen, some scares lately.
My flesh has been leaking (flooding?) through.
I know she might be thinking that I might return to my old ways.
I'm having to work (hard) to assure her that's not going to happen.

I need to remind myself of My Old Ways:

- selfish, "me first," attitude
- inwardly focused
- more concerned about my flesh than my spirit (or other's spirits)
- impatient
- explosively angry
- unforgiving
- frustrated
- unable to encourage
- refuse to be encouraged
- inflexible
- opinionated
- cynical
- hard hearted
- argumentative
- unable (or refused) to lead
- uncreative
- thoughtless
- lazy
- withdrawn
- uncommunicative
- dead

And that's just to name a few!
I'm committing to Gwen that I won't go back to my old ways.
I'm leaving the dead underground.
God help me.
What's your list look like?

Guard your heart, Kim

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

P4E.086 A Young Man's Tale

"Old man look at my life,
Twenty four and there's so much more...
Doesn't mean that much to me

To mean that much to you..."
Neil Young

A Young Man's Tale

When J was very young, five or six, his father thought he'd play a little joke on him. His father put a shawl over his head and found a stick for a cane and came into J's bedroom hunched over and limping on the cane, saying in a creaky voice "I'm an ooooold laaaadyyyy." J sat up in his bed, tears welling in his eyes and cried, "Ohhhh, that's sad!"

Another time, J's parents had taken him into Los Angeles for some fancy function. They were all dressed up and walking, hand-in-hand, down the street. A bedraggled, homeless man approached them and threw himself on his knees in front of the family, begging for some help. The family barely broke stride as they moved around him. "God bless you..." the homeless man croaked as they walked by. But, J began tugging on his mother's skirt. He whispered something in her ear. She reached into her purse and gave J some change. J went back on his own and handed it into the crusty man's filthy hand. As J ran back to his family, the dingy man smiled and waved after him.

Not surprisingly, J grew up to become a firefighter and EMT, working on an ambulance. Every day, day in and day out, J saw life pass in front of his eyes. Some life passed young and some life passed old. Some passed in pain and some unconscious. He grew weary not of doing good, but of suppressing the feelings that would accompany the pain and the passing of life. He grew weary not of the discipline, but of the para-military aspect of his work. He was self-aware enough to see that he was becoming callous and superior and bigoted. He cared so much and was so troubled in his heart that he abandoned the pursuit of a firefighter/paramedic career.

J is 26 and lives in Seattle now, with his girlfriend. For the most part, he's eschewed materialism. Doesn't own a car or much of anything else. He has a dog, whom he adores, named Shackleton. He's a vegetarian bordering on vegan. Sometimes he falls off the vege wagon. But, he's not dogmatic about it. He's a vegetarian because he loves animals and it's healthy. He played football when he was younger, but now he doesn't have much to do with team sports. He's competitive, but mostly with himself. He loves riding bicycles and does what he loves in his job as an urban bicycle messenger. It's a tough job and J fought hard to get it. He's proud of his work. J's parents were political conservatives and "born agains" while he was growing up. J has found his own way and finds himself far to the left of where his parents were politically and non-committal about Christianity.

J reads for pleasure and sometimes he recommends books to his father. One recent recommendation was "Into the Wild" about a young man who, after graduating from college, gave away his savings to a non-profit that works to find solutions to injustice and poverty, burned the money in his wallet, abandoned his car and began traveling. He died in Alaska after heading out the snowy Stampede Trail with only ten pounds of rice, a .22 caliber rifle, a camera, several boxes of rifle rounds, some camping gear, and a small selection of literature. He took no compass or map. He was 24.

On his bicycle messenger route J has come to know and befriend a shabby homeless man, like the one to whom he gave change when he was a child, named Wes. J usually sees Wes outside of a mini-mart. J chats with Wes when he sees him and buys Wes a water or a Gatorade when he can afford it. Last week, when J saw him, Wes said "It's my birthday, but I got no one to celebrate with me." J got off his bike and went into the mini-mart. He bought some packaged cake and came back out to celebrate with Wes. But Wes was gone. J wept when he told the story.

This young man's tale is unfolding. He's finding himself and trying not to worry about what others think of him (he still does, though). His parents love him and are there for him and are behind him all the way. They've learned a lot and are not the people they were when J was growing up. They are praying for who he has been and who he is and who he will be. Do they wish he'd make some different, better decisions with his life? Like most parents, yes. But, they're proud of J because his heart is good, soft and warm. That's a measure of success, as far as his parents are concerned. They are hoping and praying for the best for J.

He has more of Christ in him than even he knows.

"Diddle Diddle Dumpling...."

Peace, Kim

Saturday, September 6, 2008

P4E.085 Scapegoat Redux

There's a scene in the movie National Treasure where federal agent Sadusky says to Ben Gates (who's stolen the Declaration of Independence, then lost it),

"So, here are your options: Door number one - you go to prison for a very long time. Door number two - we're going to get back the Declaration of Independence; you help us find it, and... you still go to prison for a very long time. But you'll feel better inside."

Gates says, "Is there a door that doesn't lead to prison?"

and Sadusky replies, "Someone's got to go to prison, Ben."

When things go wrong, it seems ingrained in human nature that someone must be blamed and pay a price.

My being a scapegoat brought about some heartfelt discussion with my wife, Gwen. Initially, Gwen felt compassion for me in the specific situation where I was made the scapegoat. She actually cried for me. As our conversation unfolded, Gwen let me know that some old wounds had been re-opened by the whole scapegoat scenario.

Gwen helped me to remember that, before I became well, I had quite a track-record of making her and my sons scapegoats. In my weaker moments, I'm sure I still have that capacity. My inability to take responsibility for when things go wrong caused me to become very adept at blameshifting. So, when a scrap of paper with an important (to me) phone number I thought I had left on the kitchen counter went missing, Gwen and the boys were the most likely targets to blame. In fact, whenever anything was out of place and not easily found, I would go on a rampage of "where did it go?" "who moved it?" "why would anyone touch it?" Everyone would have to stop what they were doing to help me find the whateveritwas that was lost. And we wouldn't stop until it was found or we were just so emotionally exhausted, we'd have to stop. It would not occur to me to go to Plan B and use a substitute whateveritwas. It would not occur to me to save time, just let it go and re-create the whateveritwas. It certainly would not occur to me to take personal responsibility without looking for a scapegoat. The air would be thick with my fuming and fussing and blaming. Looking back, it was emotional abuse, no doubt. (It pains me to confess to you what an ass I can be.)

I write just one example, but you can imagine how this pattern could expand to fit any given situation in my life and how my wife and sons came to feel that they were walking on eggshells. This pattern led Gwen to "become a different person" when I was around. Her guard was up. She would be on the defensive. What would be next? My sons simply sought escape. Who wants to be blamed for something that they had nothing to do with?

I imagine that the reason I was made the scapegoat was so that I could feel what it's like to be one (It sucks). So that, in my new found self-awareness, I could empathize with my wife and sons. So that I could realize again that, lacking a spiritual orientation, I had treated Gwen treacherously and exasperated my sons. Mortal sins, both, for which I am truly sorry.

Although blameshifting and scapegoating are human nature, there are examples where men of honor have resisted the urge. My good friend and New York architect, Gary Shoemaker (, recently recommended the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin which I will read in due course. Gary says that the author describes an Abraham Lincoln who, having selected his own political rivals and enemies to serve in his Cabinet, refused to shift blame away from himself for anything that would go wrong. He simply would not allow anyone else to own his problems. The responsibility was his, pure and simple. In the end, those same rivals and enemies praised his unwavering character.

I would like to be such a man. God help me.

Guard your heart, Kim

Friday, August 22, 2008

P4E.084 Scapegoat

Lately, I was made to be the scapegoat. At first, I didn't understand. I was not the cause of the problems. It wasn't my fault that things had gone wrong. But, then things started becoming clearer. Someone needed to bear the responsibility. Someone needed to be reprimanded and replaced. Someone needed to publicly "take the fall." And the lot fell to me.

It was very uncomfortable. I was sad and disappointed. I wanted dearly to defend myself. To shed some light on the situation and set the record straight. It was so unfair! Where was the justice in it? Wasn't there some other way that things could be reconciled? But the answer was no...Someone had to be sacrificed to save face. Someone had to be "thrown under the bus."

The irony is that I'm still handling the same responsibilities behind the scenes. The only thing that's changed is that I'm no longer the "face" that people see. My replacement is the "face," but mine are still the hands that do the work. Everyone around me knew what was going on in the situation. There were no hard feelings and I was not really being blamed. Everyone just knew that a change needed to take place and I was the convenient link that could be cut loose.

We watched a movie the other night called "To End All Wars." Because of my situation, one line caught my ear. It had to do with the Bushido Code, which is the Code by which the Japanese Samurai and Kamikaze abide. Many of the Japanese martial arts' codes of conduct and ethics stem from the Bushido Code. The line went like this:

"In Bushido, it is an honor to be punished in place of your superior."

I wonder. If it is an honor to be punished in place of a superior, how much more of an honor is it to be punished for an equal? And then, what about a subordinate? What kind of man would take unwarranted blame on himself so that others would not suffer? Would even die so that others around him could live?

I know how he would feel. Disbelief. Fear. Wishing for a way out. Sad. Wanting to defend myself. Wanting someone to defend me. But, when it became clear that there was no other way...that it was up to me...there's a sense of resignation. A grim determination to do what needs to be done despite the discomfort. There's a sense of relief that the others won't have to suffer because I'm going to take it all. There's honor. Even love.

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."
John 15:13

Guard you heart!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

P4E.083 The sadiM Touch

I try to be transparent in these posts. When I'm good you'll know and when I'm not good, you'll know that too. This is a "mind dump." Not thought out. A stream of consciousness. Establishing where I'm at right now so that I can move from here. A pity party and a going away party. I don't want to mentally or emotionally or spiritually stay here anymore. This is where I'm at:

I hate money. I hate money because it seems to hate me. You've heard of people who have the Midas touch, where everything they touch turns to gold? I have The sadiM Touch. Everything I touch turns to, well, excrement.

I've never been good with money. I never learned how to handle money or the "value" of it as a young man. Some people have a wonderful ability to visualize how events will transpire when they do this or that with their money. Their minds are able to bend around the intricacies of interest rates and supply and demand. They have a sense of appreciation and depreciation and value and timing. I have no such vision.

Reading what I've just written, you'll find it impossible to believe that I was self-employed for over 17 years. Well, it wasn't a lucrative 17 years. Professionally, financially, emotionally and spiritually I would have been better off being employed by someone else. Finally, as part of the effort to save my marriage, I left private practice and have been employed for the last 3-1/2 years.

Becoming a Believer was, in a way, a consolation for me. Taking to heart a belief system that eschews the material world and teaches that "the love of money is the root of all evil" has been a convenient salve to my inability to handle or accumulate money. But, as with so much of life, my spiritual beliefs collide with the physical realities in a very inconvenient truth. The differences between my spiritual beliefs and my physical realities have given me opportunities to practice what I preach. I've failed miserably more often than not. I feel caught between the disdain for money and the need to make and spend and keep more. It's confusing to believe, on the one hand, that God will provide all my needs and, on the other hand, to get up every morning, shave, shower, get dressed and walk out the door to work, taking my destiny into my own hands. It's humiliating to feel so small in a world where one's importance is many times gauged by how much money one has accumulated.

I have such a bad track record with money that I cannot even discuss the subject calmly with my wife, Gwen. Every conversation finds me making Gwen feel controlled and scolded. Fear and failure and gloom hang over my spirit as I even approach the subject. Budgeting seems a completely useless exercise as there is always something I forget to budget or some unexpected expense that wreaks havoc on my budgeting efforts. I alternate between budgeting and cutting back (on all this high livin') and devising schemes to just simply make more money. I never seem to be able to offer any hope to Gwen in this area. It always seems like bad news.

My melancholy nature and "glass is half empty" attitude don't help matters much. I lack the ability to be encouraging when I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel. I vacillate between trying to be nonchalant about money matters and white knuckle controlling every nickle and dime.

One of my regrets has been not handling my finances in such a way that my sons could see a positive, balanced example of what that should look like.

I have many times compared my life to George Bailey's in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." Much of the movie revolves around money. The line in "It's a Wonderful Life" that I relate to most comes when Clarence, the angel, says "Oh, no no, we don't have money in Heaven," and George Bailey replies "Well, it comes in pretty handy down here, Bub!" Mr. Potter describes my situation pretty accurately when he says to George Bailey, "No securities, no stocks, no bonds. Nothin' but a miserable little $500 equity in a life insurance policy. You're worth more dead than alive!" The problem is, I have term life insurance, which has no equity....(See what I mean?)

Gwen says that I've always undervalued myself and my abilities. Low self-esteem and low (or mishandled) income seem to go hand in hand. I haven't had and still have no financial plan. I'm easily daunted, easily overwhelmed. Gwen would say wimpy. Weak.

There are times when I want to quit, but I know that's impossible. More often, I just try working harder or putting in more hours, which has demolished my family life.

Well, that's where I am right now. Like I said, mind dump. I don't like it. I don't want it. It feels like the Titanic slowly moving towards the iceberg. No way to change course quickly enough to avoid disaster. I won't be winning the Lottery any time soon. (You have to buy a ticket to have a chance.) I wouldn't want a lot of money if I did have a chance to win it. I've seen how unhappy people who have a lot of money can be .

It has been cathartic to write it all out this way. My goal in writing it out has been to establish a benchmark. A LOW POINT. A place from which to say, "God help me, it's all uphill from here!"

Am I just crazy or have you ever felt anything like this?

Your fellow traveler, Kim

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

P4E.082 Two Hands

I heard a story on the radio this morning that touched my heart and made my eyes well with tears. I thought I'd share it with you.

Today is the 80th birthday of classical pianist Leon Fleisher. Born in San Francisco, Fleisher began playing piano at age 4 and made his debut at 8 years of age. By 16 he played with the New York Philharmonic. In 1952 Fleisher won the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition of Belgium.

At the height of his meteoric career, Fleisher's right hand was stricken with focal dystonia, a condition in which the muscles of the hand contract or twist, causing the fingers to either curl up into the palm or extend uncontrollably. Undaunted, Fleisher continued his music career by conducting and teaching, particularly at the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. He also became an advocate for young musicians and their physical well-being. He describes them as "professional athletes who use their small muscles." Fleisher kept playing piano and making recordings, focusing on left-handed compositions.

Fleisher never gave up seeking a cure for his condition. In the early 2000's combining massage therapy and botox injections he was able to regain the use of his right hand. In 2004, Fleisher released his first "two-handed" recording in over 40 years, called "Two Hands" to critical acclaim. For the first piece of the Two Hands recording, Fleisher chose Johann Sebastian Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." (The radio program played the piece from Two Hands. My wife and I had chosen this music to be played in our wedding ceremony over 30 years ago. That's when my eyes welled with tears.) Part of the lyrics of that composition go like this:

"Jesus all my joy remaineth,
My heart's solace and my stay,
All my wounds to heal he deigneth,
On him all my need I lay

Peace and Joy, Kim

Thursday, July 17, 2008

P4E.081 What I've Learned Driving Cars

Gwen and I have found it very common for wives that we counsel to be upset with the way their husbands drive.

My driving habits have offered me an opportunity to learn some important lessons. My wife, Gwen, has felt very endangered by the way I drive. How many times have I heard: "You're going too fast!" "You're following too close!" "Brake!" Gwen often applies the imaginary passenger side brake or braces herself for oncoming destruction. When I see or hear these things my natural (fleshly) response is to get defensive. Since one of my goals is to become more sensitive to my spirit and Gwen's spirit I need to explore what a spiritual response would be.

If Gwen feels unsafe when I'm driving it's because she perceives (feels) a real threat to her safety. My flesh wants to convince her of my superior driving skills and tell her to 'get over it' (thereby discounting her emotions...and her). My spirit reminds me that I am responsible for the care of her spirit. Driving offers me an opportunity to care for Gwen's spiritual state by valuing her opinions/ attitudes/ feelings, honoring them by putting them ahead of my own and responding by CHANGING what I'm doing.

Gwen's asked me: "Do you know where you're going? Why don't you stop and get directions?" In driving, as in relationships, 'safe' is a state of mind, a feeling, as much or more than it is a status. Feeling 'safe' includes the peace of mind of knowing where we are going and that we're in agreement on how we're going to get there.

My driving habits shed light on how callous I am to perceiving a threat. The fact is that Gwen is a better judge than I am for how 'safe' I drive. It is a grave danger to be passive, callous and insensitive to physical and spiritual threats. I need help in assessing and perceiving physical and spiritual threats. And Gwen is great help.

Driving is one of the places where the 'rubber meets the road' as far as my Christianity goes. Driving is the most common activity where I make the conscious decision: "I AM FIRST." That is to say, 'My destination is more important than yours,' 'My time is more important than yours,' 'My driving skills are superior to yours,' 'My car is more prestigious than yours,' 'I am faster than you are,' 'I have more power than you have,' 'Outta my way, man!'

The 'I am first' attitude is so plainly contrary to Christ's teaching that I must take some time to stop and evaluate how I do what I do and why I do it. Scripture describes a war going on between my flesh and my spirit. For me, more battles have been won by the flesh than the spirit. That is because my ways are not naturally God's ways. I must exert my spirit to strengthen it and make it fit for battle. Then I might be able to shed the 'I am first' attitude, plan my time better, start a little earlier and drive with more self-control so that my drive could be more peaceful.

A group of men were discussing how angry and frustrated they would become when cut off on the freeway. But, one of the men said, "I've never been cut off on the freeway." As the others cynically expressed their disbelief, he explained,

"I've never been cut off because I always let them go first...."

What a concept!

Guard your heart, Kim

Middle Zone Musings - What I Learned From Transportation

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

P4E.080 Ashes, Ashes We All Fall Down

California is on fire. Fire and smoke and ash are everywhere. Even though the southern part of the state (where I'm at) has escaped thus far, the news is still dominated by fire.

The danger in becoming more sensitive to and aware of one's spirit is that you FEEL. Everything. Whether it's fire in California or flooding in the Midwest, earthquakes in China or typhoons in Myanmar, your heart begins to be affected. Couple natural disasters with man-made disasters like the downward spiralling economy, the mortgage meltdown, the price of gas, the war in the Iraq, and the slumping construction industry and I'm actually experiencing what might be called "disaster fatigue."

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

Is it that there are more disasters now or is it just that we have more access to information? Because the media focus on sex, scandal and disaster, I found my spirit getting calloused. Years ago I made the decision to cut off the satellite TV. Now I'm making the decision to restrict my radio and Internet news time to limit the disaster fatigue. My priorities need to stay focused on home. My wife and my son Ben who is my last son at home. It may seem selfish to you, but it's where I feel I can have the greatest positive impact.

In the past, I would let this disaster fatigue affect my temper in such a way that I'd create my own disaster at home. I still have to be very careful and aware not to let it happen now. This is where a deep Faith in an all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere present God is critical. A Faith that withstands bad things happening to good people. A Faith that is especially soothing and helpful when things are going wrong all around me. Helpful in the sense that it provides a template for character traits into which I can mold myself (and be molded by God). Molded in such a way that I come through trials strengthened, not damaged, or having damaged those close to me. Reading and acting out Scripture is an especially helpful way to acquire this Faith.

Guard your heart, Kim

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

P4E.079 Princess

"I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren't pretty, or smart, or young. They're still princesses. All of us. Didn't your father ever tell you that? Didn't he?"

Movie: A Little Princess, 1995
Character: Sara Crewe

My wife and I recently suggested to a friend that he send some flowers and a card to his wife on a special occasion (not her birthday or a holiday). He thanked us and said that he appreciated the suggestion because he never would have thought of it himself. It got me thinking...

Princesses are princesses, in large part, because of the way that others treat them. Princesses are inherently special and they deserve special treatment. In the movie, The Princess Bride, the prince responds to the princess' every desire with "As you wish." She understood him to mean "I love you" every time he said it.

When we're young we see our girlfriends or wives as princesses. We think of them as pretty, special, fragile, needing to be handled with care. We see ourselves as protecting them from harm, caring for them, getting jealous of them should others try to get their attention.

The princess guards herself from believing that there will be a "knight in shining armor riding up on a white horse," but something inside her still sings "someday my prince will come." Eventually, she settles for one of us. We're not exactly the prince she had in mind, but she sees potential and hopes she can make something of us.

Inevitably, something happens along the way. They say "familiarity breeds contempt." We start to take our princess for granted. She loses her specialness in our eyes. She loses her bloom. Pretty soon, we wouldn't even think of sending flowers or a card.

But, in her spirit, our princess still believes she IS a princess! Even if she isn't pretty or smart or young. She wants to believe that she's special and deserves special treatment, but that stands in stark contrast to what she's experiencing.

What our princess needs is a prince. Someone who will awaken her with an innocent kiss of true love. Someone who will handle her with care. Who will treat her special. Open doors for her. Provide for her. Fight windmills for her. Lay down his life for her sake.

Any volunteers?

Peace, Kim

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

P4E.078 Abigail Adams

My wife, Gwen, and I experience and observe what we call "Life Partners" moments ( These are moments that we recognize as relevant to marriage relationships. It might be that we are in a restaurant and observe how a couple ignore each other while they eat or how friends resolve a conflict in front of us.

One such moment happened for me recently. I was watching the PBS documentary "Liberty! The American Revolution." (BTW, Happy 4th of July!) The documentary highlights the relationship and written correspondence between John Adams, founding father and second President of the United States, and his wife, Abigail. Abigail wrote to John in this way:

"Dearest Friend,

In the new laws which you will be writing, please remember the ladies. Don't put unlimited power in the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if you give them a chance. If you don't pay attention to the ladies then you can't expect us to obey any laws in which we don't have a voice or representation."

And later she wrote:

"I'm sorry, but I still find it odd that while you are proclaiming peace and good will to men and emancipating the nation, you still insist on retaining the absolute power of husbands over their wives. Remember, John, arbitrary power like everything else that's hard and brittle is easily broken. In spite of all your wise laws, we too have it in our power to free ourselves."

These lines were written by a woman back around the year 1775. In a way, it's a sad reminder that in over 230 years we haven't come very far. Am I a tyrant? Do I lay down laws in my home in which Gwen has no voice or representation? Do I exercise arbitrary power? God help me to change if any of these are true.

Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

P4E.077 The Debt That All Men Pay

Tim Russert is dead. He died of a heart attack a week ago. Russert was the popular, tough questioning moderator of NBC's Sunday morning political show, Meet the Press and NBC News Washington bureau chief. He was the hot topic in the days following his death and is now all but forgotten in the world's fast-paced, short-lived news cycle. He's buried now, just north of Washington D.C.

I bring Russert up because of his age at the time of his death. He was 58. If I were to die at age 58 it would mean that I would have only 7 years of life left. It's a sobering thought. We really don't know when our time will come. I used to think that I had time to change. Time to process. Time to make a new start. Time to have a positive impact on my wife and children. Time to get my priorities straight. At the time of his death, I'm sure that the upcoming presidential election was foremost on Russert's mind. Now, he'll never know who the 44th President of the United States will be. And if he is somehow now able to know, I doubt that it matters to him anymore.

Russert's death has made me feel a new sense of urgency. I feel uneasy and that I don't want to have any (more) regrets when my time comes. A line from one of our favorite movies goes,

"There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember, time is short, and suddenly, you're not here any more."

So, I'm re-committing to doing and saying all the things that I would wish. To doing as much as I can in the time that I have before I make good on the debt that all men pay. Thank you and God bless you, Tim Russert!

My wife, Gwen, will read this and tell me,

"Kim, that's all fine and good, but actions speak louder than words, spoken or written. JUST DO IT!!"

I will.

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

P4E.076 In the Dark

I was sitting on the bedroom floor in the dark, my back against the bed, staring straight ahead, trying to sort out what had just occurred...

"If you've never listened to me before, you need to listen to me now!!" my wife, Gwen, had said. "You need to go down to his room and talk to him right now!! You need to apologize and ask him to forgive you or you'll lose him too!"

She was talking about our son David. David had driven his date in our shiny, red BMW to his high school prom. There had been a minor accident on the way. No one had been hurt. I thought I had handled the initial hearing of the story well. But, as time went by, I started to have unanswered questions in my mind. Gwen and David and I eventually were in the living room talking about the accident. I started asking my questions. I wasn't hearing answers that I liked. My voice became more strained. The questions came faster. My impatience and anger were rising. I was frustrated because I wasn't understanding the sequence of events, which car was where, who might have been at fault. "How could it happen that way?" The message I sent to David was that I didn't believe him; that I thought he was lying to me. Finally, exasperated and angered by my interrogation and the fact that I wasn't accepting his answers, David's eyes filled with tears and he fled to his bedroom.

"...You need to go down to his room and talk to him right now!!"

I resisted. Why should I apologize? I didn't wreck the car! He should be upset! He was careless. He wrecked the shiny, red Beemer. Was he going to pay to fix it? Only much later would I think about how his whole prom night had probably been ruined by the thought that he would have to face me.

"'ll lose him too."

I'd already pushed our oldest son, Jon, away. I'd lost all credibility with him. Jon (rightly) thought I was a hypocrite. His disdain for me and for Christianity was plain. I was so callous that I wasn't responding to that situation.

" need to listen to me now!!"

I had recently heard that I was to change my attitude towards my wife and see her not as the enemy, but as help. She was truly better at understanding relationships than I was. David didn't have a track record of lying that should cause me to suspect him of doing so now. I needed to value him and our relationship more than the thing (BMW). My anger and impatience had always gotten me into trouble. I needed to change. I needed to do something different. I needed to go to him.

But, what would his response be? I wouldn't forgive me if I were him. If I were him, I would be pretty angry myself. I realized that I was afraid that he'd cuss me out and kick me out of his room. I was afraid that he wouldn't forgive me. I was afraid that I'd already lost him.

I went into the kitchen. Gwen watched me as I got a glass of water, waiting to see what I would do. I set the glass down and set off for David's room. I opened the door and found him laying on his bed, face down into his pillow. I sat on the bed. "David, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have questioned you that way. It's just a car. You're more important to me. I know you've never lied to me..." David sat up quickly and lunged at me...threw his arms around my neck...buried his face on my shoulder...and burst into tears. His whole body heaved as big, gut wrenching sobs came from his throat. My eyes filled with tears as I stroked his hair and back and said "It's OK....It's OK, Dave...."

I don't even remember how I left that room or how I came to be sitting on the floor of the darkened bedroom. The door opened and the light from the hallway pierced into the black. I kept staring ahead, but I could see the silhouette of Gwen's legs and feet come into my teary peripheral view. "Thank you, Gwen. Thank you for telling me what to do. I had no idea...." It was the first time I'd ever really thanked her for her help. But it wouldn't be the last.

Peace, Kim

This was re-posted to L.L. Barkat's On, In and Around Mondays on 11.15.10

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

P4E.075 Horse Sense for People

(This is the 14th and last in the predator/prey series, although I may return to the subject from time to time.)

This post is devoted to quotes taken from the book "Horse Sense for People" by Monty Roberts, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2001. I refer you to that book because Monty Roberts is someone of substance from whom I have drawn many of my ideas. Monty makes me feel comfortable and confident that I'm not the only one who sees things the way I do.

Monty refers to himself as a "horse gentler." He can take what people refer to as an "unbroken" horse and have a saddle and rider up on its back consistently in a little over half-an-hour without using restraint or violence of any sort. For those of you who don't know much about horses, that's an amazing accomplishment. Monty describes something that happens with nearly every horse at some point during that short process:

"The horse turns towards me, walks in close and reaches out to touch my shoulder with its nose. At this precise moment I often hear a gasp from the crowd...Oftentimes women are reduced to tears at the sight of a flight animal accepting and trusting a potential predator. This is no coincidence: it happens too often."

Later Monty gets down to human relationships...

" can describe humans as predators, but humans can also be passive, nonviolent and nonaggressive. This curious and perhaps unique mixture of fight and flight, prey and predator is almost always present in our relationships and communications. Women, in particular, have a great ability to identify with the hunted and therefore with horses."

"Male predatorial behavior is far more common than most people would imagine, and it happens in our apparently enlightened society on a scale that I find difficult to comprehend...Women in and out of the workplace are often preyed upon. It is little wonder that women identify with the flight animal."

"The thousands of letters sent to me tell a sad story of the continuing existence of abuse of all kinds, predominantly in the home. How long will it take to raise awareness that violence is never the answer? Many women who watch my work will remark that they wish this lesson could be learned by the male of our species. When a man learns that a nonviolent approach can be far more effective-for himself as well as the prey animal-he understands how wrong violence is."

Amen to that. Peace, Kim

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

P4E.074 Change

(13th in a series on predator patterning)

Barack Obama is running for President on a platform of "change." Change for the good on a national level is a lofty goal. Except for maybe Obama, we individually have little ability to bring about change (for better or worse) on a national level. Please don't get me wrong. I'm the first to say, "chase your dream." If you believe you can change the world for the better, then chase your dream.

What I am saying is that change for the better starts on a very personal, intimate level. Otherwise, we leave the door open for hypocrisy. For instance, if I publicly take a strong stance against the continuing war in Iraq, but am waging a war of my own at home with my wife, I could rightly be accused of hypocrisy.

Predators do not change. They are very consistent. They act on instinct. They perform according to their predator patterning. Therefore, if I am not to be perceived as a predator, I must:
Step 5: Change for the Better.

Change for the better on a personal level is a lofty goal. I have to be self-aware enough to know that what I am is not "good enough." Ken Nair refers to the "good enough" attitude as "semi-Christlike." My help (read wife) is a good gauge to let me know where I'm falling short. I've never met wife who's said, "I can't stand it. My husband just gives too much!"

Motivation to change is challenged by the Laws of Motion. If my life is moving in a certain direction it's going to take a force to change its direction. The heavier the aspect of my life the more force it will take to change its direction. It takes work and most of us men are not motivated to change if it takes much work.

"...A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.' And he answered 'I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, 'I will, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" Matthew 21:28-31

This is the Scriptural version of the maxim, "Actions speak louder than words." They do. I'm challenged by Scripture to change the way I think, act and talk:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man..."
Jesus Christ

"Then the LORD said...if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."
Genesis 4:7 (underline mine)

I am not saying that we need to change from predator to prey. No one wants to be preyed upon. As I said earlier, we are all of us prey to the enemy who would devour us, but we don't have to like it or perpetuate it. I am saying that we need to stop acting like predators towards those who are close to us and who might be considered prey.

Peace, Kim

Thursday, May 29, 2008

P4E.073 Broaden Your Mind

(12th in a series on predator patterning)

Another example of single-minded predator intensity is that I get blinders on. I believe there is only one way to accomplish my obscure goals. I put my nose to the grindstone and throw all my efforts into that one way. I don't ask for help or directions. I don't need "alternatives." I have no need to be "creative." My way is right. Don't try to dissuade me or confuse me with facts.

My wife, Gwen, has said to me many times, "What you are doing is not working. Try something different. Anything!" She might say this to my attempts to interact with our sons, or my attempts to apologize after a disagreement or my attempts to encourage her (something I'm terrible at). She has definitely said it to me with regard to my being self-employed for many years.

I've debriefed with Gwen and asked "What could I or should I have done in that situation? What would have worked?" When she's given me a simple, straight-forward, uncomplicated answer, I've responded, "Really? That wouldn't have worked, would it?" Her "I can't believe you're saying that. Don't even start with me!" look gave me my answer.

So, the next phase in subverting our predator patterning is:
Step 4: Broaden Your Mind! Get Creative! Try Something Different!

I've found myself and others I have observed deeply entrenched in a perception of how things are and how they could or should be. Here's a list of subjects (in no particular order) for your consideration about which to broaden your mind, get creative and try something different:

Wife, women, marriage, children, fatherhood, friends, work, place of residence, money, spiritual leadership, change, materialism, child discipline, politics, the USA, illegal immigrants, homosexuals, the Bible, church, religion, religious denominations, time, social justice, the poor, the environment, arguments, encouragement, apologies, values and ideals, the past, the present, the future, driving, entertainment, television, hobbies, etc.... Get the idea?

Do I really believe that my deeply held convictions on these subjects are right and true? By whose standard? How can I be sure? How important is my individual stance on these subjects? What difference am I making by holding such a stance? Am I damaging relationships with those who are close to me by clinging to my narrow thinking? I'm an architect. Part of my job is to be creative. Yet, I can get so stuck!

Sometimes we need help with Step 4. Here's a quote from Ken Nair, founder of Life Partners, that suggests where we can go to get such help:

"Could God be so uncomplicated as to call the help He has provided for you 'help'?"

"The LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a helper suitable for him.' "
Genesis 2:18 (NIV)
Of course, then He created woman/wife.

Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Monday, May 19, 2008

P4E.072 The Wolf and the Lamb

(11th in a series on predator patterning)

I think it is significant that Scripture characterizes the golden age that the Messiah will usher in as a time when "the wolf will lie down with the lamb." I believe that we are used by God to answer our own prayer of "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven."

To be available to Him for His use, I need to bring my predator self to a place where I live in peace and harmony with my prey. I'm also responsible to gain the trust of my prey to the point where my prey will trust me enough to be vulnerable and know that it won't taken advantage of .

Predators are single-minded. They are intense. They know what they want and focus all their attention on it.

For me, it has looked like this:

1. I have highly valued, well thought-out opinions (political, religious, moral, child rearing principles, time and money management, music, etc.) and have no problem expressing them. My wife and children are the first to know what these are. I will not tolerate contrary opinions. I will argue like a lawyer to defend my position. (If it ain't country, it ain't music. I'd rather push my Ford than drive a Chevy, you know?)

2. I watch like a hawk (predator) to make sure that these principles are lived out in other's (mostly wife's and children's) lives. When they aren't, I perceive it as weakness. I pounce, like a lion (predator), on other's mistakes, point them out and demand that they are corrected.

3. Physically, the hair might go up on the nape of my neck, I throw my chest out, shoulders back, I jut my chin, lean forward, squint (or explode) my eyes, frown, raise my voice. In other words, I get "big" (which is no small feat for me).

4. When someone is about to do something I disapprove of, I am able to transmit my disapproval by a "look" or a sound. I can transmit my intensity to the unlucky prey from across the room.

So, with that in mind, the next step in overturning my predator patterning is

Step 3: Don't be so Intense!

This is intertwined with Step 1: Purpose to let others go first, because to become less intense I have to give up my opinions, quit focusing on the weaknesses of others to exploit them and suppress the physical attributes of a predator.

I think we've all experienced when someone wants their way and tries all sorts of methods to make it happen. The intensity that those persons use to achieve their demands is what I'm talking about. As usual, it's easy to see it in others but more difficult to identify in ourselves. God help us...

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

P4E.071 Oh, the Humanity!

(I'm going to take a break from the predator/prey series to comment on current events.)

On May 6, 1937 the enormous German zeppelin, Hindenburg, exploded as it landed at New Jersey. As he watched the disaster unfold before his eyes, reporter Herbert Morrison spontaneously burst into tears and cried "Oh, the humanity!"

I've been experiencing the same feelings as I've seen and heard about the natural disasters in Myanmar, Chile, the American midwest and China. 46 people died in the Hindenburg disaster. Literally tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of people have lost their lives to these natural disasters over the last couple of weeks. Oh, the humanity!

Some of us may feel a bit helpless in the face of such disaster. I know I have in the past. Yes, we can donate some money to aid relief to the affected areas. Some more action oriented among us are actually prepared to physically go to the points of disaster. But, for most of us these disasters form a backdrop as we carry on with our normal, everyday lives. We should really be disturbed.

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."
―Obi-Wan Kenobi, referring to the destruction of Alderaan

I'm thinking, what if I were one of the "lucky" ones who survived a natural disaster? Stripped of everything. Right down to my flesh and bones. What's left? Even my body will someday die. What I'm learning is that my spirit is eternal. My spirit is what is of real consequence. I can affect my own spirit and the spirits of others.

When I see these disasters happen now, yes I say, "There but for the grace of God go I," but it also motivates me to do what I can to positively affect the lives of others in my own sphere of influence. I am not helpless there.

Am I making the ground shake by my temper? Am I a great wind that wreaks havoc all around me by my presence and personality? Do people feel like they're drowning in great waves of anxiety when I'm around? Do I bring a cloud of confusion like a volcano spews ash into the air? Do people feel fear, helplessness and hurt when I'm around, or do I bring peace, clarity and healing wherever I go? I have been known to do the former. I'm working on doing more of the latter.

Peace, Kim

Thursday, May 8, 2008

P4E.070 Slow Down!

(10th in a series on predator patterning)

Predators act instinctively. They count on their nature to move quickly. Thinking slows them down. The scenarios that I described of how to put others first, especially when I must sacrifice to do so, in the last post were predicated on being in a hurry, running late and acting on instinct. When we are in a hurry, we act like predators towards others whom we perceive to be slowing us down. So, to counterbalance my predator patterning, I need to:

Step 2: Slow Down!

The old adage is "Time is money." As Believers we need to challenge the old adages. Are our values worldly or godly? I know the analogy breaks down somewhere, but:

If we are to be like Christ
and Christ is God
and God is infinite
and therefore time is inconsequential to Him
what value should we give to time?

I know I need to be careful here. For some of us, our wives believe that we are too slow. Some of us are procrastinators and are slow to make decisions or outright indecisive. This causes "crises" to "erupt" at a later time, which then must be addressed in haste. So, some of us actually need to hurry up so that we can slow down.

Which brings me to strategies for implementing Step 2: Slow Down!

1st strategy: Remove the causes of being in a hurry. This means planning. This means staying on top of necessary commitments so that they don't pile up. This means leaving earlier to arrive on time. This means stopping procrastination. This means work.

2nd strategy: Attitude adjustment. We need to stop deluding ourselves into thinking that because we're good Christian people that nothing is going to go wrong! We don't deserve, nor should we expect, trouble free lives. I'm sorry to use the hackneyed phrase "paradigm shift," but that is what we're talking about here. A shift in the way we view time. A shift in the way we react to circumstances. This is an exercise in patience (a fruit of the spirit).

Two places where I know I have to slow down are with my words and with my anger (impatience). To my shame, I would pounce (another predator term) on my wife's and my children's mistakes. I would correct something my wife would say in public, in front of others, causing her great embarrassment. I would become angry and impatient with my children if they were not ready to leave for church (or any other function) on time. What irony!! What hypocrisy!!

"A quick-tempered man acts foolishly..."

"He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly."

"But, let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God."

When I slow down, I have time to think. I gain wisdom and understanding. I'm less likely to become angry. I stop acting predatory. I avoid being a fool.

Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

P4E.069 We Are Different From Animals

(8th in a series on predator patterning)

"It's a common complaint among animal researchers. Whenever they find a mental skill in a species that is reminiscent of a special human ability, the human cognition scientists change the definition."
Inside Animal Minds, By Virginia Morell, National Geographic, March 2008

What still separates us is our developed language, our ability to communicate in both written and verbal form about the past, present and future and "the extra layer of imagination and explanation that provides the running mental narrative accompanying our actions." (ibid.)

In the end, I hope that one more way we are different from animals is that we can believe in a Creator and respond to that belief by being self-aware enough to purposefully change the way we think, act and talk. I am not a rat in a maze whose pattern never alters until the day he dies.

Last weekend I heard a radio preacher vehemently preaching on Galatians 2:16. I'm not writing here about whether we are "justified" by "works" or "faith." I'm writing about the process of becoming a new creature because we BELIEVE. Don't be confused.

So...How does it happen? How do we move away from the destructive predator patterning that I've been chronicling?

First, we must overcome our initial defensiveness that causes us to deflect the criticism that we are acting like predators. Many of us husbands eventually (or initially) get to the place where we want to blame our wives for our problems. "Why should I change? Why shouldn't she change?" To paraphrase horse trainer Clinton Anderson:

"To change your wife, you must first change yourself.
To change yourself, you must first change your attitude."

Remember, the predator attitude is SELFISH. So, here's the challenge:

Step 1: Purpose to let others go first. Especially when I must sacrifice to do so.

It looks like this:
I'm in a hurry.
I arrive at a queue at the grocery store, bank, fast food place
at about the same time or just in front of someone else.
I let them go in front of me.

I'm late for an appointment.
I sense that the person driving next to me wants to squeeze himself in the impossibly short distance between me and the car in front of me, with never a turn signal.
I back off and let him in.

My wife has an idea that is contrary to one that I have.
I have very good, logical, well thought-out reasons why my ideas are superior.
I freely sacrifice my idea and get behind hers.

And so on....

"But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, `Friend, move up higher'...For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Luke 14:10-11

Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

PS - Interesting fact: A group of lions, the definitive predator, is called a "pride."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

P4E.068 Selfish

(7th in a series on predator patterning)

I've been writing about the overt aspects of predator patterning that may seem obvious to you (or maybe not). Even though they may be obvious, these patterns are not easily interrupted.

There are more subtle aspects of predator patterning that are less obvious, but more universal. At its heart, predator behavior is selfish. The predator attitude is, "I come first at your expense." It is an intensely natural patterning. The patterning is like this:

- My survival comes first.
My priorities, values, desires, attitudes, thoughts, ideas and comfort must survive at the expense of yours.
- I cannot control my emotions or aggressiveness.
They are my unchangeable nature.
- I act on instinct before I think. Thinking slows me down.
- I look for weakness and exploit it when I find it.
- I can be sneaky or I can be blatant. Whatever it takes to win.
- My focus is acute. I'm intense.
- I'm a straight-line thinker. I'm very predictable. I'm not very creative.
- Fear me. I can and will hurt you.
- I will not retreat unless I fail. I do not accept failure easily.

Although this patterning is inwardly focused (selfish) it is usually not self-aware. In other words, because it comes so naturally, we don't know we're doing it when we're doing it. Guys, if you are doubting that you act out in this patterning, the best way to find out is to ask the one closest to you. Ask your wife. Read her answer. If she is uncomfortable, she may avoid answering the question, which in itself provides the answer. If you are one of the fortunate, your wife may comfortably answer "No, you don't act that way towards me. I just can't stand it. You give too much."

Whatever the answer, I encourage you to listen and not to speak. Don't get defensive. We're on a reconnaissance mission, not engaging in battle.

Some of us already know the answer. We don't need help to know that we are selfish by nature. Some of us know and want to change. So the next question is, "How can I interrupt this pattern?" I promise to start addressing the answer in the next post.

In the mean time, here's another provocative question:

"Are there any important parts of my life where I believe that acting like a predator is beneficial and/or necessary?"

Peace, Kim

Thursday, April 17, 2008

P4E.067 The Good Man

(6th in a series on predator patterning)

"The good man out of the treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Why do you call me 'LORD, LORD,' and not do what I tell you?" Luke 6:45-46 (Revised Standard Version)

A reminder at this point in the series. I began with this:

"I'm starting to believe that an important part of what Christ is looking for in me (since I am His and He is mine) is behavior modification. A more spiritually natural, non-violent approach to my relationships with my wife, my children and others around me. Changing the way I think, act and talk. A part of behavior modification is recognizing the patterns in my life that cause areas of concern and interrupting them. It's called 'pattern interruption.' Am I a rat in a maze whose pattern never alters until the rat dies? God help me, I hope not."

The point of highlighting predator patterning has been to identify it and pinpoint where we might interrupt that destructive patterning.

If you did the little experiment that I suggested in the last post and found that you do any of those facial expressions, sounds or gestures AND agree with me that they exhibit destructive predator patterning, then let's talk.

I know it is difficult for me to acknowledge, but the facial expressions, sounds and gestures that I make reveal what's in my heart. If what is in my heart is dark and melancholy and Eeyorish, then my body language, facial expressions, sounds, words and gestures are going to mirror dark, melancholy and Eeyorish.
If I frown, lean forward, hunch my shoulders, bare my teeth, squint my eyes and make a growling sound get the idea.

The fact is that very, very few people actually put into effect major life changes. Can we challenge ourselves to become one of the few?

More to follow... Peace, Kim

Friday, April 11, 2008

P4E.066 Eye of the Tiger

(5th in a series on predator patterning)

A friend's wife left him recently. He described one of his frustrations like this:

"There were times when we would be having an argument. At a certain point she would just stop talking, turn on her heel and walk away from me. It's so frustrating, because she would just stop talking and that would be it."

It reminded me of some things my wife, Gwen, has expressed to me. She has said things like, "Arguing with you is like arguing with a Philadelphia lawyer." "I knew you were going to say that! I knew you were going to bring that up!" "You're like a dog with a bone. You just can't let go." "You have to get the last word in. You think you're so right. You don't listen. It's like we're in a competition. You think you have to win."

One wife who wrote me recently said, "As I read this on Prey Patterning, I couldn't help but relate to the prey from the perspective of a wife hiding from or being victimized by her husband's flesh."

Let's do a little experiment. (You might want to do this in front of a mirror.) Pretend as though your wife has just told you something that you don't understand or disagree with. What do you physically do? For instance, do you:

1. Knit your eyebrows (frown).
2. Squint your eyes.
3. Open your mouth (bares your teeth).
4. Shake your head.
5. Jut your jaw out.
6. Hiss under your breath "What?" or "Tsk!" or exhale loudly or "Grrrrrrrr".
7. Put your hands on your hips and/or shrug your shoulders.
8. Raise your voice.
9. Lean forward and/or push your chest out.
10. Point at her or make big hand gestures or shake your finger at her .

Can you see how any of these facial expressions, sounds or gestures could be interpreted as "predatory?" When we act this way towards our wives they perceive us as predators. Many times they respond like prey, as my friend's wife did. She tried to avoid detection by going silent, then turned on her heel and fled. When we would argue, my wife would feel trapped in a crazy making, circular logic, out of control, threatening, mind bending maze. She used to feel like she was in a no win situation. (Like she was going to get eaten up?) I could not be dissuaded from my straight line thinking. She would also just walk away or leave, just to get away from me.

I believe that many times our wives feel more bound by their commitment to Christ (or if not Believers, to simple decency) than we men do. I admit that when in an argument with my wife, my thoughts are far from Christlike. Gwen did not want our children to see a bad example in her, even if I was going to make an ass out of myself. A mother will put up with a lot and even redirect a predator's gaze from her children to herself if she feels her children are in danger. To accomplish this, they can "go silent"and encourage the children to do the same. The camouflage of a neat, quiet, well-run household with dinner on the table when he gets home can keep the predator distracted and calm. Not engaging in an argument keeps her conscience clear and herself and her children out of harm's way.

Prey animals know that predators are very predictable. Prey animals are extremely perceptive and reactive. Speedy flight is their first response. Clinton Anderson, the well known horse trainer, says that if a horse "smells, thinks or even imagines that there's danger...then there's danger! And the bigger head start they have the better their chances of survival." Wives have the same sense.

More to follow....
Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

P4E.065 Stating the Obvious

(4th in a series on predator patterning)

We've been talking about predator patterning. The fact is that predators are violent. They hunt, stalk, chase, attack, kill and eat for their own selfish purposes.

I know that I'm going to enter a controversial area here. It's dangerous anytime one tries to make generalizations, stereotypes, or broad brush statements about groups. There's always an exception to the rule and few people rejoice at the idea that they can be categorized in any way. Nevertheless, like me, you've probably heard at one time or another of man/woman relationships referred to as predator/prey relationships. Some men relish the thought of being perceived as a predator, while others are offended by it.

Some women revolt at and resent the idea that they might be perceived as prey. Still, other womens' experience warrants the description. According to the website,

+ Nearly one-third of American women (31 percent) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey.

+ Nearly 25 percent of American women report being raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime, according to the National Violence Against Women Survey, conducted from November 1995 to May 1996.

+ It is estimated that up to three million American women are physically abused by their husband or boyfriend per year.

I'm going to state the obvious: It is unacceptable for a man to physically or sexually abuse a woman or a child. You may think that since I'm writing mostly to Christian husbands and fathers I shouldn't have to state the obvious. The Barna Group's polls tell us that about 42% of the American population identifies itself as "born-again Christian." We might conclude that there are 1.26 million men per year who physically or sexually abuse their wives and girlfriends and identify themselves as "Christians." One is too many.

In future posts we'll discuss pre-physical/emotional/spiritual abuse as well, but I thought we should state the obvious first. I hope that this post doesn't apply to you. But, if the shoe fits.......

Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

P4E.064 Prey Patterning

(3rd in a series on predator patterning)

I've been using the example of horses and humans as a parallel to human to human relationships. Horses are prototypical prey animals. Humans appear to be predators to them until and unless the human stops acting like a predator. To understand what makes us seem like predators, we have to understand prey patterning.

So what characterizes prey patterning?
Prey behavior is that which avoids the pursuit, capture, killing and eating by predators. Most species are potential prey for another animal at least sometime during their lives.

Silence, Camouflage and Disguise
The first line of defense for many prey is to avoid being detected by the predator. Many prey minimize the noise they make and the resulting silence makes it more difficult for the predator to find them. Other prey reduce visual cues that the predator might use to locate them. They utilize camouflage coloration that blends their bodies into the background making it difficult for visual predators to find them. Many moths, common prey for birds, look like the bark of trees on which they rest during the day. Snowshoe hares have brown fur in the summer but white fur in the winter to blend with a snow covered environment. Many prey remain as still as possible when a predator approaches to avoid detection. When threatened, some prey make themselves appear larger to fool the predator into thinking that the prey is a more daunting kill. Some prey use disguises that make them appear to be a different, more menacing, animal.

Eye Placement
Many prey animals have their eyes placed on the sides of their heads as opposed to the front of their head. This gives them more than 180 degrees in their line of sight and increases their ability to spot predators.

Flight / Speed
If spotted, many prey have a second line of defense: speedy flight. Many prey species are very fast runners, swimmers, or fliers, and often use their speed to flee a predator in hopes of escape.

Even if a prey is spotted and caught, or cornered, the result is often not a foregone conclusion. Many prey successfully deter a predatory attempt by fighting back. A healthy adult moose is able to use its hooves and antlers as lethal weapons against its predators.

Physical Characteristics
Some animals have physical characteristics that make it difficult for a predator to get them into their mouth. Many fish and insects have spines that prevent a predatory fish or bird from being able to eat them. Some prey make themselves larger if threatened, again making it more difficult for the predator to ingest the prey.

Social Behavior
Many prey use social behavior as a predatory defense. Most predators have to single out and focus on an individual in order to successfully capture a prey. Many species of fish and birds travel in groups. These schools and flocks often move very quickly in a highly synchronized fashion which is believed to make it difficult for the predators to single any individual out. The quick movement is confusing to them. In some cases, a group of prey is able to successfully fight off a predatory attack, whereas an individual prey probably would not be able to do this.

Some seldom fall prey to predators because they employ a final line of defense: toxicity. They are poisonous. Predators learn to avoid them.

Let's end with this: We are, all of us, prey. Spiritual prey, all of the time. Sin is one of our predators. It is "lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it's out to get you..." (The Message). Our predators are spiritual "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (King James Version) We can learn some lessons from prey patterning on how to avoid or fight against our predators, but we should also learn this: Ultimately, we need a savior.

"Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of fowlers, the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD who made heaven and earth." Psalm 124:6-8 (KJV)

More to follow! Peace, Kim

PS - An incredible example of predator/prey is shown in YouTube's 2007 Award Winner in the category of Eyewitness, called Battle at Kruger. Worth seeing.