Sunday, January 30, 2005

Isaiah and Iraq

I loved seeing the people of Iraq vote today, seeing their defiance against those who have tried to prevent them from voting through violence and threats of more. I was especially touched by the story of the 90-something year old lady who rode to the polling place in a wheel barrow so that she could have her say.

Most of what we see and read about what's going on in Iraq is the result of media's requirement to gain and maintain audience. That means that we see violence and threats of violence and a lot of interviews with people who oppose what we are trying to do there. Controversy and bad news attract audience. That makes it easy to lose focus on what's good and right about what our people are doing there.

Our daughter-in-law Kathy's brother Robert volunteered to go back because he so believed in what his Army unit was doing to help rebuild Iraq and help the people there. He'll talk at length about the good that is being done, but which doesn't make the news.

We're all challenged to know and understand why we're in Iraq, and why our young men and women have to pay the price. As a dad whose son is doing his second tour, I can assure you "the why" is something you give a lot of thought. While our nation's protection is a valid reason for being there, I've come to believe that there is a more important reason.

Several years ago, I was asked to teach a 13-week series on Isaiah. It's a book mostly known and discussed because of it's prophesies about the coming of Jesus. But as I studied it as never before while preparing to teach, I was struck by the strong judgment God will pronounce not only on leaders who enslave, abuse, and mistreat their subjects, but also on those who sit back and allow it to happen. A full reading of Isaiah leaves no doubt that God expects people to stand up for justice, fair treatment, and righteousness of others. And as a result, I've come to believe that to be the compelling reason for our nation committing itself to the continued conflict in Iraq, for John's service in harm's way, and for the sacrifice of so many.

May God increase our sensitivity for oppressed and abused people and give us the courage to do what we can to restore justice and fair treatment. May God also provide protection for those carrying out that mission and comfort to those who have paid dearly in this cause.

And may He allow the lady in the wheelbarrow to live to see the promise of her vote fulfilled.

Friday, January 28, 2005

My Abba's So Very Fond of Me

Brennan Manning tells a great story in his book Abba's Child.

A man went to Ireland for his two week summer vacation. While there his uncle was to celebrate his 80th birthday. On that great morning, both men rose early, dressed silently, and went for a walk alongside Lake Killarney. As the sun rose, the men stood silently side by side, staring straight into the sun. Suddenly, the older man began skipping and had a great smile on his face.

"Uncle, you look so happy!"

"I am, my lad," replied the uncle.

"May I ask why?"

"Certainly," replied the uncle. "It's just that my Abba is so very fond of me."

May you see God's love many times today!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Seeking Significance

"From Success to Significance" has become a catchphrase and a movement, particularly as the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation approaches retirement. Our generation has experienced success, but yearns for more. Lloyd Reeb's book by that title is a good place to start if you want practical help with the subject.

John Fischer in today's The Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional also has some helpful thoughts on seeking significance.

"Significance is very elusive. It is one of those things you can never find when you are seeking it. Try and be significant and that’s the last thing you will be, and this is a true statement even in an age of marketing, image, and sound bites, when notoriety can be created almost overnight."

"True significance comes by way of being other-minded. It is never self-serving; significance is the result of serving others."

Maybe the search for significance is a sign that the generation known for focusing on self is learning that happiness and fulfillment comes from focusing on others.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The old Texaco Country Club, scene of hundreds of golf outings for the Hughes guys, was donated to the City of Houston yesterday. When John and Mark decided they wanted to play golf as teens, it provided a low-cost way for all of us to play, even though it was an hour drive each way. John took a haitus from golf for several years, but Mark and I played the Texaco course weekly for five or six years. It saw my only hole-in-one. And it saw Mark stun a rabbit 50 yards away with a low burner. Mark particularly liked the snack bar where he could get a boiled egg and a chocolate shake at the turn. Then there were the squirrels who would eat whatever was in the golf cart on the 10th tee. None of us have played there for ten years or so, but the flood of memories brought back by the news puts getting out there with the boys-now-men on my to-do list. Maybe they'll let me win just like in the good old days! Posted by Hello

Monday, January 24, 2005

January in Missouri City

I love living here! Today is dedicated mostly to prep work for a day-long seminar I'm presenting in a couple of weeks. It's the first time to give the seminar, so there's lots of work to do. But it's in the mid-60's on January 24, with a clear sky and it's just too beautiful to be inside behind the computer all day. So for the last couple of hours I've been in the front yard raking and bagging leaves. Nine bags full. We have an old Ash tree, and it really dumps the leaves. This is the third or fourth time I've raked and bagged them this year, but now it's through. Finally all of its leaves have dropped. But the Live Oak next to it is just waiting until it thinks spring is really here. Then we'll start all over as it does its annual new leaves push off the old ones thing that Live Oaks do. So I'll be back out raking. But with weather like this, needing to rake leaves is a good thing. And doing one piece of work to temporarily escape another is also a good thing.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Learning to Live Life

One of my points in Bible class today was that we all learn to live life from others, that we don't come naturally equipped with that information. As I have reflected on who my teachers about living have been and are, I am a little surprised that my parents continue in many ways to be some of my most influential teachers. You'd expect that during the younger years that parents would be dominant among those that teach us about life. But as I approach my 60th birthday, I frequently find myself reflecting on something Mom or Dad said or how they approached some situation and learning from it. It's interesting to me that though Mom has been gone for two years now, I'm still learning from her. And Dad is still paving new ground in life, and showing me that there are lessons still to learn. I'm thankful for their teaching in my life, and hope that some of the lessons I'm passing to my children are as useful.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Okay. You have to exercise too.

For me, the diet is the easy part. I get hungry, so I eat. It's just a matter of eating the right stuff instead of the wrong stuff.

Exercising 30-60 minutes a day is a very different thing. There seems to be an infinite list of things I would rather do than get on the treadmill. And because I'd rather do them, they somehow seem more important at the moment. Amazing how the end of the day can come and I haven't found time to exercise!

I know it's important. It's not lack of knowledge. So I have to find things to do while on the treadmill that makes it more palatable. Reading works best for me, watching tv is second. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a built-in clock like for eating that made you want to exercise?

I can see and feel the results. But it's still a matter of discipline for me. Some things in life are just that way.

Friday, January 21, 2005

A Diet That Works

Not everything has to be complicated. Take the "Three Rule Diet."

In his book No White at Night: The Three Rule Diet, Bill Gavin has simplified the rules for healthy eating, weight loss, and maintenance.
  • Eat three meals every day.
  • Eat lean protein with every meal.
  • No white at night.
The no white means things made with refined sugar, flour, corn, etc.

While there's more to the book and the diet than just the three rules, they're all you really have to keep in mind. (He does emphasize eating good fats and avoiding saturated and trans fats, eating whole grain bread and cereals, and allows you to eat all the fruit and vegetables you want.)

But with only three rules, eating, whether at home or at a restaurant, is actually quite easy. That, in turn, means that it's easier to make it a lifestyle rather than a diet, which makes it easier to stick with. So I've been able to stay with it for about seven weeks now, and I've managed to lose about nine pounds. Not bad, but more to go.

What else about life that seems too complicated or complex might be handled better with a three rule version?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Traditions Balance the Effects of Change

I love change, but I also love tradition.

Watching the inauguration this morning stirred my soul. Part of it was the pagentry. A lot of it was the celebration of democracy in action, something that is a deep, built-in part of my value system. As distasteful as much of politics is to me, the fact that democracy continues to work is something to celebrate. The bands, the singing, the ceremony all add to the experience. Maintaining tradition seems to help me deal with the dizzying pace of change all around me. It's something that feeds my emotions. Tradition, it seems, provides balance for living in a world of change.

What role do traditions play in your life? Which traditions are important to you? What new traditions do you need to start?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Being Able to Help

Today was an interesting day. My regular morning prayer recently has been along the lines, "God, show me someone today I can help."

I was at a luncheon where I didn't know but a couple of the 200 people present, and not being able to sit with them, just picked out a place where I could easily see the speaker and sat down next to a couple of strangers. We talked a little, paid attention to the program, and as we were getting ready to go, I gave my business card to the guy sitting next to me. The tag line on the card is, "Christian Life Coaching for the Second Half." I knew he was on staff at a church in Kingwood, but what I soon learned is that he's trying to figure out how to begin to mobilize folks nearing retirement. So we immediately got into a deep conversation, with plans to visit more. He's someone I can help.

As I returned home, there was a message on the phone from a guy who had just lost his job a couple of days ago who wanted to talk about what he needed to do to make his job search effective. He's someone I can help.

Why am I amazed when I pray and God answers? Thank you God for bringing these two people into my life today!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Sunsets are always special reminders of the incredible beauty God provides for our lives. Sunsets at the beach seem even more wonderful. Do you ever wonder why God made this world so beautiful? This shot was taken at Galveston Island in December. Posted by Hello

Friday, January 14, 2005

John David Hughes Turns 30!

Often this week, my thoughts have been on John and that this Saturday he celebrates his 30th birthday. I'm probably a little more reflective than usual because he's either in Kuwait or back in Iraq, and because it's his 30th. One memory that popped up was of a birthday when he was 3 or 4 and his cake had a tow truck on it. John was fascinated by trucks (and still is) and he said, "When I grow up I'm going to have a tow truck so I can help people." Like most, his ideas of what he wanted to do when he grew up changed several times. At one point, he thought being a forest ranger would be his thing.

But by his mid-teens, his passion was serving in the military. He read everything he could get his hands on, and joined the Marine Corps Reserve shortly after high school graduation. Being a dad, I wanted him to go to college and get on with career rather than going and playing GI Joe. Turns out John knew more about what was good for him than I did. Boot camp and the Marine Corps experiences were life changing for John, and on top of that, he was living his dream and having a great time. Later he did the college and career thing, graduating from A&M and going to work in the maritime industry.

But military service has continued to be a major part of his life, and John often seems happiest when serving. He transferred into the Coast Guard Reserve due to his career interests during the summer of 2001. And since 9/11, John's spent about as much time on active duty as he has in his day job. His current tour is his third active duty stint since that day.

When John broke the news to me that he was being activated and heading for his second tour in Iraq, I asked him how he felt. "Well, it's probably not good for my career at American Eagle, but Dad, you know how I love playing GI Joe."

As he turns 30, I'm proud of the man John is. He's comfortable with who he is, he knows the things that provide meaning to his life, and he is living up to his strong sense of duty, honor, and serving. He misses his wife, is sad that he missed the first Christmas in their new home, and would love to have a shower with clean water, to get to sleep in a real bed for one night, and to have a decent meal (Pappasitos). But who he is says sacrifices are part of serving.

Happy 30th birthday, John. Be safe.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Learning from a Master

Some things are best learned from someone who has mastered the art. Making a Black-Bottom Pie is one of those. This pie starts with a crust filled a dark chocolate layer on the bottom, topped with a layer of custard, and then crowned with real whipped cream. Eloise's mom Reba is a master at making this pie (and so much more). And now she's passed the know-how on to Sara. We're all the beneficiaries!

What is it I need to find a master to learn from today?

Sara learning to make Black-Bottom Pie from her grandmother. Posted by Hello

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Catching Fish

Kathy, Mark, and I really love to fish in the surf. What we enjoy, besides time together, is never knowing what we're going to catch. We always fish with shrimp, because that ensures you'll catch something. Since it was Dec. 27, we had to use frozen shrimp. And it was low tide. And because it had been cold with snow still melting on Galveston beach, we were only fishing in the first gut. And in spite of everything being "wrong," we caught these beautiful redfish. Just another wonderful surprise during our week at the beach. The redfish are still swimming out there somewhere, but we enjoyed our encounter with them. Could it be that even when we're doing everything "wrong," we can still encounter God if we'll just get out and make an attempt?

My redfish. Posted by Hello

One of Kathy's three redfish! Posted by Hello

One of Mark's big redfish Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Christmas at the Beach

One of our traditions is spending Christmas at the beach on Galveston Island with family. What a wonderful surprise God provided us this year -- six inches of snow! Posted below are four photos to give just an idea of the beauty and the fun that provided. God must really like us to provide such incredible gifts!

Eloise Puts on the Finishing Touches Posted by Hello

An Inviting Deck on Christmas Morning Posted by Hello

Christmas Day at Galveston Beach Posted by Hello

Sara and Kathy Build Snowmen Posted by Hello