Author: dennismitton

Crumb – A little blue notebook

I came across this little gem/not-gem today while cleaning a stack of files from my accident. It’s my wife’s little notebook from when I first went to the hospital. You see the entry on 5/31? 

“Also said I looked sad.”

This breaks my heart even now, four years later. She scribbles that I was confused: I’m sure that’s the least of it. I joke with her – ha ha! – that the accident and recovery were easy for me: I never knew what happened, never really experienced it, and – at least at first – was doped up like a Munch painting. But even then, even with all this stuff, even flashing in and out of consciousness, I saw her sadness. I know now that she wondered how to take care of the girls by herself and how she would tell them I was gone.  

Whew. Tough.

Note, too, the hilarity of it: I asked if she wanted to go on a bike ride. Maybe it hadn’t sunk in quite yet?

Recommendation: How to live with joy, Chris Stephanick

A Recommendation – How to Live with Joy, Chris Stephanick and Word on Fire

A caveat: I add this because people ask, “So, you recommend a knife from Amazon. Do you recommend Amazon’s business model, too? We get rich by snuffing out the local guy. Do you recommend stacking up on knives? How about anything else I can kill with?” Yes, we live in odd times. Regard knives, I do some woodworking and cleaning in the yard and, for whatever reason, find it handy to have a gloriously wonderful knife handy. Thus, I recommend the French Opinel. What I’m saying here, in case you miss it, is that I recommend things, not enterprises or history. So, there. 

Long, crabby faces

As a Christian who hangs with other Christians, I meet lots of mopey people. People with long faces who swear under their breath when they think no one’s listening. They’re mad about the pandemic, they’re mad about the presidency, they’re mad about the price of gas…they’re just plain sour. This flies in the face of Christianity, and every non-believer knows it and spots it from a mile away. Being a crabby old bastard turns off just about everyone. Including other crabby old bastards. 

An alternative

The alternative? Brother or sestra! There is an alternative. You are saved from your crabby old self. The G of creation repeats over and over that He adopts you into His family and loves you. He sets your path. He comforts you. He loves you. What in heaven or earth could be more life-changing? As a lantern of G’s love, shining light into darkness, it is your privilege to peel off those glasses and shine a little bit of thankfulness and…joy. 

That is the topic of Stephanick’s talk at the 2021 Good News Conference. I heard it on the Word on Fire podcast while doing dishes. Weird, but that white sauce that I hate so much? That stuff stuck to the bottom of the pot? It seemed slightly less onerous this time ‘round. I know, it’s a first-world problem, and that’s part of Stephanick’s presentation. Really? You’re in a bad mood because Leroy stepped on your new white shoes and put a big footprint on them? How about some perspective here…

Expectations, anger, and joy

I’ll add to Stephanick’s talk with a nugget that’s been rolling around inside my head for a year or so: “Anger comes from unmet expectations.” I don’t know where I heard this and don’t remember anything said, but when I’m mad at my wife or my dog, the words always scroll across my brain like a ticker tape. Anger comes from unmet expectations. I’m angry at my wife when she doesn’t do what I expect her to. I’m angry at the dog – and this is really stupid since I volunteer to have him – when he doesn’t meet my expectations. Same anywhere in any circumstance. In fact, I’m writing it down in The Book of Mitton as one of life’s unwavering principles. Anger comes from unmet expectations.

Listen here at Word on Fire.
For the podcast website, go here. 

In case you’re wondering, I know no one at Word on Fire and receive nary a cent or scrap of a tee shirt or anything cool from recommending them. I just was a great talk.


Book Review – Sex on Earth

Book review: Sex On Earth by Jules Howard

Sex on Earth is a fun romp that is hard to put down. Accurate but not academic, Howard surveys the animal kingdom for what is weird, wild, and, ultimately, normal. You’ll come away with a renewed sense that, whatever your sex life looks like, it’s pretty darned boring.

He includes most of the standbys. Things like shovel-shaped appendages used by male dragonflies to scape away sperm deposited in females from previous matings. Or rape-like duck coitus where females reshape their vaginas to accept particular sperm only from males with the brightest beaks. Along with these standards, there’s a lot here for even an old biologist to learn: I didn’t know that some reptiles perform a kind of pre-coital masturbation to speed things up. Seems that they don’t like taking their time on the sidewalk doing it while hungry hawks scan the ground from overhead.

I like that he explores the entire animal kingdom – hence the name – from sex-crazed protozoa to whale penis bones. I like, too, that aside from simple voyeurism, Howard delves into reproduction and posits evolutionary explanations for all manner of acts and behaviors.

He writes well, and the book is an easy read. There is plenty of stuff here to keep biologists interested, but the popular press is his real audience. I would have given plenty for this book when I was fourteen. And then drove my bio teacher bonkers with my hilarious comments in class. 

Well recommended.

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Sex On Earth at Amazon.
Sex on Earth at Barnes and Noble (with a snappy updated cover…)

Cookie crumbs

Crumb – The dog, me, and a cardinal

I’m usually in my office by four each morning. I’ve never slept much, and I don’t know if my early rising habit is an effect of my accident or my age. Or both. The dog gets up after I do, and when he wakes, he wants to go outside. I let him out, scratch the bunny who lives on the porch and watch the dog for a minute. All while coffee brews.

The back door looks out to the backyard and my shop. The shop is a one-story building with a gable that overlooks the yard and the pool and the bird feeders. Most spring and summer mornings, there’s a bird atop the shop ridge. Maybe it’s a mocking bird – they hide out in every bush around the yard – or a cardinal or a cooing dove, assuring the world that all is good. 

There’s a cardinal there this morning, staking out his territory and puffing his chest in full song, singing his best version of I’m A Lonely Man Who Needs A Woman, not knowing – or not caring – that humans have determined that there is no such thing as male and female. I’m no ornithologist, but if my observations are accurate, the whole shebang of male and female is just about all cardinals think about. That and sunflower seeds. 

The dog, a ninety-pound sheepdog, wanders under the gable to do his thing, and the bird doesn’t care a whit. I’m not even sure he notices. But me? If I so much as poke one foot out the door, the cardinal stops singing and flies away, probably to chew me out from the top branch of a loblolly pine.

I wonder why? What’s the difference to the cardinal between the shaggy four-legged beast and the shaggy biped? 

Poem 147

Poem 147

To put your book down,

To stare at me,

My black eyes and white wire?

This is what I long for,

To avert your eyes from colored streams and stare. At me.


This is all I ask.

In your stare, in you, seeing me,

I see love, thick as a biscuit.

And another chance for me to stare back.

Cocking my head, I search for hints,

For communication. For communion.

CS Lewis said that the best prayers are wordless. I heard you say it.

He was right,

And I only ask that you look at me,

So I can look at you.


Growing up with dogs

I’ve grown up with dogs, big dogs: sleek, fast, and muscular shepherds. Shar-peis, wrinkly and stalwart and drooling, and long-haired malamutes who don’t give one single care in the whole bloody world about what you think or say, but my wife had to have this pup, half English Sheepdog and half poodle. Like every puppy I’ve known, his belly burst with pink and purple and love. I don’t mean he wagged his tail and licked, but that he lives on love like I live on coffee and bread and air. It’s a palpable thing.

He teaches me, this dog, to be a better human. When I growl at him to move – he lives within six inches of a human being hoping for a touch to the head – he happily goes to sit three feet away, as if to say, “Right here? I won’t bother you from here, but at least I can see you.” And he’s never saddened by my voice, even if I yell at him to move, that I need more than six inches, but he’s always happy to comply. “So sorry,” his eyes say. “I’ll step down from the couch and go stare at you here. It’s all I really want, you know. Except maybe a scratch.”

What’s my job?

I wonder if he is asking himself, What’s my job here? and, since he’s such a good teacher, I’ve started asking myself the same question. I’ve noticed that it’s one thing to say I’m the dad here or I’m the husband, and it’s an altogether different question to wonder what my job is in this situation. With my wife, is it my job to always pay the bills or get the car running? Maybe it is. Maybe it’s my job and my privilege? Maybe, too, it’s to bolster confidence. Maybe my job is to love her just like Toby loves me? To sit across from her on the couch in wonder of this glorious thing?

Just last night, she had it out with one of the twins. I was in the other room and could hear the entire mess ramping up and getting louder. After a couple minutes though, her tone dropped, and she explained why we do it this way. I went into the room a couple minutes later, and they were both watching TV on the bed and talking. Later, when Mom came to bed, I thought about my job in this situation, and I told her that she did great with the girl. She sensed a teaching moment and took advantage of it. It’s part of our job: to raise up responsible and caring and doing adults.

There are a lot of tines on this fork, and not all point straight ahead. In my dad-job, I raise the girls to be strong and confident and humble and faithful. Any decision I make should revolve around those traits. 

My husband-job is different. Partly, I’m a voluntary partner. With the girls, we’re partners with a common vision. So, as a member of the firm, so to speak, I was glad to see Mal and my daughter work it out and merge a hair closer to the point where my daughter sees mom as experienced and wise. I like that my wife took the time to explain the whats and whys to our daughter, too, so she can start using that wisdom and making it her own. Sometimes – many times, I’ve learned – is that my husband-job is to get out of the way, to let mom do her job, and then, to thank her for it.


Do you have a dog who loves you? Really loves you? What is your job in the family? In society? 

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How to deal with the onslaught of modern living?

Traipsing through the woods

I watched the television show Mountain Men last night. My favorite mountain man is an old fella named Tom who lives with his wife Nancy – she’s as much a part of his success as him – in Northern Montana. I’ve spent a bit of time nearby and it’s as gorgeous IRL as it is on television.

It’s been a cold winter in Montana, and Tom’s meat stock is low: there is hunting to be done. To use as much of a deer as possible, he hunts with a homemade bow and arrows. Using a rifle, he explains, destroys much of the meat when the bullet impacts the animal. If shot correctly, an arrow kills as quickly without damaging the meat. Never one for hunting, I like his ideas compared to people who hunt trophy elk or antelope from a mile away with high-powered rifles. 

On the day of Tom’s hunt, he drives his ancient rig into the forest, loads up his pack, and walks into the woods looking for deer. The snow is fresh, and tracks shine like skylights. After a few miles, he comes up to a group of does and follows them for a mile until he spots a buck. “Just like humans,” he says with a chuckle. “When there are fertile females around, a stag won’t be far behind.” He approaches the buck, takes his shot, then tracks the animal until he finds it dead. He ends the day back at his house, butchering the deer in the dark as the temperature drops to less than zero. 

Is this how you were made?

Evolutionary psychologists refer to the EEA or the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness. There is controversy about the exact environment humans evolved within, but it certainly includes much of the lifestyle that Tom enjoys. He starts his day by splitting wood for warmth and for cooking. He walked miles in the snow and cold hunting a two hundred pound deer which he hauled out of the woods on his shoulders. Not bad for a seventy-plus-year-old man. His waking time, just like our ancestors, is spent burning calories – it’s easy to see why the body wants to hold on to fat. 

I exercise because I don’t do any of this. I spend my working day in an ergonomically adjusted chair at a desk with no sharp edges. I’m old enough to know that face-to-face is the best way to get things done and force myself to walk around and talk to people. The youngsters drape a chain across their cubicle entry, and, once they enter, they never leave but text and message and email all day. Efficient? I…can’t say, but the company loves it. I buy cow meat that’s been doctored for profit at the grocery store where they give me free cookies for simply darkening the front door. The door, incidentally, that slides open automatically. At home, we prefer clean and healthy food, but our schedules often make it easiest to cook something from a box. Nothing in my history or my EEA has prepared my body for this onslaught of luxury. 

So work a little

So, add a little physical hardship to your day. Do something that makes you sweat. Push the mower. It’s how you were made to work, and your body will respond with a thank you and achy muscles. 


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Ruby and Max make…seven

Call the Humane Society girl

It was early November, the time we bask in the onset of the season, the time that the vanilla aroma of cookies and Christmas dinner percolates through the cold and fog. Our neighbor called, seriously exercised.

“My gosh. I just found seven kittens under my porch! What do I do?” (Hint: you call my wife.) “I know you work with the Humane Society. Can I take them in?”

“Let me find out,” my wife says, already knowing they are too young to go to the pound, but my master bath tub is an Eden for small, furry animals, hardly able to walk. So, my household pet count tics at eleven. We sit the kids down and reiterate that in no uncertain terms can you tell the man who walks by our house each day, the Mayor we call him. He oversees our HOA with an iron fist, rules being rules. Said rules state that anyone wanting more than one animal must get approval from the association, and almost every neighbor ignores this. 

I say that ‘we’ raised them, but my wife does the heavy lifting. We have an agreement: she does whatever she wants with pets and animals, however many there are, and I write and read and yell at the animals for getting in my way. She attends to dirt, and I look to the heavens. Plato and Aristotle. The girls squeal and promise to feed, clean, and care for anything living, but rarely do. So, my wife chugs like the little engine that could while I steep in medieval mysticism. It’s a fair trade. Plato and Aristotle. Heaven and Dirt.

Part of volunteering for the Human Society – part of volunteering anywhere – is learning to say yes to any question without consideration for yourself. So my wife and girls walk dogs at the center, feed cats, and dote over every horse and donkey at the farm.


As a parenthetical aside…I understand the overabundance of cats and dogs, but horses? The center had a call a month ago about several horses running loose through a trailer park. “Can you come and get them?” How do horses end up running loose and wild through a trailer park? It’s common, I guess, for loving dads to dote on their eyelash-batting daughters by buying them a horse. Flea bags come pretty cheap.

What Dad doesn’t know, and will find out in a hurry, is that this hay burner is like a beat up, old Porsche. He thought the lanky thing that makes his daughter so happy would scrape away at the lawn and save him from mowing. It’s Saturday, you know, and college football is on TV.

What he learns, though, is that owning a horse requires shelter, lots of feed, vets, shoeing, and your daughter wants one of everything at the tack store. He thought he was buying an old Chevy. He’s learned now that he bought an antique German super-car. What to do? Well, you could call my wife, and she’ll make arrangements for you. It’s a pain for her, but you get to keep your good citizen plaque. Instead, most people just open the gate at night. The horse runs away and you can blame your daughter for not closing up. Problem solved except a horse is loose and challenging cars on the back roads, and your daughter gets to live her life knowing that she’s irresponsible. Way to go, Dad.

The runt

We kept two cats. I knew this was coming, and wanted to keep the weepy-eyed runt. She had no energy to fight and was happiest resting on your chest, purring, while you lay on the bed. But we put the kittens up on a social media site and someone wanted the runt first. What?

“Who would want that little thing?” I asked my wife. “I mean, she can hardly stand. You told the guy that?”

“I did, and he was thrilled.”

They met, and he took the kitten, thrilled. “It’s for my daughter,” he said, who, he also explained, was also challenged. Great. Now I’m an ass. I hope today that kitten and daughter are in snuggling-love with each other. They deserve it and I’m happy for them.

Another sad-heart took two kittens, and we found homes for two more, leaving two with us. The girls named them Max and Ruby.

Kitten Max


Young Maximilian, also called Little White Man, is all alley cat. He wants only to growl and fight and will mount anything furry and reachable. He sits on my office window ledge, dreaming of the outside and the day he sinks his sharp teeth into a tasty cardinal. And, like an alley cat, he eats anything. We’ve already made a couple of vet visits to rectify that peccadillo. Don’t worry. It’s nothing that selling my classic Saab 900 Turbo can’t pay for. As much as he defines Plato’s ideal of a tom, he is the most loving cat I’ve ever seen. He loves me as a dog would, and runs to me when I call. He jumps onto my chair and lap when I write, and wanders all over the desk, typing as he walks. His purr is loud enough to drown out the neighbors weed eater and comes on like a light switch. Everything about him is over the top and larger than life: he’s a true Kardashian. So, I flip him over now, on my lap, and stoke his little Saab belly while his purring rattles the windows. Life could be worse.

Kitten Ruby


We call his sister Little Red Girl or Ruby. As brash and bold as her brother is, she is refined and demure. It’s funny how these opposites run in families. We see the same thing in our twin girls, who happen to be human. Ruby runs from her brother, and fights – what else to do when you’re being attacked? – but is happiest then to lay with someone who is still in bed sleeping. Her purr is something earned, usually by gently stroking her tummy. I watched her this morning, rapt and sitting at the back door, watching Hoplina, a bunny who lives on our porch. Max came out from behind the couch ever so quietly, and I knew a tussle was in the works. Ruby didn’t notice and Max kept creeping, lower and lower to the floor like a panther. At just the right moment, Ruby turned to see her brother and flashed a look saying, “Dude. Leave me alone. I’m doing something.” I laughed when Max shrugged his shoulders, looking around like he was oblivious to the entire shenanigan.

“Me? Hey. I’m just looking at the paint on the wall. What’s your problem girl?”

So, now I have matched my pet count to my number of offspring. Seven each. What a day.

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Book Review – I Was Blind But Now I See, James Altucher

Book Review – I Was Blind But Now I See, James Altucher

He can see now…

A good book with a gaping hole…

Per the title, Altucher divides the book in two: he opens with blindness, and then, natch, moves on to where he is healed and sees. He does this, of course, without a Savior except for his keen insight into the workings of the world. Raising his hand high, like a prairie frontiersman, he preaches the old Americanism that few live out, but everyone agrees to: quit believing the truth of what you’re told. 

Don’t be fooled: he urges you to ignore everyone, but the tacit message – he wrote the book, after all – is to listen to me and do what I say. I have the answers you seek. He admonishes against blind fealty to parents and grandparents and girlfriends and newspapers and stresses repeatedly that moderns are bombarded with a rain of messages about what makes us happy. “Of course, you’re sad and lonely,” a commercial says. “You need a WARM CUP OF TOMATO SOUP to make you feel like life has meaning again. See this good-looking mom? She’s having a cup of soup and has life down pat! But, look at you? Still in sweatpants? Then point your rusty Toyota to the grocery to get a can of TOMATO SOUP so you can be a happy gal too!” He harps A LOT about how, for most people, college is a waste of time. And he’s positive that banking and buying a home are the greatest ruses ever foisted on humanity. Think Howard Stern and self-help, and you’re close.

In his defense, he’s not adamant that you swear off these things wholesale. Instead, he asks that you consider their truth before you sign on as a devotee. He deftly steps through the brainwashing of every person alive since the day they were born. Then, he outlines the Religion of America whereby we believe truths because we are brainwashed to do so. It’s a circle.

In the second half of the book, he takes these tenets of the Religion of America and explains why they’re bunk. I expected something more nuanced, a professorial argument enlightening the reader to facts and nuances they haven’t considered, but instead, he mostly calls you a dope for buying into this mess. Seems like a contradiction of the first half to me.

A couple misgivings

Overall, it’s a good and worthy book, with lots to think about, but he fails in two ways:

The first is glaring. I haven’t read other reviews but know I’m not the first to see this. In the middle of his diatribe about logic and effects and testing, he defines ‘happiness’ as the most important thing a human achieves. I guess readers are supposed to acquiesce to this because everyone wants to be happy, and because he said so, right? But, is a murderer happiest when murdering? Is a molester happiest when molesting? So, in a book about logic and clear thinking, I reject out of hand the assertion that happiness is the pinnacle of an individual’s pursuits.

Secondly, continuing down the same rabbit trail, he equates the best outcome with the most happiness. It’s a weird logic to me. Again, what is the best outcome? Moral purity or getting away with the crime?  

My experience with Altucher

Truth be told, I have made a fair living ala Altucher, doing what I want to do and ignoring the gatekeepers. Way back when, when my hippie side fought more to escape than it does now, I made custom furniture. Let’s all agree that my foray into the craft business started slow, and my growing family enjoyed the largess of friends. I was convinced, though, that beautiful furniture, made lovingly with real wood, would catch the eyes and hearts and pocketbooks of people who saw that value in such things.  

I made a wee living like this and loved every morning going into the shop to awake to the smell of linseed oil and maple. I finally quit the business, but not the doing, and went back to medical research. One place I love as much as the shop is the lab.

I do the same thing now, and that’s why I read Altucher’s book. As a writer, I seriously do what I want and ignore almost everything people tell me to do. It doesn’t escape me that these people are selling me the one thing I need for success. But, just like in furniture making, I am a firm believer in the success of doing my best work with G’s blessing.   

So, to that end, I agree with Altucher, but even more so. In whatever you love, ignore what he says, and ignore what the gatekeepers say, and ignore what I say. Sharpen your chisels in a way that makes sense to you and write for yourself. 

A weird note

After reading the book, I went to his website and clicked the box next to YES, I CHOOSE ME and submitted my email for a newsletter. The newsletter, which I kept hoping would get better, never did, and the constant ramblings about signing up for more of his not-free special financial insight resulted in me unceremoniously unsubscribing. I’m sure he’s doing just fine.

Three stars

Amen and Selah.

See the book here at Amazon.

Go here to Barnes and Noble, my neighborhood bookstore.

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Man doing yoga

TBI Tuesday – Yes. I’m a man and I do yoga

I Am A Man and I Do Yoga

Yes. I am a man, and I do yoga. And to make sure it’s clear, I was born this way with testes and the whole shebang.

There are few things a man cares about more than having the appearance of manliness. Why else grow a beard? I mean, a foot long wire brush hanging from your chin? I think I would look manly with a beard even if it is as multicolored as our calico cat, but I don’t: my wife won’t let me. So much for my appearance of manliness.

No doubt you’ve pondered the conundrum that yoga isn’t perceived a manly exercise.  When a man hears the word yoga, he thinks one of three things: barely clad women in unnatural poses, small and mustachioed Indian men in unnatural poses, and No. Just No.

An example

Here’s a real-life example: I work with a guy who sometimes suffers from debilitating back pain. Like he can barely walk from his car to his desk at work. He’s around fifty, wears football-themed polos, and appears to be in generally good health. But about twice a year, he shows up to work hunched over, shuffling like my Slovak grandmother, and leaning heavily on a cane. He complains for a couple days, then goes home to dope up for half a week until he can walk again. I feel for him. The last time this happened, I went to his office and pulled a chair up close. Leaning toward him, I put on my most empathetic and sagacious face.

“Dude. You’re dying here. Have you ever thought of doing yoga? I guarantee that you’ll feel better.”

He shuffled his feet sideways in little bunny steps until he faced me straight on. He grimaced and put on the same serious face. “No.”

“But you…”


Not even the slightest consideration. I don’t get it. Why live with pain knowing that the next trip to the pharmacy or the surgeon is just around the corner when there is real help available? It’s odd to me, but that is the male animal. Like I warn my girls, we’re all stupid.

I’m not accomplished at yoga. In fact, I’m hardly a beginner. I eschew any putative spiritual aspect, and focus on strength and stretching and breathing. I’ve come to see it as maybe the most important tool for lifelong health. Stretching and groaning, I see several positive results that I sort out for you here. Some benefits are tangible and measurable. Some, not so much.

Tangible benefits

Improved immunity

Lymph doesn’t get the nod it deserves. Gushing through the body, it flows lazily in and around cells and organs, bringing immune agents with it and taking cell waste when it leaves. It’s like blood without the vessels. Unlike blood, though, it has no pump except movement. Any movement helps. It’s one reason that sitting all day is so insidious for your health, and something as easy as walking has serious benefits. Twisting and bending during yoga is especially suited to pushing this fluid.

Increased strength

The difference between yoga and stretching is that yoga builds strength. It’s not like doing bench presses, but really, who needs to lift 300 pounds? But when you bend down to move a flower pot and pull your back when the pot won’t budge, that’s a strength and flexibility issue. Doctors often give an odd answer to your pulled back, based, I think, on Americans’ general dislike of exercise: quit doing stuff. My advice is more useful: how about getting stronger? Larger and more flexible muscles help you enjoy activities, burn more calories, and allow you to do things yourself instead of calling your son-in-law. Don’t expect to look like Arnold: using your own weight in static poses isn’t going to add bulk, but it will tone you and make your body more usable and less frail.


Not many questions here, but I’m convinced that flexibility is the single most important physical quality we lose as we age. Imagine a robot with metal pipes for legs, walking down a set of stairs: that’s you when you lose flexibility. There is no give, no sway, no allowance for error. As long as life moves steadily in a straight line, you’re probably fine, but when you veer off the slightest bit – step on the edge of a sidewalk, say –  you’ll be happy for your improved flexibility.

I eat less

For some reason, and I’m not sure why, when I do yoga, I eat differently. I’m not trying to, and it isn’t an effort, but I just want different foods. You might have a different experience.

I’ve been working on this one for about fourteen years and still can’t get my feet off the ground.

Less tangible benefits

I learn about my body

I’ve learned that my left side is tighter than my right and that when I run, my hamstrings tighten up like a rope. I have a heightened sense of how my body feels. I went to the hospital recently for a quick check-up. I sat down with a nurse to collect my vitals, and, after testing me, she said that I need to start watching my blood pressure.


“Yeah. It’s over 180. 180 over 120.”

I laughed and told her she was wrong, and we argued about it. These are the times my wife is glad I do these things alone. I know that my resting heart rate is about 45 bpm and that my blood pressure is 115 over 75. I told the nurse that her instrument wasn’t working. Her response – I’m not making this up – was to say “Oh? So you’re a doctor, too?”

“No,” I said, “And I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn, either, but your instrument is either broken or out of calibration.”

I convinced her to try another machine, and I was right. She apologized and worried about the patients she had seen that morning who had wrong numbers on their charts. It’s a good thing to know your own body. It’s the only one you’ve got.

Good pain

This is odd and something I haven’t quite got hold of. I do a particular pose where I kneel and sit down on my calves and outstretched feet. I know it will hurt for half a minute as the tops of my feet and ankles relax. I let my full weight come onto my heels, and it pushes open the top of my foot. I don’t know why – because I run? – but this just hurts like heck for about half a minute. I’m learning that if I slow down and wait and let the pain happen, it will pass. Not only does it pass, but it starts to feel good. Maybe it’s a good rule for life: sometimes we need a little pain to feel better.

I feel more at ease

I don’t know if this comes from yoga or from stopping to focus for thirty minutes, but I feel more at ease when I’m consistent with yoga. I’m not talking about a life-changing epiphany, or bluebirds flying around me, chipping with glee, but I just feel more comfortable. More settled and grounded. This is really weird, but my center of gravity shifts lower…I can sense it. Weird. I might need to talk to Deepak about that one. Things around me bother me less, too, and that’s a good thing.

I feel lighter

This is the goofiest one of all, and I’m probably making it up. When I am consistent at yoga, I feel lighter. I stand taller, and my spine straightens. I have a sense that my vision expands, and my head rests more lightly on my shoulders. I don’t for a single minute think I look different, but I feel different. Instead of a kind of Clydesdale’s clop when I walk, I feel like I’m walking on an air table. It’s odd and weird, and I can’t explain it. I won’t even try.


The Takeaway?

The takeaway is to give yoga a try. Do in front of the television watching Mixed Martial Arts if you need to feel manly about it. It’s my bet that those guys on TV beating each other up spent an hour of their day doing stretches and yoga. And they don’t look too wimpy.



You can do yoga with almost any app. I use Peloton mostly because I used to be a manly bicycle racer in Lycra tights. If you don’t have an app, take a look at You Tube. I do Yoga with Adriene and enjoy it lots. And if you’re game and not prone to sweaty see-though yoga pants, almost every gym or workout center has group yoga classes. I haven’t tried hot yoga yet but it’s on my list for 2022.

One caveat: there is a whole culture around yoga that lots of people love. I don’t. I’m just a Christian, bike-racin’, football watchin’, writer kind of guy who makes wooden stuff for fun. To me, yoga is a tool and not the explanation for all of life. You’ll have to choose what yoga path you want to take.

What if yoga’s not for you? Go chop a hundred cords of firewood.

This is a stretch, but if you are a Christian and wonder much about manliness and womanliness, I can’t recommend Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s book Jesus and John Wayne enough. Like it or not, I guarantee you’ll learn something and earn a few new neurons. Buy it here, though her website.

This one’s not a stretch: I guarantee this will help with your Traumatic Brain Injury, too. Man or woman. Naturally made that way or not. I still have balance issues and have to compensate for that, but the stretching and mind/body connection is one of the best things you can do for recovery.

Finally? Ignore that guy in the top image. He’s just showing off.

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Numbers 13, complexity, and judgement

Request from a supply preacher

I have a friend who is a ‘supply preacher.’ It’s okay – I had no idea what this meant either. It means that he’s licensed or certified by some group as a person of sound mind and religion, and able to fill in at your church when the pastor is ill, on vacation, golfing, or on leave for whatever reason. He surprised me when he asked me to read over Numbers 13 and give him some notes to think about while preparing his talk. His first idea was to read the passage aloud and then ask the congregation which camp they are in: the camp of Caleb whom G praises, or the camp of the ten spies who G killed? Shucks. I wonder… But the question and circumstances are more complex than a simple yes or no. Or are they? We talked about his sermon last week, and he confided that he likes to talk to me because everyone else simply agrees with him. “Wow,” they say, “greatest sermon I’ve ever heard.” But me? If it’s dopey, I tell him the truth. Maybe it’s my spiritual gift.

I’ve read this passage a hundred times, but the complexity of it opens up with a close read. There is a thread here that makes a lot of people really happy: G is a G of judgment, and He is here to judge, and His judgment is final. Also, I’m not sure why the ten spies who gave the bad report were stricken dead. I could understand the story more if they were caught having sex with local religious prostitutes, but they basically did what they were asked to do. And no one tells them they’re wrong. Neither Moses, Caleb, or even G. The one point I see is that they worked to incite Israel against Moses and against G. The story makes most sense to me when I  see it as the unfolding of our ideas of how G evolves throughout the scriptures. That during this time, and in this part of the world, this is how G is sseen to have acted. I read through it and wondered how the Son of God would do His Father’s bidding, though.

Following is the email I sent to my supply preacher buddy. It’s not very polished.

See Point 10 for my most important takeaway…

My emailed thoughts

Hey XXX, here are some thoughts on the promised land/spy issue. Not in any order…

  1. There is a danger in normalizing the past, believing that the way it was then is the way it will be in the future, and THE WAY IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE. This, of course, is the bane of old men everywhere. “Back in my day…” The Israelites know what to expect in Egypt. They know what foods they would eat, they know no one would attack them, and they know they could keep a bit of their culture. Now they’ve got this upstart WHO MARRIED A CUSHITE who says he hears G and is dragging them all over the desert. Just like you and I, just like our wives and children, we want things to stay the same. You have a situation going on that you told me is a ‘bump.’ It’s only a bump because it’s something different, and we can’t yet see if it’s a good or bad thing.
    I’ve been listening to Beth Moore lately, and she talks about ‘staying in your lane.’ We like our lane, and we’re told to stay in it all the time. It’s a rule at work: stay in your lane and elevate issues through proper channels… But she asks, “what if your lane is two inches wide and the lane G has for you is as wide as a freeway?” When XXX talks about our kids, I always tell her she forgets how different she is, that she practiced gymnastics for five hours a day – no one does that. Except for Olympians. And you? No one would say a word if you wanted to retire and stay home and do your devotional and be a deacon, but you hear a different calling. Most people take up an inch of their lane, but people like you and XXX are called to a freeway. Moses was, too, but it was hard for the people to see.
  2.  Another thing I think about when I read history of any sort is that we’re no different as persons. Yet we are. It’s perplexing but we area still egotistical and controlling yet we live in a culture that makes different demands. Every time I think of some pastor standing up and hitting the podium saying that these people were sinners who deserve everything they got, I think, “Ok, let’s see how you act when your family is kneeling with guns to their heads. Of course, this is where faith comes in, apparently in short supply for the spies.
  3. One commentator said the ’12 spies’ were probably princes, sent to observe. They knew the limitations of their people and probably wanted to save as many of them as possible. Don’t we expect this kind of thing from our leaders? In this sense, they are being prudent. As I read, I think the spies did exactly what they were asked to do except they added their opinion and commentary to their observations. Sometimes the best bet is to keep our mouths shut.
  4. Was Moses being wise and prudent and thinking of the people when he sent out the spies? Why didn’t he just point a stick north and tell everyone to move in? Was he worried that the people weren’t ready, or that G wouldn’t follow through?
  5. It doesn’t come out in Numbers, but this whole thing is the reason Jews today ‘celebrate’ Tishe B’av. It’s a day of weeping and fasting when Jews remember how the spies’ reports were “Lashon Hara,” meaning that they said something so libelous about G that it hurt people. This is a great evil within Judaism. It’s an extreme kind of gossip that hurts or defames someone, causing harm to them financially or professionally.
  6. It’s interesting that my Jerusalem Bible says in its intro to Numbers that the book focuses on the ‘absolute demands of G’s holiness.’
  7. For what it’s worth, commentators seem to agree that the Deut telling is older.
  8. Like you say, these are people who have seen wondrous things stacked up on each other, but they still don’t get it. Do we? And no one argues with them about their observations. Neither Moses, nor Caleb, nor G. It’s not their observations that get them, it’s their lack of faith. The unseen thing that is hoped for. I won’t write it down as a commandment, but it seems to be how G works and builds faith. Everything is against us, and everything seems lost, and then, in ways that we never imagined, things work. “No eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.”
  9. I’m not sure about how you tie this to a Christian’s judgment. I get the part about ‘who’s camp are you in?’ but it’s more complex to me. As Christians, you and I are adopted sons of the father. That’s the gospel right there. We don’t call him “Mr. Mighty Majestic King of the Universe”, but Abba, Father. Just like the prodigal son’s father, we are welcomed in love. Of course, as Christians, we want to be faithful and trusting. I certainly want to live a life of faith and faithful action but not so I don’t get slapped, but because that’s the picture Jesus gives me of my highest calling in love. It’s like we talked about on Wednesday morning: we don’t give ten bucks to the guy on the corner because of what he does, but because of who we are.
  10. Reading through several chapters, I couldn’t help but think of Tim Keller’s words: It’s only because we’re human and don’t understand the transcendent love of G and the wisdom of G or the purposes of G that we think something is difficult or not fair. I’m paraphrasing. It’s a tough scripture. Do I want to send my girls to a place with armed warrior men who only want to kill them? Even when G says go?
  11. A couple other interesting things I read that probably won’t apply to your sermon: G is G of the impossible. If leadership languishes, the congregation fails.

There you go. It’s a mess, but these are my thoughts as I read through the chapters.

What do you think when you read through Numbers 13? What of my comments? What would you tell my supply preacher friend?

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