“Heat the oven up hot then cook it till it’s done…”

There is much to say about my grandfather (John Pack) and my hope is that it’s all said in a reality tv show one day that makes my entire family rich and famous. Until then I’m going to pass along to you, one of the finest things he has passed along to me.

Papaw and Eli farting around...

Since I was a little boy, one my very favorite things to eat has been the cornbread prepared by most anyone in my family. It’s unique for a few reasons.

1. It’s NOT sweet. When I say not sweet, I mean it has NO sugar in it. It tastes NOTHING like a corn muffin.

2. It’s NOT YELLOW. When I say it’s not yellow, I mean it’s white. It’s made using white cornmeal rather than yellow.

3. It has only 3 INGREDIENTS and one of them is water. When I say 3, I mean 3….self rising flour and self rising white cornmeal + water.

Here is a picture of a piece of cornbread I made last week, sitting on top of

some dirty rice…

Rebecca and I visited Mamaw and Papaw at their home in Kentucky several years ago and one of my hopes was to learn how to make this beautiful bread myself. Papaw seemed reluctant to share but that’s really just how he is when he knows you want something:)

He launched into his timeless instructions…

Me: Hey gramps, how do you make your cornbread?

Gramps: Well, I just make it.

Me: Will you tell me how so I can make it myself?

Gramps: Well, ya heat a skillet up till it’s hot with some oil in the bottom and then you get your 60/40 mix nice and wet and pour it in. Cook it till it’s done and that’s about it…

Me: How much oil?

Gramps: A splash

Me: How hot should the oven be?

Gramps: Hot.

Me: Whats 60 / 40 mix?

Gramps: 60% self rising flour and 40% self rising WHITE corn meal.

Me: How much water?

Gramps: I told you, till it’s good and wet.

Me: Thanks?

For the next year or so I made  it regularly, dialing the temperature, viscosity and ingredient ratio in to where I was comfortable sharing it with others. It’s funny because in the end, his instructions were spot on, it just took a while for me to understand them correctly. The perfect “pone” of cornbread is made using the following recipe.

* Put 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a regular sized skillet (cast iron preferred).

* Put the skillet in the oven and turn in up to 450 degrees.

* Put 1 cup plus 1 heaping tablespoon of White Self Rising Flour in a bowl

* Put 1 cup of White Self Rising Corn Meal into the bowl.

* Add 1 teaspoon of salt.

* Combine dry ingredients with fork.

* Add 2 cups of water.

* Wisk with fork until it’s like pancake batter. Add a bit more water if it’s too thick to pour nicely.

* Take the piping hot skillet out of the oven and put it on the stove top.

* Pour the batter into the skillet. (It should sizzle because it’s so hot)

* Put it back in the oven and cook it for about 20 minutes.

* Open the oven and spray the top of the bread with cooking spray and then close the oven and turn the broiler to high.

* Broil on high for 5 minutes to brown the top.

* Remove from oven and turn the skillet upside down onto the counter, the bread should pop right out.

* Spread butter on top of the entire top of the bread.

* Cut into triangles like a pizza.

* Serve to people you love and become instantly famous for feeding them one of the most delicious things they have ever eaten.

I’ve been making this bread for about 7 years now so I basically do it by eye the way I’ve always seen my family do it.

Today I decided to bend the rules….

Today I added three ingredients that transformed the bread into a delicious gourmet item that could be served alongside the stuff of kings!

Here is today’s recipe…

* Put 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a regular sized skillet (cast iron preferred).

* Put the skillet in the oven and turn in up to 45o degrees.

* Put 1 cup plus one heaping tablespoon of White Self Rising Flour in a bowl

* Put 1 cup of White Self Rising Corn Meal into the bowl.

* Add 1 teaspoon of salt.

* Combine dry ingredients with fork.

* Add 2 cups of water.

* Wisk with fork until it’s like pancake batter. Add a bit more water if it’s too thick to pour nicely.

* Add 1 small minced onion that has been sauteed

* Add 1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh parsley.

* Take the piping hot skillet out of the oven and put it on the stove top.

* Pour the batter into the skillet. (It should sizzle because it’s so hot)

* Put it back in the oven and cook it for about 20 minutes.

* Open the oven and spray the top of the bread with cooking spray and then close the oven and turn the broiler up to high.

* Broil on high for 5 minutes to brown the top.

* Remove from oven and turn the skillet upside down onto the counter, the bread should pop right out.

* Spread 1/2 cup of shredded cheese of your liking on top.

* Take the piping hot skillet and turn it upside down on top of the cornbread and leave it like that for about 3 minutes so the cheese melts perfectly onto the bread.

* Cut into triangles like a pizza.

* Serve to people you love and become instantly famous for feeding them one of the most delicious things they have ever eaten.

The New Cornbread with onions and parsley inside and topped with melted cheese.

This is what it looked like right after I cut it. I’m serious when I tell you it was absolutely delicious. I would serve this version alongside lamb chops, Angus beef, rib roast, good pork chops etc…

So there it is friends, an actual eatable heirloom. You are now holding in your hands one of the finest and most deliciously satisfying recipes you will ever engage with (talking about the un-adulterated bread of coarse).

Enjoy!…and please comment on your experience, I would love to hear if you like it as much as my family does:)

Good Eating!

The story of our most recent foster placement….

As you probably know, Rebecca and Eli and I are foster parents. We currently have a 5 week old miracle, and until about an hour ago a 5 year old silly willy.

“Buddy” was with his dad while things got out of hand and winded him up in jail and Buddy with Child Protective Services.We got the call at 5:50 on Tuesday afternoon that he needed a home until things got straightened out and we were quick to respond. By 7:30, we were eating pizza and learning about one another. Buddy is Chinese and speaks english as a second language. He’s happy and bright and….very confused. Eli stayed with the gp’s while we went to get him and we were fast to share with Buddy that there was someone that was going to be very excited to have him around named Eli. We told him that Eli loved to play with trucks and rocket ships and he loved to share his toys. Buddy seemed eased by the prospect of meeting Eli.

We went from the pizza parlor to pick up Eli and once again…Eli worked his magic. In no time flat, they were farting around and talking in a language that only little boys can understand. Once we got home, Eli took time to show him all the rooms in the house and all the toys worth playing with. They chased each other around with rockets for a while and then we got ready for bed. At bed time, all five of us crawled into Eli’s bed to say prayers and read stories. In that short amount of time, Buddy seemed totally at ease and glad to be part of our crew.

Buddy and Eli have been playing hard, from morning till night from Tuesday night until now.

All the while, Rebecca and the many stakeholders in Buddy’s life have been working to design a plan that best serves Buddy. As it turns out, Buddy has a mom that loves him very much and was eager to reconnect with him as soon as possible. At some point previously, the couple  split up and Dad and Buddy moved to China. They returned to the Bay area fairly recently.

In the end, it was decided that Buddy should be placed with his Mom, at least until things were squared away with his Dad.

Those are the broad mechanical details but they are far from being the most relevant take-a ways for my family, and yours… I hope.

Once again, through this situation we were reminded that our job is to put ourselves in situations where loving well is hard….and then to love well, and do it in a way that reeks of Jesus.

I look at our lives just a few months ago and realize that we’ve spent far too long, sterilizing our lives and setting things up so that nothing intrudes that might interrupt our routine. In this new season, the phone rings, constantly reminding us that no matter how comfortable we are at the moment, there is an army of people all around us that desperately need the love we have to give. The great news is that as we give it freely, God is made famous among those that observe it, and those that are served!

A blessing for Buddy:

May the God of the universe bless you and keep you, now and forever. May you look back on this awkward week and remember the family that loved you completely as they spoke of Jesus. May you feel the peace of God and the presence of God in your life, and may you choose to embrace it and share it with others. We love you, and we are proud of you, and you are a good boy….how much more does God love you and take pride in you!

Amen

People always say…”kids are so resilient”

I got home from work today and my family was buzzing with excitement. Eli and Buddy (our 5 year old foster child) ran up to me as I came in the door, eagerly spitting out their funny little kid words surrounding the idea that we were going to the park to hear the music and it was going to be awesome. I quickly agreed that it was going to rock and then reminded them that we needed to eat dinner first…and then we could go. It’s amazing how the promise of pleasure enables even the scrappiest of toddlers the ability to tow the line for a moment:)

We happily ate our speghetti (thanks Rebecca!) and talked about the day and made our coined noise associated with delicious food….”WoooHooo..YUM YUM!” over and over again. They boys finished pretty quickly and Rebecca and I took a minute to catch out breath at the table as they began running around the house like crazy people. As we started gathering the bag, stroller, chairs beverages etc…for our journey, we suddenly heard an Eli scream followed my some panic from Buddy.

We rushed in to see what had happened and quickly found that Eli had fell into the corner of something as he buzzed by, leaving a pretty serious scrape. Buddy is five, so we asked him what happened but he was very upset by the accident, and the fact that his friend was hurt. He wasn’t able to articulate what happened as he was welling up with tears himself. Finally, in the middle of a long moan, Eli gestured toward the child safety gate that was guilty of scraping him. He glared at it like it just kicked his puppy and explained that he fell into it. As we talked about it, he quickly began regaining composure and remembering that we were about to leave for the park to watch the concert. In less than three minutes from the time of the accident, Eli was back to his normal silly willy self and ready to walk to the concert.

I paint this picture because it’s one we have all seen. We see kids conquer things and overcome hurdles and it moves us to the point that we share with others. More than any other feedback, we are responded to with the simple truth…”kids are so resilient”. It’s among the truest things ever said that kids are remarkably resilient.

I submit the following….

Kids are resilient, often because they have a keener understanding of what matters. Eli (without consciously knowing it) quickly gathered, that if he let this scrape get the best of him, he would end up missing the concert at the park. Because he stayed focused on the prize, he was able to overcome much. He proceeded to have a great time with Buddy and his grandparents (and us) at the concert.

When kids look forward to something, they are infused with special tenacity and resilience and ability, that enables them to realize that which they look forward to.

As I changed Eli out of his clothes and into his pajamas this evening, the scrape jumped out at me and so did it’s accompanying lesson….

“We would do well to make sure we are always looking forward to something wonderful, because that hope will deliver great tenacity and resilience and ability, and these things enable us to realize that which we hope for.”

 

A great view of the concert we didn't miss!


 

A Confession…

I had a long conversation today with a good friend. I confessed to him that I’ve been struggling lately with some pretty negative emotions toward a person that is focused on shining a negative light on myself and my family related to business. The things he has shared with others about us are slanderous and have been harmful to our reputation. As a result, I’ve been finding myself “disliking” him with a fair amount of my thought life lately. I always thought I had some experience despising someone but it turns out I’ve never despised anyone until now.

I share this because I’ve comitted to being transparent in this environment and this is the thing that has gripped me lately. I haven’t talked much about it until today and have kept most of it to myself. Because of this bottling of my feelings, I got fairly worked up as I shared with my friend. I was embarrased…not by the fact that I was crying like a baby, but by the fact that I have spent as much energy as I have “disliking” someone. There were several things stirring in me that caused me to loose composure today but in one way or another they revolved around this person I’ve been hating.

Anyhow, today I learned a valuable lesson about what it looks like to love well when our friends are hurting.

Here are a few of the take aways from my conversation with my friend today that really blessed me:

* He heard me all the way out with two ears and one mouth, just as they were proportioned to him in the first place.

 

* When I was finished unloading, he let it breath for a moment. He gave us both a second to consider the theropy that takes place in times of weakness.

 

* He told me a couple stories from his own life that enabled me to realize I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.

 

* He reminded me that as believers, we are called to a different reaction in the face of our enemy. From his memory he began sharing a passage with me from Romans 12 in the Bible… Here it is…

 

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
 if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I’ve read this passage a hundred times but today it ministered to me for real. Like much of what Jesus expects of us, this too is counter-intuitive, it goes against our instinct. The idea of loving those that oppose us is foreign and frankly…silly…in our own strength. The reminder of the day for me is that MY OWN STRENGTH SUCKS! In my own strength I find myself wasting time and energy thinking about the intentions and misinterpretations of others when all the while, I could be thanking God for all that he is, and all that he’s done, and all that he is doing on my behalf. Today marks the day that I set aside thoughts of ill will and re-remember that my purpose is found in the God of the universe, and his profound love for me!

To my friend:

Thank you for loving well today my brother…you called on His word to awaken me and He moved in me through it!

Here are a couple quotes from smarter guys than me that reek of wisdom in light of Jesus….

“Revenge is a passion unbecoming of the children of God”

John Calvin

“A man who studies revenge keeps his own wounds green. Men must not turn into bees and kill themselves in stinging others.” Francis Bacon

I always like to use pictures in my posts and I think this one appropriately speaks to how good God is to me…He has blessed me with Elijah, and the White Sox!…and lots of other stuff of coarse:)

PS: I’ve been making egg rolls lately…lots of them, and I’ve been taking pictures and making notes…stay tuned:)

 

 

Our 1st Foster Placement….

I’ve been a bit cautious about getting into whats been going on with us related to foster care, mostly because we’ve been a bit unclear about what God was really wanting us to do. As many of you know, Rebecca and I have struggled over the years to conceive. As a result, we pursued international adoption from Ukraine a few years ago. The adoption fell through at the last minute and then something amazing happened…

Someone we love dearly found herself pregnant and too young to become a mother. One thing lead to another and we walked with her through her pregnancy and ultimately adopted Eli after he was born. God has used the Eli miracle to teach us more about the way God loves us and loves children than any other experience in our lives by far.

Rebecca and I want more kids, so naturally a couple years ago we began thinking about what that might look like. We began the process of adopting from Rwanda in 2010. As time moved on, we felt unsettled about it and ultimately decided to pull out. A month later, Rwanda closed for adoption.

Once we moved to CA in December, we began talking and praying again about how we should go about growing our family. Some friends invited us to their church in Feb and it just so happened to be the week they were highlighting the idea of foster parenting and adopting through foster care. The service compelled us to come back for a “foster parent 101” class they were hosting at the church. From there, we decided to attend the orientation class with our county. Still feeling like we were on the right track, we decided to sign up for the actual training classes so we could get licensed as a foster family in our county. Throughout May, we attended classes twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the evenings.

The classes were challenging to be honest. The material wasn’t complicated or difficult, it was just heavy. Coming into it, I felt like it was a good thing to adopt children that would otherwise be left inside the system. It made me feel good about myself to enjoy that Rebecca and I were planning to adopt “foster kids”.

As the curriculum started unfolding in the class, I was quickly convicted about my motivations. The reality is, we want more kids of our own. One approach would be for us to become an “adoption only”  family, meaning we would only be open to take children whose parents had completely lost their parental rights so that there would be very little risk of the children being removed from our home after they came to be a part of our family. In the first inning, this seemed to me like the thing that was most consistent with our plans for our family. Instead of adopting internationally, or by marketing ourselves to pregnant women through adoption agencies, we could adopt these kids that were right in our midst that desperately needed new families to call their own.

The instructor explained both “adoption only” and also “concurrent planning” options for those of us in the class. I had never heard of concurrent planning before. Essentially, it means that we would have kids placed with us that may or may not be with us permanently, and we are charged with loving them as our own while at the same time, diligently and sincerely working with the system and the birth family to reunify the child with their family if that is the plan set fourth by the court. If the parents fail to step up to the plate and complete the things that the judge asks them to do, parental rights could be terminated and the child would need a permanent home and preferably an adoptive, permanent home. To participate earnestly as a concurrent planning parent, we would need to be ready to fill the needed gap, regardless of the likelihood of permanency. As foster parents, we do have the right to decline when social workers call with children that need placement but we are quickly finding that it’s much easier said than done. It’s easy to have preferences and opinions before you start getting the calls but it becomes very real when you are left to decide whether you will step up and be a critical part of the solution for a child…or not. The reality is, there are very few situations that a worker will call with that don’t include both risk, and pain…it’s just the nature of it. Another reality is, a worker will never call with a situation that doesn’t offer a guaranteed opportunity to do something with your life that will work to change the coarse of another human beings life…that’s the super duper great news in all of this! I had no idea what it would feel like to love people in this way. I think we all spend a fair amount of time daydreaming about doing “great” things with our lives. I’m not bragging, I’m simply stating the fact that we have been fortunate enough to find an environment that helps us do just that…live life on purpose.

Our last day of PRIDE training...we are now officially foster parents!

I sincerely wish I would have written more as things have developed because there is so very much to share that is sure to encourage you and bless you.

There are about 4 different placement stories that have begun forming already, and we just got our license last Tuesday!

So we were made aware that our names were on the list as of last Tuesday afternoon. Friday morning Rebecca got a call from a placement worker to discuss a possible placement. A 21 month old boy was taken into CPS custody at midnight on Thursday and was at the assessment center waiting to be placed with a foster family. The worker told Rebecca that he seemed healthy and very kind. Her only concern was that he appeared to be at least somewhat deaf after performing some very basic tests. The worker also indicated that the grandma loved the boy very much and was on her way up from San Diego to work it out to bring him home with her. There is a process involved and it usually doesn’t move at light speed so it seemed like he would be with us for at least a few weeks, not to mention the possibility that grandma wouldn’t qualify as a suitable guardian for one reason or another.

Rebecca took good notes and then told the worker she needed to speak with me 1st and that she would call right back. The worker said she would have to call other foster families if Rebecca wasn’t able to make the decision then and there. Rebecca insisted that we are in this together and that we will always need to speak with one another before taking a placement. The worker calmed down and admitted that she wished more foster families did it as a team. She told Rebecca she was going to get a sandwich and that she had better have a message on her machine when she returned. Rebecca agreed and called me right away. She told me what she new and then there was pregnant pause. We were both waiting for the others gut reaction…

Finally I asked if she had any preliminary thoughts or anxieties. Her only minor anxiety resided in the fact that if we agreed to take one child, then our hope of getting a large sibling group would have to go on hold for an unknown amount of time. She asked me the same question and I knew exactly what my fear was…raising a deaf child. I don’t speak the language and frankly the idea of not being able to use actual words to communicate in light of my affinity for using words, scared me in a superficial, selfish sort of way. I blurted it out and Rebecca was gracious with my worry even though I could tell she didn’t think it was a good enough reason to pass on the placement. We talked it all the way through and finally decided that we were not going to set the precedent of passing, each time a situation didn’t fit “our” version of what things were supposed to look like.

Rebecca told the worker we were in and 3 hours later me and Rebecca and Eli walked into the assessment center to pick up the little boy.

Eli has been beside himself daydreaming about his new brothers and sisters:) We’ve got the 3rd bedroom all fixed up for two more kids and Eli is aware that we could even get three and he would “get” to share is room. Having the rooms ready for the past several weeks has been a good way for Rebecca and I to talk to Eli about what’s going on. He’s been amazing about it. Not a bone in his body is concerned about loosing face time with us, he’s ready to love kids in need as his own as well. I well up as I consider how much I love Eli and his kind heart. I didn’t know they made hearts like his…but they do, and I get to care for it and love it and guide it…lucky me:)

We walked in and they were waiting for us. Several people came towards us at once, the clerk, the nurse, a lady carrying the little boy, a clinician. It wasn’t at all what I expected. Everyone was extremely nice and obviously concerned for the boy. We greeted the little guy and then I introduced he and Eli. They were both a bit shy for a minute…one minute, then they found a common interest in a train table and the rest was history. The two of them played while Rebecca and I got the scoop from all of the stakeholders involved. The general consensus was that he was healthy and kind…and seemingly hearing impaired. He wasn’t responding to people and he had a dazed look in his eyes. The nurse told us that kids sometimes just shut down as a result of the trauma that comes from being removed from their home. She said it was very possible that he would come back around in short order but she wanted us to get him in for real testing asap. We finished up and left the center with the little guy about 20 minutes after arriving, I was amazed by the efficiency of the whole thing.

We buckled the kids into their seats, spent a moment praying for wisdom then headed home to start learning to love this awesome little person.

Workers where calling us left and right giving us information as it became available. Our worker told us that grandma was very worried and would like to call daily to see how he’s doing. We agreed and also got her number so we could reach out to her with updates to try and help ease her mind. We spoke with her the first time that very afternoon and she was warm and thankful. As I was speaking with her, I, for the first time began understanding more about the scope of this undertaking. We talked about it in the classes but for real, my heart absolutely broke as I spoke with this woman that loves the little guy more than anything else in the world as she tries to find peace in the fact that a couple strangers are going to be taking care of him for the next who knows how long. Rebecca and I quickly committed to working diligently to give grandma as much peace of mind as possible. I encouraged her daily by phone and email and also sent pictures of him doing happy things.

Little man made it clear very quickly that he could hear just fine. As soon as he and Eli got home and started farting around, he began relaxing and realizing that he was safe. For the next four days, our 3 year old loved little man like they were blood brothers.

On Tuesday morning, I went to a TDM (team decision meeting). It’s an environment where all the stakeholders come together and seek to build a plan that best serves the child. Around the table sat me, grandma, little man’s worker, the clinician, a court appointed worker, the parents worker, and a meeting facillitator. An hour later, we collectively and unanimously agreed that the best plan was to get little man heading home with Grandma asap.

Eli likes to hug...

The court worker was grumpy at first and it caused me to wonder who’s team she was actually on. What I later realized is that she wasn’t grumpy at all, she was simply stirring about how best to proceed. Grandma is truly a wonderful woman, both on paper and in person. In light of this, the court worker wanted to approach the Judge and ask that he “bend” a couple rules in order for her to take little man home immediately and let the system / paperwork catch up with the decision. Grandma was a Fremont Police officer for many years and also a child advocate volunteer with the county. The court worker presented these facts and the judge was gracious and allowed little man to go home with her that very afternoon. Rebecca and I where so encouraged to see the system act so swiftly with such a “human” response to what was best for little man. Grandma and I had a chance to grab lunch after the TDM. We shared with one another and talked about important things. Grandma is a friend of ours now…for real. We have shared an incredibly intimate situation together and from it came a certain “kinship”.

Eli is on "time out" and little man is making it interesting...

We are really thankful to have been able to care for little man and grandma in this way for our first placement. It taught us a valuable lessen early on about the scope of poster parenting. It’s truly about far more than loving children in need, it’s about loving entire families in need. It’s about leaving our own plans behind and seeking after the lives God really wants for us. It’s about living the very Gospel that has rescued us out for people that come into our lives.

This post is long and heavy but I hope it leaves you encouraged about the way God uses people in practical ways to love the world, even dorks like us!

Eli takes mowing the lawn very seriously and he's trying to demonstrate for little man...at least one of us does:)

Thanks Dad…for all of it…

My Dad is 53…I’m 33. It’s unique that a father and son get to enjoy a long season where neither of them are in diapers (metaphorically) but me and my Dad have enjoyed just that and it’s been really…really good.

In human terms, we’ve both had better days from the standpoint of material wealth and evidence of success by conventional standards. In a sense, we are both starting from scratch on those fronts. I suppose it’s this “starting over” that grabbed me when I looked at this photo today. There he is at age 23, standing next to his co-pilot (uncle Greg), on the eve of everything that was about to happen in and through his life. The picture moves me so much because I’ve had the unique opportunity to be aware of what happened next. When he posed for that picture, he had no idea what his life was going to amount to. Surely he had dreams and convictions, but no actual knowledge of what the future would hold.

Dad on the right (age 23) and Uncle Greg in the middle (age 20). Don't know the other guy, he was a printing plate salesman.

Little did he know that he would be a person of such impact.

Little did he know that his dedication to family and integrity would be such a huge part of the legacy he would build.

Little did he know that God was going to use him to point others toward the Gospel.

Little did he know that he would be charged with setting a good example for hundreds of employees over a span of more than 25 years.

Little did he know that his then young son, was going to watch every move he made and emulate his character both positively and negatively.

Little did he know that the bond between he and my mother would grow immeasurably as they grew older.

Little did he know that he was going to start and then lead one of the most remarkable companies the economy as ever seen and then loose it in the blink of an eye.

Little did he know that in his 53rd year of life, he would be so keenly aware of the fact that in his weakness, God is strong!

Little did he know that 33 years in the future his son (me), would consider it among the great blessings of his life to be able to claim him as his Father and Friend.

And now…

Little does he know…what the rest of the story will look like…

When I came across the photo today, it really resonated in me and caused me to well up with joy and thanksgiving for the life he’s had the courage to live in front me. His influence has effected the way I approach every relationship, every situation, every trial, every opportunity. Nobody is perfect or above reproach and I’m not saying he is any exception. I suppose what I’m saying is that he’s been man enough to win and loose right in front of me, and he’s taken time along the way to try and understand the reasons for different outcomes in his life. Most of all, he’s been willing to talk to me about all of it without holding back for the sake of my feelings or his. Lot’s of people are left to wonder about what really drives their fathers at the core and I’m simply saying I don’t have to wonder because he’s been talking to me about it since I was a small boy. This is among the great lessons that I already imitate in my relationship with Eli. He will never be left to wonder what drives the passion that’s in his Daddy, because we talk about it as part of our daily language at home.

At the core of my burden is a desire to pay forward things I’ve learned from my Dad. The reality is…many people live lives of zero impact, largely because they’ve had zero leadership in their own lives. I’m not one of these people so I have no excuses, and I have have my dad to thank for that.

Dad has never heard of John Maxwell (famous leadership author) but he’s written far more than “21 irrefutable laws of leadership”on my heart and the hearts of many others.

Dad doesn’t read blogs (probably cuz the word blog is weird) but in any case, he’s been on my heart lately so I thought it best to get some of my thoughts down on paper and out to you in order to cement them.

Dad teaching Eli some important stuff about operating a fork lift...

One of my best “Dad” days yet…

My son Elijah Truman is many things, and among the strongest of his early understandings is his rightful place within the food chain…at the very TOP!

He’s three, and he’s had an affinity for animals since he was a baby. He’s enamored with dogs and cats,

zoo animals…and fish. He and I have been fishing together since the very beginning. When he was 3 months old, I would strap him into one of those forward facing baby holders and go fly fishing up and down the salt creek. In the evening he would play on the beach while I caught dozens of bluegill and sunfish for him to pet and play with at the lake in our neighborhood.

In Montana last summer, he stood in the great Gallatin river with his Buzz Lightyear pole in his hand, hoping to catch a lunker. He reminds me of my Dad in his ability to stare a hole in a bobber, even when the fish are laughing at him from below. I took up fly-fishing as a result of my own inability to sit and hope, rather than hunt and think…

Anyhow, He and I and Adam Truman (my brother) took a trip to a local fishing lake that’s rumored to have lots of catfish in it last weekend. You would think a kid that loves to hold and touch and play with animals the way he does would struggle with the whole…”let’s catch some dinner” side of the fishing experience. Not so much, he loves every aspect of fishing.

He loves the anticipation, the battle, the relationship between he and the fish as he pets it and talks to it…and he loves the victory that is found in sinking your teeth into it at the dinner table. It’s hilarious, and a telling thing about our early understanding of the reality that we are positioned squarely at the top of the food chain.

Anyhow…

Catfishing can be a lot like sitting in a chair, staring at a stick when they aren’t biting, and they weren’t biting for the first two hours. Eli is a patient angler, especially for a three year old but by now he has decided to empty the worm container into the cup holder in his chair and imagine a world where worms are the main characters.

He was lost in his own mind holding both hands out full of worms and pretending they are fighting and talking to one another when it happens…

Adam: “Whoa! He’s got one!”

Eli: “Huh?!…FISH?…FISH ON MY BUZZ LIGHTYEAR POLL! WOO HOO!”

Adam: (quickly picking up the pole and sliding in behind ELi to assist him)…”Ok buddy, here we go, let’s real him in!”

Eli:(mostly making high pitched sounds of giddy-ness)…. “Dad! I catch fish on my Buzz Lightyear pole!…Real real real!”

Me: “WoooooHoooo! GREAT JOB BUD! You can do it, just take it easy!”

Eli reeling his his first fish...

Finally, the fish came within site near the shore which was down about 8 ft below where we were standing. I qucikly scurried down the embankment and grabbed the line and pulled the fish in towards me. Once it was all the way onto the shore I reached out and picked the fish up by the fishing line (totally dumb rookie move). Just as I tried to swing it up to the elevated area where Eli and Adam where, the line snapped and the fish fell to the ground and landed just next to the water with half it’s body actualy in the water. My heart sank and I wondered if it was even reasonable to think I could maneuver down to it and then grab it without it simply flicking it’s tail and swimming off. To end my doubts about whether or not I should try, Adam yells “John!, get in there and grab him!!!!” He was right, I don’t know what I was thinking, I jumped down to it and thrust my hands down onto it to make sure it couldn’t escape. Eli is squeeling with joy as I make my way back up to the bank. He rushes up to me with his arms thrust out expecting me to hand over this big catfish so he could hug it and play with it….he was right, thats exactly what I did!

the 19 inch beast in all it's glory...

I placed the fish in his arms while explaining where the “pokies” were and that it would hurt very much if he got stuck by our new friend.

Carrying his first monster to "the bucket"

He heard me loud and clear and proceeded to walk around with it for a few minutes while constantly looking down at it and petting it’s head like it was a new born baby. When I asked him what we were going to do with it, he plainly looked at me and said…we’re goanna take it home and cook him up and eat for dinner with mommy.”

I affirmed his response with an “AMEN”.

We explained that we needed to get the catfish into the bucket so it would stay fresh and he understood and immediately made his way over to the bucket and tossed it in.

"the toss"

Lunch- time presented itself so we decided to call it a day and head over to “Boiling Crabs”… for some seafood practice. Adam and I split a pound each of fresh Cajun boiled shrimps, crayfish and clams which Eli enjoyed playing with…he had chicken fingers.

All three where among the best I’ve ever had, so much so that like a weirdo I took the leftover “boil” as a doggy bag so I could cook my own crustaceans in it the next day at home along side our fish feast.

Eli watched intently as Adam cleaned and bagged the fish mumbling with excitement about how we were going to have it for dinner tomorrow.

The next evening, Adam and I made a feast. We roasted Asian white-sweet-potatoes, Chinese eggplant and asparagus… in olive oil and spices, and fried up the fish Eli caught in panko breadcrumbs, along with a fresh ling cod filet and a fresh tillapia filet so Rebecca could enjoy the bounty as well. The special treat for Adam and I was our re-do of the cajun boiled shrimp using the leftover juices from the day before.

The meal was absolutely delicious and also satisfying for Eli at an entirely different level. It was like his 1st conquest of nature for the sake of nourishment:) It was cute how he got so serious about the idea of using the fish to feed mommy, like it was his job to catch the fish to feed her, and he did his job:)

The difference between 20 and 30…

Companies, churches, teams, clubs and platoons all, generally exist within the confines of the 80/20 rule.

80% of the people involved in these environments tend to consume the resources and momentum of the organization while the other 20% work to replace the same resources and momentum and more.

I submit the following:If we as people, regardless of where we currently fit into the 80/20 rule within our current contexts, would abide in the notion that we will be part of the solution, much would change for the good…quickly.

If  we wake up Friday morning and admit the truth about where we fit (related to 80/20) into each of the environments in which we spend our lives, and then act in a way that incrementally moves the ball down the field…everything changes.

For example: As we do our work, whether it be plumbing or building, teaching or cleaning, operating machines or fixing gumball machines, managing projects or mending trousers….

If we do our work in light of the fact that we have a job to do, one that we are being paid to do, one that pays the rent, buys the ice cream cone and finances the minivan.

If we do our work in light of the blessing it is to be healthy and able enough to do that work, we will find ourselves quickly moving from the 80 and into the 20. If this were to happen simultaneously for many within a particular organization at the same time, we would see a shift from 80/20 to 70/30 and then 60/40 and so on. If this were to happen in any organization, the results would be comparable only to phenomenon.

The difference between operating at 80/20 compared with 7/30 even, is astounding. In a group of 100, it means 10 more people are producers and 10 less people are consumers.

The 20% swing is the difference between ok-ness and greatness for the organization, and moreover for the people that took the steps to position themselves on the right side of the equation.

Our guts are amazingly keen so think about it with your belly for a moment. If your chosen environment “namely work” was forced to re-tool more efficiently (down-size) how would it shake out for you. Imagine if there were 100 people in the environment, and they all did the same thing (within reason). If the organization had to go from 100 people down to 20 in order to rebuild, seniority and experience aside, do you believe you would be on the team? Keep in mind that your responsibility is to be exceptional in the eyes of the leadership of the environment, not just in your own eyes. This is to say that many of the people on the 80 side believe they are awesome but suffer from delusion. You are only as crucial to an environment as your leadership believes you are crucial. Certainly there is ramped injustice surrounding this idea but it’s the practical truth all the same. When it comes right down to it, you can believe you are as awesome as you want but when it’s time to “re-tool”, it’s not your opinion of yourself that matters.

80% of people fall into the 80% side of things so this thought will most probably stirr….well… 80% of you.

The great news is that your “environment” probably didn’t decide to re-tool today so you have an opportunity to move towards the land of 20%. If you strive for this and succeed, you may even be able to partner with your organization in the effort of changing the 20% to 30%. If you end up on that team, you also will have earned a rightful place in the land of 5%. 5 of every 100 people in an organization are “mission critical”, meaning the face and value proposition of the organization would change without them on the team. This is the place to strive for. From experience I can say that the 5% team is comprised of a unique mix of personalities and skill sets but a common goal…to work in a way that helps to set the organization apart from the rest as something truly great. These people wake up in the morning with a clear objective…to do the thing I get paid to do in a way that is uniquely excellent.

I really believe that everyone has what it takes to move into the land of 20%…It’s just a matter of  calling things what they are and deciding once and for all to earn our wages by always being on the solution side of the equation rather than the problem side.

This is a picture of Adrian. He isn’t merely on team 20%…he’s on team 5%. He operates a machine called a die-cutter. When a company needs a package to put the thing they make into, they sometimes partner with my company. We print the graphics onto the paper and then Adrian uses a machine about the size of  an F-350 truck to cut those sheets of paper into shapes, so that they can be folded and glued and ultimately used to put the thing into. I’ve worked with Adrian for over ten years, along with many other people that claim to do the same thing he does. The difference between him and them is that he considers it his life’s work to operate a die-cutter better, and faster than everyone else. The result of his approach is absolutely amazing. He and I are on the same team today and I count it a blessing. People like him help to make good companies, GREAT companies.

Thank You Adrian…

Turns out…fortune cookies are really deep these days…

My brother Adam Truman has been visiting for the past week or so. He’s leaving tomorrow so we decided to go to our favorite Fremont spot on my lunch break. “Wok City Diner” features many delectable situations but the one that has stolen the hearts of me and my tribe is the famed…HONEY WALNUT PRAWNS.

They are prepared by deep frying fresh shrimp in a very light tempura type batter and then tossing them in a glaze made up primarily of mayo and honey, then it’s all topped with candied walnuts and served piping hot. I know it sounds a bit off, but they are absolutely delicious.

I digress…the purpose of this post is to talk about a much more serious issue that has presented itself on the Chinese restaurant scene….FORTUNES OF SUBSTANCE

These are the fortune cookies from today’s farewell lunch. I will recite each and then flush them out briefly…

1. Morality is truth in full bloom: This is a page from Les Miserables. The phrase is used about 1/4 of the way down. Looking for the origin of this profound fortune caused me to read enough of Les Mis this evening to officially put it on my “read soon” list. This passage in-particular is packed …. “What is the ideal? It is God. Ideal, Absolute, Perfection, the Infinite – these are identical words.”

2. Keep on charging the enemy so long as there is life:

It is truly a shame that such a blue faced braveheart  sort of statement has such shallow origin…

It was posted on the net in response to an interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter and G. John Ikenberry regarding foreign policy and “Wilsonianism”. It’s a pretty interesting interview, although I haven’t a clue who the poster was referring to as the enemy what needs charging. Here is the link to the interview…   http://press.princeton.edu/blog/2009/02/18/was-george-w-bush-the-heir-of-woodrow-wilson-woodrow-wilson-school-interview-with-john-ikenberry-and-anne-marie-slaughter/

3. Men do not fail…they give up trying:

A quote by Elihu Root:  (February 15, 1845 February 7, 1937) was an American lawyer and statesman, the son of Oren Root and Nancy Whitney Buttrick. His father was professor of mathematics at Hamilton College. Root was the 1912 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

While I don’t claim to be a wiser man than Elihu, I do believe this position on failing is a dangerous one. Men fail everyday, all men fail and are failing in several areas at all times. There have been a few short seasons when it seemed that all the areas of my life were in order and I was “successful” on all fronts. Each and every time, these seasons come to an end rather quickly, not because of a change in my circumstances but rather my acknowledgement of delusion. Anyone that knows me will attest to my unwavering pursuit of success as it relates to things such as spiritual maturity, family, vocation, connection, friendship, etc… This is to say that, even though I realize the futility in believing that one day I’ll be hitting 350 on all fronts, I practice and strive for it all the same. I do this because the things that matter most are worth my entire self. The great news about pursuing success on all fronts is that by presenting yourself genuinely and passionately, you are in fact succeeding. When our hardest fought battles are lost, God tends to move most evidently in our souls. In my experience, failures have served as the most visceral reminders that I, in my own strength am fairly inadequate in most all the areas I take most seriously. There is no love big enough to honor God sufficiently. There is no pursuit on this side of heaven to which God is not required in order to obtain. I cannot possibly lead my wife, children, family, clients and friends towards connectivity with me, and moreover…God without…God.
The idea that all things are possible by men, so long as they stay at it… is a farce. All things are possible through Christ and he strengthens us and uses us to accomplish his objective which is to glorify himself in those things.
BTW: Today Rebecca and I celebrated our 3168th day of marriage…(9 years). She is so very important to me and I’m thankful everyday that I was able to talk her into joining me on this crazy ride:)

I heard a rumor I was pretty slow on the potty training thing…

I apparently didn’t learn how to use the bathroom like a normal person until I was older than the other kids, however I learned how to speak English earlier and better than all those kids wearing proper underwear. As a result of my early communicative skills, I engaged quickly in the art of conversation. I distinctly remember many adults stopping themselves half way through sharing things with me as they realized I was just a little boy. Still today, my best days are the days I have an opportunity to connect with someone I didn’t know the day before in a way that demands we regard one another as friends from that day forward. This happens to me more than any five other people I know. For whatever reason, I find it very difficult to exchange pleasantries with a person for the sake of the exchange. I don’t like to talk about weather or sports because they are trivial, relative to everything else I could be sharing and discovering by connecting with people.

I’m not bragging or complaining, I’m just saying. I’m saying it makes good sense not to waste time when it comes to getting to a place of substance with another person. At the end of the day, as we sit back and sip our sweet tea and think about the things that make our lives rich, we tend to think of the things that connect us deeply with others. More than the umbrella in your cocktail ten years ago on vacation, you harken back to how beautiful she looked with a flower in her ear. More than the marshmallows, you think of the late night in the canoe talking about what makes the world go round. More intensely than the memory of your favorite song, you remember who you loved to sing it with while driving down the road. The times you counted to ten and then said hello rather than acting like you were on the airplane by yourself are the times you in fact, acted out of your intrinsic desire to connect with the people around you. There is a certain connectivity we have with one another that usually goes untapped.

I submit the following…

To the degree we actually set our social anxieties aside and share ourselves with each other, will be the extent to which we live lives that are truly connected and relationally healthy. We as people have a deep need to hear and be heard. We are all thinking about things that are unique and remarkable and those thoughts become something other than daydreams the moment they are shared with another person. Likewise, we have an opportunity to be a tremendous blessing to others by simply using the 2 ears and 1 mouth we were given…in that proportion. Learning to listen well is the single nicest thing you can do for the people around you. It’s hard to admit, but there is nothing quite as satisfying as having someone sitting across from you with no agenda other than to learn whats on your heart. Alternatively, I’m sure you can agree that there is nothing quite as draining as trying to share with someone as they work tirelessly to edge in with their own take on your situation.

So…the next time you lock eyes with the guy across from you at Jiffy Lube while your sipping that nasty coffee, go ahead and do it.

You: “Wow, you’d think for 39.00 they could stand to put something other than the oil in the coffee pot:)”

Dude will chuckle and say: ” I was just thinking the same thing”

You: I’m a Starbucks man, how about you?…

And now…you are off into the land of connecting with the people around you. Believe me when I tell you that you will learn more in this environment (relationally) than in any other, save your marriage or coarse:)

Speaking of connecting…

My brother Adam Truman  (best friend) is here visiting. He and my son Elijah Truman have had a strong connection since Eli was born. This is a picture I took of them on Saturday as they were enjoying some time together at the park in the company of a new rocket ship. My guts tell me Eli is a natural connector and it makes his dad really proud:)