Monday morning it struck me; this is my own spring training.  This is my pre-season for the upcoming new season of my life.  As I quarantine following my COVID diagnosis, I will be outside the office and will begin to see what it is like to work from home more.  This will require new disciplines, as I learn to tune out the many potential distractions. This is part of the preparation for my transition into my encore career as a mediator.  As I began to seek God’s guidance for the repurposing of this week, I had the strong impression that I was to finish an online course in Relational Wisdom 360 and work on things generally concerning my mediation practice, Peace Like a River. 

While we may write our own stories, there is an Editor, far wiser and more experienced than us.  He loves us and desires to make improvements in our stories.  And He has the final say as to what gets published.  He is the Author of the best-seller of all time – The Bible. You can trust that He knows how to write a compelling story. It is God Who is our Editor.

Yes, this week will be a re-write.  And unlike many past suggested edits to the stories I have written, where I have been resistant, this time I am actually looking forward to the edits that will improve my story.  It will still involve adventure.  It will still involve exploration.  It will still be a time of rest, revival, and recreation.  But it WILL look different.  It WILL be better.

Our grandson, Preston, recently began walking.  One of his latest discoveries is how to change direction as he walks.  His ability to pivot is revolutionizing his mobility.  We witnessed this during a video call today, and I loved the proud smile grandad’s boy displayed following his smooth pivot. Likewise, those who have been able to smoothly pivot during the pandemic have seen great profit.

There have been many times through the years I have been on a hike and encountered a trail that branched off the main trail.  There was a time I was reluctant to take a detour or you might say the path less traveled.  However, in recent years I have come to enjoy exploring these pivots from the planned path.  Oftentimes, they have added great joy to my journey.  Years from now when I reflect on my life, I fully expect this edit to my story, this pivot from the prior plan will be a significant event which will bring a big, knowing, proud smile.   

Has your plan been interrupted, disrupted, or trashed entirely?  What is your attitude about it?  You can sit and sulk about it, or you can seek to re-write the present chapter, making it better.  What if you looked forward with anticipation to the edits to your story?  What if you made a pivot from your planned path?  Might it make all the difference?  

Posted by: hikerdude | March 1, 2021

An Alternate Adventure: The Repurposed Week (Part I)

I was awakened Saturday morning at 6:25 AM, by the melodious and very loud song of a mockingbird.  It was just about the time I should have been leaving to catch my flight from the Atlanta airport to Ft. Myers, Florida to see the Braves play four spring training games, after exploring the Everglades and Biscayne National Parks.  But, no, my South Florida adventure story with a couple of my lawyer friends had a plot twist. Two days earlier, I had been diagnosed with COVID-19.  Although I was feeling much better, two days later (which I attribute to much prayer and early administration of some treatment plans which have likely been censored by the internet powers that be) I could not travel because of my 10 day quarantine restriction.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”  This is one of my favorite quotes.  It says so on my Facebook profile, so you know its true.  But was it real to me?  Did I really believe it? 

For the last few years, it has been my goal to live a great story…not just a good story, but a great one!  Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a planner.  Whether it is a case in court, or a vacation, or a hike up a mountain, I love to plan it.  I will research it, organize it, and usually put it on in outline form or on an itinerary.  But you know what?  The best stories are not predictable.  The great stories have plot twists.  The characters have to adjust their plans and adapt.  Those are the things that really keep us engaged in the storyline.

I must admit, my first reaction to my diagnosis of COVID-19 was disappointment in my missed trip.  But then I had a shift in perspective.  This is serious.  I mean over 500,000 people have died in the US as a result of this disease!  What if this had not “hit me” until I was already on my trip?  What if I had infected other members of my party?  What if I was unable to fly back, and someone had to drive down to get me? What if I was hospitalized?  Do I have enough life insurance? All these questions swirled in my mind.

And while I felt awful the first day, with symptoms of fatigue, body-aches, a fever of 101.8, and accompanying chills, I received treatment quickly. I always retained my sense to taste and smell. My attention then turned to my beautiful, loving nurse/wife, Terri.  I did not want her to catch this from me.  She began a course of preventative treatment and we social distanced in the house.  I then thought about how this was an opportunity for me to be a blessing to others.  I could write describing my experience and help others face the fear.  And even more directly, in a couple of weeks, I can donate my blood with antibodies to help treat someone with a more severe case.   

So, I am beginning this alternate adventure, my repurposed week.  It is not what I had planned, but I learned long ago, God has a purpose for everything and if we will embrace His plan, in hindsight we will gain insight as to how His plan was so much better. “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isiah 55:8-9  Stay tuned for the better story of this week. 

Posted by: hikerdude | December 13, 2020

The Death Clock

It’s not like I am in a hurry for 2020 to end but, I got a head-start on my New Year’s resolutions recently.  I read a preview from an upcoming book called, Win The Day, by Mark Batterson.  Not only did it whet my appetite for the release of the new book, but it also introduced me to the Death Clock. 

The Death Clock is a web site where you can enter certain personal information and the Death Clock will calculate your date of death. I have worked off deadlines for over 40 years in the legal field, so if I knew the ultimate deadline, just think how productive I could be.  So, I entered my date of birth, my status as a non-smoker with an optimistic outlook, a non-drinker, who was proud to be an American citizen.  I then had to list my height and weight in order to get a BMI (Body Mass Index).  I had not weighed during the COVID-19 pandemic, so I estimated that I had gained a couple of pounds (based on the phenomena of simultaneous pants’ waist size shrinkage).  This had resulted in my buying my first pair of pants in a size 34-inch waist after most of my adult life wearing size 32 or 33.  I entered my estimated weight of 175.  It should be noted my weight had been within a couple of pounds of 170 for over a decade, but the family trait of the Garner gut had become more pronounced during this pandemic.

The web site calculations gave me a BMI of 25.1.  Only whole numbers can be entered in the formula, so I rounded it down to 25.  The Death Clock then returned the verdict.  At the time of testing, I was 62 years, 2 months and 1 day old.  Based on their estimation, I would die on Saturday, November 2, 2046, at the age of 88 years, 1 month, and 2 days.  I was pretty pleased with this life expectancy.

However, I began to consider if I was going to get a true “deadline” life expectancy, shouldn’t I make sure it was accurate?  You know, the whole garbage in garbage out calculation thing.  So, I went into Terri’s bathroom and weighed.  180 Pounds…how can that be?  I have never weighed 180!  But I have never been 62 and living through a world-wide pandemic either.  Those darn pandemic pounds!  Too much comfort food; too much Netflix binge-watching; not enough exercise – a formula to get fat.

I went back to the Death Clock and entered the new, more accurate data into the formula.  My BMI was now 25.8, at the upper end of “overweight” (and not too far from “obese”).  Now I had to round this up to a whole number – 26.  The result was that my date of death moved to Sunday, April 30, 2045, at the age of 86 years, 6 months and 29 days. 

Those 5 pounds and one point on the BMI scale, would cost me 1 ½ years of my life!  Wow, talk about a reality check…  I can honestly say that I had already decided to get started back on the elliptical, but I did not procrastinate until the start of 2021 to do so.  It had been on my mind, because Terri had indicated she wanted me to move it out of the living room into my study, where it had been before.  It came in pretty handy there as another coat rack, but it had not been used for any other purpose by me for a number of months.  I had been motivated to use it in the past as I was preparing for mountain hikes in Colorado. But 2020, although filled with other dangerous adventures: like continuing to go to work; going to the grocery store, Walmart and Dollar General; flying on a plane; and attending in-person church services, did not include this trail lawyer trekking to mountain summits.

Guys need goals, and now I had a good one.  I decided to get an “extension of time” on my death deadline.  5 Pounds = 1 ½ years.  26 Years vs. 24 ½ years.  That could make the difference in my living long enough to see my new grandson, Preston, graduate from some top graduate school, get married and/or maybe sire my first great grandchild.  I’d say those are some worthy goals, how about you? 

I remember early in my legal career when one of my mentors introduced me to the concept of an extension of time.  You could actually request that the court or an opposing counsel give you a little more time for a filing deadline.  That revolutionized my practice of law and removed a lot of stress.  But you did have to ask.  Usually, folks were accommodating and granted the extension of time.  Now, I had a similar “aha” moment: Exercise = Increased Life Expectancy.  But there is a catch.  You do have to ACT on this exercise concept.  This is the ultimate extension of time on the ultimate deadline.

So… I have been exercising more regularly for about a week now.  I’ve lost 2 pounds.  In the past, my best motivation has been getting ready for the next 14er in Colorado.  But now I find that facing your mortality is a pretty good motivator too!

I printed out the Death Clock calculations – one on the front side of the page and the other on the back side of the same piece of paper.  I am keeping the 88 and 861/2 ages on my desk for me to see each day.  I work best off deadlines.

Posted by: hikerdude | October 1, 2020

Reflections On Turning 62

I turned 62 years old today.  I really don’t feel that old, and I believe the best is yet to come.  As we near the end of 2020, we have all had to make adjustments – pandemics require new plans and approaches to life, and death too, I suspect.  As people we know have died during this year, I think we begin to more appreciate the wonderful gift of another day.  And maybe we need to reflect on our legacy a bit.

What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?  I would like for them to say, “He died old and full of day…and man oh man were his days full – of adventure, exploration, wisdom, family, joy, peace, and love. He was a blessed man, who was getting to know God better every day.  And today, we celebrate his getting to know God in the best way possible – face to face.” 

But before I reach that day, I have reflected on a few important life lessons I’ve learned on this journey and recorded them.  These are the things that have resonated in my life.  I have decided to add one new lesson each year, for the rest of my life.  Maybe you will find some of these useful, challenging, entertaining, inspiring, or thought-provoking.  Better yet, maybe one of them will be a catalyst to move you to do that next thing you know you need to do.

  1. I’ve come a long way, but I’ve still got a way to go yet.
  2. Up ain’t easy, but it sure is worth it. Exceptional moments come with a steep price most are unwilling to pay.
  3. We are called to the abundant life, not the redundant life. Change and risks are necessary – get used to them; embrace them, and enjoy the adventure.
  4. Life is a series of sacrifices. You can make selfish, short-term sacrifices on the altars of idols and the gratification is almost immediate but short-lived; or you can make selfless, long-term sacrifices on the one true God’s altar and the payoff may be delayed, but it will echo throughout all eternity.
  5. A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it is the basic structure of a good story (and a good life).
  6. All investments are costly on the front end, but bad investments are costly on the back end too.
  7. Prepare a good plan. Pray about it. Think about it. Bounce it off other people and get good counsel. Then work the plan. Do it in the right order, at the right time and with the right people.
  8. Every long journey and every difficult task is a matter of steps.
  9. 40 Year high school reunions aren’t just for old folks anymore, and thank goodness most of us have grown up since high school.
  10. Music is a time machine and the 70’s had the best music. But it’s too bad drugs killed most of the great musicians.
  11. “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” G.K. Chesterton
  12. As you get older, you have to make a lot of hard decisions and do difficult things. That is known as responsibility – that tough adult stuff.
  13. As your metabolism slows down the calendar speeds up.
  14. Get (self) out of the way, follow (Jesus) and (then) lead.
  15. People are listening and watching. Don’t do or say stupid stuff! They just might follow your example.
  16. Having children of your own will teach you more about God’s love for you than all the sermons you will hear in your lifetime.
  17. The older I get, the more wisdom and patience I recognize in how my parents raised me.
  18. Hindsight gives insight. Most of the gain in life does come at the price of pain and sacrifice.
  19. Lessons learned the hard way are remembered best.
  20. Marrying my wife is the most important decision I ever made, other than following Jesus.
  21. There are a lot of beautiful places in this world, and I’ve still got a lot I have not seen yet.  Never stop exploring.
  22. Everyone has some expertise I don’t, and I can learn something from everyone if I will listen and pay attention.
  23. “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men” Proverbs 22:29
  24. An extraordinary life has never been lived in the comfort zone.
  25. Timing is critical. We often pray for the tasks, but rarely for the timing.
  26. My children have been such a joy in my life; it is hard to imagine what grandchildren will be like.
  27. Every day, I mediate my past with my future. My past has prepared me for my future. If I pay close attention, there are themes which will lead me to my dreams.
  28. God has a sense of humor. The things that used to scare me most are now areas where I find some of my greatest joy.
  29. “’He must increase, but I must decrease.’” John 3:30
  30. The great tension in life is to live fearlessly without dying foolishly.
  31. Our lives are telling a story, so we need to live a compelling one what will make the “readers” want to stay engaged in the story. Chapters will end and new ones will begin, with different characters and settings. Make your story worth being told. Live a great story!
  32. There is a lot of truth in the butterfly principle: it is the struggle that strengthens us.
  33. BUSY – Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke. “If the Devil can’t make us really bad, then he’ll try to make us really busy.” Craig Groeschel
  34. Hiking is cheaper than therapy.
  35. The things that bother me most about other people are usually a mirror God uses to reveal something ugly about myself that needs to change.
  36. Spend more time with your parents. They won’t always be here, and you will miss them terribly when they are gone.
  37. Encourage people every chance you get. Life is hard and everyone is going through something difficult.
  38. When you think about telling someone you appreciate them, take the opportunity to do so. You may not have another chance in the future.
  39. You cannot be an overcomer without obstacles to overcome.
  40. There are lessons in life which are best taught in losses. If you can learn from your losses you gain wisdom never attained in wins.
  41. Don’t worry about little stuff. Most of it is little stuff.
  42. Every season is beautiful. Enjoy the unique beauty of each season and don’t waste time bemoaning the change.
  43. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams
  44. One of the best ways to earn the respect of others is to show them respect.
  45. Our emotions greatly influence our decisions. It is said the major emotions are: sadness, anger, disgust, fear and joy. The negatives outnumber the positives 4-1. Do you think we need an objective opinion or two before making important decisions which are charged with emotions?
  46. Do the things on your bucket list before you are too old or sick to do them.
  47. If you want to be outstanding, you have to stand out. That means you will necessarily be different from the rest of the herd.
  48. Take action. Talk is cheap. God says “Well done,” not “Well spoken or well thought.”
  49. “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost;…” R.R. Tolkien
  50. Both courage and cowardice are contagious.
  51. “Most Christians are being crucified on a cross between two thieves: Yesterday’s regret and tomorrow’s worries.” Warren W. Wiersbe
  52. Set goals; then, begin and continue on toward those goals with the end in mind.
  53. Freely forgive, and that includes forgiveness for yourself.
  54. Find your calling, whatever it may be, and pursue excellence in it with a passion.
  55. If people would quit calling and hiring the lawyers with all the TV commercials and billboards, we wouldn’t have to look at so many lawyers with TV commercials and billboards.
  56. Make your unique mark in this world. Make it hard to erase and impossible to forget.
  57. There is a mountain for every man
    Something just beyond “I know I can.”
    Adventure beckons – this special call
    Requiring man’s best, his all in all.
  58. Thank God for His love, grace, generosity and patience with me, and may I demonstrate each of these to others today.
  59. Give people the respect they deserve and the grace they don’t.
  60. “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Ben Franklin
  61. As you live a great story, tell that story. Who knows, you might just inspire someone to begin an epic adventure.
  62. Becoming a grandparent was one of the few things in life that was every bit as wonderful as everyone said it would be.  I think there is just something incredibly special about the potential for influencing a third generation with the wisdom accumulated over the course of your lifetime, while at the same time seeing the wonder of this world through a child’s eyes.  Grandchildren just confirm the genius of God’s idea for overlapping generations.

Well, now that I have reached the required age, I think I’ll purchase a Seniors National Park Pass. Let the adventures begin!

Posted by: hikerdude | August 25, 2020

Love, Love, LIVE

This past Sunday night, our church, Midway, had an online night of worship. Our very talented and anointed Midway Music team played their new song, Highs and Lows. It was great! They led the online audience in some wonderful worship. Then, we had a guest appearance from one of my favorite storytellers/worship artists, Matthew West. He shared his amusing new song, Quarantine Life, along with some of his other hits. Then, we heard from Garrett Hornbuckle, as he shared about a trip he took to Africa, and how he was led to sponsor a child through World Vision. I was so moved by his story of how sponsoring a child for $39 a month could change lives. We had been sponsors in the past, but it had been a while.

I thought of how God has been so good to us. My word for 2020 was “blessed.” We have been so blessed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with our health; my work as a lawyer being deemed “essential,” so I have been able to continue helping my clients get justice; my 2nd career as a mediator at Peace Like A River being able to continue and prosper through Zoom; the birth of our first grandchild, Preston Daniel Carpenter; financial blessings; an invitation to return to the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council; an opportunity to speak at an upcoming legal seminar; the sale of Terri’s Mom’s house; our church family being able to continue to connect online; and so many other blessings.

I have always believed we are blessed to be a blessing. So, I felt like God was leading me to sponsor a child through World Vision. They made it so easy. All you had to do was text “LIVE” to the number and you would be sent instructions on how to give. So, I typed in “Live” on my I phone. I sent the message, but it sent “Love” instead of “Live.” I did it again, this time being very careful as I manually typed in “Live.” I double-checked my spelling, and hit the send arrow. It sent “Love” again. So, one more time, I typed in “LIVE,” all-caps this time. It went through this time. It sent a message back giving me the opportunity to sponsor Makhala in Lesotho. Isn’t she a cutie? A new investment- but this time in a little girl in South Africa, instead of a certain company in Cupertino. This morning I Googled Lesotho and learned it is a country in South Africa, made up of 2/3 mountains.

How appropriate! You know, they call the phones we now have “smart phones.” I have often said mine is a “smarter than me phone.” Well, yesterday, it certainly was. It sent Love twice before it let me send money. World Vision even says it, “Love comes first. Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve all people. No matter their religion, ethnicity, or gender.” Love, Love, LIVE!If you would like to change a life with love, you can do so here:

Posted by: hikerdude | August 6, 2020

Reflections on Raoul and a Remarkable Experience


Terri and I love eating at Stacks when we go to Hilton Head Island.  Not only are their portions generous, their prices reasonable, and a place where Terri can get delicious gluten-free pancakes, but they also have great service.  We were so glad to see they had not fallen victim to the COVID-19 closures, like so many of our other favorite restaurants on the island.  Well, actually they had been closed for about 1 ½ months prior to our arrival, bur had recently reopened.  We learned this from our waiter, Raoul.

Raoul, provided us with remarkable service.  Our coffee never got cool, because our cups were frequently refilled, without us having to flag him down.  He was so attentive, quick to respond to any request we made, and he did all this with enthusiasm and such an outstanding attitude.  In short, we received remarkable service.  It was such contrast to some of our recent restaurant experiences where the waiter/waitress would disappear for long stretches of time, forget to bring something we had requested, or just failed at the basics like bring us our silverware.  Some of these folks seemed to be annoyed they even had to be there.  But that was not the case with Raoul.  Maybe it was this stark contrast which made Raoul stand out.

When Raoul returned to our table, I decided to share our observations with him.  I called him by name.  It is a sign of respect when we call someone by name.  Remember that.  I commented on his outstanding attentiveness, and praised his for his joyful attitude as he did his work.  I asked him how long he had worked there. He told us he had been there for four years.  I asked him about whether they had to shut down for COVID-19, and he told us they closed for 1 ½ months.  It is also a sign of respect when you ask someone to tell you a little of their story.  You could tell Raoul was happy Stacks was open again.  You could tell he has thankful to have a job.  It was clearly evident this man considered himself blessed to be in the United States of America.  That was another contrast which made him remarkable.

As we got ready to leave, when Raoul brought us our to-go boxes for the abundant portions we received, I handed him a $20 bill for his tip (which was almost 50% of the bill).  I thanked him for his outstanding attitude, and over-all service.  We were there for just a few more minutes, and I could not help but observe Raoul had a little more spring in his step and was even more friendly at a nearby table. I even overheard the couple talking about Raoul’s service as he stepped away to get their coffee. Maybe, just maybe, my small gesture of appreciation and praise made his day.  He certainly made mine.  And perhaps, if we all began to remark on the remarkable, we might make the remarkable more contagious than any virus or attitude of victim-hood.

Posted by: hikerdude | June 10, 2020

A Mediator’s Prayer for the Protests

HHI8.16 062As we have seen wide-spread protests in cities around our country following the death of George Floyd, what should our response be as the Christian community? I believe we need to transform the protests into a heartfelt prayer movement. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Our country needs a healing touch from heaven. This is a unique opportunity for our country. The world is watching. What will they see? I hope they will see a people united in prayer instead of widening a great divide of us vs. them.

Prayer for the Protesters
Father, I pray for those who are protesting. There is so much anger, hurt, and frustration over a long history of racial injustice and inequality. Help their petitions to be heard. Help us to be understanding. Help us to hear their stories. Help us to be able to imagine the fear, frustration, and hopelessness that is fueling this movement. Help us to address the issues which need to be addressed. I pray that You might lead young people who want to do something about these problems to address them by literally joining law enforcement as a career and become the compassionate, guardians of the peace they want to see on their streets in the future. Keep the peaceful protesters safe from any form of violence directed at them. Help them to not answer violence and hate with more of the same. Help them to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by peaceful protests, which will carry their message with the power and authority of a righteous cause. Help them to respect lawful authority with the same respect they expect for themselves. Help them to overcome any prejudice in their hearts that they may have against the police in general, and to not give in to the small thinking that all polices officers are oppressor. Father, I pray that voices of reason will lead, without any other agenda, other than to help us grow, to be prosperous, and to become a beacon of hope for those who desire justice for all who call this great country their home.

Prayer for the Police
Father, I also offer up this prayer for the police and other law enforcement authorities. First, I pray for their safety. Keep them safe from injury. These brave men and women put their lives on the line to serve and protect us and our property every day. May they be healthy – in their bodies, minds, and spirits. May they return home after each shift to their families. I pray that you would give them patience and understanding for the people who are protesting. Give them the courage of character to not be provoked into violent reactions to the cruel, hateful actions of agitators. Help them to have great wisdom and discernment so that they might be able to detect and lawfully remove those who would cause harm to: (1) those whose aim it is to peacefully protest; (2) law enforcement officials; (3) the members of the press; (4) residents and onlookers; (5) the property and businesses in the area. Give them the strength and endurance to be guardians of the peace, for as long as these protests continue. I pray that those who harbor hate and resentment for any people group would be rooted out and removed from every department. Help them to police their own, and to help remove those who dishonor their badge. Help them to see the value and potential of every human life. Help them to apply laws equally, fairly, and with integrity. Help them to regain the respect and even admiration of their communities. Help them to be appreciated. Help them to feel appreciated. Help them to finish each shift with the pride of a job well done. Help them to receive just compensation for the difficult, demanding, and essential services they provide to us.

Prayer for Our Leaders
Father, please give our leaders the wisdom, discernment and good judgement to guide our cities, states, and this nation through this period of social unrest and turmoil. God, may great leaders arise and stand out in such a time as this. Help them to use appropriate measures to stop the lawlessness, while balancing this with respecting the rights of the people to free speech and peacefully assemble. Help them to hear and heed the voices calling for the application of equal justice for all. Help them to have solutions for the problems. Help them to have the confidence of those under their command. Help them to enforce the rule of law. Help them to have pure hearts, and to never use this crisis for making political points. Help them to give the people appropriate forums for their grievances to be heard. Help them to not accept the easy answers of political expediency. Help them to be sure due process is given to all, including suspected criminals, protesters and police. Help them to have the courage to guide those under their charge in a way that protects our citizens, our businesses, our memorials, our history, and our future.

Prayer for the Press
Father, we thank you for a free press, so that we may be informed. We pray that the members of the press would report the news objectively, and not seek to become of the object of the reporting. We pray that they would report the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I pray they would have the courage to report the things with which they philosophically disagree. I pray they would report good news, and not just sensational bad news for the purpose of ratings. I pray they would speak and act responsibly, and they would recognize the power and authority they have to shape the narrative in our nation.

Prayer for the Rest of Us
Father, I pray that each of us would seek to understand before we seek to be understood. May we seek righteousness with the same zeal, passion and fervor with which we seek to be right. May the truth be revealed and may justice be served. May we overcome any bias or prejudice in our hearts and diligently seek to become a better nation. May we pray for those in positions of authority, especially when we disagree with them. May we see the value of every human life. May we collectively mourn the death of the numerous law enforcement personnel and accord them due respect. May we have to capacity to imagine walking around in the skin of those with which we disagree. May we feel the hurt of those who are misunderstood. May we help where we can. May we overcome our emotions to think clearly and logically. May we find ways to be bridge builders instead of burning them down with inflammatory comments or actions. May we be instruments of Your peace, spreading love, and not hate.

America is far from perfect. However, I challenge you to name one other country you had rather live in. Do you think there is another country in the world that would allow protests for change the way we have? Let us discourage the destruction and disruption in our cities. Let us engage in a productive dialogue. Let us speak the truth in love, not hate. Let us work together to become better. This is the beginning of a new day. Let us show the world we are the United States of America, one nation under God, indivisible, providing liberty and justice for all.

Posted by: hikerdude | June 1, 2020

Mockingbird Musings: What Would Atticus Say?

Mockingbird (2)

Like many lawyers my age, I have always aspired to be the kind of attorney Atticus Finch was in the classic book, To Kill A Mockingbird.  Gregory Peck played him to perfection in the movie.  Atticus was wise.  He was moral.  He cared about his clients.  He was understanding of their diverse backgrounds and how it shaped them.  He wasn’t in the law to just make money.  He didn’t keep time sheets.  He was the epitome of the country lawyer/philosopher.  Injustice aroused his anger.  Racism and prejudice were two of the things he wanted to eliminate from the world his children would grow up in.  He was a skilled advocate for his client Tom Robinson, a black man wrongfully accused of raping a white woman.  And despite his best efforts, Tom was convicted, and subsequently killed after he escaped.  Atticus was respected by most of the community, and misunderstood by some.  He was the archetype attorney for the age before billboards, and annoying TV ads invaded our lives, forever damaging the image of the profession.  He cared more for justice than catchy jingles, and you would never have seen him advertising on the back of a city bus.


We have a mockingbird at our house.  It has a nest in a big shrub at the back corner of our home.  It stands guard over our deck from a dogwood tree.  I’m pretty sure it is some sort of Finch (ironically) that it tries to keep away from the leftover cat food.  Speaking of cats, it has been known to dive-bomb them if they get too close to her nest.  And it surveys its kingdom from our cupola.  When it sings, you understand the story shared by Atticus’ daughter, Scout, a/k/a Jean Louise.  “Atticus said to Jem one day, ‘I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. ‘Your father’s right,’ she said. ‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.'”


I was out waking this Sunday morning, after having seen a second night of protests in Atlanta on TV.  I heard our mockingbird sing from its diverse repertoire.  I watched it sitting atop the Peace Dove weather vane on our cupola.  It is an exact replica of the one George Washington had at Mount Vernon.  What else would you expect at the home of a college history major, whose mediation practice is called Peace Like A River?  It was at that moment I began to wonder, what words would Atticus Finch share about the racial tensions of 2020?


First, I expect he would logically, but passionately explain to his children what a tragedy it was that George Floyd was senselessly killed by a policeman, a sworn peace officer, whose duty it was to serve and protect.  I think he would tell them that there was no excuse he could think of as to why it happened, and that he was glad he had not been appointed to represent the man, who had already been charged in his murder.  He would tell them that like any other defendant in America, he had a right to a trial, and that it was wrong for us to ever rush to judgement without hearing all the evidence.  He would explain that is where we get our word “prejudice,” which means to pre-judge.  I think he would tell them that based on what he had seen from the video, the policeman was probably looking at a loss of his freedom for many years, and that Mr. Floyd’s family would likely receive a large sum of money in a separate civil case.  He would tell them that our justice system has no way to adequately compensate or punish people where someone is wrongfully killed, but our system was the best anyone had come up with thus far.


He would tell them that too many young black men had lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement officers, and something needed to be done to stop it.  He would tell them about body camera suggestions to keep people accountable.  He would tell them that more training needed to be provided, to help the men and women in law enforcement to properly handle arrests and confrontations.  I believe he would tell them that there are bad people in every line of work, who will not do their jobs well, who will abuse their power, and who will cause harm to others.  But he would caution them that just because one person in a group commits a wrong, it would be equally wrong to lump all members of that group into the classification of “bad actors.”  Contrary to what some factions would have you believe, not all policeman are killers, just like not all young black men are thugs.  Not all whites are racist, and not all blacks are criminals.  Far from it, the vast majority of people are decent folks who want to abide by the law, want to live in peace, and want everyone to be treated fairly and equally.  He would again warn his children that to assume the worst about people different from them is unacceptable prejudice which would not be tolerated.


Then, I think he would remind them, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” As a mediator, myself, I could appreciate that line of thinking.  Next, I believe he would suggest they try on some different skin and walk around in it for a while.  First, he would probably insist that they wear a black man’s skin in the big city.  He would have them imagine the fear they might experience whenever they encountered a law enforcement officer, in light of other black men who had died in police custody in the past.  Then, he would have them consider what it must be like to know the history of unequal treatment under the law, as well as the daily dangers of the street where a stray bullet from gang violence might cut your life short at any moment.  He would help them consider the frustrations of unemployment, or maybe a lack of a male role model, or the love of a father in the home.  He would make sure they understood, black lives matter.


Then, he might have them slip on some other skin – that of a police officer.  He might have them think what it would be like to risk your life every day, at a pretty low rate of pay.  He might have them consider the lack of respect that is shown by the public they are serving because of actions that had been taken by other uniformed officers they have never even met.  He would probably have them think about what it would be like to have your split-second life or death decisions dissected with the benefit of hindsight and digital, slow-motion, instant replay.  He might have them consider the fellow officers who had lost their lives in the line of duty.  He would probably have them consider what it would feel like to watch as a mob turned over your patrol car or set it on fire. He might have them dealing with a protest, where people are cursing you, throwing things at you (including human excrement) and trying to provoke something newsworthy they can capture on a cell phone’s camera.   He would probably have them consider how hot it would be to wear full riot gear and gas masks in a deep south city when it was in the 80s.  He would be sure they understood, blue lives matter.


Then, I suspect he would have them try on the skin of the innocent business and building owners in the areas of the protests.  He would have them consider what it must be like to be hanging on to your solvency by a thread because of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting closures, only to have hoodlums do great damage and loot your business.  I suspect he would have them consider the betrayal they might feel because they were a non-white entrepreneur, who took a chance putting their business in a downtown area, only to have people of their own race destroy their dream.  He would likely have them consider the hypocrisy of the people demanding justice, as they vandalize, loot, and lose all credibility with people who might otherwise be sympathetic to their cause.  He would make sure they understood, all lives and livelihoods matter.


He would probably tell them that it is wrong to stand by when you see an injustice and do nothing.  He would point out it was wrong that the other policemen failed to take action to intervene on behalf of George Floyd.  He would likewise point out that the peaceful protesters who stood by and did nothing while burning, looting, and vandalizing of property was taking place around were wrong too.  He would likely challenge his children to always speak up and take action where they could against such wrongs.  I expect he might share his hope that credible leaders in the black community would condemn the violence, vandalism and theft and call on cooperation from peaceful protesters to help the police bring justice for the victims of these crimes.


He might warn of the unforeseen ripple effects of the violence in the city streets across America.  He could point out the precarious budget shortfalls caused by the closures of businesses in recent months due to COVID-19, and how the overtime pay of extra law enforcement could lead to the bankruptcy of big cities, causing an economic spiral which could cost jobs, pensions and services.  He might predict this climate leading to the exodus of good jobs from the cities and good men from the job of being police officers.  He would likely warn of the danger of unfit men being the only ones willing to wear a police uniform, and the resulting consequences of an unending cycle of violence in war zones once known as downtown America.  He would probably observe that the statement, “No justice, no peace,” is a catchy slogan that is leading to even more injustice, which threatens to carry America into an endless, destructive escalation of the chaos and anarchy.


He would explain to his children that most folks had a spelling problem when it came to justice.  Too many people think it is “just us;” as in justice is for people just like us – who look like us, who think like us, who act like us, and who live like us.  But justice is supposed to be for everybody, everywhere, all the time – and especially when you are mad about an injustice which has not yet been addressed.


Atticus might end his message to his children today by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  He also observed, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  I think he might have them imagine Dr. King shedding a tear for his message of nonviolence being perverted and hijacked, resulting in more senseless deaths and even the burning of a church.


It would be hard to be Atticus Finch today.  Even our mockingbird makes me mad sometimes when it decorates our cupula with bird dropping from its perch on the Peace Dove.  If you look closely at the photo above, you can see the white splatter on what my son, Grant, nicknamed the poopula.  I just have to remind myself of the wisdom and patience of Atticus and the grace God shows all of us, His imperfect people.


Posted by: hikerdude | May 16, 2020

Twelve More Random Thoughts from the Trail

Waterfall at High Falls

  1. Lord, I sure do miss handshakes, hugs, and huge crowds at ballgames.
  2. Too much stuff makes it hard to find what you need. I know there was bug spray in my backpack somewhere.
  3. When planning for the future, talk to people who have been where you want to go.
  4. OK, I get our ears growing bigger as we get older so we can hear better. But what’s with this hair migration and accelerated growth in my ears and nostrils?
  5. I am about to find out if grandkids really are as great as everyone says they are.
  6. I wonder if there are places so remote that they are oblivious to the whole COVID-19 pandemic, and they wonder why they got a big check from the government?
  7. Is there a use for old broken-down tractors other than as a front yard ornament? I bet the answer is not on Pinterest.
  8. How helpful is a bright red fire hydrant by your house if the closest fire station is 30 miles away? I guess maybe they probably help with giving directions.
  9. BBQ joints have the best No Smoking signs.  “No Smoking Please!!!! The only butts that are smoked in this building are pork.” – Marie’s BBQ, Heflin, AL
  10. Technology on the trail is handy, especially went you want to get a group pic. I sure am glad the numbers on my smartphone screen are big, so this older hiker can see the countdown numbers for the time-delay photos.
  11. The trail is much more enjoyable than a treadmill.
  12. You are 90% less likely to catch COVID-19 outdoors than indoors. Direct sunlight kills the virus. Studies have shown having healthy levels of Vitamin D (which we get naturally outside) can protect patients against severe complications, including death, from COVID-19.  Get outdoors, people!
Posted by: hikerdude | May 15, 2020

Thirty Random Thoughts from the Trail

Mountain Laurel Moments

  1. A simple walk in the woods with friends will do wonders for your weary soul. Sometimes we just need to do some social distancing from cities, and the rest of a scared society.
  2. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world forever, in ways we are yet to fully comprehend.
  3. There is a transition, a shift, that takes place in a man’s life in his late 50s and early 60s. As you begin to slow down, you will see things differently.  You will appreciate the contributions made in your life by those who came before you.  And you should want to have a similar positive impact in others’ lives during the fourth quarter of your time on earth.  Finish well!
  4. Take some side-trails on your journey. It takes longer, but you’ll be glad you did.
  5. High school graduation is a big deal at the time. The Class of 2020 can either carry the grief of their loss for the rest of their lives, or embrace the uniqueness of their experience.
  6. A dreary start to your day does not mean you can’t have a bluebird day.
  7. Leaders will lead. It is in their nature. You know them because you will find yourself following them – whether it is on a trail or in a trial.
  8. If the first part of your journey is all uphill, the return will be much easier.
  9. Generous, thoughtful people will bring refreshment to your life. Find those people and spend time with them.
  10. Everyone should build a house, at least once, during their lifetime.  It is a creative act.  It is in your dream, your vision, and that is where you will spend your future.  A wise man will take heed of the wishes of his wife.
  11. Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t let the exceptional moments ruin your other experiences.
  12. An understanding, thoughtful wife will make a man’s difficult work and burdens much easier.
  13. A man who works within his calling in his life is a blessed man. When the work gets hard, he knows this is what he was made to do.  Purpose and passion will help you persevere.
  14. We all have our areas of gifting. When those giftings are brought together on a team, the world becomes a better place.
  15. Beauty MUST be pursued.
  16. Don’t let the fear of potential dangers steal your opportunity for a great experience.
  17. Your plans WILL sometimes be interrupted. Plan anyway.
  18. Timing is a big deal. A well-timed excursion enriches your life.  I call those Mountain Laurel moments.
  19. Investing in the future becomes more of a focus later in life, whether it is financial, friendships, or the next generation.
  20. Write it down. We forget special memories over time, and our lives are much richer when we can relive and reflect on our life experiences.
  21. Savor friendships. God puts some special people in our lives on purpose, at the right time.  Don’t get too busy to appreciate this gift God has given you.
  22. Share good books with your friends. You may never know the ripple effects this may have in eternity.
  23. I love spending time with history lovers.
  24. Hiking is cheaper than therapy, and talking to your buds on the trail will keep you off the couch.
  25. A clear mountain stream helps you see life more clearly.
  26. Take pictures and share your experiences, but know there is no way to fully share an experience unless you are present in that present moment.
  27. Never stop teaching others. Never stop reaching yourself.  Live a great story. There are no re-writes.
  28. We spend too much of modern-day life on the pavement. You never know what awaits you on a drive down a dusty dirt road.  It is good to get off the grid. When we lose cell service, we can find ourselves.
  29. All those coincidences in your life come together to shape your story because there is an amazing Author Who not only loves the character He has created, but also has a compelling theme, plot-twists, and a surprise ending in store for them.
  30. Nothing tops off an outdoor outing better than BBQ and sweet tea. But when a world-wide pandemic limits your options to drive-thru, refrain from ordering ribs if you’re the one driving.

There are two special friends who will recognize the genesis of these random thoughts.  Thank you, Todd Wright and Steve Schneider, for joining me on this journey into our golden years.  Your friendship is a treasured gift from God.


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