20 years later, I still miss Henry… (A piece of you may too.)

His family knew him as Henry.

You know him as John.

In 1943, delivered a Deutschendorf.

In 1997, died a Denver.

A random day in 1973.  I’m a 4-year-old bouncing in the passenger seat of my Dad’s 18-wheeler on a narrow road after a long day.  My heart jumps as the radio plays, “Take me home… to the place… I belong…”  Same Scenario a year later.  Dad & I belt another one out together over the diesel engine’s roar, “Life on the farm is kind of laid back.  Ain’t nothin’ a country boy like me can’t hack.  Early to rise. Early to the sack.”  22-more years finds Dad & I a few rows from the stage singing with John Denver (and a few thousand others) at a live concert.   The older I grew the more deeply I identify with his lyrics like no on else’s.
 
Countless times since, at least weekly, heading home from work, I’ll sing along with or without John, “There’s a fire softly burning, The supper is on the stove, It’s the light in your eyes that makes me warm… Hey, it’s good to be back home again
 
If anyone wrote and sang the soundtrack for my life, it was John Denver.
Each year more details surface like a continual discovery of winding yet parallel tracks.  A persistent revelation of the resonating lyrics in my youth were simply reflections of similar paths.
  • A deep appreciation for all that creation offered, it’s ruggedness, it’s fragility, it’s resilience, it’s beauty.
  • The allure of a good chord progression, paired with a simple melody and an alternating base line.
  • The joy of being rooted in generational thinking, doing what we can to make a difference, and leaving a legacy for our prodigy.
  • The calling to be a champion of the environment, wildlife and the fascination of capturing it all with a camera lense.
  • The eternally optimistic perspective that a live performance can infuse an audience towards a positive change.
  • Performing for the sole reason of sharing all the joy we feel in living.
  • Blissfully enjoying the magic & metaphor of expressing yourself through the love of flying.
Ultimately, John’s excitement and exuberance to fly was a factor in his untimely passing.
People often ask me,
“So, what really lead to John’s untimely death?”
1. He was an experienced pilot with multiple ratings in multiple planes.
2. His plane was a proven design created by world renowned designer Burt Rutan.
3. His plane’s well intended builder included an improvement that was ultimately questioned.
4. This modification was a factor that led to similar emergency situations for the 2-previous owners.
5. The modification was a main factor in a series of descisions that led to John’s incident.
I remain grateful for all that John Denver has contributed.  What a privilege to live in an era where we can relive John Denver’s musical & lyrical contributions instantly.   As I celebrate John Denver’s life today these thoughts streak through my mind like the Perseids.  In sporadic poignant succession…  Each followed by another…
  • Today matters.
  • Each moment matters.
  • Each thought that guides each decision matters.
  • Every decision we make matters.
  • We are not promised tomorrow.
  • One thought can minimize or even end our tomorrows.
  • We are all dreamers and doers that live out-loud, and that matters.
  • Dot each “I”, Cross every “T”.
  • Follow a master designer.
  • Know and thrive in your own context.
  • Give freely to others.
  • Love with reckless abandon.
  • Sing with all your heart, out loud & even off key.
  • Freely and vulnerably share your love with others.
  • Our thoughts and decisions effect our lifespan.
  • The longer we stick around, the more time we resinate with those who enjoy us most.
  • Recording our heart and our art, others can relive and enjoy… even after we pass.
  • It’s a great life,
  • Celebrate it all.
 
 
“I’ve been lately thinking about my life’s time,
All the things I’ve done, how it’s been been.
The ways that it should be, The ways that it could be,
Things I’d do differently if I could do it all again”
And I have to say it now,
It’s been a good life all in all,
Its really fine to have a chance to hang around.
 Lie there by the fire and watch the evening tire,
While all my friends and my old lady sit and watch the sun go down.
How sweet it is to love someone,
How right it is to care.
All our dreams and the memories we share.”
 John Denver 12/31/43 – 10/12/97

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When Kids Resonate.

For as long as I can remember my kids have been animal magnets.   Is it hereditary?… environmental?… Or did they grow up in a barn?

Ana & Piper

Ana & Piper

Yes to All 3.  Before they could walk, they were cuddling delicate furry creatures.  Kristen intentionally raised them to be gentle, kind, and loving.

Her influence is clearly evident as you watch my kids sensitively approach an animal. They start with a whisper in the animal’s own language.  Then they lower their head, round their shoulders, and look down to the left with an extended upheld palm….  The majority of animals find this irresistible and before long they are basking in the cuddles of my glowing kids.

Grant & Joy

Grant & Jasmine

Today I told my daughter that as a dad, it is so gratifying to see her in her element!   “Daddy, What does that mean?”  “It’s your sweet spot”, I explained, “your happy place.”

Then I paraphrased Ken Robinson’s definition from his book, “The Element: How Finding your Passion Changes Everything” 

“They have discovered their element — the place where the things you love to do and the things you’re good at come together. The Element is a different way of defining our own potential.” – Sir Ken Robinson

 

I snapped these pics today and the more I looked at them, the more I realized…

My kids are so much closer to their authentic selves when they are caring for animals.

When your kids are in their element, they are literally resonating with the creator-living their intended purpose while vibrating at a divine frequency – remaining other’s-focused and characterized by love.  Yes, they get the by-product of the joy and benefit from the encounter with the furry creature, but the creature is the focused recipient of this outward love.  What a concept!

Then a question hits me even deeper…

What is it like for God when he observes us, empowered by His love, caring for others?

I imagine that it must be a nonstop joy-fest for Him.  Surely, with 2.2 billion people on earth professing faith in God, there must be at least thousands, at any given point, actively loving others.

My kids acted on the impulses their parents have taught and modeled.  Then we experienced extreme joy observing their gentle intimate moments. As this dad smiled over his kids thriving in their element, I think I caught a glimpse of what it’s like to be God. It was really sweet, fun, and quite fulfilling.

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Do I treasure these pictures? Yes!  Are they in their element?  Yes.   Are they loving life?  They say yes.

But, even more…

I look forward to the day that the pictures reveal a deeper level of joy-fulfillment and purpose.  A day when each of our kids, with their gentle hands, warm smiles, and content expressions, find themselves so comfortably and so peacefully embracing…their spouse.

You know we’ll be overflowing, and I’m certain God will too.  You can be sure that Kristen and I will share our collective joy by posting those pictures as well.  Friends who have been there, say it’s just a few quick blinks away.  May we all remain fully aware in each moment that we have together,  while we have it.

My friends,  It’s a beautiful life.  Savor it all.

God?…. Hormones?…. Or all of the above?

Opening my eyes this morning I started to focus out the window on the crisp blue darkness just prior to twilight…

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Then it hit me!…

At his moment, 20-years ago, I was on the highest of highs!  One of the very few times that God spoke directly to me, undeniably.  For those who believe in a God that loves you wildly & specifically, you may find this encouraging.  If God is something you don’t believe in, you can chalk these details up to my blissful ignorance… & hormones!

It was November 9, 1995.  I had been talking with a young lady from Concord, NC for almost 3 months.  I was beyond flattered that she drove the 550 miles north to visit this “guy from NJ”.  We talked the night away: life experiences, family cultures, and life’s twists & turns.   As the morning hours progressed:  The depths of life, celebrations, regrets, distinctions, and then lengthy pondering  about her imminent  2-year term as a tutor in the south of India.

Sunrise November 9, 2015

Sunrise November 9, 2015

At 5:45AM we looked towards the window and saw the night transitioning to twilight.  Without skipping a beat Kristen innocently suggested that we go watch the sun rise in my favorite field close by.  Those words were the most romantic words I had ever heard!  Conversation continued as I pointed my Ford Bronco towards the brightest point on the horizon.

As the sun came up conversation awkwardly ceased.  Sleep deprivation combined with sharing our life stories and apparent mutual ambitions seemed to reach an overflow point…. and we both realized it.  I vividly recall the blur as I exited the truck and floated around to open her door.  As the sun crept higher and the embrace wonderfully prolonged, that’s when I experienced the audible voice of God in a depth and dimension like never before.  A voice so gentle – yet compelling me to the deepest of my core…I felt an immediate change in my stature, as if instantly growing from the inside out… as if I transitioned to another level of manhood in a simple few seconds…

The words simply were, “She is for you, Take care of Her

Twilight - November 9, 2015

Twilight – November 9, 2015

In the 20 years since,  Life has been an amazing journey.  Certain lows and countless highs.  3-Children that reflect so many of our traits.  Traits that make us laugh & shake our heads.  Traits that make our heads shake as jaws drop in amazement.  They are always up to something fun.

Kristen has a fierce loyalty, unwavering integrity, and a diligence that I never saw coming.  The people that enjoy who I am professionally from the stage are actually enjoying much of her in me.  I simply couldn’t be who I am without her.  I gave Kristen Joy Kerwood my last name, and she in turn gave me her middle.

I’ll never forget those words.

She is for you.  Take care of her.

Our family’s best times are when we:

  1.   Accept each as our own.
  2.   Take care of each other.

If 20-years is a score, Here’s to 4-score more!

And may the generations pass the baton!!!

Why I don’t say, “I Love You.”

Valentines Day…

For many, it’s a day when dreams can come true.
For others, it’s a day to stear clear of restaurants, florists and Hallmark stores. For some, a day of nervous anticipation of how to focus and express feelings. And for a few, it’s a reminder that love and life aren’t quite as Disney drew.

Heart 1

Although starting with butterflies in your stomach, big red heart cards, and dinners on the town….romantic love can be fickle. Objectively speaking romantic love fluctuates. (If you are 14-19 years old, and totally-madly-in-love, this does not apply to you!!!) As the dynamics of life’s seasonal challenges play out, the range of romanticism often reacts accordingly.

Sacrificial love is something completely different.  It is characterized as of recent by two sweet friends, Bob & Stacey, as they limp along the cruel world of the “C” word.  Stacey’s commitment to Bob is authenticated as late nights of chemo and morphine turn to sleepless mornings beyond tears to utter weariness.  Commitment beyond the uncomfortable, while I write and remaining committed as you read. Uncertain of exactly what tomorrow may hold… but certain of the sacrifice along the way.

narrow bridge

Sacrificially loving Kristen is the promise I made… (Remember for better or worse, richer or poorer, till death do us part?) Like most, our wedding vows detailed the security of trusting that the relational commitment would transcend finances, health & seasons of challenge.

Opportunity lies in the security of knowing that the one you walk with is just as committed to walk with you no matter the weight of your pack or the terrain under foot. The resulting joy in the journey is rooted in the security of knowing that you are there for each other.

couple sunset hike

As I consider the gravity of this… a simple, “I love you” tends to sound trite. As if restating the obligatory and obvious.

If we’re living in the joy of the journey.  If our commitment to each other in the many victories remains as secure in the darker challenges as well, That’s true bliss!  To verbalize my truest deepest admiration for and joy of being on this journey with Kristen, I don’t say, “I love you…” I sincerely say…

“I really enjoy being with you!”

In my crazy way of thinking love is not something you say, it’s something you live every day. Not as much in what is scheduled on the calendar… but how we relate with each other in between, choosing to enjoy the challenging processes of life… covering for each other’s weakness while depending on each other’s strengths. This is where the enjoyment of being together lives.

stock-footage-couple-holding-hands-hiking-outdoors-at-romantic-sunset-hikers-man-and-woman-lovers-trekking

Every relationship is a work in progress,
May yours and mine accelerate in joy as we all…

Enjoy the journey of loving life and living in love.