My Complements

It is not good for the man to be alone,
I will make a helper suitable [exer kenegdo] for him.”
Genesis 2:18

good translation for ezer islifesaver.Kenegdo means “alongside of, a counterpart.” Counterpart: one of two parts that fit, complete or complement one another.

For the second time in my life the Lord has complemented me. Her name is Cindy. She’s from Illinois where she was born, grew up and taught school for more than 25 years.


To have another turn in the game of life after what I’ve been through in recent years is an unexpected blessing. To have a soul mate to share it with is the ultimate thrill. We plan to be married on June 14 in the dance studio where we met.

“Marriage isn’t about finding a person you can live with,
it’s about finding the
person you can’t live without.”
—S.J.D. Peterson

I found her.

The Ring

Dancing Between Tables

Comfort zone

When was the last time you stepped outside your comfort zone?

Last week Cindy and I went to a jazz concert featuring Tony Exum, Jr. at the Stargazers Theatre. When he invited the audience to dance, we were among the few who did, finding a wide spot between tables.

We were also among the few Anglos there, doing the East Coast Swing, Cha-Cha and Rhumba in a room full of African Americans. No doubt many of them were better dancers, but they remained seated—and we didn’t.

Guess who had more fun.

Mike and Cindy

Garth Brooks captures this spirit in one of my favorite songs, The River:

Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away
‘Til what we put off ’til tomorrow
Has now become today
So don’t you sit upon the shoreline
And say you’re satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance the tide.

Am I suggesting you jump out of a plane on a whim? My daughter did and got engaged on the way down. Or quit your dream job and move across country to raise your kids near family? My son did and later became one of 22 hires out of 1,200 applicants for the Denver Fire Department that year.

Not everything turns out well. Risks are risky for a reason. It’s definately safer to stay seated–but it’s way more fun to dance.

Go ahead; I dare you.

Enjoy Your Flight

I’ve tried to learn from life events beyond my control, including cancer and widowhood. I’ve thought deeply and written candidly about their physical and spiritual impact. While I’m unique, I’m not special. The view out my window may be different from yours but we’re headed in the same direction—from the past to the future—and we can encourage one another on the flight.

My chief encouragement is to remind you that we will be landing shortly—the title of my new book due out this spring. These days this truth doesn’t make me put my head between my knees and grab my ankles. Instead, I’m leaning forward in my seat, keeping my eyes and mind and heart open.

I still have character to develop, dreams to pursue, mysteries to ponder, relationships to nurture, adventures to share, sorrows to endure, dances to learn, wine to bottle and books to write, which I plan to leave in the seat pocket for curious and unsuspecting travelers.

Vaya con Dios.

Dancing with the Scars

Dance quote

On Valentine’s Day last year I underwent my third rotator cuff surgery and eighth surgery overall. It took weeks to recover and months to be able to lift my arm above my shoulder. I was on pain meds most of that spring and dropped to 143 pounds.

This Valentine’s weekend I was in a ballroom dancing showcase doing an East Coast Swing. It was my version of Dancing with the Scars. Making me look good was my partner, teacher and friend, Carmel Mortenson. She put her professional reputation on the line by dancing with me in public, for which I’m beyond grateful.

Carmel and Clint, my friend who first introduced me to dancing.

Carmel and Clint, my friend who first introduced me to dancing. (Ex-military, jump wings and all.)

Dancing is verboten for many because of its sensuality. Most men won’t even try it because of how silly and clumsy it can make you look. Their egos won’t risk it. I know guys who have spoken to thousands, played in sports stadiums, jumped out of planes and been in combat who wouldn’t be caught dead on a dance floor.

For me, dancing is therapeutic and life-affirming. It is physically and mentally challenging. It requires discipline and rewards commitment. Best of all, it connects you to some wonderful people.

Dance 1

What Does God Looks Like?

This is a trick question since God has no physical shape that can be reproduced in pixels or paint. It’s also a serious question since we think in images. We can’t help using our imaginations when we focus on God.

So what comes to mind when you think about God? Is it a clear picture you could recognize on paper, or a vague mosaic of metaphors, ideas and experiences?

In one of the most popular TED talks, Sir Ken Robinson tells the story of a little girl in a drawing class:

 She was six and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, “What are you drawing?” And the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will in a minute.”

Don’t you wish you could peek over her shoulder.

What Causes Happiness?

Positive psychology is the study of happiness. Psychology traditionally focused on dysfunction . . . Positive psychology, by contrast, is a relatively new field that examines how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled.—Psychology Today

Positive psychology got its start in the 1990s with the work of Dr. Martin Seligman. Vast amounts of time and money have since gone into tracking happiness to and from its lair. Some of the findings confirm ancient wisdom; others may surprise you:

GENETICS has a lot to do with the factory settings on our happiness dial.

CHOICES play a larger role in happiness than external factors.

CIRCUMSTANCES have little influence on lasting happiness.

The mind of every man, in a longer or shorter time, returns to its natural and usual state of tranquility. In prosperity, after a certain time, it falls back to that state; in adversity, after a certain time, it rises up to it.—Adam Smith

WEALTH has almost no effect on happiness after basic necessities are met. However, happy people get richer faster because of their appeal to others and their positive attitude.

Generally speaking, OLDER people are happier than the young and UNATTRACTIVE people are happier than the attractive.

A GOOD MARRIAGE is one of the strongest and most consistent factors associated with happiness. Happy people marry sooner and stay married longer. Unhappily married people are the least happy people of all.

RELIGIOUS people are happier than the nonreligious. Being part of a community and feeling connected to something beyond the self are major contributors to happiness.

The condition that trumps all others when it comes to happiness is the number and strength of a person’s RELATIONSHIPS.  Not only that,

Having strong social relationships strengthens the immune system,
extends life (more than does quitting smoking),
speeds recovery from surgery,
and reduces the risk of depression and anxiety disorders.
Jonathan Haidt

The Righteous Mind

Righteous Mind

Just finished The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. I highly recommend it, knowing many of my evangelical friends who start won’t finish because of his evolutionary thinking * and some of my liberal friends will balk at his appreciation for conservative and religious folks.

Haidt is a moral psychologist who does a masterful job answering the book’s subtitle: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. He pulls back the curtain on the mental processes that inform our beliefs and practices and create the cohesion and competition between groups that make society possible.

It all starts with our genes. Studies show that,  “Genes contribute, somehow, to just about every aspect of our personalities … and explain between a third and a half of the variability among people on their political attitudes.”

Genetic traits are innate—organized in advance of experience. Over time they are revised through experience into the intuitions and reasonings that guide our preferences and prejudices.

Moral intuitions arise automatically and almost instantaneously, long before moral reasoning has a chance to get started, and those first intuitions tend to drive our later reasoning. … we grow into our rationality as caterpillars grow into butterflies.

We are deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive our strategic reasoning. This makes it difficult—but not impossible—to connect with those who live in other matrices, which are often built on different configurations of the available moral foundations.

We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science, and common sense, but in fact everyone grows blind when talking about their sacred objects.

Haidt shows how to understand your worldview and how to appreciate those who see things differently in ways that can lead to healthier, happier relationships.

Happiness comes from between. It comes from getting the right relationships between yourself and others, yourself and your work, and yourself and something larger than yourself.

Take a fresh look inside your own mind and then out into the pluralistic world of the 21st century. You’ll be a better person for it—or your money back.

(* Haidt explains human development through evolutionary processes, not divine design. Even if you disagree with his starting point, his description of the steps by which humans moved from isolated groups to modern civilization is fascinating.)

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.