A Crab in the Hand is Actually Safer Than Two in the Sand

We spent a few days with my son Michael’s family at Cocoa Beach not long ago. It was warm enough to swim, which we all did,  and surf (which only Michael and Grace did),  but we also spent a lot of time walking and playing along the seashore.The kids collected sea shells and took turns burying each other in the sand…pretending to be mermaids!  While Mom and Dad went for a long jaunt down the beach,there was some serious sand castle building going on with Nana,and the girls made a race car to take their little brothers for a ride.

For whatever reason (perhaps our deep-seated fascination with living things), I think the highlight of the day was chasing sand crabs, who like to hide themselves in little holes near the high tide edge of the shore. Michael is an expert at catching them, and the kids are always enthralled to see him work with such energy and focus until he finally manages to capture a little creature. The kids are fascinated, but Michael always protects the sand crab so he isn’t hurt by curious little hands, and I’m touched that the crab backs up against Michael’s hand, sensing that he’s “safe” there…which he is! I thought about how the little crab wanted to be free and tried so hard to hide, although he really was completely safe with Michael and eventually relaxed and “hid” in the shelter of his hands. Actually, as long as he was with Michael, he was doubtless even safer than off on his own trying to escape the shore birds and dodge the incoming tide, but Michael knew the crab would rather be free, and so he let him go, and away he scurried, back to his cave in the sand. I’m like that little crab! People are like little crabs. We want to be free to run and play, but we also have to run from trouble and spend way too much time in dark, dank caves! When the Master finds us and tucks us into his hand, we can try to run away, but we’re really much better off recognizing that we’re safe with him. We can back right up against his big hand and rest, sheltered in the shadow of his care.  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-29).

See It, Touch It, Hold It…Including Snappy the Alligator?!

During the first Christmas my oldest was able to toddle around, he kept asking for permission to “see” then “touch” then “hold” the Christmas ornaments. Unfortunately, he was too young to hold an ornament for very long before it would fall, and if I wasn’t right there to catch the bulb, it would break.

So, in our home, the line went, “See it? Hold it? Touch it? Break it!”
But, don’t we all love to get our hands on things we’re curious about?I think we all have a fascination with holding things that fill us with awe—whether it’s a shiny Christmas ornament or an exotic living creature. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what can be touched and what to avoid! In Tunisia, the zookeeper seemed fearless and knew just how to hold a scorpion while the scorpion held on tight to a pack of cigarettes, but none of us dared try! He also knew how to handle a deadly sidewinder… but nobody wanted to try that one, either! Of course, some critters seem more cuddly,
and those we’d like to touch as well as see. In fact, when it comes to camels, I like to ride them too! A well trained camel can take you for a pleasant ride down the streets in India. A well-trained elephant will let you pet him in the jungles of Nepal, or let you go for a ride (only with his mahout aboard, however!) Baby elephants are something else, though!  They’re 250-pound characters who love to push you around if they can!!I only dared touch this little playmate while he was distracted by someone else! Many creatures look almost irresistibly cuddly, like these monkeys,  but monkeys are pickpockets with nasty bites, so I’ve been trained to keep my distance lest I lose my camera…or worse! Over the years, I’ve been able to see and hold many different creatures,  but on our trip through the Panama Canal,
I got to hold a baby alligator named Snappy.  Snappy has been handled by this park ranger since his birth,
and he’s quite friendly…as long as you don’t put your face next to his mouth.

Alligators have a brain about as big as a pea, so most of what they do is instinctive. Nevertheless, we were back in America, so I figured they wouldn’t let us hold him unless it was relatively safe, and when they asked who would like to hold Snappy, I volunteered. Yes, being in America, they made it quite safe! Although the ranger hadn’t forewarned us, he put a big strap around Snappy’s mouth to keep him quiet. He was totally docile and let me hold him by his soft underbelly. Holding living creatures touches something deep inside me…a trust given to me to hold without hurting…not to break…and hopefully not to get hurt either. As we go through life, I hope we continue learning what is safe and what is not…       and just how close we can get to others without asking for trouble!    But I hope we keep exploring and trying to connect,  not only with critters,  but with people! There’s a huge world out there full of people who’ve never heard the good news that Jesus came to set us free from sin and give us eternal life!                       Can we hold them so gently that we don’t hurt them?

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:1-7).

Rise Up, My Love (277): What’s in a Wall?

Song of Solomon 8:9. “If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.” Let’s start with just the first thought: “If she be a wall…” What does it mean to be a wall? In the next verse, the bride declares that she herself is a “wall” with “towers,” which won her a place of favor in her husband’s eyes, so we can assume the couple felt that being a wall was a good thing. So, what is a wall, literally and metaphorically?

Literally, a wall is a structure that gives definition; it sets boundaries and limits; it protects. I’ve read that in ancient times, building a wall was the first step toward building a city, since walls were necessary for protection against wild beasts and foreign invaders. It was only after the walls came crashing down that the Israelites were able to successfully conquer Jericho (Joshua 6:5). When King Sennacherib led the Assyrians in a campaign against Israel, King Hezekiah immediately began his defense by building up the walls of Jerusalem: “He strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without”(2 Chronicles 32:5). When Nehemiah was called to rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem, the first thing he did was rebuild the wall around the city (Nehemiah 12:27-32).

Metaphorically, a wall was used as a symbol of strength and security. David and his men were described as a protective “wall unto us both by night and day” while Nabal’s shepherds were out in the wild caring for their flocks (I Samuel 25:16). In Zachariah 2:5, the Lord promises that He will be “a wall of fire round about” Jerusalem to protect her from harm. In Proverbs 18:11 we are warned that a rich man will often fail to trust in the Lord for his help and mistakenly consider wealth as “his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.”

Truly, are we any different today? How many of us are tempted to feel secure if we have stable jobs and a good income? I know that’s a natural tendency in me, and I have to keep reflecting on the truth that “the horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). Virtually no one lives within a walled city any more, but I’ve seen lots of fence walls. In the vast tracts of tiny, hovel dwellings built on the garbage dumps of Agua Prieta, Mexico, I’ve seen fences around twenty-by-twenty foot compounds made out of bedsprings, trash, and cactus; in China I’ve seen walls with razor rolls on top and chunks of glass embedded in the concrete…all to keep people out.

And here in America, don’t we feel safer within the walls of our own home? I do! One of my dearest friends had a husband who always felt a huge sense of relief every night as he pulled into their driveway, so I gave him a plaque to hang on the wall of their garage right where he parked his car that read: Home Free! Isn’t that the way we feel? (At least, if our home is happy.)

Walls do protect and keep us safe…as long as we’re on the inside. However, if we’re on the outside of a wall trying to get in…well that’s another story! A wall that keeps strangers out makes us feel safe, but a wall that keeps us out can be terribly frustrating. Metaphorically, a wall is something that stops us from going any further. We speak of “hitting the wall” when we can’t go any further because we’re exhausted, being driven “up the wall” when we’re totally frustrated because we can’t reach our goal, and being “off the wall” when we’ve ceased being rational in the pursuit of our goal.

God made Jeremiah like “a fenced brasen wall” to the rebellious Israelites, “and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 15:20). God told Ezekiel to take an iron pan “and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city,” as a sign to Israel that God would not deliver them in the day of judgment because they refused to repent (Ezekiel 4:3). A wall sets limits. It can either work for us or against us, depending on who we are and what we want.

“If she be a wall…” Although this is the groom speaking of a younger sister, the bride later affirms that she is a wall, so as a spiritual exercise let’s consider these questions for ourselves: What kind of a wall am I? What walls have I erected in my life? Who or what am I keeping in and out of my life? Please ponder these questions right now, and if you happen to be reading with someone else, stop and talk about your thoughts together. Are you strong, straight, true, and able to protect? Are your wall boundaries what you want them to be? Are they effective? (If you know you have boundary problems [definitely a weak area for me], consider reading the New York Times bestseller, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend).

When I was in China, I walked along the top of the Great Wall one rainy day. People bobbed along under rainbow-colored umbrellas, and I could see out across a vast countryside of green and brown. The Great Wall is still one of the man-made wonders of the earth, but it is no longer used as a defensive boundary. Its main use today is as a romantically grand, pleasure walkway where millions of people come for refreshment every year.

What kind of a wall am I? What kind of wall are you? Oh, Lord, may we tear down any walls that we’ve attempted to make out of the trash and broken glass in our lives to keep you or others “at bay.” Help us to be straight, strong, and true to keep sin out of our lives, but not you or those you’ve created. Help us to be like a spiritual Great Wall: a display of your glory, but no longer a barrier to keep others out. May our hearts instead become a place where others may come to be strengthened, renewed, and refreshed. And, Lord, may we always take you as our wall of defense. Please be a wall of fire around us to keep us safely within your heart and will.

A friend of ours, Bob Hardee, sent this light-hearted photo after Alan and I had visited several castles in the U.K. with our two youngest. Truly, our homes are our “castles,” aren’t they? But, the real question is: How do we use the walls we’ve built?!

Herb Gardens and Succulent Cornish Hens with Rice

Sometimes when March hits, the weather seems like a fickle teenager…not sure whether to grow up and become Summer, or head back to the childhood of Winter. This dinner perfectly reflects that mood: Cornish hens, rice, and blueberry bran muffins hot from the oven, steamed broccolli in the middle, and a fresh veggie salad with strawberries and blueberries edged by honey dew melon. Winter to spring to summer, all on one plate. Are you in?One of the things I’ve done to keep up my spirits in the winter is tend a little herb garden on our (only) sunny window ledge. We have rosemary in an old tea pot (a great way to re-purpose a pot after the lid’s been broken too many times to mend any more), basil, parsley, rosemary, and sometimes chives or other herbs (depending on what I can find at the market), interspersed with various flowers and other greenery. This little kitchen garden also comes in handy when I’m cooking!

Succulent Cornish Hens with Jasmine Rice
(Feeds 4±)

Defrost 2 Cornish hens overnight or in the refrigerator until completely thawed. Pour 1.5  cups of water into the bottom of a roasting pan, and add:
1.25 cups of jasmine rice, making sure the rice is completely wet
Sprinkle over the hens and rice:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
2 springs rosemary, somewhat chopped
1 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoning salt (or your favorite brand)
1 teaspoon chives
If you have it, cut up several sprigs of fresh thyme and add them on top   Bake covered for 1.75 hours in an oven preheated to 350°F. Check to see if the chicken is completely cooked through. If it’s done but not golden, take off the lid and let it bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown on top.   Meanwhile, prepare whatever sides you want, and then serve it all up. This rice is softer than it would be if it were made in a cooker, but it absorbs all the juice from the hens, and I think the savory flavor makes up for the less than perfect consistency. You could also try adding the rice halfway through the roasting if you want it firmer (although I usually pop the whole thing in the oven on occasions when I’m going to be gone for several hours and can’t tend it too closely). Another variation is to add just one cup of water and a can of chunked pineapple with its juice…and/or hot peppers or one cup of salsa. There are lots of variations on this “Sunday dinner” roast, so experiment!

Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof.” (Psalm 65:10)

Late Bloomers

Do you ever find it hard to throw out a perfectly good plant that has finished blooming but still looks hardy? I  have this “thing” about letting anything die, and it sears my soul to throw out even diseased plants that I can’t seem to rehabilitate, although I eventually do get rid of them lest they infect the rest of the plants in our little garden room.  What I’ve noticed is that, unless they are annuals, most flowering plants will bloom again the following year if I wait patiently enough. In particular, we have three Christmas cacti and two poinsettias, all of which were in full bloom during December when we first got them (more than a year ago), but all of which bloom more in January and February now that they are not being “forced.” I don’t know when they would bloom in their native soil, but I’ve grown to appreciate that our garden room is dotted with bright flashes of reds and pinks during the otherwise dreary, dark days of winter in January, February, and early March!

Do you ever think of yourself as a late bloomer? Or, maybe you think you’ll never bloom again. If you’ve got the Holy Spirit inside, then you’re a perennial, not an annual! Even if you look back and lament that you’ve lost the beauty and bloom of young faith, take heart. Be patient. If you want to, you can bloom again, and when you do, you’ll find unexpected joy that blesses not only you but everyone around you!You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again” (Psalm 71:20).

(Photo with verse compliments of Robert Hardee. Thank you, Bob!)


Abiding in the Vine Isn’t Always Easy

We have a lovely fireplace entwined by philodendron vines in the corner of our bedroom. This is both a luxury and a safety measure, since our propane heater has an electric starter, so whenever we lose our electricity, we also lose our heat (which happens occasionally during blizzards, ice storms, and electrical storms). Philodendrons are among the world’s most hardy plants, and so I was saddened to see that one of the vines was beginning to wilt badly. I realized (too late) that, although the vines had survived our blazing fireplace, one of the vines couldn’t take the heat emanating from our water baseboard heater. Too much direct heat from a secondary source was killing it.

I identify with that hardy but fragile vine! God calls us to abide in Him, but sometimes it’s almost impossible to abide the heat from a secondary source. I also hope my life isn’t blasting heat in a way that damages other tender vines!

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned…If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:4-6,10).

Open Communication About Alcoholism

Did you know that alcoholism rose 49% from 2000-2010 in America? By 2015, it was reported in Newsweek that one in seven adults had struggled with a serious alcohol problem that year, and that 30% have suffered an “alcohol-use disorder” over the course of their lifetime.* Everybody’s talking about the epidemic of drug overdose, but in reality alcohol takes more than twice as many lives each year.

My oldest son, Aaron, works for the same company as David Flink and sent me a link to his blog. I think it’s probably the best first-person article I’ve ever read on the subject of alcoholism, and if you like to drink or know anyone who does, please read this!

My name is David Flink, I’m a leader in tech, and I’m an alcoholic

David Flink

Woah, let’s put some boundaries around that statement, shall we? No one died, I didn’t burn down the mall, I managed to keep my career going and function at a high level. Yet the fact remains, I’m an alcoholic; a recovering alcoholic thanks to timely intervention and an incredible support team, but an alcoholic nonetheless.

A quick note before we get started. As I discussed the publication of my story with family, friends and co-workers past and present, many of them asked why I felt a need to publish it in the first place. I’ve given this a lot of thought. First, the label doesn’t scare me. As a high-functioning alcoholic, you very quickly learn to identify others fighting their own demons. There are many, and I look forward to advocating for those in my industry suffering from substance abuse. Second, the vast majority of people I opened up to privately already knew or suspected something; a solid reminder that no matter how much of a smooth operator you think you are, you’re likely not fooling anyone. I hope this article puts the concerns of others who knew or suspected to rest.

A recent study shows one in eight American adults is an alcoholic.

It will probably not surprise you the tech industry is heavy on the alcohol (I’m sure this goes for other industries, too; looking at you, Finance). Between launch events, dinners, farewells, parties, off-sites, trips and just late-night hanging around, there was always an opportunity to drink something. I’m not here to lay waste to that culture; many of my peers have a perfectly healthy relationship with alcohol. For a variety of reasons, headlined by some 30 years of unprocessed emotions, I did not, and chances are you may not either. I’m sharing my story to show you there’s a way out. That the path out isn’t easy, I’m not going to lie, but that life on the other side is healthier and clearer, and that you can hit me up here on LinkedIn (or on Twitter: @knilf_i_am) if you ever just need encouragement or to talk to a stranger-who-could-be-a-friend.

I pretty much stopped drinking beer by the time I left college, and over the years I developed an absolutely toxic intolerance to wine (this may have been a good moment to stop). A decade or so ago I discovered my two great liquid loves: first gin & tonic (Hendricks and cucumber, thank you), later tequila (too many to name, but Don Julio Blanco and Patron Silver on the rocks with lime were staples). The better events serve both, the best events will happily look the other way while continuing to serve you. I think we can all agree beer-and-wine-only events are the worst.

Drinking managed to numb my emotions almost immediately (I’ve been fighting depression since roughly the age of 10), taking off the highs and lows without some of the drawbacks of medication. Life rapidly became about maintaining a drinking schedule; at least 4 daily double drinks (mostly) after business hours to function and not feel, Pedialyte at night (a pro-tip from your friend David), Advil and eye drops to get going in the morning. On the weekends and on vacations, anything went.

My rigid schedule kept my career on the rails (courtesy of my project management skills paying off in an unexpected way), and I believe that when the cracks did begin to show (they always do), my organizational velocity encouraged most people to look the other way. (On that note: don’t. “If you see something, say something” applies to substance abuse, too. Look around you. I know I will going forward.) Three people talked to me about my alcohol use. One got through to me. It only really took one.

My decision to give up drinking was inspired by this conversation and two other things. First and foremost, my kids, who had memorized my drink order at ages 12 and 7. Second, drinking felt like work, something my peers will happily tell you I’m allergic to. Deviating from the drinking schedule had heinous consequences, my body reacting violently to any unannounced changes. Managing my body’s destruction became increasingly difficult, and all the fun associated with having a drink was long gone.

In the opening paragraph I casually mentioned no one died. This is actually a small miracle. I’ve blacked out on more than one occasion, and I’ve found myself in a variety of situations (to be clear: all outside of work) in which in hindsight my life was in acute danger.

Yet no one died and so, in December of 2017, I made the decision to first cut back, then stop drinking within a matter of days. I had a couple of “farewell” drinks with good friends (these turned out to be incredibly important, as they formed somewhat of a formal ending to my drinking period), I informed a small but dedicated group of people of my intent to stop (I cannot stress the importance of this enough), I started walking around a lot just listening to music and I started working out again. I survived weeks of absolutely insane headaches and insomnia (told you: not easy), followed by a wild (wild!) period of roller coaster-like emotions and feelings. This last part, by the way, is something I’d highly recommend to anyone, I just don’t know how to trigger it without going full alco for a while. (Don’t.) As of now, I’m 100% sober, and the fog in my head I’ve walked around with for years has started to lift.

It’s too early to declare victory, if that’s ever even possible. As with cigarettes when I quit smoking, I know I can’t ever have a drink again. This is daunting; for years, my social self has revolved largely around alcohol and I genuinely liked (and was interested in) tequila and gin. I’m taking things one day at a time, talking about events long suppressed, reconnecting with old friends and consuming godless amounts of mineral water. I’m confident I’ll be ok (and with me, the Perrier and San Pellegrino people).

If any of this sounds familiar to you (bonus symptoms: jitters, cold sweats, sober slurring, lapses in your memory), there’s help out there. The NIAAA has some excellent resources, Alcoholics Anonymous has meetings all over the US and Canada (by phone: 212-870-3400) and your company may offer an internal or external support group. Your doctor, therapist and health insurance company will also be able to help, as will friends (this includes your work friends), family and this random dude on LinkedIn.

Let me remind you to consult with a medical professional if you’re considering giving up alcohol, especially if you’ve been hitting it hard for a while. Quitting cold turkey may have some unintended side effects (including, you know, organ failure and death).

I hope you find the strength to be honest with yourself, and wish you the best of luck on your journey.

PS. Don’t worry, you can still get your freak on with a glass of water in your hand, even though it may take you a little longer to start dancing. That’s probably for the best.


Thank you, David! For the original blog or more insightful articles by David Flink, check out his blog:   https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/my-name-david-flink-im-leader-tech-alcoholic-david-flink/