Godspeed to a friend and mentor

My friend Rich, standing in the back center in the blue shirt, passed away last night. He was a friend to many and a mentor to me during my time in Missouri.

A friend and mentor from my time in Missouri passed away last night, and the news hit me hard this morning.

Tonight I was searching for some photos of my friend Rich and found this gem from 2008 when I just started getting into flag football back in Missouri. Rich, in the back middle wearing the blue shirt, joined us one Sunday after church just because he wanted to have some fun.

His straight-arm technique would put someone flat on their back. I would know. And I also know he didn’t mean it intentionally.

Those were some fun days, and I’m grateful to have this reminder of what a good guy Rich Schultz was. A great spiritual mentor during my first stint in Missouri and a tremendous blessing to my family.

I remember one time that I was even more critical of faith-related matters than I am now. I was at a true spiritual crossroads, and shared this with Rich over coffee as we waited for our church service to start. He simply told me, “Follow the Lord and everything else will fall into place.”

When my friends Brandon and Robin were married in Florida in August 2014, it happened to be in the same town in which Rich and Anita were living. I had the chance to meet up with them for lunch, and it was a tremendous blessing. They both told me they were proud of the person I was becoming and that they loved and treasured my parents’ friendship. That last part was special to me, and now especially so because it was the last words I ever heard Rich say in person.

When I received word this morning that Rich passed away, I couldn’t help but remember his words: “Follow the Lord and everything else will fall into place.” I wish he could see that they are starting to, even if it is seven years after he said it. The Lord spoke a word through him that now resonates even stronger today.

I miss you, my friend, and I am thankful for the chance to have crossed paths and shared in life for a time. The promise of meeting back up with you in heaven someday is further incentive to continue serving Jesus Christ and sharing His Gospel with others.

Snapshot: Angel Falls near Randle, Washington

Angel Falls is one of two waterfalls accessed on a three-mile loop hike in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Randle, Washington.

Angel Falls is one of two waterfalls accessed on a three-mile loop hike in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Randle, Washington.

We have a pretty vast collection of waterfalls in Lewis County. One of my personal favorites is one that isn’t dramatic or even really spectacular, but rather it kind of hides behind some of the canopy of the forest and falls from rock to rock until it reaches the creek below.

I shot this photo on a hike last Saturday with a couple friends. It was raining as it usually does in the Northwest this time of year, but a pair of water-resistant pants, a raincoat and a hat provided enough cover to stay relatively dry during the hike. The cooler temperatures made for a great trip too.

To get to Angel Falls, take the Covel Creek Trail across the road from the Cispus Learning Center and follow the signage. It’s about a mile and a half back in the forest, and there is a bit of elevation involved in the hike.

Here’s why I’m excited to buy a house in Centralia

I am in the midst of the process of purchasing a home in Centralia, and it’s pretty exciting stuff. It’s exciting to be on the golden path to home ownership, taking control of my financial destiny and all that wonderful stuff, but there’s another element that is equally exciting: being a property owner in a city that is in the midst of some pretty big revitalization.

There are several reasons why now is the time to buy in the Hub City, aside from the simple fact that the real estate market is picking up incredibly quickly once again. But a plethora of factors should serve to increase the general livability and sustainability of Lewis County’s largest city, many of which will directly benefit property owners.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Long-vacant properties are being bought and renovated. The Wilson Hotel in downtown Centralia is the most notable example of this, with the adjoining annex having already been renovated and turned into luxury lofts. As I touched on in a previous post, this can only help the economic sustainability of the downtown core, which in the past had relied on bars and now antique shops to keep itself afloat. This is a sure sign the cultural center of Centralia is diversifying, and it will be great to see another hotel bring out-of-towners to our region to discover what we’re all about.

Centralia College is in the midst of a major facelift. The only college in Lewis County is growing, not just in students and programs but in footprint as well. Its campus remains tucked neatly into an area just west of downtown, but if you’ve driven through campus you’ve noticed a major change as the college has vacated a couple blocks of Washington Avenue, a previous major north-south route through town, and is building a brand-new student commons where an ancient health sciences building once stood. It’s an interesting addition and necessary as the college has added several four-year programs in recent years, part of an effort to provide affordable education to more segments of people living here in Lewis County. It’s working, too.

The Northwest Sports Hub is seeing a lot of action. A new 76,500-square foot facility that hosts a variety of indoor sports has brought a lot of people from out of town week after week, infusing cash into the local economy and ensuring hotels and motels in the area stay well-occupied. I don’t have any hard numbers, but the evidence is there in that the Harrison Avenue corridor is significantly more packed on weekends and you can walk into Safeway without really recognizing anyone except the folks you know that work there. The increased revenue, sales tax and hotel/motel tax benefits everyone as much of this money gets infused right back into the community.

A new I-5 project aims to eliminate traffic choke points. This is big. Anyone in Centralia knows how terrible traffic gets around the Harrison and Mellen interchanges with I-5 especially in the late afternoon and early evening. The project is ongoing now and it involves some serious reconfiguration of the two Centralia intersections, and while traffic still sucks now (especially on the freeway at odd times) we should probably just be patient and wait for it all to blow over. When it does I think we’ll all be the better off for it.

Got any other reasons? Disagree on any of the above points? Let me know what you think.

Yes, it’s okay to be outraged over both Cecil the Lion and Planned Parenthood

I try not to wax political or overly philosophical on here, but I can’t stay silent about a couple major issues that I’m sure you’ve seen all over the Internet lately.

There’s a lot of outrage over both Cecil the Lion being shot and Planned Parenthood selling parts of aborted fetuses. Rightly so.

Both show a blatant disregard for God’s creation, and it’s perfectly okay to be outraged over both situations. In fact, we all should be.

But here is where I believe the two situations are different: Human life is by Biblical order and mandate stands on top of the hierarchy of created life. God breathed into man and woman, making humans the first creatures on the planet. And as if that wasn’t enough, God told man to take dominion over the earth, meaning that it is up to humans to ensure its beauty and survivability.

On that “take dominion over the earth” topic, I honestly am convicted and convinced that we are not to kill for sport. Killing for food or sustenance is different, but just for the sport of it is wanton killing for no major reason that is beneficial to anyone.

Now on a weightier matter: When it comes to humans, I am convinced and convicted that the decision to end someone’s life willingly should not lie in the hands, hearts or minds of another human. This is true from conception all the way through the end of one’s natural life cycle, whenever God and this world He set in order determines that to be.

As much as I grieve over the act of abortion, I also grieve over death sentences for crimes. Punishing someone by death ends their chances of being spiritually restored to Christ.

Death is serious stuff, and it happens all too often because we do not respect God’s creation as a society.

But I say all that to say this: CHOOSE LIFE!!! Life is a gift from God, and it is only enhanced through His gift of having sent Jesus down from heaven to die for our sins. Praise God that we all have the free will to be able to accept that gift!

I continue to pray and hope that the Lord leads us all collectively into all truth and a greater understanding of the Gospel that we can use to minister to our communities, families, friends and those who need to hear His message most.

A rainy trip to Coldwater Lake

The horizon is barely visible on Coldwater Lake due to the fog and rain.

A planned group hike to Harry’s Ridge at Mount St. Helens on Saturday didn’t pan out due to weather, so we went about 1,000 feet lower to the Coldwater Lake area.

The hike became more of a glorified nature walk as we didn’t gain or lose much elevation at all over its duration, but 3.4 miles of straddling the shoreline of a relatively new lake in a mist and fog was a neat experience in and of itself, simply because the weather made the landscape look entirely different.

Here are a couple photos, and hopefully they capture the serenity and surreal feel of the day.

Fog envelops Coldwater Lake on a rainy and cool Saturday morning, making the view along the boardwalk a very hazy one.

Fog envelops Coldwater Lake on a rainy and cool Saturday morning, making the view along the boardwalk a very hazy one.

Although the clouds only lifted somewhat, the view at the lake was still gorgeous.

Although the clouds only lifted somewhat, the view at the lake was still gorgeous.

Stuff that’s gonna happen in Year 32

Year 32 of my life started at 2:23 p.m. today, and I took some time to perform a thorough self-evaluation. The attention span of the Internet is relatively short, so instead of posting all the results of that self-eval, I’m just going to share some things that you can KNOW will happen in 2015.

I will buy a house. I’m in amazing financial position to be able to do so and will shortly begin intensifying my search for a good home. Gotta pounce before home prices begin to skyrocket, so this is a priority. Probability of happening sooner rather than later is a 3 out of 5.

I will find true love. Boy, this is risky because of my overall bad luck in life at this very thing. But I think this is the year I break out of the slump and hit one out of the park. I don’t have anything to base this on, but the probability of this happening sooner than later is probably a 2.5 out of 5, which is still pretty solid and actually could increase, who knows.

I will do the STP in one day. I can never sleep the day before a big event because I get intensely keyed up, but I’m going to somehow make it happen and ride all 206 miles from Seattle to Portland in less than 20 hours of real time. Probability of this happening sooner than later is probably a 2 out of 5.

I will skydive. I hate heights, but how else do you overcome it? Jump out of a good airplane in Toledo, that’s how. I value my life, though, so the probability of this happening sooner rather than later is a 1.5 out of 5 and that is very generous.

Onward and upward.

Recapping the 2015 Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

Cyclists gather at the start of the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic at the Husky Stadium parking lot.

Cyclists gather at the start of the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic at the Husky Stadium parking lot.

There’s so much to cover when talking about a 206-mile bicycle ride that one really doesn’t know where to begin. But I’ll try.

Last year, I took part in my first-ever Cascade Bicycle Club Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, a large recreational ride that takes cyclists from the Northwest’s largest city to the second-largest in one or two days. I rode it on a hybrid bike last year but came back thirsty for more this time around with a proper road bike and a year of experience under my belt.

I only started cycling in 2012, so the STP has been the pinnacle of my cycling achievements. I’m not quite up to the task of doing the Tour de Blast or RAMROD yet, but that’s okay.

Anyway, if last year’s STP was awesome, this one was exceptional. Riding a 2002 Klein Quantum Race made right here in Chehalis, I finished an hour faster than in 2014. But this one was tougher…allow me to explain.

I get REALLY keyed up before a big event and always have since I was a kid. This year’s STP was no different, as I got absolutely ZERO sleep the night beforehand. My friend Rinat came up from Longview to drive me up to the starting point in Seattle, and I just threw in the towel on getting any rest and did the equivalent of shotgunning a coffee from McDonald’s before the ride. I was ready to go as I would ever be.

After some initial chaos at the starting point, I was on my way out of Husky Stadium at 6:15 a.m. and on the road. It was stop and go for a bit through some sections, but once we hit residential neighborhoods the ride was more free-flowing. I nearly crashed at mile 6 when I was forced to my right and nearly got my front wheel stuck in a pavement rut, but I was able to save it and continue. That would be the only such brush with coming anywhere close to a crash that I would encounter for the rest of the weekend.

The ride in neighborhoods next to Lake Washington was nice, if a little bit difficult only because I was already tired.

The ride in neighborhoods next to Lake Washington was nice, if a little bit difficult only because I was already tired.

The first 20 miles were tough, if for no other reason than getting no sleep the night prior and shocking my body into working hard. I got into a good flow and a good 16-17 mph pace for a bit until reaching the Puyallup hill around mile 40 or so, and after some initial difficulty on that I did well and finished without too difficult of a time after throwing it all the way into second gear and pedaling quickly.

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My review of the movie “God’s Not Dead”

“God’s Not Dead” is on Netflix.

Please don’t watch it.

It started out really good. The Lionsgate logo and animation is top-notch, but from there it just got worse.

The message is poignant, but the plot is so far-fetched that the mall fight from Jackie Chan’s “Police Story” was more believable.

By the way, here’s that fight scene, which is much shorter than the movie and much more stirring.