I've done my whole adult life with my Karen, the only woman I've ever needed.

Suddenly, I have to figure out how to do the rest of my life without her.

Sunday night, we sat in the bleachers at our local football stadium and watched our grandson graduate from high school. As valedictorian. Giving a faith-filled valedictory speech.

Monday afternoon, she was gone. Wrapped in a huddle of sobs with our three adult children, I choked out, "It hurts so bad." It really does.

    Unbelievable. It's time for another graduation season! And, wow, has the world changed since I was the one "commencing."

    But the commencement ceremony itself? Not so much. Same sweat-a-lot robes. Same funny, flat hats with that annoying tassel. And the same lofty "we will change the world...follow your dream" speeches. Inspired by the view from the top of Mount High School.

      If I wanted a picture that screams "Easter!" this year, I'd go to Death Valley. Which suddenly looks like "Life Valley."

      Because of the "superbloom"! Millions of super-sized, glorious flowers have exploded in one of the driest places on earth. It's the lowest point in the U.S. with an average of two inches of rain a year.

      But this year it's a sea of purple and pink blossoms. And the blazing yellow of what they call "desert gold."

        Our grandson loves to take home souvenirs from visits to our house. Rocks. Shiny rocks. Colorful rocks.

        So why not a rock tumbler for him for Christmas? Today, it's running full speed ahead. Tumbling rocks. For three weeks! For goodness sake, how long does it take to turn a blah rock into a beautiful rock?

          This Christmas season, there were two countdowns. Shopping days 'til Christmas. And days 'til the new "Star Wars" movie opened.

          Thirty years ago, my kids begged to get the first Star Wars action figures for Christmas. Now their kids are begging for the new movie's rolling droid, BB-8, and TIE fighter Legos. Three generations. Captivated by what has become a modern mythology for our times.

            Guest blog by Brad Hutchcraft

            There are toys, and then there are trains. Toys are fun, but trains bring out something else. Maybe it's the feeling of nostalgia, or maybe it's the delusional thinking that I could just step on a locomotive and successfully operate it. Either way, one of my favorite moments each Christmas is when we pull out the Lionel O-Gauge and set it up under the tree.

              There was a miracle in the wildfire the other night. On an Indian reservation where we have many dear friends.

              We've watched the news with growing concern - and intensifying prayer - as the path of the fire's destruction has grown steadily. We learned some of our "family" there have their church and some loved ones in a town surrounded by the flames.

                A part of my heart's been in Charleston, South Carolina the past few days. So has a part of America's heart. As the hate-driven murder of nine Christian worshipers - in the church - has devastated a city and riveted the nation. With seasoned reporters groping for words. Like "horrific." "Heartbreaking."

                But even more overwhelming than the brutal crime has been the response of the families whose loved ones were murdered. "I forgive you."

                  Wow, they had my attention. When the reporter started talking about a young woman being attacked by a lion. In a game park. In South Africa.

                  I've been to a game park in South Africa. Where lions roam freely. And the lions were an issue.

                  My South African friend, Ted, was driving me through this massive game reserve during a break at the conference where I was speaking. It was winter there. The grass was tall. He said, "You'll see the big animals - but not the cats. But they'll be there - in the grass."

                    A runner

                    Health clubs and spas love January! Business skyrockets as December bulges turn to January workouts.

                    A "new year" sounds like a great time to work on a new you. Thus, the infamous New Year's resolution. "A firm decision to do or not to do something."

                    Sadly, research shows that about 88% of our resolutions won't happen.

                                  

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