Month: May 2017

Under Construction

gccucUnder Construction is a men’s group at Greenwood Community Church that meets on the first Saturday of every month to do handy man jobs for people in the area.  The folks we assist are  usually single women, usually elderly, usually church members.  But not always.  We also do work for a variety of ministries unrelated to the church.  And for individuals who have no other connection to the church other than a need that we have somehow been made aware of.

Some of the 25-30 guys in the group are experts in the construction trades; they have pickups loaded with more tools than you can shake a stick at and they can take on some pretty complex jobs.  But most are just men who can do things like rake leaves, drain a sprinkler system in the fall, or fix a leaky faucet.  The one thing they have in common is a desire to serve the Lord by serving their neighbor.

I used to be one of the duffers until NHP got the best of me-at least to the extent that it made no sense for me get on a ladder or do other jobs that most would consider routine.  But are now a white knuckle adventure for me.

So now, John Greene and I take turns fixing breakfast for the crew before they head out.  Cooking is something I enjoy. And the guys enjoy eating.   For a recent Saturday I made an over night breakfast casserole that  was simple and very tasty.  I also picked up some Duffy Rolls-a Denver institution and the best sweet rolls in town.  John provided the fresh fruit and juice this month.

What we do is very simple-but greatly appreciated.  We think there might be some other churches out there that might like to replicate the idea.  If you are interested in more information, please let me know.






On My Honor


Philmont_Scout_Ranch_entrance_signI had breakfast with Jeff Brandel a while back.  An attorney, he serves as the chair of the Arapahoe District of the Denver Area Boy Scouts.  He also volunteers as a leader in his son’s troop.  Busy guy.

I wanted to talk with him about how the Scouts are responding to the seemingly infinite number of bizarre sexual controversies that society has thrust on an organization which, as the founder, Robert Baden-Powell, said, was intended to be “a game for boys under the leadership of boys under the direction of men.”

Like Jeff, I’ve been involved in the Scouts for years.  First, when I was a kid.  They gave me my first taste of backpacking on the eastern flank of Mount Evans, where playing delightfully chaotic games of Capture the Flag in willow choked meadows are fond memories. And which I now look back on with an almost unbearable wistfulness since my NPH has put any hope of repeating such experiences forever beyond reach.  At least on this side of that particular manifestation of Paradise.

When my son, Byron, joined when he came of age I was enthusiastic.  Although he never made it to Eagle (neither did I), he went on some great high adventure trips, including one to the Florida Sea Base.  Although he disputes the point, I still contend that this trip played a part in one of the best decisions he ever made: enlisting in the Navy.  Together, in my pre-NPH days, we did a 10 day backpack through Philmont Scout Ranch.

Perhaps the best way of summarizing the impact Scouting had on our family?  Something that Byron’s sisters said over dinner one evening after he had finished regaling us with tales of his latest weekend outing: “We sure wish the Girl Scouts did the kind of things the Boy Scouts do.”

After a several year hiatus when Byron left home, I re-engaged with the Scouts for what, I admit, were initially mercenary motives. The upper echelon leadership of the Denver Area Council is widely considered to be one of the most influential group of business movers and shakers in town.  An insurance agent, I was hoping for some scraps that fell from the masters’ table.  But, not being a particularly good salesman, the crumbs were few and far between.

Nonetheless, while I came for the money, I stayed for the values.  The Scout Oath and Law, which the boys memorize and recite at every meeting, embody the enduring principals that are the bedrock of a successful civilization.  And if culture is the dog that wags the tail of politics (and my eight years in the Colorado House persuades me that this is a truism), we must have some organizations, like the Scouts, that stand in opposition to the relentless and nihilistic promotion of sex and violence that Hollywood and MTV have on offer.  So, feeling an obligation to do my part, I enlisted as a volunteer for the Arapahoe District for several years.

And, although they never asked for it, the Scouts now find themselves at the sharp tip of the spear in the culture war.  An initial salvo was fired at the Democratic National Convention in L.A. in 2000, when a group of Eagle Scouts were invited to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the opening ceremony.  For their trouble, they were booed by some delegates because the Scouts didn’t, at the time, allow homosexuals to serve as adult leaders.  Despite efforts by the main stream media to push this event into George Orwell’s 1984 memory hole, there is plenty of evidence that it did,  indeed, happen.

A full accounting of the Left’s war on the Scouts is beyond the scope of this post, but you can get the flavor of it here.

So, now retired and wanting to re-re-engage with the Scouts, I asked Jeff over our recent breakfast, “How goes the war?”  And, specifically, what was the impact on Scouting of the admission of homosexual and transgendered (whatever in the world that signifies!) Scouts and leaders?

“You know,” he answered, “I’m surprised by how little difference it has made.  I haven’t heard anything more about it.  Nothing from the Troops or parents.”

The answer was not entirely satisfactory-I guess I was expecting something more confrontational.  But I was upset about what was happening to an organization that was supposed to be a game for boys.  And restless enough to begin writing a post that, however, wound up in a terminal cul-de-sac.  Was the post too angry?  Or badly out of step with the relentless niceness of the Scout oath and law? Or just a mean spirited manifestation of my own personal pique?  I wasn’t sure.  After all, I was not an expert on the issue and I had only followed it from afar in the media-a less than reliable source on such a vexed topic.

And there the post remained for several weeks until I, along with other leaders in the Arapahoe District, received an email from Jeff.  The body of the email praised the work of a group of adult Scouts that had produced an understanding with the Denver Archdiocese that would allow the organization to continue using Catholic facilities despite the decision to admit individuals professing virtually any sexual preference.  The email contained such phrases as “great work,” “gratified,” “positive program,'” “supporting . . . the Boy Scouts.”

Unfortunately, however, the self congratulatory, happy talk of the email was a jarring contrast with the stern missive from Archbishop Aquila that came as an attachment to the email and appeared under the heading “Scouting in the balance.”

These are the Archbishop’s opening sentences:  “I was dismayed to learn this past January that the Boy Scouts of America decided to end their practice of more than 100 years that allowed only boys to be members.  They did this by permitting transgender boys to join troops, that is, girls who struggle with gender dysphoria and are living as though they are boys.”

He goes on to describe the Scouts’ decision to be part of a “slow retreat in the face of the secular culture’s advancement of an LGBTQ agenda.”

Bishop Aquila concludes with what is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the organization: he names several other “acceptable alternatives” to the Scouts that “currently are not problematic.”

The Archbishop’s words are thoughtful and concerning.  If you are like me, and Scouting and what it stands for are important to you, I urge you to read them for yourself.

A couple of closing thoughts:

  • I predict that the LGBTQ crowd that is baying at the heels of the Scouts won’t rest until it has driven them out of a Church that holds that homosexuality, as Aquila put it, is “contrary to the natural law and the Church’s teaching on sexuality.”  Unfortunately, with the political and economic pressure the LGBTQ lobby can bring to bear, I place little confidence in the Scout’s promise to defend the Church in a lawsuit-at least vigorously-when push comes to shove.
  • And even if it did, it’s probably a losing battle.  Again, culture is the dog that wags the tail of politics.  And in this fraught age, everything is political.  Even the games of young boys.  So, at least for the time being, the culture has decided:  when it comes to sex, pretty much anything goes.
  • What remains undecided is whether we, as a culture, want to continue riding along with a dog that promises to drag us into waters where “here be dragons.”














image2 (10)My daughter, Lauren, and I have made the decision to embark on an Odyssey of sorts-a foodie exploration of Denver’s dining hot spots.  And then occasionally blog about them.

Lauren will captain the ship. I’m just along for the ride; get me further than two blocks from my office at I-25 and Colorado and I’m out to sea.

By rights, her half-Korean husband, Haden, should be first mate and navigator.  A car guy, his sled can probably drive itself to most of the chichi Asian restaurants around town.   And, once there, he can expertly guide other wayfarers through the seemingly endless menu choices.  But, someone has to work-you know, the curse of the laboring class.

Our fellow Argonauts will be Lauren’s daughters, Bridget, nearly 3, and Caroline, almost 1.  They’re an important part of the crew.  Bridget to make sure the mac and cheese and chicken tender offerings are shipshape.  And Caroline to make sure that scraps of food eaten directly off the table aren’t the culinary equivalent of walking the plank.

We went to Yellow Belly Chicken on the site of the old Stapleton Airport the other day.  Tucked in just north of Colfax in the Stanley Marketplace, a cavernous former hanger. I, of course, was clueless of both the location and the cuisine.

But, as a native Denverite, I do know something about Stapleton Airport.  When I was a kid, my dad was a traveling salesman.  And I mean TRAVELING.  I don’t know how many United Airlines 100,000 Mile Club plaques hung from the knotty pinewood paneling in our basement-but it was a alot.  And when he got home at the end of the week, it was a big deal.

Mom would pile us four kids into the 1957 Cadillac sedan, head north on Monoco to 32nd (now Martin Luther King Boulevard), go east past Quebec, and glide up to the passenger terminal.  On the way, a quarter mile to the north and behind a chain link fence, was the Stanley Aviation hanger.  Apparently parked at random between the fence and the hanger was a flotilla of private, general aviation prop planes.  It was an adventure.

Especially when dad, with his million dollar smile, came through the self-opening doors of the terminal carrying his brushed aluminum suitcase.  It must have weighed a ton.  He’d put it in the trunk, trade places with mom, and off we’d go.

I would take up my usual station, standing behind him and looking over his right shoulder.  Before we were off the airport property, he’d push in the electric cigarette lighter and fire up a Kent-the one with the famous Micronite Filter.  I’d savor the first whiff of smoke as it came off the faintly pink glow of the lighter; after that, the smell was good, but not great.  (Now, I can’t stand the smell of cigarettes.  And, as you know, it’s very rarely encountered in a state where cigarettes are seen as something like the unforgivable sin-and marijuana shops were on every other corner as I drove along Colfax after lunch.)

So how did our merry crew fare at Yellow Belly?  Well, to be frank, sort of like the second pressing of my dad’s cigarette smoke: good, but not great.  Bridget’s chicken tenders and mac and cheese were gobbled up with little prompting.  I pushed Caroline out of the restaurant in her stroller with no apparent ill-effects from the table scraps.  But my fried chicken thighs were on the greasy side, although the brussel sprouts slaw was just fine.

But the highlight of this port of call?  A guilty pleasure: the dark chocolate milk shake that I shared with Lauren at Sweet Cow, an ice-cream joint in the mall and just around the corner from Yellow Belly.  Bridget enjoyed both her single dip sugar cone and romping on the Bouncy Cow in the kids’ corral.

So, on we sail across the wine dark sea until we arrive at our next culinary harbor.  Stay tuned.