About Surfing for Balance in Silicon Valley

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“That’s not fair …”

“I’ll be there.  We’ll run between the raindrops,”

— Roy Lambertson

I am at a loss to express the void we all feel over the sudden and unexpected passing of Roy Lambertson (obit). Roy left an everlasting impression on me; I took Roy for granted. He was a man of few words yet strong actions who was never looking to be in the limelight.

Another grueling 7-by-7 workout in the books

Roy seemed to be the perfect mix of quiet humility with a wit and humor that just plain made you want to be around him. Whenever I pulled into the parking lot to meet for a run and spotted Roy’s Subaru wagon, I knew it was going to be a good one.

Running in our 7-by-7 community (a Los Altos running club) will never be the same without Roy. In his memory, I want to celebrate some of the things I will miss most about him.

  • Deadpan jokes and pranks. 

Everyone surely would agree that this was Roy’s sweet spot. He was relentless with his humor yet seemed to catch you when you least expected it in a way you could not have anticipated.  I learned when an email from Roy appeared, I should immediately read it. Here’s a good one:

“Subject: Displaced Ursus Americanus Mandible

You guys are pranksters, so you might appreciate this:

On my last trip to Yosemite, I found a bear jawbone, complete with large teeth.  This morning I placed it just off a trail in Hidden Villa.  The idea is to get someone to find it and identify it and cause a sensation.  Black bears in Los Altos Hills!  In a Summer Camp!

           Of course, this is wishful thinking.  We shall see,

  • Humility.

There are many examples of this! Roy stayed in the background and did not draw attention to his accomplishments (like climbing all of the 14,000+ foot peaks in California). His consistently outstanding performances year after year at the Nisene Marks Half Marathon are but one example. Roy almost always placed in the top 2 in his age group and blitzed a course that included 3,100 feet of climbing over a very challenging single-track trail with roots and rocks galore.  Here’s just one result I found:

2013 at 52 years old he placed 2nd in his age group and 9th overall (156 runners) averaging 7:53 per mile. Huh?!

Roy closing in to steamroll Dino at the Kaiser San Francisco Half marathon.
  • Quiet [but effective] approach to challenges.

I was witness to this year after year in Roy’s role as Course Director for the Spartan Turkey Trot.  Whether he was lacing the light poles with colored ribbon the night before, lecturing me about a speed bump on the course, or showing up at 4:30 am on race day to subvert attempted sabotage on our course, Roy was constantly “covering my butt” on details I hadn’t even thought about.

Roy rewiring the Christmas tree lights at 5 am on race day — saving the 2014 Spartan Turkey Trot from disaster.
  • Wit and humor.

When Roy spoke, I learned to listen carefully. This email response to Dino’s proposed “22 miles on the track” (Subject: monotony run) strikes that cord perfectly:

Monotony is not always bad; my wife and I have been practicing it for years.  Wait, that’s monogamy.  Close, but not the same thing.

There were also the many aliases’ Roy might choose for the next upcoming race to make sure we could not find him:

“OK, Dag Xarph is also signed up.  Wait, or is it Lowe N. Durrance?  Who am I this time?”

And of course, he often had a political barb or conspiracy theory on COVID:

“Bill, Dr. Sarah Cody is gunning for you; among the restrictions in the new health orders is a prohibition on running the Old Barn Loop in Los Altos Hills.  I plan to be there; we’ll be careful.”

  • Brevity.
  • To say Roy was brief and to the point would be an understatement. He was truly a “just the facts mam” kind of guy. Here’s a typical race report on the historic Dipsea Race to the 7-by-7 club.  Mind you, most of us only dream of running this race, which is open only to an elite few.  I could have written a book on that day, but Roy boiled it down to the important details.

    “Unfortunately, in Sunday’s Dipsea Race, Dino rolled his left foot at mile 5 and broke a bone.  I got the impression that it was a metatarsal.  No surgery but he’ll be in an immobilizing boot for at least 6 weeks.”

    Sometimes you didn’t even have to read his email.  The subject line told it all:

    Sat am: 14 miles flat, fast, boring”

    Unlike me, Roy was not going to offer an excuse if he could not run:

    “Thanks Bill; next time,”

    Roy showing off his recycled running magazines at the annual 7-by-7 gift exchange
    • Curriculum vitae.

    Roy was the last person to talk about or document his running accomplishments.  We likely will never know all he did on the racing circuit due to his many aliases’. Here’s how I found out he was running Dipsea one year:

    “Can’t do it; thanks Bill.  I’ll be up in Marin, running from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach with 1400 of my closest friends.”

    Roy might be the only human being on planet earth to have run from San Francisco to Oakland inside the BART tunnel. He did let out a few snippets about the authorities who were waiting for him as he came out of the tunnel. He outran them, but I never was sure about his mention of the bullets flying by as he turned the corner.

    Roy’s “Hash Run” included running through a gym while people were trying to work out! What I would give to have him lead me on that run again now …
    • Writing skill.

    Roy was a wonderfully talented writer. His “April Fools” story from the New York Times about me winning the Mavericks Big Wave contest (62-year old surfer wins Mavericks Surf Contest) is of course my personal favorite. God bless him, it felt as if I had really done it! I even received a few inquiries about the authenticity, despite him whipping it up a bit at the end: 

    “As the wave curled and, despite its monstrous size, became tubular, the crowd feared that all was lost as Mulkey disappeared behind the leading edge [of a 50′ wave…]. But a cheer erupted ten seconds later as they caught sight of him emerging from the collapsing tube in fine form, hanging ten and giving a “hang loose” hand signal. As the wave ran out into turbulent white foam, he offered up a headstand on the board. “

    • Knowledge of the outdoors.

    This one goes without saying. Roy was the ultimate outdoorsman. When he heard I was planning a bike packing trip he immediately brought me an engineering diagram of how to hang a food sack [Roy would correct me, “its Ursack Mike”] from a tree (for the bears) and offered to schedule time at his house to demonstrate… Upon reviewing my bike “packing list”, Roy did not hesitate to cut me down to size:

    “Delete (to save weight):  Camp seat, bear spray, ground sheets, some of the bike tools, maybe the second spare bike tube, towel (just have a wash cloth), extra clothes (but not the extra socks), etc.“

    Roy and I exchanged many stories about his backcountry ski adventures. Photo by Stephane Mouradian.
    • Deep wisdom of running injuries.

    A lotta shit is happening with the 7-by-7 runners these days, and Roy was always quick to offer his expert medical advice:

    “Brian, if I were an M.D. I would refrain from engaging in armchair diagnosis of your injury.  I would want to do a physical examination, to rule out bursitis, sciatica, etc. But I’m not an M.D, so the sky’s the limit! …”

    And God forbid if you were not very precise in your description of the injury:

    “Doug, the answer is stretching.  What was the question?…”

    • Attention to detail.

    Roy was always uber prepared. His recent 7-by-7 backpacking trip with Bill Gough and the gang underscored this in many ways. Bill lost the soles to his boots on the very first hike (not kidding!). Roy simply pulled out a backup pair of boots from his Subaru that were the exact size Bill needed. They covered Bill for the entire backpacking trip. You are killing me Roy!

    This was not one of Roy’s jokes …
    • Kindness.

    Roy was a kind and gentle soul with a big heart. When a 7-by-7 member had her first baby Roy thought ahead to buy a baby jogger and organize a day at the track to give it to her. And of course, we all took credit.

    Roy’s passing of the baton (and baby stroller) at a 7-by-7 workout

    Thanks Roy. We will carry your baton forward proudly. You have made us all better people.

    Upon hearing the news of the sudden and unexpected death of our 3-year-old Labrador Retriever earlier this year, Roy acknowledged,

    “That’s not fair.”

    Nothing more needs to be said.

    7-by-7 Photo Gallery

    Remembering Roy Lambertson

    See You In Heaven Redwood

    Redwood getting his leash fitted for the tandem board

    If there were a bright spot in this pandemic, it was my relationship with our “fox-red” Labrador retriever, Redwood. “Red” (as we called him) was pretty much the center of attention every day as we took him on walks, watched him eat and sleep (and snore!), stroked his beautiful fur, and loved upon his amazing ability to live in the present. At three and a half years of age, he had enough puppy-energy to give us all a run for our money each day as we waded through the depths of isolation at home. Redwood was my saving grace!

    Last Monday, Redwood had his usual routine with dad in the morning taking a walk before breakfast, hunting down a sock or two in our bedroom, enjoying an afternoon snooze in the sun, and had his evening walk with mom followed by dinner. He then proceeded to curl up in our bathroom for another nap and never woke up. What a shock to all of us to lose our dear pup!

    Will we see Redwood in Heaven?

    As we attempt to move on with a gaping hole in our hearts, I am constantly reminded of the selfless love that Redwood showed us in his very short life. God’s qualities were so evident in who Redwood was every day, that I have a hard time believing I will not see him in heaven.

    There is much the Bible says about how important animals are to God’s eternal Kingdom. I believe that once the curse of sin and suffering is removed from this Earth (Revelation 21:4), animals will be there to enjoy it with us (Isaiah 11:6-9).

    When God created man and placed him in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:7-8), He had already created lots of animals to be with him (Genesis 1:20-25). When God put an end to all people on Earth with the flood (except for Noah and his family), He saved a lot more animals on the ark than people (Genesis 6:17-21). Jesus was born in a manger surrounded by animals (Luke 2:12-16), and when He returns to establish life on the renewed Earth (Eden restored) in Revelation 22, surely animals will be a part of it. Redwood’s life has reminded me how important our animals will be to that paradise Jesus spoke to just before His death on the cross (Luke 23:39-43).

    Here’s a short (3:45) video in celebration of the wonderful life that Redwood lived.

    Today

    “Lord, I look to you today and I see you are providing for me today. Tomorrow will bring enough problems of its own. Today I trust in you…”
    – Ben Kelly
    (April 30, 2020)

    A favorite pastor of ours during this time of “virtual” services is René Schlaepfer of Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, California. Our family has followed René since the days of family camps at Mount Hermon in the late ’90s, and we just love his heart for God.

    René published a daily devotional video this week about the importance of living for today, to help us maintain calm in the midst of the chaos we see all around us. In it, he reveals a passage from the prayer journal of Ben Kelly, the surfer killed by a shark last May, who was featured in my “Kicking Out” blog on October 19th.

    God bless you Ben Kelly for helping to remind us of the importance of today!

    Ben Kelly’s prayer journal (just nine days before he met his savior)

    4-minute devotional video:

    Work-life balance in Silicon Valley (podcast)

    This wedotalk podcast by good friend and running partner David Jaques provides an overview of my journey of surfing for balance in Silicon Valley.

    Enjoy!

    David Jaques
    Mike Mulkey
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAF2F6B4mfuuFw8blXXWPii_1MhWxrw0X

    Kicking Out

    “I don’t know what the future holds — but I do know who holds the future.“
    ― John Wooden (quoting his father)

    Today, kicking out is somewhat of a lost art in surfing.
    It’s not often I see a surfer cleanly exit the wave they are riding while going over the backside to get a glimpse of any waves coming; positioning for a quick paddle back out. A good kick out leaves you in control of your destiny, but it is not a simple maneuver.

    Kicking out at Playa Linda, Costa Rica (2019)

    Prior to the advent of the surf leash and subsequent shortboard revolution in the late 1960s (see: Surfing Without A Leash), knowing how to kick out was a fundamental requirement for serious surfing. One had to master it to get back out into the lineup after a ride without losing your board. Diving off your board into the white water (something I see all too often today) was absolutely not an option in those days.

    ‘Senior Boys’ getting briefed before a heat in the 1964 San Onofre Surfing Club contest

    While competing in the San Onofre Surfing Contest in the 1960s I learned the judges rewarded a surfer who could properly execute a clean and controlled kick out. This indicated good judgment to ride the wave to its proper ending while demonstrating control of your board and vision for your next ride. In those days, that was styling and the judges liked it.

    Today professional surfers competing in the World Surf League are awarded points for a kick out based upon the degree of difficulty as well as how innovative and progressive it is. The following are some fun (insane!) shots from the 2015 Billabong Pro Tahiti (52-second video).

    2015 Billabong Pro Tahiti — Air is IN!

    Kicking out too early

    Sometimes I kick out of a wave too early, anticipating a better wave behind. It is a gamble as I ride over the crest of the wave scanning the horizon for a bigger set coming. I realize that I should have enjoyed the wave I was on, and feel a sense of a wasted opportunity to think something better was coming.

    On May 9th of this year a 26-year-old Santa Cruz surfer kicked out too early in life. Ben Kelly was fatally attacked by a shark while surfing at Sand Dollar, just south of Manresa State Beach. I was at work when I got word that a surfer had died from a shark attack at Sand Dollar. Since my son Matthew and I surf there (he had been there the day before), I immediately called his cell phone. It went to voicemail. I then called his work and after what felt like an eternity on hold, he picked up the phone and greeted me.
    So grateful.

    Thinking it was my son, even if just for a minute, gave me insight into the unimaginable pain of Ben’s family and friends.

    Ben Kelly

    I was touched by Ben’s story as more came out about his life. Ben was a seasoned surfer and board shaper who started his own surfboard company in Santa Cruz (Ben Kelly Surfboards). He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Vanguard University in Southern California where he was awarded the McNaughton Award, its highest honor for business and management students. He had recently celebrated his third wedding anniversary with his wife Katie, whom he met at Vanguard. Together they had founded a social media marketing company (Authentic Approach, Inc).

    Ben was active in the Capitola Village Business Improvement Association, Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, Calvary Chapel in Capitola, and even selling surfboards at one point to support mission’s work in Africa. Ben was stoked about the life God had given him.

    Ben and Katie Kelly

    On May 21st a memorial service and paddle out was held in San Clemente to honor Ben on his 27th birthday (amazingly, my daughter Marisa was celebrating her 27th birthday that same day). The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors declared that May 21 would be “Ben Kelly Day”. The proclamation stated:

    “Ben practiced his belief that surfing was so much more than just catching waves — it was about the people he met and the continuous grand adventures that made it fun while blessing others along the way.”

    Walking the Talk

    Ben’s love of Jesus was front and center. He did not just talk about his faith; he exemplified it by his character. In the words of a close friend, “Ben lived the way Christ wanted us to live”. His opening line About himself in LinkedIn boldly calls out his love for his Savior:

    “Hello my name is Ben Kelly. Some of my life passions include: a love for my Savior Jesus Christ …”

    Ben was not hiding who he believed was going to save him on his day of reckoning. Here’s one tribute from the Ben Kelly Memorial Fund website (fundraiser for his wife Katie):

    “The most memorable thing about Ben was his unashamed, unrelenting passion for his faith and his relationship with Jesus. I don’t say this to somehow selfishly reassure myself or others that he’s passed on to Heaven. I don’t have to wonder whether he knew Jesus, or whether his faith was secure. It was. Everybody knew it. He truly lived his faith out. In nearly every conversation I ever had with him, he tied God and the redeeming love of Jesus into it.” 

    ― Zachary Shull

    My son Matthew at Sand Dollar reading the inscriptions on a driftwood memorial to Ben

    In the book of Matthew, Jesus spoke about the importance of doing God’s will to reveal His love and presence in the world:

    “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”
    ― Matthew 7:21

    Jesus called us to act on the words of the Bible, to embrace them as our own so they are central to our day-to-day living. He said true wisdom is about actions of love, mercy and peace (James 3:17-18). It is not enough to say “Lord, Lord”. Ben Kelly has both inspired and challenged me in this respect. I find myself asking if this is how I am living out my faith. If my eternal day of reckoning came today, how confident am I?

    Though he never saw it coming, Ben Kelly kicked out of this life with full control over his destiny. His future was secure. I believe Ben is now surfing in heaven. Jesus says that He is preparing a place for each one of us in heaven (John 14:2), and that great rewards are waiting for us there (Matthew 5:12). Surely the God who created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) could arrange for a little surfing. What awaits us in heaven is far greater than we can let our imaginations explore (1Corinthians 2:9).

    Ben loved the ocean and surfing. He had that surfer’s “stoke” about him. Some called it his good vibes. But those close to him knew it was fed by his faith. Ben hoped in a God who created the heavens and the earth. He wanted to live his life honoring God, knowing his rewards would be in heaven.

    I praise God for the example Ben Kelly set for us.

    “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
    (Matthew 25:23)

    ** Resources **

    Ben Kelly Memorial Fund website: please consider honoring Ben’s life by contributing to this memorial fund in support of his wife Katie.

    Surfing in Heaven (Part I) – if you are wondering what it would be like, I wrote these two blogs from a vision I had of my entry into eternity. Surely this vision falls far short of the divine joy and beauty that awaits us there, but it felt right to dream about what it might be like.

    Surfing in Heaven (Part II)

    Ben Kelly Santa Cruz Paddle Out (video)

    Swimming with Jerry

    “If you are going through hell, keep going.”
    — Winston Churchill

    Jerry Rodder in his formal attire for his piano recital

    I was at Trader Joe’s when a fellow Mountain View Masters (MVM) swimmer dropped in on my cash register and blurted out,

    “Hi Mike, did you know that Jerry passed away on Father’s Day?”

    This confused me, as I was having trouble figuring out who she was with all the coverings on (I don’t recognize swimmers with their clothes on!). My dad (Kona Jack) had also died on Father’s Day …
    As I began to scan her groceries I shot back,

    “Jerry? Jerry who??”

    By the time all was paid and bagged I realized it was our dear friend Jerry Rodder. There was no funeral or obituary or much of any swimming going on, so word did not really get out. Jerry’s departure hit me hard. He was an amazing man who had a sense of humor about life I am really going to miss. He reminded me a great deal of my dad. They both loved Trader Joe’s.

    Jerry and his wife Jill were part of a 5am swimming group I somehow brushed shoulders with for ten or so years at Eagle Park pool (note, they were waiting at the gate at 4:45am; even on those icy cold dark mornings of winter). Jerry and Jill had been around MVM forever. They even wrote the original bylaws for MVM, when Jerry told me they would jump the fence and swim 10,000 meters before anyone else arrived. The early bird got the worm in their house.

    The early birds outside the gate at Eagle pool (on Jill’s 80th birthday!)

    It was always a big motivation for me to get there for the 5am workout knowing Jerry would already be in the pool. Since Jerry was twenty five years my senior, this got my attention. The swim workout at that hour was not my favorite thing. It was hard to get going… But the 6am shower after with Jerry set the tone for a good day.

    We took long and leisurely showers after the workout, which Jerry joked that we would drain the city of Mountain View of all their hot water. He would still be showering, as we were shaving and getting dressed for work, walking over to me (dripping wet naked) to tell me that he couldn’t remember the last time he shaved; and that he was going to go home and take a nap.
    Thanks Jerry.

    Each day Jerry would bring a joke to the pool to share among us guys. His jokes were not always clean (most were not) and they definitely were off color at times, but they were always funny. Jerry delivered these jokes as if he were on Broadway, casually pausing to drop the punch line with impeccable timing. He would even bring me a printed copy of “the good ones” so I could send them off to my dad in Hawaii (which I often did – and he loved them!). I had very little in common with Jerry other than our love of swimming, but our morning laughs in the shower were something I cherished.

    I never knew much about Jerry’s life until I unexpectedly received an invitation to his home. He had pencil sketched the time and address on a small scrap of paper, handing it to me after our shower. “Come on by” was all he said.

    My wife Marla and I had no idea what to expect when we showed up at Jerry and Jill’s house in Los Altos, which was a story in itself. The interior of the house had no walls separating the rooms. What?! It was one big room that was decorated like a museum. The museum pieces were displayed in groups and were quite varied and unique. There was a Swiss army knife that was as tall as me (in the “knives” section); there were out of the ordinary clocks (in the “clocks” section). One wall was adorned with seventeen U.S. Patents with Jerry’s name on them. He never talked about that.

    A plaque with a newspaper clipping from the San Jose Mercury News (circa 1964) showed Jerry next to the machine he had invented. I asked him what it was, and he chuckled, telling me that it could measure the weight of a speck of dust to within .0000001% accuracy (or something like that). “Oh”, was the only response I could muster. Needless to say, this was a side of Jerry Rodder I did not know beyond his jokes in the shower.

    Jerry in his Orchids greenhouse

    We wandered outside to Jerry’s expansive vegetable and fruit garden and entered a large greenhouse that was adorned with award-winning Orchids – dozens of them that were stunning in their brilliant colors and ornamental shapes. Jerry explained he competed in local Orchid contests where he often won 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes. He had invented a magic “alcohol-based” fertilizer that caused just about anything to grow to record levels. We had been savoring mouth-watering tomatoes and melons that Jerry brought to the swim club for years, and now I knew why. He joked with me that the Environmental Protection Agency would shut him down if they had any idea what he put in it.

    Just as we were getting thirsty for a drink or bite to eat (not a scrap of food or drink was to be found), Jerry told us all to sit down so he could play his piano recital. Huh?

    “Big Mike” entertains the swimming crowd at one of Jerry’s piano recitals

    As he sat down at his magnificent Steinway grand piano and played the first set of notes, I instantly knew we were in for a treat. Jerry played variations of Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Mozart and more for 45 minutes straight without reading a note. Marla and I sat in stunned silence as we drank in the wondrous melodies watching his fingers float over the keys. Upon completion, Jill promptly brought out fresh-baked cake along with sweet melons from Jerry’s garden. It was an exquisite unforgettable evening!

    Jerry was a very unique and colorful individual who covered more ground in a lifetime than a Winston Churchill memoir. He was a husband, father, grandfather, scientist, inventor, chemist, horticulturist, swimmer, concert pianist, and comedian; and I barely knew him, first meeting him in his late seventies. I believe Jerry was a genius.

    The last time I saw Jerry was at his house a few months before the pandemic hit after his 90th birthday. He was no longer swimming and had help at home to keep good food on the table since Jill had departed two years earlier. We had a brief conversation about Trader Joe’s and how he loved going there to do his shopping. I bid him farewell, never thinking that was it.

    I miss Jerry.

    I miss his jokes and his ability to make fun of whatever and whoever was in the news. Jerry kept his wit right up to the end. He loved swimming. He is the only person I know who could get me laughing at 5am. He loved his music and most of all he loved his wife Jill. It was hard for him when she left first.

    The world is a little more serious of a place without Jerry Rodder.

    God bless you, my friend!

    Jerry’s Orchids

    I found this short clip on the web about Jerry and Jill:

    Fri Mar 23, 2018, 8:38 am:

    • More sad news, Jill Rodder, wife of Jerry Rodder (Jerry’s Grow) passed away last evening. They were a great couple, Jerry grew them and Jill prepped them for display. Jerry’s magic fertilizer was the best on the market and he grew the finest orchid plants I have ever seen anywhere. Jill shone the leaves and cleaned the husks so that every orchid displayed was a glistening specimen. Jerry still has plants but at a more manageable level now. The Cymbidium hybrid named in Jill’s honor is a beauty and was her joy when it bloomed each Spring. Those of us who know and love Jerry, one of the smartest and most technically accomplished people I have ever known, will surely be there to offer him love and support at this difficult time. Hopefully any orchid wannabes will not seek to exploit Jill’s death for self-aggrandizement at any forthcoming orchid shows………

    ** Resources **

    Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui 

    Bonnie Tsui is an accomplished author, writer, and swimmer who immerses you into a wonderful analysis and tribute to the sport of swimming with a sort of memoir of her life blended in. If you like to swim (or just be in the water) you will drink this up! If you don’t swim, this book very well may get you in the water. It is very well written and Bonnie covers all aspects of the sport, including some fascinating historical insights.

    The Future Is Secure

    “No time is lost waiting on God.”
    ― Amish Proverb

    Article title: “Surfers are anything but up with most San Diego beaches closed”…

    These are gnarly times!
    This reminds me of 1969 when Richard Nixon became the 37th U.S. president and set up his “Western White House” at La Casa Pacifica overlooking one of Southern California’s top surfing spots, Trestles. When Nixon was in town, the entire beach was off-limits to everyone, especially to surfers! (see: Surfer in Chief)

    The Coronavirus Pandemic May Be Causing an Anxiety Pandemic. COVID-19 is taking the wind out of our sails. It is the great equalizer. Regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, fame, or financial standing, COVID-19 has brought our world to a screeching halt. We all are threatened and yet all united in a battle of epic proportions to eliminate this devastating virus. I received an email today from Union Bank “Perspectives” which did not exactly ease the pain we are feeling:

    “Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Sunday that this would be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans’ lives as cases are expected to peak in some of the hardest-hit cities …”

    In 1942 my dad and his best friend enlisted in the U.S. Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Both of them lied about their age (they were 15!), signed each other’s enlistment forms, and headed to the U.S. Naval Training Station in San Diego for basic training to fight for our country (see: Malibu and “The Greatest Generation”).

    We are all signed up for Basic Training in this battle.

    It’s ironic that as I write this during Holy Week we are preparing to celebrate Easter this Sunday (from home), which is the most important event on the Christian calendar. Easter is a celebration of the day Christ rose from the dead. To a Christian, this assurance of our eternal life in heaven is the big deal! Death is not the end of the story. Our future is secure.

    The New World Order

    Children have been banned from the playgrounds!

    In our house, the new world order created by COVID-19 boils our daily routine down to the basic necessities of life: our next meal, decontamination activities of the house, interactions of family members (“did you wash your hands?!”), and walking our dog, Redwood. The neighborhood has come together to support and care for each other. I can stand in the middle of the street and have a conversation with a neighbor (six feet apart) without worrying about cars coming. I even hear the birds singing. It reminds me of Christmas day, every day!

    This whole experience has brought our family closer. We pray, eat, watch church services (on TV), do puzzles, watch movies, and laugh together. It’s allowed us to rediscover family time. Best of all, I suddenly have margin back in my life. If an unexpected need arises, I’ve actually got time to deal with it. Today! What a difference that makes.

    COVID-19 has forced us to slow down.

    Our dog is the big winner. He would like this shelter-in-place to continue forever. This past month Redwood has had enough love and attention to last him a lifetime. It’s a dog dream come true!

    Redwood after his eighth walk for the day …

    Trader Joe’s

    I joined Trader Joe’s almost two years ago to ease my transition out of the high technology world (see: “We don’t do email”). I love Trader Joes and could not say enough about how they do the right things for their employees and customers in the midst of this crisis. I hope other companies will follow their example.

    It’s an intriguing time to be working in a grocery store. The fear and anxiety of our customers has been palpable since this all hit on March 9th when Mountain View had its first death from COVID-19 at El Camino Hospital. Instantly the store transformed from the happiest place in town to ground zero for the Friday night fights. Yes, we did have a couple punches thrown. It’s much better now, but those first couple weeks were nothing short of pandemonium.

    We are feeling a part of the greater cause to conquer COVID-19

    Limiting the number of customers in the store has greatly relaxed the mood, but the store still has a bit of a surreal feel to it. Most customers are wearing hats, glasses, gloves, and masks. A few have dressed like Apollo 11 astronauts. It’s very hard to communicate, so our conversation at the cash register resembles a Darth Vader style of interaction with me nodding like I understand.

    When I reach out to hand customers their receipt, some quickly jump back as if I am sticking a knife at them. That is the craziness of all this. I could be the COVID-19 carrier and passing it on without knowing it. When asked how I am doing I will sometimes reply half kiddingly: “check back on me in 12 days”! We hear Plexiglas barriers will soon arrive at the cash registers, so that will help. But until then, they are right to jump back. This is serious stuff.

    Fear of Death

    The fear of death is of course the primary anxiety with COVID-19. And for good reason, death tends to scare us all. Prior to becoming a Christian I had a phobia I called “permanent lights-out”. For just a few seconds I would contemplate my own death and this thought of complete nothingness and darkness would envelope me. It scared the daylights out of me (pun intended).

    The Beatles John Lennon spoke to this fear quite clearly in his famous song “Imagine” (1971). It is a beautiful song, but pay attention to what Lennon is saying:

     

    “Imagine there’s no Heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people — living for today”

    Lennon is addressing that fear of death! If we can just “live for today” we won’t have to consider what comes next. I sense that before COVID-19 many of us (Christians included) were living like that. We were living for today, and not thinking about tomorrow.

    Here’s the deal.
    Our future is secure. The Bible is very clear on that.
    Sickness and death are not the end of the story. There really is a place called heaven and it will be better than anything we can possibly imagine here on earth.
    Keep that hope!

    God’s Wisdom

    I co-teach a Bible class of third through fifth grade kids on Tuesday’s (BSF Children’s Program). Recently we showed them a chart that speaks to this hope. We were talking about making decisions in life that guide them toward God’s wisdom. The kids get it. They can see the deep wisdom the Bible offers to guide their life on earth toward heaven. As Jesus said, unless we become like little children, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).

    The coronavirus is trying to drag us into the abyss of a “lights out” mentality. It wants us to lose hope, telling us that death is on our doorstep. If the coronavirus does not get us, something else eventually will. We can bet on it.

    The Future is Secure

    “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
    ― 2 Corinthians 4:18

    Life is a sacred gift from God. The Bible lays out a crystal clear path to free us from darkness. I am not sure there has ever been a more important time to be reading the best selling book of all time. The world needs Jesus now more than ever.

    “Those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
    ― Isaiah 49:23

    The historical evidence for Jesus’ life on earth is well documented. Within a few decades of his lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish and Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings (The Guardian, April 2017). The dispute is whether Jesus conquered death with his resurrection. I get that. I was on the fence myself for the first half of my life. But I will go head-to-head with anyone about lives that were transformed by Jesus. That’s the deal-breaker for me. Roger Williams is one example of that.

    Prayer unlocked the safe for me when I was in my thirties. My grandmother prayed for my salvation for years. She even sent me letters of prayer. One day I woke up and believed. I showed up on my friend’s doorstep Sunday morning and invited myself to church with them. I was in a suit and tie. He laughed at me!

    Hope is now in the picture for me. COVID-19 has surely scared me and made me worry at times. But it won’t take away my hope! My future is secure in Jesus Christ.

    Let me know if I can pray for you.

    I can’t wait for my opening day in paradise. I plan to be surfing in heaven soon after!

    “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
    ― John 16:33

    Authors Note:

    Just three days before his crucifixion, Jesus spoke these words (John 16:33) to his twelve disciples at The Last Supper. This meal was Jesus’ final teaching before his death on the cross. Even as He was facing his own death, Jesus was intent on preparing His disciples for their task ahead once He is gone.

    The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci (1495 – 1498)

    ** Resources **

    Pray as you go (application)

    Available in English, Spanish, Dutch, French: https://pray-as-you-go.org/

    iPhone version: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/pray-as-you-go/id865934048

     This is a wonderful way to start your day in prayer. Published by the Jesuits in Britain, it is ~15 minutes of scripture (Old and New Testament), music (for prayer), and narration to help you apply the scripture reading to your life. It is a daily habit for me that I look very forward to.

    The Hope Quotient by Ray Johnston

    If you are struggling with hope, this book is guaranteed to get you moving in the right direction. Ray is the founding pastor of Bayside Church in the Sacramento, California area and he strikes this topic with a passion. My wife and I are reading it together and finding his story telling to be both encouraging and boosting our overall level of hope.

    Online church services:

    There are two churches we are enjoying in our home while we are sheltering in:

    Menlo Church: senior pastor John Ortberg
    Saturday/Sunday services (as well as Good Friday and Easter): https://menlo.church/messages

    Twin Lakes Church: Lead Pastor Rene’ Schlaepfer
    Saturday/Sunday services (as well as Good Friday and Easter): https://www.tlc.org/resources/sermons/

    Slow down, you move too fast …

    “For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.”
    ― Lily Tomlin

    Life moves quickly today. We can do so much in little time. It is exciting for a Type-A person like myself who loves to be efficient and blast through the to-do list. I can check the surf, tide tables, traffic on Highway 17, and view a live camera of Steamers Lane — all with a finger tap or two on my iPhone; while I am shopping for my grocery list at Trader Joe’s!

    It’s fantastic. But like the groceries, it comes at a cost.

    Dr. Richard Swenson puts it this way:

    “… The world has witnessed almost continuous change, but never before with such levels of speed, suddenness, complexity, intensity, information, communication, media, money, mobility, technology, weaponry, and interconnectedness.“

    (Let’s add “stress” to that list …)

    Slow down, emphasis on “now!”

    The most important thing I have learned in my coaching profession is the need to slow down.

    It is difficult to coach a client who is traveling through life at today’s pace. It’s similar to diagnosing car trouble with no dashboard to tell you what is happening under the hood. The speed and intensity of life seem to require that we lose touch with our inner being (we are too busy for that). I often prescribe meditation to help my clients Stop and Smell The Roses. It is amazing what our mind, body, and heart can tell us if we take the time to listen.

    A close friend told me a story underscoring how the speed of life today is impacting our youth. His son hit a rough patch in life after high school and developed a serious alcohol/drug habit. It was not pretty, but he got himself into a long-term rehab center and is now doing great. With a dozen or so other young adults, the leader asked what they thought led to their addiction. It was their deep internal need to slow down. Each one of them agreed, life was moving too fast and they could no longer cope, so they began to deal with it by taking alcohol or drugs. I can sure relate to that. My coping mechanism just happens to be exercise.

    For me, slowing down was what put me on the path to become a New Ventures West certified coach. After twenty-five years in Silicon Valley riding the Express train, I had been laid off from my job at the age of sixty-two. The train had stopped, so I got off and explored my options. It was like Surfing Without a Leash. Suddenly I was empowered to experience the freedom of who I was deep inside without being tied down to a career. Although painful at first, this new awakening brought about a sense of joy not felt in years. It is now my passion to coach others who struggle to slow down, and discover what is going on “under their hood”.

    Surfing for Balance

    Growing up at the beach in Corona del Mar in the 1960s was an ideal environment for a young grom like me. We had a tight-knit community of friends who gathered daily at the beach, constantly anticipating the next big south swell. Best of all, my dad was a surfer from Malibu in the 1940s, and it was my time surfing with him on the weekends at San Onofre that most influenced my views on keeping work and life balance. As I grew into adulthood I began to realize that I felt at my very best when I was in the water on my surfboard. It became my identity.

    Our surfing adventures to Baja in the early 1980s provided plenty of time to slow down

    When I first transferred to Silicon Valley in 1990 I wondered what everyone did when they weren’t working. It soon became apparent that when you were working for a computer company in the innovation capital of the world there was not a lot of time to hang out at the beach. The opportunities were endless, but so was the work! I found myself continuously fighting a battle to stay healthy and balanced.

    Although it took a couple years to get used to the cold water (thank you, O’Neill wetsuits!), surfing soon became my relief valve from the hectic pace. I launched “Surfing for Balance in Silicon Valley” in 2014 to begin blogging about my struggle to stay afloat as a way to apply my voice to the work-life integration challenge in Silicon Valley.

    Writing about the nonstop juggling act between work, family and self began to parallel my training for a triathlon. I was constantly balancing my time to make sure each event got its allotted time. I soon created the Circle of Life as a tool to provide my own emergency warning system when one area got out of whack (work, family, or self). A story from my early career with ROLM is an example when my work was taking over.

    I Have Become That Man!

    ROLM was a dream company to start a career, and they were led by one of Silicon Valley’s great pioneers, Ken Oshman, who established “Great Place To Work” (GPW) as a corporate goal at ROLM in the early 1970s. I was later managing a global product development team with Siemens ROLM in 1990 when this story takes place.

    ROLM set the stage in Silicon Valley as a center of innovation years before others came along

    Our product teams were split between the U.S. and Germany, requiring me to fly to Munich quarterly to help coordinate development activities. Waiting at San Francisco International Airport to board my flight to Munich, I was strategically positioned next to the only power outlet in sight for my laptop. Typing out urgent last-minute emails to my team, I likely had veins popping out of my forehead as I raced against to call to begin boarding.

    An older businessman suddenly approached me, clearly wanting to chat. Probably in his 60s with grey hair, he wore a smart suit and tie and patiently waited for me to pause from my furious pace. When I finally looked up he blurted out that I reminded him of whom he had been twenty years before. Then he paused, as if that needed to sink in.

    He said he was stopping by to tell me to relax, to slow down; “Stop and smell the roses,” he said. He then assured me it all would be waiting for me when I landed in Munich. He said all this in a very relaxed and purposeful manner, looking me straight in the eye. He finished with,

    You’ll see when you’re my age, that it really doesn’t matter.”

    I was aghast he had the audacity to tell me this when he had no idea who I was, who I worked for, or where I was going and why. Yet I had an immediate sense that he was absolutely right. I remember his words playing back to me over that long flight. I never saw him again. I believe he was an angel sent to help me slow down. Many years after that incident, I have become that man!

    Heaven Can’t Wait

    Thirty-five years into my life and launching my career in high technology, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Since then I have been on a walk of continual growth in understanding the plan God has for my life, realizing I am not actually the one in control.

    Maybe I am losing some who do not believe the Bible, and I fully understand. Many in the surfing community are not followers of Jesus. Stick with me, as we all wonder at times about the truth of scripture.

    As a life-long surfer who grew up without a church background, I became a student of Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) to better understand God’s word. BSF soon led me on a path to knowing God through my eternal destiny: heaven. Belief in the glorious wonder of what God has waiting for us has been a lightning bolt of change for me in my faith. In anticipation of heaven, I have found the perseverance to handle today’s challenges, and hope for what tomorrow brings. As crazy as it sounds, I believe we could be Surfing in Heaven when we get there!

    “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven”…
    Matthew 5:12 (NIV) 

    ** Resources **

    The Boy Who Runs by John Brant

    What a story!
    Julius Achon is my hero.
    This book is an inspirational true story of how Julius went from being a 14-year old Ugandan boy soldier during the terrible Idi Amin era to an Olympic runner and then found his calling with an African children’s charity. I could not put it down!

    The author of this book (John Brant) wrote my other favorite running book, Duel in the Sun. Brant is a longtime writer-at-large for Runner’s World and knows how to write about running. 

    Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

    A unique recommend on my part, but this book ties into my piece on Steve Jobs (Heaven Can’t Wait). It is the coming-of-age memoir of Lisa Brennan-Jobs, who was Steve Jobs’ first child, although he was not always willing to admit that. This was a well written and candid insight into the anxieties of a child who comes into the world as an inconvenience to her success-focused father.

     

     

    Surfing in Heaven (Part II)

    “I submit this imperfect sketch of a most perfect vision.”
    Rebecca Ruter Springer (from Intra Muros, “My Dream of Heaven”)

    “Cowabunga dudes, let’s go surfing!”

    I see a long strand of glittering white sand several hundred feet wide extending into the horizon. Perfect waves are rolling in like clock-work on both sides; right-facing waves on the left side of the strand and left-facing waves on the right. A perfect point break wave without a rock in sight. I am stupefied as I watch unbelievably clean barrels peel off in succession for as far as I can see! There is no lull. I cannot imagine a more ideal surfing spot.

    Point breaks like Skeleton Bay in Nambia can provide the longest rides on earth today

     As Uncle Charles, dad, and I step into the water on the left side of the strand I immediately notice its crystal-clear clarity. Lying on our boards ready to paddle out, the three of us are a picture of God’s joy. Beaming smiles in anticipation of what is to come. As the first wave rolls softly over me, the water has a sweet smell and flavor so appealing that I open my mouth to drink it in and am refreshed by its taste. The water is warm on my body and invigorating to my senses. The air feels the same. A gentle offshore breeze warms me from within. It feels right to be here; this is where I belong. It comforts me deep in my soul. I look down and notice I’m wearing my yellow “Hang Ten” surf trunks from my grammar school days. I chuckle to myself, thinking how much I love them.

    We easily paddle around the breaking sections of each wave with Uncle Charles leading the way, even though there is a constant outpouring of flawless tubes going by. The interval between each wave seems to vary as if the ocean knows we are trying to get out, giving us a break when we need it. I gasp at the scene of all before me and give all the glory to God; only He could have orchestrated this.

    As I paddle over a feathering lip I notice that the white water of the breaking wave is whiter than I have ever seen. Light of day is radiating from the water when a wave breaks, as if light-emitting plankton are on steroids! The contrast with the perfectly clear water is out of this world, like painting daylight onto the night sky.

    Paddling is effortless, an underwater current is pulling me out. There is no drop-off in the ocean floor and no end to the strand of pure white sand; waves are breaking on the horizon as far out as I can see. The offshore breeze is blowing the breaking lip of the wave into a stunning rainbow of colors I have never seen. I pause to take it in and notice the symphony of music synchronizing to the pattern of the waves. It is all connected!

    Below the surface are an extraordinary variety of plants, fish and glowing rock formations emitting more light. Watching a bright kaleidoscope of life in a fantasy of color as I paddle by. It reminds me of a coral reef in Hawaii, but so much more intense and vivid, as if I am seeing HDTV for the first time. I can’t take my eyes off of it. Dad and Charles are laughing as they see me try to take it all in. Dad calls out,

    “It’s as if the earth was a black and white movie, Michael.”

    The ocean life in heaven will make a scene like this look pale in comparison

    I can’t resist diving off my board into the depth of the thirst-quenching water. Astonished, I can see perfectly and continue to breathe and laugh out loud underwater. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?” Fish of unimaginable varieties and sizes and colors swim up to me as if they are a part of the homecoming party. Its like LED lights within them are illuminating their brilliance. It is sensational to see and quite difficult to comprehend. Excitedly, I swim to the surface to tell Charles and dad; they look at me and laugh as they continue their paddle out. “Welcome to heaven!” Charles calls back.

    I am well over a mile out from the surf shack, yet the sparkling sand of the strand is just a short distance from my position in the water. I feel no tiredness from the paddling, just invigorated and excited. I sit up on my board. There is a deep inner sense of peace and tranquility within me. There is no sun, but the air is warm on my skin and the golden glory of the sky is more powerful than a noonday summer sun in Hawaii. Clouds of unimaginable variety streak through the sky like a Matisse painting with a pallet of unlimited color. I could spend my life right here. I begin praising God for such a day:

    I Love You, Lord and I lift my voice to worship You
    O my soul, rejoice!
    Take joy, My King, in what You hear
    May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear

    “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away …” (Revelation 21:1)

    Time is lost. I have no idea how long I am sitting on my surfboard and singing to God. It doesn’t matter. The ocean and I are one. I have no questions. Everything is good.

    I look up to catch a view of dad crossing a beautiful peeling wave that is well overhead and feathering a rainbow of dazzling colors behind him. He drags his foot off the tail of his Simmons Foam Sandwich to make a sweeping bottom turn and lets out a hoot to me as he sails by. A sight to behold.

    Dad learned to drag his right foot off the side like a rudder from his days on the Simmons Foam Sandwich

    A large formation of white birds with golden streaked wings appears on top of the next wave coming. I know this is my wave, as I swivel my board around in anticipation. With a paddle I am all at once lifted up and rushing with the swell, sensing the tremendous speed and power as I drop in over the feathering lip. The offshore breeze fans a rainbow around me as the spray pelts my face with the sweet taste of the crystal water. The birds sweep into the sky in perfect unison, as if they are kicking out, giving me my first wave in heaven. I stand up and realize my balance is perfect and feet are firmly planted. There is no fear of falling. Exhilarating beyond my wildest dreams. I howl out my praises to God,

    Ahhhooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!! How great thou art Lord!!!!

    The offshore breeze created a rainbow of new colors

    Howling without losing breath as I fly down the face of the wave and plot my first bottom turn, I look through the wave at a complex pattern of colors and lights below. It is as if I am gliding down a large glass mountain with the brilliance of the sea life below me lit up like a French cathedral at night. I carve a long effortless turn off the tail of my Hobie Super Mini and immediately am propelled forward even faster as I sense the wind in my face and see schools of fish lighting up the face of the wave ahead. In awe of the oneness I feel with my wave, I stare down the steep shoulder ahead with a sense of readiness for what is coming. Slicing a second turn off the lip of the wave I notice it is well overhead as the spray from my board blows off the lip in brilliant color.

    I turn several more times, propelling up and down the wave when seven white dolphins with royal blue fins suddenly swim into the wave from behind. Like the Blue Angels, they are gliding effortlessly in perfect formation, as if they are leading the way for me. I seem to know they are angels from heaven; white as satin and magnificent in their size and beauty. They come in and out of the wave together, looking at me like they know my every move. It is magnificent to see their beautiful symmetry and the elegance at which they are surfing the wave. I follow their lead, turning with them as we zig-zag back and forth on the wave. They are laughing. I am laughing too! We make more turns than I can count, enjoying the perfect harmony of God’s creation. God’s animals are part of His plan for eternity. It is heavenly! The music praises God and we savor His creation.

    A dozen dolphins surfing together (on earth)

    The wave transforms into a soft shoulder and I jet out ahead of the break to carve a cutback that makes a complete half circle around the dolphins. They jump into the air in perfect formation. I have never seen anything like it; I howl as I crank a floater off the brilliant white water and turn back into the face of the wave building up again along the strand. The sand is glimmering in the shore break like diamonds as I fly by faster than I have ever gone on a surfboard.

    The dolphins take another jump in unison before making their exit. I crank another bottom turn as I go deeper into the curl and in an instant everything around me turns bright florescent green. I am getting barreled as I maintain just enough speed to stay ahead of the peeling lip. I sense no danger of wiping out. I just go, firmly planted on my board as the surge of the wave propels me forward into a dense cloud of green spray, enveloping me. I am able to sense every cell in my body. Suddenly I am flying out of the tube onto a soft shoulder like a fireball shot out of a cannon. My face is frozen with an ear-to-ear smile. I want to tell the Hodads about the green room in heaven!

    Shooting across the shoulder onto open water like a water skier I leave the breaking section of the wave behind. I do not slow down as I crank another bottom turn on the open sea, looking ahead to see the surf shack in front of me. Mom is watching from the shore with her patented Charlene smile looking as though she is at Malibu in 1953. I make my final cut back on flat water toward shore to carry me onto the soft white sand as the cool crystal water rushes up the beach.

    I feel more alive than ever. All my worries, anxieties, and concerns are gone. Finally, I am home. This is where I belong. Halleluiah Lord Jesus!

    I ponder at how this changes everything. This is indeed the life that God intended. Oh, how my life on earth would have changed if I had truly believed the glorious wonder of what God had waiting for me in heaven. I am overwhelmed with such joy and gratitude and love for a God who could provide such perfection. I want to go back and shout the truth of it all.

    “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven”…
    Matthew 5:12 (NIV)

    ** Authors Note **

    In my earlier blog “Begin with the end in mind”, I discussed a life better than we can ever imagine awaiting us in Heaven.  The very best we may have experienced here on Earth will pale in comparison to what God has planned for us in eternity. Most of us really do want to go to Heaven, and I believe God desires for us to use our imagination to anticipate the beauty and wonder and joy of what awaits us there.   

    In Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV), Jesus commands us to set our hearts and minds on heaven above:

     “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    ** Resources **

    Intra Muros, “My Dream of Heaven” by Rebecca Ruter Springer

    Of all the books on heaven v5.4 that I have referenced, this one was the most captivating to me. Published in 1898, Springer writes of an experience or dream she had while seriously ill in a care facility. It is a short read and quite beautifully written telling how she was able to experience the renewed earth. For me, it reads like poetry of the life that awaits us in heaven.

    Surfing in Heaven (Part I)

    Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t spend your time worrying about things down here.”    Colossians 3:2 (TLB)

    Surfing in Heaven. Outrageous thought!
    Or not…?

    Call it Marathon Faith, but I believe my place in heaven will include surfing. Jesus says that He is preparing a place for me in heaven (John 14:2), and that I have great rewards waiting for me there (Matthew 5:12). Surely the God who created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) could arrange for a little surfing when heaven comes down to earth (Revelation 21:1-4). I believe what awaits us in heaven is far greater than we are willing to let our imaginations explore. In his book “Heaven”, Randy Alcorn points out, “We cannot anticipate or desire what we cannot imagine.” Our experience in heaven could be personalized to each one of us. Me? I’m looking forward to getting wet!

    For years I’ve contemplated what my own experience in Heaven will be like (see: Opening Day in Paradise). God somehow placed it on my heart to describe my vision of surfing in heaven. I dream my children will read it at my funeral so everyone can feel good about where I am and what I’m doing. This image will fall far short of the reality of spending eternity with God. Nothing in our human world on earth can describe the divine joy and beauty that awaits us. Jesus’ dying words on the cross (to the thief) give us a glimpse:

    “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
    (Luke 23:43)

    My “Opening Day in Paradise” Vision

    Floating over my life; I see my home, family, friends, relatives … I look down on it all like a giant board puzzle that is finally complete. Great peace envelops me as each piece fits perfectly into place. As if I am watching a movie of my life, I smile. Passing so quickly, my time has come and it is right with my soul. My whole being is filled with thanksgiving for the life I have lived and the love of God that has guided me. I comprehend the perfect completeness of it all when my dear Grandma Oa appears. Oh MY! She is so beautiful – so very young and vibrant.

    “I have come to get you, Mike. Everyone is so excited to see you!”

    I know why. She so faithfully prayed for me all those years. Tears of joy come to my eyes as I give her a big hug and tell her how truly miraculous it is to see her again. A wondrous moment that goes beyond words as we tightly embrace.

    In an instant, she is leading me down a long path of the most beautiful grass I have ever seen. It is velvet under my feet. Surrounded by an amazing variety of plants and flowers so brilliant and bright, I want to stop and inspect each one. They are perfect as if freshly bloomed just moments before our arrival. All appears pure and clean like an afternoon shower. Each leaf is rich in color and glossy in texture. Each flower perfectly formed, radiating color from each blossom. Some familiar to me, but most my eyes have never seen. Above us are tall majestic trees with drooping branches laden with exquisite white flowers of every variety imaginable. I hear majestic waterfalls in the distance and hundreds of birds in the trees singing joyous songs of heavens praise. It is breathtaking! My soul is held in awe as I soak it all in.

    The most beautiful path in the forest on earth will not touch the magnificence of heaven

    The scene unfolds before me like a flower opening in slow motion on film. I want to stop and ponder the depth of what I am experiencing; but we continue walking, almost floating down this narrow grass path that exceeds even the best fairway grass at Pebble Beach. I find myself wondering how it could be so perfect, as if a master gardener is tending to it all. We come to a rushing creek fed by a waterfall I can now see in the distance. The water is clear as crystal running over brilliant stones of gold, silver, jasper, emeralds, and pearls – more stones than I can possibly identify; a pirate’s chest of treasures poured out into the bed of the stream. I hear musical sounds beyond the trees as the water flows by. They are beautiful soft melodies that are soothing to my spirit as we walk. It is the most beautiful music I have ever heard.

    I look up to see a sky abounding with brilliant new colors. There is no sun, and yet there is a golden glow all around me, like the afterglow of a beautiful Hawaiian sunset, except much brighter and more striking than I have ever witnessed on earth. Grandma and I are not talking, and yet there is communication between us that is perfect. She tells me she knows what I am feeling. “It is well”, she says.

    The sky was like a watching a northern lights show with brilliant new colors I had never seen

    We come upon a large beach with sand as white as freshly laid snow. It has a softness and warmth that soothes my bare feet and sneaks between my toes to nuzzle and comfort me. I could walk forever! The air is soft and balmy, yet not warm or humid. It is invigorating, giving me energy and vitality. There is a light breeze against my face, comforting on my skin. I want to lie down on the sand and just soak all this in like I would in my youth on a hot day at Big Corona.

    As we cross the satin white sand with freshly laid tracks I look up and see a surf shack, similar to the one I’ve known so well at San Onofre. Its architecture is strangely different with surfboards lined across the side and a large white cross on top of what appears to be a humble wooden steeple. I feel myself being drawn to it as we walk. There are people inside.

    The surf shack at San Onofre; a haven of memories over the years

    Coming closer, the foundation poles to the shack are live palm trees that are growing in the sand with vibrant green palm leaves at the top covering the roof. Brightly colored flowers like Hawaiian leis are growing across the roof of the shack woven into the palm leaves. It stands like a Hawaiian cathedral full of hues and sweet smells engulfing me as I am lured inside.

    Happiness overwhelms me as I am suddenly surrounded by a large group of family and friends there to welcome me to heaven. It’s the best homecoming party ever! One by one they come up to greet and embrace me, telling me how wondrous it is to be together. Words cannot describe the joy I feel. I see mom; how glorious she looks! Her smile almost knocks me over. We embrace as never before. Then Grandpa Cannon, Aunt Kathryn. Marla’s mom and dad, John and Mary, come up to greet me! Then Aunt Sallye and Aunt Norma; the delight is breathtaking. Even friends from my past: our pastor Doug Goins, and a classmate who passed away in Junior High School, Scott Lusher, are there. Then I see John Wooden, the coach himself! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! He looks at me with that Coach Wooden sparkle in his eye and says,

    “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts Mike.”

    Oh MY! Everyone is so very happy and content; the feeling of love consumes me. We talk and hug and love upon each other for longer than I know as more people from my past embrace me. They all seem to know each other. Each person tells me they have been waiting and looking forward to our reunion. Even our dog Riley pushes his way through the crowd to nuzzle me with his wet nose, showing that patented smile of his as he looks up with his tail vigorously wagging. I reach down and give him a bear hug.

    Time seems to stand still. Nobody is in a hurry to go. There is a sense of this all being right, and I have lived my whole life for it. This is truly heaven on earth!

    Beyond it all, I begin to take notice of my surroundings and see what appears to be an ocean off in the distance with indescribably beautiful waves rolling in. What!!? I start moving in that direction, noticing the magical sand again on my feet. I see two people waiting for me with three surfboards on the shores edge. The music becomes more distinct as I approach the surf; it seems to be coming from the waves. It sounds like an exquisite classical orchestra combined with the vocals of 1,000 angels which create a harmony of music and praise that seem perfectly matched for the scene of nature before me. I am in awe of overwhelming glory of it all. The heavens are truly singing!

    Then I see dad, next to his Simmons Foam Sandwich! I race up to him to embrace for what seems like forever. We just hold each other as joyful tears are running down my cheeks. Without speaking, he tells me that he is sorry. I seem to know that he accepted Jesus as his savior the night we watched the video together (This is my story). Words cannot express my wonder. The communication between us is perfect. There are no barriers.

    Uncle Charles learning the Haka dance on his mission in New Zealand

    Next to dad is Uncle Charles. His face is painted like a Maori warrior, and he looks as if he is right off the mission field of New Zealand, young and strong and full of energy. His board must be twelve feet long and is made of the most beautiful redwood I have ever seen. It is polished to a shiny glean and looks like the surfboard Duke Kahanamoku rode. He tells me that dad taught him to surf and then calls out to me in his Maori tongue:

    “Me haere ki te ngaru Mike!”.

    Without thinking I know he just told me, “let’s go surfing Mike!”.

    1968 Hobie Corky Carroll “Super Mini” model surfboard (Ha – mine was 8’4”)

    Dad motions for me to grab the surfboard lying on the sand. I am aghast to find my Corky Carroll Hobie Super Mini model that he bought me at the Hobie Surf Shop in San Clemente in 1968. It’s as new as it was the day we picked it up. It even has the exact acid splash design of green and blue and yellow. The white of the foam is the purest of white and the colors are bright and more intense as if there are neon lights in the fiberglass to illuminate. When I pick it up I realize it is light as a feather. There is no wax on it, but I somehow know that it is ready to go!

    Surfing in heaven? You must be kidding me!!
    It is a dream comes true.

    (Stay tuned for Part II!)

    ** Authors Note **

    Revelation 21 (2nd to last chapter in the bible) describes how the Son of God sets up his kingdom of heaven on earth and calls it the New Jerusalem. This New Jerusalem is where we will spend eternity with God.  Chapter 21 contains a surprisingly detailed description of what this “New Jerusalem” will look like. Revelation 21:1 states that, “and there was no longer any sea” on the new earth. This does not necessarily mean that all oceans and beaches are gone. Throughout Scripture the “sea” is symbolic of chaos and disorder, which will be missing in the New Jerusalem. Yet even if one interprets this to mean that the oceans are gone, considering that almost three fourths of the earth is covered by water today, I believe there will be large bodies of water (larger perhaps than largest lakes we have on earth today) that we may enjoy in the New Jerusalem. Surely waves to ride on a surfboard are not too far of an exaggeration from that.

    ** Resources **

    Heaven by Randy Alcorn
    In the words of Stu Weber (as stated on the front cover):

    “Other than the Bible itself, this may well be the single most life-changing book you’ll ever read.”