The Cotter Ring: seemingly mundane, apparently important


I didn’t waste any time putting my boat back in the water for the 2012 season. Even though I haven’t actually sailed her in the last month, getting her ship-shape is often just as therapeutic.

Among this year’s upgrades were replacing the halyards and sheets (we call them lines, never ropes), and purchasing a mint condition main sail from 1978.

As I was getting the rigging squared away over the weekend, I took extra care with one of tiniest items on my boat.

The Cotter Rings.

These little buggers are nothing more than an overlapping circle of stainless steel wire. They’re essentially weightless in your hand, which means they’re easy to drop, and once in the water – bye bye. They’re fairly inexpensive, and probably the last item anyone thinks of when generically thinking of sailing hardware.

And yet, they’re indispensable.

What so fascinates me is that my boat weighs as much as both of my vehicles put together. Her super structure endures thousands of pounds of pressure, harnessing potential energy within vacuums created through the Bernoulli principle, into kinetic energy that’s translated to a lead encased steel keel buried deep in the water producing directional momentum.

In the face of overwhelming natural forces that could literally break a person in two, enter the Cotter Ring.

They’re all over my boat.

They bear almost no critical weight, go almost completely unnoticed, and once I set them for the year, I never touch them again.

Yet without them, I can’t sail.

They hold the Cotter Pins in position at the fixture points of my main sheet blocks, without which I’d have an utterly functionless sail system.

They hold the Cotter Pins in place that anchor the massive aircraft-steel cables to the deck; those cables are called stays and they keep the 29′ aluminum mast aloft.

As I began to look around, I realized that these little rings – as mundane, inexpensive and unnoticed as they are – are just as essential to my sailing season as the glorious sails that get all the attention.


As people it’s easy to compare ourselves to others, those that are seemingly more impressive, more impressionable. We look at what they have and then at what we have; we look at what they can do, and then at what we can do. But in my discovery of the Cotter Ring’s significance, I realized how endearing this little piece of metal was to me, the Captain of the ship.

The game was never for the sails to impress the mast, or the hull to impress the lines. The game has always been to serve the Captain. The Captain finds just as much pleasure with the seemingly mundane as he does with the apparently important. And keeping his perspective in mind is the key to not loosing our perspective.

To the Cotter Ring, the main sail is for more impressive; but to the Captain, both are equal in their value of accomplishing what He first set out to do: enjoy life.



Just Point and Click


Jennifer asked me to shoot a few pictures of her and Levi while it was snowing yesterday morning. She came downstairs in a beautiful black gown, and she asked me to wrap Levi up in one of her favorite blankets.

What happened next was magic.

With the snow gently falling, she and Levi posed in our front yard, supported in the background by a melancholy thicket of branches bowing under the weight of the heaven-sent dust.

All I had to do was depress the shutter.

Sometimes in life we get golden opportunities – opportunities where we couldn’t take a bad picture if we tried. But we must realize that our good fortune is actually the result of someone else’s preparation, talent, and natural gift.

Turns out Jennifer had been planning what she’d wanted for a while. She’d already thought through the wardrobe, the the need for light snow, and the locale. That combined with her natural beauty and Levi’s 10+ cuteness-factor made for a perfect storm.

Anything wonderful that befalls us is never an accident. Whether a job promotion, church growth, new friendships, a break in the monotony, or a new successful idea, we’re standing on the shoulders of others and recipients of the divine.

The sooner we realize life-gifts have very little to do with us and a whole lot more to do with others, the sooner we’ll start to trust God in his infinitely wise provision and enjoy the process of responding. Which usually is just depressing the shutter and looking on in awe. ch:

Cover design by Jennifer Hopper. Friend her on to see the whole album.

Lessons from Coloring


Jennifer and I sat down and colored with all the kids last night. Hunkered over the dining room table, we all poured over some of our favorite cartoon characters. Mine was Captain Huggy Pants from PBS’ Word Girl.

Here are some things I learned:

• No colored pencil is off limits, even the ones in someone’s hand. Coloring is war.

• If you think you own your picture, you’re wrong. It’s open game, especially to anyone siting in the lap of the artist.

• Three-year-olds should not have open access to the electric pencil sharpener.

• Clothes are optional. Diapers are optimal.

• Lines are irrelevant in the context of artistic expression; color over them liberally.

• When in doubt, scream. People will pay attention to you.

I plan on implementing some of the wise things I learned from my kids in my next staff meeting. ch:


If I told you someone was missing teeth, what’s the first thought that comes to your mind?

I know what comes to mine.

That person is a boxer, a hockey player, or a drunk. Or they’re old.

But what if I told you the person was 6?

Sometimes we mistake people’s lack as weakness, or even worse: failure. But I’m pretty convinced God sees it as room for something better to grow in. ch: