Monday, December 18, 2006

Immanuel - God with Us (Isaiah 9: 6-7)

“This child, the son, this Son of God, this Son of man, that is given to us, is in a capacity to do us a great deal of kindness, for he is invested with the highest honor and power, so that we cannot but be happy if he be our friend.” – Matthew Henry

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Don't Waste your life

I'm annoyed this evening - with myself. A combination of things: the refusal to view the current conflict as the threat to Western Civilization that it is; Pearl Harbor Day; and a general frustration with work and it's minutiae.

It's one of those screaming out loud moments, muttering under your breath, "Why I am doing this? Why am I wasting my life?"

There are matters of real importance and import occuring around me - and I, I argue about documents no-one will see, products that have little value.

I am frustrated, frustrated by my seeming inability to get anything done of import, of rising early, compensating for the Ravishing Mrs. T.B. to be gone in the evening by making a hobby out of doing dishes, of spending time dreading dealing with things that I know don't matter.

It makes me angry. But where do I put the anger? How do I use it constructively?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tomorrow is not the given you think it is

Three items of seeming unconnectedness:

1) I spoke with an old friend today from a previous company. We were talking about life in general, and then she mentioned that her father, who had Parkinson's, had passed away this Monday. I expressed my condolences and she said "It wasn't unexpected." I commented that in the long term, none of our deaths are unexpected.

2) In speaking with my friend, she also mentioned she had received an e-mail from a coworker at a previous company we had both worked at. She asked me if I remembered a coworker, Dr. Sima Faris Young. I thought for a minute, and then said yes, I did remember her - short, with dark hair, as I recall. My friend then read the e-mail to me: she had passed away this weekend at age 41 from complications from liver cancer. (Her obituary is here.)

3) The political fallout from yesterday has affected me - initially with concern and disappointment, then with renewed enthusiasm. I am not one to quote my political beliefs at length here (so don't hold your breath), but I do believe that those who would seek to destroy us today received confirmation that if you kill enough Americans, you will cause them to retreat. I fear for the future, as the terrorists will not stop unless destroyed, but we will. Action is called for.

My point in these three seemingly unrelated points is that the ability to do good and act is far more limited than we believe. We can believe that we will survive until our eighties as the averages tell us, but it could be with a debilitating disease when old, or simply cut off when young, or even with a loss of the ability to affect change which we thought we would always have.

Do Good Now. Serve God Now. Act Now. Spend Your Time On Things That Edify, Not Just Entertain. Spend Time On Things Of Eternal Value Now.

Tomorrow is not the given you think it is.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Pursuit of Excellence

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit" - Aristotle

"He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much." - Luke 16:10

In comparing two working environments - one a professional arena and one a customer service arena - the question of job enjoyment and satisfaction arose. The thought occurred through discussion that if there is no reward or recognition for success and no results or consequences for failure, there eventually comes no incentive to particularly put in effort for anything.

Reaching for purpose

I am confronted with a dilemna about life, specifically my own - from whence, I'm not sure.

I am struggling to reconcile the requirements of life with the realities of the workplace.

My work, which pays the bills and provides food, shelter, clothing, education, and utilities for my family, is not going well now. Not badly, just not well - the most telling point is that in over a year, I have not learned a new skill.

The thing that bothers me is that there are events of great import going on in the world, work that can have an affect on the future. Unfortunately, my job is not one of these.

I hunger for employment with purpose, employment that will somehow affect the world we live in. I understand and grasp that my real hope is not to be realized until the return of Christ (1 Peter 1: 4-5). My conflict is that I don't think that this life should be wasted either, even as one strives to not become entangled in the things of this life. (1 Timothy 6: 6-10), that even in the raising of my family, loving my wife, and serving my God through His church, these things are those that have both temporal and eternal significance.

The problem is, my family, my children, and my church is not where I spent most of my time. It's at my job, which as noted above, hardly has significance in the great scheme of things.

"Do all to the Glory of God" Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31; but I fail to see how pushing papers that more often than not will result in nothing accomplishes that.

We went down the career change path before, and that ended badly. Do I go there again? Do I not? How do I make my life more signficant now and in eternity?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Visitor

Yesterday we received a visitor. I received a call from The Ravishing Mrs. T.B. on the way home, asking me "What would you put a turtle in?". "A box with some water, to start with", I answered, thinking this a rather inane question.

Foolish me.

When I got home, I found we had a visitor - a box turtle. Apparently he was in the midst of crossing our semi-rural suburban street when Nighean gheal saw him and called The Ravishing Mrs. T.B. , who ran into the street to get him. The Ravishing Mrs. T.B. noted that the turtle "took off" when it realized she was coming for him.

So, for now anyway, we have a new visitor to our house until we figure out what to do with him.

Nighean gheal is also excited because apparently a truck (with large tires) came very soon after the rescue occurred. She was quite excited, telling me she saved turtle.

I'm glad for two reasons: One, my daughter had the presence of mind to see a problem, recognize the solution, and know what to do; Two, that she appreciates the value of life.

And Three, that she got to be an animal rescuer like she wants to.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Love

I completed reading The God Who is There by Francis Schaeffer this weekend. In reading it, I realized that we have a great deal to do with love

Love, as understood by the Christian, is to be αγαπε - the willing of good for another, even without the expectation of return - as God loved us. The thing that challenges me is that it seems, at least in my limited way, to make love into a duty - something I should do.

I also understand love is seen in action (See 1 John), that things that truly express love are not the material: time spent, consideration, showing concerning, listening.

The question is within me - I don't feel like I am loving, nor can I apprehend the true reason why I do love, or sometimes what that even means.

CS Lewis in Mere Chrisitanity says that if we do not have a quality, we should act as if we do, and eventually, through God's grace, it will become real.

The problem seems to be that I do it because I feel I have to, or am commanded to, rather than from any "feeling" of true "Love" inside of me? Hormonal? Only seeking what I can get in return?

Then I get more puzzled: do other people feel this? Am I defective in my understanding of love? Too self centered?

I think this translates into some of my difficulty with God's love. I think He loves like I do, out of some duty He feels to His creation rather thatn freely and completely, loving us while we were still strangers and enemies to Him.

How do I revist and renew my understanding of love as something flowly freely from within, flowing out of the overflow of a thankful heart to God, driven from the well of Christ?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Unified Field Theory

It has occurred to me over the last few days that my life lacks coherence, a unified whole. All the different things I do, all the different things I would like to do, are just pieces and parts - they do not build towards something, nor are the controlled by something. It feels as if I have a fragmented life.

How do I honor Christ in this? If the point of my life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and He is to control all that I do in my life, and my life is to honor Him in all that I do, how do I apply that to daily living?

What I need is a unified field theory of living - as described in Wikipedia, it is "An attempt to unify all the fundamental forces and the interactions between elementary particles into a single theorectical framework; a theory which would explain the nature and behaviour of all matter."

Francis Schaeffer, in The God Who Is There, seems to approach this by suggesting the relationship between philosphy, literature, art, music, theology, and how they interlock as a general indicator of the culture at large - something he seems to do as well in A Christian Manifesto.

I need the same thing - that all of my activities, or things I would like to do or feel called to do or have to do (I made a list and came up with 45 separate items) are directed towards the goal of serving and honoring God, instead of being stand alone one-offs - I do something, and it is finished. It relates to nothing else.

The key, as I ruminate on this, is what my purpose or mission statement is. By knowing the statement and purpose, one can plug in the various ideas as it relates each part of the purpose.

If I take honoring God, serving God, and enjoying God as my purpose, and my primary subgroups are my family and my church family, and most of the activities in my life have either fallen into the learning or creating categories, how do I evaluate each activity versus the goal? This is my struggle.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Being One's self

When did I stop feeling able to be truly myself?

The thought occurred to me driving home today, mostly in opposition to what is usually the case during most of my day.

Throughout growing up, high school, undergraduate and graduate work, and into adult life, I always had several individuals with whom I felt I could be myself without retribution or concern - individuals to whom I could say, and from whom I could hear, virtually anything - and not be concerned about appearing any less in their eyes.

The breakdown occurs, I think, when we are put in the position that something we have told someone essentially in confidence, or something deeply personal, is used against us. Myself, I tend to tighten up a little bit. Then, as we acquire relationships and positions, it becomes even less comfortable, as to open up, or "be ourselves", as the consequences become too deeply concerning or potentially upsetting. To truly be open, or speak one's mind and then get rejected or ignored simply becomes too painful to risk.

It further occurs to me (at least personally) that this can be one of the most deadly things to infest any church body, the feeling that one has to "be" something, or at least appear to be something (the origin of the Pharisees, perhaps?). If any one of us were truly honest about our week or our life in our churches (oddly enough, the one place where we should feel free to be ourselves is tightly wedged into a one or two hour period a week, ignoring the other 164 hours), would we want to come back the following week? Would we feel comfortable coming back?

I write this, I suppose, due to the fact that one received that shock (a welcome one, in this case), that an acquaintance has slipped into a friendship (Bogha-frois, ta shiu air an Lion gu bráth). The change in this from many of the ordinary interactions is as shocking to the system as an ice water batch, acting as a foil to what we usually do every day of every week.

If people are like this, can I dare to believe and experience the exponential manifold reality of God receiving sinners like this? Do I truly believe it? Do I let it impact my life?

When did I stop feeling able to be truly myself?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Happy Failure Day

Today is the one year anniversary of the failure of the Firm. I've decided to memorialize it in my life as "Failure Day" - that day which I commemorate the dead.

Very bittersweet - Even last night, the Ravishing Mrs. TB and I were discuss what if: what if the last deal had closed? Would things have been different? (In my mind no, as the failure occurred long after the die was cast).

I suppose the greatest disappointment - other than the financial impact - is the feeling that one is trapped, that a career in a field that is not of personal interest is okay because of your responsibilities and the security, that such things as "enjoying your job" are beyond one until retirement, if and when that occurs....

Have we been provided for? Yes, sometimes in miraculous ways - even today, the Ravising Mrs. TB called to tell me that an anonymous donor had paid her fee for the women's retreat. We continue to eat, have power, wear clothes, and have cars that work. Have we had to tighten our belts? Moderately - but only in ways that are truly non-impacting - again, we still eat, have power, wear clothes, etc.

Perhaps the point of Failure Day is to remind us of how blessed we are?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Dog Days of Gardening

We've entered that period of the garden which seems to occur during every time I garden. It's that odd time after the excitement of the inital harvest, where the late summer vegetables are coming in, or not coming in well (my cucumbers) or too well (my zucchini). My tomatos have been a disappointment to date - but my soybeans have done marvelously. My chick peas have been attacked by some kind of caterpillar, which eats into the bean pods - and what didn't get hit by the caterpillars seems to have molded.

It's interesting because it helps to focus one on what is important and transient. In the late spring, my garden became my focus. I constantly paid attention to what was growing, how it was going - the visions of the overflow of produce, and what one would do with it, and maybe starting a truck farm. Now in the middle of it, with nature taking its course (as nature did before - only initial blooming is far more interesting!), my interest is much cooled. Life has continued on, and those important things of character, which would have mattered all along, are still here - as are my devoured, mold infested chick peas. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Finishing Journals

I completed another journal this morning.

There is always something comforting about filling in the last page of a journal - a completion of an empty book (this for the perfectionist in me). I seem to start counting down about halfway through any given journal, for a reason that is beyond me - perhaps anxious to fill it in?

I have journal entries going back to 1991, and writings beyond that (not specifically journal entries) going back to 1989. I fear they can be rather spotty - the great thing about journals, rather than diaries, is that journals can be left aside for days and re-entered without the dreaded feeling of "missing a day". True, this means you miss entries and recording thoughts on a daily basis, but at least you write.

I am undecided what to do with them. I honestly hate reading things that I have written for a reason unknown to me, perhaps internal criticism. Do I eventually transpose them into electronic form? Do I continue to gather them - in 15 years, including travel journals, I don't even have one shelf's worth - another 40 years should give me 2.5 shelves?

How does one effectively use the recordings and musings of one's past?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Firm Reconsidered

We are approaching the one year anniversary of my leaving The Firm. It has given me some pause for thought this morning, sort of a distillation of the process of the last 2 years.

The biggest distillation is I can safely say that making that decision was a poor one for myself and my family. If I look at the results currently in my life, in terms of other poor decisions we made, in terms of finances, in terms of the personal fallout, I can safely say that it was a decision not fully made with blessing of God.

Why? The decision to go was largely based on greed, covetousness, and fear on my own part - greed for wanting more, and covetousness for seeing what "the sucessful" had and desiring it, and fear that my business partner would succeed and I would be left behind.

Invoking the "Life is 20/20 looking back" theory, the thing I deplored earlier in this blog - my decision making ability - is the biggest. I shot from the hip in choosing a life direction because I wanted to shoot from the hip. I got enchanted, even drunk, with the power to resolve problems instantly, be they a malfunctioning car, desiring a new house, or time and money, that moved me down the easy wide road - not remembering the general principal that things simply do not come easily like that, that the price must be paid either up front or at the end, with interest.

Up to now, in my arrogance and pride, I have been trying to put the spin of the world on it: "You have to fail before you succeed", "I'm not sorry I did it", "I can't tell what the future would have held if I remained where I was", "I lost money but learned a great deal", etc.

But was it God's will?

Looking back, at a failed business, failed friendship, and financial stress, I think I can admit that I simply made a selfish, bad decision. All those things my father warned me about (and being a kindly and wise man, did not lecture me on after the collapse) came to pass.

If God's will is found only by seeking, patience, and waiting, then I failed. An expensive and painful lesson to learn the hard way.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Supering the bees

Saturday past (July 1) we supered both hives. We are trying something different this year - on one hive, we are using two traditional shallow supers; on the other hive, we are using a regular deep. It will be interesting to see if there is any difference in the yield.

In putting the supers on, I first took the opportunity to look into the hives. There is lots of activity - but fortunately our smoker is working better (Using the commercially available cotton and a slow burning firestick really makes a differenced; the only difficulty is that if you don't use it for longer periods of time, it tends to burn down). In looking at the frames, I was amazed - as I was last year - about the activity of the bees. It is amazing that from the initiation of the hive, they have to completely build up the comb from basic sheets, then fill it with honey, then cap it.

I did not see the queens this time, although I pulled almost every frame out of one hive. Their evidences were there though - eggs and grubs in several combs. I got the unusual sight of seeng a baby bee eating its way out of the comb which it had been capped in.

Now, we wait. In a couple of weeks, I'll go back and look and see what the progress is.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Threshing Oats

I threshed my oats today, something I had been putting off. Oats are different than wheat - the heads are such that it seems that the simple threshing method I used for wheat (an aluminum bat on plastic) wouldn't work - and in some cases, didn't. It was much more of a threshing by hand, certainly not efficient for large scale work.

But the de-chaffing was much easier. Oat chaff far more easily floats away, born by even a gentle breeze. The heavier remainder than remains was much more easily sieved and rethreshed than wheat. In the end, I ended up with probably two cups - although in rinsing the oats off inside, I managed to dump them on Nighean Dhonn's head. It was quite a comedy of errors.

I put aside at least as much as I received last year from Bountiful Gardens (whom I simply cannot recommend enough - they have a great variety of product, they are prompt, and quite reasonable), and put the rest in the refrigerator. Now on to flour.

I also planted millet yesterday - another one of those I'm not sure why, but let's try it anyway.

Tomorrow, we super the bees. I'll give an update.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Harvesting Garlic

I harvested the last of my garlic this evening. I'm never quite sure when to harvest garlic - depending on whom you read, you should pull it out 1) Before it flowers; 2) After it flowers, 3) When it falls over; 4) When 50% of leaves have; i.e. Use your best judgement.

Pulling the last group tonight, I figured out the best way to do it. For the previous two times, I struggled to remove the garlic. First I tried to pull it out (But the stalks wouldn't take it, so the broke). Next I tried to dig it out by digging around it, and then pulling it out. This took quite a bit of effort - For a relatively small bulb, garlic bulbs rootlets are tenacious and thick.

Tonight, it went well. I dug in on one side, leveraged the bulbs, and out they came. I also let them stay a couple more days in the ground, letting the bulbs possibly dry down a bit. It was smooth, and I got done in twenty minutes what it took me forty minutes to do before.

Life's like that sometimes - once you work with the thing in question, rather than brute force, things go quite nicely.

And, you get garlic bulbs for eating as a bonus...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Wheat Harvest Part II

The wheat harvest is done. The second time around, I got smarter - I packed the entire second container into the bucket, beat out the grain, then poured in out, getting rid of the gross chaff and pulling out the partially threshed heads, then starting over with those, then putting the mass in.

Then came the removal of the chaff. You need wind to do it effectively, and there seems to be a right distance to pour the wheat so that the distance allows the chaff to blow away. I got out the fan, and experimented with distance. I finally managed to get it down, about twice as much as before in about the same amount of time - 2 hours. My sum total was about 4-6 cups of wheat. I 'll keep one or two cups for next year's planting, and grind the rest.

Also, today was the first harvest of cucumbers and squash. My tomatos have not yet turned, but my soybeans are putting on pods and the chick peas are blossoming.

To cover my experimentiaton in agriculture, I close with a quote from Marcus Terentius Varro, a 1st Century BC writer:

"Imitate others and attempt by experiment to do some things in a different way, following not chance but some system" - Marcus Terentius Varro

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Small Blessings

A riveting weekend at the T. Beucail household. On Friday, as my wife was driving back from a last day of school swim party with the kids, the van started making a noise. She called me, indicating it was coming from the transmission - then the horrible grinding noise started, and she said she called me back.

Two mechanics later, it's a new transmission. Now here's the surprising thing - in this whole thing, I see the blessings and hand of God:

1) When she came to a halt, she was at the exit to our house off the interstate. It could have happened 10 miles away.

2) I was at work, and the tow truck only had room for two adults. She was able to call a friend, who was able to come over and get her and the kids - because fortuitiously, her husband was home, so she could leave the kids.

3) We wanted to have it towed to our mechanic, but she didn't think she had her wallet. As she was getting out of the van, her wallet dropped out of the van.

4) I was able to leave work immediately and come home, allowing her to be able to go do her home show.

5) Our mechanic called with honesty - it was beyond his shop -but didn't charge us for it.

6) We have a third vehicle - a 1987 Ford Ranger. It's not pretty and gets poor gas mileage, but it did allow her to have a vehicle which will fit her and the kids and get them around town.

7) On Monday, I was able to come into work late and take care of the care.

8) The mechanic called with an estimate at least $1,000 beneath what it could have been.

9) I have to rearrange, but we have the money to pay for it.

10) Our other car, the Fabulous Ford Escort (1991) can also fit all of us.

Again, no one wants to pay $2100 for a new transmission - but if I look at the thankfuls, how can I be anything but thankful to God?

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Simple Question

When was the last time that I changed? Not just a change of circumstances , like a job or living somewhere else, or outer things, but truly changed inside - like a habit, a believe, or as something which makes me better and advances me towards my goals?

When was the last time I truly made a decision?

When did I last love differently?

When did I last truly take something up - or let something go?

When did I last improve my work?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Threshing Wheat

So today, as part of the general goodness that is Father's Day, the vivacious Mrs. TB allowed me to thresh my wheat as part of my "time".

I wil never look at bread the same way.

Intially, I got a towel, put it on the back lawn, put some wheat heads down, and started whacking with a child's aluminum bat. The bat worked fine, but the towel was obviously too small, scattering wheat chaff and berries everywhere. Then I moved to a sheet, which worked better but the grass is too yielding, so you don't crack all the chaff releasing the wheat - which I had to do by hand.

Then one has to remove the chaff. Ideally, this happens by moving the wheat berries and chaff into the air, where the breeze while blow the chaff away while leaving the wheat. Again, this works if a) You have a fairly short drop (i.e. one can't hurl it into the air) and b) you have a breeze. I moved from sheet to paint tray to small Tupperware to try to get the right thing, which is moving the chaff away from the wheat - and even then, you lose some berries and keep the chaff.

In the evening, after dinner, I got a little more advanced: using a cat litter pail (I had to try it twice - the first time I had a raised bottom, which tended to drop the heads into the trough around it), I used the bat - which did get most of the berries off the heads and released much quicker. I had a bit of a breeze, so by shaking (similar to gold panning), dumping the wheat from bucket to paint tray and back again (multiple times), and simple blowing, I got most of it removed - but again, not all.

Two hours for maybe 1.5 cups of wheat - and I've got half again as much to do.

It certainly makes me appreciate what it really takes to make bread - let alone a civlization. How long and how much would anyone have to thresh to provide enough for a day? a week? a year? And that's not including other ingredients.

The other thing I learned is the patience of the thresher. You need to do it muliple times. You need to be careful, lest you loose the fruit of your labors in your haste to be done - several times, I picked individual wheat berries off the cement or ground, because I don't want to lose them now, after 8 months of work! And even then, one must sift and clean again, to remove the final chaff. It brings to mind Luke 22:31-32, where Jesus says "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he mike sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen the brethren". I always thought of sifting as a gentle shaking, or running your fingers through. What I did tonight was violent, lengthy - and not yet done.

The other other thing I learned is that chaff is worthless. It sticks in your hands, it goes in your nose, it flies everywhere, and it has no function. When David refers to sinners as "but are as chaff which the wind drives away" in Psalm 1:4, I now have a mental picture. Chaff cannot resist the wind: it has not weight, it has little substance, it is dry and brown and flies at a gentle puff of breath. And to the chaff of Matthew 3:12 where John the Baptist compares the wicked, I can now see how flammable it is, and how easily it would burn - let alone with unquenchable fire.

Do I fill my days with wheat? Or chaff?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Evening Ride

I took a ride on my bike tonight, about 9:30 PM. I've had the concern, especially as I near the magic 40th year, of my health - my job does not lend itself to activity, I tend to overeat, and I have the usual run of bad stuff in my family: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems.

My problem has been when to do it. If I do it in the morning, I feel better going to work - but I have to wake up at 0430, which is darn hard - so hard, in fact, I as often feel drained throughout the day. Evening is better - but cuts into my time after nighean gheal, nighean bhan and nighean dhonn have gone to bed to do "my stuff". And to do it in the morning is to run, which I seem to hate (bad for the knees too), while evening is biking, which at least moves me faster - and is easier on the knees.

But evenings work better- if for no other reason than I hate getting up early....

At any rate, I am fortunate enough to live somewhere where I have a multiplicity of street lights and new sidewalks, so I neither get hit nor go over sidewalk edges.

I'm glad I went. It's cool enough in the evenings to exercise. The traffic makes a dull background roar. The sky is slowly filling with stars, the sky to west slowly dimming into that brief color of palest blue green you only see at night after sunset and before sunrise.

The other thing I noticed is smells. I don't know what seems to make the dark make smells more intense for me - but they do. You fly by, your gears clicking by the houses, and scents drift in and flow by you: honey suckle, the wet smell of recent watering, flowers, perhaps a late night barbecue, cigarette smoke, car exhaust - the panorama of modern suburban life, as seen by smell.

One of my pet fears is that I should lose my sense of smell as I grow older. Hearing and sight you can affect or preserve, but for smell, there is no way I know of to protect it - like sunglasses or ear plugs. It either stays or goes, I suppose.

The power of smell is like the power of music - to hear a particular smell is take you back to a person, a place, a moment in time. For me, like music - to hear songs of a certain period - say 1979 - 1987 or even later for certain music - is to take a time machine somewhere where it seems life was simpler, maybe more enjoyable (or was I less aware and more self centered?), where the blank canvas of life stared one in the face, even as one did not realize it was there.

I'll ride again, more as I am able. The pale green sky is the most exquisitely beautiful color I know, and it's a free show, every night.

Besides, maybe one night I'll pass a radio playing and see a younger me riding on the other side of the road....

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Wheat

I pulled my wheat down this Saturday. I have never paid attention to wheat being grown - indeed, I'm not sure I would have know what it looked like. I had to look on the internet to figure out what it looked like, and what you're supposed to do with it when you're done.

The thing that amazed me most - other than fact that it is incredibly productive - is how it increased my understanding of the parables of Jesus. When Christ talked about the tares and wheat in Matthew 13: 24-30, it was entirely new to me - in winter, the wheat truly looks like weeds - and if you didn't know better (I probably did not), you might pull up the one without the other (as an interesting sidenote, wheat is allelopathic, which means after a certain stage, it produces toxic substances which suppress other plants. Spiritual food for thought...). When Christ talked about the fields being white for harvest (John 4: 35), I can see it - the wheat, when ready, is almost white. When it speaks about the disciples rubbing heads of grain together in their hands, (Luke 6: 1), I can understand what they did, how little effort it truly was, and how it confirmed the Pharisees misuse of the Sabbath Laws. When Christ speaks of a grain of wheat needing to die in order to bear much fruit (John 12:24), I can see it in the plants where each head bears 10 plus seeds, at three to four heads or more a stalk. And when in Psalm 1: 4 it speaks of the wicked being blown away like chaff, and John the Baptist speaking of Christ pulling out the wheat into the granary and burning the chaff with unquenchable fire, I can see how insubstantial and useless the chaff is - and how easy it is to blow and burn when the wheat is removed.

My wheat is cut and curing now (A small plot - no scything for me this year, but maybe next - I really want one of these). My mill came this week. When cut, my straw will be returned to the field. The foray into self sufficiency - and indirectly, closer to God - has begun.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gardening

Okay - there's some needed whacking here about length of time between posts. I'd like to say it's because I'm thoughtful - but really it's because I'm lazy....

My vegetable garden is mostly in now - corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, zuchinni, radishes, peas, beans, lettuce, onions, and spinach. I put in rice and buckwheat this year as well, to complement my wheat and oats (I am experiencing a strange fascination with cereal crops, of which I tried a stand [buckwheat] at the Ranch to see if it would grow). I have yet to get chickpeas, potatoes, and soybeans in the ground.

It's better than last year, but not great. My spacing still leaves much to be desired, and in some cases, I'm not even sure when the vegetable is ready - broccoli, I've discovered, is the flowering head of the broccoli plant. Wait too long, and the plant flowers...Oh well - I've decided to let it grow to the end, just to see what it does. I need not to make the same mistake with the brussel sprouts.

I've decided I really quite enjoy gardening. It is restful, a relief from having to think about the weighter matters of life, and gives one both physical labor and physical reward. There's also a happy sideline, that of imagining what will come out, or planning ahead (In my mind, I've already increased my wheat and oats by regulating their rows more closely...).

And, it's another reason to marvel at God's creation - to look at the size of some of these seeds, like broccoli or brussel spourts, and to see the resulting plant, is to marvel at His creative genius. I am sprouting out some tomatoe seeds right now. To see the first two leaves, and to know the resulting plant that will come, is simply awe inspiring and amazing.

The new bees should arrive next week. Stay tuned....

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Career Failure Redux?

I am working through the issue of employment after failure. As I have noted before (and for the record), I was involved in the Biopharmaceutical Industry for 8 years. At that time, I jumped off a cliff and went into Commercial Real Estate Consulting. While the company was successful in the sense that it made money, it was unsuccessful in the sense that it didn't make enough money -after 16 months, and an additional 2 of job hunting, I re-entered the job force in the Biopharmaceutical Industry. In a sign of both God's provision and God's sense of irony, my pay was exactly what it was when I left.

Am I sorry I did it? Did I put enough thought into it? Initially my reaction was that of course I'm not sorry, that it provided me a number of growth opportunties. On the other side, I find that I am approximately $60,000 out of pocket directly (not counting the lost money in 401k, cashed in annuities, and lost stock options), having to take this year to slowly rebuild our financial structure. The friendship that started the business relationship is far more distant than it was. I lost another 2 years of experience in a career field which, although not glamourous, definitely is generous in pay, benefits, and career advancement.

My big concern, and biggest take away, is that I did not think through the issue enough (and certainly did not seek God enough). The decision was presented as a bit of "take it now or it goes away forever". I, being somewhat greedy and not wanting to be left behind, made essentially a split-day (as opposed to a split-second) decision and went ahead. It was quite an emotional high. I can assure you that not getting paid for 9 months out of 16 is not.

If I had it to do over again, I would more serverly question my own motives, think through all the consequences, and then move ahead.

God was gracious - we are not, it appears, irreparably harmed. If we had waited due to my pride or some kind of fantasy, it would have been much more difficult.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

Bliadhna Mhath Ur Dhuibh! A Happy New Year to all - a very odd New Year for our household: no New Year's Eve party (third child at six months old will do that to you), no Bowl Game day, no snacks, no Rose Parade (that would be tomorrow).

We sit ensconced, almost fortress-like, in the inclement weather. We are in Northern California, and while we have not been directly damaged by the weather, it is all around us: in neighboring Vacaville, flooding over at least one major road with flooding in apartments; overflows onto I-80 between Vacaville and Fairfied. This does not count the greater flooding in the Napa/Sonoma region, or the flooding around Sacramento.

Yesterday, we took a drive along the Yolo Causeway and the Sacramento Levee. The causeway was amazing: the thing looks like a lake, probably up about two feet from our previous drive up of the day before (they opened the weirs at 0830 rather than 1400, as they intended to do). The levee was interesting as well: houses, some of them undoubtedly multi-million dollar homes, backed up against the river - or rather the river was backed up against them! No whole homes had flooded, but there was water in garages and darn near them. One of them had a "For Sale" sign out in front - not a fine piece of advertising! The rains and winds hit again today, especially the winds - I don't remember such winds in my five years in this area.

The thing it made me realize (again) is our relative impotence against nature. We can only prepare for it and perhaps channel it; we cannot modify it or change it in any meaningful way. Nothing could have prevented this storm. The measures against flooding on the rivers is temporary at best (things eventually crumble or silt up) - yet people go back to live year after year.

The other reminder I got was about preparing. Our power went out for about 2 hours during lunch. No microwave to heat lunch. No electric ignition for gas (thank goodness you can light things by match!). If it had been at night, no light or heat; no opening the refrigerator or freezer (to preserve cold); perhaps no phone (ours worked); no communication (TV, radio, etc.) except by what was battery powered or in the cars.

The powerless of ourselves against the creation should stimulate us to think of our true powerlessness against the Creator - except on His terms.