Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Old Home Run

I set off this morning on an run at Old Home.

It has rained or drizzled almost constantly since we arrived yesterday. The rain itself has stopped, but the slight impact of misty droplets splatter my face as I came down off the hill and hit the road.

The grass here is green and tall, far taller than I think I've ever seen it (rain in June is not common here). The road I'm running on is the old dirt road which has been here since well before I was born. My parents had it covered in road grindings to keep it from the dust and mud; it crunch crunches under my feet as I running.

The sound of water dripping off the trees times itself with my footsteps as I run. I'm warming up, but not nearly like I do in New Home - it's been a long, long time since I have run in cool weather like this. The sweat beads on my brow a bit; it is certainly not pooling on my back.

A brown bolt hurtles to the sky as a turkey rushes out of the underbrush and takes flight, trying to escape the horrible thudding monster heading down the trail at it. I've apparently frightened him pretty well to have him reach 10-12 feet in the air before he veers away to the right.

Passing him, Neighbor L's dogs hop up along the fence and start barking away as I go by. I'm grateful for the fence - given my speed, it would not even be interesting for them.

I turn onto the main road. I'm on blacktop now so my footsteps no longer crunch; fortunately, the local creek bubbles away down a small green canyon to my left as I run along to keep me company.

Sounds and smells assault me as I run: the smell of tarweed and pine, the songs of birds I don't hear in New Home, the occasional sound of the car as it passes me running in the early morning.

Everything is wet: water running down the trunks of pine and oak and cedar, dripping from leaves and needles, beading on the native grasses. Purple and yellow flowers brighten the light green as I run past, giving thanks for a rainy season they could have never expected as seeds.

I reach the bottom of the hill, where the creek runs under the road, and decide to head back for the second cup of coffee I know awaits me.

Running back is harder for me than running out, because my mind now knows how long it has to go and starts keeping time. It's bad enough running on city streets; it's worse, surrounded by natural beauty I should be enjoying. I still try: the creek now runs to my right and sings as I pass the local sawmill. I can look over now and see the creek running - it's as high as it's ever been, especially this late in the year.

As I turn back off the main road and onto the road grindings, I abandon the creek's cheerful song and re-enter the land of dripping branches. After another alert by Neighbor L's dogs, I run in silence.

Silence here is a powerful drug. You forget what silence is until you come - not the artificial silence of the meditators and the mystics, but the silence of nature as God intended it: filled with the inner workings of creation, void of the sounds people pepper it with the interests of civilization.

As I reach the bottom of the driveway and stop, I notice a local squirrel on a nut hunt. He slowly scurries forward, digs in a hole apparently to find it empty, stands up and looks, and then continues towards me. I stand silently as he stops, looks, scurries and repeats until he has come and made a loop around me, found a nut, and then slowly passes to my left with 3 feet of me, his fluffy gray tail not attached so much as floating as a feather as he continues on his way.

The drizzle has stopped. My coffee awaits.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

What If?

Last night, as part of the Father/Daughter activities with Nighean Dhonn we watched VeggieTales "It's a Meaningful Life". The script itself is a takeoff from a more famous movie of a similar name (no surprise from the title there) and follows the regrets of one man (well, cucumber really) as he wonders how his life would have been different had he made "the big catch" in a football game become a sports star. He's given a chance to know by Gabe, the conductor on the "What If Express" where he sees the impact on himself and his family by what would have happened had he lived the life he expected - and wanted - to live. Finally, he's given the choice to go back to the life he had or continue with the life he saw. Our lives, Gabe reminds him even as he reminded his daughter, are in God's hands and God's plans are better than anything that we could do for ourselves.

Behind every hypothetical, says Gabe, is a theoretical.

It made me wonder as I sat there about the hypotheticals in my own life, the what-ifs that I (all too often) dwell on as points of failure in my life, things that could have gone different - should have gone different.

What if I had entered the ministry? What if The Firm had taken off? Where would I be? More importantly, who would I be?

I tend to dwell on the things in my life that have not gone as well as I would have hoped (don't tell my friends or family this - they would be shocked!), perhaps assuming by default that success is equivalent to better. However, the two are not interchangeable. Not all success lead to places we want to go, and not all failures mean that have failed to attain that which we were striving for.

For every failure that I measure, I fail to account for the successes that arise from the failure. And I miss those things that could have happened only because of what that "failure" brought.

Hypotheticals, in our mind, almost only lead to good theoreticals, never to the bad ones. But we've no more rationale to say that one was more likely than the other, except that we believe it to be so.

Take confidence, then, in God's plan and the outcomes that have come into your own life. His hypotheticals are far better than any theoretical we could have ever designed - or imagined.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Power of a Compliment

The power of a compliment cannot be underestimated.

It's interesting. Words are free (well, except for the fancy words you pay to go to college to learn, like "icthyology" and "antidisestablishmentarianism"), yet so often they are grudgingly bestowed, as if there was a physical cost to giving them.

Without the compliment - without the recognition of effort or sincere note of congratulations that are implied - the situation one is in will, over time, become unendurable. As time goes on, one lets go of any sense that one's efforts will do anything to effect a difference in what one is doing, or that one is becoming more skilled at what one is doing, or even a sense that one is even occasionally doing something correctly.

Without the compliment - and its accompaniment, gratitude - situations turn into long tunnels of dull effort without any sense of change, hope, or excitement.

I'm sure that some experts somewhere have carefully analyzed why this is so, and that complimenting (or even thanking) people "too often (whatever that is)" leads to a diminishment of the power of the words, a creation of the mediocre becoming acceptable instead of the excellent recognized, a dispersal of the power and authority of the one granting the words.

I strongly disagree. If one only hears how one is never doing the task correctly, or performing the task and then having it immediately brushed over to move to the next task, people will simply lose heart. When people lose heart, they lose their spirit, their motivation, their fire for trying harder. And when heart is gone, people may go through the motions but the enterprise, the relationship, the endeavor is doomed to fail.

So give a compliment, give a "thanks" today. It's cost is nothing more than the muscles of your vocal cords and face; the effects can be beyond anything you can imagine.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Doing the Work At Hand

"Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance but to do what lies clearly at hand." - Thomas Carlyle

I fear sometimes I let my visions of my future - at the least the future as I'd like it - get in the way of the things that need to be done right now.

The future is a wonderful place to dwell. It's a place of possibilities and ideas, a land where problems never bedevil, where the only issues that arise are which of the multitude of good things to do will you do to day, of all the things in life which are now not going well becoming grand.

It is, in a word, surreal.

The future contrasts badly with the present. The possibilities which potentially exist in the future are seen as wisps in the present. What exists in the present is too often what we have to do: prosaic, common, often frankly boring. If the future is a vista of multiple possibilities, the present is often a single possibility boringly executed over repeated days and years.

But the part that we forget, I suppose, is that in fact the future is the present, veiled in mists.

The future only comes to us through the present. That which we build now in the present will become our future. Yes, we should visualize our future and see that we are moving in those directions, but at the same time we probably need to do the work that it is put in front of us now. Because the work placed in front of us now can often lead to futures that we do not or cannot expect - simply because the present which leads to them is not contemplated by us now.

A simple, personal example: by choosing to join The Firm, I eventually did what was in front of me - and ended up in New Home. Certainly not the future I would have visualized for myself 7 years ago, but by doing what was in front of me - one step at a time - here we landed.

"God never gives guidance for two steps at a time. I must take one step, and then I get light for the next. This keeps the heart in abiding dependence upon God." - C. H. Mackintosh

If our futures are in God's hands - which they are - and only He sees the totality of time - which He does - then I must believe that this thing put in front of me at this time is the thing which I am expected to accomplish right now to lead to a future which perhaps I can only see hints of but which God sees fully.

The bottom line (mostly for myself) is not to let the work which can be done - must be done - now confuse with any future which may come. Mine is to do what needs doing at hand; by doing the work, the path will resolve itself.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rains

The rains came last night.

I awoke around 00:30, whether from the sounds of the winds howling by or subconsciously knowing that when the rains were supposed to hit (thank you, weather.com). I came downstairs and stepped out the front door. No rain yet, but the Western sky traveling away down the street was lit up like the Western front, blasts of light peppering the housetops.

Within 10 minutes the rain came. First you wonder if it has started; you listen and hear the sound of the chimney cap being pelted and you know that it has come. I checked outside on the back porch: the white limestone slowly becomes spattered with rain until the entire porch reflects back wet light in the storm.

Rains are different here. In Old Home, rains were something to be enjoyed from indoors, carefully by a fire. Here, rains are to be enjoyed perhaps from inside, but perhaps from a covered area or even out in it. Standing under the porch, watch the midnight lightning light up the ground at moments to the point of daylight, the growl of thunder provides a constant backdrop of sound as the oaks whip their branches hither and yon.

If one listens carefully, one can almost hear the parched ground sighing in relief. It's been two months since any rain at all and almost eight months since a significant rain. I am sure that out there in my lightning-lit garden, my plants and seedlings are standing there, leaves outstretched, drinking in the clean rainwater.

Like most other things, there is a down side to this much needed refreshment: the humidity once the sun comes up will be hideous. And oddly enough, barring any other rain, within 2 hours of sunrise you'll scarcely be able to tell that any rain fell beyond the damp ground beneath the grass.

That's okay. The rain will be where it needs to be - in the ground: a sky-sent treasure hidden away; lightning and thunder and winds made solid; a God given provision to His creation which so desperately needs it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On Anger

I almost lost my temper yesterday.

A seemingly typical workday: I was working on one of the series of tasks which I had allocated for the day when all of sudden I was presented with a situation which demanded all of my attention - because it was a management priority.

The immediate reaction in my system was that of anger. My entire day had just been rearranged beyond my control. When I showed my list of 351 other tasks and asked how this would fit in with the schedule, I was essentially told that it was really my problem, as this suddenly became the new priority.

My initial reaction? An overwhelming sense of anger.

I managed to control my anger to the point that I didn't say anything too incriminating. Still, it burned in my gut for the rest of the day.

The thing that suprised me the most the intensity of the anger that I found in my self, that aroused itself to quickly, that hovered with me for the day. I usually believe myself to be someone who controls his anger better than that, who has mastered his anger, who is more mature about things that he is.

I suppose the reality of the experience is to remind me that we are never too far above what we battle against to be beyond it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Electronic Crutch

So the (perhaps temporary) death of the laptop created an interesting thing this weekend: Time.

For the first time in a very long time indeed, I suddenly found myself with time to do things.

Why? Because suddenly I did not have the option of running to the laptop every time I got a bit bored or had nothing else to do. I was forced to actually do other things.

I must admit that I had not realized that I had become so addicted to the ready availability of the computer, that it had become quite the crutch - and apparently, an unthinking one at that.

What did I do instead? I finished two books I had started months ago. I planted more in my garden. I participated with my children in some activities. I boxed (on Wii). I started reading more. Worked on my resume. Practiced Iaido and mandolin.

I don't know that I'll ever be truly separated from the computer (after all, how else could I blog?). On the other hand, this weekend has given me a powerful reminder of how easily I can become controlled by the triple forces of laziness, technology and unthinking.

To do means to be active and engaging - not trapped in a 14" electronic screen reading about the lives and events of others.

Here's to doing.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On The Example of Fathers

Today is Father's Day.

Thinking of Father's Day of course brings me to my own (which, I suppose, it rightfully should).

Interestingly, as I continue to grow older, I find myself in the position (as many do) of discovering that the father has somehow magically grown wiser and knowledgeable over the years. The more likely reality is that I have simply become more willing and able to listen to all he has to say.

During my greatest fiasco - The Firm - my father patiently gave me his advice and things to think about - things which I promptly ignored, to my own peril and eventual failure. In all of this, my father never once criticized me for making the decision or for ignoring his advice. When things went down the drain and I sat for two months looking for work, he never castigated me, nor made a comment when I crawled back to my industry at the same rate at which I had been paid.

That one thing - the giving of advice and then the general support when I failed to take it - is perhaps the single greatest gift or skill I received from The Firm. The computer and desk chair are gone, the house the career bought is sold. Only the self confidence to do and the example of my father now remain.

I consider this example as I prepare to face new forks in the road, decisions which I have to make - and in making them, impact my own family in the same way that my father's impacted us (for good, I might add). Have I finally learned to listen to advice? Have I finally learned to hear with the heart? For my own children as they grow older, am I teaching them to make good decisions - yet advising and then being supportive as they do.

I have had a great example. Would that I can live up to it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Waiting to Boot Revisited

Well, it appears I was clairvoyant when I was writing about my laptop yesterday. This time, when I went to use it after booting up, the screen had disappeared altogether. Apparently the relic had decided that its time had come to pass on.

The feeling I'm fighting at the moment is that of being thankful. I'm supposed to be thankful - "Give thanks in all things" (1st Thessalonians 5:16). And I should - it's the screen not the hard drive (as far as I can tell right now), so all my data should still be there waiting to be transferred. And I did get approximately 6 years out if it, which is longer than I probably could (or should) have expected.

I should be thankful. Ironically, not really feeling it now.

The overwhelming feeling I have at the moment is that of frustration. Not just at the sudden failure of the screen and the inconvenience - that's really all it is - of potentially recovering and relocating my files, but really at the timing of it in my life.

"It's not fair" I scream internally. "It's not as if we have the money at the moment to replace the darn thing. Yes, I know we can make do with a single unit but still - come on, isn't there a lick of fairness in the world?"

Ironically, I also consider it somewhat less than coincidence that with a short period (2 months), the last two items that were of The Firm - the laptop and the desk chair I sat in - have both suffered breakdowns. Literally, with the exception of the lingering financial ramifications, there is no evidence that any of that ever took place.

I don't know. Maybe it is a clearing of the slate, a sort of final cleansing of so much of my life and (in a lot of senses) the poor decisions I have often made. Or perhaps just a test of what I should be practicing on a daily basis: thankfulness.

Either way, it appears that boot up cycle I was thinking about is still going on as we speak.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Waiting to Boot

My laptop is a relic, the last the I own from the adventure of The Firm, a 2005 Presario 2200 from Compaq. It quietly sits in the 4 x 4' area allocated to me as my "offic" atop the second floor. It's older, but still functions effectively for what computers are supposed to do.

It is, however, occasionally frustrating.

As in this morning, when I started it. It ran through its initial start-up "Windows" materials, then rolled into the main screen. I started mentally preparing myself to write this morning, and waited for the computer to finish booting.

And waited. And waited.

Frustrated, I clicked in on the Explorer icon, hoping to kick it over to what I needed. I initially successful - the window came up - but then I couldn't do anything in it. Suddenly another window came up, then a third and fourth. I tried to close two of the windows, becoming increasingly aggravated. The computer then helpfully kicks up the "failure to close" window, so now I have five windows open. Point and click, point and click, until windows 3-5 are gone. I'm back down to 2 windows - but now I can't get into either of those, and then they both close on me as well.

It's now 15 minutes since I initially turned the computer.

Fine. I try Explorer again. One window comes up again - Yay! Then a second one. It then becomes a race - which one will allow me to get to my e-mail? I bet my effort on the first window but it sticks. Suddenly, the second window pops up, ready for me to enter my password.
I enter it, but then the first window pops back, ready to go. Do I close the first window which seems to be working, or the second window, which seems to be faster now? I choose the second, only to have it stick while the first window comes back victorious.

It is now approximately 25 minutes since I booted the computer.

As I sit here in my frustration, trying to be patient, reminding myself that I am blessed to have a computer, reading, looking at the computer, becoming more aggravated then trying to redirect myself - suddenly I realize that this reminds me of how my life feels so often: always waiting for it to boot up, becoming frustrated when it doesn't start up and trying to find something else to do while I wait, then looking at it, the clock, and thinking things should be moving faster.

I could always get another computer. How do I boot my life up faster?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lots

"No-one will improve your lot in life if you do not yourself." - Bertolt Brecht

"Submission to what people call their "lot" is simply ignoble. If your lot makes you cry and be wretched, get rid of it and take another." - Elizabeth von Arnim

Our lot in life.

How do we get them? How do we choose them?

How do we improve them?

Or are they simply a combination of both - choice and circumstance?

Some of the fundamentals of our lots we cannot choose: our parents, our siblings, where and how we grew up, where we attended school, our physical size.

But as we get older, we can choose the fundamentals of our lot: what we believe, what we do, who we associate with, whom we marry, what we put our energy into.

Then at what point do the choices become fixed, our "lots" become prison bars which we seemingly cannot escape from?

Because the reality of the quotes listed above is that in fact we have a great deal to do with our lots in life - and that we have the power the choose and change them, if only we will.

What's your "lot" in life? How did you get there? And if you don't like it, what will you do to change it?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Commitment

"Jibun no miseta koto wa saigo made jikko suru koto" (Always keep your commitments) - Samurai no Kokoro-e (Precepts of the Samurai)

We are not a people of commitment.

Perhaps I really indict myself: I am not a person of commitment.

I have to come to understand, more intensely than ever, that commitment is the one key to success in anything: business, marriage, child raising, financial or business success, weight loss. Everything else - plans, routines, programs, intentions, support materials - is useless without this one component.

If so necessary, why is it so seldom practiced by myself (if not the society around me)? Two reasons occur to me:

1) Commitment is difficult.

When one commits, the understanding is that one will do what one has said one will do. It is not difficult for easy things ("I'll call next week") or even when we commit to other people (although I break those often enough as well). The most difficult commitments are the one I make to myself.

More difficult than commitments to others? Of course. I have trained myself over the years to accept the fact that I can break commitments to myself and there are no repercussions. It's true that there are no repercussions for other people; however, I fear it has left me with the acknowledgement that commitment (to me) is not something I value.

Which is ridiculous - and short sighted. Of all people, the commitments to myself are the first ones I ought to be keeping. If keeping a commitment is a measure of respect for my promise, what do I say about how I respect myself?

2) Commitment limits us.

To the extent that we commit to something, we voluntarily set something aside - from as simple as time ("I'll call you" means I will not be doing something else with that time) to something as long ranging as business success ("I commit to completing this project" means that there are other projects I will now not do).

As much as commitment is about finishing and following through, it is about making choices with the limited amount of time and energy each individual has. We are finite creatures: we can only truly commit to a number of things. Far better (for myself at least) to maintain the illusion that by not committing, I maintain my ability as a free agent to choose the best option.

The problem with this is that time is against all of us. By not choosing, by not committing, we do maintain our free agency - however, we also lose precious time to begin the journey on those commitments. Time is not endless - in many instances, the decision not to commit now means we may never have another chance to commit to that thing.

So if commitment is the prerequisite to success, and at some level success in anything makes it worthwhile and improves our lives, what am I really willing to commit to?

What about you?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Petitions

"And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." - John 16: 23-24

"Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." - 1 John 5:14-15

I've been thinking a great deal about prayer of late - specifically my own, not only in terms of time spent (which is typically abominable), but what I pray about.

I've been through many different forms of prayer: the standard written prayers of a Luther or St. Anselm, prayer acrostics (Worship, Adoration, Thanksgiving, Petition), even free forming as I go.

But in my reading through the Bible in a year and especially of late, moving through 1-2nd Chronicles, 1-2nd Kings and Ezra, I am struck by the difference in my own prayers and those recorded.

Among other elements of the prayers there, the thing that struck my mind this week - even this morning- was how the prayers focused around 1) The need for God's mercy, for God to act; and 2) Petitions which were addressed to things God had already said He would do, if the people would obey. It brought me spinning back the verses quoted above in 1st John, which may be some of the most abused biblical verses in the Bible.

While many people, especially those of the "health and wealth" gospel, have used it to justify praying for anything and been assured that it will be answered, they fail to address the part "according to His will". Apparently it is assumed that God's will is pretty close to my own, since He wants me to be happy and have life abundantly, doesn't He...

How often do we think before we petition God? Yes, I know that we need the elements of praise, thanksgiving and adoration in our prayer lives, but these are typically things which we can never have too much of. It's only in petitions that we seem to never have issues - although for myself, too often those issues are around prayer requests that directly affect me.

Can we know all of God's will? Of course not. Could our petitions be more in line with
what God wants? Sure they could. Scripture is replete with petitions we are to pray for: for God to raise up laborers for His harvest, for strength, for mercy and forgiveness, for our enemies, for healing. In fact (with some limited exceptions) I can scarcely think of a place in the New Testament where a recorded prayer is specifically from an individual about wants or desires - only needs.

This morning I tried an experiment: after thanksgiving and forgiveness, I prayed for the petitions I know of for others. I tried to eradicate any particular requests I had except for one (we're not told never to ask, just not to expect those things to be given to us), and of the rest only those which I perceived would be according to God's will: healings, relationships, health, restoration.

I've no idea that those prayers will be answered, any more that I did for the requests before. But I would suspect that if we do what God says - pray according to His will - our chances significantly increase.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

All I Needed to Know I Learned From Samurai 7

All I Needed to Know I Learned From Samurai 7

1) If you need samurai and all you have is rice, get hungry samurai.

2) Help sometimes comes precisely from where you will not expect it.

3) Not everyone who will not join you in your fight is your enemy.

4) Know why you want to do things. Be very clear about this. Doing something without being clear will ultimately damage you.

5) Once you commit to a course action, at some point you will reach the stage that you cannot uncommit.

6) The best leader is the one both experienced and wise.

7) To end a problem, you must get to the root of it.

8) If you make people automatons, do not be surprised if they are obedient but less skilled.

9) Don't be fooled by appearances: skilled samurai come in shapes and forms you will not expect.

10) In war, as in life, find the best teacher and leader you can and follow them until it is time to no longer do so.

11) Good and evil really do exist.

12) There are things worth dying for - and living for.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Wall

I feel like I have hit an adamantine wall.

All roads, no matter what I try or what I seem to explore, lead me back to this one wall. The path goes under this wall, but I cannot get over, under, around, or through it. There is no door, no passage that leads beyond it.

There is no back here, no way to turn and go to a previous branching of the road. The path beyond may lead to the road behind, but I have no way of knowing that at this point. Instead I sit here, looking up at an obsidian black wall which I cannot understand, do not know where it came from, and pass through.

The problem is that I don't understand what I'm supposed to do here. I can't really move forward, but neither can I go back. I feel trapped in a limbo without direction, without guidance, without hope.

How does one pass through the doorway that is not there?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Moment

It's funny how a moment can change your life.

Faced yesterday morning with mortality - a wake-up call of sorts from a younger coworker, diagnosd (and successfully treated) with cancer.

It's one of those moments that haunts you through the rest of the day, keeps you quiet as you drive home, even pensive as you go through your evening, surrounded by the noise and clamor of a baseball game.

The question keeps coming up: Why am I doing what I am doing? Does it matter? What should I be doing?

In that moment of self realization, all lesser things take a back seat. All of a sudden, the blandness and mundanity of one's day - the examples of trying less than 100%, of skating through rather than succeeding through - all of this is swept away by the fact that life is real, and time is not what we believe it to be, and so much of what we pretend to do as "important" really isn't.

The thing that surprises me most is the overwhelming feeling of shallowness I felt, that so much of what I am dealing with that I believe to be important is simply window dressing, empty streamers hung in a room which will be briefly enjoyed and then torn down and thrown away.

What are doing with our lives - building structures, or just decorating rooms? One matters and lasts beyond us, the other is merely a passing fancy which will come down sooner than we know.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Christ in the Boat

Yesterday's sermon (timely enough) was on failure.

The text for the sermon was from Luke 5: 2-11, where Christ is teaching by the Lake of Gennesaret and has Simon Peter take his boat out so he can teach. After the teaching, he tells Simon to take his boat back out into the deep water. Simon's response:

"Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net."

The result? Their nets are so full that they reach the point of breaking. Simon Peter realizes the man in his boat is something more, and Peter, James and John become disciples of Christ.

The point of failure (since this is not a typical text of Peter's failure, as he managed to have many)? The simple fact that they had failed to catch anything the night before.

The interesting point in the sermon was not the fact that Peter had failed nor that Christ got into the boat - it was that the decision to get into Peter's boat was Christ's. Peter had nothing to do with it. Yes, he had to make the decision to follow what Christ suggested (and think of it from Peter's perspective: what would an itinerant preacher, a carpenter, know about fishing?), but the initial thing that made everything possible - Christ's presence - Peter had no part it in. It was Christ's decision.

The point, said our pastor, is not that we fail - we all fail, sometimes in ways that are painful and embarrassing and scarring - but to realize that, if we are believing members of the body, that Christ is in the boat with us. We need to accept that fact, listen, and get ready to do what He says, be it go back to fishing where we were or simply put our boat out a bit so others can hear Him teaching.

So having failed - as we all do - is Christ in your boat? And what is He asking you to do?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Useless Knowledge

What constitutes useless knowledge?

I ask this question in the context of a society and a world that has become intensely knowledge dependent. Knowledge, more so than any other factor, is the acknowledge (clever pun, no?) to advancement and success.

The definition I often hear or see used for useless knowledge is knowledge which in no way contributes to what I actually doing, typically in the business context: the royal line of England, how cheese is made, the parts of a katana, the fact that only certain varieties of armadillos and humans can catch leprosy. To rattle one of these facts off in the context of the work environment is to stop the conversation, get a strange look, and then have the speaker continue on as if nothing had happened.

But I would counter that. Knowledge is useless only if it cannot or will not be used.

For example, I would argue much of my career knowledge is fairly useless outside of a specific narrow band of use. Perhaps 80% of my daily activities are not something that can be directly transferred to anything else. Certainly it only indirectly helps me with practical skills, like how to cook for myself or thresh grain or change a tire.

In other ways knowledge which is considered "useless" has been and is being lost at a fantastic rate. At one time, tribes of the Siberian plain knew how to make horsehair goggles to prevent snow blindness; that knowledge is lost. And as many societies make the transition to "modern", we lose precious a precious knowledge base, a base as significant and useful as that of any gene base we lose due to extinction of species. It makes us even more totally dependent on technology (never a good thing, in my opinion. Species that become specialized to a single environment or plant are in danger when that environment or plant changes).

So maybe we should expand our definition of "useless" knowledge from that which merely serves me in my present time to that knowledge which cannot really be used beyond a very specific situation. That knowledge, like a solar panel during the thirty days of night in Alaska, is truly useless.

As for me, I'll continue to gather my knowledge in the hope and belief it will someday be useful - like, for example, that whey from cheese making used to be considered a popular drink in inns and coffee house? Who knew...

Thursday, June 02, 2011

In Need of An Epiphany

I am badly in need of an epiphany.

There's something I seem to be missing in my life, some turn that I feel I've missed, some answer that is lying before me that I'm not seeing.

I try and do things in a different way, seeking to move things about a bit and hopefully find a new synergy only to discover (yet again) that certain factors such as rest are boundaries beyond which my life cannot proceed. I try and dedicate myself to work on to find in my heart that I feel I am rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic every day.

On the one hand I continue to berate myself. I'm smarter than this. There's an answer there somewhere. I should be able to see it (or helpfully, it should manifest itself to me).

On the other hand, is it a case that the answer is here and I am simply not seeing it? I mean, I think I have been given answers and suggestions but they never seem practical or possible. Certainly my last experience with sudden career change has given me a taste in my mouth that lingers to this day (and not a good one).

And it's not just career either. I still have a list of activities that I would like to do that runs longer than my arm, yet somehow they continue to get moved out for the things that I have to do (but don't like nearly as much).

How do I break this cycle of trying, collapsing, wondering, and trying some more?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The List

I made a frightening discovery at work yesterday: I was actually accomplishing something.

Out of a sense of desperation (more than anything else), my group started to build a list of everything that we do. Everything goes on the list and is tracked, from the smallest request for information ("Customer Service") to the large document. Everything is categorized. Everything is filed. If it's new, I add to the "new" category for that week.

Here's the odd thing that happened: even with adding 25% of new tasks to the total, I have still accomplished almost 40% of the items on my list within a month.

I can't remember the last time this happened to me.

I'd be lying to say that this is not moderately satisfying. For the first time (ever), I have a sequential record of what I am doing and how much of everything I am doing. I have a hard number that I can point to - and something I can buck myself up with by saying "Yes, I am making progress somewhere."

It's a fascinating feeling.

The next challenge is to figure out a way to adapt this to my personal life. It would be false of me to admit that the sense of doing things is not addictive and rewarding.

I just need to figure out how do things that are actually important to me.