Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas and Christ

How can I make Christmas focus more on Christ?

Every year it seems the same: I have good intentions of this year being the one that I will focus on Christ in Christmas. And every year it's the same: the mad rush at the end of the month for shopping, the stress of bills after the holiday, the acceleration and speeding by of work - and the suddenly it's here.

Lord, how do I make this last week at least focus on You and the birth of Your son?

1) Put off TV - This is an easy one. I've no need for TV, even to fill the time as background noise (this holds throughout the year as well).

2) Music - Music affects me, so I need to fill my ears with music of the season - as much as possible.

3) The Christmas Story - Read it to the girls every night. Read it to myself every night.

4) Focus on Christ - Do I focus on what the arrival of Christ means? Do I truly consider "God Made Flesh", "Emmanuel - God with us", and and I overwhelmed at the Hope of the Ages?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy 5th Anniversary

A special Happy Fifth Anniversary today to Faith Community Church. It's a day to celebrate five years of coming together with a body of like minded believers to worship God under biblical committed teaching.

It has been said by individuals far smarter than I that the church represents heaven in and of the fact that it is a collection of individuals of different backgrounds, ages, races, interests, and types, all saved by the grace of God. An interesting thought in the abstract - the fact that it is true is all the more amazing. As I reflect on the individuals I've known and formed relationships with at Faith, I am forced to admit that it is a collage of folks I would not have otherwise ever met.

Also, as I think about it, it is the longest period of time that I as an adult have attended a church. I certainly went as a child (St. Luke's Episcopal Church and then Bethlehem Lutheran Church), and recommitted after I married (again, Bethlehem Lutheran Church), but only really made my own independent decision after we moved to Campbell. I have been blessed in my pastoral leaderships - in the first case, a gentle man committed to truth, and the second, another gentle man who is committed to truth (he's been my pastor for seven years now). God has guided me, as in both cases they were the first church we attended out of the blue when we relocated.

It has been an adventure, being involved in a church from the ground up - in many ways like starting a business: making sure you stay committed to your mission statement; working through building ministries (departments in business); developing leadership; making missteps in personnel, programs and facilities; watching people come and go as they move on to other challenges. But added is the aspect of God: watching the church grow in commitment and faith; seeing the teaching grow in depth and understanding; and even watching yourself grow and change as you seek to become more Christlike.

So Happy Fifth Anniversary, Faith Community Church! May you continue practice here what all the redeemed will practice in eternity: a commitment to truth, a commitment to worship, a commitment to glorifying God!

Old Friends

I had a phone conversation with Uisdean Ruadh tonight. Conversations with old friends are the best - partially because they are seemingly so rare in our daily range of personnel interactions. They are the sort where you can just launch into a subject, and seemingly there has been no time between the last time you talked about the item in question, you just pick up where you left off.

We talked about things of concern to both of us: the job situation in both of our industries, the precipitous drop in housing, news of this and that in his life. 45 minutes runs by as if no time at all had gone.

I am blessed that I have a number of these I have semi-regular conversations with - Bogha Frois, Uisdean Ruadh, Cleasiche Fionnadh, Otis , and of course, the Ravishing Mrs. TB. Like a fine wine or good cheese, they only get better with age.

Or to say it another way, friends over time have their tannins mellow and their flavours sharpen...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Carrying Notes

The Ravishing Mrs. TB and myself watched Invincible last night, the Disney movie based on Vince Papali, the 30 year old who in 1977, with no real experience, tried out for and played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Actually a fairly enjoyable movie - little foul language, no nudity, and the soundtrack alone (mid 70's) is worth listening to.

In part of the movie, Papali (played by Mark Wahlberg) looks at a note that his ex-wife left him when she left the marriage (shown in the beginning of the movie). It says something to the effect of "You're a loser, you'll never make any money, you'll never amount to anything". It is implied that he looks at this list frequently, perhaps every day. It is only after he destroys list after a humiliating loss to the Dallas Cowboys, just before he goes into the next game with the New York Giatns, that he meets with his success.

The point that this spawned for me in the morning as I was driving to work is what lists do I carry around. Most of us, I propose, carry around within us lists that have been given to us by others telling us that we are failure, bad, can't do certain things, etc. These are lists that we willingly carry ourselves, sometimes years after the relationship has been terminated - perhaps the people involved are even dead.

The problem, it seems to me, is that unlike the movie, our lists are more often than not are not something we can hold in our hands - they are ingrained deep within us, perhaps buried beneath most of our daily conscious thought. It may be (in fact, for me it is) that the incident that caused the list, the person who gave it to us, is long forgotten.

But the list remains. And we hand carry them with us every.

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may proved what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Part of that renewal is finding out and tearing up the lists.

Can every one do all things? No. Are some things that people say true? Yes. But we are capable of far more than we think, and people will use words as weapons and cloak them as "constructive criticism". It is our job to sort through these, pull out the truth and apply it where possible, and use our given abilities to glorify God to the best.

And that includes tearing up the list.

So go ahead. How long will you carry yours?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Crime and Punishment

I completed reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky last night. It is a book that I cannot recommend highly enough. The writing is excellent, the characters are well developed, the conflict the main character - Raskolnikov, although phrased in a way not immediately obvious, is one which the 20th Century and 21st Century had to grapple with, to the cost of more than 100 million dead.

What's the conflict? I won't tell - you've got to read.

I'll warn in advance, while the reading is quick, it is not necessarily easy. Something that always impresses me when I read classics is how much we have fallen in general by comparison. The man is a master with words, able to paint word pictures that vividly bring to life 19th Century St. Petersburg and the people that dwell within.

It is also a story of redemption - Christian redemption (mirroring that of Dostoevsky's life, which was itself remarkable). The redemption happens only when Rakolnikov is brought to the end of himself - just the way it works in real life.

I've been thinking of formalizing my reading list for next year. I think for classics, I'll finish Dostoevsky and then maybe move on to Tolstoy. Powerful writers

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Bees are Coming!

It's official - three 3 lb sets of bees with New World Carniolan's are set be picked up on 19 April 2007.

I'm excited. I really am. I'm ready to see if I can actually get the hives up and going. My goal (to the extent that I can control it is to end the season with four hives, the same that I start it out with.

Yay Bees!

For information on where I got the bees (and they really are swell people) go to the Olivarez Bees Website.

Here is the brief information on the Carniolan Honey bee (from Wikipedia):

Apis mellifera carnica, classified by Pollmann, 1879 - Carniola region of Slovenia, the southern part of the Austrian Alps, and northern Balkans - better known as the Carniolan honey bee - popular with beekeepers due to its extreme gentleness. The Carniolan tends to be quite dark in color, and the colonies are known to shrink to small populations over winter, and build very quickly in spring. It is a mountain bee in its native range, and is a good bee for colder climates.

For the full (and very fascinating) information packet on honeybees, go here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Planning for the New Year

It's never too early to plan for the new year, to set the course of one's sails in advance of its arrival. As always, this has not been the year I intended it to be - but it has been a year of hopefully substantial changes, especially in the latter half.

Why? A few reasons, I think:

1) I think I have finally started to put the failure of The Firm behind me. The final financial damages have worked themselves out, and I am far enough removed from the personalities and the events to look at them.

2) A book - provided by Bogha Frois called Conative Connection: Acting on Instinct which has provoked my thinking. In short, the book looks at how you do things, and suggests finding those goals - or even parts of the job you are currently doing - that lead to your strengths. It has been one of those books that make you say "Okay, there is a way to harness what I do". (Full disclosure: While I liked many of the ideas of the book, the author heavily markets her profiling test, developed by her, and quotes a great deal from successes of nameless big clients. Also, more into self actualization than is probably prudent. Still, a helpful book to start thinking.)

3) Conversations - Long conversations with friends and loved ones, including The Ravishing Mrs. TB, Bogha Frois, Cleasiche fionnadh, Aosdean Ruadh, Otis (go Here for his blog) and others. Probably more conversations about life which did not revolving purely around The Firm than I have had in the last five years. Conversations with the time to reason through, the space to be silent, and the willingness (is it age? or wisdom) to be honest with others and ones'self.

4) God - This has been a harder one to pin down, more my failure than His. Part of this, I think, has been His stripping away of those things I valued to pare me down to the core of being willing to obey - and even then, I still struggle. Patience, and wisdom, for example. But He is gracious, even as I am obstinate.

5) Writing - Both this blog, journaling, and working through publishing my written work as a serial. Certainly I love writing. Writing stuff down for me has a power, even if I am not always conscious of it at the time. It structures my thoughts, it makes me think, and it helps me express that which I cannot always express in words.

So now, to plan ahead...