Wednesday, December 31, 2008


"For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning." - T.S. Eliot

And so here we are. The last phrase strikes me the most - "To make an end is to make a beginning." What better time to reflect on endings and beginnings than today and tomorrow.

But what calls out to me is "To make an end". Oddly enough, this becomes harder and harder for me as the years pile on. Why? Not sure. It's certainly not a fear of the unknown, or having to learn new things. It's more of a personal comfort level thing.

We carry things - ideas, habits, hobbies, manners of speaking - around with us until they seemingly become ingrained in us, part of us. Twofold thing: 1) We can only ever carry, be, and do a finite amount of things; and 2) Much like a full cup, we can only add to it once we subtract from it.

But what a struggle to empty the cup, to "make a beginning"! I find that I hold on to things that hold no more benefit for me, nor are an essential part of me, simply because I hate to let things go. Cynically, one could say that it is because I might have to use that habit, skill, thing again. More realistically, I do it because I confuse what is necessary with what I think is necessary.

I am reminded of when Am Polleanach went through her mother's things after she had passed away. I remember in particular things that her mother had saved, or that she herself had saved, which got ruined by the weather. Although they believed they were there and ready to be used or pulled out and memorialized, when in fact they were useless and never realized it. How much in my own life that I cling to is in fact now useless, weathered, and I still believe it secure and dry?

So this year, in adding to my goals of things I will do, I will add at least one thing I will no longer do this next year - that "making an end". Let us see how it goes.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Little Wonders

This song is from the Disney movie Meet the Robinsons (a fine movie, by the by), written and performed by Rob Thomas (who sings for Matchbox 20 - who knew I could be hip?).

Let it go,
Let it roll right off your shoulder
Don't you know
The hardest part is over
Let it in,
Let your clarity define you
In the end
We will only just remember how it feels

Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain

Let it slide,
Let your troubles fall behind you
Let it shine
Until you feel it all around you
And I don't mind
If it's me you need to turn to
We'll get by,
It's the heart that really matters in the end

Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain

All of my regret
Will wash away some how
But I can not forget
The way I feel right now

In these small hours
These little wonders
These twists & turns of fate
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away
but these small hours
These small hours,
still remain,
Still remain
These little wonders
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away
But these small hours
These little wonders still remain

Here's the video (I think)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Thought

I'm usually quite excited after Christmas. That period of time betwen Boxing Day and Hogmanay is when I give serious thought to the next year, goal setting and looking back over this year's goals and cleaning.

Cleaning and organizing is the worst. What I've found is that I'm the proverbial pack rat for getting, saving, and collecting things. Why is this? I don't have the excuse of my grandparents, who lived through the Depression, not do I have need because I have very little - in fact, I have an overabundance.

Oddly enough, the reason I keep most of things I keep is the same reason I dither about making decisions: afraid to commit (if I choose, truly choose, one path that means that other paths are not chosen), and afraid that if I get rid of something, I'll need it (which has occasionally - very occasionally! - happened).

A third reason, as I think about it, is the silliest of all: the power and emotional attachment that we invest in things. I was looking through papers last night and found some old Breton instruction from 19 years ago. I almost threw them away but then suddenly, as I went through some of the supporting paperwork, was overcome by a wave of nostalgia (from my Ireland trip) and a "what if?" thought: What if I need to do research for some writing? And back in the pile they went. How is it that things, which are not emotive nor emotional, can create such a reaction - most often nostalgia, that most thin and least useful of the emotions because it does nothing except create a desire for times past which cannot return?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve, 6:30 AM

Wisps of steam roil up
past my windshield as cold rain
puddles and rolls down.

A Cold Stone of Unforgiveness

The Ravishing Mrs. TB reminded me this week that I am still carrying around a stone of unforgiveness.

I mentioned that I had be reading a Christmas card from some family members of Himself, and found it interesting that Himself was not included in the description. Her response surprised me: "Why do you care? I've moved on from that - Why haven't you?"

That made me think - why am I still holding onto it?

And then the imagery came: I'm holding on to it because it represents something else - in this case, unforgiveness.

Right or wrong, I harbor feelings of hurt. My response is not to let go, but to hold it, polish it in my sweaty clenched hand and cool cotton pocket until it is a small cold black stone, ready to be pulled out in that moment when it becomes useful.

Which is of course ironic, given the reason for the season. Christ came to enable the reconciliation of man to God - I, with my cold stone, wait as a lone sentinel, ready to use it in unforgiveness.

Why do I clutch it to myself? I could make excuses, but the ugly truth is that I do it because I feel like I have a right. I feel - in some kind of bizarre, backwards way - that I am the aggrieved party.

But in order to take something, we have to let something go. One cannot both clutch and reach to grab with something in one's hand very effectively.

To drop the stone - ah, that seems like death itself. What of the right? What of my hurt -some real, some imagined? What about me?

That option is not given. "Forgive as God forgave you" is the command. Drop your stone, you who have sin but would cast the first one.

The frightening part is that if I truly looked, it is not one stone but a pocketful that I carry, bearing me down, filling my hands with that which will sink me if I do not release it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Last Christmas

Someday, there will be a last Christmas. Christ will return, and there will be no more Christmases - or perhaps, no more secular Christmas.

Christmas as we know it is almost a historical anomaly. The Jews of old did not know. Christians up to the early 20th century do not know it as we know it - in fact, they must look at wonder at what it has become.

How will we relate to those who have not experienced what the commercialism, the secularism was like?

How will the Incarnation be remembered in Heaven? With celebration of course -and we may even hear the stories of the principals involved.

But how much of what we now do will pass away as even a steel building does in the face of a hurricane, leaving nothing but beach and water? Knowing that, how much of what we make Christmas is contained in that building?

Can we explain to those who truly know the meaning of Christmas how we held Christmas? Will we say it with pride or shame?

The Last Christmas will come, eclipsed by the Second Coming. If this were the last Christmas, would you be ready?

Monday, December 22, 2008

All about me

Wandering through this Christmas season, bouncing off seasonal glitter and rainy weather, trying my darnedest to get at something other than the sappy sentimentality of the season, has made realize one thing, at least: that so often, the biggest foe I have to fight is myself. Even the things we think we should be about.

Case in point: from time to time, I go through a period of time where I doubt my salvation. Not feeling saved, thinking "Am I saved? I should feel 'saved', right? Right?" I'll spend days wandering around in this kind of no man's land of the possibly saved, looking through books, looking through my Bible, looking for some kind of confidence builder (again) that I am. Saved, that is.

But as I was pondering, as I have been more and more over the years, about the focus of Christmas - about being on Christ, not on things - it suddenly hit me that for too much of life, I tend to focus on me. Even spiritualizing seemingly spiritual sounding problems.

It makes me realize the emphasis that Christ and the apostle Paul put on self denial, on self discipline and self control. Not there is anything spiritual per se about self control, but that it trains one to deny ones'self, to get the focus off fulfilling the flesh in even seemingly allowable things. As we deny ourselves for a greater good, we train ourselves to focus on God and His word rather than on pleasing ourselves first and foremost.

Even in spiritual things.

What I realized is that this incessant gazing at myself for the status of my salvation is just another way of making about me, rather than about God. Have questions about the state of my salvation? It's all there, in the Bible. The question is, do I take God at His word, or do I insist that He bend to my need to "feel" saved? Accepting the salvation of God, resting on His assurances give all the glory to Him. Constantly nattering on about the status of my salvation, filling some sort of emotional need to make me feel better, keeps the focus on me, not God.

I try to it on Christmas. How about the other 364 days of the year?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Read This

Go here. Read this. Now.

And think about it.

Hattip: The Anchoress

Smart Technology

This weekend we got the movie WALL-E (by Pixar) to watch. It's one of those I am sorry that I did not see in the theater.

It is a grand movie - one, arguably on balance, is probably worthy of an Oscar as all of the elements - plot, characters, music, effects, impact - are as well balanced as one could hope to find in any movie.

However, it sparked a thought (one of many, really - another sign of a good movie) about the use of technology. Essentially, technology was developed to the point that people did nothing for themselves, including live their lives: affected by microgravity, they had become overweight blobs, never walking, sitting in anti-grav lounger that took them everywhere with a telescreen in front of their faces and speakers on either side of their heads which controlled all input. Robots did everything. It is only as they return to Earth and embrace a physical life (as the credits show) that they achieve some kind of balance with technology.

Smart Technology (SmarTech? Probably already been copyrighted) is something which hits home now perhaps more than ever with recent economic developments. We develop technology to improve our lives, but what are the other effects of that improvement? A simple one, suggested by one of my favorite authors Gene Logsdon, is that we increased technology to free people from the "physical drudgery" ( a term Logsdon has problems with) of farming. The result: Fewer farmers, more monocropping, less local dependence of foods (up to the current economic crisis, it was apparently cheaper to ship lamb from New Zealand than buy it locally in California), and a population which has become far more overweight and less active, prompting the development of "health clubs" where we have to set aside time (money and resources too) to exercise - something the work was doing by itself.

Or to paraphrase Michael Crichton in Jurassic Park, "We always ask if we can do it. We never ask should we do it."

I write this as a closet Luddite, who tends to disdain the use of new technology partially from seeing and experiencing the wrong horse (Betamax anyone? Or maybe the Apple IIe?). What has occurred to me is that in fact, I have let my commercial disdain for investing in a new technology until proven affect my willingness to at least accept and investigate new technologies, and instead of thinking "How can I adapt this to what I am currently doing? Does it make sense? Does it improve my life - the totality of my life, not just making things easier?" I think "Just another thing to go wrong" or "Something else which is not useful". Yes, not all technology is useful - but neither is it all to be rejected out of hand.

Robotic technology is a fine example of this. We adapt robots to do what we cannot or will not do - but do we replace that with something useful for the people to do? Just because robots can do a lot things, should they do a lot of things?

I don't know that my thoughts are fully developed on this - indeed, I am getting together my 2009 goal list, and this could be a worthy year's study. Still, the basic question remains: we may have an opportunity in this economic downturn to fundamentally change how we do life and economy (and no, I'm not talking any sort of politics. Both parties have demonstrated that government is the most blunt, least effective tool of change. Like everything else, it will have to be us). Can we take it? Do we take it?

I'm off - ironically, to take a class in Adobe Acrobat 8 - talk about your cool technology....

Monday, December 15, 2008

Prayer Request

A prayer request from Am Polleaneach: her son's family, within the month (maybe even this week or next) is moving from their current home in San Diego to up near Vancouver, Washington. The whole deal, which includes a home purchase by Am Polleaneach and Le Quebecois for their retirement as well, has come about relatively suddenly, but providentially by the hand of God. Pray for them, that the trip and move would be safe and that they would become plugged in to a support group quickly.

And, of course, pray for Uisdean Ruadh. It's his first day of work.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Uisdean Ruadh II

An answered prayer and a great thank you: I received a call from Uisdean Ruadh last night. After almost four months, he has become re-employed, starting Monday. On behalf of him, thank you all for your thoughts and prayers during this period.

As the Watchman on the Wall program always says, "God is still on the throne, and prayer changes things." Thanks for praying and caring!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Parties

This year is the first in a number of years where I will not be having the Office Christmas Party

It's an interesting trend of the industry that I've been in, one that really mirrors the state of the economy. When I initially entered the industry (1996), we had a cafeteria with a chef, free cereal, and regular Friday gatherings with adult beverages and snacks. Of the first company, Christmas Parties were lavish affairs, with entire clubs being rented with themes (Monte Carlo night, etc.). Money was plentiful and such things were seen as "necessary" to keep productive people motivated.

The tech bubble burst in '01-02 did not affect my industry. Our parties were a little reduced, but we still had large buildings - and good food - to boot. Gone, of course, were the cafeterias and the Friday gatherings, but at least we had the Christmas Party to look forward too.

Even at my last company, they did good Christmas Parties - maybe not nearly as exotic or themed, but special enough that they are something folks looked forward to next year.

This time around, given the economy and the size of the company that I work for, this will not be the case.

Not that I miss it, you understand. Yes, they're fun, but they're like the fabulous vacation you get every now and again that is really great, but does not reflect the bulk of your vacations, which are far less fabulous but fun none the less. They make for great memories - but also for a sort of wistful call of the past, a vanished world that will probably never come again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


In speaking with Otis this evening, I think he hit on at least part of the sense of my malaise: for the first time in a great deal of years, I'm afraid during the holiday season.

Economically related, of course - yet I can't remember the last time that Christmas was tinged with a halo of doom around it. Never, at least in my memory, has such discussions ranged around layoffs so close to Christmas - not in the tens or thousands, but in the tens of thousands.

Perhaps I'm feeling it personally as well. My previous company was announced as purchased today - which always worries me for those I know there. My current company had their board meeting today, with what I believe are significant changes to how the company operates (significant in the sense of "last throw of the dice" significant).

It either causes, adds to, or heightens whatever else I was feeling, making it more difficult to concentrate on the holiday season. But again, is this foreign to what Mary and Joseph knew: a land occupied by the Romans, traveling a long road with no idea where they would stay, having a child in an animal stable, called by God when they could explain it to no-one else? Fear? Surely they felt their share of it, even as they saw the face of the Creator that night.

Perhaps this Christmas will be closer to the first, in that sense, than any other in my life.


One of the greater failings (in my humble opinion) of the Evangelical church movement (non-denominational, of which I am a member) is that we don't do the season of Advent. Growing up Episcopalian and Lutheran, Advent was something that became anticipated - I'm sure as a child, mostly because it meant that Christmas was right around the corner, but also because it built anticipation for the event itself.

I say to our detriment because the darkness of Advent makes the brightness of Christmas all that more brilliant. As an Evangelical, Christmas just sort of comes one Sunday - we sing a few carols, have the children do a small program, and then it's here. There's none of the more traditional anticipation, done through the mechanism of Advent, as Sunday by Sunday the Advent wreath reflects the physical (and our spiritual) journey to Bethlehem.

I'm stuck this fall (more so than others, I think) of darkness - darkness of nature, and darkness of soul. I alluded to this to An Polleaneach yesterday - a sort of malaise where I have little interest in doing anything, a sense of going through the motions of life without zest. She responded that she too was experiencing the same thing.

I wonder if that is not a proper thing for Advent. We anticipate the coming of the Messiah, but we do it in the background of 400 years of silence after Malachi. In fact, in Malachi some of God's very last words to Israel are to look - to look for Elijah before the coming great and terrible day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5). Like the Jews of that era, waiting through the darkness of the times towards hope, so Advent, with its seasonal darkness, cold, and wet, gives me pause to reflect in silence on both the promises of God and His return, seen through His arrival in the manager at Bethlehem.

I wonder as well, if at this season, we are called - at least I am called - to use this period of waiting to look at our lives. Earlier this month, I lamented the fact that Christmas always seems to rush by in a hurry. I wonder if my malaise is simply God's way of saying "Take a minute and look at your life in the light of Me. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Are you letting the good take the place of the best?"

Monday, December 08, 2008


Nothing like the Christmas season to make one reflect on one's failings.

I'm impatient. I'm impatient with everything. Tonight, in my annual battle with Christmas lights and the tree, I went from being seasonably festive to curt and grumpy and relatively short order.

Why? The simple answer would be that I don't put lights on the tree very well. The more complex answer is the depths of my selfishness.

Impatience, at least to me, would seem to stem from a lack of getting my own way. I want things my way - and I want them that way now. I want my life to be pleasant. I want my children to be obedient, my job to be engaging (and well paying), my lights to go on my tree painlessly (and be full), never to meet with an obstacle.

Why? Because to have my will subverted - in small things or big - is for the little "me" of my world to be denied, thwarted.

I think as we get older, we are more prone to this simply because we have more parts of our lives that we can control. We can make many decisions on our own: what we wear, where we live, what we eat, much of what we do. It makes the thwarting of our wills all the more angering: if I'm an adult, I should be able to control most things that directly affect me. The fact that I can't is only a matter of scale: dictators attack enemies that do not bow to them, I grump at lights that won't go on a tree.

Given the chance, I might try to execute the lights as well...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Trophy and Self Will

Two thoughts:

1) "I am called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the lives of others, not an admiration for myself. Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God's purpose is not to perfect me to make me trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He wants" - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, Dec. 2

2)"VERSE: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. -- Romans 12:2

THOUGHT: Sooner or later we all have to make a decision: Will I be a nonconformist? Will I refuse to be squeezed into the mold of the world? (J.B. Phillips terminology.) Will I be part of a Christian counter-culture? (John R.W. Stott terminology.) Will I be God's own person, an alien and an exile in the world, put here to have a redemptive influence? (The apostle Peter's terminology.) Jesus simply calls us his disciples. Bottom line: until we are really ready to cross the line and live totally for the Lord, we're not going to be able to fully recognize God's will for us. There are no arm-chair quarterback Christians. There are no sideline disciples.There are no back-seat driver Christians. We either chose the Lordship of Jesus, or else we reject it. So what's your decision?" -, December 2, 2008

I can't add much to the thoughts above except to say: Where does my devotion lie? Especially now, at this time of year, am I to seeking to be a trophy on a shelf, or to be so committed to the Lord and what He is doing ("cross the line and live totally for the Lord") that if He said "Stay where you are, for life, doing what your doing, and glorify Me" I would willing say "Yes"?

Monday, December 01, 2008


A Happy First Day of December.

I realized last night, as I sat up thinking, that as an adult, Christmas has become a very different thing than it was when I was a child. Mostly, the rush of the month - as an adult, December is the year end month for work, rushing to get everything taken care of and everyone goes out on vacation. Add to this that now more than ever, Christmas is the "uncelebrated" holiday season at places of employment, a thing of commercialism and occasional holiday trappings - but not of religion, oddly enough the thing for which the holiday was created (bosh on the idea of Saturnalia. Yes, the Christians adopted it but no, it has not been celebrated for what - 1700 years?)

But in reality, isn't that a microcosm of the reason for Christmas? Emmanuel, God with Us, came into a world in the midst of it: an occupied country, a very young mother and father on their way for a government accounting, in the middle of a trip somewhere else. It was not the time per se that made the celebration, but what occurred during that time that made it remarkable.

Do we have that Emmanuel experience now? If you're a believer, God is with you right now through His Son and His Spirit, even in the ordinariness of our lives. Do we act and believe like that - or do we let the crush of life interfere with it the same way we let it do with Christmas?

We live in hope, even as the Israelites live in hope: they from the back end looking forward, we also from the front end looking forward to Christ's second appearing. May the thought of God with Us change us every day, but especially in this season set aside for Him.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Doing and Trusting God

I had a second epiphany this week (two in a month - Wow!) about what it means to live for Christ. If you'll recall in A Credible Witness, part of my conclusion was that it is not necessarily what we do, but how we live during what we do that makes us a credible witness for the power of God.

But in doing the things we do, I realized there is another level in which we can glorify God: by trusting Him with the result.

For all of my belief in altruism, the fact is that more often than not, I do things not such much just for reward of doing good as to (in some form or fashion) further my own agenda. Sometimes it is necessary, to be sure: to move things forward, it does not behoove us to make fools of people or their work and then ask them to support our program. None the less, I am hard pressed to think of times where I have truly done something purely out of love of God - or put another way, doing things without ulterior motives and leaving the results of God.

Like a flash, suddenly something I have never understood before came to mind: Brother Lawerence and The Practice of the Presence of God.

Brother Lawerence of the Resurrection was a 17th Century Carmelite monk outside of Paris; the collection of writing by and about him, called The Practice of the Presence of God (just enter the title on Amazon; there are a great many editions), discusses his philosophy and experience. He is often quoted as a mystic or an alternative to liturgical Christianity.

I had always struggled with some of his thought process, of doing things to God alone, or to quote Conversations 2 about him: "But having resolved to make the love of God the end of all his actions, he found this decision most satisfactory. That he was gratified when he could pick up a straw from the ground for the love of God, seeking Him alone and nothing else, not even His gifts."

But now I think I get it, although maybe not in the way it was intended: to live a credible witness to the Gospel and the existence of the God of the Bible, to truly place our trust in God (and both the Old and New Testament is littered with references trusting in God in ALL circumstances) - to do all this is to live in such a manner and way of the love of Christ that everything we do is not for some ulterior motive (a difference here between a planned course of action and steps and personal gain) but to do it because Christ would have us do it, trusting to Him to recompense the action (if not now, in heaven).

The benefits? We are free to act without looking for reward; we entrust any outcome to the God who richly rewards beyond anything we can imagine; we give flesh to the agape love of God, that love that does the best for the other regardless of feeling; that we in some small way become Christlike.

How would our witness change if this was our modus operandi?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Consecration and Sanctification

"We must never allow anything to interfere with the consecration of our spiritual power. Consecration (being dedicated to God's service) is our part; sanctification (being set apart from sin and being made holy) is God's part. We must make a deliberate determiantion to be interested in only what God is interested. The way to make that determination, when faced with a perplexing problem, is to ask yourself 'Is this the kind of thing in which Jesus Christ is interested, or is it something in which the spirit that is diametrically opposed to Jesus is interested?" - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, 27 November

I have never heard the definition between our role and God's role described more clearly, especially our role. Everyone is familiar with Philippians 2:12-13 "Therefore,my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works for you both to will and to do for His good pleasure". But I always stumble, as many have through the centuries, on that part about "work out your own salvation", as we are clearly saved by faith, not works.

But consecration - setting one's self apart for holiness, even as Paul commands Timothy in 2nd Timothy 2:20-21 "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the the latter (TB: cleanse: throughly clean out, scrub out, completely purge) himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sactified and useful for the Master, equipped for every good work" I get - just like I set aside some things for better things - or as Paul used several times in the New Testament, the image of an athlete training to win, setting aside all those things that do not contribute to his training.

And the measuring rod? Again, one probably most of us can intellectually understand but put into practice less than we should: is this something that Christ would be interested in, or that Satan would be interested in?

What was Christ interested in? Obeying the Father's will perfectly. Glorifying God in everything. Saving the souls of men and women from the wrath that is to come.

If I apply that same standard, how do I measure up? How do you?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Dream

Someone appeared in my dreams last night - someone, as Gandalf says in The Two Towers, that that I did not expect to meet.

It was another one of those dreams which has essentially no basis in reality - my previous company was moving from one building to another, and for some reason or another, I had come to visit. Even the building they were moving from was not the current building.

At any rate, I was there amidst the bustle and chaos, looking to give something to someone - it didn't seem clear in the dream, and I don't know that it was important. Suddenly, amidst the half remembered or perceived faces, one came through: DT.

I have no idea why DT was so recognizable in a see of faces, only that she was. We exchanged some sort of minor pleasantries, and then off she went to co-ordinate part of the move. But I was curious - curious to the point that after the crowd disperse, I walked by her office and turned on the light to see what was in her office - again, the dream is too fuzzy to have specifics of what was there. It was only after I turned the light off and retreated lest I get noticed that I realized that the front of the office was visible from a hallway, and in fact anyone could have noticed me at any time.

There are two things that are of interest to me: The first is that one person would be so recognizable in a sea of fog and why that one person? The second is the end, and probably the more important part: the idea that something which I was trying to be secretive about was in fact readily noticeable to anyone looking.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


"The Elder, to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy and peace will be with you from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in the truth, as we received commandment from the Father." - 2nd John 1-4

The above, from 2nd John, in brief covers that which he covered in 1 John, and indeed the words of Christ the beloved apostle recorded: The importance of living and believing the truth.

As Christians, we serve a God of truth, who is Himself Truth personified. Nothing of Him is false - not His words, not His actions. As He is truth, so he expects us to walk in truth - "as obedient children, not conforming to the former lusts, as in your ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written 'Be holy, for I am holy.'" (1st Peter 1: 14-16).

The catch is, I am mostly not a person of truth.

Why are we not people of truth? Not just speaking the truth (which is itself difficult enough), but embodying the truth of Christ and His gospel? The world often derides and ignores us, not because our message is not clear, but because we do not do the very things we say that our God commands others to - in a very real sense, we give lie to the "truth" that we claim not only to believe, but base our eternal hope on.

This creates a problem: we, living behind half lies and half truths, give lie to the claims we have about a God who has the only Truth - roughly equivalent to the salesperson who uses a competitors' product. We proclaim that which, by our lives, we apparently do not believe is enough to base our lives on.

What would it look like if we lived truly to the convictions we have in Christ? Would our lives change only a little bit - or, with me, would there be such a change in my life that people would say I'm a different person?

What if Christianity was known for the truth of its adherents - both in word (to the point where if a Christian gave their word, no other guarantee would be necessary) and in deed (that when people read the Bible and the commands of God, they would see no difference between the commanded lives in Scripture and our lives)?

Why are we not people of Truth?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Credible Witness

I had a thought this week as I drove to work - it was the Holy Spirit, as it was not any connection I had previously made, or ever could made.

Any who read this site on a regular basis know that I have struggled - often - with my career field in life, chosen more by accident than design. My one foray since choosing it - The Firm - only led me back to it. What I've grappled with, as I have continued in it, is the thought of using the talents and abilities God has given me to best glorify Him, which this industry does not seem to do for me.

The thought that came was simply this: I am to work at whatever I do, whatever position I'm in, in such a way that God is glorified; more specifically, such that my Christian witness is credible.

The thought that got me here was, oddly enough, the Internet at work: If my manager, after I had been noticed surfing, came to me with Colossians 3:23 ("And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men") after I had proclaimed my faith in Christ and said "If you believe, why aren't you doing this?", I would be stuck, and my testimony to Christ fruitless.

In a way, it's a relief: it doesn't matter what I do, only that I do it as well as I can. Do I have talents and abilities? Yes. Should I seek to develop them in such a way as to best glorify God? Absolutely. But the primary core is that I demonstrate Christ as being credible by how I live and exist, not just in the relatively rare occurrence's when those gifts are used.

Think about it: This Monday, when we go to work, we make Christ credible or not credible by how we act and what we do - What could be a higher calling?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Liar, Liar

I realized yesterday that I am suffering from a cognitive form of self-illusion e.g., I've been lying to myself. The truth is, my (and our) life for the last 4 years (this October, but really for 4.5 years) has been built on a carefully constructed financial lie, that we could afford the lifestyle we have.

The short story is that when we purchased the house we currently live in, we got a no-document loan (a loan in which you state an income without any evidence of having it). It was not a big deal, because after all, I was now working for The Firm, and success was just around the corner!

The reality is, I never made as much as I said I would on that loan document (in point of fact, my income dropped below what I made in my previous industry by doing real estate). Even now, three years after quitting The Firm, I am still not there.

I mention this because it came to my attention last night another lie I have been pawning off on myself: that of my career.

As I had mentioned (last month, I believe) - I had the possibility to do something I have dreamed of for a long time. Unfortunately, it required an investment that I did not have at the time. I have been hoping against hope that something would come through -but, related to the first item above, the reality is that a financially self deluded lifestyle does not allow for things like this. Nor, I think, is God willing to reward disobedience.

What I realized, as I sat down to write the letter asking for a later reconsideration, is that I knew that this is what I should do - just like I knew, at one time, that I should be in the pastorate.

That story, an entirely separate one, caused me to review my letter of rejection from the Synod last week. In it, as I looked through it from the vantage point of 9 years later, gives me a different view than I had thought -that really, in their view, there was very little belief that I should ever enter the ministry full time.

The same thing came up two years ago, when after being in a study program for church eldership, I was essentially told "Not at this time". My first reaction, as my reaction 9 years ago, was anger - Here I was, someone who I thought was qualified (and who knew better than me!), being denied the opportunity to use my talents and my gifts!

Note the pronouns: I, my. Surprised I didn't append "for my glory" there.

The reality is, for any formal church ministry or for the opportunity I am putting on hold, where did I get the idea that it was my calling, my destiny to do these things? How did I come to understand this?

The reality is that God has provided me with a very financially rewarding and occasionally intellectually challenging career field. But, since it is not my primary field of interest (or even secondary, for that matter), I get "bored" with it and try and find anything to do but it. This can range from not mentally being "there" during work to that scourge of this present age, Surfing the 'Net.

What would happen if I simply did what I had been provided with - as Paul says in Colossians 3:23, "What you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men" or as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 9:10 "What ever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..." What restrains me?

Simply put, it's pride - the sense that I know better than God what my talents and gifts are and what I should be doing with them, instead of using them in the time and place of God's choosing. Do I truly treat Him as Lord, submitting in all things and waiting on His timing while I do what He has given me to do, or do I seek to use what He has given me to magnify myself and my life, and if I glorify Him, that's good too?

I believe it was attributed to GK Chesterson "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has never been tried." What would happen if I truly submitted to Christ, died to self, and was truly content with where he placed me? Probably not what I would wish to happen, true - but perhaps something different and better?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Yesterday's post stuck in my mind all night. Where is my confidence? Where is my firm trust and belief? How much do I truly believe in God?

As understand it, the idea of faith as discussed in the New Testament is that of putting your entire weight on something - if it doesn't hold up, down you fall. In a bit of irony (to me, anyway), it is readily apparent to believe, to have faith in, to have my only hope in, Christ as the Son of God and my only salvation not only because of the truth of Scripture and God's existence, but because if you look at the sin and how it is paid in the Old Testament and the justice of God, there is no other way.

The irony is the things that are not the belief in salvation - if you will, the practical matters of life. Paul says in 2nd Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work"- but how often do I try to do anything but what Scripture says in my day to day existence. For example, in Colossians 3:23-24 it says "Whatever your task, work at it heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance: it is the Lord Christ you are serving." - but how often at work do I slack back because it feels as if my work is not recognized or rewarded?

I can extend this to many parts of my life: leading my family, finances, prayer, witnessing through my words and life, even doing what Scripture calls me to to become more Christlike. Am I really so proud and so hardened that I feel that God is unable - or unwilling - to honor His word because, in a prideful humility, I feel I am "too small" to matter in those ways to Him? It's God honoring His Word and glorifying Himself through it - I'm just the vehicle which it occurs through. Am I willing to have faith in His word and accept my role and His grace with humility and trust?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obeying God and Believing Promises

"By the discipline of obedience I get to the place where Abraham was and I see Who God is. I never have a real God until I have come face to face with Him in Jesus Christ, then I know that "in all the world, my God, there is none but Thee, there is none but Thee." The promises of God are of no value to us until by obedience we understand the nature of God. We read some things in the Bible three hundred and sixty-five times and they mean nothing to us, then all of a sudden we see what God means, because in some particular we have obeyed God, and instantly His nature is opened up. "All the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen." The "yea" must be born of obedience; when by the obedience of our lives we say "Amen" to a promise, then that promise is ours. " - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, 17 November

The line that catches me above is bolded. Can it really be that simple? Surely, every student of the Bible has had that moment where all of a sudden something jumps out at you, makes sense in a way that it never has before - but I don't know that I've ever made a connection between my obedience and making the connection with God's spirit.

But why should that surprise me? God predicates rewards based on obedience - from salvation (being obedient and believing that His Son is the only means of salvation) to wisdom and knowledge ("The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" - Proverbs 1:7). God's riches, both physical and spiritual, can only flow when we are obedient to His will.

If that is the case, why don't I seek to be obedient more? You'd think if this was really understood that obeying God according to His word (not what we think His word says) resulted in His nature opening up to us (Imagine - in some way knowing the nature of God!), then we as individuals and a church would be bursting down the doors to hear His Word preached, and neglecting all things worldly and crass to spend more time in His Word.

But for me, isn't that rooted in the less than total belief that keeps His promises? I think I've told the story here of putting in 20 hour days to get a facility online, only to be rewarded with praises and little else. Sadly, in so many ways I've come to expect that people won't keep their promises. Maybe I think God won't either - but is that really because God isn't faithful, or because I don't really take him at His word and seek true, heartfelt obedience?

What would my life look like if I did?

Saturday, November 15, 2008


"I stayed because every time you threw a brick at my head or said I smelled, it hurt, but it could never hurt more than it did every day of my life just being me." - Po, Kung Fu Panda

I had an epiphany today - an actual, legitimate event which radically altered how I looked at things. It was initiated by work, continued by Fry's, and completed by Kung Fu Panda.

At work, I have been overwhelmed - almost to tears at times - at the feeling of futility in my job. I do things, but they don't really seem to make in impact, or even be recognized. My nadir was on Thursday, when after modifying a document to be consistent with the format, I was asked to revise the font from 12 point Times New Roman to 10 point Helvetica. I screamed in the car at the triviality of my life on the way home.

1) What I do does not seem to motivate me to do more.

On Friday, I took a break at lunch and went to Fry's, the computer store. Every now and again, I am overcome by the need to look at computer games - although I consciously know they're a waste of time and not productive (and Heaven's sake, often not Christ honoring) I just get the urge to at least go look. I didn't find anything, but what I did wonder and ponder was why I could spend hours of time playing these games - or for that matter, doing well in college - and then it hit me: there was a clearly defined goal or endpoint. Adventures brought you experience and greater abilities; homework and study brought good grades. If I put in the time, that's what I got. A great counterpoint to revising font size and realizing there is only more of the same next week.

2) I can keep to the task if there is a known endpoint with recognized rewards.

If you've not seen Kung Fu Panda, you should -although it is billed as a children's movie, it is rife with adult thoughts and themes. At one point after the quote above by the main character Po, the teaching master Shifu realizes that he cannot train Po as he trained his other students. They were motivated by typically martial art motives; Po is motivated by food. It is only when he uses food that Po trains and masters Karate to get the food -and then realizes it was not the food he was after.

3) Different things motivate different people.

And then, the whole thing hit me like a safe on the head: I am not happy in my current career, and not feeling like I am making progress in so much of my life, because I am not setting the right motivators.

I like to clean. I like to have the dishes done. Why? Because I like to see results - pretty fast results - at the end of my work.

Honest to goodness, I like attention. I like being recognized. I like, if you will, a degree of performing and being noticed. I like to know if I put in the effort, it will make a difference, a discernible one. I like to be rewarded with physical things - as Moliere said, "There's no praise to beat the sort you can put in your pocket."

Yet when I look at my life, I find that all of the above is scarcely present. Certainly in my job function, I will probably never be recognized in this way, because my line of work never is. It's hard to be incentivised to work and succeed when it seems like all your money disappears as soon as you make it - what's the point of making more, when it will just be gone as well? And what's the point of working on things that are years out, when it seems like the things never get beyond year one?

What does this mean? Certainly nothing for my job at the moment, although maybe I do need to rethink my career field. I need to try this out, at least in my private goal life, and see if it is really true. If it works there, then it will work out anywhere in my life.

I hope so. I can't do font sizes forever.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Moldy Beeswax

Last weekend my father gave me a bucket of beeswax he'd culled from various frames and hives - probably about 5 lbs of material. I rendered some at my parent's house but ran out time, so packed it up in a plastic bag to bring home. It had been raining that day, so it was a little wet, but I thought "No big deal" and home it went.

This past Sunday, I went to get it, thinking "I have time now" - and lo, the entire pile was covered in mold. A week of wet, residual honey and bee parts, and dark, had combined to destroy any potential of getting anything out of it - after my father had labored to save it, to add insult to injury.

I felt miserable about it of course - but then I found myself making excuses. Why didn't I do it the Sunday when I got home? It only took a couple of hours - instead, I found reasons not to do it, to let it lie - and let it rot.

In my own life, this is true not only of beeswax, but of many things - things I do, opportunities I'm given. I am not a "Do it now" person. My excuse has always been if I act too soon, I end up making the wrong choice and having to redo it. True enough in limited circumstances, but not for the majority of life. More often, I think, or at least as often, opportunities need to be taken when offered they go bad.

But I found something worse than missing an opportunity: It's having an opportunity, or a resource, or a thing, saved up thinking "I"ll get to this later" only to find, when you have time or when you need it, that the opportunity to has gone bad.

Obedience is always rewarded; disobedience is not. How many times has God presented me with an opportunity and I have put it aside "for later"? God graciously gives us opportunities to participate in the rewards He has planned for us in heaven - but how often do we turn it aside because I'm too busy, I'm too lazy, etc.? Spiritual opportunities are the most transient of all: once they're gone, they seldom return.

Just for fun, take every opportunity you are given today. Do every one, even it you reach point where you realize you don't have to do it or it is not relevant. See what God will do.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


"The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the instruction of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, 'Thus says the the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: 'You said, 'Woe is me now! For the LORD has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.' '

'Thus you shall say to him, 'Thus says the LORD: 'Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,' says the LORD. 'But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.' ' " - Jeremiah 45

This chapter has always fascinated me - partially because of who it is spoken to, and partially because of what God says.

Servants of the prophets were hardly ever addressed in Scripture: the two I can think of in this light are Gehazi, the servant of Elisha (who had a poor ending -2 Kings 5) and Baruch. One can imagine that it would be a heady thing to be servant to a prophet of the Lord, yet at the same time hard - the Lord had words for others, does He have nothing for me?

Did Baruch expect God to answer Him? I'm guessing not - at least, it sounds like the kind of thing that I would say to myself! - that sort of whiny, grumbling, "Woe is me, doesn't anybody care?"

But then the unexpected happens to Baruch - God, through the prophet Jeremiah, directly responds to him. It is always an awesome thing, and often a frightening thing, when God responds directly to us - it suddenly reveals and reminds us that in reality, we are always in the presence of God, that He truly does hear and see all, and that nothing we do is hidden from Him.

And what does God address? Baruch's concern for himself. We don't know what he was thinking. From the date of the prophecy (605 B.C.) and the cross reference in Chapter 36, this may have been around the time when Baruch had read the prophecies of Jeremiah concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, and King Jehoiakim, as the prophecy was read to him, cut off bits of the scroll and threw them into the fire, thus insuring the wrath of God upon Him and His house. It may also have been around the time of the first Deportation of the Jews to Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24) (including Daniel and his friends - historical note). All of a sudden, gripped by the reality of the current and coming judgement, Baruch bewails his lot: "Woe is me!"

I have had this moment - maybe you have too, where all of a sudden the circumstances change and all your plans and dreams shift radically. Or maybe you wake up one morning, and suddenly realize that your opinion of your own gifts and talents and place in God's economy are wrong. You've been "wasted" or "exiled" to something of seemingly no importance.

How does God respond to Baruch - to us? With grace. He reminds Baruch of what is important. Is he seeking great things for himself? Why? - when the milieu he would seek them in was to be destroyed within 20 years - almost as if to say, don't build your empires on the sand. His great dreams were to come to naught.

But then God comforts him as well. Even though he is going to destroy the world as Baruch knew it, with the destruction of the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem and the end of the temple system - approximately 800 years of Jewish presence in the Promised Land -God promises Baruch that he will continue live "wherever you go", whether into death, captivity, or exile. It is enough, given the circumstances, to be content to live, knowing that God continues to watch over and protect him, and will continue to hear him, even as he did when Baruch mourned.

John MacArthur says "Baruch had his expectations far too high, and that made the disasters harder to bear." Be assured of God's care, and be careful that we set our hopes, goals, and expectations according to God's plans, not our own.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Breaking Hearts

"The first thing God does with us is to get us based on rugged Reality until we do not care what becomes of us individually as long as He gets His way for the purpose of His Redemption. Why shouldn't we go through heartbreaks? Through those doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son. Most of us fall and collapse at the first grip of pain; we sit down on the threshold of God's purpose and die away of self-pity, and all so called Christian sympathy will aid us to our death bed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, and says - "Enter into fellowship with Me; arise and shine." If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart. " - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, November 1st

When I graduated from College (slightly before the earth cooled), I attended a six week study session in Budapest, Hungary. It was quite an experience, as Hungary had just emerged from the Iron Curtain. Included in the party was a young woman to whom I (ever the romantic at time) feel for. We dated, I visited her home (her parents lived in Munich), and then flew back determined to have one of those long distance relationships that worked (she was in Chicago, I was in Chicago).

During the ensuing 2 months, things took their usual course that being apart and young does - until that one splendid day when she called, asking me to come out for some large gala ball. Of course, I accepted, excited. The Romantic was thrilled beyond belief.

Until I got there. Then, I discovered that much like high school dances, sometimes you go because you asked someone and it is too late to call it off, not because you want to go with them. Thankfully, I got to spend the whole weekend in this wretched state, including a wonderful afternoon walking in the cold biting wind by Lake Michigan, simply because I didn't have anywhere to go.

I panicked -calling, writing, calling - until the day (I remember it clearly) when I got here phone answering service which included, as part of the greeting, a comment for me basically telling me "Bug the heck off!"

I was crushed - so much so, that I actually buried the experience and iced it over, like a hockey pond over a meadow, and never analyzed it fully. Part of me died that day. Certainly, the Romantic was crushed, only to ever rise as a shadow of his former self.

This smacked me across the face this morning as I caught up on my meditations. "Why shouldn't we go through heartbreaks?" asks Chambers. He proposes that through these heartbreaks, "God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son". But in reading this, I realized that we have a choice when these heartbreaks come.

On the one hand, we can choose to bury the pain and react from the flesh, trying to cover over the hurt or make it better - often to the detriment of ourselves. Without a doubt, most of the bad decisions I made in that 2 year period until I met the Ravishing Mrs. TB were attempts to find that Romantic. But the Romantic was largely gone, any actions on his behalf a sort of walking wake.

On the other hand, we can do as Chambers suggests: realize that God is breaking our heart so that we can enter fellowship with Him. He reveals all that is not Him to us so that we can seek the Giver, not the Gift. There was nothing wrong inherently with the Romantic, except his goal: he sought earthly love, while God wanted those feelings of beauty and passion to be exercised first with Him, then with those around the Romantic in service to Him.

God wants us to be about His purposes in the world, not our own agendas. We accept that for goals, but how often do we apply it our entire person? Is my whole person - heart, mind and soul -about how I can conform to His will and Word?

Friday, October 31, 2008


The end of the year is starting to stare me in the face. I know it's only the end of October, and I know that we've still two months, but let's be honest: between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there's really only about a month of usable time between now and then.

The thing that this reminds me of is commitment. This was one of the things that was a big point of discussion at the seminar we went to in June: commitment. First of all, keeping commitments to yourself, and second of all, keeping commitments to others.

The part that has always given me great trouble is actually keeping commitments to myself. Others are not so difficult: I tend to do it out of a sense of shame, if not from a concern about keeping my word. But the ones to myself are far more likely to slide off, as I have been making excuses to myself about myself all my life.

But the commitments to myself are often the ones that are the most critical. Spiritual commitments, to pray or study or push on to be more Christlike, are always between God - and myself. Items like health, accomplishing small tasks which need to be done or even the big ones that need to be done, are always in the end a commitment to myself to do them.

How am I doing with them?

For most, unfortunately, not well - and largely because I don't really believe that they are that important. Why? Because I have so trained myself (largely through the process of schooling) that actions equal results, or should. But for so many of the personal commitments, the results are not necessarily visible, if perhaps at all - and trying to tie them to something outside of one's self, like saying is either ineffective or downright dangerous, as it mentally may put me in a position I shouldn't be in.

How do you motivate? How do you stop lying to yourself?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Winter is almost upon us again. Yes, I know, the calender says not until December, but in reality we're supposed to be in line for rain this weekend, and as my rule of thumb goes here, if it's not done by 10/31, it won't be done until Spring.

Something which we seem to have lost in modern society is this idea of the rhythm of the seasons. Beyond climate control and changing one's garments for the temperature, there is little sense of the fact that things change, that the seasons really are different with different things going on. Think on times before every kind of food was available every day of the year: there was a reason that oranges were associated with Christmas gifts (that's when they were available) and tomatoes with summer.

We are, I think, the poorer for it. Why? Because it has severed a link that we had with the world around us, a sense of being attuned to the creation of God -and the Creator, and the wonders (and perils) of the world He set into being. Instead, we essentially become our own little creators, making insulated pockets of what we feel our world should be - and not only physically, but spiritually and intellectually as well.

The thing we forget - to our peril - is that our pockets of physical control are really at the mercy of the real creation and the real Creator, and can be eliminated very easily. Anyone who has seen the outcome of any natural disaster understands this - and yet, for the most part, folks go blithely on, perhaps with the assumption that "it will never happen to me".

For perspective - this weekend, take five minutes outside of things, and go outside and just listen - listen to the creation tell you about its Maker.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Prepared for Every Good Work

"But in a great house there not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessels for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work." - 2 Timothy 2:20-21

Ancient households, such as the ones Paul knew of, used vessels of various types not only as carriers, but as storage, waste disposal, plumbing, and preservation. In a great house such as the household of Caesar, some would have been beautiful vessels of gold and silver, used for show and eating; others would have been used for the much more mundane purposes of waste and garbage disposal. These would be made of wood and clay, both because they were of little value but also because of what they were used for.

Note that Paul does not allude to how the vessels came to be what they are: some are of one nature, some are of another, but all can be used for honor (serving food) or dishonor (disposing of garbage or waste). However, the use of a vessel could be changed if it was cleansed (the Greek word here means "Thoroughly cleaned out" or "To completely purge"), if it was scoured and washed and rinsed until no sign of its previous use was visible. At that point, it could be put to another use.

The vessels to whom Paul was writing was directly Timothy, and indirectly his congregation and use today. We all have the same potential to be used mightily by God for His purposes (though not in the same way). However, there is a prerequisite: we must be cleansed from all filth. Paul does not seem to be talking about salvation here, as 1) He is speaking to Timothy, a believer who already have cleansing of his sins through Christ; and 2) Paul uses the phrase "cleanses himself". Paul vigorously defended the concept of salvation by faith alone and the complete inability of man to cleanse himself of sin. Instead, he seems to be alluding to the filth of the world around us, whether the sin that we revel in or the knowing error we engage in. Only after we have cleansed ourselves from those things which we can, says Paul, can we truly be a vessel of honor, sanctified (set apart) for the Master (the Lord), ready for good works.

How actively am I seeking to cleanse myself of the sin that so closely clings to me? Does it mean I'll fully do it? No, at least not in this life. But there are plenty of sins that I indulge in because I am lazy, or seeking to justify leading a less than fully spiritual life ("If I'm not going to be used by God, I'm just going to do ____.") because I don't feel I am of use. Could it be that God is waiting for me to actively remove these from my life so that I can be of greater use to Him, ready for every good work?

If you've every had light from a dirty lamp, it's not the light you notice but how dirty the lamp is. Only when a lamp is clean so that the light shines through it does the lamp truly fulfill its purpose of providing light by not interfering with the transmission of that light; we see and think of the light as bright, not of the lamp as being clean.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Movie List

You'll notice I've posted a new list over to the right: Some of my favorite movies. The thought occurred to me this past weekend that I do tend to watch the same movies again and again, as I hate to invest 90-120 minutes for something that I end up not liking.

What I found as I made the list (and there are some I'll probably add after I think about it) is that they tend to have a few themes: Cartoons, combat (old school), science fiction/fantasy, adventure, Christian (i.e. taken from the Bible), adventure (the old style, discovery type), and generally rated G or PG. The fact that those themes are there was somewhat surprising to me.


"Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men." - Proverbs 22:29

A subtlety of the verse arises in my mind this morning - probably all the cogitating that is going on over the last two weeks.

Note that the verse discusses nothing about one's love for one's work, one's passion for the work, or one being fulfilled by the work. It mentions only "being skillful", the combination of knowledge and expertise which comes with practice and experience - and which, I might add, is accessible to all. Not everyone can love their work, but everyone can be skillful at the work they do.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I am a man richly blessed with friends.

Over the past two days, I have had deep and thought provoking conversations with Bogha Frois, An Polleaneach, and An Quebecois about success, succeeding, and how that applies to my life and what I am doing.

I don't know that I have fully apprehended all that has been said to me - other than I know that I am close, closer than I have been in a very long time.

The two, somewhat intertwined paths are:

1) What does success really mean?
2) What does it take to reach that success?
3) (I lied) What does that mean to my life?

I freely admit that part of my definition, probably true of most men, is tied to financial means. It's an easy way to measure it (I have X, I used to have W, I am moving towards Y) and is often the most immediately noticeable - as Moliere said, "There's no praise to beat the sort you can put in your pocket". Also, given the experience of The Firm, I am not happy when our finances are so close to edge, as they feel to me to be and as the Market has been daily reminding me.

But it is certainly not the best measure, and not the only one. As An Quebecois pointed out to me, you can succeed at business and handily fail at the important things in life - God, Family, doing what your supposed to be doing (which money may only be facilitating by paying your way).

As to the price of success, generally it seems to always rated as worth it by those that succeed, but I wonder. An article, which was the genesis of this discussion, was both carefully questioned by An Polleaneach and An Quebecois, is what the author paid to reach it. It is seemingly apparent to me that the cost of success only truly becomes apparent later in life (perhaps in eternity?) when the outcome of the actions we put in motion have played themselves out.

Which kind of makes a question of value, doesn't it? And we how we assess the value of everything in our life, or perhaps more accurately stated, how well we assess the value of everything in our life.

Maybe that's the key and core and therefore a starting point to consider: success is spending the most time on the things that are truly valuable in your life.

If that's the case, then Bogha Frois's comment of last night is worth considering: You have to make a choice. It can't be anyone making the choice for you, and it doesn't have to be permanent. But you must make a choice on the things that are valuable, and then construct your life in such a way that you support, nurture, and move towards spending more effort and time on these things.

I don't know. But I feel I'm close - closer than I've been in a long time.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bees and Soccer Balls

My father called tonight. The last bee colony is gone.

He checked, as it looked like there were not a great deal of bees coming out. Sure enough, moths were in the top, and their larvae had chewed up the top deep. He has managed to salvage honey out the bottom deep, and we'll scrape the wax after leaving it well exposed to the sun.

I need to take a class. Something is just not working right - or as my father said, "This is some of the most expensive honey ever."

While poking around online tonight for classes and information on the wax moth (which, by the way, is a native of Asia and can be deterred by a strong hive), the thought occurred to me "Oh well, here we go again." Another thing, started, perhaps done half well, and failed. To some extent, the story of my life.

It makes me think that there is something beneath the something here. It's more than just bees failing, or not following through with my writing, or my gardens that never get quite as grand as I dream them.

It's follow through.

I was reminded of this this weekend as I watched my niece's soccer game (8 years old). The girls would kick the ball, but then would just stand there or watch it go or not kick it again when the opposing team blocked it. "Follow Through" I screamed at the top of my lungs, probably confusing most of the other parents (Who's the guy yelling at my kid) and getting ignored by 8 year old soccer players.

But it occurred to me then, and occurs to me now, that I was yelling at myself.

I have always feared to make choices, to choose one activity over another, because I thought I would limit my choices. Is it limiting my choices, or is it my fear that I could not complete something competently?

There's a hint in my life - I would do something until something went wrong or I failed, and then I don't want to do the thing anymore - it's like I never did it in the first place. Rather than pick up at the point of a failure and move on, I pretend it never happened and move on.

No follow through. Soccer balls flying back at me as I stare stupidly at them.

So now's as good a time as any to start making choices. I can't do everything I will ever want to do. I need to commit - if I want to do something, I will do it until I succeed.

That means being humble enough to admit I don't know everything and being willing to learn. It means being committed enough to keep pushing through, even when I do fail or get discouraged.

It means kicking the ball when it comes back at you. Twice, if you have to.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Weight of the Dead

I have come to realize that much of the baggage that we carry around, the things we subject ourselves to, the things we think we should be feeling, are given to us by those who are either years gone from our lives or dead.

If I look in my own life, at behaviors I have, of things that I do in reaction to stimuli that occur, I realize that in many cases I am doing them to please (or avoid) a reaction that occurred long ago - or worse, I am doing it on behalf of someone else, either not physically present (and hasn't been for years) or dead.

An example: I am not a person that enjoys confrontation - to the point that I will not confront even in matters that need to be confronted about. Why? Because in confrontations, I feel that they are attacking me, not the concept or idea I am confronting. Where did this come from? I don't really know. However, like much of the the other things we bear, it can become crippling.

I read somewhere (honestly, I think it was in a scifi/fantasy book from a Dwarf) that "You cannot bear the weight of the dead" meaning that one cannot carry the past of others with us. If anyone suggested that we carry around the bodies of those that had died, what a strange proposition that would be: backs bent beneath rotting corpses, as we drag them around on our daily rounds. Yet non-corporally, this is exactly what we do.

As Christians I think this can be especially difficult, as we have our new life in Christ to live, yet at the same time we are carrying about in this body of sin, with its desire and passions - which, though crucified and dead, can still rise up to tempt us. Have you ever committed a sin, even though it was not really pleasurable, simply on the strength of memories of how good it used to feel to engage in wrath, immorality, drunkenness, or gossip? Are you pleasing a master which no longer has power? In another way, you are bearing the weight of the dead.

The problem is, the dead don't - and can't- forgive. Only the living Christ offers that. And the dead, being non-communicative, can be harsh and driving taskmasters, much like sin, because you can never please them - or it.

What attitudes, opinions, and reactions are you engaging in today that are a result of someone or something that is no longer relevant? How long will you bear the weight of the dead?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Great Uncertainty

So today, we had our call with our government agency. I was not in the call, so I had the privilege and opportunity of reading people's faces without knowing the outcome.

The result: Not good.

We essentially (apparently) capitulated to the agency, moving the timeline for our development project out considerably - to the point that the "Big Orange Line" starts to precipitously dip towards zero. In fact, by the time the data is in, we may be considerably beyond that line.

Am I upset? No, I'm actually feeling quite clear in my mind. For once, I know precisely where we sit and what the risks are. A wake up call? Absolutely. At worst, without in further income for the company, I could potentially be out of work about Christmas next year.

A goal to work towards. I was heartened this week by Am Polleanach and An Quebecois, who have made significant adjustments in their retirement plans based on the the world around them. Heartened because it always seems rare to find people who get information and then act on it.

I have the information. Now I need to act.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Moon over Madison

Peeking out then back,
Fall moon beneath winter's clouds
turns the trees aflame.

Shepherds and Incandescence

I have my found my thing.

Well, okay, I did not really find it. Someone else found it for me – Gene Logsdon in You Can Go Home Again. There is was, sitting there –I’d even read it before, but never consciously made the connection:

“But I came home to be a shepherd in another way, also unanticipated. I became a shepherd of homesick humans. I had always seen in the ‘Little Bo Peep’ rhyme more than the literal meaning of the lines: ‘Leave them alone, and they’ll come home, bringing their tails behind them.’ I thought that admonition applied to people in more cases than to sheep, and it certainly had applied to me. From the mail and phone calls I was receiving in mounting numbers, it was obvious that most people were trying to come home, if not literally then to someplace they could make into a true home, a place where they actually lived their lives. Some went home not exactly willingly at first, forced to do so by downsizing, and found that losing their high-paying jobs turned out to be a blessing. Some waited until they retired, when they could escape the mad manacles of wage-slaveocracy. Some waited until the very end and came home in coffins.

Becoming a shepherd of lost souls was unnerving for me. I was a lost soul myself. But I tried to answer all the questions of homesick; replied to all their mail; allowed them to come here even when I doubted that visiting me was going to help their troubled spirits; wrote books that I hoped would inspire those with a true vocation for this kind of living and would discourage those who were only fantasizing. I became a shepherd, calling home those people who should have never left in the first place. How much profit per acre is this worth in accounting terms?”

That’s what it is: Going home to the place you belong. Being and living where you are. Being an integrated whole: as Benjamin Franklin said “What you seem to be, be really.” Not being different parts of yourself in different places: authenticity.

This tied in with a second thought, one I couldn't remember until I got home tonight at midnight, nagging at my mind. It was in today's reading of My Utmost for His Highest:

"We may have the vision of God and a very clear understanding of what God wants, and we start to do the thing, then comes something equivalent to the forty years in the wilderness, as if God had ignored the whole thing, and when we are thoroughly discouraged God comes back and revives the call, and we get the quaver in and say - "Oh, who am I?" We have to learn the first great stride of God - "I AM THAT I AM hath sent thee." We have to learn that our individual effort for God is an impertinence; our individuality is to be rendered incandescent by a personal relationship to God (see Matthew 3:17). We fix on the individual aspect of things; we have the vision - "This is what God wants me to do;" but we have not got into God's stride. If you are going through a time of discouragement, there is a big personal enlargement ahead. " (Emphasis mine).

That's what I want too: the individuality that God has granted me (whatever permutation that may be) to be made incandescent, that light on a hill - not by anything I do or have done, but by God showing Himself through me. That is to be truly authentic, truly whole, and in the end, to be shepherd Logsdon speaks off, guiding people back home.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Going Home versus Serving Here

I am rereading You Can Go Home Again by Gene Logsdon. I like Logsdon, as he is a very good writer/storyteller and he writes about things close to my heart: farms and agriculture, a sense of centeredness, agricultural sanity in a time of global chaos.

This book is especially good, as it is really two books in one: in the first half, Logsdon essentially gives us an abbreviated biography of his life, moving from a path of Catholic priest to farmer and writer. The second part is a series of short stories about life "on the ramparts", as he says from The Contrary Farmer, including softball, Christmas, and living without power during a winter storm of 1978.

The thing that has moved me most on this rereading (I am saving what is left of the book for my flight home, savoring the joy of discovering Christmas and cornhusking and a Ted Nugent concert again) is actually early in the book, when he talks about realizing that he wants to be a farmer, not a priest. It takes him a period of years to realize that in fact it is okay to feel this - that in the end (my words, not his) he has made an excellent farmer and writer but would have made a lousy priest, as you can never truly be good at what you don't love.

The thought boomeranged back to my own life right now, and where I am in my career. I can assure you, although I tolerate the work I do and in some ways enjoy it more than I used to, I do not "love" my job. In many ways, not all intellectually or careerwise, this move was good - if for no other reason than it is simply that, a job, not a personal crisis welling up from day to day to take over my life and take home with me. Still, there is something within me that looks around at all of this and shrugs my shoulders. Truly, if I could do what I wanted, I would walk away from this career field with nary a second thought.

But in that event, what would that do to the mission I field I am in, as Otis notes in his excellent post here? I'm fighting, as the author of The Cloud of Unknowing might say, the struggle between the active and the contemplative life. We serve at the request of God, not Him at ours. What we imagine for ourselves and what He created us for are two different things - but as always, we life in hopes that all those gifts and yearnings that God has given us are there for a purpose and will be realized - if not here, then in Heaven.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bringing Value

A layover in my flight.

Interestingly, traveling brings back memories of The Firm. That I know of, we never came to here, flying more through the Southwest to the South and Southeast. Still, walking through the airport, seeing Fox Sports Box restaurant, going on Southwest Airlines as I did last week, all brings back The Firm.

We passed Failure Day III this year. I assume I have gotten over this, as it passed without my realizing it this year. The harshest of memories is gone – I can remember what it was like to go weeks without a paycheck, which makes the current economic situation much more doable, if only I can keep it in my mind. Too, finding a job that absorbs my attention more is also assisting.
Still, it is one of the great might have beens. What would have happened if I had stayed? I know my partner has continued on in the business, and from what I can tell, doing so reasonably successfully. But would that have worked with two? Was I truly bringing value to the table?

Perhaps that is lesson tonight, sitting idly in the Central Time Zone. Am I bringing value – first of all, in my relationship to God (more properly asked in that case, am I using what He has gifted me with to bring glory to Him) – but secondly in all my relationships: the Ravishing Mrs. TB, na clann, my circle of friends (Uisdean Ruadh, Otis and Buttercup, An Polleaneach, An Quebecois, Bogha Frois and L’Acadian), my family of believers and the greater family of believers throughout the world, my career? Are they all better for having known me? When I am with them, do I give them 100% of my time and attention – or, like the end of The Firm, do I devolve into doing what makes me feel good?

Exercising Your Gift

So I had the opportunity to exercise my gift on Sunday. It was nothing like I imagined.

Interestingly, I think we get the idea from somewhere (not sure where) that when we exercise our gifts, we will be in some kind of happy, blissful state, above that which are doing.

Not for me. I could visibly feel myself shaking about halfway through the first stanza, and definitely twitching by the second. By God's grace (or so The Ravishing Mrs. TB said) my voice did not break at all.

It strikes me as odd how caught up we get in using our gifts for God's glory, and then when the circumstance arises to use them, we freak out about how they are being used and whether we'll look good. One always wants to do one's best, of course, but there is a thin line between doing the best for the glory of God and doing one's best so that I will look good glorifying God.

Dreams and Decisions

What constitutes when to follow a dream in the absence of any proof?

I have an opportunity to fulfill one of my lifelong goals (and no, I won't tell you which one. That's not the point). The difficulty is, it is not fulfilling it quite in the way I had planned. Essentially, it requires an upfront investment of money, a thing that is a bit short in supply at the moment.

I struggle - in the vast scheme of things, it may not be much, but right now, it is humanly insurmountable. And to some degree, it feels selfish - I operate not in the context of myself, but in the context of a family unit that depends on me.

The other item is that I do not want to force something that is not the will of God. I've done that, more often that I care to think. If it ever went well, it was only due to the grace of God, not to anything that I did. My model, if I have one, is Phil Vischer, formerly of Veggie Tales. He thought that God had called him to create an entertainment group rivaling Disney, which in the end crumbled (his blog,, has an excellent summary. His book, Me, Myself, and Bob, is also very good in this regard [as I've told - haven't got to reading it yet).

The issue I haven't work out is timing. In my experience, opportunities are only exceeded by fish in their ability to go stale in a short period of time. Nothing lasts forever, of course. I need to decide something this week. Of course, I am also a believer (taught by the school of hard knocks) that if any business deal needs to be done in a rush without appropriate analysis, it's probably not worth it.

Look at that - it's pretty much a God thing. Which it should be.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Winter Garden

This weekend has been the culmination of a two weekend process to replace my summer garden with my winter garden. I got a helpful push from the weather last weekend (cold and rainy), which prompted me to get my tail in action - around here, much beyond the last week of October, you're not able to plant much of anything, as we have entered our rainy season.

It was easier than in years past, partially because I planted less, partially because things were spaced out better. It's also allowed me to reconfigure my garden into a summer side and winter side (based on access to the sun). Currently on the summer side, there's nothing but a couple of leftover pepper plants and some onions and potatoes I missed earlier. I'm planning to dump my compost in today, and then start layering it with what I am able to get from mowing my lawn between now and the end of the season.

On the winter side, I planed wheat, barley, potatoes, onions, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli (two kinds) and leeks. I have to mulch these as well, but want a fair amount of them to get started, so I'll delay that a bit.

Left to do: reconfigure my compost area (I'm pulling out the system of boards I'm using now, as the dog can dig in it and replacing it with a series of plastic garbage cans with open bottoms) and figure out a low fencing system to keep the dog out of the garden (something cheap and easy to replace - maybe pvc?)

Thursday, October 09, 2008


So I am starting to attempt to remove the clutter and disorganization from my physical and spiritual life.

It's odd - at work I have gotten to the point that I am fairly organized. I am a firm believer in the idea that a clean desk promotes an organized mind and work environment, almost to the point that I become physical uncomfortable if I have too many piles.

However, our home life has never really been that way - not messy per se, just disorganized with a lot of stuff involved. It was like that before na clann arrived, so of course that didn't assist anything.

Why do we hold onto things? If I look around me, at my own stuff, why do I keep the things I do? Some of it is from nostalgia or sentimental value, of course, and some of it is because the things are useful to me. But what about those that are neither sentimental nor useful?

Part of it, I suppose, is a comfort thing. We keep things that make our environment comfortable and soothing to us, a place we want to be. I think, however, I'd probably include this stuff in the useful category, as it is serving a purpose (but can change status as we change our decor, our lives, etc.)

The rest, I think, is simply the fact that we don't really like to give things up. Why? Two reasons: 1) Fear we're going to need it again and not have it; 2) A sort of base materialism that prevents us from getting rid of things, even if we don't need them.

Our greatest challenge is our garage, which is packed full of stuff which we are going to sell in a garage sale. In some cases, the stuff has been there for 6-7 months since our last garage sale. Is there any thought that we will really any money on this? No. But what keep us from just clearing it out and donating it, or simply giving it away? The nagging thought that money is walking out the door.

A third reason pops into my head as I write - keeping things that meant something to us, especially things we used to participate in or do, out of a sense that getting rid of them is getting rid of ourselves. To get rid of those golf clubs or that hobby item that meant so much to us 10 years ago, that we poured so much time into, can be like getting rid of part of ourselves.

It occurs to me that our spiritual lives are just like this: we collect clutter over the years through sin, bad habits, bad ways of living, baggage we carry around, to the point that it prevents us from being effective or useful to God. As hard as it is to get something in a full closet or garage, how much harder to wade through the corridors of the heart looking for love and humility as we're pushing aside boxes labeled "Sins of my youth I never gave over to God" or "Last week's argument with my wife" or "Spiritual laziness"?

Perhaps that's why God will use fire in His judgement of rewards of the believer (1 Corinthians 3:12-15): fire, more than any other physical item, is the one thing that truly reduces all items, both important and unimportant, into something that will blow away in the wind. Only those things within will remain.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Love in the Time of Financial Chaos

I have been watching the financial roller coaster of the last two weeks with a not unconcerned eye - I obviously have been affected (if you've a retirement account or a house, guess what: you're in!), as have those I know who are retired (my parents, An Quebecois) or those who have lost their jobs (Uisdean Ruadh).

The revealing thing to me is how much this is revealing about the focus of the society that we have created. Simply put, and this will come as a surprise to no-one, we are a society consumed with wealth.

It crosses every conceivable social fracture line in the world. People are concerned about money, where money is coming from, where is the money going, when will the money be back.

The thing it has reminded me of - blatantly - is the matter of priorities.

In Proverbs 23: 4-5 Solomon writes (almost 3000 years ago):

"Do not overwork to be rich;
Because of your own understanding, cease!
Will you set your eyes on that
which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven."

- and yet we have built a society on the very concept of wealth, and that wealth and the earning of it should be a priority in our live, requiring potential sacrifices of ourselves, our families, our relationships, and our service to God.

Could it be that God is smacking our hands now, using a circumstance which many in this country hold as a right (especially the Baby Boomer generation - think of what almost reaching the retirement finish line and then watching it drain away) to call us back to Him?

And for those of us younger or farther away, could this be God reminding us of the futility of substituting any idol for Him?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Fooling Ourselves

Tonight in our faith group, we talked about Malachi 3:13-18. The first half of this section deals with the hearts of those in Israel who were only obeying God on the surface, essentially for outward gain:

13“ Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the LORD, “ Yet you say, ‘ What have we spoken against You?’
14 You have said, ‘ It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, And that we have walked as mourners Before the LORD of hosts?
15 So now we call the proud blessed, For those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free.’”

In other words, "We kept the law, we served you, we even fasted and repented, and nothing! From now on God, we go with the pragmatic and successful, even if they are against you."

It is evident, is it not, that the hearts of those to whom the Lord ascribes His words were never really obedient in the first place? They were serving and keeping the commands of God and repenting, but only outwardly, and really only to seek the physical and financial rewards of God. In other words, their hearts weren't in their relationships with God.

Too often I have made this mistake in my own life, thinking that if only I did the right thing, I would be rewarded. Consider it a legacy (still ongoing) of my intense need to please people and be like by them. If you've ever suffered from this, you know exactly the pain and uncertainty of always trying to gauge the reactions of others for a sign: do they like me? Are they indicating they don't like me? If this drives you crazy, think about trying to gauge the reaction of a God you can't see!

But here is the odd thing: God has actually told us what pleases Him. The problem is we don't take Him at His word. The other problem is that we confuse temporal rewards with eternal rewards. As the Psalmist says, "The fool says in his heart 'There is no God'"(Psalm 14:1), and so they (and too often we) march merrily off seeking the direct cause and effect of the physical world, because if there were a God, He'd sure be rewarding those who obeyed Him (which should have been me) and punishing those who didn't (which, in reality, probably was me, although I fail to see it).

In a real sense, we need to develop our spiritual sense through intensely seeking God through prayer, worship, His word, and other believers. Why? Not so that we can seek some mystical union with God, but so that we become so familiar with and enamoured of Him, that He becomes as real a personality to us through His son Jesus that the reason we obey is not to get a temporal reward, but to please Him and receive an eternal reward. In this, perhaps, the mystics have it right: only as God becomes truly real to me (because for me, I deal poorly in the abstract) will I believe that I am pleasing Him, and will seek to please Him, not in outward behaviour, fooling myself into thinking I am seeking Him, but inwardly in my heart, which will flow outwardly to my actions.