Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Obscure Answer to Prayer

So today I march out from work precisely at 3:00 PM, ready to hit the road. I open the car door, pull it shut with the loud finality of being done for the day, insert my key into the ignition, confidently turn it...

And nothing.

Yes, I think my ignition cylinder is shot (there is no resistance - it just turns). Here I am, 55 miles from home, and stuck.

I call the Ravishing Mrs. TB. She has a show tonight, so she need me to be home. How, I ask? My experience last month tells me that even if I call AAA, they may not tow me until the end of their shift. Try anyway, says she.

So I come back in dejectedly, trying to figure out what to do. Spend the night at a co-worker's? Borrow the company truck? Then I realize- a co-worker lives in the same city I do. Maybe he can give me a ride home.

I am blessed twice over - he can, if his supervisor will let him. His supervisor, perhaps noting the whining tone, invocation of my children home alone, and my groveling, agrees. He just has to finish up his task.

He comes at 4:15. I have a little concern, as I know traffic can be a bear, and leaving at 4:30 is a gambling proposition. But again, I am doubly blessed: my co-worker is a talker, and we have a great conversation all the way home; and there is almost literally no traffic. Even with showing me where he lives (about half a mile from me), we still get home in 80 minutes, which is good any time of the day.

Did I handle it as well as I might have? No, not really - I stressed out and ate, and I was a little short with the Ravishing Mrs. TB. Is the car fixed? No, it's still at work, and will have to be towed tomorrow.

God came through again - but as is so often the case, He not only provided, He forced me to take action to demonstrate and practice those things - patience, thankfulness, and kindness - that I have been praying to Him for.

Prayer Request

A prayer request for The Forty Five community (all three of you...) for Uisdean Ruadh. I spoke with him yesterday and he has need of your prayers. He learned last week that his daughter may be moving to a different part of the state with her mother. He's obviously wondering what to do - what he can do.

Pray for his peace and wisdom as well as peace and wisdom for his daughter and that, in all things, God's will would prevail

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Blue Funk

So it seems I'm in the midst of a blue funk. Why, you ask.

I haven't a darn clue.

It could be a multiplicity of factors: tired (I did not sleep well Sunday night); work (nothing big - just tons of petty items that weigh one down); family (probably not - we actually had a profitable discussion on our finances this week); faith (again, probably not); or something else I'm not aware of. The bottom line is I'm listless, not energetic, not optimistic.

Odd, because this is not at all my experience of the last three weeks, when I was feeling optimistic, on target, planning ahead, and hopeful. It perhaps is more noticeable to me now as the absence makes it clear.

I'll be frank - I don't like this. Which is odd, because hitherto, I would have largely defined myself as a pessimist, not a planner, and certainly not proactive.

How do you clear a thing you have no idea where it came from?

Sunday, February 24, 2008


One of the abilities of those who are able to succeed in life - whatever their role may be - is the ability to accept and profit from criticism. I firmly believe this. At the root of all criticism - even the seemingly truly underserved - is something which at least should be considered or contemplated, if not thought about, analyzed, and acted upon.

Criticism comes in many forms, whether useful (teacher's comments, employer reviews, anonymous feedback, the comments of friends, or true judges in competition) or not as evidentially useful (personal attacks, bad judges, anonymous feedback, third party critics).

So why can't I deal with it?

It's true. I struggle might with criticism, even the gently administered and contructive kind. I've gotten better, but I still intepret it as a form of personal attack (even from myself).

If I had to give the answer I probably don't want to, it's pride: that gnawing, biting sin that says that I am bettter than the others, that I am (in fact) virtually perfect, and hardly need the help of others (after all, what do they know anyway?). To be corrected, suggested, commented upon, edited, or otherwise receive input in anything but a positive way is not only an attack upon my performance, but upon me. After all, I'm the one whose doing these things.

The remedy? That most difficult of virtues, humility. Admitting one does not know it all, that one can learn from anyone and anywhere, if only we will take the time to do it. That one can always improve no matter what.

That I, even I, do not know it all.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Rain and Planets

Another rainy day - but with a home show in the house, this means I have been somewhat exiled (by choice, I assure you) to the back bedroom. Here, ensconced with wireless internet, a gray and cloudy day, hot coffee, and good music, I write. There is virtually nothing that could be more perfect (perhaps Wheat Thins and a good Cabernet Sauvignon, but I'm willing to tough it out...)

The music I am listening to is something I treated myself to this week, using a 20% off coupon at Borders: Gustav Holst's The Planets. I have enjoyed the work for many years (having been introduced to it in high school), and currently only had it on casette tape. The CD itself was inexpensive - $5.14 after tax. It's always amazing to me how some things which can bring so much pleasure are so inexpensive.

As I wrote earlier, one of the outcomes of my Lenten decision has been to listen to classical music daily as part of my commute. It has been a wonderful experience, one which I intened to continue with. In some small way, I understand why those who love the classics have such problems with modern music. Two things that strike me at once are dynamics - virtually no music produced today has such things - and the structure of the music itself. Chordal structure, themes and counterthemes - little to none do I hear of those today.

Does it helps one's mind think better, as some propose. I'm not sure - but it is certainly a delight to hear!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stressed Out

So I've been stressed this week - mostly from work, but also from life in general.

What has been fascinating to observe - perhaps for the first time - is how I deal with the stress. Over the last month, I have been trying to establish some form of regularity and stucture to my life - a schedule of sorts, if you well. What I have found in the last 3 days is that when I get stressed, that structure goes out the window.

How? I eat - a lot. I choose not to do the activities that I have written down, but instead I am somewhat lazy and do the things which take the least effort. All in all, hardly a way to deal with it (and calorie rich as well).

Now the real question: why do I act this way, instead of taking positive action to address the causes of my stress?

If I had to think hard, my suspicision would be that I feel the stress in my life comes from items outside of my control; therefore, I revert to those few things that I feel I can control: what I do and when I do it. The odd thing is, this is partially right: the factors that are not in control can influence my life.

The wrong part is that I have no influence in return.

Dr. Stephen Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) talks about 2 circles, one inside another. The inner circle would be labeled the circle of influence, the outer circle as the circle of concern. We cannot change the circle of concern directly, but we can change the circle of influence (these are things that we can affect). It is Covey's assertion that as we address items in our circle of influence, it will increase and our circle of concern will decrease and we will increase our ability to control factors in our life.

So back to my problem: I am stressed out at work.

Answer: What are the items I can control? In some cases, nothing can now be done about the past, but I can change the future of these items and programs. Instead of wallowing in my increased heart rate and Ritz crackers, why don't I try to do something to positively affect them? Write up a case study, see where the weaknesses are, prepare to address them?

What items are in your circle of influence? Do you know? Why aren't you addressing them?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


There is something of a grim comedy at least in the sight of man, if not God, when the plans one has carefully set using forward thing and achievement goals suddenly hits reality, often times known as a brick wall. All of a sudden, all the carefully drawn up, year by year anaylsis one has done, the figures, the spreadsheets, is suddenly in jeopardy of being set aside.

The even more interesting thing (and more telling) is that these things appear to be due to circumstances beyond the control of you, the planner. It is at that moment, when you suddenly realize that your happy little bubble is in danger of not happening, that the sinking feeling of futility and depression set in.

How does one cope in these circumstances? The reality is, one has to get up and start the next day just like the last. Does that make planning bad? No, it holds a valuable place in organizing our activities and our life. It is only when the plan becomes the only way our life will work, that God steps in to remind us of how little we are truly in control of our own circumstances.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Sign on the Side of the Road

Part of the joy - and frustration - of blogging is when things come to you and how suddenly a subject one was thinking about can change.

Witness - As I was driving home this afternoon, a sign on the side of the road for an industry which The Firm was in got me thinking about connections, and people I knew. I can honestly say that outside of my church family and my real family, I speak to no-one involved in the Firm. Haven't for 2 years now. All the agonizing over clients and their opinions, what partners thought of me, our vendors - everyone, gone with wind.

Which built on a theme I was thinking on last week, namely problems with my self belief (Jeffrey Gittomer - the man's a genius!), and one of the them was "People will think I'm stupid or will think less of me". The question I asked myself was of all the people I spoke to in my industry 10, 7, 5 years ago, how many do I speak to now? Answer: 1. In another 10 year, the likelihood that I will speak to any of the people I work with now? Answer: At least 1, maybe a few more. So why do I let the opinions and thoughts of others control me?

But isn't that the insidious pull of peer pressure, especially when we're younger (or not so young for some)? The pull of what others will think, say, or do in reaction to us causes us to do things that at a minimum can be silly or foolish, or at a maximum can be dangerous (and Lord knows I've done my share of both!).

Speaking as a Christian, how do I make the Audience of One more real than the crowd of many? How do I pay attenion to the only Person that really matters? How do I focus the appropriate amount of concern with the folks I am with, while not falling into the quicksand of pleasing them, or seeking their approval?

And more critically, how do I put this vision into my children, so that they can benefit from my errors?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Starting over

As part of my reading program this year, I am going through My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Chambers was a late 19th/Early 20th century (1874-1917) teacher and chaplain who died at the age of 43 while ministering to Australian and New Zealand troops in Egypt during World War I. It has been 15 or more years since I read the book, and I am struck (even as I am when I re-read other books) about the things that were there that I never saw before - or perhaps, were not so meaningful to me then. I am including the entire devotional for today's date, 18 February, as it speaks to what I have been mulling over recently, especially with the failure of the The Firm:


'Rise, let us be going (Matthew 26:46)'

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples went to sleep when they should have stayed awake, and once the realized what they had done it produced despair. The sense of having done something irreversible tends to make us despair. We say, "Well, it's all over and ruined now; what's the point in trying anymore." If we think this kind of despair is an exception, we are mistaken. It is a very ordinary human experience. Whenever we realize we have not taken advantage of a magnificent opportunity, we apt to sink into despair. But Jesus comes and lovingly says to us, in essence, "Sleep on now. That opportunity is lost forever and you can't change that. But get up, and let's go on to the next thing." In other words, let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him.

There will be experiences like this in each of our lives. We will have times of despair caused by real events in our lives, and we will be unable to lift ourselves out of them. The disciples, in this instance, had done a downright unthinkable thing - they had gone to sleep instead of watching with Jesus. But our Lord came to them taking the spiritual initiative against their despair and said, in effect, "Get up, and do the next thing." If we are inspired by God, what is the next thing? It is to trust Him absolutely and to pray on the basis of His redemption.

Never let the sense of past failure defeat your next step."

- Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest. Ed. James Reimann. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1992. Entry for February 18th.

A daily online version of the devotional is here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


We had an outing yesterday, partially because it was beautfil spring-like weather, and partially because the Ravishing Mrs. TB is sick of being inside with the winter.
We had a contrast of nature: at one end, we visited our local marsh, to which I've never been. Once you got into the marsh proper, it was beautiful in a kind of stark, isolated way, with the brown of the reeds and water plants interspaced with the browner water and black grebes diving for lunch.
One the other end, we walked near the edge of town near a park which connects the neighboring two cities. It was beautiful: the green grass, the wildflowers, the old orchard trees bursting both into bloom and into leaf. We climbed to the top of the hill, where this tree was located, and could look up into the greener hills west of us.
The more time I spend in nature, the more I can see the glory of God bursting forth, even as I see the subtle folly of those who have God without nature. With God, nature becomes the mechanism put into place by one more powerful than it, to be molded and protected and cared for by us. Without God, nature itself becomes god, something which must be worshipped, placated, and feared. With God, there is forgiveness and renewal. With nature as god, there is no forgiveness or renewal, just the constant placation of doing more, giving up more, all for the end of something which cannot save, comfort, or have a relationship with us.
But happily for me, I see the God behind the creation. I can look at the flowering trees, the green grass, the dead marshes, and in everything see His love and mercy and grace and creativity. Glory be that we should serve such a God.


I am now 1.5 weeks into my Lent experience. How are things going? Much better than I had possibly hoped.

The surrender of dessert has morphed into a great degree of control over my diet at all times. My waistline is testimony to it. I feel physically better, less stuffed, more in control.

The surrender of media has been even more powerful. I have, for the most part, not listened to any radio (talk or otherwise), read any written media, or wandered to my usual spots on the web. Again, the change has been fair more than I anticipated. It has given me more time on my drive - now I listen to classical music, pratice Japanese with CDs, or listen to motivational CDs.

My stress level has been cut to one I have not felt in years - which undoubtedly is for the better, as there were all over things I could not control anyway (thus proving the futility of worrying about that which you cannot control). It has helped my nailbiting immensely as well, as it seems to make me less prone to try to do the only thing I have to power to do. In general, I feel more peaceful, more thoughtful, and more able to address those things over which I do have control.

In both cases, these are things which, although started for Lent, seem to have enhanced my life to the point that I will gladly incoporate them into my daily practice - and after all, isn't that one function of introspection?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tempus Fugit

Here's a thought from Seneca which made me think:

"Let us act on this, then, wholeheartedly. Let us cut out all distractions and work away at this alone for fear that we may otherwise be left behind and only eventually realize one day the swiftness of this fleeting phenomena, time, which we are powerless to hold back. Every day as it comes should be welcomed and reduced forthwith into our own possession as if it were the finest day imaginable. What flies past has to be seized at." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Letters From A Stoic, Letter CVIII

I know I've written on this before, but what struck me in this passage are two things: One is that we truly are powerless to hold back time. We can only preserve pieces of time in our minds, or increasingly in our media - think of a time when you've looked at a photo or video and are reminded of the happy (or not so happy) experience. The experience is captured, but we cannot hold the time that it encapsulated. So much of modern society is intent only hold time back through making our bodies appear as if no time had passed, or extending the periods of time that we enjoyed most. But even these are small lies (but not harmless) that we tell ourselves.

The second thing is his assertion that what flies past must be seized at. The simple fact is that this is true. Given my own inclinations, I would scarcely have any interest (and have) in doing the things that I need to do or should. And time, like an express train, is happy to pass by my little station and continue on. It's only when I grab it and bend it to what needs to be accomplished that it true is useful - although grabbing it and using it is not always equivalent to being busy.

One of my closet fears for many years has been that I was not using my talents and gifts to God's glory. I'm coming to appreciate that not only this true, but it is also true of the time that He has given me and each of us. Some person much wiser than myself has said that God gives us enough time to accomplish what His task is for us. If we only have enough time for that, we can scarcely count on having the luxury of wasting any of it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Writing Update

So, you ask, what is the writing update, Mr. "I'm found my life quest and it's to be an author? You haven't mentioned anything after your brief burst of activity. Where's War and Peace?"

Well, that's a fine question. Part of the issue has been simply figuring out what to write. Guess what: I'm an essayist. I can write self contained works about particular subjects or topics (like this blog). I'm not so much a novelist - but that is more a failure of me not trying and training myself, than of me not being able to do it. Writing a novel, so far I've found, takes a lot of patience - something I am working on mastering.

Which leaves essaying, which is somewhat more difficult to get published, I think.

Ah, but you ask, the book. What about the book?

Let's be fair. It's really just a manuscript - Taking God Seriously: The Question of Obedience. I have had it manuscript edited once by a gentleman who was very kind with his time and his suggestions. Still, it's short - maybe 25 pages max, more of a devotional (again, think essays) than a book.

Part of my writing struggle, then, is finishing the job. I want to go on to something new, but in reality I need to finish what I started.

Which leads to people reviewing the work, which leads to how I deal with criticism.

Which, it seems, leads to a next posting on the matter.

Valentine's Day Dinner

Today, to celebrate Valentine's Day, my promotion, and Nighean bhan's movement to the final of the speech meet, we went out to dinner to Japanese.

We have not been out in quite a while - certainly nowhere like we used to (not that, in fact, we probably ever really had the money). It was all of us: myself, the Ravishing Mrs. TB, Nighean gheal, Nighean bhan, and Nighean dhonn.

The thing that struck me most was that it was a really pleasant evening. There was no fighting, no complaining. We ordered Agedashi tofu - and all three girls had some and liked it (I was especially surprised by Nighean gheal, as she is not the adventurous food type). They happily ate the teriakyi chicken, tempura shrimp, and rice. No one was too loud - not even Nighean dhonn. I got Agedashi tofu, gyoza, edamame, and sashimi, so I was happy. The ravishing Mrs. TB got good Japanese food, a night away from cooking, and a pleasant meal to boot, so she was happy.

It is these moments that make one hopeful as a parent - the ones which, I find, are the hardest to keep in mind when things are not going well: that all the hard work that goes into raising children right will pay off, that family times can be done with pleasantness and happiness, and that (hopeful) are children are going and growing into everything we hoped they would be.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I'm struck how more and more I notice and enjoy every season. This seems to be a development as I am getting older - for which I am grateful.

As a child, it seems to me the seasons are either good (i.e. sunny and we can play, or snowy and we can play) or not. It's only as one grows and begins to notice things around one that every season begins to really appreciate each of them.

For example, for some time I've noticed that autumn sunlight is different from all other seasonal sunlights. I'm not sure why - there's just a softness in the light, a diffuseness, that seems to hit around mid-September and is gone by mid-October.

Or the occassional breaks - like today, when it was 70 F outside where last week it was bitter cold, with the green grass and black and white cows grazing in the pasture behind work. The sky is a brillant blue - a spring blue, early but there.

Or the bees - February is almond blossom month, and bees are already in the fields. They're buzzing around their hives, but I see no blooms. What are they getting? Or even our bees, brining in their loads of yellow-brown pollen. I see no flowers - but something is blooming.

There is beauty in every season, from the cold and rainy of winter to the hot and stifling of summer. It's all there -it's just that I never saw it before.

Monday, February 11, 2008


It's amazing to me how positively ungrateful I can be to God.

I am sitting here today at home, as the Ravishing Mrs. TB has been under the weather for a week, not seemingly getting much better. I have a job such that I can call my boss and say "I need to stay at home and take care of my wife" and not have a second thought about, a job where I got promoted recently and have had salary increases and bonuses, a job that at times is enjoyable (except when I want to pluck my eyes out in frustration), a job which, given everything above, allows me to sit here on an late winter day and write at home, knowing that everything is going okay and work AND that I'm still getting paid.

All of this, and then I let a stupid thing drag me down being ungrateful.

Yup. It's the Firm again. Just doing my typical "I'm bored so let's see what's up" search. Turns out it's moved to Sacramento. Dig in a little farther, and turns out the clients we could never close closed on a property - $6.2 Million. $124,000 at 2% comission.

And there goes my gratefulness out the door like a cat making a run for the outside - and getting my tail caught almost all the way through.

What is in me that can't let these things go? What is in me that makes me so ungrateful? I remember the days and nights without pay, the racking nervousness (in one case, we were out in Atlanta with clients, arrived having literally less than $1,000 in the bank, trying to get the escrow officer to fund to our account prior to checking in), the "stay home, don't get paid" scenario.

A failure, you say? Funny, I've been doing an exercise of dealing with my lack of confidence or belief in myself, and one of the items is "Everything I do fails". The remarkable thing is, with only one exception - the Firm - I am hard pressed to think of another failure of note in my life.

No, what bugs me is the not knowing. Let's call it unforgiveness, as that is what it really is. It's the feeling of not understanding why one is no longer spoken to, only that it is so. Pride as well - pride to the extent that I won't make any move (Ironically, it's two years this month since we spoke) - as I was the aggrieved one (in my mind).

So, in the spirit of making things public and dealing with them, I hereby cast aside and disavow all knowledge and concern of the Firm. How it does, is not relevant.

How grateful I am for the graces and gifts in my life, is relevant. To ignore what is in hand for a wisp long gone is as foolish as it is unproductive.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Snow and frogs

In the shade of pines
icy snow sheet lingers on:
Frogs chant their spring joy.

We traveled the Ranch this weekend, the girls and I (once again, the Ravishing Mrs. T.B. was out of town). It had been some time since I had been there, and I wanted to check the bees (see update below).

As we pulled into the turnoff for the Ranch, I noticed a leftover patch of snow from the storm we had last week. I pointed it out to the girls, and they were very excited. As we drove in, we saw other small patched, hiding in the shade or in the low places.

When we reached my parents, to the left, down the hill in the deep shade by the pump, was a long sheet. Great excitement ensued amongst the girls. As they ran in, I was struck by the contrast: a sheet of icy snow on my left, to my right frogs madly croaking out their spring melody in the relatively warm evening. Two things I had never imagined together before my senses.

This morning, the girls wanted to go down to snow, and wanted me to go to. The snow, as you will imagine, was hard and granulated, frozen and refrozen - Nighen dhonn was not even heavy enough to break the crust. However, the recrystalization and the sun literally did cause a thousand diamonds to sparkle wherever I looked. It was magical and wonderful.

Again, later in the day, as I came up from the beehive as they bore their early spring loads of pollen to the hive, the Lower Meadow was filled to the point of loud with the songs of frogs, seeking mates - even as to the left, the girls ran through the snow, a memory of winter, one last time.

God's creation is more mysterious, more beautiful, and more astounding than we can ever imagine.

Bee Update

Today's Bee Report: In a staggering demonstration of God' s nature working as it should, the bees have made it through the winter! I checked them out today, and there was evidence of the winter cluster, lots of bees, honey, and lots of activity! I was loathe to check more deeply for fear that I might disturb what's going on (it's still got the chance to go cold), but everything looks good! Later in the day I checked, and workers were returning with their pollen baskets full. I figure that if we can make it about another month, until spring arrives, we should be in the clear - with the manzanita bloom ahead of us!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Droplets of Heaven

This afternoon, Nighean dhonn came up and sat next to me in the chair as I was writing. She just scooched up as she often does with her baby in arm after I carried her out of her crib. I covered her up with her pink blanket, and there we sat for a few minutes, she leaning against me as I continued to write. I occassionally leaned over and kissed her head, which has remarkably smooth and soft hair.

And then, she was done. She hopped down and went over by the couch and the stereo, where now she is moving the Puppies in my Pocket up and down, lining them up as apparently they play some game, then carrying them over to the table, where they collapse in a heap until she puts them in the castle.

How rare and precious these moments are, when someone we love will just sit with us and be quietly content - and also how rare it is that we as the receipient of such moments recognize what they are when the happen. They are droplets of Heaven, gifts made by the hand of God, a foretaste of what Heaven will be like.

Who am I to deserve such joy?

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Item 1: Today we had a phone interview for a position within our department. The interview was scheduled for a half hour; we were 10 minutes late in calling, and by the time the interview was over we it was 30 minutes past the original half hour. The result, after running late from work and sitting in traffic for two hours, was that we decided he was probably was not a keeper.

Item 2: Last night I managed to get everything done on my list. In order to do this, I ended up staying up 45 minutes past the time I need to be in bed, and continued not getting better and being run down - but I got everything I wanted to get done done.

The question is time, or not enough of it. Time, it has been said (and if not, it now is, by me) is the currency of life: it is ours to spend or waste, but it can only be spent once. It is in a limited supply, but we never know how much is in our account. It can be saved, but it cannot be stockpiled to use at a later date. It has a sense of speed or"dropping slowness" which is only partially controlled by us.

One of my realizations in the last 3 years has been how truly little time we have. All the things that I would like to do, that interest me, are wedged between the things that I need to do and accomplish. Yet what I am finding is that my time continues to become squeezed, and I can either start to crush my physical health and mental well being by being constantly sick and tired, or I can continue to pare away to get at the things that are very important.

Some people say manage your time; some people say don't manage it but invest it. Either way, what we are really doing is making choices of how to use our time in the best sense possible for the greatest benefit possible.

This is one reason I probably don't watch scads of TV, whether shows or sports: I can't stand the though of spending 2-3 hours in front of the TV doing nothing, when there is so much I feel that I need to accomplish.

So this weekend, I'll get out the planner, look at what I've done, and make the hard decision of what else won't get done this year, so that the more important things can.

It wrenches my heart to give something up - but it wrenches me more to live the time I have always exhausted, never doing any few things well but many things poorly.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

An Old Acquaintance

I'm getting reacquainted with an old acquaintance -Lucius Annaeus Seneca (more commonly known Seneca, 4 B.C. - 65 A.D.). His bio is here. Among other things he wrote (plays), he wrote a series of letters (124 in all) which were seemingly written to an imaginary friend (Lucilius), but which seem to have never been sent to anyone but rather serve as a series of essays on issues related to Stoicism and commentary on life. A series of interesting quotes from what I read today:

"Nothing can be well regulated if it is done at a breakneck speed" - Letter LX

"No-one should feel any pride in anything that is not his own" - Letter XLI

"And how can people be called back to spiritual well-being when no-one is trying to hold them back and the crowd is urging them on?" - Letter XLI

"And there's no state of slavery more disgraceful than one which is self-imposed." - Letter XLVII

And his writing is just full of them. The complaint by his contemporaries was that he failed to live up to the ideals of Stoicism; but the writings alone are food for thought. The joy of reading such a thing (of which, I suppose, this blog is a dim echo) can hardly be imagined.

Go ahead. Pick up a Seneca, a Tacitus, a Polybius, a Plutarch, a Xenophon or Thucydides, and find out both how little mankind has changed and how most "new" ideas have been around a long time.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Parallel Universes

Did you ever have one of those moments where suddenly you realize that you and a loved one - spouse, friend, parent - are living in separate yet parallel universes? You share the same experiences, eat the same food, fold the same laundry, yet beneath the surface you suspect (not sure, of course) that you're looking at things completely differently?

Why is this? Is this a result of a modern life that does it's best to keep us apart from loved ones, so that the time we share together is almost by default and by silent agreement kept on an even keel, if for no other reason we fear to waste it in seemingly fruitless arguments? Or is it less lofty: we just don't think the other person shares our views, so why bother?

I know for myself, I often completely get wrapped up in seeing aspects of the situation that I think exist, pondering them over and over, working out scenarios in my mind - only to have them torn apart by the fact that the other person is seemingly unaware of the same thing (which raises another question: Did the thing ever exist? Or was it just in my mind?)

How does one crack this rind and get to a deeper level of knowing? Conversation alone will not carry the day - one can speak all day and say precisely nothing. Focused communication then, but focused how? Focused on what?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Post Lux, Tenebris

There are always layers of ourselves we never penetrate, dark corners of the soul that we never choose to look at, flaws like crevasses that we choose to cross over on the single file bridge, never looking down for fear of what we will see.

How much of this is by self choice? Are we truly so willing blind to our own failures and wickedness that we will not look? How much will selfish intent cover in the name of doing good to others and ourselves?

"The unexamined life is not worth living" said Socrates. But what if that self examination reveals us for the fools, cowards, and evildoers that we are?


Lent starts this week - a rather unusual holy season in much of the evangelical church, simply because it really isn't one, at least not in the way that it is observed by the Catholic and many Protestant churces.

Which is a shame, because it seems to me that a prolonged of meditation, denial, and consideration of the sacrifice of Christ is something that so often I hear that we need from evangelical pulpits. It is often abandoned, I suppose, as a rejection of clericalism or churchianity or man-made religion - and often it is only performed as these. Again, it probably doesn't fit into the flow of expository preaching, being more suited for a church calender.

But there is no sense of building up to Easter, to the pinancle of the Salvation story - we just sort of arrive all of a sudden.

I was challenged some years ago in my reading (by whom, I'm now forgotten) that we should not only give up physical things (sugar, alcohol, TV, etc) but mental and spiritual things as well (criticism, gossip, any number of sins).

In years past I've given up the simple, like soda and dessert (not easy, especially as girl scout cookie season and birthdays fall between here and there). This year, along with the physical (we'll try desserts again, limiting it to the two birthdays I know fall between here and there) and spiritual (saying anything negative about anyone - should cover both criticism and gossip), I think I'm going to give up current events.

The Anchoress (a fine writer) turned me on to a version of this idea (taking a break from politics during Lent). I almost never write about politics here, as I've found it seldom does any good and only creates barriers to the truly important realities of life (not saying they don't matter, just not in my writing). Current events is probably more applicable, as I'm a great worrier, and will constantly scan the news, looking for bad news or trying to chart future events.

So, after Tuesday, I'm not going to scan for current events. This will cut out my reviewing of a host of websites, and listening to virtually any radio I listen to for 40 days. For the surfing time, I'll replace it with writing, with Scriptures, and with prayer. For driving, I'll replace it with classical music.

Let's see what happens.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Rainy Day Afternoon

Today is one of those good rainy days, where:

1) I'm not at work;
2) I don't have to drive home;
3) I'm at home;
4) I don't have a great deal to do;

so I can indulge in the luxury of sitting in a chair, drinking a warm beverage, and contemplating.

I'm actually one of those who prefers winter above all other seasons of the year - not so much for the cold, but for the rain (I love to watch the rain, I love the sound of the rain) as well that it makes it much more reasonable to sit down and do things like read or write and not feel I should be out doing something else (let's face it: if it's wet and windy, I can't!).

A great time to plan too, although it's something I probably don't do as much as I should. I have new catalogues from Mann Lakes and from Peaceful Valley (see links at right) for beekeeping and farming that need to be looked at. I already planned my February reading. I could still stand to do some other things: Financial planning, more goals work, writing.

Or, like I probably will do, I'll just sit here and watch the rain.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Cailin a' sgiathe

Cailin a' sgiathe

Sometimes when the sense of desire
Rises like a mighty pyre
Burning golden in the night;

Pushing out all that is real,
Making off as if to steal
That which has been given freely;

Caught between two circumstances,
Engaging in two different dances:
One made of stone and one of ash;

Help me, O Lord to see beyond,
this present as a smallish pond,
and see eternity's might sea;

And bring to rest my wandering soul,
Make me one more time quite whole,
Turn ash to dust, and stone to earth.

"Non vereor ne illam me amare hic potuerit resciscere;
quippe haud etiam quicquam inepte feci"