Saturday, August 30, 2008

Excellence I

Why do we no longer value excellence in what we do? Could it be that as we are not responsible for the final product, we do not feel our part matters?

A thought, not original with me but with Richard Proenneke of One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey:

"I do think a man has missed a very deep feeling of satisfaction if he never created or at least completed something with his own two hands. We have grown accustomed to work on pieces of things instead of wholes. It is a way of life with us now. The emphasis is on teamwork. I believe this trend bears much of the blame for the loss of pride in one's work, the kind of pride the old craftsman felt when he started a job and finished it and stood back and admired it. How does a man on an assembly line feel any pride in the final product that rolls out at the other end?

I realize that men working together can perform miracles such as sending men to walk on the surface of the moon. There is definitely a need and a place for teamwork, but there is also a need for an individual sometime in his life to forget the world of parts and pieces and put something together on his own - complete something. He's got to create." (pp. 211-212)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Calvin and Hobbes

Nighean gheal has discovered the Calvin and Hobbes' books we have, and has started reading them. Which has started both myself and the Ravishing Mrs. TB re-reading them.

I had honestly forgotten how good they are.

I am not one to read the comics - we have not taken a paper for many years, and even at places I have worked that had them, they were very much limited to scanning the ones that I knew. In many ways, I am still a Peanuts man.

But Bill Watterson (Creator of Calvin and Hobbes) is a genius - not only in his ability to draw, using a spartan eye combined with a lush use of surroundings from time to time, but in his dialogue. He's clever. Reading things again, I realize some of the adult concepts he was introducing into the mouth of Calvin that I might have missed before. There is humor in there for both myself and Nighean gheal.

And, I don't have to worry about any inappropriate material...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Detox continues

I had the most unusual experience on a weeknight that I have had in a long time:

I was bored.

I had done the things on my list, the Ravishing Mrs. TB was off to a meeting and Na Clann were in bed, and suddenly I realized I was not motivated to do anything.

The funny thing is, given my new job, having this time is more likely to become the norm rather than the exception.

So now I've got to go back to what I need or want to do.

It was the strangest thing...

And now, we interrupt your daily surfing for sin...

I was reminded last night how quick the the flesh is to come to the fore.

It was quick: a blip on the computer screen in an innocuous place that led to a momentary thought, which was overwhelmed by the force of raw sin - the equivalent to popping the top off a grease trap and suddenly being overwhelmed by the overpowering odor of used grease.

What it reminded me of what how careful I need to be about not only what goes on in my own mind, but in the minds of my children. If I am truly honest, I already tolerate things like what happened last night but I dishonestly cloak them under excuses that I make for myself. No difference, except what I call it in my mind.

It is also a needed reminder that sin is something that is within us, not just something that is around us - Paul's cry of "O wretched man that I am? Who will deliver me from this body of death?" was never more true (Romans 7:24)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Scary Adult Land

So the second day of my job has convinced me that careerwise, I could not have left much later.

The reason? In my new position, I really am "it". My manager has stated that he intends to pass everything related to my area of expertise off to me - and he has started doing so.

This is very different from any position I have previously had in my industry. Usually my one above has also had a somewhat present oversight role in what I do. Here, it seems like very little, other than the typical "I think you should look at doing this", which is manager code for "You need to do this pretty much like I am suggesting."

It's scary. It's being an adult in an adult world, where you make decisions and stand or fall on your own. On the other hand it's good, not only because it enables one to confidently on your own, but also that it cuts off the fallback of "I'll ask my manager." You are the manager.

It makes me realize how dependent I have become on others essentially "covering" my decisions, and my inability to make one. Now, I have to.

Changing your mind

So I had a long talk with Bogha Frois tonight about her job. What she indicated to me, in the course of our conversation, is that she is having second thoughts about the career field she has chosen. Essentially, the work environment is not what she had additionally pictured, and although she believed she was up to the stress of the job, she has found that it is more consuming than she had intended.

She's having thoughts: should she pursue her education further? Should she return to the industry she was in? Should she stay where she is and seek a transfer to a location that is more desirable for her family?

But fundamentally, her question comes down to two things: 1) What do I really want to do; and 2) If I decide my current position is not what I want to do, will I look like I'm failing in my ability to persist or make up my mind?

To the first question, my advice was simply think and write it out. It is very hard to be enthusiastic for something when it has nothing to do with nor can lead you to do something with what you love.

To the second question, my comment was "Of course you can change your mind!" We make decisions based on the information we have available at the time. If different circumstances arise, we have the ability - nay, the right - to say "You know, I think this really isn't what I thought it was. I don't enjoy it, I don't like it, and it is not going to lead me anywhere close to what I really like." I've done it - real estate back to my current industry, which was my old industry. I tried it, and then I got more information. In my case, I found that I am simply more security than risk driven.

We should never feel bad about examining career, hobby, or even some relational decisions (keeping in mind Scripture, of course) and, based on the new information we have, make a different - and hopefully better - decision.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Moving On

So today was my last day at The Company.

It went pretty much as all last days go: a little work, a little packing, a fair amount of talking and saying goodbye. Overall, I'll miss the people greatly.

It's somewhat noteworthy that this job is longest I've been at a company, almost 3 years. Certainly somewhat longer than I had planned to stay, yet somewhat less than I had intended to stay.

Longer yet not intended? Yes. I had essentially conceded that, after May, I was willing to stay. I forgot how disruptive it is to find work while you're working: trying to arrange interviews, trying to stay dedicated to the job yet getting one's hopes up, and the eventually leaking of enthusiasm when you don't hear anything.

And leak it did - between my first interview and my acceptance letter, it was just shy of 2 months. In that sense, I had conceded: I hadn't really looked for anything new and didn't really intend to.

And now here we are.

The happiest feeling I had today was pulling off of the two lane highway merge onto the freeway, knowing in my heart of hearts I would not have to do that one more time. The saddest, the last entry into to the car and firing up the engine, knowing that I would not be there one more time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Reflections on a Late Summer Evening

Here I sit,
Partially shaded by the smell
of the late summer's lavender,
cooled by the Delta's breeze
but warmed by hot dog's breath
hoping I'll toss the ball one more time.

Sipping an olympiad's old red -
2004: Had I already started real estate?
I flip the steak, enjoying
one of summer's great pleasures:
Barbecuing in the shade,
with the wind at my back
and the shade on my head.

Watching the autumn bees,
returned from who know where
during their commercial pollination tasks
to the relative quiet of rural Here,
I am reminded that the pace of summer,
which energizes and refreshes,
is not always the pace of life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I am experiencing a sense of physical and temporal dislocation that I had not anticipated, and I am not really sure where it is coming from.

Physically, I feel out of things. I find myself unable to sleep, ravenously hungering yet rarely energetic, and mentally dimmed, as if I had lost my edge. Mentally, I am feeling restless, almost bored, unable to retain things in my mind, yet not really having interest in doing anything.

The only change I can associate this with the ending of one job and the beginning of another. In all fairness, it's been almost three years since I've come to my current job - almost 4% of my total life (assume an average lifespan of 80), and 12.5% of my working career to date.

I guess I had not anticipated this sort of physical reaction - a sort of unsettled despondency, if there is such a thing. Have I become such a creature of habit that a change of jobs is so unsettling to me?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Uisdean Ruadh

Tonight I had a rather lengthy conversation with Uisdean Ruadh - a conversation I had not intended nor wished to have.

He got laid off last Friday.

He worked in a supporting business to the mortgage industry, and we had spoken from time to time about the possibility of being laid off, implications, etc. Then, last Friday, a half hour after he arrived at work - 0700 - he was called into his manager's office, given his papers, and escorted to the door.

He was upbeat tonight when I talked to him - he has 90 days of a resume service which he is availing himself of, he has already started his job search, got a form of a severance package, and is looking at this as an opportunity to change a job he didn't care for all that much anyway. Still, it's a blow that no-one really wants to have happen.

Two takeaways for myself:

1) This reinforces my opinion that what I am currently doing by leaving and changing is the correct thing to do. Start ups may be less stable than established companies, but that is by no means a guarantee that larger companies will not lay you off in a moment. Company loyalty, in the end, is to the financial shareholders, not to the employees.

2) The Ravishing Mrs. TB and myself spoke tonight about finances, and making changes congruent with my new position. This just pushes me more to save and reduce debt. You just never know.

Pray for Uisdean Ruadh, both for his spirits as well as finding a position quickly.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Zero Sum Planning

In thinking about the new opportunity that is coming my way - indeed, one does not often get the opportunity where a job change enables a schedule change, which can enable do much else - I found myself thinking on a Brian Tracy concept: Zero Sum Planning.

The concept is this: if I had it to do over again, what would I do again? What would I not do again? A corollary which flows from this is we can only do a finite number of things: in order to do one thing, we must give up something else.

A second thing that brought this into focus was on my drive home, I caught Dr. Charles Stanley, whose message today was on the judgement seat of Christ. The part where I wandered in - and stuck - was when he was speaking about the judgement and realizing the opportunities that we missed to serve and honor God more.

So combining these two thought lines together, the question becomes this: if life is to be lived for and in the shadow of eternity and the pleasure of God, what am doing in my life right now that lacks value? How am I being that does not add value?

It may be nothing. It may be all. What I can say is that it seems like there is a lot of things I have been dragging around with me for years - high school or before. Am I doing these things because they add true value to my life, or am I doing them out of inertia, or unwillingness to simply admit that I've moved on?

I had a stark reminder of that today. My parents came down to drop off a load of stuff - things from the shed of their renter, who passed away last month. I went through tubs of craft things and wood objects - things that I think were handmade - and of what use are they now?

Why do I cling to things so much? My garage, my house, indeed my life is filled with bits of this and that, pieces and parts of working things, things that I will get around to "any day now" but never seem to. Again, part of that feeling of not wanting to admit I've moved on, or simply admit that some money is wasted, and don't make that mistake again.

Someday, I'll appear before the judgement seat of Christ, and all of the things I worked for, all of the things I worked on, absent any value to Christ, will vanish as smoke. If this is the case, why do I put such effort into them now?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

15th Anniversaries and Technology

So we had another one of life's pleasures that seem to come so infrequently: Otis and Buttercup came to visit. They were on their 15th wedding anniversary, and had generously decided to spend at least a part of it with us.

(Otis's blog is here. Buttercup's is here)

There is always a sweetness in the seeing of old friends - although in this case, as we have kept up over the years, there is not as much catching up on old news and more of the exchange of small stories - sort of like gold panning or opal walking on the beach, finding the joy of nuggets or stones mixed among the general conversation that comes up.

It is also a fabulous reminder of how much we need each other - even if we're not there physically. Technology, for all of my Luddite tendencies, has made at least this much true: more than any other time in history, we are able to continue to keep up and be involved in the lives of our family and friends even though we are physically distant from them. So many of my friends that I turn to in joy or sorrow - Otis, Bogha Frois, Uisdean Ruadh, HWMNTN - I seldom, if not very infrequently.

And I, at least need people - to bounce ideas off, to listen to my complaints or my triumphs, and to avail myself of doing the same for them. I have never learned so much about listening as I have by forcing myself to listen to my friends, instead of immediately formulating my next response.

So Happy Anniversary Otis and Buttercup, and many more. Your visit was very welcome, and far too short.

You'd think this would encourage us to come visit others more often...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Meditation: Haggai

As I usually have times to write on Saturday's, it would probably be a good thing to begin posting meditations prior to Sunday. In this spirit, these are the conclusions from a talk I gave on the book of Haggai this morning for your consideration:

What are the lessons that Haggai has for believers living under the New Covenant?

1) When faced with difficulties in executing God’s will, what do we do – do we fall away, waiting until an appropriate time to “build the Lord’s temple”, or do we press on in the face of difficulties which God allows into our lives to test us? Matthew Henry says

“There is an aptness in us to interpret providential discouragements in our duty, as if they amounted to a discharge from our duty, when they are only intended for the trial and exercise of our courage and faith. It is bad to neglect our duty, but it is worse to vouch Providence for the patronising of our neglects.”

2) Do we love God and His purposes more than we love our own? God is speaking to the returned Jews of their money and time/effort, but the same is true for us as well? Who has our heart? Whose kingdom are we building – ours or God’s? One last forever with eternal rewards; the other, as Peter says in 2nd Peter 3:10 “both the earth and all the works that are in it will be burned up.” Matthew Henry says “Those are very much strangers to their interests who prefer the conveniences and ornaments of the temporal life before the absolute necessities of the spiritual life, who are full of care to enrich their own houses, while God’s temple in their hearts lies waste, and nothing is done about it.”

3) God uses circumstances in our lives to get our attention. There is no hard and fast rule that says that obeying God in all things will always result in the Christian prospering materially and physically (much to the annoyance of many health and wealth gospel preachers). But it is a general principle throughout the Bible that obeying God brings blessing, disobeying God brings punishment – or, to paraphrase Randy Alcorn “Obeying God is always smart, disobeying God is always stupid.” We also know from God’s character that He loves us as a father loves his children, and He will use circumstances to chasten us for the purposes of discipline and to correct our wandering ways. As Solomon writes in Proverbs 3: 11-12 and the writer of Hebrews quotes in Hebrews 12: 5-6 “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as father the son in whom He delights.

So the question then becomes are there circumstances occurring in our life right now that indicate something is not right in our lives? There is the suffering that God allows to purifying us – absolutely. But there is also the suffering and circumstances that God allows as the result of sin or getting off track from His will. We would find it sad and silly if the driver of a car, when suddenly veering to the lane dividers did not pull back into the lane but said, as you were jostling along “Don’t worry – this will clear up in a minute?. When we knowingly disobey God, when the circumstances come and yet, we have “no idea” why they have occurred, we are no less foolish.

4) Finally, when we are confronted with our failure to serve God’s purposes, do we immediately seek to repent and return to what we were called to, or do we seek to justify ourselves, or come up with reasons that we can’t, or continue with what we were doing before? The quicker we repent and do what the Lord commands, the quicker we can return to area of blessing. Matthew Henry again “Those that have lost time have need to redeem time, and the longer we have loitered in that which is good the more haste we should make when we are convinced of our folly.”

In closing, most of you know the story of Jim Elliot, missionary to the Auca Indians. I won’t recount his story here, but I will finish with a paragraph concerning him from the Holman Old Testament Commentary on Haggai:

“The world probably looked at the death of Jim Elliot as a waste. He had so much promise – the charisma, the talent! He could have accomplished so much in the world. He died so young (not even thirty). He was foolish to have thrown away his life like that. Yet Elliott himself answers such criticisms. In his diary, Jim wrote these classic words: ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’ The apostle John put it this way: ‘The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.’(1 John 2:17). Haggai calls on us to put God and His kingdom first at all costs. This is all that will endure. In C.T. Studd’s words, ‘Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.'"

Labs, Lawn Peeing, and Sanctification

So now, we have a dog. It is somewhat fortunate that I was not overly attached to my backyard, because it has become, well, doggitized. Beyond the joy of Dog poop removal (if I was a clever man, I could figure out how to convert dog poop into renewal energy - I'd be a billionaire!) I now have the joy of large brown spots in parts of my lawn as well as parts of my garden (and a lot of feet of sprinkler hose) becoming dog play toys.

After the spots began appearing on my lawn, I referred to the Internet (Ah, what won't it do) to see if anything could be done. One suggestion I read was that if the lawn is flushed with water periodically, this will help to wash the urine off the grass and dilute it. Fair enough: I've got a timer on my sprinkler, so not a problem.

An unlooked for result of this is that my grass growth has become a lot more lush. It has also highlighted the fact that I have different grasses in my lawn, some which grow better than others.

It was actually a week ago that I noticed that some of the older brown spots had spots of green in them. The more resistant grass has begun to send out shoots, which are now starting to populate the dead areas. Suddenly, it appears that over time I may end up with a more resilient lawn.

The thought then hit me (and it disturbs me that my mind works this way) that this is a lot like the process of sanctification. Sin, if you will, creates the dead spots in the lawn of our lives. God, in His graciousness, begins to send His roots of holiness into our lives. Eventually, they will green up - as long as we continue to be diligent in watering it with the Word, prayer, and God's grace. And, like my lawn, it looks pretty bad now - but in eternity, we'll be glorified, freed from the stains of sin in us.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Midlife Crisis

So after some thought coming home this evening, I've decided I think I'm going to have a midlife crisis.

"Midlife Crisis: a period of emotional turmoil in middle age characterized especially by a strong desire for change. (Noun, 1965)" -

I don't think this is typically something people think their way into - more like something that happens to them and suddenly they realize "Hey, I'm having a midlife crisis!"

Why? I am finding within myself a deepening divide between what I wish to be and how I wish to live and the reality of my life - and the divide feels like it is deepening all the time.

When was the last time I truly enjoyed myself? When was the last time I acted or was perceived the way I would like to be perceived? Was my dream in life at 18 to drive a 1991 Ford Escort and be middle management?

When was the last time I just did something random and fun without the first thought in my head being "How are we going to pay for it?" or "What are the ramifications of this for my life?"

Why does it feel like every day, a little more, my dreams are falling away and all I have left is the color grey?

Isn't that what midlife crisis is - a sudden realization that the reality of your life does not fit what you want it to be or what you dreamed it to be?

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Back from vacation - which, although we didn't go far, seemed to consume as much time and energy as a traveling one.

During our week, we went shopping at the outlets, attended a minor league baseball game, went to the Grass Valley Fair, to Coloma (discovery site of gold in California), and to Discovery Kingdom. Syrah escaped two days out of three from her kennel (apparently Labradors, once they set their minds to something, do it) - but she stayed around the house.

As usual, I overestimated my ability to get things read, or plan, or write, or catch up on other important matters- not that it's bad, it's just frustrating and something I need to get over. Vacations are for vacating, working visits are for working.

I also got confirmation of my new job and accepted it, looked for my queen bee three times - and couldn't find her, and rededicated myself through writing out a new series of goals and objectives.

Now, I just need a vacation from my vacation...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Milky Way

Rising in the Dark,
The bright band of stars sparkles
in my daughter's eyes.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Evening at the Ranch

We went for a walk this evening -Syrah, Bandit, and myself. The sun had gone, and the waxing crescent moon was above the horizon as we set out.

The grass by now is the faded straw yellow of summer, the way all grass eventually goes here. But even in the fields of the dessicated, there are still signs of life: wildflowers with names I don't know lifting their pencil lead thin stalks to the sky, and weeds close to the ground.

We took the long walk around the upper meadow. The horse thundered up halfway to meet us, perhaps not enthused about the company of dogs, but it beat being alone. As the dogs pounded ahead of me, they raised small clouds of dust, their paw prints melding in with the turkey, horseshoes, tennis shoe, and bear tracks already there.

As we reached the upper side, we came across nature in action: parts of a deer vertebrae scattered about and nearby, a jawbone. It looked to be a young deer by the wear on the teeth. I picked the jaw up to take back to the house.

There was a moment, when the dogs were ahead of me, that everything was perfectly still. Everything. No wind in the trees, no sounds of cars or dogs nearby, no crickets or frogs, nothing. Just the silent sound of crescent moon beams falling on the meadow.

I love this place. Here, like no other, I can hear God.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Metal Vivaldi

This is just cool. I don't care if you're neither a fan of metal rock or Vivaldi.

(Sorry - if I were smarter, I could just put it in here...)

HT: The Anchoress

Changing jobs is like dying

How's that for an opener?

It hit my last night as I collapsed in a heap, exhausted from an afternoon of essentially being used as a tool to meet the timeline of people who are not necessarily very kind. I know I have an offer in the works. I can grasp that very soon, none of the problems I am currently dealing with will matter - and after the day of the official announcement, they all go away (if you've ever dealt with someone who is leaving a company, especially a bad situation, it's odd how they get that smile on their face...). Yet, I still continue to get worked up about them.

But isn't this the Christian life in a microcosm? In point of fact, this whole life is going away soon (sooner than we think!). As Christians, we know we have an ultimate destination which is far different - and far better - than what we are currently facing. And yet, we continue to get possessed and bothered by the things of this life that we know are passing away.

When we were saved, we essentially announced we have made our arrangements to change our ultimate location. Why aren't we smiling more?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Embracing responsibilities

Today our admin, An Pholainneach, took me out to lunch. We went to the Chinese place across the street - which always makes me happy. Mongolian beef makes me even happier.

As we were talking, we were reflecting on the fact that within our department, there are individuals who seek out and embrace new responsibilities (or rather, embrace those which are thrust upon them!) and those who simply refuse to take them up, even when they are put in the position to take them on - repeatedly. It makes harder for the department, of course, as the pool of the willing always seems to shrink, but it would also seem to make it harder for the individual, as they become less able to grow with the company.

It strikes me as odd - after all, if one doesn't do more, one is always doing both loosing out on the present opportunities as well as the future ones. But then again, how many times has God offered me the opportunity to do more or learn more, and I turn it aside? How can I embrace my career and not God?