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.


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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


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?"

Tuesday, December 09, 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.