Thursday, February 26, 2009


I've referenced before my fondness for Phil Vischer's book Me, Myself and Bob, and how it spoke to me. Below, a video of a jellyfish painting and a quote from the books.

Hat Tip: Phil Vischer

Words of Decay

I'm thinking about words today -mostly my own.

I got here from a book I am currently reading called Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney. It's a fine and convicting little tome on the virtue of Humility, how we've lost it, and how the Church (or those who make up the church, that'd be Christians) desperately needs to rediscover this most excellent and rewarding of virtues - as Mahaney quotes from Isaiah 66:2 "This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word" and James 4:6 "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Who shouldn't want God's attention and grace?

Me being me of course, I had to skip ahead and page through individual chapters as I continue reading through the book. Whipping along, I came to a chapter on Encouraging Others. I started scanning through section headings: Words with Power and Purpose, Words that Bring Decay, Words that Build Up, Appropriate Words. Hmmm, all about words and speech.

Uh oh.

His thesis is built around Ephesians 4:29: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear it." He points outs, as you will surely notice, the words "no" and "only" - or as Mahaney paraphrases, never and in everything.

Corrupting talk? "He's referring to any and all communication that deters growth in godliness; any speech that hinders the cultivation of godly relationships; any words that have a deadening or dulling effect on the soul of another. It's the nature of such corrupt words to penetrate and to spread, and they "grieve the Holy Spirit of God" (Ephesians 4:30). Therefore, no talk of this kind is allowed. Among believers and their families in the church of Jesus Christ, there's to be no decay-spreading communication of any kind, in any form, by anyone." (p. 113, italics by author)

And that stopped me. It stopped because I had to reflect on how I speak (and I include writing in that, as I write both for pleasure and for work in the forms of e-mails and documents). Not the official stuff - that I am careful about. It's the more personal conversation that leapt to my mind.

Why? Because I have a tendency to sharp wit - so sharp it might be labeled as "sarcasm" by others. It may also be known as "It was funny in my mind but not so much when I said it" theory of communication. I tend to mock or make fun of, hopefully in a light manner, those who I know and am friends with - my warning to others being "If I become serious with you, something is terribly wrong." But in examining the quote above, I don't see "with humor" listed as part of the justification - those words "never, of any kind, in any form, by anyone" haunt me.

Which brings a point to ponder: What if my life characterized by life giving words? Would that represent such a profound change in how I communicate that it would change me? Is part of my own pride being thought witty and clever more important than the recipient perceiving Christ through me instead of my through me? How much do I serve to hinder the reflection of Christ that He has given me to reflect in the world?

How much of my communication with others is really about me?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Prayer Request

I just found out that He Who Must Not Be Named (HWMNBN)'s wife got laid off yesterday. She works in the same field as I do. Prayers for her family, of course - and HWMNBN, because he's the job now.


This morning I had the experience of overlapping bible passages for different programs: One for my personal reading (Matthew 5-8) and one for a Bible in a Year program (Mark 5: 1-20). Parts of both readings deal with the demoniacs of the Gerasenes/Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20).

You'll remember the story: A demoniac or demoniacs (Matthew mentions two, Mark and Luke one: the belief is that there was one more prominent with whom Christ spoke) living in tombs in the country of the Gerasenes/Gadarenes, is confronted by Christ. The demoniac/s cannot be bound, cut themselves repeatedly, and are undoubtedly thin, ragged, and miserable looking creatures. When confronted, the demons recognize Jesus as the Christ and ask if He portends their final torment. Christ asks their number, and they say they are legion (A legion, in case you were wondering, was a Roman Army formation consisting of approximately 6,000 men and their equipment). They beg to be sent out a herd of pigs living near, which then stampede into the ea of Galilee. When the people of the area come, they find Christ with the demoniacs, now clothed and in their right mind. The people's response? They ask Christ to leave - which He does, but not before He sends the healed men back to declare the goodness of God.

Two things struck me as I worked through these two passages this morning: the first is the total helpless of the demon possessed. They cannot help themselves. They cannot be helped by those around them (assuming being tied up represents help). There is nothing that they could do to rectify their situation. But Christ can -and does, simply with one phrase "Come out of that man, unclean spirit!".

A fine reminder of Christ's power, I smugly think to myself, and start to wander on. But then it hit me, that I am no different than the demoniac (I mean, other than the demon possession, of course). And not just in the matter of salvation, which is a total work of God and not myself. In my own daily living, how often do I allow myself to be controlled by things other than God? How often do I turn to the One who can save, rather than to myself and my "ability" to change myself for the better?

The second thing was the response of the people. Here is a visible demonstration of the power of God. They all knew this many, knew his condition, knew their inability to change it. And yet, when they see him clothed and in his right mind, restored, what is their response? Not joy, not rejoicing, not glorifying the One who could make this happen. Instead, they are afraid - not of the sudden realization of God in their midst, it seems, but of some supernatural power, or perhaps even that if Christ continues, they'll be out of pigs! -and they plead with Him to go from them.

Again, there I am. When God does reveal His power and majesty, is my response to praise Him or show reverent fear - or is it to look askance upon the person demonstrating it, and sort of beg Christ not to do any of that around here or my life?

The demoniac received what he apparently did not ask for, while the people of the region refused what they were offered.

Do I understand how totally in need of Christ and His power I am everyday, in every situation - or do I just confine that to salvation and a few select habits I'd like to "take care of"? Once He acts, am I grateful and awestruck and cry out for more, or do I say "Let's not have too much of that, shall we?" Am I more concerned with His glory and the personal wretchedness it reveals of mine, or of how it my impact my zone of comfort?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dog Days of Unemployment

One thing I have forgotten about being unemployed is how easy is it to become self focused. It starts out easily enough: your concern in life is getting a job. So every day you do whatever it is you do (for me, it's the internet) going on job searching. I've done this enough that I'm reasonably organized: I have a list for places to check daily, companies to check weekly, and a spreadsheet to tell me where I've applied and what for and to track any results.

As you continue, it becomes a bit harder every day to be a little more positive: you get the bulk of things to look for out of the way in the next one or two weeks, so the list goes down farther: you maybe add one or two items over the course of a week to your list, but not much. Your e-mail load drops significantly as well, as responses come in less and less. The phone rings less and less as well, creating this sort of enforced job search "Cone of Silence".

I referenced it before but it continues to be true: you realize that friends and family do care and in fact do have jobs, but somehow it feels like you matter less because you interact with them -not less than you did before, but less than the time feels like it should be. They have lives and jobs, so just dropping them a call or note sounds easy and quick to you, but is not as respecful of their lives and time as it should be.

You'll notice the focus: me, myself, and I. As I said in the beginning, it is insidious because it start out so innocently and in a realtively reasonable manner, but comes to dominate your thinking all too easily. This feeds any latent depression you might have as well: nothing makes a depressed person feel more so than the sensation (not the fact, but the sensation) that one is worthless, especially from people you would expect otherwise (again: me, me, me!).

It's really amazing how little effort it takes to become self focused. Why can't I be as easily other focused with the same limited impact?

There is nothing like a little time to off the beaten path of regular living to reveal the vast depths of selfishness and sin we manage to cover over with the whitewash of daily life.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Open Road

Today was one of those spring days that shouldn't really occur until March, when they can be truly enjoyed. Instead, one takes the day while thinking "We really need the rain" or "It'll be terrible tomorrow".

I worked in the yard today, edging (my least favorite of all yard work tasks, although the most visible rewarding), mowing, weeding, and starting to reassemble sprinkler tubing done in by Syrah the mighty. Ending the day, it made one feel as if one had truly accomplished something useful, if not worthwhile.

It was also one of those days which gives me the fleeting idea that I should own a motorcycle: Warm but not too warm, slight breeze, one of those days I think Otis would say "Hey! I should be out on my bike!".

Instead (possible to my eternal regret), I have never owned or even ridden a motorcycle. A moped once. Part of it is sheer finance, I suppose: given this economy and my job situation, the idea of purchasing another motor vehicle is a bit silly. The other part, probably encouraged by those around me more than myself, is that I will undoubtedly manage to wreck and injure myself, given my propensity for not being able to really do anything involving coordination with panache and skill.

I say regret because, looking at it, I think riding a motorcycle would be fun and exhilarating. Where I live, taking a motorcycle over to Napa or even along the coast -wow, I bet that would be something.

It's not a huge regret - I've got real regrets for things I did or never did - but it's one of those small nagging ones, the itch that is not harmful but can never really be scratched.

But in the back of mind, if my ship comes in, I'll be out there, riding away, singing at the top of lungs as I barrel down the road...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nuclear Dust

I was having a discussion this afternoon with An Lus a' Chrom Chinn. She was somewhat depressed due to some medical problems she is having and the ever present ogre of "Further Testing" (medical jargonese for "We don't know") - I can say that somewhat flippantly only because I've never had to go through what must be a horrible sense of waiting and not knowing.

As part of the discussion, she began the questions that Lord knows I've asked from time to time: What's the point? Do I have anything to show for my life? Why am I here?

My comment back was that in reality, we all have that problem: it's only those who are directly faced with their mortality that have an awareness of it. The reality is, one could die leaving for work tomorrow morning and the same questions would be asked: What was the point of their life - and death at a young age? Did they have anything to show for it? Why were they here, and why did they get taken so soon?

For myself, one of the greatest helps in this area has been samurai literature. The essence of bushido, at least as it was written about and taught (but not always practiced) is that one should be ready to die at any moment. If one is always ready to die, then all things that need to be said or done will already be taken care of, because one never knows the moment that death will coming calling.

I've become a lot more willing recently to speak up or write up about things. Why? Because I'm beginning to truly grasp that much of what we think matters doesn't really matter, while things that do matter greatly we allow to get buried or we keep waiting for "the right moment" - which may never come.

The other reason I am intimately familiar with this fear is what I do: essentially, prepare and review paperwork that, if everything goes well and correctly, will never ever be seen again. This was especially poignantly pointed out to me at my last job, where the day before I left I was filing records of training on SOPs that now may simply rot in a box in a storage unit somewhere because in five weeks, there may be no company. Believe me, there is nothing less encouraging about starting your day than knowing that all of your effort will be filed in the shred bin sooner or later.

Our lives are not the sum total of length lived, but of what we did to glorify God, advance His kingdom, and do the tasks He gave us to do.

The ironic thing is that so many spend their time on things that will not matter in eternity, on that great day that we will all someday face. I know that at that moment, no matter how much I try to do (as I should) to make God's name great and serve Him, there will always be that thought of "I should have done more of this or less of that." All the sensual pleasures, training records, money, fame, and cars will be blown away as dust after a nuclear explosion, and we will be left exposed to either the welcoming presence of a Loving Father saying "Welcome home, my child" or the presence of the Eternal Judge saying "Depart from me. I never knew you."

When you go to bed tonight, are you ready in good conscience to die?

Hammer Fall III

So the devolving economic crisis continues to affect those around me. Today, as the Ravishing Mrs. TB was getting ready to leave for a party, her mother calls. I was out in the garden weeding (truly, that only seems to be what I'm ever doing out there. I'm very good at growing weeds) when she came out talking to her mother and hung up. "My mom just got laid off."

The weeds suddenly lost a great deal of their import.

My Mother in Law (An Mathair Cheile) has worked at one of our local metropolis' papers for 32 years, first as a part-timer and then full time. She started out, and eventually became responsible for, stuffing ads into the papers (yup, if you've ever pulled a supermarket ad out of a paper, you now know someone who did it). "Economic Necessity" was the phrase used as they apparently let her and another lady go tonight.

The good news (if there is such a thing as good news in such situations) is that financially, this may not be a life ending thing due to her age (Social Security), retirement, and the general frugality of their lives (and yes, she did get a severance package, although methinks it is not quite as substantial as 32 years of service should merit). The less good news is that for her, work was her social outlet - which has now been totally removed.

We told Na Clann of course, as we don't like to hide these things from them. Nighean Gheal asked what they would do for money, because "It's not like we can loan them any right now" (her words). I explained the financial situation, so at least that concern was relieved. For prayers, they all asked that Grandma could find a job. Speaking to Nighean Gheal after we prayed, I said "Honey, I'm not sure if Grandma will be able to find a job."

And that is probably the most amazing - and alarming - thing to me: people that want jobs are going to go wanting for a while, maybe forever. I am fortunate: I am in a career field that is still viable and have a particular set of skills which is not typical and is in some demand. Others, like mo Mathair Cheile may not be - my suspicion: paper stuffing is a dying industry.

So spare a prayer for her, if you would be so kind; in fact, spare a prayer for all those who are put into such circumstances at this time where the light may appear very dim indeed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blue Fog

Feeling blah for the last couple days. Nothing particular - I am feeling a little run down vis-a-vis sickness, but not the sort of thing that would make my soul feel blue.

I would define it as a sort of chilling malaise, a sort of fog that seems to spread out and attack everything one does - a sort of deadening that makes any sort of activity seem boring and useless.

I had a pleasant lunch with Songbird and The Elder today. It was good to see their faces again - although the stress of their work is showing on both of them. It's odd that with the future in flux, I had never had any hope of re-enlisting there, but the reality of that sank in today as we talked.

I did have an interview on Monday with a real live hiring manager. The good news is that it sounds like it will lead to an interview; the less good news is that it will take two weeks to happen - and so one spends two weeks hoping positions don't get canceled and company priorities don't change.

Some of the malaise comes, I think, from the very act of job hunting. One goes to websites daily, some weekly. At this point, I occasionally find something, but nothing like the 5 CVs a day I was hoping to send out. You send out what you send out, and do the same thing again tomorrow. Unfortunately, due to the very power of the internet, which allows you to do all this searching and CV delivering, you also have virtually no ability to follow up: you send it, it goes into a hole, and possibly you may hear something. Maybe. If you're lucky.

And maybe that's part of it - the sense that beyond a very narrow range, I can't really impact my job search at all. I am in so many ways dependent on so many things beyond my control.

But in point of fact, how is that different from my life anyway? I did everything right at my job, and I lost it because of factors I cannot influence. Friends and colleagues throughout the industry face layoffs or job changes through items not in their control.

Perhaps one of the benefits of this experience is to see, very clearly, exactly how little we are in control of everything - and how much God is.

Monday, February 16, 2009

License to Skip

This week I took a large step towards closing my past. This week I surrendered my real estate license.

I got the paperwork for renewing this last week. I laughed when I received it: with the previous week of Himself and the Firm, God was getting my attention - yet again. I flipped through it (education requirements plus $120 renewal fee) and suddenly the thought floated into my mind: why don't you just let it go?

The next reaction I had was remarkable to say the least: I resisted the thought and actually thought about renewing it.

I say remarkable, because this is a thing that I have not used in 3.5 years, since the failure of the Firm. Thoughts started floating into my mind: "You should keep it, you could always pick up a little extra money; it's never wise to let something go once you have it; you might be able to use it."

So I laughed at myself. I laughed, because this is indicative of my reaction to giving up anything that has outlived its usefulness in my life: that immediate burst of "I might use it someday". In some respects, my life seems to be a series of accretions from things I used to do that no longer are useful or enjoyable, but simply hang on like barnacles on a ship, weighing it down and cutting its speed while contributing nothing.

"It's time", I said to myself, "for this to stop."

So I wrote a letter:

" To Whom It May Concern:

Please find enclosed with this letter State Real Estate License #. I am surrendering this license as my path no longer lies in this direction.

Thank you! – Toirdhealbheach Beaucail"

I put my license in it, and I mailed it off.

What a freeing thing! For a moment, after I heard the "thud" of the letter hit the inside of the mailbox, my fear and regret tried one more sally: "Let's not be hasty - we can always call, you know."

So helpfully, I shoved them in the mailbox too. They complained a bit, but knowing that I'd not put any postage on them, they'd soon be back.

And so, feeling about 100 lbs lighter, I skipped back to the house.

I finally made a decision. I finally dealt with something.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I came to the Ranch today with Na Clann to run in the snow. More this year - about 8" in two days - then there has been in a few years. We had the weekend - a holiday for them (every day's a holiday for me now), so up we came.

As usual, the amount of time spent in the snow is drastically less than what they anticipate - wet and cold and rain are parts that you can talk to them about, but they never really understand it until they're out in it. Still, they ran and played and sledded and ate snow and had a generally good time.

I write from in the computer room now: looking out the window, the upper meadow and barn are still surrounded by a field of white as the trees blow in the winter storm winds. The house is warm though from the wood stove: I'm with Gene Logsdon that only the heat from wood really warms you up.

The green pine trees look dark against the white snow and grey sky, darker than they usually appear without snow - it's interesting how the contrast in colors makes some more vivid.

And as always with snow there is a peace, a tranquility, a sense of muffled quiet, that seems to transcend the physical nature of the snow itself.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wisdom and Work

So I went walking in the dark and windy cold tonight, arguing with God.

My argument? Do the exercise of self examination - strengths, passions, obligations - gave me exactly what I feared: a list of things that I want to do, would love to do, but simply cannot do. Why? Simple answer: making a living.

So I walk around, angry that I had to go through the exercise yet again, angry for the reminder of how far I am from what I am interested in, far from the what I dream of.

And then God, in form (I presume) of Wisdom, starts talking to me.

"Pretty cranked about this, hmm?"

Stomp stomp stomp in the dark. "You have no idea. I can't believe I went through this whole exercise yet again."

"You don't think it's valuable."

"Of course I think it's valuable. It's just that it's painful. Maybe you missed the part where I'm out of a job now, and I have a phone interview on Monday which is in the industry I am currently in - far away, I can assure you, from my strengths and passions."

Stomp stomp splash stomp.

Wisdom tried a different tack. "So how's everything you used to track."


"You know, when you got bored at work. The stuff you would look up, the stuff that you thought were so significant."

"Haven't really followed it. Doesn't have much meaning now, being without a job."

Stomp splash cross street stomp

"So your saying that now that you have the time, you're not doing anything with those things?"

"Of course not. I'm focused on finding a job."

"Even though these others things were more important?"

"Well yes, I need to focus on finding work."

"So you're saying that you can focus on what is important when it matters, to the point you let others things go. Just a matter of perspective?"

Stomp stomp stop. I hate it when he does that.

"Yes, I suppose that's true."

Walking in a more calm manner now.

Wisdom started in again as we turned the corner. "I know this isn't necessarily the greatest thing for what you believe your strengths and passions to be. At the same time, there are gradations in what you do. Move towards those. And look at the bigger picture. Depending on where you end up, this could make a lot of those other things work for you. Not full time, no. But imagine what you could do if you have the focus and you are where you're not worrying about next week's income. Focus? You've already shown you can make something you're focus. It's a matter of be willing to do it - or, as that quote you read this week said, boys live in fantasy worlds, men deal with reality."

Walk walk walk

"Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings, he will not stand before obscure men."

"Proverbs 22:29, right?"

"Right. Standing before kings doesn't sound like being completely bored out of your mind or not having other interests to me. Sounds pretty interesting and important."

"I hate it when you're right."

"Well, you said you wanted wisdom. You know what they say."

"Be careful what you pray for?"


Afraid of a Mirror

I having a moment of not be willing to look at myself.

As I mentioned, I am going through Who Are You and What Do You Want? by Mick Ukleja and Robert Lorber. As part of this exercise, I am performing the exercises at the end of each chapter.

Or I was.

What I have found is that I am becoming increasingly resistant to doing them. Not as if my hand is trying to throttle me ever time I go for the book; no, it's more insidious: finding other things I have to do first, or saying to myself "I really don't have the time to completely do this right now", or continually intending to but never really doing it. It's quite remarkable.

I say remarkable because here I am, a man of (almost) 42, increasingly unwilling to do the hard work of internal examination. Not even self-criticism: personal examination, things like strengths and skills and obligations, and what I would like to be.

Why is this?

If I had to make an honest assessment, it's because with knowledge, comes responsibility. For me to become aware of these things is to become responsible to act upon them. And I suppose that frightens me.

Why is this?

Because it will mean I have to do - it no longer becomes an option of "Oh, I think that's a good idea" or "That's something I should do someday." To become aware is to know that God's gifting is there: not to be hidden in the ground, but to be honed and shined and used.

And that, that is the terrifying thing.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Treasures in Heaven

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." - Matthew 6: 19-21

It is remarkable how a change in circumstances can result in additional insights. For example, this section of Matthew 6: 19-34 is one known to many people: treasure in heaven, don't worry about food or drink, birds of the air, flowers of the earth, seek ye first His kingdom and righteousness - one of the more famous passages of the Gospel and the Sermon on the Mount. And it is applied - and rightly so - to field of our finances, how we use our money, where our heart is, and seeking God's kingdom above all else.

And then you lose your job.

It hit me at 2 AM on a Thursday morning that I have not apprehended the full import of the verses. We think of solely of money - our society and economy is based on money. But the reality is, that the Bible teaches that we will be rewarded for acts of service and obedience as well as for what we do with our money. It that is true - and it is - when we speak of storing up treasures in heaven, it is not just something that we do with money, but something that we do with our lives.

So the command is not just only for our financial lives, but for every part of our lives: store up treasures in Heaven: Obey the Word; Manifest the fruits of the righteousness; be holy as the Lord is holy; make decisions based not just on financial output but also on spiritual output. This is much harder for me, because frankly money is something I can do and be done with. These other things are much more intense, because they are not done and forgotten, but are to become part of the framework of my life, which means that I have to root out sin, selfishness, and self-centeredness - something that I am not good about at all.

A second thought that occurs is what a grace of God this is: He does not base His rewards solely on what is given (elsewise all without money would be in a hard place), but on our relationship to Him and His relationship through us to others. In Heaven, as has oft been said, it matters not what you were but what you did with what you were given - and obedience, being filled with the Spirit, being Holy, and showing love are things which neither cost a cent to perform or manifest - but result in eternal rewards.

I guess the song is true - a little change (of perspective) will do you good...

Hammer Fall II

Sorry for the delay - I had a field trip yesterday and a busy day today (which would seem to be a oxymoron for the unemployed), so I had to step away from the keyboard. The result was I ended up with about four blog posts, of which I can only do one tonight.

So I'll do the saddest one.

I got notification today that the rest of my most recent former employer's staff is being laid off - tomorrow. Things continued to go less than desirably, so the decision was made - two days before the company was set to move - that this was what was going to occur.

I told The Ravishing Mrs. TB that this made me sad - sadder than when I got laid off. Why the difference? I think it's because the people that remained has an additional two weeks to have to work on things there, with the packing for moving, the sense of lost from colleagues no longer present, and the weighing concern that even with all their effort, it wasn't gone to make a difference.

It's shocking - with two weeks, the company went from 25 full time employees to 6 and probably to 0 within another six weeks.

The surprising thing to me, however, is the conversations I've had with a couple of them. Not really sorrow, except for the loss of great coworkers. The sense of relief was mentioned, that the waiting was finally over, and they could move on with their lives knowing what was going to happen. I say surprising because that is not the reaction I would have suspected, which should surprise me more, as that was not my reaction when it happened to me. Maybe I now have the view of an outsider, looking at it from the perspective not as one having to work on it but as someone who is having to look for a job in an incredibly shrunk market, while they see this as an end to uncertainty in their lives.

Sad to me none the less - both for loss of community (and it was a vibrant one) as well as for the failure of an idea. And, for the fact that more friends are entering a market which seems to be growing tighter and tighter.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Job Hunting, Crocodiles, and Weeds

So today was a day of despair. Every day, I am trying to get five CVs out, and do nothing until I do that. This morning, it took almost 2 hours to accomplish that. I've yet to speak to a physical HR person - to date, I have spoken with recruiters.

I actually feel sorry for the recruiters. I spoken with at least 5 about one of two jobs. The vision I relayed to Songbird is a waterhole in the African desert which is slowly shrinking as the water dries up. The crocodiles, having no where to go, continue to huddle in the increasingly dessicated waterhole, eating up the smaller ones until the last survivor dies in the heat. In many ways in this market, a recruiter can represent yet another cost which if if can be eliminated, will be.

I also found the secret key to the state job website, where I finally found where my job class lives (architects and engineers, oddly enough). Unfortunately, I also made the discovery that these are the same jobs posted on the Internet at company sites and if one is not careful, one can end up double applying, which is a huge faux pas.

As a result, I have been in a blue funk all morning.

So The Ravishing Mrs. TB kicked me out in the afternoon. "Stop looking" she said. "Go work in the garden."

I like working in the garden - good heavens, I was ordered to do so this time! I even had a task to complete: put a wire fence around it to prevent Syrah the Mighty from ripping up plants, hoses, and sprinkler heads (and raising my blood pressure to boot).

It was another of those cool winter days we get that foretells rain on the morrow: rushing clouds and sunshine, cold wind but not too cold. For once, my plan actually worked: the posts I bought were the right type, my wire cutters would cut the fencing, and so within 20 minutes I was done.

And then I got a look at the weeds.

Weeding is not my most fun thing in world for gardening - but then, I reflected as ripping them up, neither is it the most favorite thing in my real life. Same problem, really: it's tedious, it's boring, and I always seem to end up ripping up the plants I want too, no matter how careful I try to be. The interesting thing, I seem to think that it's an option for life; in reality, it's neither an option for life nor for gardening.

If that's the case, why do I allow the weeds of gloom, fear, and depression to grow unopposed?

Through a Glass Darkly

There are moments which come from time to time which strip away the gauzy veil we put over events in our past and reveal them for the failures they were and the harm they caused.

It is sin -the sin which fools us at the time (but how well, oh how well we know what we are doing) with its soft whispers of this being right, the way things were meant to be. Sometimes the damage is not revealed at the time - it is only years later that the true horror of the damage done in the dark comes to light, like scars in places no-one ever sees because we never show them.

In that moment good intentions matter not; in that moment the situation and words and feelings and the very moment of time of the past are nothing but streamers of the morning dew hit by the rising sun which create the briefest of vapors and then are wafted away; in that moment all excuses and rationalizations are laid bare; in that moment the heart is pierced by the spears of righteousness and what might have been, but no longer can be.

In that moment, the misshapen fruit of a tree which seemed beautiful is placed into your hand with the command to eat, and the taste fills your mouth with bitterness, your throat with raw bile, and your eyes with stinging tears.

In that moment, the ugliness of sin is laid bare.

Why, Oh Why, do we not take sin for the malignant cancer and destroyer that it is?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Pirate QA

As part of my continuing to keep my family fed routine, I have spoken to my previous employer (the one who laid me off) about coming back to do some consulting. Not a full time job of course, but it would defray some costs and keep my hand in the industry while I figure out what's next.

As part of my change, on Linked In I went to change my title to "Independent Quality Consultant". Linked In, in it's computer wonderfulness and literalness, asked me for a company name. I had none. Nope, it did like that. It needs something to fill that particular hole in its memory.

So I put Pirate QA.

I didn't think anything about until Otis e-mailed me today about it, asking if I had started a company. No, I replied, it was to cover my consulting.

But why? I have this annoying compulsion to explain to people why I do what I do, even if I don't have to.

Because QA is stuffy. There are literally hundreds of consultants out there, with company names involving the words GXP/GMP/GCP Consultants/Experts/Inc. The best ones are "Bob Jones and Associates", which actually is only Bob Jones, Principal (there are never any associates). I can say in 11 years in the industry, I have seen not one company name or title with the hint of creativity or amusement in it.

Yes, I know pharmaceuticals are a serious business. Yes, I know that there are legal and regulatory ramifications. But could one of the very small reasons the industry is thought of so poorly is that they have the sense of creativity and humor of an armadillo (and I apologize to any armadillos with senses of humor)?

My vision is that of pirates storming the biopharmaceutical gates, responding in pirate talk to questions ("That be a right fine question, lad, but I canna take yer attitude. Mr. Franklin, see these landlubbers be scrubbing the cleanroom floor until they can explain the import of signin' and datin' all entries" or "I"ll have no more of this insubordination for datin' documents. Mr. Franklin, see these scallywags walk the plank"), dressed in swashbuckling clothing, carrying cutlasses, and doing their jobs - but doing it in a way that makes how they do it as interesting as what the do.

Is a little creativity too much to ask?

An Innocent Question

As part of my enforced recalibration period (otherwise known as a layoff), I have been reading the book Who Are You and What Do You Want: A Journey for the Best of Your Life by Mick Ukleja and Robert Lorber. It is a fine book, a sort of grown up What Color is Your Parachute without all the drawings. The authors have developed a "Four-Dimensional" model for looking at your life, where it is, and where you want to be. I'm actually re-reading the book after having read and highlighted it once, going through and underlining the things I missed and doing the exercises (always like the books with exercises!). I am re-read up to chapter 3. A few quotes:

- "After all, if you don't feel great at work, you won't at home either, and vice versa." (p. 14)

- "Truth is powerful, but only if you allow yourself to be guided by it, right?" (p. 27)

- "Action with reflection is thoughtless. Reflection without action is passive." (p.30)

- "In order to change be truthful with yourself - not truth in the abstract or philosophically or in a vacuum. It's all about being honest with yourself." (p. 38)

- "Self leadership - the ability to lead yourself -requires confidence to act on your values, no matter what the consequences. It requires the willingness to openly express yourself, no matter how foolish you may think you look to others." (p. 40)

- "Whenever you avoid taking charge of your life, you become a reactive machine. When you don't know what you want, you react to everybody else's desires, schedules, invitations, requests, and agendas." (p. 40)

And on and on it goes.

In the exercises for Chapter 2, there was question that literally took my breath away when I read it: "What is the one question I am afraid to ask myself?"

What a question frightening in simplicity and implications. Not "What is the one question I will not allow myself to ask?" or "What is the one question I cannot answer?". No. The question that I am afraid to ask myself.

Which implies that there is at least one thing I am afraid to ask myself. Which begs other questions: Why are you afraid to ask it? Is there only one? If I answer this, will others bubble up?

The more amazing thing is that a question immediately leaped to my mind. How odd, that the question I was afraid to ask myself was there, waiting to be asked.

"What do you really want to do?"

Aargh. But it's out now. Afraid to ask? Sure - because I know as soon as I do, the answer that I will come up with is not the answer that I am basing all my job hunting on.

And if the answer is not what I am doing, then there is a cognitive dissonance in my life, a willingness to suspend disbelief. Or only temporarily so - if I look back over the last 13 years of my life, what is my history? Job changes ever 2-3 years, regularly, like clockwork. One time even doing something completely different?

Why? The sly, silent, sibilant answer comes back "Because it's not really what you want to do."

Double Aargh. Wretched introspection that results in a complete and handy tearing away of the veils of practicality. I could have read Science Fiction instead.

At the same time, there's a relief from another part of me, a sense of a cover finally being kicked off the manhole, saying 'Well finally, somewhat actually brought it up! Good Lord - we were waiting until you were actually willing to ask the question."

No veering now. I've started down the rabbit hole - I have to follow the rabbit to the bottom.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


So the post I put up yesterday about wisdom has been chewing on my mind like a beaver in an old growth redwood forest. I just cannot get away from the thought of wisdom - I know I've heard it put into the terms of instructions for life or applying God's word to life, but I don't know that I've ever seen the connection made between immaturity and maturity in a way that I could readily understand (i.e. could readily apply to myself because hey, I found myself in the wrong category).

So, I said to myself, I'm need of some of this wisdom stuff. I'd better get it. What luck, I have a copy of God's word right here in my house (actually, sort of embarrassingly, I actually have 8 copies of God's word in my house, not counting anyone else's. I have a bit of a book issue...).

I remembered Proverbs 2: 1-9. I'll go there first:

"My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth comes knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path."

James 1:5: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."

Huh. Not precisely the way I wanted to go about it. I am a reader, so I like things laid out in a linear style that tells me what to do. Part of the above does: I am to receive, treasure, incline, apply, cry out, lift my voice, seek, and search, and then - wisdom? Well, not in so many words. I'll understand the fear (reverential awe) of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (which meshes nicely with Proverbs 9:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Also with Psalm 111:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.").

Still, I'm balking a bit at the next part - it is Lord who gives wisdom. If I'm missing it, I need to ask it. Even the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and I want (and need) a whole lot more than the beginning.

I'm balking as well because it looks like (once again) I'm not the one in control of what I think I want. Sure, I'm given a list of things I should be doing, and a recognition of where to start, but following hard on the heels of that is the statement that God controls wisdom, and if I want it, I should ask, in faith, and wait.

Funny thing though - my pride doesn't want to do that. Which is doubly funny, since my pride often balks at taking God's advice in the first place. Which actually makes a screwy sort of sense: If I won't take Gods' advice as written, it surely means that I won't seek Him out and wait upon Him to give said advice.

Could it be (big ugly look in the mirror moment) that the fact that I feel I lack wisdom in my life is that I am too proud to humble myself before God not just to "take" whatever He gives, but to wait upon Him, seek Him diligently, and then obey what He says?

Oh look - I just think I found a big chunk of wisdom disguised as humility...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Wisdom via Fantasy Land

Today in my devotional Promises to Keep: Daily Devotions for Men Seeking Integrity for 07 February, I found this little gem by David De Witt. I quoting somewhat at length:

"Wisdom is the skill for living life. The Hebrew word is the same as the word for a skill to make a chair out of a piece of wood or a tent out of animal skins. Wisdom is obtained from observing the regularities of life or learning from others who have already learned those skills by living longer. Since true wisdom also comes from God, it is looking at life's regularity from God's point of view as revealed in the Bible (Psalm 119:100). If we lack wisdom, we should ask God for it (James 1:5). But the wisdom God gives us will make sense and not contradict what He has alreayd given before. To learn wisdom is to learn the regular patterns of the way God does things...
A person will not choose the irregular and the regular at the same time. If a guy continually looks for irregular interventions of God into his life via signs, gifts, experiences, or messages, he will not tend to seek wisdom. If he seeks the regular patterns of life as God prescribes them (wisdom), he won't constantly expect God to be interrputing those regular patterns (though He may).
Guys seeking mystical signs remain boys. Guys seeking God's regular patterns (wisdom) become men. Some boys buy lottery tickets for the same reason other boys are mystics. They want to ignore the realities of life while expecting an intervention. I'm told that most people believe that there is a very good chance that they will win the lottery and very little chance that they will get into an automobile accident. Why do they believe that? Because they are boys. Boys live in chaos, chance, mysticism, and a fantasy world that does not exist. And it keeps them from the real world, which does exist. Men face the real world and learn it's patterns. That's wisdom." (Emphases mine).

In reading this, I get one of those feelings, that "Huh. I've had this book for 13 years. How did I miss that?" (And the answer comes back, "Because you really didn't want to see it, ya dope!")

Little hard on yourself, you say? Not at all. Read my post from yesterday on my visit with Fantasy. And that was yesterday.

The thing that leaps out most at me is the concept that boys seek mystical signs, and as a result live in a world of chaos, chance, mysticism, and a fantasy world that does not exist. Have I run my life like that? More often that I care to admit, absolutely! My decision making process has very often been based on the theory that I will wait until I get a sign, a feeling, something from God indicating this was what I was supposed to do (in 0ne case, it was a cell phone), when in reality it probably already reflected the decision I had made internally and I was just looking for some kind of cover.

Chaos and chance? Harder to pin down, but probably true as well. Chaos in my life is probably defined by the number of things I have picked up, started, and put down, rather than sticking with some things and mastering them. Chance? I would want to say no, but if I look inside at some of the decisions I made, there was always an element of chance invovled - the chance I was going to hit it big on stock options, for example.

And Fantasy World? I think he is more completely talking about a world where we believe that it operates according to how we think it should operate, rather than how it does; however, it makes sense to me to believe that in the context, he is also discussing the propensity of some to completely dwell in worlds that simply do not exist (aspiring athletes that will never make the Olympics but insist that they will, roleplayers, videogamers, and MMOG folks probably all fall into this category), and so rather than grapple with the world as it is, they create worlds more to their liking.

I've been guilty of this - faced with the reality of life as it is, I create worlds of fantasy, of adventure, where my life is exciting and I am in command. The problem (and the problem for all of this) is that that fanatsies always end: the job or the relationship or the chore, the thing that must be done, is still there, and the fantasy, while emotionally fulfilling, has moved me no closer to the task of living in the world; in fact, it can cause me to make decisions as if the fantasy world was in effect and reality was an optional choice.

But then again, I'm guilty of all this: seeking signs instead of wisdom, living in chaos and chance and fantasy. Honestly, based on that, it's a miracle my life has gotten as far as it has.

Looks like it is time to start looking for some patterns instead of searching the sky for flocks of birds flying in the shape of giant arrows...

Friday, February 06, 2009

A Visit with Fantasy

I had to call Fantasy into my office this evening.

He sauntered in, looking for all the world like he had just emerged from yet another wild adventure: clothing roughed up, face dirty, carrying some indistinct something inside his leather travel bag.

"Let me get right to the point" I started. "We've had a complaint."

He snorted a bit as he sat down and lounged a bit in the chair. "A complaint. I always had you pegged as a pansy, and I'm right. Someone has a single bad word, and you collapse like a popped balloon. Could you possibly be more gutless?"

I took a deep breath, like I had been practicing, and started again. "Not just a complaint. A FB complaint."

If he was reactive, he didn't show it. "You know I don't FB. How could you tie me to something that I never do."

I waited until his eyes met mine. "It wasn't against you. Originally. The original complaint was against Humor. I already talked to him. He says you put him up to it."

"Not consciously" I immediately put in as I saw him going red in the face. "Here. Look at this." I passed the file across the intervening space over to him. "Look through it."

He grabbed the file and flipped back the top page, obviously angry at the charge. I could see his face as he caught sight of the file photo, and begin to soften as he read the charge."

"I'm not saying you told him to do it" I said more conversationally (I hoped) as he continued to read. "It's just that you inadvertently gave him a direction, and he took it. You know the old adage: What sound funny in your mind is not always funny when you speak or write."

He sighed hard, then passed the file back. "So how's the complaint against me? Looks like Humor's the one that actually did it."

I gave the half grimace with lifting of hands to indicate my frustration. "He did, but he states that it was because of he thought he was being asked to do to support you. You know: get a false idea based on what you think you heard, act on it, suddenly you're involved."

He slumped a bit in the chair, letting the bag drop slowly to the ground. "So what's going to happen? Another of the ever popular 'Re-education' sessions?"

I sat for a minute, the words balanced on the tip of my tongue, saddened that they had to be there at all. "I'm sorry. We're going to have to reassign you."

His head shot up at that, eyes staring me straight on. "What?" he almost roared incredulously.

I sighed. "I'm really sorry. I've been trying to put this off as long as I could as well. You know, the classes, the counseling, the on-line stuff. But it hasn't made a difference - we keep coming to these complaint issues. We've got to do something before we both get fired."

He snorted. "What is it then - off to Logic? Realism? Maturity - is his hand in this?"

I shook my head. "No, no-one else is involved. Just you and me at this point. Trying to keep things as low key as possible. And no, I'm not exiling you to a living death."

I pulled out the revised org chart. "Look - after a lot of thought, I've decided to put you under Creativity. You guys both know each other - you've worked together a long time. It'll almost be like nothing has changed - you go off and do your thing, you will just have to check in with him before you do. If you look on the other side here, I've also got Physical Health reporting up to him as well. You three can do a lot together - you just need some guidance, and frankly I think that Creativity will be able to provide it in a framework that I can't."

He looked at the Org chart, sighed, and handed it back. "There are worse things, I suppose. We've had some good times together, haven't we? I mean, me reporting directly to you."

I smiled and nodded. "Of course we have. And it's not like you or I are going away - we're just transitioning to a different way of doing things."

He set his face with a curt smile, nodded, then picked up the bag and got ready to go. "Hey" he said as he started to turn to go. "I'm planning on going to 25th Century earth next week. You interested? I've got a line on an undiscovered facility. Should be entertaining."

I smiled and nodded. "You know, I've got some extra time now. Absolutely. I'll pencil it in for next Thursday."

He smiled again, started humming some kind of vaguely martial sounding air and strode off to the band playing in his mind.

I turned back and put the new org chart on the wall. That had gone better than I expected.

Then sighed. 25th Century. Undoubtedly I was going end up dirty and shot at again. I started digging for the blaster I always kept in my desk.

Something's Coming

I got a very kind and thoughtful e-mail from Le Quebecois this morning. I always enjoy his e-mails, because they are chock full of wisdom and good humor and the sort of bon homme that I wish could flavor my own conversation as well as my days more.

It's odd, because I actually have few men older than I that would consider founts of wisdom or mentors. Our church is fairly new (6 years), so we tend to be towards the younger end (I, of course, being on that younger end!); my father of course, but in so many ways we have had different lives (He commented to me last week that a layoff was something that he nor my mother ever had to even consider dealing with); my boss at my previous company, He Who Must Be Obeyed (HWMBO) in an industry and career sense. I've worked with lots of men who experience-wise might qualify, but they never had that thing that made you say "Yup - I want to be like them. I respect their opinions and wisdom."

As part of the response to his e-mail, the line suddenly came from my fingers:

"Now that I don’t have the flow of work constantly on the brain, with my gripes and crises there, I’m finding that there is a quiet underflow of something – although I’m not sure what it is. Writing for certain, but other things as well, things that I may have abandoned in my quest for biopharmaceutical goals. It’s different from when I lost the real estate company, more introspective, more a sense of this being a spork in the road, and having a chance to choose something."

One of those things you look at your fingers and say "Where did that come from?"

But upon reflection, it's true. It's not like last time with real estate: Yes, I had the same series of 24 hours periods; yes, I had essentially the same financial situation; yes, I was looking for work on a time basis; but with all of that, there is a sense of deeper things sort of bubbling up in a quiet way that have been there all along, but have been pushed aside by the things we think important, but in reality are ephemeral.

I made the comment to a friend on Wednesday that I was shocked to realize that I made (in the sense of "Made before I got laid off") almost as much as I could get as an assistant attorney. Lesson: I can work more and probably earn more, but wealth alone isn't going to get me where I want to go.

(Somewhere in the interstatial space that is the internet, both Songbird and Buttercup are nodding their heads and saying, "Yup, he finally got it - we've been saying this for how long?"

It's almost exciting - strike that, it is exciting. It's like this massive adventure of discovery, the book kind I like the best: John Carter charging across the dead sea bottoms of Mars under the two hurtling moons Phobos and Deimos, or Conan discovering the mysteries of civilizations long gone (in his case of course, with loot), or any of Andre Norton's journeys of people in the ruins of a civilization long gone.

It's like from West Side story, the song Tony sings, "Something's Coming". I found the lyrics, and they're so close to what I'm thinking, I'll close with those:

Could be! Who knows?
There's something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there's a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be?
Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,
Phone'll jingle, door'll knock,
Open the latch!
Something's coming, don't know when, but it's soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver To me!
Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It'll be there!

Come on, something, come on in, don't be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight ...

Dotting T's and Crossing I's

Yesterday I received a call from a consultant on a Quality position. We had a pleasant chat, and then she had a couple of questions. The first was on a phrase I used in my CV, one that she had not heard of. I pulled up my CV on the computer and looked and sure enough, I had "clinical supplying kitting" instead of "clinical supply kitting". I confessed it was a simple error, she fixed it, and then we moved on.

After the conversation, a sudden sense of horror struck: that was the CV that had gone out to everyone else for the last week. Hurriedly, I began hitting websites, swapping out that minor correction.

Now, I am a person of punctuation and spelling. I am what in other years and other places might be called a zealot. It's how I make my living. So how did this get through? Not a misspelling, and certainly not a thing that most people would catch (I, and an HR friend, missed it), nor would the infamous Word Spelling Tool of Death give its friendly "Hey! Loser! This is wrong! You want me to fix it?".

In explaining my job function to a friend last night outside of the industry, I noted that what I did was ensure that biopharm products were safe and effective, a sort of dotting t's and crossing i's. I didn't even catch the slip but she did. We both laughed about it, and went on to other things.

But in the comment, and now in this minor error, I find a metaphor, the metaphor for success or failure.

It's the second check.

The reality is, while I prize exactness in writing, I very much dislike to edit. When I am done, I want to be done - mostly, I think, to avoid the function of criticism by self or others. The reality is, success in whatever form you measure it is an output not only of effort, but of the second check: the catching of the small things that might be wrong or are wrong, the things that stick out perhaps only to you but make the difference between good and great, the time spent checking and rechecking to insure that everything is excellent and as close to perfect as possible.

Napoleon Bonaparte (I'm reading a book on him now) was apparently like this. For all his faults (and they appear to be a great many), he had both a prodigious memory and the ability and need to check and recheck his plans and calculations, apparently in meticulous detail. As a result, he only lost twice; unfortunately for him, one was Waterloo.

I think for myself, part of the issue is that I don't want to take the time. I don't see the time as well spent - the time of creation (like writing this blog) is well spent, but not so much reading it word by word. But in reality, it is time equally well spent: the first for creativity, the second for communicability and the impression that it gives others.

The CVs I cannot call back. My life I still can.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Ghost in the Machine

God is continuing to try to get my attention - and I, like a fool, continue to ignore Him.

Today, after having a delightful lunch with my pastor, I (in a moment of guilty pleasure) decided to run to my local used bookstore (I am the embodiment of the 16th Century Catholic Humanist Erasmus Desiderius, who wrote "If I get a little money, I buy books, and if I have any left over, I buy food and clothes.").

As I got turned off the freeway, I looked towards my right for the upcoming tight turn - and there, in the parking lot with two other people, was Himself.

Or someone that looked like Himself. But the truck was there. It was him. I knew him for 12 years, and I don't make mistakes like that.

I pulled around the corner and as I did, went to look again. Yup, still him, still the truck.

And for one brief moment, the though flashed into my brain "Just pull in. Just say hi."
Which, of course being me, I promptly ignored.

I got to the bookstore and mosied through - but found nothing partially, I suspect, because of what had happened. It played on my mind: I should have stopped. I should have said hi. What am I afraid of?

Bookless (I'll go back later - don't fear!), I got back in my car and headed back towards home. At the overpass, making the left turn to get onto the freeway, I saw the truck pull out towards the overpass as well.

Crud. If he goes over the overpass, he may end up next to me at the light. What will you do then?

He didn't, but I as I got on the freeway I continued to look behind me, to see if it was him - because if it was, and he was coming home, he would come this way. Sure enough, after awhile I saw the blue-green truck in the rearview mirror.

I don't think he would notice me - I've a different car than I had back then -so I continued to watch behind me as the truck pulled up, pulled into the fast lane, and passed me by. I followed, at an increasing distance as our speeds didn't match, until I got to my exit. Thinking that I should have stopped, should have said something.

And then it hit me: he just drove my exit. He knew where I lived. How often has that happened, that he has just gone by, and not stopped. Was any mind paid?

And then, having been led carefully into the ring, I got suckerpunched.

Why is it all about you, God seemed to ask. We've discussed this. You should have let this go years ago. You, you, you. Didn't I bring you out before the market crashed?

Yes Lord.

And didn't I provide you with employment after that, and with a support group in your church and work, and friends to replace those, and writing?

Yes Lord.

Then why, almost four years later, are you still milling around here? It's like you're the Israelites at the Promised Land: I brought you up, I protected you, I made you promises about my presence with you, and yet you still keep looking back to Egypt and saying "Why, O Why Lord?" They went around another 40 years in that desert: do you want the same?

No Lord.

Then stop it.

Even as I write this, those words ring in my head. Then stop it. How long have I carried things around that I shouldn't, ignored God's provision and looked back to Egypt, failed to move out in faith, made the center of the universe me instead of God?

If this is a problem for you, I have a message for you from Him: Stop it. Just stop it.

Don't make Him have to get your attention.

The Providence of God

This morning it was raining as I stumbled into consciousness. I just lay there awhile, listening to the rain (an all too infrequent sound these days), in that kind of bland state one enters when the decision to remain awake or asleep is available.

"Christmas Present" came the thought.

Okay. File away under "Random thoughts that occur to me at 4 AM" and continue on.

Later, when I got up, I went to look at my Christmas present from The Ravishing Mrs. TB. It is below:

The words you can't see in the picture are "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." It is Hebrews 11:1. The translation I prefer is "Now faith is the evidence of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen."

The word hope, a derivative of Elpizo, is to "hope, to hope for, to hope in, to expect." The word hupostatsis is "substantial nature, essenceItalic, actual being, realization. Likewise, the second half of the phrase is "pragmaton" ("thing", pragamatic anyone?) , and elegkhos ("verification or conviction"), and ou blepomenon ("not seen"). So the phrase, which runs only 9 words in the Greek instead of 16 in the English, most correctly says "Now faith (pistis) is the substantial evidence/essence/realization of things hoped for, things of which we are convicted of but are not seen."

So great. I've got time to translate Greek as well as search for a job. So what?

The so what is that suddenly a single thread of God's sovereignty became visible to me this morning. I got this back in December, long before I had lost my job, thought it was a great gift, but then filed it along with my other gifts waiting to be hung up/dealt with. Now, in the midst of a circumstance where I need my faith encouraged, this gift takes on a whole new meaning.

Never doubt the sovereignty of God. Never.

And remember that faith is not a thin reedy feeling, at least not to the Christian. It is a conviction, the substantial evidence of things we can't see yet - but will someday.

A pictorial

Many have wondered what I actually look like:

In case it's not clear, that's me on the left....

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Having made my job search, the Ravishing Mrs. TB asked me if I would be willing to accompany her on a drive in Northern California to deliver a party kit. I checked my calender and confirming (once again) that I was still not employed, told I could manage to squeeze her into my schedule.

The day was one of those late winter/early spring days of Northern California where the weather is good, but you can see the clouds rolling in. The car is not quite warm enough without the heat on, too warm with it on. The filtered sunlight is enough to cast a light haze over everything, but sunny enough to remind you that spring is not far away.

We had a very pleasant conversation, probably the longest sustained one since we got back from Tucson (oddly enough, also the last time we were without kids. There's something going on there). I don't know that there was anything earth-shattering, just the pleasant patter of words and road noises that you kind of forget about when you're used to having others in car with you or driving alone.

Having made our drop (sounds spy-like, doesn't it), we decided to have lunch. Being as we don't get to eat by ourselves very often and that we had the time, we went to In-N-Out.

I like In-N-Out. I like their burgers, I like their fries, I like the fact that I can issue my own paper towels in the bathroom instead of having them allocated to me.

So we sat outside in the semi-warm, eating our burgers and fries and just enjoying the weather, each other, and the change of pace. We finished up, I almost licked the fry boat to get the last salty goodness out, and off we went back home.

Nothing's changed, of course: I'm still unemployed, Countrywide has still not called me back, and The Big Red Line is ticking down financially. But that's okay. I can honestly say I feel better than I have in years.

And I got In-N-Out to boot.

A Way Through The Storms

O helper of workers,
ruler of all the good,
guard on the ramparts
and defender of the faithful,
who lifts up the lowly
and crushes the proud,
ruler of the faithful,
enemy of the impenitent,
judge of all judges,
who punishes those who err,
pure life of the living,
light and Father of lights
shining with great light,
denying to none of the hopeful
your strength and help,

I beg that me, a little man
trembling and most wretched
rowing through the infinite storm of this age,
Christ may draw after Him to the lofty
most beautiful haven of life.

- Colum Cille (Columba) of Iona (521-97 Anno Domini), from the Adiutor Laborantium

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

And Never is Heard a Discouraging Word

One thing I am finding on JobQuest 2009 (such a good title, I think I'll register the trademark!) is that oftentimes can make the most difference.

Example: Last night, if you see below, you will find that pretty much I threw up all over the computer keyboard. I could almost not feel more depressed than I did last night. This morning, I went to my e-mail and there sits a note from Songbird, saying that I was in her heart and prayers and that yes, sometimes it was hard to keep the long view in mind when the short view was less than desirable. That alone helped.

On top of that, I got a e-mail from An Dreahthann Ruadh out of the blue, saying how much she had enjoyed reading my blog, and lots of other really nice things. It was like my day had totally gone from night to day in the course of one hour.

Perhaps (and speaking only for myself) I have underestimated the power of the encouraging word in the lives of others. Words are funny things - they cost nothing, are constructed out of the same 26 letters, and of themselves have no physicality; but by words, we can move, elate, depress, encourage, discourage, create, and destroy the spirits of those with whom we talk.

And it strikes me as odd as well that so often (like say, when you leave your job) it is only when we leave a situation that we say the good things, the things we meant to say. Yes, I know I've written on this earlier, but it bears repeating because the power of it is so visible in my life.

Whether by e-mail, phone message (lest Otis become offended and forgotten), or even by a short verbal sentence, the encouraging word is not enough to make the problem better, but is a way to make it more bearable - because in the encouragement is the implicit understanding that yes, something bad is going on, and yes, I am thinking of you.

And that is an encouraging thought.

Master and Slave

Today I took the action thousands of other Americans have taken of late: I called my mortgage company. Countrywide - as if I have anything to lose by naming them.

I spent a good part of yesterday and today preparing the list of suggested documents they had on their website for the "Home Retention Department": a brief letter describing my situation, a list of assets and liabilities, monthly expenditures, tax returns, and paycheck statements. It was the frog I had to eat today: I did not want to call them, but I had too.

So I called the "Home Retention" line. Hesitantly (because I hate confrontation), I put in my loan number, said my task, and waited.

And got dropped.

So again I called the "Home Retention" line. Hesitantly (because I hate confrontation), I put in my loan number, said my task, and waited.

And got through to the customer service rep. We exchange information, then he asked about the purpose of my call. "I need to speak to the home retention department" I said. "I lost my job last week."

He didn't miss a beat. "I'll give you the number sir, and then transfer you. Have a nice day."

So I rolled over to the "Home Retention Department", where I ended up with a gentleman. We again exchanged information, and he asked the purpose of my my call.

"I need to see about restructuring my loan. I lost my job last week."

And then, like magic, out came the script.

"I'm very sorry to hear that Mr. TB. Are you looking for a job?"


"And I'm sure you will find a job soon. Do you have any income coming in?"

"Well, I have a three month severance package."

"Very good."

"About my loan?"

"Countrywide has many options for loan restructuring Mr. TB; however, they require you to have an income. Once you have an income, give us a call back - here's the number -and we'll discuss it at that time."

"Okay." What else do you say to a man reading off a script?

"Mr. TB, I'm sure you will find a job very soon. Also, I see that you have not made your February 1 payment yet. Are you planning to pay that?"

"Well of course."

"Very good sir. How do you typically pay?"

"By mail."

"Sir, I would recommend that you mail it by the 10th to avoid additional financing charges."

"I'll keep it in mind."

"Can I do anything else for you?"

"No, that'll cover it."

"Then goodbye sir."

My entire body slumps down in front of the computer.

No point in getting angry - the guy is reading from a script, and I'm sure that he's had people blow up at him before. The anger comes from a sense (completely self generated) that somehow this was going to make a drastic change in our situation. There is a somewhat laughable odd counterpoint that at the very point that I could use some assistance, you're told no, we can't do anything. The vision I have is jumping from a plane and on the way down realizing you don't have a parachute. You hit up the instructor to your right, but he says "I'm sorry - I can't actually give you my reserve parachute until we reach the ground."

The other thing that sticks out at me is the concern evinced (perhaps also in the script) by the gentleman about making payment. To the mind that didn't know better, it would sound like they were more concerned about their money than my situation.

Which of course is their prerogative. It is their money.

"The borrower is the slave of the lender."- Proverbs 22: 7. I'm feeling that quite keenly at the moment. I've no-one but myself to blame, both for the initial loan, and then for the hope (again, self generated) that somehow this was going to change things. A reminder, probably well deserved, that one should never confuse the desire to do business with the desire to care.

Monday, February 02, 2009


I intellectually know that You are there, and that You are here,
Sustaining me through even this.
And that I should give rejoice always, give thanks in all circumstances,
and pray constantly.
And I even did that, this morning,
feeling strong in the strength of the Lord.

But now, at the end of the day, I feel nothing but a tired sense of defeat and bleakness.
I got some of what I needed done, but made no progress.
I proacted and made contact, and found nothing at the other end.
My children bickered, my dog took off down the street,
and almost surprisingly, there was no job I looked at that I was qualified for.
I feel alone, tired, useless; kicked to the side of the road along with the
McDonald's wrappers and cigarette butts and road dirt.
If there is a center of Your will Lord, I feel diametrically situated from it.

Help me even in this Lord to remember simply that You are Lord:
I don't have understand, I don't have to have it worked out,
I don't have to pretend to feel what's not there.
Remind me that You will carry me,
even when I cannot carry

Dreams of Going Home

I had the most amazing dream last night.

I was having problems sleeping last night (probably something I with just have to learn to deal with), so it was one of the those in and out kind of nights where dreams are short and end abruptly.

In the dream, Uisdean Ruadh and I were at Tractor Supply Company buying a truck for him (ask me not why we were buying a truck at Tractor Supply Company. We just were). We were trying to decide on taking a class about sheep, and he was going to roll it into his truck payment, but the salesperson insisted that I pay for it (not as much on the loan, she said).

We left, and we drove off to what I believe was a Circuit City. It was depressing - the store was empty, they were selling off the fixtures. We looked about a bit, and then headed home, where (apparently) he dropped me off.

Once I reached home, my phone rang. I looked at the screen to see who was calling.

And it was Jesus.

(No, I don't remember the number or what it said. In the dream, I looked and I just knew from the little scrolling line that it was him).

I picked up the phone. "Hello?" I said somewhat hesitantly.

The voice on the other end had a drawl, something I'd associated with an Oklahoma accent. "Hi Terry. It's Jesus."

And then I started to cry.

He said "I love you. I know what you're doing - I know you've made mistakes. I know you're making one right now. But don't worry about that. It's time to come home. I'm coming to get you now." And then He hung up.

I hung up, and suddenly had a vision in my living room of a stage where people had suddenly disappeared, and the two remaining musicians were trying to carry on.

And then I was physically moving up through the front of my house, through the intersection of the entryway and the living room into the sky. As I went up out of the roof, I saw a gathering of light - everyone else, I suppose, going as well.

And then I woke up. With as great a feeling of God's presence and peace as I have ever felt, and with tears.

We always get what we need, just when we need it.