Sunday, January 31, 2010

Concientious Christian Employee

"You're serving men but in serving them best you serve God.

You always have to have that perspective. We're advancing the Kingdom. I'm here not to fulfill my own desires, not to make money, to indulge myself, not to get a bigger car, bigger house, bigger boat, more money, more savings, more security, whatever it is, my task in life is to serve the advance of the Kingdom of God. So on my job I don't lose my testimony in trying to get a raise because my objective in life is not more money, my objective in life is to advance the Kingdom of God so under no conditions would I ever lose my testimony, right?"

- Dr. John MacArthur, The Conscientious Christian Worker (Part 2)

Two Wolves

I'm struggling with two forces that are fighting within me, two things that both clamor for my conscious (and unconscious) attention.

It's an old battle, one that has been going on for years beyond counting. It comes and goes (sometimes at will, sometimes no). I vacillate between valiantly putting it down and being completely consumed by it.

Today during Sunday School a story was related, versions of which I heard before. In this version, an Old Cherokee instructs his grandson about two wolves that live within each person: one wolf is those things that are good and right, the other wolf are those things that are evil and wrong. "How do I make sure the right wolf wins?" the young grandson asks his grandfather. The old man looks for a time at his grandson, perhaps considering his own past history, and then says "Feed the one you want to win, starve the one you want to lose."

Feed the one and starve the other. Simple in concept but difficult in execution: how do starve the evil wolf when all the food seems to be available to it, and feed the good wolf when there is nothing available? More simply put (I guess), why is it so easy to do evil and not good?

There seems to be something in myself that always seems able to find the worst and not the best in any given situation. Tell yourself to put something out of your mind, and it will immediately go there. Try to count your blessings, and they inevitably slip out of your mind like water. Every time your mind wanders mentally and you try to package the thought into a box and crush it, ten more follow on behind it. Look for hope for victory and find only more struggle. Feed it in hopes that it will leave and find is that it becomes even more ravenous.

If it's a case of fall down 99 times, rise 100, what happens when you fall down for the 101st time?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Time Wisdom

Another Friday morning where the sense of the end of the week is not "Hey, it's Friday" but more "Oh look, it's Friday. One more day to make it through."

It makes me to think on the concept of how we measure time.

For example, as a child school seemed to last forever and even summer (once it arrived) was long. Then I reached the point that I worked during the summers, and then the weekends seemed long. Then I worked through the year, and suddenly all days seemed to be both too long (in amount of time) and too short (in the amount of work I had to do).

Now, I've reached the point that even the "ordinary" work week is too short to do all that I have to do, yet the weekends themselves are really just one long day sandwiched between work weeks.

"Time management" and "multi-tasking" (probably another one of those phrases we'll look back upon and say "That was so 1990's)" seems to have become excuses for squeezing the maximum amount of effort of anyone. After all, the first item when confronted with time constraints is not "Is there too much to do?" but "Are you using your time wisely?"

Wisely. Hmm. What is wisdom? In one sense, I suppose, Yes, because I'm using it to do a matter that is important: provide for my family, improve my mind, pray to God. On the other hand, if I'm using it for things of no import or the foolishness of others, I don't know that I am.

So maybe that's the question for today: Is using my time "wisely" really wise?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thought for the Day

"The unhappiest of mortals are those who insist on reliving the past, over and over in their imagination, continually condeming themselves for past sins." - Dr. Maxwell Maltz, The New Psycho-Cybernetics.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sinning and Failing

I was reminded last night of the difference between sinning and failing. I sin and I am a sinner, yet I can fail and not be a failure.

It occurred to me that this is the crux of why often the wisdom of men makes them unable to accept the Gospel. They can instinctively grasp the fact that they can do and action and not be an action (although there are many who can do an action repeatedly yet believe they are not controlled by it i.e. addicts, alcoholics, etc.), but they then founder on the concept that there is a thing - sin - which is so deeply bound up in our spirits and souls that we are the root and cause of the action. We are sinners - yes, we are sinned against, but we sin against as well.

And the Gospel calls us to this basic truth, to accept this basic truth, because only in acknowledging it and accepting the reality of it can the Gospel be seen as the great and necessary gift that it is. If we are not sinners - individuals who at our core are so corrupt that no matter what we do it is tainted and an offense to God - then we do not need a Saviour. But if we are, then the Gospel because the great unmerited gift that it truly is.

And this is, in the end, why all efforts of self-improvement and positive attitudes will break down: we can be many things, but if we cannot grapple with the basic underlying truth, the entire structure is built on a flawed foundation, just waiting for the disaster (natural or otherwise) to make it crack.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bad Connection

Yesterday morning, as I valiantly rallied out of bed, The Ravishing Mrs. TB caught me as I meandered towards the coffee pot. "The heat's not working" she said. "Can you take a look at it?"

The heat. Hmm. The battery was out the day before so I replaced it and reset the clock. It looked like it was working properly.

"I'll take a look" I responded, thinking it was no more than the settings not being right.

So I went to look at the program. Nope, it was set correctly. Power? Yes, the battery was plugged in (I had replaced it earlier, remember?). I unplugged the battery and replaced it, thinking that I had a bad connection. Power went back on, reset the clock, hit "Run Program". A click, but no heat.

Fine. I walked out to the garage and furnace closet and opened it up. I could hear the pilot light going, so the furnace wasn't out. Closed the door, went back inside, tried to cycle through the programs again, then threw my hands up and said "I've no idea".

Hoping against hope it would magically turn itself on, I went to work. Later, after arriving home and just before bed, I asked again. "No" she responded, "it didn't go on at all today."

So this morning I got up, walked by the thermostat, and mentally decided "I will make it work today." So I performed the same checks: power (On); time (set); no heat. I replaced the new battery with a new battery and performed the same check. Nothing.

So back out to the garage we went. Opened the furnace closet to the sound of the pilot light.

And then I did something I had not done the day before. I reached down and slightly moved the door to the filter and the chamber. Suddenly, it burst into life for a second. I reopened, then reshut and locked in the place the filter door. The warm sound of blasting air greeted my ears.

I shut up the closet door, walked back into the house, and basked under the warm glow of the kitchen register (by far the best flow of air in the house) before wandering back to my previously scheduled morning.

What did I learn in my microcosm of home repair this morning?

1) Check everything. Twice. Physically - not just by listening or looking and thinking things are okay.

2) In any system, the smallest point of bad connection can prevent it from functioning.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Watching Over Me

How to resolve the split in my soul.

On the one hand, I am constantly having to fight being enthused about my life as it is. I do what I do because I am seeking to do the right thing, the thing that supports my family and allows them to enjoy all of the benefits that I see in their lives every day.

On the other hand, I despair of doing those very things. The current job field I am in - not just the actual job (if I'm honest), but the entire career field itself - is not desirable. Yes, the benefits are great and yes, you can make the argument that I am helping someone. But the reality that was smacked over my head (yet again) last Friday is that I am a cog.

Yes, a cog. I am a title with no authority but all the responsibility and accountability. If things go wrong, I will be the first one blamed. If I succeed, it is merely considered what I was supposed to be doing for my job.

It makes me laugh because in point of fact I am supposedly hired for my independence and experience, my previous examples of responsibility. In reality, it appears I am hired for my ability to complete tasks more senior management does not wish to do.

Which again strikes me as odd. What I remember constantly reading and hearing from industry is that they desire individuals who are independent thinkers, who get things done, who bring new perspectives to the industry. Instead (at least in my own experience) what they really want is people who are willing to do things however they are dictated to them: from as broad as reviewing every communication before it is sent (but you must send it, of course; don't want to be "bogged down" in minutia) to choosing font and spacing in documents.

So I guess I've made another discovery: I don't want an overseer. A partner, perhaps, but not an overseer. I'm completely open to having my efforts reviewed and critiqued; what I am not open too (I guess) is being gifted with all the responsibility and accountability but none of the ability to execute.

Friday, January 22, 2010


I had another one of those dreams last night that makes you wake up, go "Huh", and then not be able to sleep for the rest of the night.

I was apparently living back near Old Home somewhere, renting a room din someone else's house. There were a variety of items - including cattle, three potatoes, and other things that I can't remember - that I had decided I wanted to use for a project up at The Ranch. After waiting for a while and not hearing anything, I loaded them up into a truck - an old 1940's model with the high slat walls - and drove them up to the Ranch.

I arrived back at where I was living only to discover a message from the landlord saying that the very items I had just taken up were going to be taken by the other people that lived house (?) the next morning. Sighing to myself because I just finished, I got back into my truck and drove up to the Ranch, where the items were still in the truck I had driven them up on. I started to drive them back, only to discover that my father had apparently contract to have the driveway fixed and the road up the hill to the house my great aunt and uncle had originally lived in was completely torn up and could not longer be used. As I was looking in frustration at this, a group of people (women as I recall) came riding horse through the property, herding cattle. The earth moving that was changing the driveway was no impediment to them. As I looked down, seeing them ride through the remains of the old road as I stood on the new heights above, I felt an intense feeling of frustration: why didn't I get told not to use the materials before I took them? How was I going to get them back before tomorrow?

And then I woke up.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Strategic Thinking

Another thing has come up in terms of things I finding I don't like to do: strategic thinking.

Oh, not the strategic thinking of my life or even of my potential life's work. That I enjoy, even as I need to work on implementation. I enjoying playing with figures, changing numbers, saying "What if" - it's almost like it's a secret joy of those that think a lot.

No, the strategic thinking I'm speaking of is that enforced by others: the thinking that strategic thinking can occur effectively without the ability to take the steps to actually take action on them.

Case in point: I am charged with thinking more strategically in my current position. It's a good idea and a fine plan. However, it seems that any thinking and planning I do is always swept away by the course of daily events, which leaves those plans crinkled up in a ball by my desk. When one has the inability to set policy, strategic thinking and initiation becomes an exercise in futility: when faced with improvement or income, most companies (indeed, most people) will probably take the income.

It's sad. It's silly. It's counterproductive. It leads individuals to learn to not take initiative until essentially they have been "informed" by leaders what the boundaries are.

So I may have learned two things: 1) I can't do it in this environment; 2) If I want to do true strategic thinking, I need to do it in the context of being able to implement it. And that would mean being in charge.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Resource Deficient?

I think I've reached the limit of my internal CPU.

I acknowledged last night as I drove home from work that I my mind has not been as sharp as of late. Part of it I have been addressing as a lack of sleep (as noted before, a lack of sleep tends to degrade my abilities).

Then it occurred to me as I went that I almost literally spent the entire day being given more tasks to do without actually accomplishing anything. It's as if my mind finally reached the point of saturation and said "No more, I'm done - thank you very much."

Accomplishing tasks is one thing. Using the time we have efficiently and wisely is another. But when one has reached the point where tasks simply come faster than the ability to deal with them, one of two things has occurred: Resources are not what they should be, or the ship is simply sinking faster than you can pump.

The part that I am finding discouraging is the fact that I am taking this as my failure: I'm not doing what I should be doing. I'm not keeping up. I am not trying hard enough. Which if I sit and think about it, simply is not true. Could I use my time more efficiently? Yes, if I wanted to break all interactive ties with the very individuals I'm expected to interact and succeed with.

Ironically, the very people who are the most efficient at any company, often the individuals that rise to senior positions, are the very individuals that are the least liked.

Be efficient? Sure. Be mindful of my time? Absolutely. But consider myself failing because I am not resourced appropriately? Not anymore.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


"Finally brethren, rejoice in the Lord." - Philippians 3:1

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice." -Philippians 4:4

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

So here is the challenge: simply put, I am not a joyful person. Never have been - funny yes, occasionally gregarious of course, but joyful: nope. Which is is concerning the above referenced verses.

Paul was a man of joy - that much flows from all of his letters. More amazingly (I suppose to me) he was a man of joy in the face of all circumstances: persecution, death threats, travel extremities, working as a tent maker, and finally death itself. Or Christ as another example, who "for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross..." (Hebrews 12:2a).

The reality is a lack of joy is severely impacting my life. I notice it. The Ravishing Mrs. TB notices it. Na Clann notice it. I suppose all those around me notice it as well - great testimony for Christ, huh?

The other reality - at least from what I can glean from Scripture - is that joy is something which comes from God. It's listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. It's based on our relationship with Him, not within our circumstances.

(That's easy to write of course - it's much more difficult to live out on a daily basis when in so many aspects of your life, you feel out of water and trapped.)

So if true joy is not something one can manufacture but it is something we are commanded to do, and joy is a gift from God, how does one reconcile the two in one's life? How do I create that which feels so often to be manufactured?

Ask? Is it as simple as that? But the commands from Paul are for us to be active: "Rejoice", "Rejoice Always". And the writer of Hebrews notes that Christ saw the joy before Him.

The key is there - I just need to find it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Not An Empire

So naturally, I made the simple request of God over the last two nights "What do you want me to do?" Foolish, in the sense that I realized that I probably did not expect a response - and got several.

The one that arises to my mind this morning is that of my relationships at work. Simply put, I don't really enjoy managing people or being responsible for them or their work.

It's a fine distinction, because for a great while I have been of the opinion that I don't really care for people. I don't think that's it totally: I am finding that I am consciously enjoying relationships that I am involved it; what I am not enjoying is the managerial accessories that come along with it.

It's an interesting puzzle, because that is so much of what industry is built on: work your way up the ranks, acquire more responsibility and more people/power (and therefore more money), and aspire to even more dizzying heights.

But as I think about it - as I asked God about it -what I got is this sense that I am simply not interested in this. I've no interest in building an empire or commanding the loyalty of others. I certainly don't mind what I do, but I'm not interested in the career track - without an interest in a career track, you eventually (at least here) go nowhere.

That's okay - I don't know that I have to do anything about today. I just need to be conscious of it for the moment, to ponder it and then figure out how to incorporate it into my career.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I'm sitting here at 21:10 at night. The house is quiet: The Ravishing Mrs. TB is off at a conference in Florida, Na Clann are all in beds, exhausted either from a sleepover or cramming into bed with dad (and the resulting lack of sleep), Syrah is downstairs sleeping. The rain we had last night is gone but the clouds are back, leaving the cloudy silence that always seems to come. In a thought, I'm alone with my thoughts.

And alone with my writing.

I've been questioning my writing these last three days, especially in conjunction with this blog: why do I write, why do I write what I write about, am I having any impact by writing this.

Why do I write? Two reasons I suppose: one is that I simply have to write. I can't not do so, at least not for long periods of time. The other reason is that I write because I have hope that I can make some kind of impact.

Impact? That gets to the second question for writing, which is what I write about. Of this, I am not so sure. Originally when I started this blog, I had the idea I would write about God and my experiences with nature. If I look over time, that has morphed considerably into sometimes involving God and more often involving introspection about myself, or my circumstances, or even my life. I don't know if that is as impactful as I would have hoped it would be.

So why do I continue to write? If I had to try and reign in these octopus arms of writing, what would I try to do? If I want to have an impact (and what kind of impact is another question), what should I be focusing on?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Responsibilities, Options, and Time

Coming back to goals again - my goals particularly.

I'm finding (or maybe finally becoming aware) that I simply cannot balance the idea of being an involved husband and father and completing all the goals I things I want to do on a daily basis. Nope. Can't get here from there. One of three things happens:

1) I make a valiant attempt to do everything on Monday. It gets done, but I have to stay up later to meet everything. Tuesday I'm tired, but still try. By Wednesday, things are falling off the list. By Friday, nothing gets done because I'm tired and depressed that I can't stay focused.

2) I do everything, but spend my evenings essentially by myself accomplishing my goals and not interacting with my family.

3) I try to do very little and make sure that my mood is good (that would be the sleep thing), but end up feeling like I am not doing anything.

So either my expectations are too high, they're too low, or I simply am not doing what I should be doing.

Some facts that are known:

1) I require 7 hours of sleep a night. Less quickly degrades my ability to function quickly.

2) The time I get up for work, leave for work, and work are fairly set. My ability to change that is limited, and the time I have leading up to that is now effectively used.

3) Doing the time math, that leaves a finite amount of time after I get home to eat/do chores/interact with family/interact with pets/do "my" goals.

Knowing all that, how do I best evaluate my responsibilities and options?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"I Can" versus "I Am"

I've identified a flaw in my thinking: "I can" versus "I am".

Upon reflection this week, peppered by Jeffrey Gitomer, I became aware that it seems I have always confused my ability to be capable with my inherent nature. To think myself capable was to extend it to all aspects of my reality, including my nature as a sinner - which then made me react against it, knowing the fact that I am a sinner and therefore not worthy of salvation on my own merit. I have often ended up in this bizarre feedback loop, tacking back and forth from "I can" to "I can't" like a small sailboat on Sunday afternoon in the San Francisco Bay.

But in thinking about it yesterday, I had a glimmer that the truth lies with both: yes, I am a sinner in need of a Savior, but as a person God have made me capable - that my status as a sinner does not prevent me from accomplishing things - indeed, being competent and able to do (at least on earth) far more than I consider myself capable of.

This is a novel thought for me, something I have not considered in a long time: that I am capable of things, that thinking "I can" and believing that I can is not in itself a sinful thought.

Suddenly, the vistas of this life are greatly expanded and the thoughts of what I can do are no longer immediately shut down to essentially the interior ends of my mind.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Begging Him to Depart

"And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And they saw Him they begged Him to depart from their region." -Matthew 8:34

The story is a familiar one: Jesus casting demons out of two demon possessed men in the country of the Gergasenes (or Gadarenes, depending on the translation). The demons (who were so many in the man that the referred to themselves as "Legion") begged to be sent into a herd of swine rather than cast into their final destination, the Lake of Fire. Jesus does so, at which they take the herd of swine over a cliff into the Sea of Galilee.

The locals arrive. They see the demon possessed men (Matthew says one man, but commentators think that the explanation for two is that one man was the primary speaker) clothed, sitting calmly in their right mind. Here is the Son of God in the midst, the great teacher Jesus, giving a demonstration of His power to back up His claim that He is the Son of God and can forgive sins.

Their response? They "begged Him to depart from their region."

Why? It could have been that they were frightened by the disruption of their ordinary lives, or that they rued the economic loss of a herd of swine, or that simply as ungodly people they did not want the presence of a power Higher than they in their midst. In any event, they bid the Son of God to leave them.

"Fools" we snort and then continue on to Matthew 9. But are we truly any better? When God reveals His power or His authority to us, how do we respond? Do we stop to listen to Him, to amend our lives, to seek His forgiveness? Or do we, like them, because it is inconvenient or economically disruptive (more true than we care to admit) or emphasizes the sin we do not want to part with, beg Jesus to depart from us as well?

There is a post script here as well. The main speaker of the two (at least) who Jesus cured wanted to follow Him (Mark 5:19) but Christ denied Him, saying "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you." Even after rejection Christ's compassion for the lost still showed through.

He is still moving in our lives, still having compassion on us. Do we hear Him as well, or are we too busy watching the swine herds of our lives plunge over the cliff and being more concerned for the loss it represents to us than His power and forgiveness of our sins?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Thought

"Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory." - George S. Patton

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Believe in Me?

Am I capable of doing anything right?

I talked through my epiphany yesterday morning to Fear Beag and Fear Mor at work. Both of them came back with the same conclusion that I did: yes, they could see the intellectual implications of needing to believe one could succeed in a potentially failing situation but could not see any more than I a way to reconcile the two different poles.

I have been trying (as part of my New Year resolutions) to make a habit of doing some success-based literature reading every morning. Recently this has been Jeffrey Gitomer's The Little Red Book of Selling (via a kind loan by Otis). In reading this morning, which was re-reading yesterday morning, the question of believing in yourself came up, of believing that you are capable, that you can actually succeed (Gitomer eventually extends this into his concept of "YES" attitude).

Which brought me to the question above: Am I capable of doing anything right, or more correctly, do I believe am I capable of doing anything right?

It's self belief, something which I gather I've always had problems with as a Christian balancing between the fact that the heart is deceitful, and who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9), esteeming others better than yourself (Philippians 2:3), and acknowledging the fact that God has created me as a unique being with gifts and talents. The outcome, I think, seems to have always been weighted to the side of "I'm not worthy, I can't, and I shouldn't try. That's pride."

But that's not really pride, is it?

It's (at least to me) always been a struggle to believe that I can succeed - not at things like writing or singing or beekeeping (If I can read it, I can do it) but at "larger" things, like career or job (or even parenting, for that matter). I could shrug it off on authority figures who have out ruled me, or bad decisions I made which turned out to be true, or my perceived inability to make changes. But in reality, it really comes back to the belief that "I can't" - I can't succeed, I can't make changes, I can't do what "successful" people do.

My next question: how as a Christian do I inculcate a proper view of self which acknowledges my place before God yet gives me the believe that I can based on what I have been given?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Schizophrenic Success and Failure

I realized yesterday driving home that I am caught in the midst of a conundrum at work: I want to succeed at my job, yet I have sincere doubts that my company will succeed.

Once this thought had rolled around in my mind for a while, I realized that it put in me in a interesting (and somewhat precarious) intellectual position: how do you truly try to succeed at a something you think is doomed to fail?

I say succeed because in point of fact, I've also come to the realization that my ability to set and meet goals is not good at all (in the vernacular, I "stink") - which is somewhat of an issue in my present position, as I am rapidly finding (two days into the work year) that I could easily be here another year and not get one step closer to accomplishing anything.

Which suggests, of course, that something has to change: either I have to change my opinion about the future of my employer, or work to find a new one. The difficulty there is that I realized that in fact, I have had this subtle backflow of believing my employers will not do well - could it even be said hoping they don't so I'm right? - is a theme that has been present for a long time.

Why? Why this thought that I think they'll fail, I hope they'll fail, and then the grim satisfaction when they do? Perhaps it's related to the realization that at some point, no matter how hard I worked, that I was never truly "moving" forward - not that that's the company's fault as much as my own, but I sought to affix blame (it couldn't be my fault) somewhere. Perhaps it's simply that I am not in the right industry, and so I subvert my dislike of what I do into wondering if the company will succeed.

I don't fully know. All I have come to realize is that I cannot hope to succeed and fail and the same thing and realize anything other than a schizophrenic response that keeps me running in circles.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Let Your Light Shine

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven." - Matthew 5:14-16

Is my life shining before men? That was the question that came to me this morning as I was reading through Matthew 5:1-26. It initially arose in the context of my career, where I seem to find myself stymied and mired, feeling like I am spinning my wheels which leads to the incentive to not do much, which leads to me being not as productive as I should be at work.

The thing that caught my eye was the reason that we are to shine: not that it serves us primarily in any way but that it will bring glory to God in Heaven from others through what we do. The focus is not to primarily be on myself and my life, but on glorifying God through my life.

I realize that this is a relatively foundational level Christian truth and pretty vanilla-like in the context of spiritual truths in the modern world. But it seems as if it's one of the easiest ones to forget, at least for me. How often - often as in almost every day - do I wonder why I'm here, what I'm to do? Yes, it's perhaps not a complete answer but it's an answer, and if I can't do the simple things, how can I expect to do the big things?

The second thing present in this passage is the presumption that we will in fact be about "good works". One could fill in the blank here - it seems to me that part of what has bedeviled the Church is that so often "good works" are defined as a specific list of activities, and those which fall outside of them (typically charitable, not that those are not good) are considered "less good". But isn't part of good works doing "good work", work that is significantly better/more complete than that which the world does? In a sense we should do this in everything, because as Christ points out, we're really doing everything with two objectives: one the objective of the task at hand, the other the objective of glorifying God.

And look at the intensity of our work which is assumed: Let your light "so shine". Not just flicker, not just glimmer, not even just be present. Our light, our witness, our good work and good works are to be a blazing beacon to those around us - in the verses preceding this, Christ talks about His followers as "the light of the world", "a city on a hill", "a lamp on a lamp stand" - in other words, a light which cannot be hidden or ignored, a light which is useful by giving light to all around it.

Do I shine with that intensity every day? Do I do good works and good work not for the sake of myself, but for the sake of shining a lamp on God? Or when others look at me, am I a lamp under a basket consumed with my own petty struggles, of little use to anyone and not so shining to glorify God? Am I too focused on my life to let God shine through my life?

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

I spent this weekend working on New Year's resolutions. Interestingly, these were not as difficult as I had anticipated, which was both good and bad. Good, because it means that (maybe) I'm learning something about goal setting and how I work best; bad, because it means that I realized that in some ways setting goals is meaningless.

Meaningless you say? Yes, in the sense that we can set goals based on circumstances and things that are out of our control. If I look at my goals for the previous year, there were several that were centered around the assumption that we would continue to live in Old Home, I would have the same job, and that our finances would be the same. Obviously, none of that occurred, so to the extent that I set goals based on those circumstances, I failed.

However, what it did bring to mind is that I have the opportunity to set goals based on things that I can control: My time, my interests, my sense of what I am being called to do, the family and resources that I have been blessed with. Could these change? Yes, but time is time, my sense of being called to the things that interest me have truly not changed in many years, my family is not going anywhere, and the resources I have here now are (barring the collapse of society) not likely to go away.

Did I stretch? Yes - in someways my goals and resolutions this year are more aggressive than ever and will involve me having greater management of my time than ever, along with truly attempting to get to the heart of what is important and what is not. But in working through these resolutions and goals this weekend, what came to my attention is that time is continuing to march resolutely on, and the only person that is hurt by continued failure to move forward, make the hard choices, and achieve is me - and the calling and responsibilities I have been given by God. The time will pass - it's how I'm using it that matters.

Or as Musashi said, "Do nothing that is of no use."

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The New Year with Musashi

"This is the Way for men who want to learn my strategy:

1) Do not think dishonestly.
2) The Way is in training
3) Become acquainted with every art.
4) Know the Ways of all professions.
5) Distinguish between gain and loss in worldy matters.
6) Develop inituative judgement and understanding for everything.
7) Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
8) Pay attention even to trifles.
9) Do nothing which is of no use.

- Miyamoto No Musashi, A Book of Five Rings, The Ground Book.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Thought on the Role of Religion in Civilization

"The truth, however, is clear from his Enquiry: Even before coming to India (William) Carey had understood that nothing but the Gospel could dispel the social darkness of India. Carey knew the Gospel to be the only effective antidote to social evils. This conviction sustained Carey's chief labor: to make the Bible available to the Indian masses in their own language.

It is worth repeating: Our mistake today is that some who believe the Gospel look upon it merely as a means of private salvation, for going to heaven. They do not seem to realize that the gospel is the God-given "public truth" - the means of organizing a decent society. Therefore, their faith becomes privately engaging but publicly irrelevant. On the other hand, those "Christian" activists who not believe the basic truth of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ died and rose again for our sins, attach themselves to ideologies that are most popular in their day....

Unfortunately, many Christians today who are sincerely trying to serve society are oblivious to the power that God has already given to us to dispel darkness. They tend to put their hope for social change primarily in their own projects....

Why have we sunk to this level? I suggest that we have done so as a result of the materialistic presupposition of our age. Since the time of Karl Marx, many have assumed, often unconsciously, that material reality is basic and that the moral/intellectual/spiritual aspects of reality are secondary - that they are mere by-products of economic reality. Carey, on the other hand, believed that the real battle is in the mind. False beliefs lead to wrong behavior and harmful culture. Therefore, Carey strove to fill the Indian mind with the truth of God's Word. That, he understood, was conversion - the cornerstone in the task of civilizing."

- Vishal and Ruth Mangalwadi, The Legacy of William Carey: A Model for the Transformation of a Culture, pp. 129-130.