Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Depression is Like A Fog

Depression is like a fog,
a dense billowing log that creeps out of nowhere,
seeming to spring up from the ground itself.
The trees and bushes slowly merge into it
and then become swallowed up by it.

Depression is like a fog:
it becomes a barrier
cutting off all inputs of light and song.
Day, night, all become merged into a single monotone grey
with no hint of color or life.

Depression is like a fog:
it bounds my world until all I see and remember
is gray swirling mist.
When even hope and joy have become swallowed up
leaving only the dull ache of hopelessness
and the low moan of despair.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Service and Significance

Yesterday at church our pastor used a power video about service and significance. It picture a young man sitting on a set of bleachers, discussing his search for significance in his Christian walk - what God wanted Him to do. Suddenly this hand appears, holding something suggesting teaching. "Oh no" he replies. "My gift is not in teaching children. That's not me. But about me - and my place in the church" - and off he goes again on a discussion of what he is feeling called to. Another hand, holding a sponge. "What - me clean? Wow. I'm dirt freak. Really not my calling" - and off he starts to ramble again.

Our pastor then made the statement - If you want to be significant, if you want to find significance in the church and in God's kingdom (and in your life for that matter), serve. Ah, we may say, of course I'll serve - but I'll set the priorities. I know best what I'm skillful at and can do. Guess, of course, what God says to that.

This was not the most comfortable sermon Sunday.

But that's really the point, isn't it? If we're called to serve (and we are), we serve. Perhaps we've become too enamored of the concept (at least in 21st Century Western Culture) that serving means to serve in what I feel is my calling, the same way I should have a job which comports with what I believe my gifts are. Of course, most of us have jobs which are not in our areas of calling or interest yet we continue to do them because we like to get paid; how come we fail to hold the same standard when it comes to serving? Is it because we believe that serving God is something which is supposed to be intensely personal , not necessarily a matter of obedience? Is it because we believe that we believe we should directly feel good about serving, not that we may feel good as a result of serving? Is it because we believe that even is serving it should be all about us?

"God", said my pastor "made us to be servants. He didn't ask us to be servants." Perhaps much of my angst arises from confusing the two.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Motivation In The Water

So I'm fighting how to motivate others.

One of the great challenges I am fighting at my current position is a general sense of malaise. As I described it to Fear Beag and Fear Mor it's as if there is a preset level of enthusiasm which occasionally blips up but seems to be constantly held at a steady line and there seems to be nothing that can be done about it. One doesn't want to try negative motivation which works per se for a little while but is not sustainable long term and one does not have the opportunity to try positive motivation (i.e. money) as that is not in the power of middle management.

So here's the question? How do you motivate others? Or to ask it another way, how do you get people to care?

It is a deceptively easy question of course. The easy answer is to say that it simply needs to be something that either matters to people or impacts their lives significantly. But what if the problem should matter to people and does impact their lives significantly and they still don't seem to want to do anything about it?

The real danger is that it begins to pull down your own level of motivation and caring which is critical to your own success in your career and life.

Which then brings up the real question I suppose: How do you sustain your own motivation and caring in the face of vast indifference?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Time Out

I'm taking a bit of time out until the end of the year.

As I am trying to think through where we are and where we're going, I realized that (barring the unusual) nothing will significantly change between now and the end of the year. Nor should it I suppose: Na Clann are in school, any job change at this point may muck up any bonus or promotion I would get (and would not get me anywhere else), and we're not necessarily in a position to go anywhere at the moment.

I've also continued to roll around this concept of building brick by brick - it was Brian Tracy (I believe) that said "Most people overestimate what they can do in one year, but most people underestimate what they can do in five years". I need to be a little more conscious about the decisions I am making and where I am headed.

Some of this work (I think) will involve a conscious process of reviewing and setting my goals. Some of this will involve re-reading the books I have (or in some cases, buying more - Yay!). Some of this will involve writing. Some will simply involve trying to realign my life in terms of direction and time spent on activities.

But my intent in this pause is to enter 2011 and beyond with a clear sense of who I am and where I am going. If I've got those bricks, I need to have that plan to build with.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


"Repay no-one evil for evil." - Romans 12:17

I am fighting having to go to war.

It is not a war I intended to have but it is one which I have seen brewing for some months now. In a way, I suppose it has been a process of self-concealation from myself, an acknowledged closing of my own eyes in hopes that peace and amiability could be maintained. This hope seems to be rapidly receding in the distance, and as Aragorn says to King Theoden in The Two Towers "War already marches upon your land."

What's a Christian to do?

This is where I always come into conflict with myself. On one hand I am commanded as above, "Repay no-one evil for evil" and "If it is possible, so much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18). On the other hand, there is the knowledge of being in the right and having to consistently take one "for the team" to preserve peace, let alone a constant guessing game of what support will come.

So really the question I'm asking is how, in modern social milieus, does a Christian fight? How does one stand up for what is the right, even if it calls for brutal infighting and still maintain one's witness? Is it as simple as conducting one's self in as Christlike as possible ("Be angry but sin not") while battling as hard as possible? Is it possible that in some cases winning is truly the more critical event (I don't think so, but it is worth considering)? Do I just fade from sight and let others live out the consequences of their actions? Or as Sun Tzu says "Anciently the skillful warriors first made themselves invincible and awaited the enemy's moment of vulnerability"?

How does one preserve a witness and prepare for these things at the same time?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bricks and Plans

The imagery of bricks hung around with me all day after my posting.

As I went through my day: work, driving home, being with An Teaglach, going about my activities for the evening - I realized that there really was not a question of great strides of change (although those do happen - I know that better than anyone), but rather than using the our daily lives - our "bricks" - to build towards the events and goals of our lives.

But in building a plan is required. Bricks by themselves do not form themselves into anything (except a pile, of course). And perhaps that is where I have consistently fallen down - not potentially in the activity, but in the plan that activity is supposed to serve. These are, of course, otherwise known as goals.

Why do I have problems setting goals? Because in a sense goals bind you: they put you on one path and exclude others and I have always valued my options to act. Unfortunately you reach a point where by maintaining the options to act, you lose the ability to do anything because you haven't focused, which is where I seem to find myself in so many ways now.

The other problem is simply deciding which set of goals to set. There are plenty of guidances available for types of goals, categories of goals - but I am always dogged by the idea that there are goals I should set, rather than one's I want to set. So maybe that's the root cause I need to address.

How are your bricks? Do you have a plan, or are they merely sitting in a pile waiting to be used?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Walls and Towers

I am struggling mightily with purpose this morning.

Purpose? I continue to smash myself headlong against the walls of my existence. There is such an inner disconnect between what I think I want to be and what I really am, of where I'd like to be and where I really am, of the relationships I am in and what I wish they were, of what I have to care about and what I really wish I could care about. This absorb my time rather than the things I wish I could absorb my time with.

But as I write this, I wonder if I'm looking in the wrong direction.

The visual I used above pictured things on the horizontal plane, a smashing of walls and breaking out into the outside into a new area. But what happens if those walls are more firmly set than I imagine. Is it possible that I should be looking up rather than out?

Up on two levels, I should imagine. On one level, my relationship with God (more often not diligent than diligent) which inevitably gives me more purpose when I concentrate on Him; on the other level, building up upon the walls which surround me rather than trying to breaking through them, a tower rather than a castle.

The reality is, barring a layoff or end of the world as I know it, most change in my life is going to be incremental at this point, not the sweeping arc of destiny that I so often imagine (and desire on some level, I suppose). That being the case, perhaps I need to deal with the fact that I am building brick by brick - or even destroying brick by brick as necessary - rather than large scale destruction and construction. It's not that nothing is going on - it's just slower (more people and animals involved now) and needs to be seen in the web of relationships that my life is encompassed by.

Can I be patient and determined with the same intensity that I am currently trying to batter things down with?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Common Cup

I have started using the common cup at communion.

For many years - probably over 15? - I've been a "small cup" guy, possibly because that is what they offered at the churches I have attended: the small plastic cup in the holder with the wine (or juice) inside. However, the church that we attend in New Home has two options: the little cups or the common cup.

For almost 11 months I have been using the little cups - mostly out of habit. And then two Sundays ago, on a whim, I went ahead and drank out of the common cup.

I'm not going to pretend there was some kind of deep spiritual significance that occurred, or that somehow the heavens opened up. But what it did do was bring into a deeper sense of communion in the old sense of the word, community -in this case with God and the believers through the centuries that used only the common cup.

On some deep level it mirrors the development of so much of modern Western Christianity - we've stripped out the community from communion and replaced it with our own individual smaller buckets of God. God is no longer us and the community of believers but rather us and God, in a premeasured aliquoted amount with the empty container left behind. Yes I know that small cups have good sensible hygienic reasons but I think the symbolism is more profound than we care to admit.

I'm certainly not going to become hardline on the issue and may use the small cups from time to time (like illness for example - although the wine my church uses would, I suspect, kill any bacteria or viruses!) and yes, I know for many churches such an option is simply not practical. But it's given me a richer experience in communion and I'm the better for it. Besides, for myself what is more important: focusing on Christ's sacrifice or how it is dispensed?

No Brakes

Yet another vivid dream...

So I am at work with my most recent set of coworkers - yet strangely, I am in the building from my first job where I entered the industry, up to and including going into the room where I started with the glasswashers, oven, and autoclaves present. My current boss is there - he hands me a stack of papers with registrations that need to submitted today while he is apparently practicing softball out the door of his office. Other coworkers as busy whisking by me on tasks, carrying papers or going to lunch, all apparently not talking to me in the pursuit of their tasks. I pass a series of office mailboxes; it looks like they have not been used in a long time ("since the layoffs" my mind says) as there are only a few pieces of mail there, including an old calender with chocolate (which naturally I try to get to).

For some reason I decide I have to leave (it's not quitting time, apparently). As I go to exit I am suddenly not in either New Home or the original location of my job but in Seattle (always Seattle in these dreams) driving down frontage roads.. As I start to drive home, I suddenly realize that I can't seem to brake my car. I look down - there's the brake pedal, it presses down and up - but when I try to engage it driving home all that happens is that I press it to the floor. I either continue to hit green lights or blast through yellow ones as I roll home.

Apparently this is concerning enough that I turn around and go to back to work - although not so concerning that once I am there, I offer to give a coworker a ride home. Again with the hills, the brakes not working. She is obviously getting a little uncomfortable because I am continuing to drive around, not necessarily the direction of home over hills and through tunnels, trying to reduce my speed. I manage to coast the car to a stop on an uphill run into a residential neighborhood and explain to her the difficulties that I'm having, that it's not that I'm some sort of sexual predator (no idea why this comes up) but that my brakes are simply not working. I point down to the floor, show her the pedal and that it is not doing anything. She thanks me, says it wasn't really a concern and that this reminds her of a phrase they were going to put on their website which she then recites (but I can't understand the language), but that she would rather go ahead and call her husband and have him come and get her. I at least offer to give her a ride to a location where I saw a police officer for safety. She says no big deal, it's not far and she can walk. She gets out of the car and I start it up again, ready to drive away.

And then I wake up. All I can remember is the thought "I have no brakes! I have no brakes!"

Friday, August 20, 2010


"Opportunities are like windows. They open and close, sometimes quite quickly." - Brian Tracy, Victory

Once not so long ago, a somewhat younger (but quite ebullient ) me made the radical comment "You know, opportunities are everywhere you look. You just have to see them." A somewhat older, less ebullient me might still believe that now, but it seems that I have a harder time seeing them. So maybe in that sense opportunities are also like windows in the sense that they are transparent and can be seen through (and walked into) unless you are looking for them.

If that's the case, why does it feel like I am continually walking into walls with no windows?

A room without windows. What an apt description of how I feel so many days - not that the light doesn't shine in, but that it seems there are no windows to look out of. But the light is coming in, so there must be windows somewhere. Though as the quote says above, they open and close - somtimes with surprising speed, so that I may never recognize that they were ever there.

How do I see these windows of opportunity? Where are they in my life? What am I missing?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Making Most of Myself

"Each character is placed in a setting by a novelist; each expands or contracts his part through the choices he makes. Play your part gladly, but do not waste your time trying to make your role more important. The more a player in a drama elevates his part, the less he fulfills it. And the less is written of him in the Book, no matter how much has been written in the Shadowlands." - Marcus, Edge of Eternity (Randy Alcorn)

There are times when I tend to want to grasp responsibility and power, accrue them to myself because (gosh darn it) I deserve it: I'm talented, intelligent, simply wasted in my current position and life. I could be doing great things; instead I feel like I am doing little things that serve no purpose.

The above passage from Edge of Eternity was a good reminder as I re-read the book that I need to focus less on trying to make my role in life more important and simply live out my role in life. It's not that it doesn't mean that I can't do greater things or make a larger difference; what it does mean is it should be a natural progression, not a constant spotlight focused on me saying "Hey, look at what I'm doing! I deserve your attention!".

It's a version of the "You can only focus on one thing at a time." If I focus on drawing attention to me and what I'm doing, this typically detracts from performing my job whereas if I simply do my job (be that in career, family, personal or life), my role will typically increase if for no other reason than I am doing my task competently (let alone any eternal implications!).

So where will my time and attention be today: on making my role important or simply doing the role I have? Perhaps more importantly, what has the greater benefit?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Blast From The Past

An Bohemianach seems to think I have some issues regarding my rant this morning. It reminded me of an oldie but goodie here.

A Rant

(Rant on)

I had my first rogue poster on Facebook today.

"Lose weight now with this amazing product! I can't believe how much it did for me! You should try it too!"

I sat there and looked at it as I scrolled through the postings - at first unbelieving, then with a growing sense of offense. This is my page, the page my friends (mostly) and business colleagues (possibly) look at - and this guy thinks it's okay to post junk mail?

It seems to me (after I calmed down and removed him from the list) that this in a microcosm is yet another ill of electronic society: the concept that I can do or say virtually anything I want because I am the most important thing on the planet.

The difference between physical communication and electronic communication is that physical communication (i.e. communication in the presence of another) gives context and body language. Few people would think of blurting out something completely off topic in the middle of conversation - they would be looked at, ignored, and the conversation would continue on. However, electronic communication does not have the same feedback loop: I can post something or send you a junk e-mail and even though you delete it immediately, it still takes time and effort on your part - and the poster feels pretty good, like they've done something.

Where does this come from? This inane notion that what I have to say or do is so important that I will overstretch the bounds of good taste and manners because it's all about me (and my product, service, opinion, etc.). Of course you delete it - it's more important that I get attention to myself. What, expect restraint or good manners of me? Ridiculous. My berry-cobbler-juice- mix will help you lose weight (and, by the way, help me to make money) - It's amazing!

And so friends, as I leave you, be sure to try out Toirdhealbheach Beucail's Amazing Blend of Wisanity (it's wisdom - and insanity!). It's good for you, it's environmentally friendly, it will help you lose weight, improves your dating life, clears your skin, and best of all - it's absolutely free!

(And, all the words are properly spelled. Rant off.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Support Your Local Personality Stand

Another rejection e-mail last night.

I've almost become accustomed to the sense that where I am now is where I am going to be for a while - if for no other reason, to have a career in this economy is a good thing at all. I've managed to take the edge off the concept that a rejection is not a rejection of me or my skills per se, but rather the fact that there are simply a good many number of people out there seeking employment.

Within that framework, I'm attempting to address the fact of "What am I supposed to be doing now?" I'm trying to work with the model of "bloom where you are planted" and "work with what you have" - a sort of personal life "Small/local is beautiful" theory or "Support your local farmer". So based on that, what do I have?

If I go through and make the list, I find that I have much of what I had back in Old Home - in some ways different (less family immediately near, for example) but not significantly the changed. I have some new things as well: a new location, a new set of coworkers and job field, a new church. I also have a new set of time, which is conveniently been given to me by the move, not directly owning a house, and having that extended family far enough away that regular visits are not an option.

So if God has shaken my hand loose on one side, what has He put in the other? And what am I to do with it?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Off The Treadmill

I've had yesterday's post hanging over my mind since I wrote it, wondering if it was too bold or definitive or an overstatement of what I'm feeling right now. I decided not, as the more that I thought about the more I kept coming back to "Yes, that just about sums it up."

The feeling that I got yesterday after writing the post was the sense of being on a treadmill which is moving, but really going nowhere. So the question, I suppose, is how do I get off the treadmill and get on to a path which is actually going somewhere.

That presumes of course that 1) One is looking for the path and 2) Once one finds the path, one will take it.

But am I looking for that path? Or am I intent on following paths of my own choosing, paths that really just lead me back to the treadmill rather than actually having me walk further down it? If God has determined the way for me to go, what does the fact that I constantly seem to shy away from that path say about me?

I have tried (O Lord have I tried) to constantly negotiate with Him my path within His will, figuring out what would be the best way for me to serve Him instead of listening to what He had for me. I don't know that I did any permanent damage trying this approach but I certainly failed: failed to get to seminary (two times), failed to move into leadership, failed to become the teacher I hoped I would. Every vision I had of how I would serve Him and what I would do for Him failed - and even after those paths ended, there was the other visions of great things I would do as a layman. Those too seemed to fade away, falling faster and faster out of my hands until Old Home became New Home and those dreams seemed to be pulled away as well.

But every path is not blocked. There is at least one open - the one off of the treadmill. I would ask if I could find it, but the reality is it is probably already wide open before my eyes. Is it a question of I can't see it - or that I won't? "Can't" means that it is beyond my ability; "Won't" means that I am voluntarily choosing not to. And if it is "Won't" is it because it is a thing of true fear, or simply because it does not match what my own estimation of what I should be and should be doing?

Am I tired enough of hopelessness, of activity without motion, that I am willing to submit myself to the path laid before me? Or will my pride keep me rigidly in place, hoping that if I just run all the faster the treadmill will suddenly break off and I'll be moving?

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Another moment of epiphany this morning.

I was mulling over yesterday, as I walked through the hot and humid day of New Home enjoying our semi-local Animal Theme Park, about the fact that even though it was a weekend and I was spending the day with An Teaglach, I was not really all that happy. Not really unhappy mind you; just not all that happy. Heat, humidity, large crowds of people: certainly I'm not fan of any of them. But below the surface of all that was general silence of the soul: not angry, not upset, just sort of placid and soot colored.

If I thought about it, that tends to reflect my mood most days: not angry or upset, just placid and soot colored. When I get up, when I go to work, when I come home from work, when I interact with my family, when I go to bed: virtually the same.

So why is this? What explains this sort of bland melange of unenthused action and feeling?

A loss of hope.

I've lost hope - temporal hope, anyway. I've essentially lost hope that my life is going to be able to change for the better in any meaningful way.

Meaningful way? It can relate to any number of things: finances, relationships, job, goals, impact. There is just a subconscious crushing sense of the fact that no matter what I do it will make precisely no difference. It's the sense of all your efforts being poured down a hole, washed away forever.

Again, it's not depression (How well I know that feeling!). It's not despondency - although it may share some attributes of despondency in the sense of "the uselessness of further action". It's the sense that no matter what is done, it will simply make no difference.

How does one combat such a thing when it permeates the very air that one breathes? When every time you go for a day, or even a week of not thinking about it you suddenly come crashing back down to earth with the sense of "Nothing is changing, no matter what I do".

How do you soldier on in the face of a desolate landscape when your getting no closer to the edge of the desert?

Friday, August 13, 2010

What's Love Got To Do With It?

It is remarkable to me that life is as sometimes as mysterious and repetitive as it is.

Witness: Another friend, having recently gone through a divorce and with a number of children, has just rekindled a relationship with his girlfriend of almost 30 years ago. This is a thing which, if I thought about it, is too much to be believed. Ah, the power of Facebook.

Love is an odd thing. I've now in my mid-forties, and I've yet to really understand it. Some of the mysteries which I think may be esoteric:

1) What happens to the true romantic over time? At what point does that get crushed out in the word in which we live and the circumstances we confront?
2) How is it we can instantly be back in love with people we've not seen for years, while we too often sputter with the people we have been with for years?
3) What is love really? If it's a verb instead of a noun, how do prevent it from becoming a duty? And if it's a noun instead of a verb, how do you practice it?
4) How is it that people that are together have such different interpretations of what love is and how it is practiced?
5) Given hopelessly romantic me of 30 years ago or experienced, tired and exasperated (but responsible) me of today, which would I truly rather be?

All pretty questions of course and probably worth the thought I will give them on my way to work. But maybe, just for today, I'll revel in the fact that somewhere love is still working in it's mysterious way: beyond time, beyond reason, beyond geography.

Because in the end, it's sort of difficult to logically explain it anyway.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Assigned and Consigned

"You are only as free as your options. You are only as free as your well-developed alternatives to whatever you are doing today. If you have only one choice, or one course of action you can take, you will start to feel trapped. You will feel locked in and out of control of your life or your situation. You will begin to experience what Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania calls 'learned helplessness'. You will feel unable to change or improve your condition. This feeling causes inordinate stress and anxiety." - Brian Tracy, Victory

The quote above resonated with me this morning as I thought over yesterday; surely as night follows day, the minute I say I am almost enjoying my life, I get whacked upside the head.

I can't say I didn't try. I went to work buoyed up with the thought that "Life is really okay". I went through most of the day thinking the same thing, or at least trying to think it. And then, around 4:00, I got double blindsided: on the one hand, I found out that yet another project has suddenly become my responsibility; on the other, I found out that someone unexpected was leaving.

And how does this equate into the quote above, you ask? Simple: in one case, the individual has options which they are going to exercise because they can; on the other hand, I received another (thankless) task because the fact of the matter is I have no other options based on my personal situation than to accept the work with a smile (real or feigned, it matters not).

It's a terrible thing, this concept of "learned helplessness". It drains energy and optimism and leaves in its wake cynicism and the dull roar of depression. It's one thing to say it is better to try and fail than to never try; it is another to live with the fact of having tried and failed and feeling as if you have just been assigned somewhere, but consigned somewhere.

"Always have options" the saying runs. However, actually having and maintaining those options is something which can be a full time job on top of the full time life one already has. But is that truly any less energy that fighting the daily battle of feeling that life cannot change and will not change?

If freedom is measured in options, how free are you? What are your options? How can you get more?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Past as Present

There are moments when I almost find I am enjoying my life.

"Good Lord", I scream to myself silently. "Where is this coming from? This is not supposed to be my life as it was going to happen."

It's odd - in approximately 10 years, we have come fully circle in some many areas of our life - financial, employment, relationships. The multiplicity of children is something that had not been intended or anticipated, I suppose (nor for that matter, the increase in the rabbit population here) - but other than that, we seem to be right back where we were in 2000.

I'd argue that's not a good thing for a number of the implications that it carries - and in some ways it is probably not - but in other ways it's not so surprisingly bad.

My job is not ideal - but I have great coworkers. The church we currently attend is not like the one we used to attend - but our family all gets to go together. We don't own our house- but it's bigger and there's a room for everyone and a yard for the dog and in the event we have to move in the future, we don't have to worry about selling it. Certainly my industry knowledge far surpasses where it was 10 years ago. I'm writing regularly now in a semi-public forum - something that was definitely not happening 10 years ago. And I have a wonderful expanded family - something that was dimly forseen (if at all) 10 years ago.

So what have I got to grumble about?

If I've got problems in my life, it's up to me to make them better: if it's work that is not working, I need to fix it (and maybe the company if it comes to that); if it's finances, then it's up to me to make the money; if I'm not doing what I want to be doing, it's up to me to find a way to make it happen.

It's the past as present - except in surprising ways, much better.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

To Cherish and Rationalize

"...the Psalmist said, 'If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.' (Psalm 66:18). To regard wickedness is to cherish some sin, to love it to the extent that I am not willing to part with it. I know it is there, yet I justify it in some way like the child who says, 'Well, he hit me first.'" - Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness

The heart is a tricky thing, especially with sin. It can hold on to things and provide every justification about why they are in fact not sin; it can rationalize and protest and reason every day for the rest of one's life about why certain sins must be maintained at all costs - even at the cost of a relationship with God.

My personal favorite is the "If I don't do it this way, it won't happen" school of thought. "If I don't imagine about X, there will be none of it in my life - and after all, everyone needs X in their life." How many times have I veered into places I never should have gone, simply because of this argument?

The reality is this, like many other arguments for sin, is a false choice. In one sense it is true - if I don't do something some ways, they won't happen. The question really should be "If I don't do this, will I really miss it?" This moves the question a step beyond, from debating how to do something to the more fundamental question of whether it should be done in the first place.

And certainly there are plenty of things that need not be done at all by their nature - especially when measuring the cost overall. It's like the addict who cannot give up the thing they are addicted to, even to the extent of destroying everything around them. We cluck our tongues and say "That's a shame when someone is so addicted to something so bad for them" - yet given the same circumstances with our own sins and areas of weakness, we somehow fail to make the connection in our own lives. If the addict cannot give up an addiction for this life, how pathetic are we who cannot give up an addiction (often not a physical craving) for eternity?

When I say "we", I mean "me". I am the foremost offender in this, holding onto things I should have jettisoned long ago, justifying my own failings in the guise of something being better than nothing. Is that always true? Or are there some nothings that are better than somethings?

Perhaps it is time - finally time - to hew down the altars and high places in my own life, to determine that I will no longer sacrifice at altars which are not God's.

Scary? Sure - I say this now but that "If I don't do it this way it will never happen" roars to the forefront, and given my penchant for wanting to do something noble and great and seeing my life in comparison, the temptation will be strong. But - and here's the question - if I don't do things that way, do I then open up another option for God to move those things in and through my life?

Of course if I don't do it, I'll never know.

Monday, August 09, 2010


As part of my attempt to memorize more Scripture, I have been working on the book of Titus (it's three chapters or about 50 verses, something I think even I can handle). In the course of working my way through Chapter 2 (in which Paul is dealing with personal behaviors of various age groups) I came across a series of repeated commands to be reverent.

Titus 2:2 : "that the older men be sober, reverent..."
Titus 2:3 : "the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior...
Titus 2:7 : "in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility;..."

In Scripture (as in life), things that are repeated are meant to be emphasized. So what is Paul driving at?

To our old friend Merriam-Webster:

Reverent: "Expressing or characterized by reverence; worshipful."

Okay, let's try reverence.

Reverence: "Honor or respect felt or shown; deference; profound adoring awe or respect."

Ah, there it is then: honor, respect, deference, profound adoring awe or respect.

So why would Paul have felt it necessary to insure that three of the four groups he addressed be instructed to demonstrate this? It would seem obvious: they were a group that did not understand what reverence meant.

But we are generally no different. We are not typically a reverent culture as Western Civilization, or (for the most part) a reverent religious people as Christians. There are very few things that are shown the deep honor and respect that reverence entails in our culture; in most cases such things have become flash points between two groups.

But the more alarming part (at least for me as a Christian) is that we don't show reverence to God. We have moved from the concept of God as other than that of what we are to the idea of God as something which is similar to what we are, only better; from Luther's picture of the absurdity of a small thing addressing the Creator of the Universe (and sometimes, yelling at Him) to God as the fulfiller of our plans and, if you will, our "buddy".

Give yourself a test: when was the last time you heard God or the things of God spoken of with reverence? Even more damning, when was the last time you spoke of God or the things of God with reverence? We should expect the world to do so but do we as Christians also not do so?

If I had to take a stab at the core of the matter, it's because we have lost the impact of our salvation and our own lostness. Perhaps we treat salvation as more of a good thing that God has done for us rather than the eternity altering act that it was; perhaps because we make God in our own image rather than letting Him be who He is and conforming our understanding to that. In either case, we try to make God accessible to our finite minds and thus lose His majesty and greatness.

If we proclaim God as being great and awesome but treat Him practically like just another friend or a hobby, how can we expect others to take us (or Him) seriously?

In a world of irreverence, reverence will be noticed. Let us be known for reverence with which we treat God, not for our ability to bring God to our level.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Online and Time

As part of the periodic nostalgia to which I seem prone from time to time, I decided to try my hand at one of the Online Role Playing Games. I've always been fascinated by the concept since it came out but never wanted to do so; now, with some opportunities for free play available, I thought it would be interesting to try.

It was extremely cool, the very thing that my imagination was longing for all those years. To visually see a world other than this, to visually immerse myself in an adventure, to see the characters and things that had wandered my imagination for years, was a treat indeed.

But as I continued to play, I realized that there was one significant problem: time.

Playing online, like everything else, takes time. And in role playing games, sometimes you lose. The nice thing is that you are never really "gone"; you just come back and have to start over.

But one thing doesn't come back: the time. The time spent playing these games is lost, passing in the breeze. And if you're not careful, you'll find 3 hours have slipped away and you have done nothing but have to go back to the beginning and redo the whole thing.

It's a game. I understand that completely. At the same time, this is a game that I played (in old fashioned paper and imagination!) many years ago, a concept of game that many people continue to play now - so even if the medium is different, the lesson is the same.

The lesson is simply that if for no other reasons, these things teach terrible lessons about time and the way life works.

They teach that that there is a dichotomy that exists between reality and fantasy, that one's actions can be undone and you can go back to the beginning - no harm, no foul. They also teach that time is essentially a thing which doesn't matter so much, at least as long as you're enjoying yourself.

The harsh reality - the reality of mid-forties me looking back - is that time is the thing which matters most. Yes, there's nothing wrong with enjoying one's self, but I cannot pretend that spending time on something means that there is no impact on other things in my life. Other things - critical things, meaningful things - will get pushed aside, goals will not be achieved, relationships will with and die. And unlike online games, one does not get to go back to the beginning - you have to continue forward where you are.

Will I play again? I'm not sure. Ironically, I seem unable to swallow the loss of time (for myself, dare I call it a waste?) based on all the other things I need to do and the time frames I have to do them; this world we call reality has far more to do in it than I can ever get done. It will, however, encourage me to continue to try to teach my children about the importance of time and how, once gone, it never returns. Even the memories of how we enjoyed ourselves doing these things never returns a second of the time we used to do them.

Three More Dreams

Three more dreams - Whatever my conscious is trying to tell me, it's getting more frantic.

Dream 1) I am with someone in an area with high mountains are rolling valleys. We have a need to get down to the bottom of the valley to a road. In order to do this, we are essentially flying down the mountainside, leaping from what appear to be hovering platforms to hovering platforms. There seems to be a time element involved, because every time I am having to evaluate "Is this the right platform? Will we crash? Where do I jump next?" always with a sense of urgency.

Dream 2) I am living in a college dorm (although apparently I'm no longer in college). I have just completed attending a meeting which apparently I was responsible for setting up. As people leave, I suddenly realize that I have someone's personal items. I'm tortured by what to do, because there are no identifying features. Do I put an ad up somewhere, risking that someone will see it? Do I just leave in the lobby, hoping they will find it? Do I hold on to it, although I'll be able to do nothing with it?

Dream 3) I am living somewhere in a house which I am renting. As I am walking out with Cedric (our cat who died last year) I suddenly realize there's a rattlesnake ahead of us. It's not interested in striking but is going along the ground somewhere. As it's close to a house, I decide something has to be done, so I head back to the house. As I get ready to go in, I realize there's a second, smaller rattlesnake on the porch next to Fergus, another one of our cats that died last year. It too is not interested in striking. I grab a basket, plop it over the snake and whip it to the side as I grab the cats and head indoors.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Power of Gratitude

Yesterday another audit was wrapped up at work. The closing meeting occurred after 12 hours of document review, facility tours, walkthroughs and conversations and over 24 hours of pre-audit preparation. The auditors completed their comments and walked out the door. Documents were recovered and moved back to a holding area for further processing and return to their home.

In all of this, nobody thanked anyone.

This thing is a pestilential curse upon every relationship up and down the chain of human existence, this assumption that those that are less than us are here to serve us. The reverse does not appear to be true: when a superior of any kind performs an action or kindness, there almost always seems to be an immediate recognition and thanks. However, more often than not we fail to offer those who serve us the same thing.

The reality is that nothing in modern society gets accomplished without a great deal of moving parts from a lot of different sources. For my own example: the person who cleans the room where the audit is going to be, the person who prepares the room (coffee and water don't provide themselves!), the personnel who greet the auditors, the guides, the subject matter experts, the document retrievers and those who review the documents before they enter the room, the note takers, the re-filers of the documents once they've been used, the responders to the audit, the person who (re)cleans the room after the fact. Each and every part of this process takes people to make it happen, people who are too often presumed that this is "their job."

In one sense of course it is "their job". In another sense it is not fully their job, because very seldom is there a calling to servanthood on any job description, which these sorts of things require.

Gratitude is really recognition. It can be as simple as a "Thanks for all your hard work"; it can be as extensive as a reward of some nature. The reality is that means that someone recognizes the effort that was put into the end result - the effort that, if done correctly, makes the whole process appear seamless to those who do not know better.

Gratitude is a powerful thing, in some ways one of the most powerful social forces. It can cost nothing, so there is never an excuse about the price. It can be as simple as a sincere "Thanks for your hard work", so there is never an excuse about being too difficult. It can be short as a 10 second conversation, so there is never an excuse about the time.

Then why aren't people more grateful?

There are, I think, two reasons. The first is simply that people tend to be focused on themselves, on their needs. It is like our entire lives are in a restaurant where the purpose of everyone in the restaurant is to serve us. Personally. Most people don't acknowledge the Chip Guy, the Table Cleaner, even often the Server beyond the order giving and the perfunctory "Are you enjoying the dinner?" So often we view everyone around us as being here to serve us personally.

The second is a Freudian slip I made in typing this. Instead of typing "Gratitude is a powerful thing" I typed "Gratitude is a power thing". A slip, but I realized it's true. So often showing gratitude is used as a means of power in relationships. If I want something from you or I want you to notice me in the future or I want to indebt you to me, I will express gratitude. It is treated as the gratuity on the bill of life; I will tip you if I feel you have served me (again, that self focus) well, not necessarily if you have served well.

But then we wonder why communication breaks down, why people are less willing to help us, why the expectations in personal relationships becomes that of a third world dictatorship where a form of gratitude becomes the "grease" to get things done than an expression of sincere thanks.

Be different. Be radical. Today, thank people for what they've done, not as a tip for services rendered but out of a sincere gratefulness for other's do to make your life function. Never be stingy in that which costs nothing, takes little time, and is a simple (yet profound) part of every relationship.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


"In 1538 on May the 26th there was a big rain. (Martin) Luther said 'Praise God. He is giving us one hundred thousand gulden worth. It is raining corn, wheat, barley, wine, cabbage, onions, grass, and milk. All our goods we get for nothing. And God sends His only begotten Son, and we crucify Him." - Martin Luther, Table Talk as quoted in Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


How does one gain the verve and spirit to become courageous?

I realize - in multiple parts of my life - that I have essentially developed the art of waiting for permission (or at least acceptance) prior to beginning virtually any activity that involves anyone else. It's as if I wait to get permission to act, rather than act. And from what I can see, it's both disappointing and frustrating to others - as was related to me, "Are you going to do anything, or are you going to just sit there and twitch?"

"Courage is always expressed in the willingness to go forward, to face danger, to take risks with no guarantee of success...Courage is essential to success in all activities that call for risk and daring." - Brian Tracy, Victory

This is something I need to come up with - not only for myself, but for all of those around in the situations I find myself (work and home). People are looking to me to act, to be courageous enough to take a step, to push things through.

But inside I cringe because I'm looking for approval prior to executing the action, not after it succeeds. I don't quite know where the originates from, only that if I look deep within my heart I find it to be true in situation after situation. To think myself brave - to psyche myself into acting like I should act prior to doing so - almost seems the height of fantasy or an illusion that I am knowingly trying to perform, waiting for the balloon to collapse at the first sign of opposition. It's the sensation of putting on a mask and acting unlike yourself and knowing it.

But if it feels uncomfortable (and it often does) is that valid? Or is it the fact that I am so used to acting another way that it is not that it is wrong, but that it simply is different? The two are not the same.

To wait forever for permission is to eventually lose. To go forward without the guarantee of approval is uncomfortable and sometimes risky but may entail winning once in a while.

So what is it today? Twitching - or winning?

"No great battles are ever won on the defensive." - Napoleon

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Trivia and Impact

I realized yesterday how much of our lives is spent on trivia which has no impact on either eternity or the greater good of anyone.

I realized it yesterday as I reorganized over 50 sets of records, preparing them for an audit which will perhaps look at 1/10th of them for a product that probably won't matter 10 years from now; I realized it as I spoke to Uisdean Ruadh about his new job and his specialization in hardware parts that you wouldn't even remember were in a home; I realized it as I overlooked Am Bhan Bhothemeanach as she made minor adjustments to marketing materials that will probably get glanced and and recycled more than they are read.

As we have continued to reach new heights in our 21st Century technological civilization, it has imposed on us a requirement: that as there are more moving parts to do more things, we need to have more people skillful in the subcategories of each of those moving parts to support them. As a result, we become more specialized and skillful at one part or subpart of an industry or profession, which can equal a greater ability to succeed in that profession - but if that profession goes away, more often than not nowhere else.

But this specialization also creates a second issue, perhaps the more damning one for me personally: we become more and more focused upon less and less, until we are experts in that which truly has no significance except what we infuse into it via the amount of time we spend on it.

Think on it: in your work circles, how much conversation, meetings and discussions have you had on a project that eventually died? Do you remember, as the notice comes out about that project, all the paper and effort that was poured into it, the late nights and hurried meals and time away from family and friends to make it important? Have you ever experienced the realization that something was indicated as terribly important was, by the standards of all that truly matters, worthless?

Interestingly for most of us, it is only in those "non-work" activities - be they hobbies, family time or friend time - that we begin to break away from the high degree of specialization and begin to touch on the matters that have more significance, that may have impact beyond ourselves both here on earth and in eternity. Perhaps it is because they are more broad in nature, perhaps it is because they by what they are enable us to get beyond the circle of "me" - but in gardening or changing a rabbit box or doing something with my children, I touch on things that are part of a larger picture, have greater impact, and (perhaps) can change the lives of others.

My question: Why have we allowed ourselves to be sold this concept, this inverse proposal that the trivial is important and the broad and impactful is something to be wedged into our free time? And if this is true, what do we - what do I -do about it?

Buttercup Is Writing Again!

Go here.


Monday, August 02, 2010

Five Dreams

Five vivid and odd dreams last night:

1) I chartered a plane (which I was flying) from Old Home to see Otis in The NW. I had two friends and Nighean Dhonn with me. We arrived there, drove around a bit (for some reason there were lots of hills), and then immediately returned to the airport to leave without seeing Otis. I enjoy the flying and am trying to get a cost of how much a plane is, but can't seem to get anyone to answer me.

2) We're still in The NW, and it's the same group that I flew up with. We are trying to find a restaurant to deliver a prize to. We get there and everyone is all but ignoring us, even though we are here to deliver an award. We finally convince someone of what we're here to do. They thank us, take the award, and disappear. Eventually, the owner finally comes out (as if they figure out we won't leave until we see her) to accept it. It's a quick thing, as apparently they are closing shop to go out and don't want to appear that they're leaving quickly but that they are; that sort of lingering around near the door in hopes that someone will get a clue that it's time to go and leave sensation.

3) The Ravishing Mrs. TB and I were in a taxi going to visit Otis and Buttercup in The NW. It's a van and we are sharing it with a number of other occupants, who slowly exit as we continue. Unfortunately, the driver failed to ask where we were going and I failed to provide the information. He made his last drop and asked us where we were going. When we informed him, he shrugged. "Back at the beginning?" I asked, at which he nods "yes". However, there are still more passengers so rather than return, he keeps on driving as two ladies in front of us begin to discuss the new apartments that we're driving past.

4) At my high school, a school bus is getting loaded up. Nighean Dhonn is there along with me, walking up the street towards my grandparent's house as a father and son walk by. Suddenly, the father starts pointing and talking excitedly. Here comes Nighean Dhonn down the street, driving on a riding mower. The father was agitated, shouting "pull it over, pull it over" - which she does. As later the two of us walk up the street we see the father and son looking at the mower pulled over to the side of the street.

5) We are still near the high school but it is myself and two friends (one of them is Uisdean Ruadh). It's night, but we walk up to the door to knock. We see that the lights are just turned out as if my grandfather (gone 18 years now) is apparently going to bed. We turn to go, but then the light goes on and he opens up the door. We essentially say hello, say goodbye and then he shuts the door and turns off the light.