Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dying to Self

Dying to self is one of the hardest things in the world.

It's hard to me both because it's a seemingly endless activity and there is always something else, something more, that I need to look at.

Not that I'm good at it of course - in fact, I'm one of the worst I know.  I'm forever finding reasons to justify my independence, my holding on to this or that.  But that's not an excuse for an activity which, every day, I need to be engaging in more and more.

The pervasiveness of it is astounding, if one really thinks about it.  What does it mean to have one's thoughts, one's opinions, one's mission in life replaced by Christ's?  The implications are farther reaching than I can even contemplate:  if I die to self and live to Christ, what does that do to my language, how I speak to and about others?  What does that do to how I work?  What does that do to how I live?

On a more personal level, what does dying to self do to my own life?  Does that give me the blank slate to continue to pursue my own interests when God may have other needs for my life?  Do I become more important than my children?  Than my wife?  Than my family unit?

Christ used the example of dying to self as a grain of wheat falling to the earth.  This, I know something about having grown wheat and barley for a number of years.  And the reality is that if the grain you plant dies, it produces anywhere from 10-20 grains itself per head.    It's a great example of the gardening world - but when it's brought to my own life, it becomes a much more dicey thing.  The example is there - it's just that I don't feel like I'm a grain wheat.

Which is probably a bit arrogant in and of itself.  The wheat and barley were created to do one thing, which they do quite well.  I, as God's creation, was created to do something else.  The wheat and barley (so far as we know) do their job without complaint; it's only we humans that seem to have an issue with doing other than what we're created to do.

But that requires an abandonment of self, an abandonment of the centrality of one's own life in pursuit of the life God calls us to.  It is sacrifice, even as the grain of wheat sacrifices it's being for the sake of the 20.

The question is, will we be the one that sacrifices into many?  Or will we remain cold and hard in the ground, clutching to our dreams and aspirations of what it means to our own grain of wheat?

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Next Step

I think it's time to take the next step.  Of course, it helps if one knows what the next step is, but I suppose the important thing is realizing that one has to be ready to do it.

What's the next step?  Ah, there's the rub.  I've glimmers and thoughts of what it might be, almost hidden flashes of an idea, but it's always veiled in mist, light quickly flashing into darkness.

I think I have to change.

Not the core, of course:  that's pretty well set at this point, and in point of fact is something that I need to do more of, not less:  my greatest successes have come from operating out of that core.

It's the ancillary things, the things that are how I do things from the core that need changing.

What do these look like?  Things like focus like actually keeping to goals and focus and staying on task and forcing myself to really know whatever it is that I'm doing.  In a word, some form of maturity.

Ugh.  There it is.  That most horrid of words, the word that reeks of ties and ill fitting shoes and doing things one really doesn't want to.   Those are my perceptions of maturity - the unhappy adult, looking longily at those doing what they want, then sighing and placing said nose back on the grindstone.

But that's not quite the point - or at least not quite the point as I have come to see it.  It's simply an admission that I've come about as far as I can doing things the way I have done them to this point.  For me to continue to grow, to achieve, to succeed (by whatever measure you want to define success by), I have to learn a new way of doing things - in my case, a slightly more constructed, documented way.

It will be uncomfortable.  It will require me to set goals (what I define them as, to be sure) and hold myself to keeping them.  It will mean there's a touch less "spontaneity" in my life.

But the alternative - perhaps part of my problem now - is this looming sense that I am stuck against a cliff and cannot go any further.  And if one is stuck, sometimes all there is for it is to learn to climb.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Play the Pipes Lowly

An experience that is tragically becoming all too frequent these days:  Boudicca of the Iceni is leaving.

It is another bittersweet experience, happy with a sting.  The happiness engages from the sense of release and moving on that exudes from her pores as she prepares for her last day; the sadness stings with the fact that of Monday, our world will be a great deal dimmer.

I owe a great debt to Boudicca.  By watching her, I have learned a great deal about actual management and planning.  I've seen someone who knows process and product so intimately and well that she knows more by thinking than most of us do by looking something up.  I've seen what real, practical expertise is and how a deep knowledge of something is a thing of power.

She be missed by the environment as well.  When she leaves, the living memory of the company and its efforts will be greatly reduced by a factor of 4 years. With her, an entire line of things disappears into the darkness of the past, to live only in moldering records in a warehouse awaiting destruction.

I will miss her companionship as well.  I will miss the ability to just drop by the office and talk for a few moments about anything; of the sudden rush for something to eat; of the magical "food drawer" from which things emerge from time to time.  I will miss the times she came by when I was obviously in distress and cheered me up.

I will miss the fact that she taught me one of the greatest lessons I have learned: about shutting my mouth.  And  a second great lesson:  about forgiveness.

Ave atque Vale, Boudicca.  Your new future is bright with promise, even as ours is dim with your departure.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


I'm coming to believe I need a certain amount of discomfort in my life.

Why?  Because I easily become complacent.  Because I easily can fool myself into accepting the status quo as it stands, that any situation is really more endurable than it be (yes, I understand that many situations are endurable.  My point is that there are those that one has to be in and those one chooses to be in). 

Discomfort is the stone in the boot.  It's the light on the dashboard that won't go away.  It's the thing that constantly reminds me that something is not quite right, that something needs to be attended to.

I find ways around it, of course.  I try to convince myself that things are not all that bad, that I can continue to work with the stone in my boot.  I let things roll off my back, hoping that they will continue to roll but never questioning why  I should have to hope they roll off in the first place. 

But just acknowledging that the discomfort exists is not enough. This discomfort needs to push me to action, not just accommodation.  I need to use the discomfort to propel me to do, not just extend my skills in endurance of small discomforts.

Because in the end, both the discomfort and the endurance of it say less about the actually situation and more about myself:  my energy levels, my goals, my desire to actually act.  Given long enough and without action, at some point one looks back and realizes not only what the discomfort was trying to force in action, but what the cost of compensating turned out to be.

Far better to stop, remove the stone, and change your situation.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I am feeling a hardness starting to settle at the outer regions of my soul.  It is a sense I have known before:  the sense of being forged by circumstances.

It is a thing that comes when a realization occurs, the realization that circumstances simply cannot continue as they are and that to survive them, you will need to become stronger, purposeful:  forged.

Forging is heating and hammering, drawing and folding, shaping and forming.  Forging takes raw metal and makes it into something of use or repairs that which was of no use into something useful.

I can feel the hammers of circumstances beating me against the anvil of reality, stripping away that which of no use, forcing me to confront reality as it actually stands, bending my resisting life into something else.

It is hard, this forging.  It strips away pretenses.  It forces me to deal with things as they are, not as I would like them to be.  It asks me hard questions about values, about purpose, about what really matters and where I should be.

But the forge is a promise as well.  Something is only forged when it is intended to be used.

May the heat of the fire and the strength of the hammering make me more of, not less of, what I need to be.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I find myself at a crossroads
(isn't life really series of crossoads?)
not knowing where to turn.
Only knowing that the direction I am going
seems to lead nowhere.

What does one do,
when the road one has followed
leads to a wall?

Do I scale it, hoping that the road continues,
even as I know there is another wall behind it?
Or do I turn right or left and walk a different road?

If the road you're on leads to nowhere,
where do you purchase a map?

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Path Without Footsteps

At what point do we take the path without footsteps?
It lies there to our right, waiting:
The detritus of decades' worth of leaves bury the dirt,
The branches of pine and oak create a passageway,
The blue and white sky beckons.

It's a hard thing, of course:
The course we are on is the course we have always run,
the dirt tamped hard by those that have gone on before us,
the way broad and clear.

But always there is the stress of this path:
the hurry, the rush, the maneuvering among others,
the sense that the faster and faster I go,
the farther and farther I fall behind.

And then I see it again:
seemingly abandoned and without footprint,
waiting, almost inviting the weary traveller
to rest their feet off the hard trod ground on soft leaves.

I stand, buffeted by the fact I am stopped in a unending flow
going where I know not in pursuit of that which matters not to me.
And then I see a single imprint at the head of the path:
Can the heart leave a mark?

Friday, July 20, 2012


Sometimes the cursor just sits there and blinks at you.

"I'm ready"  it says.

"For what?"  my response is annoyance.

"For you to start typing."

"I don't really have anything to type about at the moment."

"That's not my problem" the cursor says smugly.  "I'm just a tool, you know.  You're the creative one."

I thrum my fingers on the keyboard lightly in frustration.  "I just can't think of anything.  That's not really my fault.  It's the creative process - I can't just make it happen."

The cursor just sits there, blinking on and off at me.  "Type, type"  it says as it flickers on, off, on, off.

Thrum on the keyboard again.  "You're not helping."  Sighing, I slump down in the chair a bit, waiting for inspiration to strike.

And waiting.  No lightning strikes today.

The cursor sighs.  "Wow.  You really have hit bottom.  Sorry."

"Thanks."  I smile wanly.  "Sometimes I sit down and I know exactly what I'm going to say; sometimes I don't have any idea. I wish I could find more themes, but when I theme something I miss the opportunity to wander off on a really good thought.  That's the risk that seems to come with this sort of stream of consciousness writing that I seem to have developed."

Blink, blink.  Thrum, thrum.

"Hey, I've got an idea"  the cursor finally breaks out.  "Why don't you let me drive this morning?"

I chuckle and half smile.  "Okay.  What are you going to write about?"

The cursor changes from a line to a parenthesis.  " ).  I thought we might write about sitting down at the keyboard in the morning...."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Making Space

How do I go about making space in life?

I seemingly have the least obnoxious commute to work I have had in years and can relatively control the length of time that I work but I seem to have less time than I have ever had.  This is a problem for me, as I can see the trap forming about my head as this goes on: less and less gets done and I move further and further away from directions I want to go in.

So how does one make space in one's life - I mean, with constraints like a job and a family?

First, it seems to me, is energy level.  Am I able to give the most energy throughout my day, not just at the beginning?  Do I expend the best energy doing the things that are least important and leave the remainder for the things  I really want to do? (In my case, yes)

Everyone's energy level is different - for me, it's tied directly to sleep.  That seems a conundrum to me, since time spent sleeping is time not spent doing something else - but if I'm too tired and low to do the other things with the extra time, then I've gained nothing.

Nutrition probably figures in here as well, although I'm much less versed in it.  I can make the generic comment that I need to eat better - what does that really look like?

Second is where I'm spending my time.  One large item, of course, is not giving time away unnecessarily.  It's easy to paint this as only being time wasted at work (giving extra hours, for example)  but it's not just that.  It's how I spend my time at work.  I've come to realize that in the case of bad work environments, people tend to cluster together like survivors to maintain their sanity.  It's necessary for maintaining sanity, but it comes at the cost of getting things done.  Be honest - do I really need to do everything that I think I need to do at work? 

Third, then is what I'm spending my time on.  This is where Stephen Covey's Urgent and Important matrix comes in helpful.  Am I spending time on the the things that are important but not urgent first and important and urgent first, or am I letting the urgent and unimportant or non-urgent and unimportant dominate my time?  The difference between these two is critical:  I can spend precisely the same amount of time in two different areas;  one will move me close to a goal, one will simply amuse me or take my mind off a bad situation.  The results are not the same.

Fourth is wedging in larger chunks of time.  This is something I am still trying to master.  In essence, it is creating larger and larger blocks of time that things can be accomplished - for example, learning to string five and ten minute chunks together, pulling them out of the things that don't matter at all and redirecting them.  Before long, you've made thirty uninterrupted minutes to do something in.

Time is time, and 24 hours in a day is all we get.  It's learning to make the space therein to pursue the important things that eventually differentiates those that accomplish from those that whine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thieving Time

I need to start stealing my time back.

I am having a conversation with  An Drumair about how I am spending my time and how I make progress towards what I want to do rather than continuing to wallow in what I am doing.  As I lamented the fact of how I spend my time at work he asked me the question I probably should have been asking myself:  "Can you integrate your passion - your writing - into what you are currently doing?"

(Behold the brilliance of the question, by the by:  not "What can you do to change where you are?" but "What can you do to integrate what you want to do into what you have to do now?"

I started to ponder after reading it.  What could I do to integrate my passion into what I am doing now?  On the one hand, not a great deal - my writing and my real work life are about as far as apart as two activities could be.  But on the other hand....

Time.  It comes down to time (well, really, time and commitment, as An Drumair so correctly pointed out).  The commitment, of course, comes from using the time.  The trick is finding the time.

So let's ask a different question:  If I have spend a certain amount of my day currently doing something I'm not crazy about and if I want to move towards doing something I am crazy about and I need the time to do it, where do I find that time?

By thieving it.

No, not by showing up at work and not working, that's not the point.  It's finding a way to take part of the time I otherwise spend uselessly and converting it into time which is useful to what I want to do.  This is partially accomplished by 1) working harder when I am there and 2) not dedicating additional hours beyond those I am required to give.  Fair enough - that adds 30 minutes or so to my day.

What else?

The what else came in two forms:  how are you spending your lunches and how are you spending your time driving?

Lunches?  Sure.  I eat lunch more with my coworkers than I have in 14 years - but is that as critical as achieving what I want to achieve?  If I could even find 15 minutes a day to write, that's an article or part of a chapter or something else for me to read and ponder for my writing.

And driving?  That's 70 to 80 minutes a day that is available for some kind of use, if I can only figure out how to apply it.  Surely I can speak and eventually convert something into writing.

A very wise man, An Drumair.  Adapt to where you are with what you have in pursuit of what you want.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cutting Wood

The recent storm brought down a large oak limb in our backyard.  I could see it there Sunday night, hanging against the tree, not quite down but waiting to plunge.  It was still raining, so I moved it in rank of importance to the back of my mind.

Last night after I arrived home I saw it there, laying flat on the ground.  Everyone else was out to dinner and I was looking forward to some quiet time alone - but the branch kept catching my eye every time I looked out the window.  Finally I sighed and got up to go out, promising myself I'd only do some and finish the rest later.

Cutting branches - or even wood - here in New Home is certainly different from before.  I don't have access to the array of tools from my parents or friends, only what we brought out here.  So armed with only my brush cutters and my saw, I dragged the trash can out.

The weather was not as hot as it could have been, but the humidity from the recent storm hung like a reminder on everything as I looked at the branches.  It was resting  pretty firmly on the ground, so the chances of flipping over on me were low.  Grabbing my cutters, I started to work.

My procedure, when cutting branches like this, is to start by trimming off the end and minor twigs until I get to main lines only.  From there, it's a pretty simple task to cut them into forearm long lengths for burning.

When cutting, one gets into a rhythm:  Trim.  Dispose.  Saw.  Check balance of the limb.  Start on the next section.  Repeat.

The heat was not overbearing but was a little oppressive.  As I trimmed and started to cut, I suddenly realized I was committed at this point with the semi-convincing tale of "It's less than it actually looks."

I am my father's son in at least one sense:  I can keep a branch well balanced, not having it roll on me as I trim and cut lengths until I'm ready to move it.  I'm not sure that such a thing as wood cutting can be genetic, but then again maybe passive learning is more effective than I think.

The evening was quiet, the bulk of people and their pets still indoors from the heat and humidity of the day.  All that sounded were the snap of cutters, the crunching of branches being thrust down, and the brittle sound of the saw biting deep into the wood.  Above me from time to time doves quarrelled, apparently concerned that someone was near enough to their food source that flying down was risky and looking for volunteers to test the waters.

The last pieces are always the hardest to cut, both for their size (width of my upper arm at the end of the branch) as well as the balance.  Here again that genetic wood cutting helped:  with a skill I can't quite explain, I was able to balance and cut and joints and keep the rest of the limb balanced while I worked.

With the last cut and the "Thunk" of the wood falling, down, it was time to clean up:  cutters and saw to the garage, garbage can to the side of the house, cut wood into the recycling bin to be stacked by the side of the house.  The seemingly giant task had taken a little over an hour. 

As I stood under the porch and sucked down the cold ice water from a profusely sweating cup, I realized that once again I had managed to have a moment.  Once again, I had managed to lose myself in the task and hand.  Time flew, work was accomplished, and I was still here, shirt damp with the sweat of a humorless humidity but alive.

It is moments like these that remind one of the dignity and the greatness of work - true work, done with both body and mind, done with a task at hand, leaving an accomplishment that will be of use to somebody. 

Would that we could do this sort of work always. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Second Starts

I'm starting to think about second careers.

Why?  The realization rose back to my consciousness this weekend that really, I can only do one thing.  Yes, I can maybe do it in other places, but it is still only one thing.  This wouldn't concern me too much except for the fact that 1) My industry seems to be shedding a great deal of jobs and 2) My skill set, years of experience and age are such that I may not be the first (or second, or third) choice in any job consideration.

Which raises the inevitable questions:  What career?  How long will it take?

Good questions.  I wish I had better answers.  I have managed to spend a lifetime discovering things that I'm not really good at, don't like, or do like but are not profitable.  This hit and run philosophy has not really given me an insight into what the next step could or should be, although it has given me a few pointers about myself:

1)  I tend to lose interest quickly unless I'm engaged.
2)  I tend to romanticize things and overlook the drudgery.
3)  I need something that keeps my mind and my body engaged.

The last point is the interesting one to me personally, something I have overlooked over the years.  I can be just as disengaged mentally as I can be physically.  The best tasks, the ones that not only are most productive but are most enjoyable, are the ones that involve both my body and my mind.  It forces me to focus, to be "In the moment" as Zen would call it.

What would that look like?  I'm not sure.  I'm paging through my local Junior College, trying to find a program that both looks interesting and would address the criteria above. 

Is it an investment? Sure.  Is it something I might never use?  Perhaps not professionally.  But I am dogged by the sense that in the event the bottom falls out, I have very little in the way of skills or skill sets to fall back on.

Being in the control of circumstances can be a frightening place.

Friday, July 13, 2012


"People don't walk into the top spot.  They're driven." - Eugene O'Kelly, Chasing Daylight

Why are some people driven and others are not?

I ask this question as someone who (so far as I can tell) is not particularly driven.   Certainly I am able to dedicate periods of time and concentration to a task or tasks, but that inevitably fades away and I seem to come back to my normal workaday and life pace.

I write because it seems to me that so much of life runs to the driven (and therefore, many of the rewards) that have to ask the question "Could I be driven?"  More importantly, "Should I be?"

Or is being driven something which we all possess but only in the context of something in which we are interested?  Does "Driven" equate to "Enthusiasm"?

It occurs to me no.  Enthusiasm can be about one or many things; driven is a way of life.

Could I become driven?  Could I perform at the uber-high level of performance consistently?  I honestly don't know.  The driven have a vision, a goal, that they constantly keep in front of them to keep them going.  They also seem to naturally be able to maintain these high levels of focus.

That's certainly not me.  I have no overwhelming vision to keep me going - in fact, just keeping myself in the game from day to day is something of an accomplishment.  I am also not a person who can really maintain a high level of focus on one thing - after all, there are plenty of others things that also need to happen along with that one thing (sometimes driven people don't remember this).

Perhaps too, that thing I want is more nebulous than a specific thing or a specific accomplishment.   How do you become driven to a lifestyle and pace of life that is almost the antithesis of driven? 

The times that I have tried to drive myself - to become focused, energetic, active - have generally been periods that I can only maintain for a short period of time.  At some point the energy fades, the focus dissipates, and I'm again trapped with the meaninglessness of  most of what I have focusing on.  In fact, I often feel less engaged than when I started.

There's an exception, of course:  when it is something that I am interested in.  Then my interest does not die and the energy does not fade; in fact, the flame is only fanned.  But this often seems to fade as well - in this case not so much from a lack of ability to maintain as a lack of a place for that interest to take me.

If focus can mean succeeding (in the larges sense of the word), driven can lead to focus.  But enthusiasm can lead to focus as well - let's be honest, you can't focus long term on anything that you're not at some level engaged in.

So maybe I'm asking the wrong question yet again.  It shouldn't be "Can I become driven?" but "What am I enthusiastic about?  What do I love to do?"  Either way, that will give me the thing to focus on - and the energy to do it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


How does one make a change to one's life when one has no idea what that change should be?

This is sense I have of things right now, as I sit and read God's word, meditate, pray, read and ponder.

I feel stuck - not trapped necessarily, just stuck, as if I were in a mud pit that I have little or no chance of pulling myself out of yet do not seem to be sinking further.

We've agreed, I think, that hope is not alone sufficient to get me out of this.  It takes achievement, of course - but achievement without direction is no more productive that hitting nails into a board on the ground:  without knowing what the board is meant to do and where the nails are meant to go, it's activity that accomplishes nothing.

There are ways in which I feel straitjacketed by choices, without a sense that I can make a choice that will significantly improve my situation.  It's having no really good choices even as the choices you have made are not really contributing.

I keep thinking that I need some kind of epiphany, some kind of break-out thought that will give me this direction and the change I need.  But nothing seems to come through:  a sort of blank, empty canvas continues to roll before eyes with nothing on it.

How does one break out of one's mindset and seeing to the perception and hope (there, I've said it) that one needs to inform the achievement one needs to make to alter one's life?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hope and Achievement

What then do I do with temporal hope?

If hope is a desire or cherished dream, something we anticipate or expect to happen, how do I make hope something more than just a wispy thing that I cling to when I feel bad about my situation or my life?  How, like the alchemists of old, do I transmute that hope into something of actual value?

I face and address the reality that hope without action is simply nothing more than a dream.

Hope can be a grand thing. It can be the initiator of any number of great actions.  It can drive us to greater efforts than we thought were possible.  Hope keeps us up late at night or early in the morning when we would rather be sleeping; it drives us to try on more time to make that contact or initiate that conversation or simply send that resume.  Hope helps us to see the great things that can be possible in our lives.

But hope is not the same as achievement. 

Achievement is that less glamorous word, the word that reeks of hard labor and sweat and disappointment and being thrown back time and time again.  It is the thing that makes all other things possible - without achievement, there is nothing else. It's the word that expresses the concept of Henry Ford:  "Opportunity is missed by most people because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work".

Hope drives achievement as fuel drives an engine.  I work to achieve many things; without the hope that there is some greater purpose or desire being gained, my achievement merely becomes a dull grind of things I have to do.

Can achievement bring the certainty that hope implies?  It depends on what you mean by certainty. Certainly there is always an element of chance, of things not working out.  But in reality, if work and achievement don't make hope more certain, they certainly increase the chances the chances that one's hopes will become achieved - as Samuel Goldwyn said, "The harder I work, the luckier I get."

So let us have hope and let us use hope, by all means.  But let us not make the mistake that hope alone will change our lives.  That expectation of hope can come, but only when it is undergirded by labor of achievement towards that hope.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hope: Definition

If I say I am lacking in hope, what does that really mean?  What is hope anyway?

Let's take a short ride on the Bus of Knowledge:

Hope: From the Old English hopian, akin to Middle High German hoffen (to hope)

(Well, that's not very exciting - other than an interesting footnote that hope in the English language is not descended from Latin, French, or Greek).

How about a definition?

1)  Verbal:  to cherish a desire with anticipation; to desire with expectation of obtainment; to expect with confidence

2)  Noun:  a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment; expectation of fulfillment or success.

Okay, now we're getting somewhere.

Look at the words that repeat themselves above:  desire, expect/expectation; obtainment (fulfillment's the same thing).  Simply put, hope is something that we desire, cherish, or expect to be fulfilled, obtained or successful.

Those are pretty high expectations for a four letter word.  Cherish?  Desire?  These are highly personal words, words that speak of something springing deeply within us.  To disappoint something deeply personal is to be in a great deal of pain.

Suddenly I understand why the loss of hope is so devastating.  If I have no anticipation that something I cherish or desire (or even that prosaic word, expect) has any chance of being obtained or successful, what do I have to look forward to?  More of the same - or even a downward trend?

Again, let's be clear that the definition listed above is not simply enough to be accomplished.  Just because I cherish or desire something does not mean it will magically come to pass without effort.  Many people fall down at this point, believing that hope alone is sufficient to accomplish things.

What is it that we desire?  What is it that we cherish?  What is it that we hope for?

Monday, July 09, 2012

Hope: Situational

Bogha Frois and I had another one of the liberating conversations last weekend that (inevitably) seems to result in additional deep thought. 

We were discussing the thoughts expressed last week here about trying to be something that you're not, and the inevitable conflict this seems to create within yourself.  Add to it one or more bad relationships in the workplace, and you've got all the makings of a personal moment of decision.

"It's hope"  she said.


"Hope"  she said again.  "Or the lack thereof.  There's no sense that anything is going to get better, that there is no timeline I can put on the situation to say 'After this date, I'm moving on to something better'.  Just the general sense that this is as good as things are going to get and it only gets less good from here."

As we walked through the ramifications of hope - what it may or may not be, what it would like like in each of our situations - I realized what a vital element it is and how, much like her, it was missing in great dollops from my own life as well.

Hope is the great element that we all need - in some fashion - in our life. Hope gives us the sense that this is not all that there is, that there is something better.  But at the same time we must be careful.  Hope is not a substitution for hard work and effort.  Hope is a feeling, an emotion, a dream - and these three things in and of themselves will not change anything. 

Remove hope from a person - any sense that things will improve, that there is a better something out there - and what is left is a dull drone-like existence of living from day to day.  Nothing will remove the zest from daily living more than a lack of hope.

Which of course raises the question:  How do you get and maintain hope?

Of course I wish I had better answers than  I always do.  Ironically, for the Christian eternal hope is always the easier of the two to point towards:  hope in Christ, hope in His saving grace and His promises, the hope of eternal life.    Temporally for the Christian - at least, temporally for me - somewhat harder to find.  I am subject to the same stresses and strains as all others; I am subject to situations that seem not to change and people that seem impervious to reason and days of the long black tunnel of existence.  I can literally go weeks without any wisp of hope clouding the iron-gray sky of daily life.

But we - I - need to figure this out.  Life without hope becomes not life at all but existence.  And at only existence, we can scarcely seek to achieve the excellence that we are created to do.

Friday, July 06, 2012


"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life." - Proverbs 13:12

My book was uploaded for sale last night.

This is one of the most exhausted - and happiest - days of my life.  I'm happy for several reasons:

1)  I am finally a published author.  This is something I have been promising myself I would do for years and have been putting it into my annual goals for at least 7 years.  Now, it is done.

2)  I completed what I started out to do.  This is also something that I have not always been as successful in as I would like to or should have been.  Throughout my life lies the wreckage of half started projects, half dreamed dreams.  One has finally been completed.

3)  I am a writer.  This is one that makes me happiest of all.  I can legitimately call myself a writer.

4)  I found out that I can actually sit down and write a book, one that is coherent, with a point, and is something I can take pride in.  I have discovered that this is harder than I thought.
This has been a long process. I found the blog entry from December 2010 that set out the concepts which eventually made formed themselves into a book.  That's a long row to hoe - far longer than I would have initially anticipated, about 18 months or so.

Among all the other thanks that need to sprinkled about - Snowflake, Otis, An Fear Glice, The Ravishing Mrs. TB, Songbird, Bogha Frois,  and especially God - is the thanks I owe to you, the readers of this blog.  Indirectly you have made this all possible - I write daily as much because I know someone is reading as I do an expression of my soul.  This day by day exercise has enabled me to write on and press hard when I didn't feel like doing so.

What's next?  More books, of course - I realized as I finished this one I have another manuscript (long set aside) that I can work towards printing, and the next book in my series following the first book (already being written) and the one after that (in conceptual phase) and maybe the fantasy trilogy I've always wanted to write and the book about Rebuilding the Ruins from Haggai I have felt a prompting to write and oh yes, the idea I had last night at 3 AM that I had to get up and write down before I forgot it...
Thank you.

Thursday, July 05, 2012


With An Teaglach gone to Old Home, I've been spending a great deal of time by myself.

It's interesting to hear the reactions of others.  They seem to fall into one of two categories:  either I'm out living it up or I'm incredibly lonely.  While option 1 sounds exciting and option 2 sounds depressing, the reality is that neither one is particularly true.

Solitude is not something that frightens on either of two levels.  On the first level, it does not frighten me as being without things to do - in this modern age with electronic items and books and writing and 10 projects I always seem to be needing to see to, I hardly find myself at a true loss for something to do.

It's on the second level that it become more interesting, however:  the thought of facing long periods of time by one's self.

It's interesting to me that some people cannot deal with the true concept of being alone.  I'm not sure whether it's the concept of having no-one around or the more profound concept of coming face to face with your own self, but it seems alarming to many people.  Perhaps it is the fear that in being alone, I'll have to start thinking for myself.  Perhaps it is the fear that in being alone, I'll have to deal with the thoughts that start to come bubbling to the surface, things that get submerged beneath the incoming tide of daily dealing with people.

Perhaps it is the fear that I'll simply have to think.
Solitude  for me is a time to find my bearings, to think deeply on things, to take the time to do the things that I believe are important but somehow convince myself are not important enough to deal with in my usual life.  Solitude for me is not an enemy but an old friend, a place retreat to and find strength the face the world.

All solitude ends of course, and I'll not be sorry to see this one go for the reason that I miss The Ravishing Mrs. TB and Na Clann.  I'll see them, hear their stories, and become re-immersed in that bustle and general noise level that constitutes my family life.

But inside, part of me will be waiting for the next chance that I have to re-engage with the gentle silence of solitude.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Column 1
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton
- Referenced from www.archives.gov

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Selfishness and Selflessness

How much of my life is caught up in me!

In spending time today reading through Haggai 1:1-10, I was struck again by God's statement of how the Israelites were more concerned about their own lives than the glorification of God's house and therefore God.  God's response was to withdraw His protective hand; the Israelites response was to work even harder to try and provide for themselves rather than see the root of the problem.

Great, I thought.  Another interesting lesson from a people in the past about not putting God first.  Duly noted.  Let's move on.

But then the thought starting percolating in my brain:  Putting self first versus putting God first.  Suddenly, I had a whole new field to till.

As I sat and thought about it for five minutes, I realized that I am intensely self-focused.  At some level in so many parts of my life, my life is about me - especially about how I want people to perceive me.  So much of what I do is focused on how I want to be perceived that I eventually become consumed by selfishness at its most basic level:  the pursuit of things solely for my benefit.  I try and move events to my favor.  I try and craft my language and answers to reflect well on me, give myself a certain image I have predetermined in my mind of how I should look.  In fact, many activities are undertaken not only because I think I will enjoy them but because I think that they will somehow add to the image of myself in my mind - and how others perceive me.

The result? In behavior I become erratic, trying to hold on to an image that cannot be maintained or letting the image move me to places I should never go. In language and communication, I speak more to be heard rather than hear, and my words become weapons that destroy and hurt, even inadvertently.  In activities, I  "suddenly" lose interest when the activity doesn't contribute to the mythical image I have constructed for myself.

In clinging to my own self interest, I lose myself.

Which is why (I think) Christ was so insistent that we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.  Me focused on me creates someone who is following the image of me.  Me following Christ, allowing His Spirit to dwell in me and guide my actions, is Christ lived out through the way He created me.

What my image is no longer becomes as important; what Christ's image is in the eyes of others become important, which directs my behavior in ways that are consistent with what I say believe.  In language and communication, I communicate what God and Christ have said, not what my opinions are; application becomes based in His word, not in my own ideas.  The result is that there is now some grounding for what I speak, not just what sounds wise.  In events, I seek to be in them in a way that brings glory to Him not me; I am relieved of the responsiblity of trying to guide them.  And in activities, I do what is honoring to God because it honors God; the result is that what I do I do because it is how I'm made and that I enjoy the activities and can enjoy them for what they are and what they bring to my life, not what I think they should make me look like.

There's a first step, of course:  agreeing that Christ and His image in me is more important than the image I have created for myself.  It's the difference of comparing a sheet of hammered gold and a sheet of toilet paper:  both are sheets, but one is far more valuable than the other - and infinitely more enduring.

The question is, am I willing to perceive the true value.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Writers and Copy Editors

I've been mulling over my last post about Doing What You're Not. I recevied some thought provoking feedback from friends and even some though provoking feedback from myself, but found things most clearly defined for me by Stephen King in his book On Writing.

On Writing, for those that have never read it, is a combination autobiography/writing guide from one of the US's most prolific and published authors.  Mr. King starts the book with his autobiography to demonstrate how he got his start on writing and got to where he is, then provides a guide on writing, then slips back into an autobiography about his life post-accident and how writing helped him move through that (which turns out to be the book On Writing).

In discussing the creative process, Mr. King does a good a job as any I've read (let's be fair:  better than most) about discussing the basics of writing, especially in a section that is about a third of the book and shorter than many whole books on aspects of writing but probably the best and most concise I've read.

In one section - on proofing - he makes the offhanded comment about correcting a comma, saying that although there are copyeditors it's something he should take care of.  The sentence just sat there, hanging in mid-air as I looked at it.  Suddenly it became clear.

There are two kinds of people in lots of things:  writers and copyeditors.  Writers may generate the great ideas and create the text, but their primary job is not to verify that everything is perfect (it's better, of course, and makes you look more professional but is not their primary job).  Copyeditors are the ones that catch errors, correct, make suggestions to the phrasing and words and punctuation.  Writers create, copyeditors make sure the creation is linguistically and grammatically correct.

One can't be the other - and shouldn't.  Writers trying to copyedit probably drive themselves batty; copyeditors trying to write (unless they're writers as well) may not have the creative spark.  But each of them works together in concert for a marvelous whole:  a book which is both well written and grammatically correct.

Can one adapt to the other?  I'm not sure.  I would think a writer could do a copyeditor's work, but for myself I find it slows me down a great deal, and for me writing is about catching the flow of ideas as they spill out.  I wonder as well for the detail oriented if they could write with speed, or would the inner corrective catch every error as it came out, preventing the full idea from becoming real.

But more importantly for me:  if one realizes one is a writer and not a copyeditor, can one find a way back to the writing side of the page?