Friday, December 29, 2017

The One Thing I Wish I Had Done In 2017....

What is the one thing I wish I had done in 2017 that I did not do?

That is a hard one.  I really did a great deal this year.  Competed in a number of Highland Games.  Ran two road races.  PR'ed my weights.  Got to go to California (twice).  Saw my job and job responsibilities completely expand 100 fold.

What would it be?  Honestly, I think that my relationship with God did not grow as it probably should have this year.

What would that have looked like?  Great question, to which I do not have a satisfactory answer.  I would like to think it would mean I would feel "The Presence of God" more in my life and see God actively working in my life more than I feel like I do.

Mind you, "feeling" The Presence of God is a fairly ill- defined term.  Plenty of perfectly effective and good Christians through the years have not, and yet they did His work anyway.  But I have always (perhaps secretly) looked at those that seem to have that feeling with a sort of longing.  What must that be like?  How would it feel to really know that God was right there?  (Yes, I know that He is, but it is something I almost never sense).

I do not know if there is something that I can do to make that more real.  I do not think it is the sort of thing that you can force.  But that would have been the one thing, the crowning achievement, on what was a pretty good year.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Consciously Forgetting

Consciously forgetting is one of the most difficult activities one can undertake.  An example, in this case, is instructive.

Over the last month or so, I have realized that I consciously need to let a person go.  They are not in my life at all right now and if fact have done nothing to sustain any sense of a relationship.  The thoughts have all been on my side - thoughts that follow me around in my head and appear at the least usable times.  It has reached the point that, for me, it is an energy sink.  And so, I need to consciously forget them.

It is very hard, at first.  Social media these days makes it all the harder.  I will find myself suddenly doing a search on a search engine for their name, looking them up to see what and how they are doing.  And then I will tear myself away and get back to what I was doing.

So I have to police myself.  Every time I want to look, I have to say "no" and turn away.  At the end of a day, I can say "Today, I did not go looking for X".  Tomorrow, I have to get up and do the same thing.

Do I particularly believe that I can ultimately forget them?  I doubt it, truly.  I suspect the human mind does not work that way.  But what I can do - what I am trying to do - is not make them my go to thought when I am bored or sad or bitter.

The only ghosts of those relationships that haunt my past are the ones that I continue to feed with my own energy.  And only I can ultimately make them disappear.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Being More At Home

One thing I am really planning on working on this year is focusing more on being mentally and physically at home

Part of it is purely financial - with Nighean Gheal in college now and Nighean Bhean starting her senior year of high next year and college the year after and (practically speaking) the chances of a significant raise in pay being remote, the less out and about and less spending in general, the less stress will be here.

Part of it though, is a conscious decision.  There is actually quite a bit to do around here, things that (frankly) I often put off because I feel like it is boring or tedious or I would rather go do something else.  These things need to be done though - partially from a practical point of view (if nothing else, they are either repairs and/or improve the value of the home when we do see) and partially from the point of view that my home is a personal sense of pride - and when (not if, in my opinion) we move again I am going to want to treat wherever we live as carefully as I should treat this house and life now.

Practically, what does it mean?  More home projects.  More yard work and gardening.  More cheese and yogurt.  Probably less Highland Games overall.  Lots more practice of Iai.

In other words, paring down a bit the frenzy of activities I am doing and a little more focus on those things that I choose do. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017

Because, as always, there is a reason for the season:

"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager.

      And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill towards men!"  - Luke 2:  10-14

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:  and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Price of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6

Nollick ghennal erriu! (Merry Christmas!)

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Homegoing 2017

Dear Friends,

As you are reading this I am probably just getting on the road to head back to Old Home for Christmas.

Up to a little over a month ago I had not decided to do so - but my current employer has pre-programmed time off from 21 December to 01 January.  Good and bad, of course; good in that I typically took this time off (and so it does not "cost"me), bad in that I lose a potential week somewhere else.

I took it last year and while having the time off is great, a week around the homestead in December can get a little old.  We briefly looked at flying, but flying during this period is both expensive and extremely crowded, neither of which particularly appeals to me.

The drive is a long one: 24 solid hours through some of the potential least exciting countryside in the United States - 12 hours one day to almost the precise mile, and 12 the next.  Fortunately, Nighean Bhan can drive as well now so that splits the drive up amongst three instead of two.

We will split the time equally, of course:  3 days at my parents, 3 days at my in-laws.  We will get to see everyone we need to see - and for the first time in probably 6 years, we will actually spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our family.

Not worry - I have pre-programmed postings for the week (and hopefully will have some good pictures of The Ranch in Winter upon my return).  My apologies if responses are a little slow - my ability to get to things on a timely basis when on the road is always a little suspect.

For once in a long while, it finally is true:  I will be home for Christmas.

Much Love from Your Obedient Servant,

Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Few Words From....Wellington Boone

"The potter sets the clay where he will. Repent of wishing to be something other than what God made you to be.  Male, female, rich, poor, black, or white; don't ever want to be anything different because God, the potter, chose how the clay was going to be formed, and  you are wonderfully and beautifully made.   You do not have the prerogative to make such wishes because it assumes you know what is better for you than your creator, the potter.  Your journey is to find out what God wants you to do with you as His clay and to realize that you are greatly valued.  God never creates objects that have no value.
      The potter can set you where He wants to set you.   He can allow circumstances to happen in your life or prevent them.  It makes no difference, you are his vessel for honor or dishonor.  Get out of your mind the thought that greatness deals with the size of a ministry.  Greatness deals with the ability that God gives you to handle trouble.  Do not reproach His nature in your assessment of what you have gone through.  Greatness does not consist in reducing others to your service, but reducing yourself to theirs." - Wellington Boone, Breaking Through

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Foggy December

Christmas lights twinkle:
festive lighthouses glowing
in a sea of mist.

Monday, December 18, 2017

On Eating Better

One of the things I fully intend to work on next year is my health.  Specifically, eating.

Oh, nothing has really gone out of whack yet.  But I am definitely noticing a difference (yes kids, 50 is more than just a number).  And while my health has been stellar to this point, I would very much like to keep it that way.

Exercise plays a part, of course.  And while I have been consistently exercising, my cardio has fallen off a great deal.  That is something that needs to change.  As well, I am lifting, but have probably reached the outer limits of what I am able to do at this body mass (and I really cannot take it much higher - in fact, I could probably lose at least 15% of my weight and still be perfectly fine) - and I have little intention of damaging my joints by taking on weights that they cannot support.  Also,  I need to work desperately on flexibility. 

But what drives exercise, of course, is the fuel.

What will this look like? As usual, I am not entirely sure.  We are experimenting with a quasi-vegetarian diet (well, really after New Year's - the holiday season is a terrible time to start a new diet, just as it is a terrible time to give up desserts).  What I think the looks like is a whole lot more vegetables and vegetable protein and a whole lot less processed foods and red meat (which, to be fair, we hardly eat at all anyway). 

On top of that for me, it means reining in my Four Deadly Sins:  Alcohol, Sugar, Caffeine, and Fat.

Two of these, Alcohol and Fat, are already on their way out.  I have steadily reduced my alcohol consumption to beer and wine.  And beer is the next thing to go.  Fat has never been a great problem for me - I like cheese and butter, but that is about it.

Caffeine is the next to go.  I am working on reducing my coffee intake from three cups (one cup at home and two at work) to one at home before I go to work and supplementing with tea throughout the day.

But sugar - ah, there is the rub.  Not because it is everywhere (it really is), but because I love it so much.  This is the hardest thing to conquer - but with diabetes in my family, arguably the most important.

Do I have a goal?  Not a well defined one - nor is a weight defined one as meaningful as a health index one has.  I'll say this:  My weight out of high school was 140 lbs and I am 35 lbs about that.  Some of that is muscle, but surely not all of it.  I do not realistically think I could make it back to 140 lbs and maintain muscle mass - but something a little higher might be a worthy goal.

I am striving to be lighter, quicker, and healthier if for no other reason than I want to feel better. And sometimes that is reason enough.

Friday, December 15, 2017

R.C. Sproul.

R.C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries went home yesterday.

I was privileged to hear him speak twice at Shepherd's Conferences.  He was a cogent speaker, one of the meaningful proponents of The Reformation and what it truly meant, and perhaps one of the greatest theologians in the U.S. of the late 20th and early 21st Century.  His radio program was Renewing Your Mind; Amazon lists 20 pages of books for which is the author or is connected with.

In this age of lazy theology and shallow thinking, his clear intellect and forceful preaching of the Word will be sorely missed.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Jeremiah 45

One last thought on this issue of being confronted by God on the direction of my life and I am done:

"The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the instruction of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch:  ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For the Lord has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.”’
 “Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the Lord. “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.”’” - Jeremiah 45:  1-5

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

On Understanding God's Will - And Not Liking It

A follow-up on yesterday's Post A Cold Splash Of Reality:

I think the most difficult - or maybe from my perspective, shocking - of yesterday's confrontation with my actual reality is the focus of where the direction came from.  I like to think that I am called to a great many things, none of the related to what I currently do.  God, apparently, feels rather strongly that I am called - at least currently - to very specifically what I do.

Therein lies the rub, of course.  I hear of people being called and people living out their calling and like to think "Hey, that is for me too!".  They may very well be living out their calling - just as I am being called to live out mine.  The difference is that my apparent calling and my desires are radically different.

This would seem to be where the moment of tension comes.  Do I follow the calling that I see God giving me - and by "follow" I mean dedicate myself to it as strongly as I would to anything that I really desired?  Or do I begrudgingly do the minimum, trying to wait God out in hopes that He suddenly changes His mind and relents - "Wow, TB. You are right and I am wrong.  I totally agree that you should be doing X."

That is the most difficult part:  to give one's self 100% to His revealed will as eagerly as I would give myself to something I would prefer a great deal more.  To make myself as careful a student and practitioner of what I do as a career as I would of being a writer on the way up or a farmer building a sustainable venture or a theologian preparing a sermon.  These, all of them, seem to have impacts and influences and meaning beyond the actions and acts themselves.  Sadly, becoming a student and practitioner of Quality is to become an expert in government regulations and nuances of applications, something which neither seems to have significant impact nor influences (Quality being like the transmission of your car:  you only miss it when it stops working).

But if I am completely, totally, bitterly, 100% honest, this seems to be what I am being told.

I am trying to adjust my schedule, my reading, my studies, and my practices around this.  To head into the storm front of a wealth of information that seems almost trivial in the great scope of things is turning out to be one of the hardest things I have ever done.

There is another aspect that I am coping with as well:  the active surrender of hope.

To embrace the will of God (at least as I currently understand it) is to let go of the hope that it will all change.  Can it change?  Of course - in an instant.  But can is not the same as will.  And setting one's self always to hope for the thing that may never occur is to try and bridge a canyon that is continuing to move apart.

I will still do the things I love, of course - iai, gardening, writing (even if only here), and the 40 other things I fill my life with.  It is just that, perhaps for the first time in my life, I am admitting that those things will never be more than they are: hobbies, amateur activities that I can grow better at but only enjoy in my off hours.  My path, it appears, lies in the very direction I have been trying to escape from all this time.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Cold Splash Of Reality

God has a funny way of  getting my attention sometimes.

Why, not even two days ago I was working on my goals for next year.  I was feeling confident.  I was feeling in charge.  I had the year mapped out with confidence and aplomb.

And then, yesterday, found out that I had dropped the wrong ball.  I kept a number of them up in the air, but not one that I needed to.  Just like that, I came crashing back down to reality.

The rather unhappy truth is that - for right now - every other plan hinges rather tremendously on my bringing in an income. Any plans I might have - no matter how glorious or high minded or exciting or even fun - pretty much fall apart instantly the moment that my income is not what it is now.  Yes, I am trying to work on the situation but yes, nothing I am looking at is even close to what I would need to keep everything going at the moment.

So I went back to my goals tonight, and "deferred"  (really axed) a bunch of them.  My career, at least the one I do right now, figures rather highly in activities for the coming year. 

It is hard.  It is as if God is pushing my focus back to the here and now, to the reality I am and the things right in front of my nose.  It makes me scared, because I cannot afford to mess this up.  And then it makes me angry, because I feel as if this is all that there is and I am being asked abandon all hope of life being other that what it has been (more or less) for the last 20+ years.

In other words, I guess I am being asked to trust and have faith.  In  a future that seems as unattainable and far away as Alpha Centauri.

Monday, December 11, 2017

On Bitcoin

So Bitcoin apparently is either the new thing or the next Tulipmania.

To be fair, I do not understand Bitcoin, or cryptocurrencies in general.  I read a bit on Blockchain today and maybe think I get that, but maybe not.  I read up on Cryptocurrencies as well - sadly, again not getting it.

I am not overly concerned about it, of course - I went through my "get rich quick" phase 13 years ago and after missing out on the real estate boom (and bust), have pretty much relegated myself to the world of save and invest - not just in stocks and bonds, mind you.  Land and the ability to provide food have value as well.

I understand the attraction, of course:  skyrocketing value, non-governmental control (a big plus for me), and the ability to "earn" (apparently) on your own (e.g. "mining").  And apparently it is becoming a thing because more and more businesses are accepting them, which suggests that it is a trend to stay.

In moments like these, I always bear in mind Warren Buffet's advice:  "Do not invest in anything you do not understand".  Which sounds pedestrian, I know.  But I would rather be pedestrian and keep my smaller gains than be cool and lose larger ones.  I tried that, once. 

Never again.

Friday, December 08, 2017


So we had a rare event in our clime - not anything to compare to Reverend Paul in Alaska or Rain and Kymber in Canada, but snow none the less!

My garden fence is not a great protection from the elements:

Rain, I have two lemons.  Let us see if they make it.

The backyard has a blanket of sorts:

And the lavender is covered:

My Christmas lights have actual snow!  

Two days ago it was 80 F and I was wondering how my dry my grass was.  Not an issue now:

Snow and tree trunk:

It will all melt by tomorrow of course, and for us freezing and ice is the real danger.  Still, it is nice to get a little bit of a White Christmas.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Keeping Work About Work

So one thing the recent run of news headlines and social events has me thinking about is how I act at work.

I would argue I am hardly inappropriate - although to be fair, I probably have not been as well behaved as I should have been (we can always do better).  But I fear we are rapidly approaching the day where almost anything can be construed in an unfortunate manner.

So to wit, how should anyone - male or female - now act at work?

I do not know that I have all the answers.  I do have some suggestions though.

1)  Interactions at work need to be about work:  Limit your talk to work related items.  Personal things, such as perhaps what you did this weekend or even how your child is doing, might be okay - but I would not recommend it.  Even those innocuous sorts of conversations may eventually lead to something else.  If only work is being discussed, you never have to remember what else you talked about.

(One potential question here is what, if any, personal effects one should have in the workplace.   This is another thing I have been evolving my thinking on.  Over time, I am dropping down the number of personal items I have at work.  I anticipate having virtually nothing of a personal nature in the not too distant future).

2)  When at work, work: Do not talk.  Do not socialize.  Work.

3) Any sort of physical contact, of course, is right out:  Arguably, shaking hands upon meeting someone for the first time (and upon their leaving) will probably remain a business norm (although I wonder if the Asian custom of bowing comes into vogue.  No risk of contact at all).  Beyond that, I cannot think of reason - beyond, say, someone choking - that such a thing would be necessary.

4)  Discussions need to be in the open:  Ideally, have meetings with a glass window or door so that you are visible at all times.  If in a group meeting where this is not possible, say as little as possible.  Taking notes is not a bad idea either.

5)  Do not take work outside of work:  There is a high risk that happy hours and parties - really, anything involving alcohol and coworkers - ends uncomfortably or badly.  Friends and family are for weekends and evenings and holidays, coworkers are for work.  (I suppose one question arising out of this would be if you can have friends that start as work acquaintances and grow out of that.  20 years of industry experience tells me no.  In this day and age, work friendships seem to revolve a great deal more around proximity than truly shared interests.  Sure, you may continue to connect through social media or business organizations and wish each other Happy Birthday when prompted by Facenovel.  But it is the rare person I talk to two years after leaving a job, let alone fifteen.).

Looking at the list, you might come to believe that what I am proposing is a sort of monastic, silent worker that speaks as minimally as possible and creates a workplace that is somewhat joyless and soulless.  I do not know that that is quite what I am thinking of - after all, even in the most serious of environments there is some level of "fun" involved.  But I think, at least for myself, I am going to end up becoming a lot more like this.  For two reasons:

1)  It is just more efficient and accomplishes more work.

2)  It eliminates any potential weakness for future accusations (never create a weakness for an enemy).

I am sure that for whomever implements such protocols as these (or for some event things more drastic), questions will inevitably arise about why I am acting this way or if I even have a personal life and family..   My response - the only logical response - has to be "I keep my work life and my personal life completely separate".

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Little Drummer Boy

I have always loved the song "The Little Drummer Boy".

Yes, I understand it is completely extra-biblical and we have not a shred of evidence for it and yes, I know that the Christmas celebration went on for hundreds of years without it.  I still love it.

I love it on two levels.  On one level, it is a very good message, not just about the birth of Christ (always a very god message) but also about the power of giving what one has.  On the other level, I love the song as written: it has a very distinctive beat, one that is instantly recognizable.

When driving home a few days ago, I suddenly heard a version I had not heard before.  It took me a bit of searching to find it turns - turns out it is For King and Country's live version.  I enjoyed it so much, I thought I would share.

Please click below:

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Be Stronger

Sometimes I ask myself why I am in this time, when I so often feel like I have little power to change the world or even fix myself:

Monday, December 04, 2017

Protecting The Garden (Sort Of)

So yesterday I realized that our backyard is filled with little sticks which Poppy has been pulling down and chewing.  Which is all fine and dandy - after all, I don't miss a few oak sticks.  Then I realized that my pepper plant had also become dog fodder.  I needed a solution:

It is not a perfect solution, of course.  My option where either the flexible plastic fencing (pictured here) or the wire fencing (not pictured here), which was a great deal less flexible   I am willing to take a chance that it will be inconvenient enough not to go through.

Pictured are the garlic and leeks and spinach/lettuce, whose little lives I am trying preserve:

I am not sure how it will work this year, but maybe (when Poppy calms down a bit with age) it will work better. I can say that for the sake of convenience and ease of use, it is hands down more convenient than wire.

Friday, December 01, 2017

On Christmas Lights

There is something absolutely joyful about Christmas lights.

I am not really sure what it is - after all, they are just colored bits of plastic (or clear) encasing a light.  Some blink, some shimmer, some slowly glow and then disappear, and some simply just sit there.  They come in big and small, fat and thin, brilliant and subdued.

So why do I find them so magical?

Part of it, I truly believe, is the fact they simple are different kinds of lights.  I spend my life underneath fluorescents or "soft" lighting:  almost always yellow or white, of one intensity.   Christmas lights are variety and splendor.  I can sit and read and work under the colors of the rainbow.

Some of it, perhaps, is also the fact that (generally) Christmas lights are always, well, associated with Christmas.  And other fun things.  It is not like anyone ever said "I am having the worst day ever.  Let me put up Christmas lights."  Nope, they only go up for festive, happy occasions.

And finally, perhaps, Christmas lights - especially not at Christmas - are way to show independence in a world of uniformity.  Christmas lights in odd places - nooks for reading or coffee bars or even inside in the 11 months of the year that are not Christmas - make us stop and look, make us wonder - indeed, perhaps make us look at our own lives and wonder why we do not have a little more whimsy in them.

With all of their bright and shining joy, why would this not be the most wonderful time of the year?