Monday, December 28, 2009

Last Column of the Year

This is my last column of the year. I write a column every week. I have been doing this now for 20 years. That is over 1000 columns. If you count the column I had as a Senior in High School you could probably add another dozen or so to that total. A couple hundred of them have been put into books, a couple dozen have been published in other people's books, a few newspapers get them and publish one or two of them a month depending on if they have room. My column has not "taken off" into national syndication, the blog form hasn't gone viral, and my website has trickled down to only a few hundred visitors a month. So why do I keep doing it?

There are times when I think of running for political office and then I remember that I have 20 years of thoughts and columns for my opponent to pick through and find glaring politically incorrect statements I've made. I force deadlines on myself and sometimes just don't want to write and sometimes I just don't have any ideas that seem worth sharing. So why do I keep doing it?

I write for the same reason some of your go to the gym. I write for the same reason some of you jog or walk every day. Writing is my exercise. It stretches my mind. It forces me to do things that I normally don't do in any given day. As I sit here the beagle in my brain is running to corners and dark places, sniffing out words and phrases, thoughts and stories, and bringing them back to the place where he can deposit them through my fingers to you. So many things have been seared into my memory over the 50 years of my life but so many things have been lost on the receding train track of time. Writing gives me a chance to run to the caboose and look behind, memorizing as much as I can before it is captured within that distant line on the horizon. I write as exercise but also there is something more, I think.

A seventh grade teacher slapped a wooden yard-stick on the desk of a sleeping 12-yearold so hard that it broke into pieces. He woke with shock and embarrassment to not being able to close his eyes again for days. Later that same teacher took the writings of that student and read them in front of class. It was a "Hitchcockian story" he said and it was about an eye transplant going wrong and driving the owner of the new eyes crazy because colors weren't the same, shapes were different, and the world was wrong. After he read some of the words out loud to the class he said, "This is some of the best writing I have ever read from a seventh grader!" The teachers words were more shocking than the shattered yard-stick to the kid.

My beagle just found that story in an avenue of my mind that hasn't been explored in decades. That may have begun my fascination with the written word but I think it really just legitimizes my penchant for day-dreaming. Writers are just daydreaming kids who invite you into their world imagined.

Lessons Learned from pulling up old Carpet

The carpet was soft and navy blue and was in EVERY room in our house. We picked out furniture based on the color of it and remodeled our life around it but it was time to go. Almost 900 square feet of it at least, the rest will take a while to replenish the monetary supply to replace. As I pulled up the carpet I also pulled up some lessons along with it. So here are a few I learned:

1. What helps can also hurt: The inverted nails that held the carpet in place for so many years are still sharp. So many things in our lives are great and helpful ... until they're not.

2. No matter how many times you clean there is still something dirty: I bet we vacuumed that carpet over a thousand times yet deep down it was still dirty. In life there is only so much you can do to clean up before you need to be totally remodeled and start fresh again.

3. No job is too big: The task looked daunting for years but I finally decided to tackle it and it isn't as big as I thought. If you are waiting for a remodel in your life that seems too big to tackle start a piece at a time and work your way through it, you will find it is not that big after all.

4. It's never easy: It is find to pull the carpet and replace it but what do you do with the baseboard, then what do you do with the level of the sliding blinds that are screwed into the carpet at the perfect height, then what do you do with the transition from the carpet to the tile? Kind of my mantra and it may seem the opposite of the one above but you will ALWAYS run into problems when you tackle any project: it is never easy. So be prepared and handle it in stride.

5. What about the Garbage Man: As I look at the growing mountain of refuse outside my house I wonder what my garbage man is going to say, or do. How will what you do impact others?

6. Watch out for Scope Creep: The job seems to be getting bigger. First it was replacing the carpet; then carpet and paint; then carpet, paint, new fixtures; then carpet, paint, new fixtures, and a new buffet; now carpet, paint, new fixtures, buffet, and redo the fireplace. Stay tuned for more! Learn to say "NO" or don't start until you have a LARGE bank account.

I am still in the middle of the project as I write this and expect the house to be in upheaval for about a month until the flooring comes in. Stay tuned, I might have more lessons OR I might never recover...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Group Interaction

I wrote a number of columns back about the way people manage to walk through crowds but what is just as interesting is how crowds react to people walking through them. People react, then others react to their reaction, them more react to the reaction of the people reacting, and so on and so on and so on.

This happens in nature all the time. Near blind army ants on densely populated trails spontaneously form traffic lanes to minimize congestion. A school of fish will turn as one in reaction to a threat, as if reeling from a blow. A swarm of bees tell each other where and how far the flowers are by their particular looping flight pattern and the waggle of their tails. Range animals will take to stampeding if one of them is startled for no good reason. A High School popular will wear a particular outfit and the next week all the wannabees are wearing the same thing. You know, nature.

I was sitting at a stop light fiddling with the radio when the car in front of me lurched and I followed suit thinking the light was now green and almost ran into the back of the quick brake lights in front of me. I saw the guy behind almost hit me and so did the people next to me.

Sometimes this collective unconscious reaction is beneficial like when there is a TRUE danger or realistic incentive. Sometimes the group response is banal or harmless like a viral video or Black Friday sale. Often, though, these unconscious group motions are harmful. Yelling "FIRE" in a crowded room. Peer pressure. Enron-like doctoring numbers to make you look better. The question becomes "How can I resist the pressure, the automatic response?"

The first thing you can do is PAY ATTENTION! If I would have been watching the traffic light instead of fiddling with my radio I never would have been duped into lurching.

The second thing you can do is PLAN AHEAD! If you rehearsed your response to "Would you please lie for me?" you would NOT give in to the pressure. Rehearse saying, "I'm sorry but lying will hurt you AND me, I can't do it." If you planned your expenses and money management you would not be swayed by the latest trend or gadget.

The third thing you can do is PICK WISELY your friends and who you trust. If the people you surround yourself with are trustworthy and "have your back" then if they react you can trust their reaction and follow the group.

The fourth thing you can do is FOCUS. I had to catch chickens when I was on the farm growing up and one thing I discovered was that I could not catch all of them at one time. As much as I tried I could not catch one until I began focusing on just one and not the whole group. When I chased that ONE I could catch him. Then the distractions of the group of chicken's faded away.

So pay attention, plan ahead, pick your friends wisely, and focus. Then you will be Jenny I who weathers the storm and becomes the BubbaGump Shrimp of your world.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Damping the Pendulum

Tire swings play in my memory like a soap bubble too tender to touch or be real but yet you know it's there. I remember one on a huge tree in our yard on the farm. I remember the fear of it coming too close to the ground and the limb looking too fragile for my growing body. Yet I got it swinging: higher and higher. To get it going you must "lean into" the swing at the right time to build momentum upon momentum. I got it going to the point I was level with limb and found the rope going a bit slack as I changed direction. On the extreme end the pressure on the rope became too much and it broke. In slow motion I saw my world come crashing down, I hit the ground and felt my lungs expel all their air. I gulped it all back in short gasps and found my legs still through the hole of the tire.

I remember my kids learning to swing by simply moving their lower legs back and forth and getting frustrated at the low amount of moving. Lean into it: legs, body and all! But don't go too far!

Our life is full of pendulum swings. The most visible now is the political pendulum. It swings every few years from conservative to liberal, from Democrat to Republican and back again. Ever searching for the elusive "swing" vote.

Our love life seems full of pendulum swings from passionate love to passionate hate, from "I don't want you by me" to "I can't get enough of you"; from never leaving the bed to sleeping on the couch. We search for that "balance."

In our work life we love it, we hate it. We get a new boss we love but if we wait around another will come that drives us crazy. We are close to coworkers and then they, or we, move on. The pendulum swings back and forth as we seek balance.

How do we stop it? Do we want to stop it? I find myself playing the role of damper quite often. Dampers are used in tall buildings and in radio towers as a counter weight to cut down on the swing of the towers from high winds. As the tower goes one way, the damper will go the other to counter balance. Maybe because I can see the benefits of both sides and the destructiveness of the extremes of both sides. Maybe it is my middle child syndrome: seeking peace and not conflict. Maybe it is just because of a life lived sensing, seeing, and touching extremes both by mistake and by choice. Maybe it is simply because I enjoy playing "devil's advocate" and taking the opposing view to whoever is in the discussion.

Winds of change will cause the pendulum to swing back and forth. We may be able to put the brakes on it for a while like a child grinding a swing to a halt with worn out tennis shoes but it cannot last. The best we can do is to lean against the crazy to keep BOTH sides from going extreme. Because it is at the EXTREME ends that our world will come crashing down.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

It is impossible to step into the same river twice

I went to a home of sorts this past week, not the home of my childhood but the vacation home of my children's childhood. The water of the cottage looked the same and even the docks were painted the same as I remember. My three kids learned to swim, caught fish, and had amazing adventures in life-jackets too big for them and then too small for them and then too big again. I felt a pang of nostalgia as the same three are now grown, living their own lives, and soon having their own children. I took off my shoes and stepped into the water and realized it was different now.

Heraclitus, who coined the above phrase, believed that the universe was always changing. He believed EVERYTHING was changing and in flux and that you could never go back again, even a second ago. Good words and a good story can take you to places you have been and even experience some of the emotions of that place in that time. While your mind can go back YOU cannot. We all know 40 year-old High Schoolers still living the great catch or the great shot as if it happened yesterday. We've all seen mature women dressed as teens trying to live that past memory. We all know the river has changed but yet we believe it looks the same.

There are some things that are better left in the past because it is a maturing process to get beyond it, there are some experiences we would rather NOT repeat that keep reoccurring. Past hurts, both physical and emotional, seem to be a river we keep stepping in as if it is happening all over again. It seems that we cannot grow beyond the level of maturity we were at when the hurt occurred, we seem to swim in the same river time after time. Professionals tell us to take out those hurts like stones in a backpack, to analyze them, find out where they came from, and then put them back in our pack so we can continue to carry them. Everything flows and nothing abides.

"How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on when you begin to understand that there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. There are some hurts that are too deep and have taken hold." (Return of the King, JRR Tolkien)

"What if this is as good as it gets?" (Melvin in As Good As it Gets)

Well now I've done it. I've written myself into a corner with no way of getting out of it without depressing you. Maybe I'll leave you with another Heraclitus philosophical thought. He believed the world was constantly changing like the desk globe you remember on your teacher's desk, but there was something OUTSIDE the ever-changing cosmos that gave it order, meaning, and held it in place like the two points on the poles of the globe. Something he called the Logos. Hmm. Interesting.

Monday, November 30, 2009

In the Contemplation of Life and Twinkies

I get amazingly varied comments when I tell people that I like Twinkies, especially frozen Twinkies. My wife refuses to buy them for me, my friends and neighbors shun me, and my doctor beats me up. Today, when I bought my two boxes, the grocery store checkout asked me how many kids I had. I smiled to tell her when I noticed that it was the Twinkies that prompted her to ask the question. She assumed I had kids whom I was buying the Twinkies for. When I said they were for me she could barely contain her surprise and confusion. There are a few situations in my life where it would be much easier to explain myself if I had a toddler running around at my knees: going to a G-rated cartoon movie; playing with Lego's, and buying Twinkies. For some reason each of these seem inappropriate or even creepy unless there is a kid around.

Let me attempt to explain Twinkies to you: they are shallow and simple and a welcome vacation from the opposite. Some days I am studying "Advanced Thought Particles" and the History of Ancient Chinese Philosophy and how it compares to the writings of the Jewish thinker Maimonedes in the 13th century. Some days I am dealing with near death hospital experiences, surgeries, and communication issues that could destroy marriages and relationships with grown children and their parents. Sometimes I am making decisions that cost jobs, change work flow, start or kill new businesses, and investing tens of thousands of dollars in one direction or another. And sometimes I just eat a Twinkie.

To me, Twinkies are like a mini Harley-Davidson motorcycle; they are rebellious. Every time I get the sugar rush from the "cream-filled sponge cake" I am making a statement of defiance, of standing against "The Man!" Twinkies are a dirty, delicious secret that won't destroy my marriage, won't kill me financially, and I can't find a "Thou shalt not partake of cream-filled sponge cake" in the Bible anywhere.

So as I pull the clear wrapper off my Twinkie let me give you some Twinkisms (A Twinkism is a shallow and simple contemplation of life while chewing an authentic Hostess Twinkie).

- Shouldn't Allstate change its name if its disclaimer states "not available in all States"?
- If pro is the opposite of con, then shouldn't the opposite of progress be congress?
- If a kid refuses to take a nap can he be charged with resisting a rest?
- How did Tonto feel when his partner was called the Lone Ranger?
- If ghosts can walk through walls why don't they fall through floors?
- How fast do hotcakes sell, really?
- Do Chinese people have tattoos in English?
- Is there an interstate highway in Hawaii?

Boy that was good, sugar rush coming, and time to get back to real life. Enjoy it.

What do you Remember?

I remember a new Kodak camera for Christmas. Not me, my parents, got the new instant Kodak. It had those huge cartridges that you would put in them and most of all it had a onetime use bulb flash. I used to love looking at the used bulbs that has some crazy white substance around them like some barnacle clinging to the blackened glass. But I most remember being BLINDED by the bulb to the point where the second picture was of all of us cringing with the anticipated solar flare that was about to erupt in our corneas. "Don't blink" mom would say. Right.

But memories are kind of like that flash bulb in our minds. Depending on your age you remember when the flash bulb seared these things into your memory. You remember where you were and what you were doing when Kennedy was killed, when Reagan was shot, when the Challenger blew up and 9/11. Those events are like extreme flash bulbs searing them into your permanent memory.

On a lesser scare, a lesser wattage maybe, we also remember things that surprise us. We remember things that flash past the normal, mundane, and ordinary of life and surprise us with delight, disgust, or simple poetic humor. We remember the funny TV commercials, the daring billboards, and the extreme crimes. The thing about them that makes them funny, daring, or extreme is the light bulb that imprints it in our minds.

Other events are connected with songs to the point where EVERY TIME you hear that song you remember where you were and what you were doing when that flash bulb was lit. Songs will give pleasant memories (a love song playing during your first kiss or dance) or they will give unpleasant memories (organ music brings up stuff uncomfortable church services). I have a song that, every time I hear it, causes a nausea in me that I cannot explain or remember.

You remember those flash points embedded in the silver-nitrate of your brain. If you want to make something memorable? Surprise me, delight me, or even disgust me and I, you, we will remember it. It works in advertising, in speeches and sermons, in writing, and most of all in your daily lives. As we approach the holidays and family times I hope you pull out your Kodak and blind all your relatives with a surprise and delight that will never fade.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Butt Dust

"Dear Lord," the minister began with his arms extended towards heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face. "Without your Spirit we are but dust ..." He would have continued but at that time a young girl leaned over to her mom and in a shrill 4-year-old voice asked, "Mom, what is BUTT DUST?"

I remember NOTHING of what my pastor said growing up and going to church each week. But I do remember the cadence of his voice and was always amazed that I could tell right when he was going to say "amen" at the end of his sermon because that is when I would have to wake up from my seated nap. If I didn't time it right I would get a poke from my mother, snickers from my brothers, or a leg pinch from my father.

As kids we don't understand all that is going on at church. We don't understand why we have to go to this boring and senseless exercise. We moan about the hard seats, the uncomfortable clothes, the lack of entertainment, and the scary people there. So many of my generation decided that they should give their kids an option of going to church or not. After all, they don't understand it and when they are older THEN they can make the choice to go to church or not. Some churches decided to make church more entertaining for the kids, more lively music and even comedy full of videos of movies and dramatic plays and puppetry. Now I don't believe there is anything wrong with worship and church at the level that kids can understand it. I don't believe church should be boring. Yet ... yet:

- There is something to be said about church NOT appealing to everyone at every time because that tends to water down the message.
- There is something to be said about children learning the discipline of sitting quietly and respectfully even when they don't understand what is going on.
- There is something to be said about realizing that church is not here to entertain you or even to make you feel good.
- There is something to be said about a certain kind of osmosis that takes place in the life of children who sit in a church service or two every Sunday of their lives.

That osmosis happened to me whether I knew it or not. I don't remember a word of any sermon but I do remember the spirit of the people, the desire of the people, and the discipline and joy people found in church. I remember that and I miss that when I am not a part of a fellowship of believers.

The pews have a purpose greater than butt dust.

Monday, November 09, 2009

THE Truth vs. A Truth. Part VI

I never intended to do a sixth part to this series on THE truth vs A truth but because of the crazy amazing responses I have been getting to the first five parts I have HAD to follow up.

I have been getting beat up by both sides of the issue. I have been getting emails from one side saying that there is no such thing as THE truth and my search for it is impossible because it is a moving target that can never be pinned down. This side tells me that A truth is also relative to the times. What is true now will not be true tomorrow so even truisms are fleeting. From the other side I have been getting emails telling me that I am making THE truth relative and that I am demoting and denigrating truth to a series of truisms at the expense of ultimate truth.

The truth is (pun intended) I am doing neither. It is my habit of teaching to let you struggle with issues all the while defining the terms so that the answers become clear to you. I am convinced that many of our problems and prejudices would be solved if we simple defined our words better. Once we know the definitions of the words we are fighting over we can then move onto a good debate. So here are my terms:

THE truth: is the complete picture, known only to God himself. You can legitimately say that God IS truth since only he knows it. For those who don't believe in God this is proof that there must be a God unless you live in an endless see of relativistic mush.

A truth: is a small part of the grand picture of THE truth. It is a truism or something that will reliably happen every time the same conditions occur.

Relative: is what things are when you can never rely on the outcome even when conditions are the same. If everything was relative then there would be no truth at all: no ULTIMATE truth nor truisms.

So let me quit beating around the bush. THE truth is only known or found in God himself. If you don't believe in God then you CANNOT believe in an Ultimate truth; it would be making a contradictory oxymoronic statement. There are many truisms out there all of which add up to a fuzzy picture of who or what God is; for after all "we see through a glass darkly." Truth is NOT relative it is just unknown, or not known well. THE truth being found in God is not true simply because Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life" that was not the context of Jesus' statement nor does the Greek support a definite article in front of the noun (it is NOT "I am THE way, THE truth, and THE light). I KNOW that God is but I am FAR from knowing WHO God is.

And that's A truth.

Monday, November 02, 2009

THE Truth vs. A Truth. Part V

Here's THE thing ...

An American 30 something had it all. He was surrounded by friends of similar wealth who went with him to the gym and then to their favorite health food hang out to talk over the latest trends in politics and share clips on their iPhones of John Stewart and Stewie. Rarely will religion come up but when it does it is relegated to prejudicial comments about intolerance for gay marriage or the hypocrisy of their parent's divorce. This particular 30 something had been getting some strange vibes about something deeper and spiritual. It started when he attended the funeral of his grandparents. They had been married for 69 years: he couldn't even imagine that! They had died within days of each other: something spooky about that! The funeral and reception afterward had been a celebration: THAT was the last thing he expected. It was NOT a celebration of their long life but a celebration of where they are now AFTER they died: THAT seemed crazy to him!

Now, when he and his friends talked about their sexual exploits and business acumen, it seemed somehow shallow. His internet company had gone viral in the market and now people paid to read his blogs and thousands followed his tweets. He had all he ever wanted in life: money, looks, girls, friends, and acclaim. So why did it feel like he was just swimming in the shallow end? Why did it feel like all he had was paper thin?

While checking his blog hits one day he came across a youtube clip of a preacher. He didn't remember what he said so much as he remembered that it seemed he looked right at him while he said it. He showed it to one of his friends as they sat down with their fruit smoothies and he watched it. The friend said, "Yea, that's just the same love and sacrifice BS you hear from those guys all the time. I bet he's got GoogleAds attached to make money off it doesn't he?" The American 30 something said "His site says he's going to be in town next week. I think I'm going to go see him." While his friends gather around the brightly colored round table with his the poked fun but 4 or 5 agreed to go with him: "It might be an experience. If nothing else we'll get a good video clip out of it for our facebook page."

The day came and the American 30 something, with his entourage of friends, saw the preacher. They laughed and joked while buried in the crowd of tear-filled followers but the American 30 something made his way to the front. After, while the singing was still going on, he walked to the security for the venue and found he knew one of the guys. He let him and his entourage through to see the preacher and they made it back stage.

The American 30 something came to the preacher and waited for him to look his way. When he did the American 30 something asked, "What good things should I do?" The preacher looked at him with his piercing eyes and asked in return, "Why do you ask me about what is good? If you want to REALLY live then do the RIGHT thing." "But what IS the right thing?" The preacher smiled "You know what the right thing is: LOVE people, don't kill them, abuse them, lie to them, or take advantage of them." The American 30 something said, "But I have done this and I still feel there is something more that I must do, some deeper truth?"

Now the preacher realized this wasn't the average American 30 something so he dropped everything, took the American 30 something by the shoulders and looked right into his eyes. "There is one thing that you lack: give up your current lifestyle and be my protégé. Follow me, do what I do, live like I live, and preach what I preach."

What did he do? What would you do? The story behind the allegory in scripture tells us the Judean 30 something walked away sad, because of his great wealth. What does this have to do with the truth? I find in all my cogitation on truth that it is THERE RIGHT IN FRONT OF US! Yet, like high-chair clad children we cover our own eyes and say "I can't see you, I can't see you!" We are afraid of the truth and attempt to mystify, denigrate, marginalize, and ignore it until truth has no meaning. With no meaning truth has no hold on our wealthy, selfish lives.

Here's the thing. Find A truth and hang onto it. Use it to find another truth and use those two to find the third and fourth. Before long you will get a clearer and clearer picture of THE truth. Don't be afraid of what others say or do. Here is A truth to start out with: God is. See where that takes you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

THE Truth vs. A Truth. Part IV

You cannot know THE truth, it is as simple as that. You can narrow it down, make it clearer, or bring it into focus through myriad of truth’s out there. A truth is often called a truism and while that may be the poor stepchild of hindsight it also can narrow down THE truth for those who follow.

I am going to go out on a limb here and try to narrow down THE truth for you through the dark glass of my experience, experimentation, immersion, digging and my own personal BS detector. I say it is going out on a limb because I am insinuating that I know something as truth in a world where stating something solid and nonflexible is the equivalent of intolerance and arrogance. Yet here I venture ...

Truth #1: God is. There is simple NO BETTER explanation for SOMETHING being here. For SOMETHING to be here there has to be something OUTSIDE, or totally OTHER that got that something going. Try as we might to outthink, outwit and outlast God we are simply left with A truth: God is.

Truth #2: I am NOT God. There is nothing inside me that needs to be realized or customized or positivized into godlike status. I know I am not God in the same way I know I am not a tree.

Truth #3: Evil is natural. The question is not why is there evil or bad things in the world; the question is: how could you ever expect ANY GOOD in the world? The tendency toward evil and bad things is natural for us and left alone WILL fall into the world of the Lord of the Flies. In a strange way, Evil proves God because it is our nature to expect good things to happen even when Evil seems to be prevalent. That expectation of good, is a God thing.

Truth #4: There is something about we humans. For over a century now we have been trying to erase away the “specialness” of human beings and we simply cannot do it. Our bright eyes continue to shine through the muck thrown on our faces. Science may tell us that we share 99% of our genetic makeup with chimps but we all KNOW deep down that we are more than our genes and we are WAY different than the cute, poop-slinging monkeys.

Truth #5: Work is for YOU. Work is an amazing thing. Work makes you feel worthwhile. Work gives you self esteem. Work can take you out of depression. Working at relationships can get you the love you seek. Working at friendships can give you lifelong friends. Working with your kids can give you a warm-hearted pride. Working can show your gratitude for a gift. But work cannot gain you eternity. Salvation is cheapened when there are a set of works that need to be done to attain it. If you simply do A, B, C and D then you will spend eternity in heaven cannot be the answer. Works are a powerful thing but not THE thing.

Here's THE thing ... (next week)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

THE Truth vs. A Truth. Part III

So THE truth is only known by God and all we can do on that truth path is to say, “As far as I know that is THE truth.” But many truths are available to us and these truths like a pixilated picture give us a clearer picture of THE truth as we assemble them. NO ONE can know THE truth about God but we are given truths about him: God is light, God is love, God is like a hen gathering her chicks, God is justice, God is holy, God is powerful, God is provider, etc. All of these are A truth about God but they are not THE truth about God: they simply give us a clearer picture of who or what God is.

So how can we bring the individual truths together to give ourselves a better picture of THE truth?

A truth can be found in experimentation. If you do it once and it works, then do it again and it still works, then have others do it and it STILL works the same: chances are it is a truth. If I hit my head with a hammer and it hurts, and I do it again and it hurts, and if you do it and it hurts THEN A truth is: hit yourself with a hammer and it will hurt. So experiment, don’t just take people’s word for it, try it for yourself to discover that truth.

A truth can be found in experiences. While experiences can be extremely subjective they are a way of bringing truth into focus. I will always remember what love is by going back to an airport scene when I was in the business world and my kids were young. I came home from a trip to have my 2-3 year old daughter leap from her mother’s arms into mine and hold me in near-painful “I love you” grip and refusing to let go until I had to put her into the car seat. That experience gave me A truth about love that I will never forget. I know that a part of THE truth of love is to hold tight and don’t let go.

A truth can be found in total immersion. It used to be that when you hired a new bank teller you would have them handle money for days. Simply take a stack of bills and count them out over and over again. Getting the feel for real money gives you a “feel” for false ones. When you come across a fake bill you “feel” it because you know the real ones so well. It feels different, it feels wrong, it feels false and not true. Total immersion is the best way to learn a new language, not from the books and a formal teacher but from the REAL language spoken and used. Immerse yourself in truth and you will find non-truth to be easy to spot and “feel”.

A truth can be found it digging. You don’t find diamonds unless you remove a lot of dirt. This world is filled with useless information and you must dig through it to find the nuggets of truth that are available. But you will never find anything unless you are digging. Too often we expect truth to fall in our laps without working for them and that is when cheap truisms and shallow insights take us captive. Dig for truth, work for it and you will find a horde of it waiting for you.

A truth can be found in your internal truth detector. All of us have an internal BS meter, some of them work better than others but we all have it. Unfortunately we abuse it and ignore it to the point where most of us find it useless in most situations. I know we were built with this detector within us: call it God’s image or a survival of the fittest mechanism; I don’t care much but we all have it. Someone tells you something as THE truth you BS meter should be ringing alarms in your mind since no one has THE truth. It may be truth in a particular situation with all the conditions right but never can it be THE truth.

Here are some things through my life’s experimentations, experiences, immersions and digging that I have come to realize as parts of the picture of THE truth ... (next time)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

THE Truth vs. A Truth. Part II

Remember that THE truth is not within our reach. I can give the greatest speech or sermon within my ability and I will have one tell me it was a waste of time and another say it was just okay. Which is THE truth?

Buddhists will tell you THE truth lies within you and you must simply discover it. THE truth is variable and based on the individual.

Hitler and his ilk would tell you that THE truth lies within those with the power. Might makes truth and the winners write the history books.

Christians will tell you that THE truth lies within a person: Jesus. You can find out about THE truth in the Bible.

And THERE is the problem. We Christians confuse THE truth of Jesus with THE truth of the Bible. We say that everything in the Bible is THE truth but is that correct?

Let me give you an example. Genesis 1 tells us of creation in six days in a particular order of events with rest following on the seventh day. Is that THE truth? Does it matter that Genesis 2 has a different version of creation or that Psalms, Proverbs, and Job has a completely different version and order of creation? Does the fact that Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China have similar versions of creation support Genesis 1 as THE truth or detract from it? Does the fact that NO ONE WAS THERE to see make a difference? (Moses was not there with a pen and paper waiting to write down God’s next move)

So is Genesis 1’s version of creation not truth? Creation is A truth but not THE truth. The creation story in Genesis 1 shows God’s salvation from Chaos which is A truth about our God and how he saves us and this world. Genesis 2 shows human kind as the pinnacle of creation which is A truth about how we are made in his image. The Psalms version of creation shows A truth poetically how just like God subdued the chaos in creation he does the same with our lives. The Proverbs version of creation gives us A truth about the supremacy of wisdom in our lives. Finally the Job version of creation gives us A truth about how small we are in compared to the creator God. Each version gives us A truth but none of them give us THE truth.

As much as we want to go around claiming we have THE truth about this or that we are simply lying to ourselves. A truth is a pixel of the complete picture called THE truth, to claim that a pixel or two is the complete picture is insanity. Here’s how you can bring the picture of THE truth into focus ... (next time).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

THE Truth vs. A Truth. Part I

It is time to get something out of my system that has been festering a while. There are certain things that constantly run through my mind that seem to come up repeatedly like a cow’s cud for me to chew on a while and then save to chew on again later. Morsels of insight or confusion that starts blurry and as I cogitate on it more and more I can begin to define the edges and sometimes even some of the creamy filling.

Forgive me if I delve too deeply into gorge of my mind but I have been chewing on the concept of truth lately. It seems to me that people confuse the difference between THE truth and A truth. Let me try to explain what I mean. When I look back on my childhood I see a preponderance of happiness. Reason would tell me that every second of my childhood was NOT happy but even when I remember my dad pulling out his belt or my mom picking up a paddle to whack my undisciplined bottom it seems NOW that it was a pleasant memory. So when I talk of my happy childhood my brother or sister might say, “What are you crazy? Don’t you remember this or that! You are lying through your teeth!” Their experience MIGHT be totally different from mine and, in fact, could be totally opposite of mine. So which is the truth?

Am I lying when I say I had a happy childhood when evidence from my siblings supports the opposite? Are my siblings lying if they claim an abusive childhood? Where is the truth?

THE truth is somewhere in between the angelic happiness and abusive happenings. THE truth is an objective fact that only God can see in an untainted view. THE truth is not within our reach because everything we experience is tainted by our beliefs, worldview, and environment. We cannot reasonably say “THAT’S the truth” because we don’t really know if it is or not. We can say, “To the best of my knowledge, THAT’S the truth.” But that is the farthest we can go down the truth path.

But does that mean that truth is unavailable to us? What is the point of having truth if no one can reach it? In a world filled with falsehood and lies how do we have law and moral behavior?

While THE truth may be unavailable to us it doesn’t me that there is no truth out there that we can draw on. There is a truth out there that we can used to guide our life. I had a happy childhood where I had two parents who loved me, cared for me, disciplined me, and set me up to be a successful person to the BEST of their ability. THE truth may not be what I remember of my childhood but, really, does that matter? A truth that I draw from my childhood was one of happiness BECAUSE OF the love, care, and discipline I had growing up. A truth IS: Love, care, and discipline leads to a happy childhood. My particular childhood may not have THE truth of happiness but it certainly had A truth called happiness. This leads me to ... (next time).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


“Shame on you!” I would hear too often when growing up and I would be embarrassed or was I ashamed? Embarrassment and shame are two distinct things yet we tend to use them interchangeably. I like words and I like to find roots of words and their meanings and why we use them.

Shame literally means “to cover up” and its origin is biblical. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and discovered “knowledge” of good and evil; they sought to “cover up” themselves in the face of Almighty God. That covering came to be called shame.

Embarrass means to “perplex, or throw into doubt” and it was originally used for the wealthy in France who had so much money they didn’t know what to do with it: “embarrass de richesse.” It is the internal sense of awkwardness or expose’ from something you did or was done to you.

I think the difference between the two can be determined by another word: guilt. I believe embarrassment + guilt = shame.

I have done a LOT of stupid things in my life that embarrassed me. I have been in situations of EXTREME embarrassment through no fault of my own. I remember ripping my pants while bending over, tripping and falling in front of a classroom of merciless teenagers, getting easy problems wrong, asking for dates and being laughed at, or simply making the wrong decision. Each of these, where done to me or done by me, may be embarrassing but not shameful. Not shameful because there was no evil intent behind it, hence no guilt.

I have done some shameful things in my life as well. I have intentionally hurt people, I have said things for the sole purpose of causing pain, I have lied, cheated and stolen. All of these things I am ashamed of. I am more than embarrassed that I, a thinking, logical, moral person have been guilty of hurting others for no reason other than for hurting them; I am guilty; I am ashamed.

In our society today we try to take the guilt out of shame and call it embarrassment when it is something we should be ashamed of. Having a baby and not being married is not embarrassing it is shameful. “Forgetting” to pay your taxes or your house payment is not embarrassing it is shameful. Gossiping and verbally abusing others is not embarrassing when you get caught it is shameful.

Don’t get me wrong, we are all guilty of shameful acts, we all fall short of what we should be but NEVER try to eliminate the shame by calling it what it isn’t. When you are ashamed don’t simply say “THAT was embarrassing” you must LEARN and not do it again. If you don’t learn, if you don’t grow and get better; well, shame on you!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Riding a Dead Horse

Maybe it is a Vegas thing or maybe it is my love of a challenging mental game but I have found myself playing Texas Hold-em lately. I have never played for real money at a casino or on-line and I understand that having REAL money involved changes the dynamics. I usually play online with pretend money that simply measures your progress or I play with friends around a dining table with hundreds of cents involved. But I believe many of the principles are the same. I enjoy playing with a group of friends because you can find a lot about a person by playing games with them, you get a glimpse of what they are like underneath the conversational front we all put on. When I play Texas Hold-em online I don’t learn too much about my competitors from Germany, Japan and Canada (although you would be surprised how much you can learn) I learn more about myself.

One of the things I constantly battle is hope. I know the chances are astronomical that a particular card will come up on the river (the last card dealt) yet I hold out and hope against all hope. What I should have done was recognize the odds at the flop (first cards dealt) or even BEFORE the first cards; that I had a loser hand and give up hoping for that possible flush and fold right away.

There is a Native American Dakota tribal parable that says “When riding a dead horse, dismount.” No matter how you nuance it, it’s dead, get off it! The miraculous Royal Flush may happen against all odds but you cannot live your life hoping for the miraculous, when you are on a dead horse, dismount!

It doesn’t help to buy a stronger whip.
It doesn’t help to appoint a committee to study the dead horse.
It doesn’t help to research what others do when they are riding a dead horse.
It doesn’t help to reclassify the horse as “living impaired”.
It doesn’t help to spend more money or funding or grant research.
It doesn’t help to rewrite the performance standards for all horses.
It doesn’t help to promote the dead horse to management.
Just dismount!

In Texas Hold-em I find myself bored folding most of the hands I am dealt and so I will dive in on one hand just to get some action and lose a lot. OR I find myself distracted and excited by my three Aces and miss the four hearts showing on the table. I think we do that in life too. We jump into crazy schemes because we are simply bored with all the loser hands we have had so far and HOPE that it just works out. OR we get distracted with what looks like a “sure winner” and bet the farm on it.

In games as well as life: recognize the dead horse and dismount!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sometimes you win and sometimes you ...

I am always amazed at the vicissitudes of vacuous individuals. As I near fifty I find I look back my use of funds and feel I failed more than a fair amount of time. Most of the time it is because I trusted the wrong people; or trusted the right people for too long or too short.

I have started MANY businesses in my lifetime with more than a 90% failure rate. I am great at the entrepreneurial START. But once it gets going I tend to become disinterested and bored. Then either, I turn the reins over to another or the business self-destructs due to inattention. But now I know my MO and I look for businesses that can thrive on my periodic attention or on me starting them and turning them over to qualified GOOD people.

I find failure to be an interesting thing. A wizened fisherman sat in his boat fixing his nets at the end of a long dock while a city-slicker in the resort town on a cruise walked out on the dock to get a feel for the local lifestyle. At the end of the dock the city man looked at the support poles going down into the black/blue deep asked the local, “How many people who fall in drown?” The fisherman looked down at the water and then up at the city man and said, “None.” The city man was about to protest but before he could the fisherman finished, “No one who falls in drowns, it is those who don’t get out again that drown.”

It is not: sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It IS: sometimes you win and sometimes you LEARN. I have failed a LOT in my life. In starting new businesses or making bad decisions in current businesses. In starting new churches with new programs or new ministries that never reach people. In investments of time and money in hare-brained schemes. In things I’ve said and done to my loved ones that sounded great in my head but blew up in the real world. The truth is: I’m a loser.

Call me a loser as much as you want and you will probably be right but I pray you never call me unteachable. THAT would be the worst thing to me. I KNOW I lose and fail a lot but I hope and pray I learn from each one of those losses and failures. I pray that I have the grace and courage to get back out of the water and try again after I fall in. People who never fail, never try.

Step out, take a chance, open up: TRY something! Because sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. BOTH are not bad outcomes.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Weed Whacking in Flip Flops

There was probably a warning label somewhere but I never read warning labels. Warning labels are for those idiots who don’t understand that an engine is hot or that you can’t drink Drano. So it caught up with me this week; after 11 years of weed whacking in flip flops I got whacked! It messed up my toes pretty good, but it just took off the skin and left the bones in place so that’s good.

Speaking of that I figured I could only laugh at myself for such a foolish thing. Not the wearing flip-flops foolish thing but the forgetting I am wearing flip-flops foolish thing. So I came up a few positive things about it:

- At least I won’t have to cut my toenails for a while!
- Well it certainly made me forget the other pain I had in that foot!
- Hmmm. Red toenail polish doesn’t look that bad on me!
- I wonder if I could get my other foot to match?
- Four toes on one foot is still better than one!
- My wife always told me my toes were way too long!
- Good thing I did it out on the grass because getting blood out of the concrete is tough!
- Now my shoes fit better!
- I wanted to buy a new set of flip-flops so this shredded, bloody one is a good excuse for getting new ones!
- Being light-headed is kinda cool!

There, now don’tcha just feel a LOT better!

We all do dumb things. We all do dumb things in front of people. The best you can do is laugh at it. They will laugh with you and then it’s done. Running and fighting ONLY prolongs the pain of your embarrassment. So laugh with me if you will, the pain fades faster than the embarrassment, and the prideful heart needs to be knocked down a few levels. Oh, and uh, don’t weed-whack in flip-flops.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

God’s Withdrawal

I have studied scripture for most of my life. When I was young because I HAD to and as I got older because I WANTED to. But there was always something about the beginning in the book of Beginnings (Genesis) that has bothered me and I have looked at and explored many possible options that people have put forward.

Just look at the first two verses of the Torah’s Bereshit or the Bible’s Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

So familiar yet so mysterious. Now I don’t want to get into an argument about how old the earth is based on this passage or whether God created in 7 literal days or over a billion years; that is an argument saved for another time. What I want to know is what happened between the first and the second verse. What happened between God’s creation and the “NOW” where the earth was formless and empty with darkness and chaos? Here are the explanations that I have heard (even used a time or two): 1] Verse one is a “summary” or “explanatory” verse of what begins in verse two. 2] There was a “pre-earth age” where Satan fell from heaven to earth and messed things up so bad they were now formless and empty and God had to create AGAIN. 3] Its just poetry where it isn’t meant to literally be what REALLY happened, it is a myth to teach us about salvation from our worst fear: Chaos!

In my current studies on Judaism I have come in contact with a 12th century Jewish philosopher/theologian who has come up with the best explanation I have heard yet. Moses Maimonides, in his book “A Guide for the Perplexed” (what a great title, right?) wrote that in order for there to be something NOT GOD, because God was and is everything in pre-creation eternity, God had to WITHDRAW to make room for NOT GOD. Or the God of LIGHT had to pull back a part of His infinite light and what was left was darkness and chaos. Or the God of Fullness and Form retracted himself and left a space of formlessness and emptiness. Into that void came what was NOT GOD: darkness, evil, disobedience, and chaos until God interacted with it to give it structure and fill it with all kinds of creatures. An interesting and compelling argument, yes?

Moses continues to write that it is OUR job, or God uses US to bring order, form, light, and NON-chaos into the framework of the world he created. In this chaotic world, I can’t think of a better thing for Jews and Christians to do together.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Offensive Words

The most famous nemesis of all time was Professor Moriarty. Star Trek had a Nemesis and so does over 62,000 books at But do we really know what a nemesis is? I like words. More accurately is like to find the etymology of words: where did they come from? We most commonly use nemesis to mean “archenemy” or something like that but is that what it really means?

Nemesis is a Greek god. The god of divine retribution for the hubris of humanity, she is the implacable executrix of justice. In other words she will whoop on you if you think of yourself more highly than you aught. She is justice without mercy.

So, literally, when you claim to have a nemesis you are saying that you are being justly punished by someone. Not quite what you intended, I’m sure. Unfortunately we don’t think we EVER need divine retribution because we are just not bad enough to deserve it so whenever we feel the sword of Nemesis we consider that person our enemy, even ARCHenemy. I felt the sword of Nemesis in the form of my father’s belt growing up when I was unruly and disobedient. I also felt the sword of Nemesis in my mother’s tears over other childhood wrongs. They were not my enemies; they were loving parents who understood the sword of Nemesis was necessary to raise well-adjusted kids.

Another word that we continue to misuse or adapt to our meaning is the word “holocaust”. I have been studying Jewish Theology and have found that holocaust is an offensive word to most Jews. First, because it is a Greek word, not Hebrew, which means “whole” (holos) “burnt” (kaustos) or completely burnt. It was a Greek word used for sacrificing to pagan gods. It was first used in reference to Jews in 1190 when the fervor of the Crusades caused the mobs to turn against the Jews and massacre tens of thousands of them. Second, because it insinuates a “divine retribution” or a NEEDED sacrifice because of the sins of the people involved. You can see why an informed Jew would rather you call it the Shoah (Hebrew for calamity) rather than the Holocaust. Yet we believe it just means terrible tragedy.

I continue to learn how offensive I am by the words I choose to use. I appreciate more and more the patience and goodwill of those I offend. If we would all just keep learning, keep forgiving, and keep up the patience then we would have no Nemesis and prevent any Holocaust.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Find your Grail

On the internet news was the results from Rome of the World Swimming Championships. It was hyped up because it is the return of Michael Phelps after his suspension and it was hyped because of all the records that are being set because of the new kind of suits the swimmers were wearing. Chances are the records will stay for a long time because as of January 1, 2010 they will no longer be allowed to wear them. Because of the new swimwear “technology” the governing body for Olympic swimwear (whoever they are) decided to set standards in fabrics for swimwear and set standards in how much of the body they must cover. No more will you find swimmers completely covered in the body hugging high-tech Saran-wrap but they will be in Bermuda shorts and Bikini’s. (Okay not really)

Phelps’ nemesis in the 100 Fly is Milorad Cavic from the Czech Republic. They are separated by hundredths of a second in the 50 second race. Cavic told the media that the only way Phelps could beat him was with these new high-tech suits and once the rules were in place Phelps wouldn’t win gold medals anymore. This was the thing Phelps needed to hear for getting fired up in the 100 Fly and so he showed up in the “traditional” dinky speedo which shocked everyone at the pool. In the short races, the ones decided by fractions of a second, it was the suit that made the difference. Cavic was wearing his and so were the other 8 swimmers on the blocks; all but Phelps. You probably already know the outcome; Phelps not only won, he won convincingly AND in a world record.

Motivation made more motion than any technology could have. So often we complain that others have all the advantages: better parents, better schools, better technology, or better location. But the truth is: the REAL deciding factor is NOT parents, schools, tech, or location it is your MOTIVATION. How else to you explain how a “disadvantaged” kid from the inner-city rises to become a judge or owner of a major American corporation? All the disadvantages this world can throw at you can be overcome with the RIGHT motivation.

What is YOUR motivation? What gets you out of bed in the morning even though you don’t have to? What keeps you working longer hours than necessary? What makes you write on napkins with a borrowed pen while in a restaurant? What is your Grail?

In the Broadway musical “Spamalot” the motivation is the Holy Grail but the Holy Grail is defined as that which motivates you.

Life is really up to you, you must choose what to pursue
Set your mind on what to find and there’s nothing you can’t do
So keep right on to the end, you’ll find your goal my friend
You won’t fail – FIND YOUR GRAIL!

(Find your Grail from Spamalot)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

God’s Plan for your Life

It was 125 in the sun and 109 in the shade. Not the hottest day in Vegas but it was up there on anybody’s scale. Out in the sun we worked making sure to drink plenty of water and put on plenty of sun-screen. It was not easy work either and the sweat poured off our bodies almost as fast as we could down the Gatorade to counteract it. Some worked inside painting where it was never quite air conditioned. Others worked cleaning rooms where the homeless slept for a night sharing a bunk with all of their worldly possessions. Still others sat down and played games with homeless kids who lived in a dorm setting with their moms for the night and roamed the city in the heat looking for a job during the day.

It all was hard work, inconvenient traveling through traffic to get there, and a crazy drive to get home to take a shower afterwards. We had done our duty. We had fulfilled a mission. We had served others and gave them what they wanted. We had a new check mark on the omniscient’s score sheet. Now we could move on with our own lives concentrating on just our needs and wants.

But we were lying to ourselves. Serving is NOT for those who are being served; serving is for those who serve. It is a self-delusion to think that service is for the one served. NO ONE who serves others will NOT BE CHANGED in some small (or large) way. That is a double negative, so let me say it in a positive way. EVERYONE who serves others WILL BE CHANGED! You cannot avoid it, you cannot forget it.

Some will be changed in a small way where they, just for a time, get out of their selfish lives and feel what it is like to have a taste of God’s plan for their lives. Once back in their world they will fall back into the selfish ways they are used to but there will be a memory of God’s plan in the back room of their mind to be pulled off the shelf later. Some will understand what they did was not just for the people but it made them feel great afterwards and they will wonder why. They will seek that feeling again, again, and again and they will find their lives changed.

A few of us will truly understand. A few of us will realize that God’s plan for our lives is not a profession (you can serve no matter what your job); God’s plan is not a skill to acquire (you can serve if you are amazingly talented or if you have trouble tying your shoes); and God’s plan is not a destination you can arrive at. God’s plan for your life is a process and that process is activated/implemented by service.

You want to know God’s plan for your life? Start serving, keep serving, and then serve some more. You will not only find God’s plan for your life you will be smack-dab in the middle of it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Life finds a Way

Dr. Malcolm in Jurassic Park warned of dinosaurs multiplying even though they were all “created” as male. He simply said “life finds a way.”

When the kids were young we lived in a town where it just wasn’t the right thing to do to have farm animals so we settled for fish and Gerbils. We had a wall full of fish, nine tanks, and in one tank we attempted to breed minnows or gold fish to feed a huge clown-fish we had in another tank. All of our attempts at causing an increase in the population of minnows didn’t work and we had to frequent the Pet Store to get our food supply. After a while the electrical cost of nine tanks, filters, heaters, lights, and bubblers got a little too much for me AND my budget. Life didn’t find a way with fish. But then again, that clown-fish never went hungry.

Our next attempt was with Gerbils. My kids and I looked at all the cool tunnels, rooms and exercise equipment in the Gerbil habitats and the engineer in us got the better of us. Fortunately the budget limited our Gerbil city to a few cages and tunnels to start out with but we were ready for the residents. We bought two Gerbils to populate our city and the Pet Shop attendant assured me that they were both male, after looking at their furry undersides. We cheerfully brought them home and watched them run from space to space, chewing up toilet paper rolls and building nests to sleep. One day, a few weeks later, one the kids said, “Um, dad, there’s baby Gerbil’s in the cage. How can they do that if both are males?” I successfully fended off the “birds and bees” question in favor of seeing how cool the 6 little Gerbils would be. We went to the Pet Store and bought a few more tunnels and rooms for our habitat and watched them grow. It wasn’t long, seemingly days, and we had a population problem in our habitat. Life was definitely finding a way! Before I could implement some population control measures the flurry of activity in the habitat produced a loose tunnel and they took over our basement. I had to do something before they took over the house and I did; at least I think I did, I wouldn’t be surprised if the new owners of our house still find them hiding in the old farm house basement. Life finds a way.

We humans deceive ourselves into believing that we are in control. Whether we are breeding dinosaurs or gerbils, we REALLY are not in control. Life finds a way. I pay hundreds of dollars a year for pest control around my house and yet my wife Frankie freaks out when she has to use the restroom at night because she found a small scorpion on the wall of our bedroom one morning.

We kill bugs one way and they develop a resistance so we kill them another way, then a new bug moves in because its enemy was just killed by you. Life finds a way. We are not in control. I am sure the Egyptians had their bug killers just like their snake handlers but it was soon proved they were not in control either. Life finds a way, just like the author of that life.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I’m an Introvert

As I write this I am extremely content. I am closed into a cave of sorts, my office at home. The door is closed so I only need to air condition this one room and the rest of the house is up to 85 or so. I am surrounded by my carefully planned office equipment all within reach and allowing maximum efficiency. No one is home, I am alone. In front of me is a huge marker board where my latest thoughts and ideas are listed and I will stare at them and cogitate on them for a while, adding a word or phrase where needed and then glancing away again and back to my computer screen leaving further development for a later cogitation.

I’m an introvert not an extravert. This doesn’t mean I am shy vs. bold; this simply refers to how I charge my inner batteries. Introverts gain energy from internal contemplation, centering and quiet time. Extraverts gain energy from external people, places, and things. Introverts rarely say what they are thinking; they only say what they have thought. Introverts think to talk. Extraverts talk to think.

When I am facing a problem or issue I go into a quiet place, close the door from the outside world, play “mood music” on my iPod and begin my search for the answer. My wife, the ultimate extravert, will strike up a conversation with whoever she can find and start discussing the issue and with enough talk and brainstorming and idea or answer comes to her. Extraverts get their best ideas from conversations.

One of the worst things to happen to me is sitting next to an extravert on an airplane: being stuck next to someone verbally vomiting for hours at a time is painful for us introverts. I have a good friend who is a crazy extravert and would consider every flight a waste unless he got to know one more person while flying. While most extraverts consider us introverts socially retarded, we introverts think extraverts are socially pushy and noisy.

Surveys show there are more extraverts than introverts in the States. And our society is set up to serve and FOR extraverts (just imagine a car dealership for introverts, you can’t can you?) So can we live together? Of course. When my wife and I went to church early in our marriage she would stay until the last person left and help the janitor turn off the lights and lock the doors to get her extroverted fix. This I learned quickly and began taking a book to church so after I talked with a few friends and went to the car to wait I would have something to do for the extra hour after church waiting for her. When I would go to seminars or conferences my wife would ask “How was it? What did you learn? What did you do? What were you thinking?” My normal response would be “Fine, a few things, not much, and I don’t know.” Frustrating my extroverted spouse. So I took to writing down thoughts and ideas during the conference and then sitting with her to discuss then when I got home; she felt a part of it all and it helped me organize my thinking.

Extraverts: give introverts time and space and don’t bombard them with questions all the time about whatever they were thinking. Introverts: listen more than you think is necessary, maintain eye contact, nod your head, smile, and ask questions to probe deeper or make things clearer. I think part of what love means is keeping each other’s batteries charged.

Monday, July 13, 2009

When did we get Stupid?

I was driving on the Las Vegas Strip this week, heading home and out of the crazy traffic. While waiting at a stop light I noticed the crosswalk-bridge above the street and it struck me how stupid we Americans are getting.

First, the fact that we had to take the crosswalk off the street and put it up on a million dollar bridge because of the stupid things we do. We try to beat the traffic on the crosswalk or simply ignore the two-ton vehicle bearing down on us and walk in the middle of the traffic. OR we try to use our two-ton vehicle as a weapon and run through yellowish lights because we don’t want to have to wait for the pedestrians. In Las Vegas there are over 100 pedestrian/traffic deaths every year. How stupid is that?

Second, the fact that the crosswalk-bridge has to have a plexi-glass guardrail that is over 8 foot tall is also because of stupid things we do. This guardrail allows us to see the Las Vegas Strip but prevents us from jumping off and killing ourselves. OR it prevents us from throwing things at oncoming traffic besides our bodies like cans of beer or those crazy two-foot tall Margaritas.

When did we get stupid in America?

When did judges quit throwing people out of their court when they brought stupid lawsuits?

When did attorneys quit getting fined for taking stupid cases or have the sense to say “That’s stupid, the judge is going to throw it out and fine you AND me for bringing it up.”

When did people stop taking responsibility for their own actions and start blaming others for spilling hot coffee?

When did our labels on products have to include warnings like the heads of matches are now “non-toxic” for those who eat them. My wife’s curling iron came with the warning “for external use only” and “Warning: this product can burn eyes.” On her hair dryer it says “Do not use in shower!” and “Do not use while sleeping!” On the sunshield I have for my car it says “Do not drive with sunshield in place” and on the toner cartridge I just bought for my printer is says “Warning: do not eat toner!” Isn’t it hilarious to listen to the auctioneer voice reciting all the possible problems with the latest pill to ask your doctor for?

When did we get so stupid?

We all know what happened; we all know that one stupid person did one stupid thing and instead of saying “Boy! That was stupid!” they said “Who can I blame so I don’t look so stupid!” and viola! We have stupid lawyers and stupid laws. We all do stupid things all the time. I, in anger, swung a large hammer at a tractor tire not expecting it to bounce back and hit me in the head. Should I have sued the tire maker? Maybe the hammer maker for not putting a “Warning: Hitting rubber with hammer will cause a bounce back into your stupid head.”

Maybe the problem isn’t that we got stupid. The problem is us not taking responsibility for our stupidity. We should all practice saying: “It’s my fault! I was stupid! I was wrong!” AND we should all start saying: “That’s okay! No harm, no foul. Don’t worry about it, we all do stupid things.” Being a forgiver is much better for you than being a sewer. (Sorry, I mean suer).

Monday, July 06, 2009

And I Cry

My wife is embarrassed but I cry. I cry easy and frequently. I often feel like my son when he was small and he would come up to me and just say, “I have to fry”. Even though he had a problem pronouncing the “k” sound I knew what he wanted to do. He would hold it in until he got on his rocking horse in our basement and rock back and forth just frying away until he had it out of his system. Yea, I know how he feels. Sometimes you just need to fry.

I cried at a movie with my wife this week. I cried at a TV show’s sad ending. I cried at Extreme Home Makeover even though I saw it before. And I cried.

The thing that makes me cry the most though is the relationship between my country and the military that fights for it, for me. I attempted to get into the Air Force when I was 18 and just graduated. I don’t remember if I told my parents about it or not. Unfortunately I had had three major knee surgeries by then and he pretty much rejected me outright. “You’ll never pass basic.” I can still hear him saying to me. I have had a love for our military since my dad explained the whole Memorial Day Parade and 4th of July celebration to me in a way it should be explained. He told me that good men died just so that I could sit here, eat hotdogs, and watch a fireworks display.

I am just old enough to remember my mom shielding me from some news reports from Viet Nam that were too graphic for my young mind. I remember a discussion about my oldest brothers and whether they would be drafted or not. Gulf I still is a proud memory filled with flags flying and Whitney Houston bringing the nation to tears with her singing of the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXV. (Catch it on Youtube and see if it doesn’t bring you to tears too). Korean War is usually only remembered in MASH reruns and World War II has been dissected so many times on the History Channel it has become paper thin. Although after the movie “Saving Private Ryan” I wanted to hug the first WWII vet I say.

Even with my little experience I watch troops come home into the waiting arms of family and I cry. I watch flag-draped caskets come home to the tear-stained salutes of fellow soldiers and I cry. At sporting events I still cross my heart and sing the National Anthem facing the flag and if it is well done and not canned music, I still cry. Then I look over at the masses of people, young and old, looking inconvenienced because they have to stand and put their beer or hotdog down for the crazy song. They wait until they hear “land of the free” and start cheering, NOT because they live in the land of the free but because that signifies the song is almost over and they can go back to their beer and hotdogs. And I cry.

Peaches in my Cereal

There was only 5 seconds left in the game and I was driving down the court at top speed. A quick dribble of the ball through my legs left one defender in the dust and only two more to go. A pause and a fake at the foul line left another slack-jawed in amazement. All I had left was the number one player on the opposing team. Somehow I got to full speed again and went straight at him. Only a second left now as we both went up together and I knew my superior jumping ability would make dunking on him a thing of beauty; if only I could beat the buzzer. I went up, he went up, my arm came down and...

“Reveille! Reveille! Reveille!” my dad yelled at the foot of the stairs, banging his hand on the side of stairway. Dragged out of my great dream at the worst possible moment, worst possible second; I rubbed my eyes, pulled my pillow over my head and tried to tune into the dream to see if I could get it back again. One of my brothers rushed to be the first into the small bathroom while the rest of us waited until the sound of the flush to leave their warm blankets. It was cold upstairs in our old farmhouse as my feet hit the uncarpeted floor and took my turn standing in front of the toilet. A long bus ride and even longer school day awaited me as I pulled on my uncooperative clothes and made my way downstairs to cold cereal and annoying siblings.

Around the table were brothers and sisters pouring cereal and milk and the only conversation was dad and the oldest brother talking about which fields to work on and the upcoming nitrogen tank delivery; they had already been up for hours and were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and just plain annoying. I poured my cereal with a grumpy attitude and then crunched it all down with the palm of my hand so I could fit even more in the bowl and so it would soak up the milk better. I splashed the milk on the heaping bowl and almost as much bounced off the cereal onto the table as it found its way between the smashed layers of cereal. I waited with my head in my hands for it to soak in because cereal is a dish best served cold and soggy.

Mom touched my head which caused me to back off my waiting prayer over my bowl and she leaned over and put some fresh picked, fresh cut and diced peaches into my bowl. She lovingly flattened a few wayward hairs on my head as she went on to do the same for my brothers and sisters. I looked down in disbelief as my regular bowl was turned into a child’s gourmet meal and suddenly the day was brighter: my siblings didn’t bother me, my dad and oldest brother’s loud talking didn’t annoy, the bus ride seemed like a limo and school was a challenge worth tackling. All this from a few fresh peaches!

It is the littlest things that can make someone’s day. A kind word, a remembered kiss, a cheap but meaningful gift, an email or letter, a joke, and, yes, peaches in cereal. Make someone’s day today.

Monday, June 29, 2009


A farmer who had a quarrelsome family called his sons and told them to lay a bunch of sticks before him. Then, after laying the sticks parallel to one another and binding them, he challenged his sons, one after another, to pick up the bundle and break it. They all tried, but in vain. Then, untying the bundle, he gave them the sticks to break one by one. This they did with the greatest ease. Then said the father, “Thus, my sons, as long as you remain united, you are a match for anything, but differ and separate, and you are undone.” (Aesop)

Scripture’s tale of the Tower of Babel holds an amazing statement by God, “If as ONE PEOPLE speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Since Ancient Hebrew has no punctuation, bold lettering, underlining or other techniques to emphasize a word or phrase, Hebrew will double up words for emphasis. The word for ONE is doubled and it sticks out: ONE people and ONE language!

People as ONE, unified, and together are VERY powerful and that is why God doesn’t let it happen very often.

It is like so many GREAT things in human nature where we humans were given amazing gifts from God that can be used for good or evil. The gift of sex turns into the evil of abuse. The gift of creation turns into the evil of the Ubermensch, Eugenics and other genetic engineering. The gift of ONE, a people united can be the curse of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union or it can be a United States that built an aircraft every 15 minutes in 1944 while having over 3 million men fighting to defeat evil.

We believe, falsely, that in the United States we have a democracy. We don’t have a democracy, we have a republic. As far back as Plato’s “Republic” and again in Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” and even in the “Federalist Papers” on which the US Constitution was based; democracy was feared and called the “Tyranny of the Majority.” Our Republic or “representative democracy”, guaranteed in Article IV of the Constitution, means that our elected representatives can vote AGAINST the majority of their constituents.

A people as ONE can rescue or defeat. A people as ONE can squash the minority or assure rights of all, whether you agree or disagree. We can do so much good together. We can do so much harm together. Tocqueville both feared and admired this balance of power. He said that the United States will be great as long as its people are good. But what happens when we cease to be good? What happens when the majority of people and their representatives are no longer good? When bad people are united and in a majority we must prepare ourselves for a tower of nonsensical babbling. Oh, wait ...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Somebody’s gotta be WRONG!

The shot went up and a majority of the basketball players coalesced around the hoop to see if it went in or not. It was towards the end of the game and the shot or rebound was VERY important. Under the basket the seven-foot center seemed to crawl over the back of the six-foot guard as they fought for position to get the rebound. The center literally fell over the top of the guard to get it. The whistle blew and the home crowd was cheering for the foul had to be on the center as he crushed the home-town guard. When all was sorted out the referee referred to the guard as being the culprit and his number was displayed on the fingers of the unbiased judge. The crowd went nuts in anger as the scoreboard replay clearly showed the foul on the huge center crawling over the back of the guard. Somebody’s gotta be wrong here. It was either what the crowd saw or the replay seemed to show over and over again OR the referee was wrong in what he saw. One of the advantages of TV versus being at a live game is the TV’s attempt to get every angle of the play. Four different versions of the same play from four cameras showed an obvious foul on the seven-foot center, but the fifth camera told a different story. The fifth camera from underneath the basket by one of those crazy guys who sit on the sidelines risking imminent harm; showed that the smaller guard had locked his arm with the center and pulled him over: an obvious foul by the guard but hidden to 4 out of 5 cameras and 20,000 screaming home team fans. Somebody was right and the ref made the right call.

There is no middle ground, no compromise, no “letting” someone else be right once. Somebody was right and somebody was wrong.

I’ve been doing some Ping Pong playing recently and usually it is just the two of us playing. If the ball hits the net on a serve you must do the serve over, but sometimes one sees it hit the net and the other doesn’t. Who is right and who is wrong. They can’t both be right. If there was a line judge she could have told us which, but normally it is a “do over” and no point for either. That doesn’t change the fact that one was right and one was wrong, it doesn’t matter about the person’s “perspective” or “feelings.” Somebody’s gotta be wrong.

We have lost the right and wrong in life today. In the last 30 years we have come to believe that BOTH are right and no one is wrong. We call it tolerance, perspective, opinion or just feeling but nobody is wrong anymore.

Here’s the thing. If nobody’s wrong then nobody’s right either and we have no need for referees. What it WILL degenerate to is the seven-foot center beating on the six-foot guard because whoever wins that fight will get the call his way. Might will make right and then only the weak will be wrong. What we need is some standard or referee outside the game to make the calls for us so that the weak will not be pounded on by the strong. We need some kind of rule for life and living that will help us determine which is right and wrong like lines on the basketball court. What we need is an unbiased judge that can make the hard calls of who is right and wrong and even offer mercy to those who are wrong sometimes to help them get it right the next time. Because somebody’s gotta be wrong.

But where, oh where can we find such a rule for living? Where can we find such a standard that we can put up in our courts and schools and assembly halls? Where can we find that sense of right and wrong and that unbiased and merciful judge?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Who’s Image?

Our local Las Vegas paper today talked about a laughing chimp’s link to our laughter. Researchers in England tickled the babies of humans, orangutans, gorillas, chimps and bonobos and measured the sound “traits” that were made while tickling. Then mapped the sounds on a genetic tree and found three matches all the way up the tree to an ape ancestor that made those sounds and passed them on to all of its children: human and ape. Experts praised the work. “It gives very strong evidence that ape and human laughter are related through evolution” said Frans de Waal.

Last year the Spanish Parliament passed a resolution granting apes “human rights”. Pedro Pozas, the Spanish director of the Great Apes Project told The Times (a UK magazine) “It will doubtless be remembered as a key moment in the defense of our evolutionary comrades.” Pozas also said, “We are seeking to break the species barrier, this is just the point of the spear!” While keeping apes in zoos will remain legal, the animal rights group claims 70% of the apes in Spanish zoos live in “sub-human” conditions. The article goes on to tell us that in addition to humans there are three OTHER genera of apes: gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans. And that humans and chimps share 99 percent for their active genetic material.

Okay, where do I start?

This is a perfect example of a world without salt and light. When humans take God out of their thinking there is nothing to separate them from an ape. So it would be natural for a pagan thinker to want to grant apes “human rights” since we are nothing more than shaved chimps. It is a simple accident in the evolutionary chain that we got a bigger brain pan and so can sharpen sticks better and don’t need to wear diapers.

Seriously, it is hard to take these people seriously but they seriously are having an impact on our society. The Spanish movement is a back door way to ban the “evil” of bullfighting which the animal rights people have been trying to destroy for decades. Especially since the only apes in Spain are in zoos. In the USA all of our meat choices have been usurped by animal rights activists claiming cruelty in how they are butchered, milked, or made into leather. The price of meat has doubled since butchers now have to be sensitive to the “feelings” of the animals. Christians HAVE TO enter the public debate to be what we are commanded to be: salt and light. This kind of crazy activity can only move forward when Christians sit back and do nothing. When someone says, “Apes are humans too” there is no one with the guts to give them a V8 bonk on the head and say, “What are you? Stupid?”

Animals are precious? YES! They are a beautiful part of God’s creation and God has a purpose and a plan for them AND as part of God’s creation they will be made new and be a part of the new heaven and new earth coming at the end of time. BUT animals are NOT created in God’s image and we have been given the responsibility to care for them and also God gave us every plant and beast for food. That was BEFORE the fall of man (Gen. 1:28-30). But Pagans and Christians alike have distorted our relationship to animals and have demoted humans to equal status with animals and in some times lesser status. It is to the point in Spain and many parts of California that we are made in the animal’s image and not in that of our creator. Look in your mirror, look in your heart, look at the fact that you are even THINKING about this topic; in who’s image were you made?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Ticking Time Bomb

Next time you prepare for a party here’s what you need to do. Buy a pack of mint Mentos candy and drop them into each chamber of an ice tray, fill with water and freeze. At the party make sure you have plenty of WARM Coke around in need of ice. Serve the Coke or Diet Coke with ice and a smile. It should take only about five minutes for the glass of soda to erupt like a fifth grade science project. Sit back and enjoy. The reason I know this is because I just got “punked” with this trick; to the great amusement of all those at the meeting around me. Last time I accept a Diet Coke from THAT friend.

My brothers and I used to play a lot of practical jokes on each other. I can remember a lot of them on me when I was a young kid and as I got older then I would be able to participate in them. One of the fun pranks I played in High School was taking a hot water bottle and filling it with chunky, milky oatmeal and then adding a little red food coloring. We would get a plastic tube from the hardware store that would fit into the top of the hot water bottle and head off to the local Denny’s restaurant. After eating a bit one of us guys would make the correct noises and press on the hot water bottle in his jacket forcing the oatmeal mixture up and through the tube and throw up all over the table. This was done, hopefully, with the waitress and a young family around. After the mess is spread all over the table you had a choice: run out or stay in. In the run out scenario we would simply leave to the great relief of the waitress and people around us. In the run out scenario you must have most of your food gone so you get the fun AND a free meal. In the stay in scenario when the waitress comes and offers to clean up and move you to another table (along with all those sitting close by) you simply say, “No thank you, we’ll take care of it.” And then you proceed to eat the oatmeal. It always helps to say something like: “I LOVE the big chunks!” THEN you laugh pay for the meal since the looks on the people’s faces is priceless.

I also remember a High School prank gone wrong. No one got seriously hurt but five of us were suspended and facing my parents with it was the ticking time bomb. I can still remember the gut wrenching feeling of the principal calling my dad. As usual I feared what my parents would do more than what the school would do as punishment.

What’s the point of practical jokes? Joy for you and embarrassment for others? Taking people down a peg? Initiation? There is nothing wrong with a practical joke. If people cannot laugh at themselves and their foibles and fears then they are simply taking life too seriously. But sometimes the joke gets carried too far and people get hurt either physically or emotionally. In the middle of the joke be prepared to stop at any time. If you really think about it, you will find you know the exact time that joke went bad. All it takes is for someone to stop, explain, and start the laughing at themselves. Stop it before it goes bad. I had to clean the Diet Coke off my clothes and try to dry out, but I was looking for the next person to help with their drink. Can I get you a Coke?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Es Es Percipe

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it: did it make a sound? Better yet, if no one ever saw that tree from its life to death: was it really there? This is the realm of the existential philosopher. “Es es percipe” means “to be is to be perceived.” Perception is reality so when something is not perceived it doesn’t exist. I told my wife I was going to a movie and when I came home I was accosted with questions of where I was because she never “HEARD” me tell her. Since she didn’t hear it, it wasn’t real.

We now base our existence, our reality, and our laws on what we can perceive. We make judgments about people and things based on what we see, feel, and hear. We base our reality on what our senses tell us but are they the best way?

The problem is that we all have filters or sunglasses that taint our perceptions. We can both look at the exact same thing and come up with a totally opposite perspective of that reality. If you don’t believe me find a mixed group to join when a president is speaking: one group will hear only negative and the other only positive. Whether you listen to Bush or Obama you will only hear and see what your filters and sunglasses will allow you to. Every now and again something happens to knock those perceptions out of our heads. But it takes an event like 9/11 to do that and it only lasts for a short period of time. Witness people now saying 9/11 was a conspiracy.

So if we both perceive the world in totally different ways how can we get at the truth? In our court system we have a judge and jury who are supposed to look, listen, smell, touch, and taste the evidence to come up with a consensus on the truth. That’s the best we got now. We all know of people who bought their way out of the truth, people who lawyered their way out of even being judged, and people who lied so convincingly that our perceptions changed. Our laws our now based on our PERCEPTIONS and no longer on something outside ourselves. We say it just “feels” wrong or right.

We fight. We argue. We cajole and cry. We try to come up with some consensus and seem to spin our wheels on the grease of compromise. What can save us from the wretched state of our own perceptions? Wouldn’t it be nice to have some kind of standard of rule and measure that we could compare our actions to; where we would know for sure if it is right or wrong, true or false, good or bad? Something like our Standards for Weights and Measures where we know and can check if a pound is a pound and a yard is a yard. Maybe it would be some kind of standard that we could hold up to our politicians to see if their actions are right or not. Or maybe some kind of standard that we could impose on Wall Street and our corporate moguls that would keep them honest and treat their employees fairly. Or even some kind of standard of behavior that we could teach our children in school so that when they get to running this world they will have a rule to guide their actions.

Where would be get such a standard, such a rule of behavior. If we could find one I think it would be EXTREMELY important to make sure we post it wherever people gather and in our courts and in our schools. It would be great to find a standard like that because until we do we have reality based only on our perceptions and we are now finding out how flawed they are.

Natural Laws

I am going to cheat this week by simply regurgitating something that someone sent me some time ago. The Laws aren’t original to me though I have edited some of the comments to more ME. There are laws in this universe, similar to the Law of Gravity, that are immutable and unavoidable:

Law of Mechanical Repair: Whenever you get your hands REALLY dirty, your nose will itch.

Refined Law of Gravity: Anything, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

Law of Probability: The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act

Law of Random Numbers: If you tap in a wrong number, you never get a busy signal and someone always answers.

Law of the Alibi: If you tell your boss you were late for work because of a flat tire, the very next day you will have a flat tire.

Variation Law: If you change lines (or traffic lanes) the one you just left will always move faster than the one you are in now.

Law of Close Encounters: The probability of meeting someone you know increases dramatically when you are with someone you don’t want to be seen with.

Law of Results: When you try to prove to someone that something doesn’t work, it does.

Law of Biomechanics: The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.

Law of the Theater: At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle arrive last.

The Starbucks Law: As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, you boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

Law of Logical Arguments: Anything is possible if you don’t know what you are talking about.

Law of Appearance: If the shoe fits, it’s ugly.

Law of Commercial Marketing: As soon as you find a product you really like, they will stop making it.

There you are: hard, fast and immutable laws of our natural life.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Keep your Powder Dry

Had lunch with a “friend” recently and we were discussing the current financial situation in America. There is a bailout mania going on right now that is more deadly than this N1H1 virus going around. This friend caught it and I must admit it is an attractive virus. He stopped paying his mortgage and stopped trying to find a job; he is waiting on his bailout to come his way. “After all, they are not going to let banks fail, or big companies fail and so they are not going to allow foreclosures so ... why pay my mortgage?” He is now 4 months behind. And he is challenging the banks to foreclose so he can declare bankruptcy and have all the credit cards he’s been living on cancelled and still have his house and big TV but at a lower payment and rate. The government just extended his unemployment benefits for another six months so he has not had to work for more than a year now and is getting paid for it. He collects over $300 in food stamps (actually a non-embarrassing ATM card now and not stamps) per month and that MORE than covers his food, in fact he “sells” some of his food to neighbors so it doesn’t get lowered.

He told me he would like to go back to work someday but, for now, it is more profitable to be a “deadbeat.” AND it’s easier. Bailout mania.

I have almost always worked. I remember when we were first married I had to collect unemployment checks and was so embarrassed I swore I would never do it again. Even during my time laid off at the factory I worked roofing houses or driving semi’s to keep working. So to make unemployment a lifestyle is beyond me. But it is becoming more and more a strategy and not safety net as originally planned.

Another unemployed person I knew told me week after week that she was “trusting in God” to bring her the job she was seeking. Not just A job but THE job; she had turned down other jobs because they were not the one she was hoping for. But she had faith that God would bring her the job of her dreams.

“Trust in God but keep your powder dry.” This statement is attributed to Oliver Cromwell during his battle in Ireland in the 1850’s but it is just as true today. Trust in God: yes! Hope: yes! BUT continue to work, plan, and prepare. You CANNOT simply sit back and hope the wind blows fortune your way. Hope is NOT a strategy. You must lean into the wind and move forward.

These two friends may someday find the job of their dreams. But it is more likely that the job of your dreams comes AFTER you kiss a lot of frogs. Jobs aren’t found, they are made. Make yours, whatever it is, a good one. Don’t hope for a bailout or a rescue.

The floods hit the Midwestern town and a man was forced to the roof of his house. The first boat came by and told him to jump on. “No” he said, “he had faith that God would save him.” The second boat came now that the water was up to the roof. “No thanks.” He said. “He had faith God would save him!” The water was now over his house and he was treading water.” The third boat came by and tried to pull him in. “No” he insisted. “I have faith that God will save me!” He died. He got to heaven and asked God “Why didn’t you save me in the flood?” God looked pretty frustrated as he said “I sent three boats!”

Hope and faith are not strategies. They are they comfort you have while you are working your hardest.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Nothing Gold Can Stay

It was shiny and new. I wanted it so bad when I saw it perfectly placed on its perch in the store. It was shiny and new. I was at the store for something I knew I needed yet the thing I didn’t know I needed sent to me its siren’s song. “Come, look at me! I am shiny and new!” The debate raged between Gollum and Sméagol in my head for the precious. You have the money and you deserve it because you have worked so hard. You have the money but you have better things to spend it on, you need to save more in this economy. Yea, but it really isn’t that much money. It is more money than I should be spending right now. Yea, but it is shiny and new! I know but, well, it is shiny and new. I bought it.

I don’t know where it is now. If you asked I could probably find it but it isn’t shiny and new. This is a perennial problem in people with many parables to prop our difficult decisions, but we continue to pander to the pretty. It is shiny and new! Whether it is a Matchbox car or the latest Muscle car, the perfect shoe or the right amount of Carats; we opt for the shiny and new.

Shiny and new is neither in the harsh light of the next morning.

Robert Frost captures this in his poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Adam and Eve’s shiny and new was a forbidden fruit; what’s yours? Remember what it looks like in the naked light of morning because nothing gold can stay.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Big Boys Eat Dirt

The kids were old enough to play in the yard; not quite by themselves but not totally supervised either. I was working outside and placed them in the sand box while I went about my chores. Periodically checking to make sure they didn’t get out of the fenced in area and sending a few encouraging “big boy!” words their way. I came back to find one of them shoving a hand full of dirt into their mouth and then looking up to smile at me with his huge blue eyes, sand on his cheeks, a brown/black tongue and brown/black drool all down the front of his shirt. After barely suppressing a laugh I did the obligatory “eww... big boys don’t eat dirt!” and helped him wash it out with the garden hose. After many such eating experiences, some even grosser, we have a healthy, well-adjusted 20-something to be proud of.

I have since come to believe that I was wrong. Big boys DO eat dirt; that is IF they want to grow up as healthy big boys. Today’s parents spend WAY TOO MUCH time protecting their kids from every germ, bug and clump of dirt. A study on over 11,000 kids, done by Discover Magazine, found that “an overly hygienic environment” dramatically increases the risk of eczema and asthma later in life.

This is the very idea behind childhood immunizations. You introduce a small bit of the disease into the child’s system so that the antibodies are built up for if/when the BIG attack comes. Immunization is the practice before the big game. Exposure to germs and bacteria is common and needed. You have over 1000 species of bacteria that occur naturally in/on your body.

This overprotection from every bug and germ is also call “first child syndrome” because usually you go crazy protecting that first child from every possible event that you just read about in the 100 raising-your-child-right books you just ingested. By the time the second child comes around you sit way back and relax for the ride. By the third and fourth child you forget their names and let them eat whatever they want as long as they are quiet.

Now seriously, you don’t have to go crazy and expose your child to every disease infested mud pool you find, but letting them play in the dirt at the beach and eat a handful or two of sand won’t kill them and might even inoculate them. Big, healthy boys DO eat dirt.