Monday, July 26, 2010

I could never do that

I overheard a conversation the other day of some parents of playing children discussing a common acquaintance who is tending to a child with severe health issues. The kind every parent fears. A life battle and struggle that perplexes the mind, shakes the soul, and crushes your very core. Somehow the parents are pushing thru this with strength, faith, and joy for every day. The child has already lived 3 years past doctor expectations and I'm pretty sure the parents view everyday as a blessing to be filled with love for their child.

The common response:
"I could never do that. I don't have the ________"

I've heard this before. I've said this before.

I've heard this about everything from homeschooling (patience), singing (stage fright), preaching (embarrassing), teaching (not smart enough), infant's health struggles (doubt), leading a Bible study (don't know enough), basketball (too short), limbo (too tall).

Not picking on the partakers in this conversation but it bothered me. It's doubt. I wouldn't want to go thru that, but I'll deal with what's in front of me.

Mostly the Moses examples comes to mind. God directly calls Moses to action and he squirms behind "I can't do that, I can't speak". (Exodus 4:10). God works with him using Aaron. But before long Moses is the one talking to Pharaoh, leading the people and doing what God had planned.

It is all doubt - for believers it's doubt in God, a worldly view would say it's doubt in yourself (sshhh - you are who God made you so it's still God and his potential for you that's being doubted).

I see this conquered in 2 ways.
A) Mountains in front of you.
Often a look at a mountain will lead you to say "I could never climb that". Start 1 step at a time and get moving. Building a house, completing big projects, etc. Eat the elephant 1 bite at a time. You see it's a big project and that can be frightening.

B) Valleys behind you
You're into a situation where you just go thru focusing on 1 foot in front of the other. Usually you aren't asking for it, you're thrown into it and it's get moving or be stuck. You move, you get through. At the end of the day (rarely), week, month, year or decade you look back and say "WOW! look how far we came." Recovering from a family tragedy, working thru a crisis, etc. The perspective on the otherside is of the whole valley, and until you are through it you don't see it. You're deep into it and may not see the way out.

Parenting tends to fall under the B. Everyday you work; pouring your heart, mind and soul into beings where you get no understanding of thanks or what the outcome will be until it's over. I now know why parents (and grandparents) cry at graduation. I get sappy watching my kids. I get sappy at movies relating to kids and family.

The other side is that I could never sink so low as to do that. Stealing, drugs, embezzling, facemask penalty, flopping to draw a red-card, etc. Things start small and are gotten away with until it slowly turns the heart and blurs the vision. The heart, thinking and actions move from what is right, to what is allowed, to what can I get away with. Until you don't care if you get away with it, you can't resist doing it.

Are you being sharpened for use or dulled to be put away?

Daily discipline. Decide daily if you want to move out of the valley, move up the mountain. Generally going with the flow only cuts deeper into the valley.

I understand relaxing, pausing and remembering, be still and know. But I know when I'm being lazy, or procrastinating, or taking a needed break. I know when I'm delaying because I don't have the full perspective. I know when I'm trying to wallow or get lost in the valley.

"Beards aren't grown on a whim."

Friday, July 23, 2010

AP - Counting Stars - Review

So today I got the new Andrew Peterson CD - Counting Stars. Available here:

I'm about 3x listening thru and my first impression is that it's comfortable.

There are many guitar rifts that are similar to past songs intentionally (World Traveler).
It is simpler (more folksy) than Resurrection Letters and some of his other work. I prefer it that way.

There are a few powerful song but I don't think anything will pass by Silence of God

Or as heart-wrenching as "After the Last Tear Falls"

But "The Last Frontier" might sneak in there and usurp them. An odd and morbid thought, it's what I want as a funeral song; it bypassed "Lay Me Down" and "More" from The Far Country.

Overall it is an excellent album. No let down for AP fans which says much since he keeps churning out high quality. It is excellent for the same reasons as I fell for his earlier stuff; it's from the heart. AP crafts songs that he wants to play and wants to listen to. It's not calculated for the best mass appeal, or radio play, or what will sell the most. They are from the heart and show vulnerability which is what makes them ring true.

It also shows the subtle (and sometimes not subtle) sense of humor (Many Roads) that makes you smile.

All in all I'm just getting started on absorbing it and it may pass by Love & Thunder as my favorite album and will certainly be a contender. I highly recommend it to fans and people who might be interested. So run & buy a copy for yourself and one for a friend.

Monday, July 19, 2010

2 not-right feet

Over the weekend we went to a wedding. A high school friend tied the knot and many folks celebrated and tied one on. As is common with weddings and alcohol there was much dancing. I struggle to dance; my shoestrings may as well be tied together.

Sure I can waddle back and forth like a penguin to a slow song. It's wonderful to do this my wife & talk about things that couples care about: kids, tv and the mystery of the house dressing on the salad. I think everyone survived so it wasn't a murder mystery. But I can't dance. My limbs seem to lack any sense of what to do at what time. I'm told there is a "beat" and a "rythm" but I hold these in nearly the same position as the tooth fairy, flying cars and honest politicians. Everyone wants it to be there, but it isn't.

I can juggle, ride a unicycle, run faster than most, occassionaly fly & catch some plastic over people; but my 2 y/o dances better than me. Truly, she can bring it. I can't recall any scarring trauma of being ridiculed at a school assembly or any junk like that; but I feel like the whole world stops points and laughs at my feeble efforts of moving to music. Boo-hoo for me. I'm not worried about it; in heaven I'll dance with the best of them.

Other than sitting there & wishing I could dance (and refusing to imbibe the volume of beer that would loosen the fetters) I couldn't help but notice how things change. I was surrounded by some of my best buds from 15 years ago. Most of them I've seen less than a handful of times in the past 10 years. I went to college and now run in different circles than they do. Most of them are around the home area and are fairly close. We all still run in circles, generally chasing our own tails and telling tales of the one that got away. Some of the ruts from the old days remain. Lots of laughter. I couldn't help but feel out of step. For once I can hear the rythm though.

All if this to say, I'm happy for my past and how my life has turned out. The steps from yesterday gave me a running start to who I am today. I'm happy for all of my friends and how things are going for them. It is fun to catch up and toss jokes back and forth.

I truly live with no regrets. I don't yearn for things to be like they used to be; I don't run from who I was before and try to forget who I used to be. Because I see the highs & lows of the path to today I am hopeful for the future and where this road may go.

I see that as the paradox of life which gets wrapped up in the gospel; highs & lows held in each hand which equips you for a joyful march into tomorrow.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Every Fog has its Day

In my 35min commute to work I frequently hit patches of fog in the morning. Today was more variable than usual. I started with a bright sunny morning requiring sunglasses. Upon getting on the highway glasses were off, headlights were on, and I was in fog. I fairly heavy fog too. The kind where if you drive along you'd go much slower than I was going, but on the highway you keep a visible distance from the car infront of you and maintain speed to keep the visible distance.

For the past few months I've enjoyed the seasonable morning drive. With the summer sun it's nice to see the world awake before I'm at work. In the winter it is a more gloomy drive in the dark. Fog seems to get in the way of a pleasant drive.

My first feeling was the fog wraps you up in a colorless blanket. Upon further thinking, it's not colorless. It is grey. A very ho-hum dull color. Fog is essentially a cloud. A cloud infront of your eyes wipes out all other colors; yet framed in sky has streams whiter than cotton, with wonderful shades of blue, red and grey that can't be matched by any pantones or paint department.

Then I stumble upon this quote:
"Lastly, there is this value about the colour that men call colourless: that it suggest in some way the mixed and troubled average of existence, especially in its quality of strife and expectation of promise. Grey is a colour that always seems on the eve of changing to some other colour; of brightening into blue, or blanching into white, or breaking into green or gold. So we may be perpetually reminded of the indefinite hope that is in doubt itself; and when there is grey weather on our hills or grey hair on our heads perhaps they may still remind us of the morning."
-GK Chesterton

I have 2 windows by my desk that provide some nice daydreaming and cloud watching scenery. Once you look past the cars, the fence, and the steel mill next door; yes, it's very scenic. Ok not really. Really I have the attention span of a gnat and usually enjoy the distractions. I'm not sure how big a gnat's attention span is, but I'm sure it's small. The clouds are awesome to focus on for view and thought. They can tell of what they're bringing weather wise. You can assign stories and characters to the shapes. They can unite to bring relief with shade or rain; or break to reveal something beyond them that is sustaining the world.

It seems that the morning fog is working to hide something. It works hard to keep things covered and always yields to the burning power of the sun. The light is needed to see all of the true colors. It's like a morning within a morning. The fog may have its time of day, but it is only a precursor to the revealing light.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Fix is in

Sometimes life is stressful. Sometimes work is stressful but usually not so much for me, except yesterday (and today).

The machines I help design & build move around large steel bars. A customer of ours had a near miss yesterday. A bar missed a sensor & got tossed like uncooked spaghetti. So an 800lb gets tossed into the air and lands where an operator had been standing 10 seconds before. A hefty chunk of concrete chipped out of the floor, some bent steel pieces, but no one hurt.

This makes me nervous. It's not a concern over liability or blame or CYA. It is more seeing the potential of what could have happened. A machine I designed hurt someone or killed someone. There are very few thoughts that are more chilling.

I used to help design repairs for aircraft. Every 3-5 years the aircraft gets gutted & checked for cracks, corrosion, and any other damage. Engineers resolve any findings that are not covered by the standard manuals. I have a higher than normal insight into aircraft and what goes into making them work and continue working for a long time. As an intern I worked with my mentor engineer in the only other similar scary incident that comes to mind. We found a 34" crack in the aircraft skin at a critical point in the structure. A quick check at the plane beside it found a 4" crack. We made national news and not in a good way. It was about 26 pages of drawings and details of what to cut, rivet and how to put it all together. The FAA had many visitors to our repair hangar. I was part of getting fixed. This was my job for about 3 years. That was chilling but different. It wasn't my creation (something I designed) that failed.

Back to the current situation. In the hypothetical pondering of what could have happened I'm saved from being a total wreck by a few things. No one was actually hurt. We are putting in some components to prevent this in the future.

On a spiritual side, in the stark reality of life my actions and decisions have killed someone. We have all done it. Someone who was pure & innocent and did nothing wrong. He died so we wouldn't. It is bigger than this though. In one sense he stepped infront of the sentence that was meant for us. Further he took the full fallout. It's one thing to be saved from death, it's another step further to be saved from the continual wrecked life. He didn't save us from the firing squad & leave us in prison. We are saved and set free. Free to serve because the we are fixed on the inside. The fix is in.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Thanks for the Lemonade

Today (& yesterday) I've been relatively confined to the couch & recliner in recovery from minor surgery. Basically much reading, TV, and video games. While this is generally not a bad way to spend a weekend; I like to move around.

Well on the tube before the 3rd place world cup game there was a story piece about Alex Scott of Alex's Lemonade Stand. I had it on for 15-20 minutes and was weepy most of the time. (I'll eat a bloody steak with my bare hands later to maintain street cred in the guy code).

It was much footage of her struggle with cancer and she started a lemonade stand to raise money. It took off and grew & got on Oprah and grew more & then Alex passed away. It's some 10 years later and it has raised over $30 million for pediatric cancer research. On top of research it also helps the families in acquiring treatment and comfort for these little warriors.

Something about kids suffering breaks my heart. I'm sure it breaks everyone's heart and there's a sense of "Why God?". A common view is that if God is powerful he wouldn't let this happen -OR- if God let's this happen he isn't so good. Either he isn't powerful or he isn't good - which is it? Neither. He is all powerful and we are not, he can see things and results which our eyes and minds cannot hold. He is provident - he works all things out. Just because we can't see what good there would possibly be doesn't mean squat.

Alex had great spunk and was very smart and the foundation has carried on because of her fighting spirit. It has gone on to touch hundreds and thousands of lives. Some of the Foundation research has led to the identification of a gene linked to Neuroblastoma. Research is being done on a pill as a blocker to tumor development from these findings.

All this to say there is a God and I'm not him. Thanks for the Lemonade.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Camp and Out

Today is a milestone in our household. Our oldest is departing the 1st time for church camp.

It's only 2 nights of fun filled adventure but it's enough to make a mark. It is the indicator of things changing. Kids getting older and getting into their own stuff. In preparation for camp there has been running to the grocery store, and quick lessons on doing things on her own. Things that we used to do.

Plus being Broo there is a significant chance she will not let us do these things for her again. Independence will have taken seed and there is no stopping it. She's already eating well, getting drinks, etc. Bath time was predominantly parent driven. Now she knows how to shower on her own. We used to setup the toothbrush; no more.

We've previously seen the greenshoots of "I can do it" and "Let me do it". It's not really a control aspect that we just can't let go, or a lack of trust. It's that we aren't ready for her to grow up so fast.

Back as a new parent one of the books schlepped upon was "New Parent Power". An updated version of the author's previous hit "Parent Power". A pretty good book but one of the key lessons for me was that you are raising kids to be independent contributing members of society. I'd toss in some faith as imperative also.

Biblical Paradox.
Ephesians 6:4. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Do not squash your kids, but don't let them loose with no training.

You have potential to frustrate your children (and yourself) in 2 ways:
A) Total Training
if you do not equip them for being solo someday. Eating, dressing, laundry, household budget,....basic life lessons that should be passed down so they someday get out of your house without full dependence on you. But if they grow up too quickly, too soon they potentially lose the love of life. Being a kid and playing games. A proper and proportional love for things because all is viewed as work. Parents must let kids play and be kids.
B) No Training
if you give them none of these. The kid may never leave your house or understand the value of work and earning things. If all is done for them the sense of duty and rejoicing at the fruits of efforts is never grown. You wouldn't let your kid ride bike in a busy street so they can learn the lessons themselves, they aren't ready and don't see the danger that a parent knows is there. Parents must use rules.

The common thought is to balance this. True, but don't balance by being 1/2 rules & 1/2 grace. Balance by going all in. There are rules and lessons (Law) and there is love and mystery and story (Grace).

It sounds weird but I hope I'm still allowed to do things for Broo and still able to let her do it herself and smile. She may go camping but she is not out.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Just my $0.02

Today the post office announced it is increasing it's rates. Letters will be $0.02 more per stamp.

Considering all that the Postal Service does and how quickly it will still be used and will just be rolled into the standard "yeah, well" view of life. The principle of it is starting to bother me. Basically they are incrementally being used less for letters. E-mail and online bill payments. They've made a great move with the standard boxes and rates especially in the current era of E-bay and Amazon.

But I'm not sure I'm seeing great improvements. It should show up in better efficiency. It goes to show a basic principle of costs and inefficiencies creeping in when there is no downward pressure. Simple competition forces.

A few months ago our furnace quit working. I called the folks who installed it 3 years ago. Back then they were a family owned micro-chain and did a quality job. Now they are Franchised with a national network. $45 to evaluate that the blower motor died and it would be a flat rate $900 to replace. A quick internet check found the motor for about $300 at a few places and it is fairly easy to install. I chatted with the owner for about 45 minutes and listened to him outright lie to me about the quality of the motor I could get, the complexity of the furnace motor and various other lines. As part of my job I fight for good pricing on motors and specifications. He would have been better off saying "yeah, we're just trying to shellac you for the difference". It turned out to be a warranty item.

A mom & pop or family business tends not to shellac you for $900 total; they'd charge you for $450 and cover their costs with a nice set profit. Instead the national chain with flat rate pricing is breaking the system. Bad pricing (doesn't understand the small town), bad customer treatment, and a bad reputation for the business (I will never buy from Schnieder, or the now 1-Hr Heating & Cooling).

I like my mom/pop shops. We've worked to buying local foods (usually pizza) instead of the mega chains. We avoid wal-mart where possible. I like my town, I want it to stick around.

So there's a line to walk; a paradox.

Competition is generally good for pricing. A mom/pop garage or plumber will be cheaper and generally better quality than any national chain. 10-12 plumbers is great for a town, 1 plumber will leave you getting hosed.

Then there is the other extreme seen in Walmart. Walmart sells cheaper junk than the 5&10 shop, but it's only thru the national leveraging (and China) that they are able to do this; support your local folks and buy local when you can. Yes Walmart has local folks working and sales revenue and does community stuff on the local level; but they are a shadow of the mom/pop store who's life is in the business.

Less letters are being mailed. So my $0.02 will be going to maintain the current system that will be used less, instead of getting a smarter system better suited to the new market. They're taking my $0.02 so I may as well give them a penny full of thoughts twice over.