Saturday, July 31, 2010

Spotted D*#%

Picture the scene in the board room. A group of a dozen executives. All dressed in impressive-looking business attire. Suits, ties, cuff links. Some with hair gel, some with expensive after-shave lotions or colognes. They sit around a sizeable conference table. At the center of the table a silver service is positioned with a fancy water pitcher surrounded by crystal drinking glasses. At the end of the room is a screen, projector, and state-of-the-art laptop. Off to one corner of the room are several easels with presentation materials and pie charts and graphs. It is clear that these are serious men charged with an important task. The room is abuzz with idea exchange and related business-type banter. This is where the decisions will be made that will shape the company's future.

It has been seen on countless occasions that these corporate meetings and the work these business types do is crucial to the happiness of the shareholders. Just think about the gravity of the decisions that are made. Perhaps one of the most famous was the meeting where the Pepsi-Cola folks decided to alter the "formula" for Coca-Cola. This must have been a testy and uneasy afternoon for all involved. Another famous meeting involved the marketing decisions that led to the introduction of the Chevy No-va into Latin America. The No-va was a muscle-type car that sold very well in America. However, they did not sell a single car in Latin America for over 15 years. Finally it became understood that "No-va" in spanish translates to "garbage for the uneducated". Once they removed the hyphen, the car became the Nova, which translates to "death by firey explosion" and the car sold like hotcakes. So I think you can start to appreciate the importance of the corporate meeting and how they take sound reasoning and a bit of luck for a company to prosper and succeed.

This leads me to the product that I stumbled upon the other day in my very own super-type market. A metal container from the Heinz Company for a product called "Spotted Dick". I kid you not my friends. I have even included a figure. I was so disturbed by this product concept and what it might actually represent, that I could not even force myself to look it up on the computer. Even now I cannot shake the thought of this product from my head. Can you imagine that board meeting where they were pitching names for this product? Maybe this was meant as a joke. Perhaps it had gotten too late one evening after discussing more mainstream products from Heinz like ketchup and mustard that this one slipped through. Spotted Dick? Really? Hey, but at least it's microwaveable, whatever it is.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bondage V

I have become a prisoner in my own life. This prison is a second-by-second assualt on my soul, a day-to-day degradation of the self.

There is one final chapter in my very brief discussion of sexual bondage that I have thought about at length, but have made no progress whatsoever toward a solution. If one is in a steady relationship, a natural and important part of that involves sex. There are many volumes written on how this aspect of a relationship can be strengthened and purified, turned from sour to sweet. I shall not touch on any more here. There are also a considerable number of works focussing on keeping relationships healthy and satisfying before marriage. My concern is how to proceed as a single person after a relationship has ended? Anyone in this situation probably already understands why it is hard to come up with a sensible solution. It is not human, that is to say it goes against our human makeup, not to have sexual desires. However, outside of a relationship where there is no outlet, how is one to proceed? Only a fool (or someone who has completely lost touch because they are having regular sex) would advise that we should bury that aspect of who we are or suggest that sexual thoughts are sinful and need to be done away with. It is a ridiculous suggestion because it ordinarily just cannot be done.

My worry is that the same issues that gave rise to our sexual bondage in the first place can slowly creep back into our thoughts and then our actions. Certainly as a Christian, the Bible is not explicit on what is allowed or not allowed. It does not take long to search the internet to find writings that span the full range of opinions, each argued with vehemence and passion and backed up with all sorts of Bible verses. I have talked this issue over with pastors and Christian counselors and learned friends. The only thing that I can conclude from all of my efforts is that the subject makes everyone just so uncomfortable that
they are not willing or capable to discuss it openly and honestly. Try having a serious discussion with another person on masturbation. The silence is deafening and the awkwardness is palpable.

However, I fear that without understanding what I am supposed to do with this aspect of my humanity, i.e. the natural urges that seem to course through my body, that I will always have some connection with that prison cell of sexual bondage.

(Part 5 of 5)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bondage IV

I have become a prisoner in my own life. This prison is a second-by-second assualt on my soul, a day-to-day degradation of the self.

The escape from sexual bondage certainly has many possible routes. I would guess that some of the possible pathways become more clear once we have gotten out of the prison and put some significant distance between it and us. I am not there yet, not by any stretch of the imagination. However, I do have some advice and some things to consider that I believe are practical pieces of information. Take them for what they are worth.
  • Pray consistently.
  • Find a place of peace where you can escape and be alone. In this fortress no sinful thoughts are allowed to linger.
  • Find a partner who you can talk to regularly about your addiction and your recovery. Make yourself accountable to that person and be 100% open and honest about everything.
  • Be vigilant. Never for a moment think that you are cured or past the stage of relapse.
  • If possible, remove all triggers from your life. If having a computer in your home is dangerous, get rid of it or install software that reports your web activity to your partner. If cable television or pay per view channels are a problem, have them disabled.
  • Recognize how valuable you are and how much God loves you. Make a list if necessary and look it over regularly.
  • If you have a spouse or significant other, you must find a way to disclose your behavior to them. This must be done with care and tact. Without their support and understanding, your are likely doomed to failure. They may not be the best choice as your recovery partner, but they must know of your struggles. It may also be necessary for both of you to get treatment together for full and lasting recovery, especially if their actions or treatment of you are one of your triggers.
  • If you have friends or people that you hang out with that hinder your recovery, distance yourselves from them.
  • Join a church small group and let them help you.
  • Realize that multiple addictions in your life may have formed a complicated web of triggers. Without dealing with the full Hydra that controls your life, you will find recovery difficult.
  • Take pride in who you are.
  • Celebrate even little victories in your life. Make a conscious effort to list several good things that happen to you each day.
  • Keep a journal to track progress. You may be doing better in your recovery than you imagined. If nothing seems to be changing, review what you have tried and devise a new approach.
  • Don't substitute one sinful or hurtful behavior for another.
  • Don't let a momentary relapse or indiscretion cause you to crumble. Pick yourself up and continue moving forward. Talk to your recovery partner.
  • If your addiction is caused by trauma inflicted by another, find a way to forgive them. Let the hate and anger and disappointment be acknowledged and then cognitively and actively let it go. Don't let what has happened in the past take away your future.
  • If you can't stop your sinful activities cold turkey, then work your way toward recovery more gradually. A journey of a thousand miles begins with but one small step. Take that small step.
  • Take an active role in your recovery.
Recovery will not happen in an instant or with an single earnest and sincere prayer. Recovery will take time and effort and consistency and energy and strength. I guarantee that the whole process will initially suck. It will hurt and cause irritability and anxiety. Give the process time. Be patient with yourself. Learn to forgive yourself as God already has.

(Part 4 of 5)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bondage III

I have become a prisoner in my own life. This prison is a second-by-second assualt on my soul, a day-to-day degradation of the self.

I understand that many people believe that those in sexual bondage of any sort are just perverts. This strong negative connotation and the abhorrant views of society are what drive many sexual addicts into an ever deepening, ever downward spiral. How can we reach out and seek help when those around us will only heap on more shame and more guilt? However, sexual bondage really is an addiction in all senses of the word. Anyone who has ever been held captive to an deep-seated addiction, whether it was cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, food, or any other hook, knows that there are both mental and physiological issues to deal with. Overcoming either of these ingredients typically results in intense physical discomfort. It can be maddening when we have to deny the body's cry for its usual fix.

Overcoming any type of addiction requires careful attention to both the mental and physiological aspects of the controlling influence. Working on one and not the other will often result in failure to make progress, and in some cases, can cause us to sink deeper into our addiction. Failure is one trigger that can often set off those intense feelings.

Again, the goal in moving toward recovery and freedom is to remove the noose from our necks, not merely to loosen its grip. If my focus is solely to stop some destructive behavior, sexual or otherwise, that's a good beginning toward recovery, but that is a personal goal, a personal vision. Without a God-given vision, a higher calling or purpose, we will most likely continue to struggle to break free from what owns us. Of course those who are familiar with the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous will recognize this statement as one of the basic tenets of recovery.

Even when we try to take ownership of our addictions, our bondage, we are never more than a breath away from falling back to our old ways. All it takes is a pretty face in a pop-up ad on our computer, a waft of cigarette smoke to pass into our senses, an offer of a hit from a friend after a bad day. Without appropriate armor, we are vulnerable at all times. So, what can we do? Is there any hope? How can we start to break free from our prison?

(Part 3 of 5)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bondage II

I have become a prisoner in my own life. This prison is a second-by-second assault on my soul, a day-to-day degradation of the self.

When I am battling against any personal issue, the first thing that I do, after acknowledging that I have a problem, is always to try to arm myself with knowledge. It's almost instinctual, but I need to grasp the depth and breadth of what I am dealing with, what I am up against. I need perspective. Part of me seeks out knowledge and truth so that I recognize that I am not alone in my struggle or condition, part of me needs to come to grips with why I am the way I am, and part of me needs to seek out practical avenues to make inroads toward self improvement.

To this end I recently read two different books. The first, Out of the Shadows by Patrick Carnes, was an attempt to understand more about the gaol that has held me captive for some time and to grasp how I got here and why I seem to run in the same circles day after day. I then read Pure Desire by Ted Roberts to help devise a reasoned strategy for liberation. Both authors paint sexual bondage as a noose around our necks. They made it clear why we continue to struggle for freedom. Instead of cutting the rope, our best efforts only serve to loosen it for a time, but we are still clearly at its mercy. One rash or unintended step and it pulls tight around us once again. This noose explains why sexual bondage or sexual addiction issues in our lives are played out in predictable episodes. They follow a cyclical pattern of fantasy, ritual, shame, and guilt.

In my own life I am starting to recognize the triggers that set me off. They include:
  • A bad or stressful day;
  • Personal conflict;
  • Intense loneliness;
  • Depression;
  • Feelings of defeat or self-hatred.
Overcoming the lustful thoughts that seem to have an unshakeable power over me is not simply an issue of knowledge or willpower. When a given trigger is present, it can subconsciously cause the brain to produce powerful chemicals in response that bring forth sexual thoughts that if allowed to linger can overwhelm us. In these situations our entire focus can instantly turn toward feeding the desire for reward, release, and fantasy. We have activated a sort of coping or survival mechanism that we have encoded into our brains. In short, we are at the mercy of addictive tendencies that can seem infinitely more powerful than our ability to resist them.

(Part 2 of 5)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bondage I

I have become a prisoner in my own life. Held captive by a force that I don't understand. The most frustrating part of my internment is that the door to my freedom stands unguarded, yet I just can't seem to make my escape. Though there are no iron bars to contain me, the lure to remain within is powerful, consuming, and, at times, seemingly inescapable. However, as has been said by others, this prison is a second-by-second assault on my soul, a day-to-day degradation of the self.

The issues of battling with sexual addiction and sexual impurity have made me a prisoner of the images that form in my mind and the attendant potent chemicals and desires that take control of me. Time after time I seem to lose the battle with sexual thoughts and lust. At once I am on the path of righteousness and strength, and an instant later, I find myself recklessly careening toward a place that I never intended to be. The more I struggle to gain control, the further I get from my intended path, the path that I know is right. Even if I somehow stay on course for a time, and start to gain some small degree of confidence that I am making progress in my struggle, a single wayward thought can bring me right back to that place of defeat.

As a Christian, this fight against impurity and lust is especially worrisome. I know what is at stake. It is not as if I don't fully understand right from wrong in this regard. Yet all too often I give into thoughts and behaviors that, while they may bring some modicum of pleasure or comfort, they always eventually lead me to self-loathing and shame. In times like these where my own desires overtake my intention to stay on God's path, I more fully appreciate the words of the apostle Paul.

For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. Romans 7:17-23.

I fully understand the complete frustration and infuriation that led Paul to pen these words, for I am there in that place and am struggling to find my way.

(Part 1 of 5)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dictated Style

It is amazing how different cultures in different countries can be. In the United States, uniqueness and individuality are celebrated and encouraged. Most teenagers purposefully expend effort trying to somehow set themselves apart. It gives them their identity and makes them feel more special. I remember back when I was in high school, if two kids came into school riding identical dinosaurs, we all attempted to humiliate them by grunting and whooping, followed by unmerciful and swift castration.

In stark juxtaposition to our way of life here in the "western" world, other countries strictly control their populations. They feel that if they control the way the people look, the way the people act, the way people live, and the way the people think, those in power will remain in power. If nobody is seen as special or set apart, because they are just like everyone else, the more flamboyant ruling class will, by sharp contrast, be seen as somehow different, somehow more powerful, somehow more special.

This approach has been well documented in China, where education was withheld from vast segments of the population and the naming of children was strictly controlled. It was all about ego, all about control, all about maintaining power. China is but one example, there are, of course, many others. However, I was struck by a recent report on CNN coming out of Iran. There the government has enacted tough new laws dictating allowed men's hairstyles. (You may note that there is no law concerning women's hair in Iran as they must go about 24 hours a day wearing a bee-keeper's suit.) It was amusing to me that the report noted that the pompadour, hair-spray-infused coif favored by Prince in the 1980s, which many Iranian youths are smitten with, is strictly prohibited. Other styles that are forbidden are the Steven Seagal ponytail and the Billy Ray Cyrus mullet. The only allowed hair style for men is roughly akin to the bowl cut favored by Moe Howard in the Three Stooges. The penalty for violating this decree? Stoning.

The report indicated that this new decree was necessary to confront the cultural assault by the West. Funny that they only get 1980s MTV reruns, dated action movies with poor dialog and wooden action, film-weary achey-break videos, and classic Stooges reels.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Letting Go

My daughter and I very much look forward to our time together, just the two of us, where we can reconnect, share, catch up, and do the things of life together. However, she is quickly growing up, and slowly, she is learning to let go. Once upon a time she only felt safe when I held her in my arms. She then jumped down and was satisfied walking beside me holding my hand for support. For a season she was happy as long as should could catch sight of me when she needed assurance. Now, we are apart for longer and longer periods of time. This is necessary and natural. But, it still tugs at me for I desperately want to hold on to my little girl. To make this time together linger for just a while longer.

The other day she hosted an old friend for a sleepover. This event was somewhat traumatic for me because I am not used to being around children. The only child I am comfortable interacting with is my own. It was also traumatic for me because from the start of her friend's visit, it was clear that they wanted to spend time together alone. Thus I got to be with my daughter but not spend any time with her. But as I watched from a distance I saw a beautiful portrait being painted. Two friends that respected and appreciated each other. I noticed that children don't spend too much time reminiscing about the past, they just live and have fun and make new memories. I watched as they went swimming together, played video games together, played basketball together, swung in the hammock together, and talked to each other. My strength was buoyed only because my daughter came over to me between activities and gave me a little hug.

While the process of growing up with our children is both painful and joyful, I know I am doing the right thing by the smile on her face, the twinkle in her eyes, and the song in her heart. I realize that I love best when I hold on the loosest.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why Not Smile

I struggle too much and labor too long to find my smile. Sometimes when I just open my eyes and let down my wall of hurt the world sings to me. Just a few things that recently made me smile when I looked beyond myself.
  • Bumper stick on man's truck that said "I love my wife!".
  • Sitting down for some quality time with an old friend who was passing through town.
  • Watching nearly 50 folks get baptized at my church unexpectedly after the spirit spoke to them.
  • An unexpected call from my daughter.
  • A friend told me after a long series of personal trials that his wife is his hero.
  • Finally getting to eat a good, vine-ripened tomato.
  • Being treated by a service company with respect and honesty.
  • Finding some quality time to read a good book and enjoy the sunshine.
  • Getting my pool fixed after a period of problems and worries.
  • A refund check from my old insurance company for $1.11.
Make your own list today. Why not smile?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Past Life

I see the telltale evidence of a past life in my house. It leads me to wonder what joys and sorrows, what victories and defeats, what highs and lows have preceeded me in this place. Some markings of this life are apparent in every room. The indentations from bureaus, chairs, beds, and cabinets have left their signatures in the carpeting. A few traces, more deeply hidden, are seen in a child's colorful drawing under the overhang of the countertop, the homemade Christmas reindeer ornament found under some loose insulation in the attic, and the box of cabinet parts tucked away in a drawer labeled "Daddy" in a child's hand.

While this place is now mine, that is to say my responsibility for a time, I still hear the echos of a past life echoing from the walls. I sense the family holidays and gatherings, the wonderful parties that took place out by the pool, the special times of growing up, and the pains of goodbyes and separations. I suspect that it will be very much the same for whoever takes over for me when I move on. My living here, I hope and pray, will only add to the depth and richness of the symphony.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Waking in the morning and getting out of bed takes more and more effort these days. Tired muscles, aching bones, faltering spirit, and weak mind. The youthful exhuberance and spring now long gone, I must will myself to turn my engine over and go to it. I used to be invincible. The one everyone noticed, the first to arrive, the last to leave. I was once the young go-getter, the ace, the whiz kid. Now, I struggle to get through. Long since passed by, passed over, and passed through by the new generation. I feel like a relic, like my time has passed.

Now that's a depressing, defeatist paragraph. So what am I going to do about it?

I have several friends who seem to have this aura surrounding them. They always seem positive and ready for whatever comes. They play whatever cards they are dealt and find a way to live with it gracefully and in good spirit. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from their approach. Perhaps they know something that I don't.

Why don't you talk to them and learn more about their strategies for dealing with life?

My first dismissive thought is that they are so danged happy and positive because everything in their lives seems great. They have no reason to be unhappy. But if you think about this line of reasoning, if only for a moment, you will see just how absurd it is. Everyone on this planet, and I mean everyone, has their own issues to deal with. To think otherwise is just ridiculous. My guess is that they just have a different perspective, a way to tap into that wellspring of positivity and joy that is available to us in this world.

Stop pondering. Go over and talk to them before you waste any more time dwelling on being a relic.

Thanks Bill for making time to talk with me. Being open and honest with others returns more of the same. "For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while.", Romans 15:24

Monday, July 19, 2010

Deconstructing Summer

About a month and a half ago I wrote a post called Dive into Life about the start of summer and the expected joy of being outdoors and enjoying the weather and all the life that this time of year brings forth. ... Cue the ominous music ... And then I was forced to deconstruct summer. As the pictures show (moving upper left to lower right), I had to tear it all down and start again. Dang you aggressive red algae and exceeding wet winter/spring for all the havoc that you played on my innocent, unsuspecting pool liner. Now, hopefully it is not too late to start to reconstruct summer.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Seinfeld has Newman, Dr. Doofenshmirtz has Perry the Platypus, James Bond has Blofeld, Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty, and Batman has the Joker and Penguin. Heck, Siegfried has Roy. All people who clearly are identified with a rival that they cannot overcome, and who always seems to be there to foil their best planning.

In many cases we come to be defined by the battles that we lose or the people and situations that we cannot overcome. Time after time these nemeses come out of nowhere to thwart the best laid plans of our heroes. Their arrival seems unexpected, but we should have known that they were laying in wait the whole time. After all, any nemesis worth their salt cannot let their charge get by with any measure of unfettered success.

Far too often I have seen hero-types with a clear path down the lane (in basketball speak) or with a clear path to the finish line pull up and come to a stop when their nemesis does not appear to try to stop them. It is almost like they either don't want to succeed in the first place or they expect to receive no joy without the challenge of trying to outwit their rival. ... Aww, what does it matter. My nemesis didn't even care enough to show up. ... The result is unresolved angst and confusion. At times, it seems when a nemesis fails to live up to expectations, the hero is forced to take time out of his or her busy schedule to set up nemesis interviews (note that for an application to be accepted, letters of reference must be provided). This whole occurrence just then serves to slow things down and hold the hero back from hero-type work.

So, in closing, if you are a nemesis, please remember how vital you are to the dynamic. Step and do your thwarting job with the appropriate attitude and spirit. Hero work cannot go forward without you. The alternative is to be cast aside and sacked. Trying getting another gig afterwards with that on your résumé.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I was waiting in line at the market with my daughter the other day. When my turn came to check out, the cashier greeted me and I answered with a few sentences. My little one tugged at my sleeve and whispered to me, "Daddy, he doesn't care about that stuff. He just wants your money." I was a bit surprised by her attitude, but I can understand where she gets it from, even at such a young age. I guess that you become aware of grown-ups constantly grumbling about bad service and heartless companies.

At that moment I then flashed back to a time many years ago when I wore that red shirt and hat stained with pizza sauce and reeking of pepperoni. I was a young college student working during my summers off at Pizza Hut. In my time there, I actually found it important to listen to the customers when they had something to tell me. Whether they had a complaint about some aspect of their meal, or wanted to pass along a compliment regarding their dining experience, or just wanted to make some pleasant small talk, didn't really matter. They were spending their hard-earned money and our company's health relied upon their return business. An easy way to be sure a customer is unsatisfied and never returns is to make them feel unimportant or foolish or neglected. I also found that my work shift seemed to go much faster when I was engaged with people and enjoying myself. Based on the several dozen feedback cards that I received, my attitude was appreciated and it smoothed over more than a few situations that could have gotten messy.

Returning from my flashback, I turned to my daughter and said "I am not a barcode" and continued my pleasantries with the cashier. I'm not sure she understood my meaning, perhaps tomorrow.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rich 'n Famous Car Wash

It's a scene right out of the old Robin Leach show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. A man spends $350 to get the exterior of his car washed. It's the kind of story that just makes you hate the excessive, luxuriant manner and wasteful attitude of the well to do. However, if you examined what was going on with a keener eye, you would not see a painstakingly detailed vehicle. You would not witness the use of any fancy creams or imported carnuba waxes. No soft-as-a-baby's-bottom chamois cloth. No fancy, specially purified spring water that had recently cascaded down from an alpine spring. No. The folks doing the washing (a middle-aged man and his young daughter) used nothing more than a bucket of soapy water, a couple of old rags, and a garden hose. I can anticipate your next thought already. Ahh, it must have been one of those charity-type car washes and the man was so touched by the cause du jour that he made a substantial, heart-felt donation. Well, you couldn't be more wrong, well unless that charity happened to be the local windshield repair shop and the man just happened to be me. Let me tell you the story of the expensive car wash.

My daughter loves to wash the car with me. Actually I do all of the car washing and she splashes and plays with the hose and the soapy water. You have never heard such giddy squeals of happiness in all of your life. She would probably tell you that "washing" the car with me is one of her favorite activities. Well, we washed the car the other day and my little one asked if she could do the final rinse. After spraying herself from head to toe, a little bit of water accidentally hit the car, so she figured that her work was done. She then asked if she could put the windshield wipers back in place (they had been raised up to allow access to the full windshield). As she was lowering one of the wipers down, the blade came off in her hand and the wiper arm smacked into the windshield. Two "star-shaped" cracks immediately appeared and then two long cracks quickly worked their way across the windshield.

Now, $350 later, I have a new windshield and a car that is at least somewhat cleaner than it was before the episode occurred (although, go figure, it is still covered with soap residue). I wanted to be angry, to get all steamed up, but it was a fluke accident. It could have very easily happened to me. This one was easy to let go with a smile and a phooey, and it certainly helped that the repair shop folks were great. Hey, I also got a blog out of it, so the incident has paid for itself already (or not).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Space Considerations

Several months ago I wrote a blog entitled Her Place. The subject was my daughter's room and how it reflects who she is. I was inspired to write that piece after I went into her room to put away some laundry after we had been apart for a few days. For some reason, I tend to linger in her bedroom when she is not with me and I want to feel closer to her. Today's entry arose from a similar muse.

I was tidying up her room before she arrived so that everything was ready for her. I like to arrange her stuffed animals, fold her nightgown, and just straighten things up. The arrangement of her room and how she uses that space caused me to think about my own room as a child. My room really was an escape chute to a different world, a place to retreat and hide away. For many reasons, I spent a lot of time in there. Whether I was toiling away on my schoolwork, listening to the radio (music or the Red Sox game on my AM radio), playing my baseball board game, or just hiding out from the world, my room was a much more active place in my life compared to how my daughter uses her room. Really the only time my daughter is in her room is when she's in bed or getting ready for bed. I don't know if this has to do with the times we live in and the technology that is available now that didn't exist then, or if it is more about the differences between us or the differences in the household atmosphere that are present.

I once read a comic of two dads talking to each other about their children. The one dad was saying that his children's rooms had computers, phones, televisions, stereos, and lots of board games. He then said that when he wanted to punish his children, he sent them to his own room.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


One moment I am pretending to be a bunny munching on an oversized carrot reveling in your giggles, the next I am wandering aimlessly from room to room searching for something to do. I am splashing and corralling silly, barking seals and then, suddenly, I am staring out at a still and lifeless pool. I am at once accompanying you through an adventure in a fantasy book and hungrily reading chapter after chapter, and then I notice the book sitting there on the coffee table with its bookmark fixed in place. One instant we are laughing and screaming and gobbling up life with tears rolling down our faces, and the next it is deathly quiet. The tears that well up in my eyes are now of a different sort. Only echoes of you remain in this place. I then always find myself anxiously marking time until we can start up again, knowing then that life will return for a time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Getting Through the Tough Stuff

Sometimes when we are hurting inside, it feels like there is nobody else in the world who could possibly understand our pain, our turmoil, our anxiety. In some of my lowest seasons, when the hurt just wouldn't subside or let go of me, I have had several well-meaning folks tell me to just get over it or don't think about it. Others have told me that my feelings are not justified when these episodes linger too long for their convenience. However, tough struggles in life are, for most of us, a constant presence in our lives. Sometimes we have the skills necessary to process what is going on, to deal with the circumstances with strength and courage, and then to get on with living. Other times, we have trouble going on and moving forward. It's kind of like an essential piece of who we are has been taken away, never to return. In these situations, coming back to some level of equilibrium takes time. It also takes a level of compassion from those in our lives to put up with us while we heal or cope or figure things out.

In Getting Through the Tough Stuff, author Charles Swindoll takes us through a sampling of some of the tough stuff that we all face in our lives. This includes the tough stuff of temptation, anxiety, shame, divorce, inadequacy, and death. One important aspect of survival is realizing that everyone must deal with these issues in their lives; nobody is immune or excused or above the fray of life's struggles and difficulties. Another aspect of survival that separates the Christian from all others, is that we have a heavenly father who is always present, who will always support us, and who will always be there to give us light and hope. Sure, life will be, at times, harsh, unfair, cruel, and painful, but we need to cling to Christ closest through our darkest hours so that we can keep a foothold on survival today and then progress toward living tomorrow.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Do you ever start in on a project with eagerness and passion only to stumble across it months later stashed in the corner, covered with dust? What about the resolutions you make on each New Year's Day? How long do they remain an influence on your actions and attitudes? What about your approach to worship? How many of you continually find your zeal is long gone and you are just going through the motions? You grumble to and from service each Sunday and sit on your hands and your heart while you are listening to the music and the message. Perhaps you think you are doing fine in your relationship with God the father and Jesus Christ the son because you rattle off a quick prayer before bed each night during the commericials. Maybe you even think that you are doing O.K. because you attend your church community group each week. However, your "attendance" comes with zero preparation and zero attention and zero serious participation.

1. performed merely as a routine duty; hasty and superficial.
2. lacking interest, care, or enthusiasm; indifferent or apathetic.

How can we go forward without examining this? If you are a Christian you should be seriously concerned if this adjective matches your approach to honoring God. To worship is to give praise, and you can't give praise between yawns, checking your watch every 10 minutes, or zoning out just to get through and make an appearance. We all have too much at stake to give worthless scraps of our time and energy to the most high God.

Oh, and in case you think that I am orating from on high, wagging my finger and clucking my tongue at you like some zealot know-it-all, I assure you, this blog was written entirely for my own sake.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day of Rest

I don't know about you, but when I am presented with a day where I have no responsibilities, no tasks, and no errands, I tend to gnash my teeth and look forward to it like a condemned man looks forward to the gallows. I just feel useless and anxious and adrift. Perhaps this can be traced to the fact that I tend to let my work define me. A day off from the "grind" and I grow restless and feel the strong pull back to my office. When I am away too long, I get that itchiness, that edginess, that irritability that the addict feels when he has gone without his fix for too long. I find this to be a particularly apt analogy.

Maybe this is the first time that you have seen someone describe it like this, but I know that I am certainly not alone in my "condition". All I have to do is drive into work on any given Saturday or Sunday. I see the sprinkling of cars across the lot and the lights on in the usual offices. It has been like this everywhere I have worked through the years.

Those of you who are familiar with biblical scripture may recall a particularly relevant verse from Exodus 31:15, "For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does work on the Sabbath day must be put to death." Yikes. I'm thankful that Jesus set aside the old covenant and does not look to condemn me for my work drive.

Recently I had a day where my schedule was completely blank. I was determined to try a grand experiment and to cease and be still. While initially it felt unnatural and nonorganic, I ultimately made it through. For some strange reason I felt a twinge of pride. I also found out, quite contrary to my expectations, that the world did not come to an abrupt end. Hmmm, who knows, maybe I will try this exercise again soon.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Phantom Call

There was an old M*A*S*H episode where Hawkeye was forced to amputate the leg of a soldier after he had received significant shrapnel from some North Korean ordnance. The episode was moving because the soldier was an athelete whose dream was to play professional football when he was discharged from the military. One of the topics that came up in that episode was the notion of "phantom pain". The soldier described feeling the very real presence of his leg even after it was removed.

The body is a very complex system as a whole, and the human nervous system is far from being fully understood. I find the sensations of pain quite curious in my own body. I remember back in high school biology class where my teacher described an itch as a low-grade form of pain. Sometimes when some portion of my body tells me that it itches, I reflect back on those words and the untold, unexplained wonders and facets of the human organism. So many whys and hows come forth that leave me in a state of wonder.

I have been carrying a cell phone on my belt for about 5 or 6 years now. Oftentimes I set the ringer to vibrate so that it will not disturb the folks around me when I receive a call. However, I have noticed over the years that I can sometimes feel a very strong vibration sensation in my hip just at the location where I carry my phone, even when the phone is not going off. I can only wonder what stimulus caused my body to suddenly respond in this manner. The phantom phone call is signaled in my body and then is gone. More whys and hows. I wonder who is trying to reach me ...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wishes to Unsee

"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!", Matthew 6:22-23

My pastor once told the story of a missionary trip where he was taking a group of young people through the countryside. At some point on the journey across the rugged terrain and undeveloped, winding roadways, they came upon a serious accident where many people were hurt and suffering. He was the first to spot the carnage and quickly yelled out to his charges, "Look away!". He knew that if they took in the images of that scene it would have a significant and harmful effect on them. That scene, once it is processed by the brain, would take years to fade. The poison would linger in their systems for years to come had he not acted quickly.

Today I wish there were times when a caring guide had been there to caution me to look away. Those graphic sexual images on the computer, the images that made me believe the lure of alcohol and cigarettes, the news programs that jaded my outlook of my world. All poisons that course through my system and affect my actions. Where was the shout of "Look away!" when I was most vulnerable? Now I only wish to unsee, for the light to come in and dispel the lurking darkness.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Competitive Eating?

Honey, where is my soap box? ... Where? ... Why do you need to know? ... We're talking about the greater good here! ... O.K., I am not sure how rational I will come across today, for my head is still a-reelin' from what I just read. I mean my entire chin is covered with spittle ... Oh, ha ha ha. No that's not my usual condition. ... Let me tell you what has me in such a tizzy.

I am eating my bowl of Lucky Charms perusing the day's goings on at CNN. I stumble across a story about hot-dog-eating "champion" Kobayashi, you know, the guy who is semi-well known for choking down a tray of hot dogs several times per year. In the article, I read that our boy Kobayashi did not take place in this year's Coney Island Stuff-Your-Face-Unnecessarily Challenge because of a contract dispute with Major League Eating. Yep, you read that right, Major League Eating, or more formally, Major League Eating and International Federation of Competitive Eating. Channeling Lewis Black, "Are you freaking kidding me?" A "sport" where people train to out-eat other gluttonous "athletes"? This surely is a sign that the end is near.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lazy Day

Today is a day off from work for me. Some people call this a long weekend. I find myself taking it easy, just relaxing and enjoying a lazy day. Recently I stumbled upon a fitting tribute in song that reflects my mood and spirit. An old gem called Lazy Day by the venerable group, The Moody Blues. (Click on the link to take a listen.)

Lazy day, Sunday afternoon
Like to get your feet up, watch TV
Sunday roast is something good to eat
Must be lamb today 'cause beef was last week

So full up, bursting at the seams
Soon you'll start to nod off happy dreams
Wake up for tea and buttered scones
Such a lot of work for you Sunday moms

Today's heaven sent and you're feeling content
You worked all week long
Still it's quite sad tomorrow's so bad
I don't feel too strong

Lazy day, Sunday afternoon
Like to get your feet up, watch TV
Sunday roast is something good to eat
Now it's almost over till next week

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pic-a-nic Basket

Yogi bear used to love to try to pilfer picnic baskets from unsuspecting visitors to Jellystone National Park. It was kind of his thing. He knew the fun and joy of eating al fresco. Heck, homemade pies, fresh potato salad, and deli sandwiches sure beat foraging for bark and twigs out in the woods. Given this background, I would venture to guess that Yogi was a big fan of the fourth of July. I mean a big part of this holiday is the eating. Whether it is a picnic in the park or at the beach, or an evening eating grilled yummies with friends, food is front and center.

However, in all of my many years orbiting about the sun, I have never (at least in my memory) actually celebrated the fourth of July. I mean I can never recall going to a picnic-type shindig on this day. I'm sure that I have been invited to go, but I guess something has always come up. This kind of made me think, especially given the buzz that I have sensed overhearing several hallway conversations this week. If you took a random sampling of what folk's favorite day of the year was, I would have guessed their birthday or Christmas or, perhaps, Arbor day, but people actually were giddy about July 4. I guess the big to-dos that they were planning were something special to them and their families and friends.

Anyway, whether you are feasting on delicious goodies with folks you care about, alone with your thoughts and a bag of chips, or even anywhere in between these limits, remember that July 4 is really all about celebrating the United States of America. God bless the U.S.A.. Have a great weekend everyone.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Git R Done

Years ago when I was a graduate student, a more senior colleague of mine wrote a letter of recommendation on my behalf for a job to which I was applying. He described me as someone with a "can-do attitude". As it was the first time that I had come across that expression, I stopped and lingered on the positive image that formed in my mind. It was around this same time that my research advisor commented that I seemed to be particularly adept at taking on and completing the most boring, thankless jobs. At first I was a bit insulted by this remark, but eventually I came to see that these two bits of feedback were saying essentially the same thing. I do what needs to be done with a positive spirit, regardless of how sexy or menial the project. In short, I step up when a job needs to be done.

I have always had a stick-to-it-iveness that many others don't, and I am not sure why I have this "gift". I dislike doing boring, repetitive, thankless work as much as the next person. However, I have always had the ability and mindset to kind of carry this sort of task through to completion. I guess I just understood that the grunt work is an essential and required part of completing any project. I don't know if this is a blessing or a curse, but I have always felt that recognition and renown weren't as important as taking care of business.

Even today, I still harbor the attitude that I wouldn't ask a co-worker or subordinate to do something that I was not at least willing to do myself. Many times over the years I have been down in the trenches getting my hands dirty on the tough, sweat-inducing, grinding work that is required in life to get the job done. One reward is seeing important projects brought to fruition. Another reward, perhaps just as important, is that over time you gain the respect of those you work with and around.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Essence of Mirth II

I know for a fact that there is not enough laughter in my life. Today I wanted to relate two recent personal episodes that brought about the type of healing that only laughter can provide. I suspect that if I can somehow keep my head up and my eyes open instead of focussing on life's negatives, more such episodes will present themselves.

Episode #1 - The Dolphinoplasty

I was channel surfing after a long, hard, grumblesome day. I stumbled across the cartoon South Park. Season 9, episode #1. Kyle's Jewish father Gerald has decided to undergo radical plastic surgery to bring about a bodily change that reflects who he feels he really is on the inside. He decides to undergo a dolphinoplasty, a procedure that will turn him into a dolphin. I won't tell you what was used to fashion his dorsal fin. However, the operation has turned him into a grotesque monster. When Kyle's friends Cartman, Stan, and Kenny show up to his house and see his now freakish dad (never mind that Kyle has just had his own plastic surgery, a negroplasty, to turn him into a suitable basketball player), it is amazing how muted their response is to all of these changes (perhaps this is just the jading effect that happens naturally when one lives in a town like South Park). After seeing Kyle's dad, Cartman says to himself with a touch of wonder, "He's a Jewish dolphin, ..., a jewphin."

Episode #2 - Mistaken Identity

At my laboratory, I was working a shift monitoring an experiment with my friend Brian. I have known Brian now for over 20 years. Whenever we get together, we morph into two 12-year-old boys. Silliness reigns unstopped. After four hours, Brian's replacement was due to show up to relieve him. I thought I recognized the new worker's name on the shift list, and I remembered him as being an odd sort of fellow. Very awkward and skinny, bald and pasty white, introverted and silent, with no lips and a slight hump. To pull Brian's chain, I told him that his replacement looked very much like him, so much so that it would be hard to tell the two of them apart. At the appointed time, Brian's replacement showed up, except he was a jocular, outgoing, muscular black man. Brian turned to me without pause and said, "It's almost like looking in a mirror."

After both episodes, I laughed until my sides hurt and tears of release poured from my eyes and down my cheeks. Ahh, that ice cube of negativity melted away fast and completely. Such good medicine.

(Part 2 of 2)