Friday, December 30, 2011

Resolutions 2011

For the past several years during the last week of December, I have sat down and prepared a list of New Year's resolutions. The items that I list are not of the sort, "Gee, I hope I win the lottery!" Instead, they represent areas where there is some deficiency in my life that I recognize (which for me is the first step to taking action), and then I consciously work to give effort to make adjustments or improvements.

As I make my new list of resolutions for the year ahead, I also look back to see how well I succeeded with my goals from the year just past. As you might imagine every year, not everything goes as I had hoped or wished. This year was no different. But even though my resolutions are deeply personal to me, perhaps by sharing I can help encourage someone out there to realize that giving your best effort is equally as important as succeeding. When I can look back on something that has not gone well or ended badly, if I can say that I did everything that I could, I find that regret does not sink its jagged talons into my flesh.

So, here is my list with a brief commentary for each item.
  1. To ask a woman out on a date - I went out on one date this year, but only one. At least I tried and kept my eyes open.
  2. To exercise the whole year - Here I made an unqualified success. I was consistent from start to finish and did everything that I wanted.
  3. To make several new friends - I thought that I had a few folks that I was getting close to and was enjoying their company. It turns out that for several reasons none of these folks is any longer in my life. So this goal definitely was not met.
  4. To grow closer to God - I'm not sure that I made progress here. I have focused on my prayer life, go to church and give, and read my devotionals. For whatever reasons, God has felt so distant from me this year and it is having an effect on me.
  5. To grow closer to my daughter - I have never loved my daughter more, but this past year has been difficult for both of us as she is growing up and I am struggling to let go. However, I am doing everything that I think I am capable of doing to be a good father to her.
  6. To find some degree of happiness and peace - Another year has passed and I still struggle to hang on. Too often feelings of hopelessness break me and steal my smile. I continue to try though, but it has been tough.
Now I will prepare my list of resolutions for 2012 and plan to give my best effort to be successful on each one.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blog 2011 Recap II

As I mentioned yesterday in part 1 of this post (Blog 2011 Recap I), I wanted to share what, in my view, are my favorite posts from this past year. Most of these were borne out of some frustration that I was feeling or represented a lamentation. Sometimes just giving voice to a choking thought or a frustrating failure or a bit of melancholia can be freeing and uplifting. So, here is my own top 10 list from my posts this year (in no particular order).
  • Valleys series, Acute, Obtuse (Sep. 21,22) - A series I wrote about living with and through life's struggles.
  • Subtle series, 1, 2 (Sep. 16,17) - A series that I wrote as I struggled with a God who seems to be satisfied with being far too subtle for me.
  • Chess (Aug. 16) - A bit of inspiration that I had about finding love unexpectedly.
  • Along the Watchtower (Jun. 16) - About betrayal of trust and a broken heart.
  • Fortress (Jun. 1) - Written to someone that I badly hurt, someone who I cared for very much.
  • No Time (May 17) - About lamenting the passage of time and my daughter growing up.
  • Strange Currencies (Mar. 11) - Written about the strange things that people cling to, even when they know better.
  • airportman (Feb. 16) - Written to the wise man who needs some of his own wisdom.
  • Big Church series, I, II, III, IV (Feb. 7-10) - Written about my struggles and frustrations with my fast-growing church.
  • Perspective (Jan. 14) - Almost a bit of prose, but a piece about the beauty of perspective on the good things in life.
I hope some of these touched you as well. If you missed them, just follow the links back. See you in the 2012 recap!

(Part 2 of 2)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blog 2011 Recap I

Just about a year ago, I made the hard decision to decrease the number of my blog posts from 6 per week to 5. While several folks commented that they would miss my Saturday posts, looking back I know it was the right decision for me for several reasons. The first is that my site traffic on Saturdays is minimal. (If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it ...) Second, I think the extra posts had an impact on the overall quality of my writing. I much prefer to write when inspired rather than throw something out to meet some deadline. Sometimes I like to write a piece and let it sit for a while and then revisit my draft later to put the final touches in place. Finally, reducing my output has allowed me to feel less pressure. Writing is meant to be a labor of love, not a chore or a burden. Writing to fulfill some full-speed ahead pace can only lead to bitterness, frustration, and wasted time. Worse, it leads to uninspired words that have no value to anyone.

This year I have written more than 260 posts. Never once have I felt rushed or forced. Each piece, whether it was something silly or something deep, has come from my heart and represents a piece of me. I really enjoyed writing my blog this year. I look forward to continuing on into 2012, my fifth year of writing Return to Zero. Tomorrow I will share my top 10 list of my own blogs for 2011.

(Part 1 of 2)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best Books of 2011

I have done a lot of reading this year, finishing more than 70 books. I worked my way through most of the Ted Dekker catalog, poring through more than 20 of his novels. Man did I have some good adventures along the way. Plenty to keep my mind active and my imagination soaring. Lots to make me think and take stock. So, here is the list of my top 10 "books" for this year in no particular order. Note that I put books in quotes, because I count a series by a given author as just one entry.
  • The Circle series (Black, Red, White, Green), Ted Dekker
  • Soul Print, Mark Batterson
  • The King Raven trilogy (Hood, Scarlet, Tuck), Stephen Lawhead
  • The Dreamhouse Kings series (House of Dark Shadows, Watcher in the Woods,Gatekeepers, Timescape, Whirlwind, Frenzy), Robert Liparulo
  • Graceling and Fire, Kristin Cashore
  • Through Painted Deserts, Donald Miller
  • A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller
  • The Lost Books series (Chosen, Infidel, Renegade, Chaos, Lunatic, Elyon), Ted Dekker
  • Patrick, Stephen Lawhead
  • On the Anvil, Max Lucado
I am already starting to plan out my reading list for the first part of 2012 (and I have a stack of books in the queue sitting in my office). However, if you have any suggestions, please pass them along. I keep my list of reads up to date on my Shelfari page.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Wow, another year has passed us by. It feels like the time just flew. Try as I might to grab it to slow its headlong rush, it slipped through my fingers unabated. However, as I celebrated yesterday with my daughter, I wanted to write just a brief note to all my online friends to thank you for visiting my site and leaving your comments. I pray that you had a merry Christmas and I wish you the best in the year ahead.

(P.S. The above painting was created during the Christmas Eve service at Waters Edge Church. A lovely and moving moment that reminded us that Christ makes all things beautiful, out of the dust.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

About Me

For more years than I would care to acknowledge, the Christmas season is a time that I would just as soon avoid altogether. I almost wish that I could just hibernate through it or step directly from the third week of December to January. Don't get me wrong, I love the time spent with my daughter and lavishing her with lots of goodies and fun things that will elicit squeals and laughter and great joy. However, this year will mark the seventh that I have lived through a different type of Christmas than what I used to know. Those wonderful seasons of two have faded into the darker reality of one. I'm not sure if or when I will ever really get past this. I sense that it will always be something that I struggle with.

This year I have kind of forced myself to focus in on what I should be dwelling on in this season. Christmas should be a day to fully revel in the birth of Jesus Christ. This aspect alone should be enough to sate my spirit, to fill me to overflowing with joy and warmth and satisfaction. Of course, the fact that I know this and it is still not enough to pull me out of the darkness, just seems to add to the pressure that I already feel. It's like I have to be fully on the defensive from moment to moment. The instant that the clouds appear on the horizon, "It's not about me." The second that I want all the celebrations to vaporize, "It's Not About Me." The tick where I begin feel sorry for myself and start to embrace regret, "IT'S NOT ABOUT ME!"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Grandfather's Clock

It rang an alarm
In the dead of the night,
An alarm that for years had been dumb;
And we knew that his spirit
Was pluming for flight,
That his hour of departure had come.

My daughter's favorite CD when she was quite young included a song called "My Grandfather's Clock". For reasons that I do not understand, this song with its sombre and haunting tone and themes of aging and inescapable death, always affected me. If we were listening to this CD in the car and the song came on, I would quickly skip past it. Its pull was beyond my strength as it made my mind wander into thoughts that I wanted no business with.

The other night I was tidying up some things in my closet, and I came across this CD. It hadn't been touched in nearly ten years. It happened to be a night when I was a bit down and I was alone. As I ran my fingers over the edges of the jewel case, I started to cry. Shadows once short now extend across my face and remind me far too often that time marches on and carries me unwillingly along.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Burn by Ted Dekker and Erin Healy, is the story of Janeal Mikkado, the 17 year old daughter of the leader of a band of western gypsies. As the story begins, Janeal is disillusioned with her life within the kumpania, mainly because as a "half-breed" (her mother was not a gypsy), she has never gained acceptance and is treated with open disdain. Growing up she has become more and more inward focused, ever planning for the day when she can leave this life behind. Even her boyfriend Robert and her friend Katie are just a means to this end.

One night as Janeel is seeking some solitude out on the mesa, she is approached by Sanso Salazaar, a ruthless drug dealer and counterfeiter. Janeel's father has 1 million dollars of his bogus money that he is desperate to get back to keep the DEA from coming down on him. Janeel's father had some shady dealings with Salazaar and he is about to lead the DEA in to bring this kingpin down. Salazaar seeks to enlist Janeel's help in recovering his money, and if she does as she is told, the plan to kill her father will be called off and she will be rewarded financially. Janeel is drawn to Sanso because he represents power and adventure. Perhaps more importantly, Janeel sees his money as her means to finally escape her tribe and begin her life on the outside. However, things don't work out as Janeel tries to con the con man. It results in the torching of the gypsy settlement and most of their tribe being slaughtered. Janeel, however, makes her escape with the counterfeit money, but the cost is that her friend Katie dies in the fire. The tragedy is that Janeel waited too long debating whether she should help Katie or save herself.

Nearly 15 years later, Janeel has become quite successful as a New York magazine executive. She has done whatever she needed to do through the years to survive and thrive, and to protect herself without a thought to helping others. Robert, who survived the fire, has become a DEA agent who has dedicated his life to bring Salazaar to justice. Also, we meet Katie, who, it seems, has somehow survived after all. Dear, sweet Katie, who was blinded and deeply scarred by the events, but has dedicated her life to helping women in a half-way house. Yet there is more to both Janeel and Katie than meets the eye, as Robert finds out. Not a bad effort here, but Dekker leans too much on using his "unexpected twist" gimmick when there are other ways that could have led to tighter more relatable storyline.

There are two chambers in every heart, one for Judas and one for John.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Suppose you find yourself taking a test. You have a freshly sharpened No.2 pencil in your hand, poised above your exam paper. You come to a multiple choice question and consider it. Among the answer options, you see that (b) is clearly the correct answer, yet you circle (d) instead. You recognize that you have not circled the correct answer, but you do not move to fix your mistake. Of course, when the test is graded and returned, your grade reflects that you provided the wrong answer to the question. This sounds really stupid, yet I make this kind of mistake nearly every day. The issue is consistency.
  • I need to carefully watch what I eat due to a number of health issues, yet I walk past the bag of candy and grab a handful. Worse yet, I fix my dinner plate with enough food for 2 and sometimes 3 servings.
  • I am a homeowner and understand that repairs are best dealt with promptly before they become a major problem later. Yet I put things off and put things off.
  • I have very few friends and I recognize how important they can be in my life. Yet I avoid cultivating these relationships.
  • I have come to know that spending a few moments in the morning with my devotional and in prayer improves my spirit and my outlook. Yet too often in the hustle and bustle I too easily forgot.
Why do I continue to circle the wrong answer on the test when I know the right one? Why am I so inconsistent in some things and miss the mark time and again? I guess it is equal parts fear, laziness, forgetfulness, and impatience. One thing that I have found that works (at least for some things, certainly not all by any means) is to write everything that I would like to complete on my daily "to-do list". That way I have a constant reminder before my eyes. Furthermore, as I am success driven, I cannot claim completion of my work until all items are checked off.

What are some of your secrets to consistency?

Monday, December 19, 2011

What is Friendship?

According to my dictionary, a friend is defined as a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. Hmmm. So if you use this as a metric, how many friends would you say that you have? Dozens or a few? From my way of looking at this, I think most folks tend to refer to pretty much anyone they know as a friend. While I know many people at my workplace and church and have been in and around them for years, I don't really consider them my friends. I should think that acquaintance is a much more appropriate term, but I feel this goes beyond mere semantics. I even suspect that some folks would be somewhat wounded by my characterization. But I mean no disrespect.

People who you work with are around you because of your job. While you might be friendly toward them, how many would you hang out with if you were to change employers? I tend to view friendship as more than just the causal "how ya doin'?" relationship with a co-worker or somebody that I chat with about current events in the lobby at church. To me, a friend is:
  • someone that I interact with regularly on a very personal level.
  • someone who knows me and my crap and accepts me.
  • someone who enjoys my company.
  • someone that I spend time with socially.
So, what do you think? What is friendship?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bear Down

The other day my daughter blew me away and really just made me proud to be her father. She came home from school after a day of not feeling too well. However, she also arrived home with a list of homework that stretched out toward the horizon. A major science lab report to finish, preparations for a test and a quiz, work on her spanish project, two math worksheets, and both an english and a civics assignment. She went at it with all that she had from the moment she got home until her bed time. While she had a few bouts along the way where anxiety tried to bubble to the surface, she maintained her control, her spirit, her humor, and her concentration. The only break she took was a quick 20-minute pit stop to eat her supper.

The best part of the day for me after all of the hustle and bustle, was the last few minutes before her bed time. She asked me to play a game with her on the computer. In that brief time, even though she was exhausted and her mind was fried, she thanked me for the nice dinner and for my help throughout the evening. She then defeated me far too easily in the tank battle game that we were playing and went to bed with a smile on her face.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Vision Statement

It seems in today's doggy-doggy world of high-level corporate intrigue and savage, hardline, competition, every company needs to stop everything that they are doing, hire dozens of ludicrously paid top-tier executives, and write a vision statement. A vision statement is some pithy paragraph that encapsulates and captures the raison d'etre (i.e. what are we here for again?) of the company. Today's CEO, COO, and CFO types somehow don't think that the peons toiling down in the mines can effectively get their jobs done without a very carefully prepared statement, orchestrated at the expense of millions of dollars and countless lives. Once prepared, this statement is added as an obscure link on the company's web page or stuck into a filing cabinet somewhere on the third floor.

I have been around several companies as they birthed such a statement. Unless you are a cretin, you should understand that every vision statement must contain the word "synergy". Also, for the statement preparation "team", the word "synergy" must be included at least 4.5 times in every Powerpoint presentation. ... What's that? ... You don't know what this word means? Well, to help you advance in the corporate word, to climb that ladder of success past the glass ceiling and into the attic, let me tell you. Synergy corresponds to a Utopian ideal espoused by various hippies and ne'er-do-wells. It involves a condition where everyone sits around in a big circle, munches granola, and sings cumbaya. Folks enjoined in this circle are required to sway back and forth in unison to the swelling background music.

So, even though it may seem that preparing such vision statements is a collossal waste of time and money, that it leads to a company top heavy with useless management types at the expense of overburdened workers who actually are responsible for making the companies highly profitable widgets but there is no money left to ease their burden or lower their quotas because more executives were just hired, it is not for you to question this rampant synergism. Just trust me when I tell you that it is critical for your company's long-term success metrics.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Words & Sentences

Several folks I know have told me that they find blogger Tyler Tarver hilarious. Until I started writing this post, I had never visited his site, but a quick peak told me that he has been posting regularly now for almost two years. His first published work, Words and Sentences, is a sort of compendium of his blog posts. Given that I like to laugh every once in a while, I thought I would give this book a chance and picked up a copy. Here are a few observations from my reading.
  • This author likely got a lot of laughs in high school from his classmates. This probably emboldened him to rise into the role of class clown. Now in his mid-20's, he has shown no signs of maturing in his sense of humor.
  • Mr. Tarver clearly has a rather high opinion of his own work. He loves to tell you every other paragraph just how clever he thinks he is.
  • The author's approach is to throw everything that he has at the wall and hope that something, anything sticks.
  • While I sincerely appreciate his enthusiasm, and likely his style helps him in his job as a high school teacher, this book is the very epitome of sophomoric dreck. It is cloying in its inanity from start to finish.
  • I have a shelf full of Dave Barry humor books and have thoroughly enjoyed each of them. Dave Barry's writing can sometimes be inane, but he pulls it off successfully because he knows when to ease off the reins and employ a subtle touch or let an anecdote tell itself without all the "wink wink, nudge nudge" overbearing ferocity of a young Howie Mandel on crack.
  • Looking at Mr. Tarver's blog site, he clearly has some funny concepts and has lots of funny photos and randoms bits of silliness. I think Mr. Tarver's work is likely much more easily swallowed, and perhaps even appreciated, in much, much smaller doses.
I gave this work every possible opportunity to show me something, anything. I read every word and every sentence, but there is just so little here that connects with my funny bone. Of course, and this may be the key, I am pretty much a fossil and know nothing about anything. So, don't take my opinion as anything more than my opinion.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What is Love?

Do you know what love is? I don't mean love of food or your favorite hobby or sports team. I'm talking more about love for another, although not for your friends or your family. I'm thinking about the condition or state of mind that can overwhelm us when we have met (or think that we have) that special someone. For reasons not always clear, we can feel an irresistible pull toward someone that is based on more than just physical beauty and we can lose ourselves to the chemical cascade that courses through our systems. In the moment when our minds are befogged in their own euphoric domain, typically far removed from reality or logic or sense, we can sometimes make some very passionate declarations. "I love you."

I wonder how many of us have declared our love for someone only to learn at some later point that our pronouncements were either wildly premature or not sustainable with time. Some might tell you that those squishy, tingly, bubbly feelings that flood your system when you first meet someone or in the early part of a relationship are not love. They are some sort of lesser entity held loosely by infatuation. True love they aver is not an emotion but a mindset. I don't agree. While emotion may not be the bricks that make up the relational wall, they are most certainly the mortar that binds it together. The emotion is what provides the spontaneity, the magic, the fun. It's the source that provides the twinkle to the eye and the playful glances and laughter in the day to day.

So, what do you think? What is love?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Funday MadLibs

Today is not Monday, despite what you calendar or PDA or SmartPhone might tell you. I declare it Funday, and seeing that this is my blog, it has now become an official decree. In what follows, I provide a post that I have partially written. I say partially, because, try as I might, I just could not think of some words that I needed. I mean, they were on the tip of my brain, but alas, would not come forth. So, on Funday, I leave it up to you to try and make some sense of my ramblings by putting you to work.

It was a                  morning, the kind that makes you want to                  your poodle across the community fairgrounds. Despite this, you have soldiered on and driven your                  car into your                  job. When you arrived, some                  left the coffee pot baking on the burner with no coffee inside, rendering it                 . You then took said coffee pot and                  him upside the head with a                  to                  some sense into him. It was not a                  scene. After dealing with the police and offering them a                 , you got back to work and spent the rest of the day                  with your many paperweights. Satisfied that you                  enough for all practical purposes, you                  and headed home, so that you can be ready to repeat this same                  tomorrow.

So, go ahead and fill in the blanks by using a permanent "Sharpie" type marker and writing directly on your computer screen. You'll have a hoot showing your boss how creative and witty you are!

Friday, December 9, 2011


I found myself noodling a bit today about things that I have never done or have never happened to me. Really, I was just mindlessly drifting along, letting the neurons go down whatever channels suited their fancy. Here are a few things that bubbled to the surface.
  • I have never kissed a blond-haired woman.
  • I have never worn culottes.
  • I have never owned a pair of loafers.
  • I have never seen a superhero movie in the movie theater.
  • I have never gone on a traditional "dinner and a movie" date.
  • I have never used a $2 bill or a Susan B. Anthony dollar as legal tender for a good or service.
  • I have never flown in a dirigible or lighter-than-air craft of any kind.
  • I have never worn a tuxedo or shaken hands with anyone who was wearing one.
  • I have never worn eyeliner or any sort of skin bronzer.
  • I have never danced with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.
  • I have never had scurvy or worn an eye patch.
  • I have never pined for the fjords.
  • I have never walked backwards for an entire city block.
  • I have never been in Iowa, Wyoming, or Oklahoma.
  • I have never used duct tape on actual duct work.
  • I have never written a blog post that has gotten double-digit comments.
What are a few of your nevers?

Thursday, December 8, 2011


In Ted Dekker's thriller Skin, a group of apparent strangers is caught up together in a small town in Nevada called Summerville as a result of a freak storm. Five people brought together by seemingly natural circumstances, yet there is a hidden connection in their past. Colt is a small-town cop whose mother was a prostitute and abandoned him as a child. Wendy is newly on her own after escaping an oppressive cult. Pinkus is a computer gamer who has suffered from epilepsy. Finally, there is the brother and sister Carey and Nicole. Carey is somehow linked to the occult and his sister is a pure beauty but overly innocent. Once trapped in Summerville, a serial killer named Sterling Red reveals himself to the group. After demonstrating his power, he tells them that they must kill the ugliest among them or he will begin to systematically wipe out the inhabitants of the town.

As the story progresses, Dekker's point is to explore the notion of ugliness from the viewpoint of flawed humanity. True beauty runs deeper than the surface layer that we present to the outside. Through the developing narrative, Dekker reveals what links all of the characters together and pulls back the curtains to show how our initial impressions of others do not truly reflect who they are. It is much deeper than the skin.

As I was reading this book, especially the first half, its plot and circumstances were very similar to House by Dekker and Frank Peretti. The second half of the book then ran in a slightly different direction but left several questions unanswered even after the plot lines ran their course. It was then that I learned that this book was intended to serve as a kind of bridge between Dekker's "Circle" series and his "Paradise" series. Certainly, Skin was nothing special, a bit played out and recycled, stale production line writing, but it did keep me company for a few nights and pulled me in at each reading with enough desire to see it through.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Doctor Doctor

I recently went to the doctor because of a problem with one of my toes (see Foot Steps). Although even the most casual of observers would have commended me for my bravery and fortitude during my small surgery, I did have some "issues" with the doctor's office that simply begged for a blog. Of course, it goes without saying that every word of this is true. Let me share.
  • I made my way to the exam room where a nurse came in to get some information from me. In a most serious manner she informed me that the questions that she was about to ask were vital for their medical records and to ensure that I got the best care. Her first question, "Do you own or rent your home?".
  • I was sitting in the operating room chair with my extremely painful foot propped into position for the doctor to operate on when a nurse came in the room to check on me. As we killed a moment with some small talk, I made a joke. At this moment the nurse "playfully" swatted at me like a crazed Vietnamese badminton player aiming to slam a wayward shuttlecock. Of course she made direct contact with my toe. The pain radiated through me like a red-hot firebrand and I screamed out, "Jehosephat woman!"
  • I had a similar procedure on my other foot just over a year ago and it hurt like my foot was on fire and someone put it out with a bag of nickels. The nurse then assured me that this sort of "discomfort" would not happen on her watch as she began to spread some topical numbing jelly on a gauze pad before they were to inject me with needles of various sizes and colors. I picked up the jar of goo and noticed that the expiration date had passed more than 4 months ago.
With all of the shenanigans that I endured, it is a wonder that I am still here to tell the tale.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grind My Gears 26

Did you hear that? That clandestine whooshing and skittering noise followed by a low cackle? ... There it is again ... and again. In fact in the space of just a few minutes, if you are not a complete lout, you will hear this same sound hundreds upon hundreds of times if you sit on my front porch steps. What is the cause you ask? It is those danged leaves falling out of the trees and landing on my lawn. I have watched them from the cover of my rose bushes. Just when they think nobody is watching, they cut loose from their branches and make a bee-line to the ground. I spend hours raking, bagging, and yelling myself hoarse until my yard is spotless. Then, in the ever so brief duration of time from when I walk to my shed to put away the tools until I return, the yard is once again completely re-covered in leaves. This whole process of nature seems like quite a poor design. It totally grinds my gears. I mean who invented disposable leaves? What is the point of even letting trees have the option of irresponsibly shedding? I don't have the time or energy to spend dealing with nature's insouciant littering. Maybe I should leave a pile of cord wood and an idling chainsaw in my front yard as a stern warning of my power.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Nothing at All

Alison Krauss, a popular country singer, had a hit 15 years ago with the song, When You Say Nothing at All. The main chorus contains the line, "You say it best when you say nothing at all". This song represents a celebration of the sweet, simple, and beautiful non-verbal communication between lovers. However, over the years this tag line is applicable to me on a whole different plane. Perhaps you can relate to this story as well.

The other day someone came into my office to complain about something. While they had a fire lit under their backside, it was a point that I really didn't give a hoot about. What I should have done was to hear them out, nod my head supportively whilst they vented and carried on, and then let them go on their way. That would have been the end of it and the smoke would have quickly dissipated.

Instead, their attitude and attack formation set me off first in a defensive counter-attack, and then into a full-on frontal assault. I proceeded to tell them they were wrong, demonstrate their wrongness in as condescending a manner as possible, and then I wonked them over the head a couple of times with a verbal hammer until there was enough tension in the air to peel the paint off the walls. Yeah, I should have said nothing at all.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Having finished his sublime King Raven trilogy, I was eager to explore more works of author Stephen Lawhead. The book that I ended up choosing happened to be the only one of his left at my local library, a fictionalized account of the early years of Saint Patrick, called Patrick - Son of Ireland. This turned out to be a satisfying choice.

The story takes place in the early part of the fifth century. It begins following the exploits of Succat, a British nobleman's son, who at the age of 16, spends his lazy days hanging out with friends drinking and carrying on. One day his town is overrun by a band of Irish raiders who pillage the land. Every able-bodied soul that is captured is taken away as a slave. Such is what happens to Succat and he ends up serving a cruel master as an apprentice to a sheep herder, a position he labors at for seven years. During this time he tries to escape twice and is then beaten to within a breath of his life. He also falls in love and ultimately joins up with a troop of sympathetic Druids. In these years nearly all of Succat's decisions are based on easing his suffering and seeking his means of escape. Yet below the surface he begins to develop a deeper connection for the land and its people. As the years pass in captivity, his faith and compassion begin to be stirred.

Ultimately, Succat makes good his escape and returns home, only to find that nothing of his former existence remains. Without any other options, he travels to Gaul to make a life for himself, and there he joins up with a mercenary troop to fight under Roman command as they protect the territory from the local "barbarians". Succat fights honorably but is witness to the brutal deaths of thousands of soldiers. Although a low-level fighter, he manages to distinguish himself as he saves a high-level Roman official and transports him back to Rome. Here Succat takes the official's daughter as his wife and has a child, only to lose them both to the plague in short order. Lost and confused, Succat drifts alone for a season before he feels some inner prompting, pulling him back to Ireland. He steels his resolve and returns to the lands where he was once held captive. From this point, the true legend of Saint Patrick begins as he spreads the seeds of Christianity throughout Ireland and then into Europe.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Hammer Reveals

I am a Christian, which means that I believe in God and I accept his son Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. Sometimes, though, being a Christian feels to me wholly unnatural and a whole wagon-load of work.

Unnatural in the sense that the ways in which I am called to live my life as contained in the Bible are, oftentimes, completely contrary to my nature. I am sick and tired of seeing that so much of how I think and act and live is riddled with sin. After a certain time, shouldn't it be less work to live according to what I think I believe? Too often, it feels like my Christian life is more of an outer garment that I loosely wear instead of an integral part of my being.

Work in the sense that living a Christian life means that I am supposed to live for others, that it's not all about me. It is not just doing what I have always done and living as I have always lived. It is helping to reflect God's brilliant light through how I go about my daily existence. Whether it is giving my all at work each day, or holding open a door for folks at the grocery store, or sharing my faith, everything about being a Christian seems to require constant and consistent effort.

But sometimes the hammer reveals. They say that if you are multi-lingual, your true native tongue will be revealed by what you say when you strike your thumb with a hammer. In that same vein, when in my life I am hit by a powerful force, whether it be curse or joy, my heart is revealed as I immediately fall to my knees in prayer. In those moments, it is the most natural, easiest thing in the world.