Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

As I sit here today on Feb. 29, I have celebrated 45 birthdays, and have experienced 12 different leap years. This website was formed in 2008, which makes this the second leap year that I have been a blogger. Given that I did not start posting until October 2008, this represents my first opportunity to actually post on a leap day. So, in 3 sentences, I have whittled away at 45 until I am left with 1. One chance. A once in a lifetime opportunity.

While posting a blog on Feb. 29 is not an entry on my bucket list, I think that it is something that I should celebrate. Maybe I should write it as a listed item on a piece of paper and then mark it off with a bit of fanfare. Yet in every other respect, it is just another day, so why should it be so special, set apart from any other day? But that is my point here. Every day that we face the sunrise can be viewed as something special, something unique. Something to be celebrated and embraced. Who says that we shouldn't use the good china or clink our glasses in celebration on any day that we choose?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


It starts out as a peaceful night at home alone - a good meal, followed by some light household chores and a bit of reading. Along the way my mind begins to relax, letting go of the burdens and challenges that had occupied it and kept it on focus during the day. In this posture, it can happen that the seed of a lustful thought germinates or an impure image flashes across my mind, demanding my attention with its potent lure. The moment of the serpent is at hand.

On such a night as this, the serpent sometimes carries me away before I even have an instant to recognize what I have allowed to happen. In the moment the sensations are empowering, controlling, overwhelming, and I am all too easily lost in the carnal riptides that pull me under. Only when I regain some modicum of my senses, do I recognize how far the serpent has taken me from the path that I know I am supposed to be on. It is a sickening feeling of failure, of weakness, of betrayal, of sin. How many times have I vowed the oath of never again?

On such a night as this, sometimes I call to bear sufficient strength to vanquish the siren's song of the beast. When he recognizes that he shall find no quarter within me, he slinks off elsewhere for other prey, for his next victim. This feeling of victory and strength far outweighs any momentary pleasure that the serpent can deliver.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Christian Atheist

I have read several books by pastor and author Craig Groeschel and have found them both approachable and insightful. Each has been quite different from the others, but quite valuable. I had come across his book The Christian Atheist several times when browsing at my local bookstore and made a note to add it to my reading list. Recently I picked up a copy and was well pleased with this work.

The subtitle of this rather provocative sounding title is "Believing in God but living as if he doesn't exist." The purpose of the oxymoron, "Christian Atheist", obviously is to pull prospective readers in, but I never found his approach to be a gimmick. What else would you call a person who claims that they believe in God but whose life bears no imprint of this relationship? "They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him." (Titus 1:16)

Each chapter in this work focuses on a different aspect that many people who claim to believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit struggle with. This includes issues with your prayer life, lack of forgiveness, worry, money, the church, love, and relationships. The thread that runs through this book that I found so helpful is the honesty with which Groeschel approaches his own shortcomings. Change is oftentimes extremely hard and time consuming, but each day we can continue to work on ourselves and our relationship with God. My favorite line of problem ownership from Groeschel in this book was:

"God created me in his image. I returned the favor and created him in mine."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Advances in Technology

Every news outlet and advertising medium touts the benefits of our society's advances in technology. Every other day the newest, latest, must-have gadget goes on sale and we all rush like lemmings to the store to throw out our hard-earned money. But did you ever stop to think about the negative aspects of what we have lost or left behind due to these advances? Have you even taken a moment to count the costs? Well, for the purposes of this blog, I have done a little bit of thinking along these lines. You don't have to thank me, I consider this a public service. Let me illustrate three obvious examples.

1). Telephones - In the old days we talked into a receiver that was wired to a base unit with a cord that looked like a piggy's tail. If we wanted to storm out on a bad conversation with a point of emphasis, we could slam the receiver into its cradle with gusto. I can assure you that it was quite unpleasant for the person on the other end of the line. Now with my cell phone, I can only press the "end" button with a frowny face. This does nothing to make clear my disgust.

2). Eyeglasses - In the old days we could use our glasses in several key ways. We could grab them at one temple and quickly rip them off our faces to demonstrate incredulity. (Think of Oscar Goldman in the old Six Million Dollar Man show from the 1970s). We could also calmly nibble on the end of one earpiece to advertise that we were in deep thought. None of this works at any level with these new-fangled contact lenses.

3). Car Ignitions - Once upon a time, when our cars wouldn't start, we could turn the key in the ignition with a grimace on our face and mutter, "Come on mama!" Now we have these space-age vehicles that start with the push of a button. Plus, we don't even have a key on which we can hang a dangly chain.

Oh technology, you are a cruel mistress.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


As baseball's spring training is just a few weeks away, I have been reading the sports headlines with renewed interest as major league teams are signing players and shoring up their rosters. Given that only one team can win the World Series championship each year, most fans are left to lick their wounds over the long off-season. However, as March comes creeping up, most folks have managed to wipe the slate of their team's losing fully clean. They now have a renewed vigor and sense of hope regardless of which team they pull for. A friend of mine who roots for a perennial also-ran told me that, in fact, the beginning of the baseball season is the most interesting for him given that this is the only time of the season when his team will be within a few games of first place! How is that for perspective?

Yet with all of this palpable excitement about the start of the new season, it occurred to me recently that my window has passed for playing professional baseball. It's not just that I have no talent whatsoever and have not played in a game of baseball since I was a l'il nipper, it's that I am just too dang old. That thought has kind of weighed on me for a bit. I know it makes no sense, but that is beside the point. In my mind it just doesn't seem that long ago when I was running off to Little League practice or dreaming the dreams of youth listening to the Boston Red Sox on my old AM radio. But even if I could somehow get offered a Major League contract, I would have to turn it down, because at my age I would look ridiculous in a baggy polyester uniform.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thunder of Heaven

The last part of Ted Dekker's Martyr's Song trilogy is entitled, The Thunder of Heaven. While there are a few character ties from this story to those in Heaven's Wager and When Heaven Weeps, "Thunder" really is a stand-alone story about love and redemption, about God's plan and His timing, and about our individual roles in the Kingdom. It also provides some important insight into being obedient to God, even when things don't make sense to us or when there is a cost to us that might even amount to our earthly lives.

The story begins in Venezuela in an area carved out of the Amazonian jungle that includes a small coffee plantation and a mission house to serve the local indians. The teenage children of the two families, Shannon and Tanya, are deeply in love, and it seems as if they were destined to be together. Out of nowhere, their compounds are suddenly overrun by a terrorist group who slaughter their parents. Shannon and Tanya each live through their own hell during the attack that sets their paths moving forward. Tanya prays out to God, making a vow to do anything if He will save her. Shannon, who must fight his way through the militants, embraces the ways of killing and death for survival and revenge. Ultimately they escape, thinking they alone are the sole survivors of the carnage.

Seven years later, the separate worlds of Shannon and Tanya are brought back together. Each fights their own battle of survival and uncertainty, in a struggle with the same terrorists who overran their homes and slaughtered their parents. Nuclear weapons, a well-financed drug ring, dirty players and secrets within the CIA. In a world spinning on the edge, with millions of lives in the balance, we watch God's plan unfold on both a global scale and on an intimate, personal level. A wonderful story and a trilogy that was top notch from start to finish.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Speed Bumps

The other day I made a trip to a local mall and was aghast at the sheer scale of the speed bumps that they had installed every 3 feet around their parking lot. If you had put K-2 next to these behemoths, it would have been covered in shadow. I mean, as I passed over these structures, the oxygen masks in my car popped down! (Note that I put mine on first and then assisted my child with hers). At the end of that hair-raising experience, I thought that the topic of speed bumps was crying out for me to investigate further.

Later, as I was looking for information on the Algorian superhighway of stuff on what constituted a regulation speed bump, I came across a site that proclaimed across its top "The ULTIMATE Blog on Speed Bumps, Speed Humps and Parking Curbs". My first thought was, this person really has embraced a real specialized niche area. The second thing that I noticed was that they had more followers than I do. But that is beside the point. The key piece of information that I was after was the allowed dimensions of a state-legal speed bump installed in a public roadway or parking area. The answer that I found was that this is all controlled by local mafias, so if Mr. Big says they shall be big enough to cover a dead body, then that is how big they shall be. But, one state (CA) does have posted speed bump regulations on the books. They are:

Speed bumps must be 3.5-in high by 12-in wide and must have a 6-in incline on either side.

The speed bumps that I encountered in that local mall parking lot would clearly not have been allowed in CA, unless suitable kickbacks were established. But hey, who am I to argue with Mr. Big?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Twelve Proverbs

I recently purchased my fourth Breugel and am ready to hobnob amongst my fellow blue bloods in the Hamptons this summer. Well not really, but I did just acquire my fourth print by Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel. This piece was painted on 12 separate plates ca. 1558 to 1560 and is entitled Twelve Proverbs. I fell in love with the original that I viewed in the Austrian National Museum (Kunsthistorisches) many years ago. For fun, I thought I would unpack the meaning of each of the 12 proverbs.

Top Row (L to R):
1. A seller of waffles who drinks and plays - be about your business.
2. To hang one's cloak into the wind - to adapt one's viewpoint to the current opinion.
3. To carry fire in one hand and water in the other - to be two-faced.
4. To sit between two chairs - unable to choose between two options and ending up with nothing.

Middle Row (L to R):
1. To fill the well after the calf has drowned - take action after a disaster.
2. To cast roses before swine - to waste effort on the unworthy.
3. To bell the cat - to carry out a dangerous or impractical plan.
4. To be unable to see the sun shine on the water - to be jealous of another's success.

Bottom Row (L to R):
1. To bang one's head against a wall - try to achieve the impossible.
2. To fish behind the net - to miss an opportunity.
3. To wear a blue cloak - to be deceived.
4. To pee against the moon - to waste one's time on a futile endeavor.

So, any other art lovers out there?

Friday, February 17, 2012

When Heaven Weeps

The second volume in Ted Dekker's Martyr's Song series is entitled, When Heaven Weeps. The story begins with a flashback to Bosnia at the end of WWII. Here a peaceful and isolated village has managed to escape the brutality and darkness of the war that has ravaged Yugoslavia. However, a small band of Serbian guerrillas comes across the village as they have gathered to celebrate the birthday of one their children. The vile and despicable leader of this band orders his troops to terrorize the villagers. In the end, the birthday girl, Nadia, is shot in the head and the village priest is crucified. Through this we come to know Ivena, the mother of the slain girl, and Janjic Jovic, one of the soldiers in the band. Through this horrific episode, Ivena and Janjic begin to understand true love, the love of the Father for His children.

In a suburb of Atlanta in 1964 we catch up to Ivena and Janjic, who have formed a deep and loving friendship. Janjic has written a book based on his war experience that has helped him to develop an influential ministry. In a chance encounter, Janjic helps a wayward drug addict to escape from her powerful and brutal boyfriend. From the start, Helen has an almost magical effect on Janjic's heart. While everything screams at him to guard himself from Helen, he cannot resist her. Helen falls for Janjic and marries him, however, time and again she cannot resist the powerful lure of her old life. Even though it would be so easy for Janjic to reject Helen for her weakness, her habit, and her illicit affairs, even when his ministry is at stake, he cannot turn his Helen away. Along the arc of the story it becomes clear why Janjic stays true to his course. He has seen a vision of God's love for us as unrepentant sinners, and he has been called to mirror a sliver of this life for his bride.

Of course, one of the intriguing aspect of this story is the young woman Helen. The same Helen from Heaven's Wager who some 35 years later served as a prophet for her savior. The second volume in this series was just superb and I look forward to the final book, Thunder of Heaven.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Great Expectations

At the end of every year, I am required to submit a self-evaluation at work. Here I must rate my effort and progress regarding each of the primary assignments that I was given at the start of the year. After I have completed giving myself a score on a scale from 1 to 5 for the 6 or 8 areas for which I was responsible, my supervisor completes his review of my work in these same areas. For the most part, over the years, our overall scores have been pretty much in tune.

However, several years ago when I was going through this annual exercise, I gave myself top marks, a 5, for one item. 5 means extraordinary, well above expectations. For the same item, my supervisor gave me a 3. While this category is listed as "met expectations", it really means that you did not measure up. Most would recognize this mark as a "poor". It represents a failure of sorts.

I talked to my supervisor to seek out some clarification, especially as I considered my work quite above par. It turns out that there was a communication problem between us and he thought that I should be taking a leadership position, while I thought I was just to play an advisory role. I asked him, "If you thought I was not doing what you wanted, why didn't you come to me straight away and talk to me." He paused and said, "I'm not sure." I think the lesson is that communication is a key in so many areas of our lives. Sometimes when someone is not measuring up to what you had expected, whether it is in the workplace, between husband and wife, amongst friends, or in raising your children, it could be that you have not effectively communicated. A simple conversation in respect and honesty, can oftentimes avoid unexpected and unwelcome outcomes down the road.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I have been a member at my current church for more than 4 years now. I believe the Spirit led me to that place, at that time, with those people. That body has been a haven for me in so many ways. Through the church I have met a few folks who have helped me to know Jesus better and to find some measure of peace in my life. When I first entered through those doors, I felt that I was an integral part of a movement, of something big. Given the palpable energy and the Kingdom vision, I felt that this church and its mission were unstoppable. I felt that I was part of a revival. Yet as the years passed, my attitude slowly changed. Instead of feeling like an individual who belonged, I felt more and more like a number. I felt like my questions and voice could not be heard over the din, over the push to get the attendance numbers up, up, up. I was told again and again that if I felt otherwise, then my thinking was selfish or un-Christian. Instead of feeling like my church was a safe place to get to know Jesus, to move closer to Him, I felt marginalized and pushed to the fringes. My uneasiness and uncertainty turned into negativity, which caused me to not be fully present during worship. After much thought, I felt that I had reached a plateau in my church and it began to suffocate me.

I spent some time recently praying that God would let me know in a large bold-faced font where I was supposed to be. If I was supposed to stay where I was or move on ... and if I was supposed to move on, where was I supposed to go? The whole idea of "church shopping" does not sit well with me. Well, two days after I prayed my prayer, a friend of mine and a pastor in the area announced that he was starting his own church. Hmmm, curious timing, don't you think? Could this be the large bold-faced font that I requested? Though I am a bit scared of change and trying new things, I think that I must check this out, especially if I am ever to reach the next level.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Heaven's Wager

I have just read the first book in Ted Dekker's Martyr's Song series, Heaven's Wager. This was Dekker's first novel and was borne out of the pain, confusion, and hurt caused by the sudden death of his brother. However, unlike some of his more recent production-line, gimmicky works, this was a layered and intricate tale of love and, ultimately, redemption.

The story begins as a top-notch software engineer, Kent Anthony, has just developed a system that will revolutionize how major international banks handle and process their accounts. The program will save his employer tens of millions of dollars over the next decade. Due to an employee reward program, he is entitled to 10% of the projected savings. Suddenly Kent, his wife Gloria, and their son Spencer are about to embark on a new life of great wealth. Kent travels from Denver to the grand unveiling of his work in Miami. His star is on the rise and set to rocket him to unimagined levels of power and glory. However, just as he is checking into his hotel, he receives an urgent message to return home immediately as his wife has fallen quite ill. At this moment, Kent's life begins to unravel at a sickening pace. He hastens back home to find that his wife has died. Shortly thereafter, he finds that his bosses at work have stolen full credit for his masterwork and shut him out of the performance bonus to line their own pockets. Then just a few weeks later, his son is killed in a freak accident.

Kent grows more and more despondent and frustrated. He knew his wife and son had a special bond with each other and with God. Due to their brutal and sudden deaths, Kent develops a bitterness to even the notion of a god. This bitterness fuels Kent to plot revenge against those that cheated him. It also spurs him to turn against his mother-in-law Helen, who also walks very closely with God. The story is beautiful, clever, and complex. The notion of "Heaven's Wager" is a parallel story to Job. However, the wager between Satan and God involves the saving of an unrighteous man. But it is not just about the battle for one man's soul. We are all caught in this struggle between heaven and hell. Now, I eagerly look forward to the second book in this series, When Heaven Weeps.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Joyful Noise

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord ..., Psalm 98:4

My daughter heard the term "joyful noise" somewhere recently and it kind of stuck in her head. So over the past week or so it has become something of a catch phrase in her vernacular. For her, the expression was amusing because it seemed like an oxymoron (think military intelligence or giant shrimp). So she has used this term to describe a neighborhood dog that would not stop barking and a shrill car alarm that wailed on for several minutes. While I understand her point of view, for me the meaning of "joyful noise" has such an association with the Psalm above, that in my heart, it resonates with me very differently than it does for my daughter.

For me the notion of a joyful noise refers to an almost unconscious action whereby you let go of your recognition of the people around you and just sing out praise to God. It's not that you sing and don't care what the folks around you think or hear or even what you sound like, it's that you just let go and lose yourself in the moment. Though the room may be full, it is almost as if you are worshipping in an intimate one-on-one way. Worship in one of its most pure, powerful, and innocent forms.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Lazarus Life

I am always on the look-out for a book recommendation, especially from folks whose tastes and preferences run parallel to my own. I received a suggestion from my friend Brian at waystationone to check out the book The Lazarus Life by pastor Stephen Smith. The book is subtitled, "Spiritual Transformation for Ordinary People". The framework of the book is based on the story of Lazarus from the New Testament gospel of John the apostle. This story is used to help us to first envision transformation and then to show how we can take ownership of this transformation in a personal way.

Of course, the story of Lazarus is a miraculous example of transformation. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were three good friends of Jesus. While Jesus was away, Lazarus became deathly ill. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that He was needed quickly, yet Jesus purposefully stayed where he was. When He finally returned to Mary and Martha, Lazarus had been dead and in his tomb for several days. Lazarus was transformed in the ultimate manner when Jesus raised him up from the dead. This event served to bring many new believers to follow Jesus. However, it was also the final straw that ultimately lead the Jewish leaders to put into place a final plan to kill Jesus, which was exactly what happened just a few days later.

However, this book focuses on personal transformation. From living in the muck and mire of spiritual death, our stinking, rotting bodies wrapped in graveclothes, to emerging from the tomb with our focus on Jesus, ready and a bit more able to start shedding our graveclothes. Of course, we need to experience God's love if we are to be transformed by it. True transformation in our lives is not something quick, but takes a lifetime. It does not happen smoothly and monotonically. It proceeds in fits and starts, steps, stages, and seasons. Rarely graceful or easy. More likely awkward and uncomfortable. It is a journey in which the Christ in us gains more and more space. A journey in which He is increasing and we are decreasing. A good, comforting book that was most enjoyable.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Creep Me Out

Everyone has their own mental list of pet aversions. You know, things that for some reason just creep you out beyond measure. Most often they can't be fully justified or even explained in a rational manner. I am no different. Over the past few weeks, I have been searching the folds and spans of my mind to find out what lurks in my cranial shadows that would classify in this category. After a very short while I had a list that numbered in the tens of thousands. However, if I put forth such a list, nobody would read it. So, I felt that I would just select my top 10 (or is that bottom 10?), in no particular order.
  • When someone uses the stall next to me when I am in the men's room.
  • Cockroaches - whether real, imagined, or in picture form.
  • Flagrant facial warts and moles.
  • Watching most people eat.
  • Men with unnaturally long fingernails.
  • Severely overweight women who wear tube tops.
  • Pretty much any man (even Europeans) who wears a Speedo-type bathing suit.
  • The thought of eating non-standard meats (anything not cow, pig, chicken, turkey, or beef).
  • Older folks who dress in trendy clothes meant for teenagers.
  • Folks who wear really bad toupees that are dirty and greasy beyond measure.
So, what would you add or subtract from this list?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Forward Progress

Three times each week I spend 45 minutes exercising on my treadmill. This activity takes every ounce of energy that I possess. It sucks the vigor out of every sinew and muscle in my body and leaves me mentally drained. Yet at the end of my time, I have not moved an inch. Some might believe that since I have made no forward progress that I have unquestionably just wasted my time on a misguided venture.

Certainly we all must recognize that, at times, there is a fine line between dedication and insanity. Perseverance and tenacity vs. stubbornness and idiocy. Yet I believe that the decision whether to press on or step off in anything that we undertake, whether to continue with the effort or to recognize that we are fooling ourselves, depends on our ultimate goal.

I spend time on my treadmill to exercise my heart and body and mind. My goal is not to move from point A to point B but to elevate my heart rate for an extended period and to move my major muscle groups to keep my body fit and limber. The same sort of self-evaluation is essential in any endeavor.

I write a blog for which I post five days a week. I don't have too many readers, thus a very small audience. But I write because I can take my mind to wonderful places of healing and love and fantasy that I otherwise wouldn't visit. I can share my love of reading. I can keep in touch with a few folks who would otherwise slip away or who I would not have met. Who knows, maybe someone out there might connect with something that I have written that might give them perspective or heal them or start their day with a smile. I don't write to gain countless followers or to boost my ego.

You see, in anything that you undertake, success depends on your goals. It is from that recognition that you must decide if the effort is worth it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Projected Life

This is a post that I force myself to write each year. However, it is not one that I look forward to in the least. Truth be told, I wish that I never had to give this topic the least iota of thought. Yet, that is not my fate. I have a monster to face, one that I have been battling with for nearly 16 years. Sometimes I hold my own. Other times I nearly haven't made it. This is not something that can be put off or ignored. It is part and parcel of the intricate dance of life and death.

Here are some ugly terms that I know all too personally, transitional cell carcinoma ... high-grade invasive ... metastatic ... malignant ... chemotherapy ... onchology. Sometimes these words have threatened to wash over me in a downpour that strips me of everything that I hold dear. Every truth. Every purpose. Sanity and reason and experience hidden behind roiling clouds of doubt, anxiety, and fear.

And yet ...

Sometimes the hard facts of probabilities and projected life expectancies can come straight at me and miss their mark entirely. Sometimes I can be fully at ease in accepting any outcome in strength. Today I will face one of two roads. Down one path, lies assurance and peace of mind for a year or so. Down the other, there lies an entirely different reality. A reality of appointments and procedures, discomfort, weakness, and the constant threat of those heartless probabilities. I have traveled both roads enough to know the terrain. And yet, I am fully prepared to go either way and to do what I have to, for I do not travel alone.

Be strong in the Lord, and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tinfoil Hat

I wear a tinfoil hat for protection from the unwelcome intrusion of your mind probes. Trespassing beneath my projected image is strictly forbidden. What I paint on the surface is all that I will allow for your consumption. You may get a few sentences but you will not gain access to the full book. I control my outside skin very carefully so that what you ultimately see is a carefully managed facade. You see a confident man with an exciting career. You catch glimpses of me that indicate I have a good sense of humor, that I am a decent friend and father, that I am a good Christian, and that I have everything pretty much figured out. Excellent, that is what I had intended.

Take off this tinfoil hat and you might come to see a truer picture unfold of a man who struggles with low self-esteem, who regularly battles with lust, and who at times is so overburdened with regrets that he can scarcely function. Someone who too often feels devoid of value, who struggles with loneliness, depression, agoraphobia, autism, and lack of faith ... Good thing I wear this hat, for I can deftly manage who folks see when they look my way.

Friday, February 3, 2012


I got into a yelling argument during a phone call the other day and I am still licking my wounds. What starting off as a conversation with a pleasant sounding female on the other end of the line, ended with me spewing and venting words that would have made Andrew Dice Clay blush. I have not been so upset or so overcome with rage in quite some time. I thought it would be appropriate to gain some measure of closure by writing about my experience here. For with confession, comes release, and ultimately peace. Let me tell my tale.

Over the past few weeks I received two separate payment coupon booklets from my mortgage company. One was meant to supplant the other, but I got them mixed up and thought I would call and speak to an account representative to clarify which booklet was the correct one. However, shortly after I dialed the toll-free phone number, I was greeted by what the folks in the business of distancing big companies from their customer base refer to as an ARS, which stands for "Automated Response System". Here a computer generated voice that is meant to simulate an actual human being, frustrates the heck out of anyone who tries to get their questions answered. They do this by rambling on and on about crap you couldn't give a flying frack about and instead of allowing you to push a button to enter a menu, want you to have some sort of deep and meaningful "personal" conversation with it. The whole notion the ARS is just so dehumanizing and frustrating.

Well after five minutes of trying to find a way to get through to an actual human, with my perky computer operator voicing time and again, "I did not understand your response, please try again.", I lost it and started screaming into the phone. There was a pause, and the computer said, "You must remain calm if you want service." ... It said what? I began chewing on the phone cord and threatening the computer's hard drive. For the record, it then said that I should, "Try my response again". I was clearly bested. I hung up the phone and crawled under my desk for the rest of the afternoon.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Today We Are Rich

I just finished reading the book Today We Are Rich by Tim Sanders. The subtitle of the book, "Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence" clues you in immediately to the fact that this book falls into the "self help" category. I learned about this book from fellow blogger Ricky Anderson. I have come to believe that with essentially all self-help books, there is nothing new under the sun. Every suggestion, every trick, every recipe these authors put forward has been suggested, tried, or recited countless times in enumerable books. Self-help books are best approached when you are in need of a fresh perspective and some encouragement. They find their marks only if the reader is receptive. For me, while I do not lack for confidence in my professional life, my personal life is a whole different realm. So, I approached this book with an open mindset and wanted to give it a chance.

The "method" that Sanders espouses to gain confidence in oneself moves through the following principles:
  • Keep your attitude positive by focusing on positive input whether that is through what you read or who you interact with. This helps with reducing your negative tendencies.
  • Use positive words when you speak to yourself and others.
  • Develop a sense of gratitude towards things and people that have come your way in life. Do not take what you have for granted.
  • Learn how to give - it is a soothing balm for what ails you.
  • Develop appropriate confidence in yourself and others.
  • Be a person of integrity.
The roadmap developed in this book was based on a series of steps that can be incorporated into your life as a group or one after the other, adding in new ones as the old ones have taken root. It is about reprogramming your mind and your point of view. It is about embracing the positive and moving away from the negative.

Again, nothing that Sanders says is new or innovative or all that clever, but this book was a reasonable effort based on some common sense ideas that I ultimately felt was a worthwhile read for me.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

False Hustle

In the late 1970s/early 1980s I used to watch the Boston Celtics on good old WBZ-TV out of Boston. The color commentator for those telecasts was NBA Hall-of-Famer Bob Cousy. One of the things that used to frustrate him was when the Boston players would display what he termed "false hustle". Most folks who heard that expression probably had no idea what he was griping about, but I understood. In my mind false hustle is when people give energy to a situation to address another's urging or command but not to address one's true goal or calling. Cousy flared up whenever he saw that players would put on a show of increasing their energy at the urgings of their coach. However, this show lacked determined focus toward the defensive and offensive schemes the players had been drilled in.

I thought of this last Sunday when a "greeter" at my church approached me like he had downed a case of Red Bull or as if he were a morbidly obese man and I was the last piece of pie in the case. A bit later I went into Walmart and the "greeter" at the entranceway came after me with such boldness that I had to take a defensive stand. I think that both of these folks, even if their intentions were sincere, were aptly demonstrating false hustle. The energy expended was all based on the promptings and instructions from those in charge over them. For me, a gentle hand is appreciated and noticed much more than a full-court press. A greeter should always be sensitive to their guests to make them feel most welcome. That is their ultimate goal.