Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Back in March of this year, I celebrated my 1000th blog post (see 1000). That was a pretty big deal in the life of this work. It is kind of surprising that I had that much to say given how tame and uneventful my life is. Since that time, I have come to appreciate that this humble blog won't continue indefinitely, and I will have to kill the lights and lock the door at some point. So, I am learning to appreciate what I have created and to celebrate the few relationships that I have made solely because of this effort and to rejoice at the few relationships that I have been able to maintain with folks from my past.

But just because I reached 1000 posts, doesn't mean that I shouldn't continue to celebrate post entry numbers that end with "00". I mean it has been scientifically proven that any number ending in 00 causes the human heart rate to increase by 18.5% upon viewing, leading to an ensuing quantifiable increase in feelings of euphoria and giddiness. So, who am I not to do my part in elevating such positive feelings in the world? With that, today I celebrate my 100th post on my second orbit around the millenium stone. Thanks to all my online friends for reading and commenting and being a part of this site. Blessings to all.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Book List

As any regular visitor to this blog site will know, I do a fair amount of reading. Further, I like to provide my take on the books I read and share with you a bit about the plots, the message, and what I found valuable or notable. In a typical week I am usually working my way through 2 or 3 books in parallel. One is likely a work of fiction that I like to read because these tales of adventure help to calm me and serve to take me away to other lands and times. The others are typically books that I read as part of my devotional times. Recently, I found myself reading 5 books in parallel. I was asked by my daughter how I keep everything straight. Well, one thing that I do is to keep a notebook with me as I read. Here I make notes on the characters and key plot points if I am reading a work of fiction. If I am reading a devotional, I make notes of important scripture verses or items that I found interesting, important, or convicting.

As I tend to be a bit of a list-driven worker and like to keep track of progress, I also have a portion of the white board in my office set aside. Here I list all of the books in my reading queue, how many pages each book has, how many pages I have read, and other numbers such as the total number of pages of these books, how many pages I have left to read, and the fraction of each book completed. The photograph accompanying today's post is what a typical snapshot of my whiteboard looks like. I get satisfaction out of watching the numbers change, erasing titles that I have finished and prepared as a blog, and adding new titles that I have acquired.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Love Does

I decided to read the book of first-time author Bob Goff called Love Does (subtitled Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World), following the recommendation of Bill at Cycleguy's Spin. The book was having such an impact on him that he spent two weeks writing about it. The book is divided into thirty-some chapters. Each chapter views an episode in Bob's life and how it taught him to love or to demonstrate love. In fact, he is adamant that "love" is not a noun, but a verb, an action verb. He states in the first chapter his view:

The kind of love God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence.

Bob has a very approachable style and can move you to a great belly laugh one moment and streaming tears the next. He seems like an approachable man who would give you the shirt off his back if he saw your need. The kind of man it would be enjoyable to talk about life with sitting out on your porch. His philosophy is that kindness demonstrated by people has the ability to endure in our lives, and so he goes out of his way to demonstrate love not just in words, but in doing. Hence, love does.

In reading this book, some might detect a distinct influence or subtle flavor of author Donald Miller. It turns out that these two are friends and Miller helped to shape this work. That adds to my enjoyment as a fan of Miller. The message that Bob has is one that I hope spreads across this world like wildfire. He is upbeat, has an infectious spirit, is not afraid to get his hands dirty, and puts himself out there. Several online reviews that I stumbled across likened his style to the television pitch-man with the tag line, "the most interesting man in the world." The only criticism that I have are his constant urgings of living with whimsy and spontaneity, yet his personal stories and examples demonstrate a whimsy that requires a substantial amount of money. Yet I got past this mild annoyance and loved going along for the ride with him.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing.
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

A shiver of old-world mandrake root. A palm of wolfsbane. A throw of fragrant bergamot and vetiver to leach vibrancy from the air. A curious collection of script in a dusty tome. Yet in the hands of the necromancer, a few nondescript elements and a monotone incantation can overwhelm the boundaries of the cauldron and take wing. Dark crowing in tones of deepest purple and crimson spills out an unmistakeable chill that rattles the bones and sinews of all within its reach. All are pulled down. All are pulled under. Yet a simple twitching in our visage can banish the suffocating powers that be in an instant. We all hold the power of this universal elixir to return the wizard from whence he came. So, smile.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rte 66 - Terminus

Starting back in February, I began on my journey to read through the Bible from Genesis in the Old Testament (book 1) to Revelation in the New Testament (book 66) in a modern translation of the Bible called The Message. Every month or so I provided an update on my "rest stops" along the way. The first was after I had completed my reading up through Job, the second was after completing the Old Testament, the third was after completing my reading through Romans. Now after a little more than four months, I have reached the terminus of my journey in the completion of my reading of Revelation.

I can say that it was very difficult to pace myself in this reading. My tendency is naturally to treat a reading "assignment" like this as a sprint, instead of a marathon. It can easily become a race to check that "task completed" box as if that was the plum to be plucked. Yet, I think, looking back on this time, I treated it with respect and gave it my full attention. I think that I am satisfied both with what I gave and what I got. This extended period in God's word also taught me to appreciate my devotional time a bit more, especially in the morning before I start my day. In the past I would read my daily devotional and a couple minutes later, I would rush off into the fray. Now, I get up a few minutes early and spend some extra time thinking and praying. A bit more intentional, a bit more devotional. I think that I will keep this up. My take is that I would recommend all Christ followers, if they have not read through the Bible, to make this a goal with some priority. Even if its just a complete reading of the New Testament. The Message version of the Bible is one that I would recommend highly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Real Life

Reading the Old Testament of the Bible is very much like watching a never-ending tennis volley. In one verse the people are praising God and living according to his will, and in the very next verse, they are out partying it up with whores and drunken revelry. It goes on like this, back and forth, for hundreds of pages. I used to shake my head at these people for being so thick-headed, so utterly blind, so stupid, to have God right there in their midsts and yet missing out on His gift, His presence, His protection, and his Grace. What more did they need to witness to fall on their knees and believe? To hold tightly in the storms of life?

Yet I have found that I am very much like these people. Thick-headed, blind, stupid. I recognize myself in their actions. I am as weak and as insecure in relationships in my own life as they were in theirs. In my case, the most recent lesson came from my daughter. After some time apart from her without contact, I convinced myself that she did not want to spend time with me, that I wasn't a priority with her, that I was a burden that wasn't worth shouldering. It wasn't just a passing thought, but something that had become deeply engrained in my fabric.

Fool that I was, I should have appreciated the relationship that I have with my daughter. To trust her. To love her without condition. Yet, I did not. When the storms began to blow, I let go, convinced that it was not worth fighting and holding on and being selfless and patient. So the Old Testament, it's a lot like real life? You bet.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Class-A Jerk

I have the sneaking suspicion that nearly all of the folks who volunteer at my church think that I am a certifiable, class-A jerk. Each Sunday an army of "greeters" is strategically deployed over every square inch of the building. Getting into the front door or into the sanctuary area involves running through a gauntlet of folks so cheery and welcoming that it makes you want to spit. I believe they they have received marching orders that every person who shows up for church must be accosted greeted in the most enthusiastic manner possible no less than every 1.2 seconds. I have written about my deep-seated issues with these folks in the past (see False Hustle).

So why do I believe that all of these people think that I am a jerk? The reason is that all of their cloying attention makes me so uncomfortable that I have taken to just putting my head down and sprinting through and around them just to get to my seat. In short, I tune them out and do my best to ignore them. Sometimes they make me feel like Barry Sanders running through an aggressive defensive line. If I don't shake them off with a head fake or the old jelly-leg hip buckle, they will try to take me down. In truth I can understand that I am coming across as rude, as cold, as ... a jerk.

Over the past few months my antisocial, avoidance approach has become less subtle. My thinking was that if I did my best to broadcast a clear message of "STAY BACK" with my attitude and body language, it would make it easier for me. Actually I think it has. I think people are starting to ignore me. But is that really what I want to get out of going to church? Is that what I really need? Didn't Jesus have a thing or two to say about the importance of Christian relationships and fellowship?

A few weeks ago after I came home from Sunday service, I sensed a clear and unexpected voice within me telling me that I am equipped to do better. It wasn't of my own mind or spirit. That was obvious. I believe it was one of those moments when the Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me that I could make a better effort than I had been. It wasn't a scolding or a derogatory voice. It was gentle and patient. So, for the past few weeks I have been trying harder to look folks in the eye and to engage just a bit more.

Friday, July 20, 2012


If you enjoy a good epic adventure with a deep and multi-threaded narrative, based on well-developed characters that you can relate to for their strengths and weaknesses, I give my highest recommendation to Byzantium by Stephen Lawhead. The story begins at an isolated Irish monastery in the ninth century. There we meet a young and idealistic monk named Aidan. His life follows a simple routine, but he is more than fulfilled in his duties as a scribe, charged with helping to prepare a magnificent manuscript for the Holy Roman Emperor. When it is finished, Aidan is selected to join the quest to deliver this treasure to the far-off city of Constantinople, the royal seat of the kingdom of Byzantium (the new Rome).

As the small group of monks head out on their trek, it is not long before they run into danger. A group of Danish barbarians known as the Sea Wolves attacks the small, defenseless crew, and in their treasure lust strike down a number of the monks. Before Aidan can learn what has happened to his brothers, he is taken by the Danes as a slave and brought back to their lands. Yet, he learns to accept his role and serves his new masters well, earning their respect and trust. As their small village raids are deemed insufficient, the Danes are soon called into council by their king to travel to a far off land where it is rumored the roads are paved with gold and silver. An opportunity the Sea Wolves cannot pass up. Thus Aidan and his slave masters set off on their own quest to Miklagard, where even the lowliest slaves are more wealthy than the Danish lords.

Miklagard, to Aidan's surprise, turns out to be Byzantium and, upon his arrival, he is determined to find out if any of his brother monks from Ireland survived the barbarian raid and completed their quest. The Danes are also in for a surprise as they find the city to be set out on a scale that their tiny imaginations just cannot fathom. They are forced to change their plans and swear fealty to the emperor in order to claim the treasure that they seek. Aidan gains favor with the Byzantines due to his demeanor and ability to translate between Danish, Latin, and Greek. It is in the city of gold that his life changes again when he is enlisted by the emperor for a special task that appears to cost him everything, his life, his hope, and his faith. Yet despite his human failings and his imminent execution, Aidan has a destiny to fulfill. It seems his God is not yet through with him as he had come to believe.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Split Personality

There are a couple of people that I know who truly seem to have a type of multiple personality condition. The person that they are at work is completely different from the person that they are on the outside. I don't just mean that they are more responsible or serious at work, I mean that their mannerisms, their rhythm of speaking, the way they carry themselves, their gait, and even how they laugh, is markedly different. If you had me describe the "work" person to one of their friends on the outside, I don't think they would have a clue who I was talking about.

I wonder if this is a symptom of insecurity, that they feel the need to act all formal and wooden to impress others or convince their peers of their professionalism and their rank. As I have seen who they are outside of work, it almost feels that their work version is a pretense, like a green actor who is going through some method acting exercise. However, I do not necessarily get the sense that they are pretending. It is almost as if they arrive at work and put on a costume that they believe is expected of them or they have become conditioned to wear for some reason.

For better or worse, I am the same regardless of the situation I find myself in. Maybe it is just that I don't know any better. But the truth is, it is difficult enough for me to be around other folks, that I do not think I have it within me to try to master more than one persona. Do you exhibit any level of split personality?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Green Light/Red Light

One day last week I made it home in record time, catching every light along the way. When I stepped out of the car and bounded up the steps to my front door, I took note of the sweetness in the air and felt a wave of peace wash over me. I enjoyed a lightness in my mood that stayed with me all through the evening.

Just a few days later, my trip home was quite a different story. It seemed that every light was green as I came up to it and then, as if somehow sensing my approach, immediately turned red. Halfway home I came upon an inexplicable traffic standstill that seemed to take forever to crawl through. By the time I pulled into my driveway, I felt a weighty fatigue draped over my shoulders. I found myself grumbling and in a foul state of mind that lingered through the rest of the night.

As I was getting ready for bed I began to wonder how it is possible that saving a few minutes on my trip home holds the power to hijack my spirit for an entire evening. It is not like I have to endure an hour-long commute. I live just a few miles away from where I work. Is my makeup so feeble, so threadbare that even the slightest delay in getting home can completely sour my disposition? What's next? Another night lost to brooding and frustration because I burn my supper or skin my knee or get a mosquito bite or the wind is blowing out of the west?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

iTunes Latest - 2

Back in December of 2011 I finally discovered iTunes on my Mac. This service has really helped me reconnect to my love of music. One of the things that I really like about music is that oftentimes a given song has a strong association with a time or with a moment in my life. So, I thought that I would share my latest five downloads and a bit about my history with each song.
  • Scream - Michael and Janet Jackson (1995) - Despite how screwed up Michael became in his later years, the image of him that is carved into my mind is the 1980s Thriller-years man. I don't know what it was, but that album and its music videos just spoke to me in ways that none other ever did. Scream was a song that was O.K., but was definitely made better by its video, kind of like Michael's song Jam. I bought this song because Michael's work still resonates with the late high school version of me where in some circles it was not a good idea to tell folks that you liked Beat It.
  • Cruel Summer - Bananarama (1984) - This song was popular during my freshman year in college. It has a vibe that makes me want to sing along even though it has a bit of a melancholy message. The video was in heavy rotation on MTV (back when "M" stood for music) and I loved its style.
  • Russians - Sting (1985) - When I was in college, I told my friend George that I like this song. He then proceeded to rail on me for buying into such propaganda and naive thinking. I wasn't trying to make a statement, I just liked the song's movement and keyboard sound. However, after I listened to it for the first time in more than 20 years, my old friend clearly did not really understand Sting's lyrics. This song is a treasure but I have always linked it to my friend raising his voice to me.
  • Naughty Girls - Samantha Fox (1987) - Late in my college years when I stayed on campus during the summer, I remember walking around in the evenings listening to this song on my Walkman. It takes me back to those days when I was on my own, but before I was burdened with grown-up responsibilities. The song doesn't really hold up over time, but that is not the point here.
  • In My House - Mary Jane Girls (1985) - Another song from my early college years. I think the video for this one spoke to me more than the music, but it transports me back to the student union watching MTV and drinking Mountain Dew after playing some basketball with my friend Frank.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Observations 3

My occasional blog series "Observations" was created to be an outlet to share a variety of topics that pop into my field of view as a result of a condition that many bloggers are afflicted with known as "blogger's eyes". In this state we view the world on the constant look-out for topics on which to write about. Thus we see everything from a different perspective and with different purpose than normal folks.

Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • A van pulled up next to me at a stop light. I glanced over at the driver and said to myself, "That man looks like a caricature of a stoner." I kind of chastised myself for stereotyping the man, but as the light turned green and he pulled past me, his van sported a large bumper sticker that read "legalize pot".
  • My credit card company sent me multiple mailings indicating that for security reasons they would no longer be printing my credit card number on my statements. Yet, my credit card number still shows up in multiple places on my statement. In fact at the top of my statement there is a heading that reads, "Credit Card Number". That should throw off the ne'er do wells.
  • I passed a car in a parking lot the other day that was arrayed with several bumper stickers that led me to believe that their interest in exercise was waning. The first read 26.2. The one next to it 13.1. Then a bit over from that 2.62. Do you see where this is going?
  • The other day I nearly wrecked my car when I became completely distracted by a mosquito that had somehow gotten in.
  • I passed by a very expensive rented office trailer at work. The back end of the trailer was supported by a massive undercarriage with 3 stout tires on each side. The front end was balanced precariously on a spindly stack of broken bricks.

Friday, July 13, 2012

He Heard Hannah

My online friend Bill (a pastor from Indiana) (who posts at Cycleguy's Spin) recommended a book entitled He Heard Hannah by Lynnette Kraft and Courtney Becker. If you read his original post you will notice that he spoke with exclamation points and with bold-faced font. In short, he made it clear that this was a book worth reading. A true story about life, about redemption, about salvation, about love. A book that would help us to see God in the world around us even though his presence might seem little more than a whisper in a strong gale in our daily lives. So, I purchased the book and added it to my reading list. Now that I am finished, I too would raise this book up with a strong recommendation. I expect that it would be well worth your time, whether you are a Christian, someone who claims to be "spiritual", an agnostic, or an atheist. This is a story that serves to demonstrate redemption and model how to hold onto hope and claim joy even after passing through the deepest valleys imaginable.

The story seemingly begins on November 19, 2004 when Lynnette and her husband Kyle called 911. Their 6 year old girl Anna, who was born with a serious heart defect, cried out in pain and quickly began to fade. The 911 operator who took the call was Courtney. At the time he was just past the trainee stage, but he did what he could and stayed on the phone with Kyle until the paramedics arrived. In this time he heard everything that took place as the Krafts tried to save their little girl, but he knew that she was clearly dying. Very quickly that phone call dragged him down to one of the lowest points in his life. He came away feeling an unimaginable depth of pain and loss that went well beyond any reasonable showing of empathy, a condition triggered when he personalized the situation. Over the phone he believed the child's name was Hannah, the name of his own young daughter. Yet there was so much more behind Courtney's struggle than the death of a young child of a couple that he had never met.

This wonderful book shares the story of two lives and two families that initially seemed to be separate threads, but were actually interwoven well before that day in November 2004. It shows how God's purpose and plans work themselves out over the long and complicated paths that we take. Inspirational and well written. A beautiful jewel that has so much to teach us about our God and how knowing Him can and should impact our lives.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Hey now you're an all-star get your game on, go play;
Hey now you're a rock star get the show on get paid

On Tuesday evening I sat on my couch incredulous at what I was seeing on my T.V. I had to look up the definition of the term "all-star" just to be sure that I really understood what this meant from the standpoint of athletes and their seasonal performance metrics. I found two definitions:

1). Consisting of athletes chosen as the best at their positions from all teams in a league.
2). Consisting entirely of star performers.

I got the sense that somehow these definitions did not mesh with the talent that was assembled at this year's baseball all-star game. Consider the following stat lines from some of the position players voted in by the fans:
  • .224 average, 99 strikeouts in 294 ABs
  • .249 average, 76 strikeouts in 297 ABs
  • .244 average, 59 strikeouts in 315 ABs
  • .225 average, 86 strikeouts in 241 ABs
  • .247 average, 55 strikeouts in 283 ABs
  • .208 average, 134 strikeouts in 293 ABs
I don't know about you but this is pretty appalling. In a time when we are setting the achievement bar lower and ever lower, giving trophies out to all of the players whether they came in first place or last place, these numbers from professional athletes are an embarrassment. An utter indictment of a once proud sport. Since when are underachieving, well below average, multi-million dollar athletes deserving of a national spotlight on primetime television. I would hope that anyone of these players with an ounce of pride in their work would publicly step away saying that they were not deserving of any applause or recognition for the steaming pile of crap that they had amassed during the first half of the season. Yet with all of these folks having contracts that pay them huge additional dollars for being named to such a roll, they would never let a thing like pride hold them back. Actually, I'm sure that I likely wouldn't either.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Forest Fires

The album Rumours by Fleetwood Mac is one of the biggest selling of all time. The remarkable thing about this sublime collection of 11 songs is that it was all written under the most unpleasant, messy, and insufferable human turmoil that you could ever want to imagine. Break-ups, drug abuse, sabotage, drama, everyone sleeping with a different person every night. How in the world anyone could work to create a masterpiece under such a fog is beyond me. When I am suffering, my mind normally goes into shutdown mode. I fold inward upon myself and am incapable of any creativity or meaningful interaction.

I would not label myself as a joyous individual. In truth, I struggle most days to keep my mind clear of anxiety, regret, hateful thoughts, and depression. I have periods now and then when I can keep my demons at bay, but they are never further away than arm's length. However, over the past few months, I have found myself in a state of hopelessness that has gone beyond what I normally face, both in terms of its depth and its duration. I have been experiencing a weariness of body, mind, and soul that I fear is too much to overcome. I am not even certain that I can pinpoint the root cause of my malaise. Likely several small sparks have ignited this seemingly consuming blaze. I can only hope that all this will bring some ultimate benefit, like a forest fire that clears away the old unhealthy overgrowth and debris, allowing for soil that is cleared and revitalized for new growth.

Don't stop thinking about tomorrow ...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rte 66 - Rest Stop 3

I have undertaken a pilgrimage this year to travel from the beginning of Rte 66 to its end. First to last. Alpha to Omega. This trek is a central part of my daily devotional time and amounts to a complete read-through of The Message version of the Bible. When I last pulled over to the side of the road for a breather (see Rte 66 - Rest Stop 2), I had just completed reading the Old Testament (39th book of the Bible out of 66). Today I am marking the completion of reading the first half of the New Testament, from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, to the nascent rise of Christianity in the book of Acts, to what I believe amounts to the main ideology and tenets of the faith in the book of Romans.

The main reason why I chose to read through Eugene Peterson's modern translation of the Bible, was because I have frequently turned to this version in my various studies of the New Testament when text in my NIV translation just could not find purchase in my mind. I frequently found The Message version to speak to me in language and imagery that I could much more easily grasp and appreciate in depth. My personal feeling is that Peterson's version of the Old Testament is not all that different from other translations. However, the New Testament is its clear strength. It just sings that sweet music to me. The book of Romans is particularly noteworthy for its crispness, its clarity, and its balance. The Message is God's word just told in a more approachable way, but I believe it to be fully true to its original source.

So, now I am on the home stretch on my journey. As I stand at the threshold of 1 Corinthians and look out toward Revelation, I will not rush or hurry. I plan to take it bit by bit and extract all that I can from each verse.

Monday, July 9, 2012


I have been associated with academia, whether as a student, an advisor, or a professor, for nearly my full life. One of the things that students are given permission to do and, in fact, are encouraged to do, is to ask questions of their instructors. Asking questions is an important way to clear up misunderstandings and confusions when they arise, and is a critical avenue to claim ownership of concepts. Further, I am certain that nearly all of us have heard our instructors say something that is incorrect or unfounded. If we do not seek and receive answers to our questions, we may accept such untruth, which can subvert our growth and, in some cases, the very foundations on which we build everything else.

From my own experience going back over several decades, the best instructors were the ones who gave full freedom to ask questions and then took our questions seriously. I would hasten to add that any instructor who eschews questions or who think themselves too unassailable to allow questions, are only inviting revolt and rancor. Neither of which are conducive toward gaining wisdom.

So, when it comes to our faith, why should we accept our pastors as unapproachable? Proper understanding of the Bible may actually be some of the most important instruction that we can receive. Why should we not be able to ask questions and engage in a true interactive dialog with our "professors in the faith"? I would further submit that any pastor who refuses the queries of true seekers of the light from their flock, is no pastor that I want any part of. Theirs is the baliwick of cult leaders or a haughty pride.

I have been part of several different churches over the years, led by sincere, giving servants. These men of God have been more than happy to listen as I asked questions, to give thoughtful and prayerful answers, and to admit when they were uncertain. This type of relationship is important and necessary for me. I need to be able to ask questions and know that I can find safety and wisdom in their replies.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sword and the Flame

The final part of the "Dragon King" trilogy by author Stephen Lawhead is called The Sword and the Flame, and picks up about 10 years after The Warlords of Nin. In this whole period life in the realm of Mensandor has been entirely peaceful and productive. Quentin as become a popular and servant-minded king, his beautiful wife stands forever by his side, and with two sweet daughters and a 10 year old boy, his life has become a reverie. The tale begins as Quentin organizes a royal hunt, a time when the whole populace is invited to the castle to take part in a great festival. It is to be the first that prince Gerin will take part in, as he has been working with Quentin's faithful friend and minister Toli, to learn how to ride a horse. However, a sinister force is a work behind the scenes, developing a plan to kill Toli. An act of revenge that has been developed for over 20 years by the evil wizard Nimrood who was vanquished in the In the Hall of the Dragon King.

Nimrood has joined with the local pagan high priest and convinced him to join in this plan to kill Toli so that he might humble the king who has been turning the people toward worship of the one true God, the most high. However, the temple guard fails to carry out the charge, and instead kills the king's foremost advisor and kidnaps the prince. Quentin in his rage and his anxiousness to recover his son, uses his blessed sword to strike down one of the fleeing temple guards. In his shame he throws down the sword and shuts himself off from his people. However, when his adversaries learn that he no longer holds the blessed sword, which they believe is the possession of the true king of the land, they beset Quentin and attempt to take power. Meanwhile, Nimrood has demanded an exchange from the king. The sword for the boy. In five days time, if the sword is not delivered and the king does not kneel before him, Gerin will be sacrificed. In short order the kingdom begins to crumble into squabbling and disarray. Will our hero step up or is he too broken to do what needs to be done?

A wonderful story that I very much enjoyed. A superb way to end this epic tale.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Goodbye Andy

Sometimes I read about the death of a public figure and it kind of resonates within me due to some personal connection. Whether it was some athlete from a professional sports team that I followed in my youth or an actor whose work I enjoyed, I tend to take a few moments to raise up my appreciation for them and to say a silent goodbye.

Earlier this week the headline caught me unexpectedly that Andy Griffith had died. I felt a little piece of me fall away at that news. I still remember coming home from high school and watching The Andy Griffith Show on our local UHF channel. Certainly with the availability of Nick at Nite, I have seen every episode multiple times over the years. A simple show, with embraceable characters, with heart and a good message. In the 1980s when I was in high school, I was a regular viewer of Andy Griffith's lawyer show Matlock. Another enduring program about a good-hearted man with a fire in his heart.

Maybe part of my melancholy of this death is because I am more cognizant of my own mortality as more and more of the people that I grew up with grow old and pass on. Maybe also part of my pain is the loss of a good man who impacted several generations with his portrayals of decent men with morals. Those roles are fewer and much more far between than ever before. Maybe, too, it is because I have spent so many hours watching him that I feel some sort of bond. Mr. Griffith, I enjoyed our time toether. Rest in peace and goodbye.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day 2012

According to wikipedia, Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and political speeches and ceremonies. My guess is that for most of us, a great day of relaxing and eating more than necessary will factor into what we do. Yet, I would bet that many will not give a thought to what this day is supposed to commemorate. It has come to be marked by a few whoops of, "USA ... USA ... USA!" However, this day is, at its heart, a time to not only recognize and appreciate the freedoms that we now enjoy (and likely take for granted), but also to reflect on those upon whom this country was built. Countless thousands gave their lives to support their position and their dream. Although the names are long since forgotten in the dust of history, we should recognize that there was a dear price to pay for all that we enjoy. Blessings to all my online friends.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On the Other Hand 2

One of my greatest personal struggles is that I tend to view the world through a negative lens.
I am exploring avenues that might help me to reprogram my mind toward seeing things from a more positive vantage point.

Topic: Snap judgments of people based on their appearance and a stereotype.

First thought: Driving into work at about 7:30 a.m. the other morning, I passed a man walking slowly down the sidewalk. He was dressed in grimy jeans and a sweat-stained t-shirt. In his hand, he clutched a brown paper bag that appeared from its shape to contain a glass bottle of some sort. Without even the slightest effort, my mind immediately pictured its contents of malt liquor or some other cheap booze. As point A leads inevitably to point B, this scene caused me to instantly label that guy as some drunk bum, part of the seedy underbelly of society.

On the other hand: He may have been walking a little slowly as he just came off a night-shift of hard, honest labor. He could have been working multiple part-time jobs to support a family. That bag might have contained the left-overs from his lunch that he was bringing home for supper instead of throwing the uneaten food away. However, even if he had a bottle of alcohol in his hand, there is nothing wrong with that if he enjoys it responsibly. Who am I to judge this man for what he has purchased? Perhaps if I passed him by on the sidewalk, he may show a gentle smile and say a respectful hello.

I don't know what causes me to think like this. I believe that it has to do with how I have let my mind be programmed over the years. The root cause is most certainly mis-placed pride. I have this compulsion to tear others down so that I can feel better about myself. Try as I might to gain the upper hand on thinking of this sort, I taste bitter defeat time after time. However, after I pulled into my parking spot at work after this encounter, I sat and thought for a few moments. My initial negative impression of that man was just one possibility out of a countless number of much more positive others.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Postman

One man walked in off the horizon
and hope came with him.

Looking out the window of my office at work, I can see the main lobby entrance of my building. Pretty much every weekday at about 4:00 p.m., the postal truck pulls up and the same guy that I have seen for several years gets out to complete his afternoon pick up. As he makes his way to the main entrance, he walks right past my window. My guess is that by now he could find his way to the front desk without a stumble on even a moonless night.

However, the other day for some reason, he entered into the building by the door at the end of my hallway. A hallway that runs parallel to his normal route. He walked back and forth past my door a couple of times kind of muttering to himself. Finally, he knocked on my door and asked if I could show him the way to the lobby. I could tell from his tone and his mien that he was a bit disoriented and more than a little bit frustrated that he couldn't find his way.

If he had just walked the hundred feet to the end of my hallway, he would have been standing at the doors that he normally enters by. I thought of how easy it is for all of us to be only slightly perturbed from our natural state or routine and we cannot find our way back to our usual equilibrium. How easily we become lost. How fragile our make up and our mindset is in this regard.