Thursday, February 28, 2013

Chatty Cathy

When I was a freshman in college, I was part of a work-study program, where I worked for a few hours each week in the main library to help pay my tuition. During that time I became friends with my boss who was in charge of the Circulation Department. He had several mannerisms, expressions, and styles that kind of imprinted themselves on me. This took the form of absorbing some of his catch phrases, my preference for Ralph Loren oxford shirts, and developing a taste for pasta not smothered in a tomato-based sauce.

Over the years, I gradually lost touch with my old boss and have not had contact with him for more than 20 years. However, one of his catch phrases unexpectedly bubbled up into my head the other day that I had not thought of in many years. Working in the library those years ago, I was typically stationed at the main check-out desk. Oftentimes, we would witness an excitable student who would be nattering away with their friends in what was supposed to be a quiet space. My boss would look to me and remark, "Isn't that one a little Chatty Cathy." (I came to know that Chatty Cathy was a talking doll from the 1960s/70s.)

I found myself smiling as I remembered his expression. I have fond memories of the bagels that he used to bring into work for us, adventures on campus during the summer months when the place was a ghost town, and lots of important, everyday, or inane conversations that made me enjoy my days back then all the more.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Observations 18

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. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • They have recently changed the toilet paper brand in the bathrooms at my work place. The new stuff is as thin as homeopathic soup, but has the delightful texture of low grit sandpaper.
  • My daughter and I bought some cheesy bread at a local pizzeria and brought it home for our supper. The next day my car still carried that wonderful aroma. Ahhh, they should market an air freshener with this scent.
  • A standard car turn indicator flashes on and off about once per second. My first impression of any vehicle whose flash rate is significantly faster than this is that it is a cheap piece of junk.
  • There is a school bus depot near where I work. The majority of the busses seen entering or leaving the facility are exact copies of each other. However, you can still see a few examples of busses of a different style or length amongst the others. I wonder if the drivers of those busses ever feel self conscious.
  • A student that I have known for a while had been into "ear stretching". This involves the insertion of bigger and bigger hoops into pierced holes in the ear. This stretches the ear lobe to make you resemble some sort of Zulu tribesman. He disappeared for several years and when I saw him the other day, he had abandoned the ear stretching thing. However, now his ear lobes look like they have been munched on by zombies.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Social Arts

I have tried my best over the years to teach my daughter manners and the rules of personal courtesies, decorum, and interactions. I think, given what I have seen, that I have done at least a passable job. I mean she pretty regularly says "please" when she demands something and "thank you" when she forces you to respond to her every whim. She holds doors open for folks when protocol absolutely demands it and she does not talk back overly much to her teachers and other assorted grown-ups. However, the other day she gave me some feedback on the lessons that I have been teaching her that I felt compelled to share with you.

We were sitting next to each other on the couch the other night when I had a bit of a coughing spell. After I recovered myself, I said "excuse me". My daughter told me that saying "excuse me" was not necessary in such situations. She added that you only need to say "excuse me" after you burp. So, now that I have been properly educated on this aspect of etiquette, I had to share it
with the world, lest you make the same glaring faux pas that I made. This episode also serves to provide us with a life lesson that could be valuable to those, like myself, that still have much to learn. If you come across someone who shows a distinct lack of manners as if they attended a finishing school in the midwest or Canada, it may be that we should not judge them too harshly as they may have not received full and/or complete training in the social arts.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Parking Guru

Have you ever admired someone when you saw them do something cool or something that you are not adept at (but wish you were)? Perhaps most guys can relate to this type of feeling when watching some studly athlete who just dominates the games that he plays in, all while just looking so smooth, so elegant, so totally in touch with everything that he does. Perhaps most gals will relate with some movie actress who is beautiful, talented, and utterly graceful. In considering these objects of our admiration, we secretly wish that we could do what they do, experience what they experience, or even that we could be them. I can fully relate with such thoughts, but in my case, I do not dream of star athletes or movie star action heroes. Instead, I vicariously live through those who can parallel park.

Have you ever known someone whose paralleling park was, well, unparalleled? A couple of flicks of the wrist and they can fit their big American car with tailfins into an opening no wider than a Fishwich. Sure there are plenty of folks who must pull off such a driving maneuver several times per day, but their technique involves lots of gearshift changes, lots of back and forths, lots of cursing, lots of hand-over-hand pawing of their steering wheels. They lack style, pinache, and flair. Oh how I long to be a parallel parking guru.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Game of Thrones

I recently came across the fantasy/adventure novel series by author George R. R. Martin entitled A Song of Ice and Fire. The first book, entitled A Game of Thrones, takes place in Westeros, the Land of the Seven Kingdoms. It involves tales of intrigue and maneuvering of lords and knights and royalty as they jockey for power and control. We are introduced to the different lords of the land from House Stark of Winterfell, House Lannister of Casterly Rock, House Arryn of Eyrie, House Tully of Riverrun, and House Baratheon of King's Landing. One of the focuses of the story is on Lord Eddard Stark and his family. Eddard is a noble and honor-bound man who is fiercely loyal to his king, Robert Baratheon. Robert was once a great warrior, but has grown fat and lazy over the years. This has lead his enemies to develop powerful networks that are threatening to destroy the kingdom. When Robert's main advisor, Lord Arryn, dies, he asks Eddard Stark to fill this role. Yet the queen, Cersei Lannister, is secretly plotting to kill him and install her son as king. When the king dies, the queen and her son move to seize power. This throws the kingdom immediately into discord and it divides into powerful factions. Such is the outcome when one plays the game of thrones.

There are two other focuses of this powerful novel. One is the Night's Watch. A group of knights and rogues that has been assigned to guard the boundary of the northern extent of the kingdom. In the vast, untamed domain beyond the wall, dark magic and sorcery are believed to linger. We are given tastes of this through disappearences of groups of the kingdom's rangers and several scenes of the dead coming to life. Due to the crumbling of the kingdom, little attention is being paid to this serious threat to all who inhabit the land. The final focus of this work involves the last remnant of the old dynasty, House Targaryan, that ruled the land before Robert Baratheon and his forces defeated them. Two young teenagers are scheming to raise an army from their place in exile. The life blood of the last of this line is said to flow with the blood of the dragons. Yet the last of the dragons is believed to have disappeared centuries ago.

Martin has a wonderful talent for developing his characters and their settings to such a level that the words on the page are transformed to detailed images in your mind that pull you in and fully immerse you in the settings. This was a very enjoyable book that I highly recommend. Now onto the next book in the series, A Clash of Kings.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Street Corner

Down on the corner, out in the street ...

Driving home from work the other day, while stopped at the traffic lights along my route, I noticed several scenes that spoke to me of opposite polarities combined in the same picture.
  • I saw a pizza guy waiting at the stoplight in his car. He was putting on a wool cap to keep his head warm, yet his window was cranked down.
  • A lady was walking along a roadside trail to get some exercise and to embrace nature, yet she had on dark glasses and was wearing headphones to keep the world out.
  • A sign offering top dollar in cash for all houses was stuck into the median in the center of the roadway, yet it was written in magic marker on a recycled piece of cardboard.
  • An old man walked on the edge of the road stooped and limping, yet he was pushing along a shiny trick-style bicycle.
  • In front of me at the stoplight a car sported a "Save the Bay" bumper sticker, yet the passenger in the car opened the window and dumped out a coffee can filled with cigarette butts right into the roadway.
... Bring a nickel, tap your feet.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

iTunes Latest - 10

Back in December of 2011, I finally discovered iTunes on my Mac. This service has really helped me to reconnect with my love of music. One of the things that I really like about music is that so often 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.
  • Baby One More Time - Britney Spears (1998) - Back in 1988 I was a full-on grown up, but this song and the PYT singing it caught my attention. It just sticks with me as a good vibe song that still makes me sing along, even after all these years.
  • It's Gonna be Me - *NSYNC (2000) - Downloading this song was kind of sacrilegious for me as I was more loyal to the Backstreet Boys. However, I have always found this one to be toe-tapping with its infectious driving beat and strong declaratives.
  • Oops I Did it Again - Britney Spears (2000) - This song was a carbon copy follow-up to "Baby One More Time" from two years earlier. Still it was fresh enough to catch my ears even though it contained enough cheese to fill a fondue pot.
  • You Drive me Crazy - Britney Spears (1999) - I do not know much about Spears music for the past decade, but this one represents my favorite of hers. Kind of an anthem pop song that fills a room with feelings of longing and desire that most can fully appreciate.
  • Mine All Mine - Van Halen (1988) - After 4 bubble-gum pop offerings, I needed to balance out my ch'i (i.e. mojo) big time. This was my favorite song from the OU812 "Van Hagar" album. An urgent longing to find something that uniquely defines self.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Praise the Lord!

Sixteen years ago I was diagnosed with an advanced, invasive form of cancer. At the time I was told that the mortality rate for my disease was about 50%. That means that within 5 years, half of the folks who have the same type of cancer as I had would be dead.

Since my first surgery and chemotherapy sessions, my cancer has come back half a dozen times. Before my initial hospitalization, I viewed myself as untouchable. No matter what life threw at me, I never missed a day of school or a day of work. I was a rock of consistency. Yet the news of my cancer completely shattered my self image. Suddenly I had come to see myself mortal, as finite. Now every ache, pain, and cough can send my anxiety levels skyrocketing. Has my disease come back? Can I survive its infiltration this time?

Each year I go into my oncologist for my detailed checkup. If the puff of smoke is white, I have bought myself another 12 months of relative calm and assurance. If the puff is black, I will be under the knife within a day or two and all of the chips that I amassed over the months since the last dark cloud are immediately forfeited. However, when my system is found "clean", I am struck by the folks that strongly declare to me "Praise the Lord!" This seems to be an entirely inappropriate declaration. Shouldn't that be the correct response whether I am cancer-free or tumors fill my body? You cannot have things both ways. If one outcome is from God, then the other must be too.

Today I will be at the oncologist for my yearly examination. I can assure you that it will be a pretty unpleasant day for me physically. Yet I hope that no matter the outcome, I can declare with all of my heart, "Praise the Lord!"

Monday, February 18, 2013


I have been reading a series of books set in what amounts to a medieval sort of time period. One of the common weapons of that age was the trebuchet. This device is basically a catapult that served as the missile delivery system of the day. A large bucket or sling could be filled with rocks or boulders, barrels of flammable liquids or boiling pitch, or even dung, that could be hurled great distances into the enemy ranks. The trebuchet sling is mounted at the end of a long arm that is set into motion through the use of a massive counterweight. The large angular momentum imparted to the sling as the weight falls is then transferred to the load when the pivoting arm impacts the stop at the end of its range.

If I had earned my siege engine patch from studying trebuchet mechanics (a hipster reference to The Doonkelberry Imperative - season 3 episode 43 of Phineas and Ferb) I should like to have such a device positioned discreetly in my castle's bailey (i.e. my back yard) and use it to launch things out over my fence. I would do this not so much to assault my enemies, but to rid myself of big or amusing objects that I no longer desire to possess. Things like an old lawn mower, some overly fragrant vegetation, leftovers that got pushed to the back of fridge for too long, overripe fruit, a broken exercise machine, excess body fat, some poorly conceived books from my personal library, and so many stupid things that I have done and said over the years. Once over the fence, I would be rid of them and their effects forever.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Mind Awake

At this point I have worked my way through a good portion of C.S. Lewis' books. By my counting, I have now read nearly 20 of them. My most recent work was actually an anthology of his works put together about five years after his death. The book is entitled A Mind Awake. The focus of this compendium is meant to be a showcase of various Christian themes that provided the foundation of his faith and his philosophy. The book is divided into chapters such as The Nature of Man, The Moral World, The Bible, Sin, and Heaven and Hell. The various snippets of this literary collection range from his first book of poetry to his last novel and were cut and pasted into the different chapters.

The format of this anthology has its strengths and weaknesses. Certainly a strength of this form is that you can gain some insight into Mr. Lewis himself and really come to appreciate his firm belief in the absolute logic of Christianity and faith. You also can bear witness to his style of prose and the depth and intricacy of his approach. It is also good for those with short attention spans as the snippets included range from single sentences to several paragraphs, each separated by the appropriate reference to its original work. The weakness of this form is that by taking sentences and paragraphs from a complete argument, you lose some of the power and grace of the complete thought. You get just a sampling of a few notes from the whole symphony. Still, it was good to stir up in my mind some passages from books that I have read over the years. Also, there were a few books that I had not read yet that have been added to my reading list.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


The other day my daughter made some bread for a dinner that we were hosting for some friends. After it came out of the oven, we both had a small piece to taste. When I told her that she had done well, she gave a simple thank you and went on her way without giving my words a second thought. However, when our guests complimented her on the bread, she glowed with pride and satisfaction. She even reminded me of their words the next day.

I have seen this same behavior countless times in my life and that of others. How well we accept praise or how much it means to us depends on who the praise comes from.
  • Strangers: It seems to me that praise from strangers, which typically elicits no other response than a polite smile, a kind reply, or cool nod, carries no lasting impact because these people have no personal connection with us. Just movie extras in the scenes of our lives.
  • Parents: With parents delivering praise upon their children, it can be easily dismissed as parents tend to lavish praise often on their children. Likely kids are jaded and inured to such words and come to expect them from their parents as part of their "job". They become desensitized to their words, and it seems that after a time, they no longer seek or require approval from their parents.
  • Friends: The praise of friends often has a strong impact on us because we want to impress our friends, we seek their approval, we want them to recognize us and appreciate us. It helps us to feel important, popular, and relevant.
  • Sweethearts: The same appreciation that we feel in receiving praise from our friends is ratcheted up to its most intense level when it comes from our sweetheart's in a new relationship. There is no sweeter wine on the tongue than when your lover tells you that you are the most important person in this world.
I suspect that this hierarchy, from strangers to sweethearts, has been very much the same for centuries. Regardless of era, nationality, ethnicity, and gender, the impact that praise has on us is very much the same on each of us depending on its source. Perhaps that is as it should be.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


For the past 10 years or so, the acronym PED - or performance enhancing drug- has become common in the news. PEDs have become a mainstream topic. Most often allegations or even whispers of an athlete being involved with PED use result in a permanent black stain on their reputation. It is associated with cheating, rule breaking, dishonesty, and fraud. While we will never know the real truth of who, what, where, when, and how (long) with athlete's use of such drugs, it is clear that they have played a major role in professional sports. As these individuals were amassing unprecedented statistics that bordered on super-human, athletes and their sports attracted new follows by the legions. When the rampant allegations of usage hit the fan, many folks felt duped and were left disillusioned.

Yet I wanted to raise a hypothetical that I think is not far fetched given what I have been reading recently about severely injured athletes and their off-season trips to see "doctors" in Europe and Canada. Let me lay out a series of "supposes".
  • Suppose someone took something on a sports league's banned substance list (i.e. a PED) during a period where they were not on a team's active roster and were dealing with a career-threatening injury or condition.
  • Suppose that this PED represented the only realistic way to mend their bodies so that they could play again or sign another contract for employment.
  • Suppose that without taking the banned substance, they might never heal to the point that they could continue their career.
  • Suppose that after their period of PED usage, their body healed and they fully rehabilitated. When it came time to play, their systems were fully free of any banned substances.
Have they done anything morally or ethically wrong given their options? I am not so sure. In fact, given the option of i). living with a chronic injury or condition or ii). having a healed body and a talent that can earn a seven-figure income to provide for myself and my family, I think the choice is an easy one. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


I find the notion of parasites quite distasteful. In particular I find the human variety most especially odious. My online dictionary defines a parasite of this sort as:

A person who receives support, advantage, or the like, from another or others without giving any useful or proper return.

I think of such derogatory flavors as sponges, coat-tail riders, free loader, and dishonest opportunist. In this last category I can think of several that I come across far too frequently:
  • Folks who register domain names very similar to reputable ones in the hope that they will trick some fraction of the people who mistakenly visit their website.
  • Law firms who exist solely to push one class action lawsuit after another. They typically only care about lining their pockets while ensuring that injured or affected folks who join will ultimately get little to nothing of any awards.
  • All of these Car Title loan outfits that have sprung up all over town. Loan sharks looking to fleece desperate people in desperate times.
  • Folks who publish books with similar titles and cover designs to best sellers so that they can catch the scraps that fall to the floor from someone else's feast.
Too many of these parasites don't even scurry away when the light of exposure is turned on them. They actually can easily justify and rationalize what they do and what money they can take to the bank.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Observations 17

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. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • I love the following quote from Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman about his field, "It does no harm to the mystery to understand a little about it."
  • On multiple occasions when my daughter has been asked if she could choose either to read only books or watch T.V., she has responded unequivocally that she would choose books. While I would like to think that was the case, I am dubious.
  • I think it is so convenient that nowadays those involved in the seediest and most horrific scandals have a clear path for redemption, guaranteed to work. Go on Oprah, Anderson Cooper, the late night talk show circuit, and poof, you are as clean as snow. Ready to proceed on with your career as if nothing ever happened. So convenient and scripted.
  • Of the 10 headlines on the ESPN website recently, three of them were folks apologizing for inflammatory Twitter posts that they had made. When will people who feel the need to broadcast the minutae of their lives finally get a clue?
  • The other day I came across a Twinkie-like snack cake that had an expiration date printed on its packaging. That was most unexpected.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Reflections on the Psalms

In his 1958 publication Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis begins with a mirthful statement (although he did not intend it so). He states "This is not a work of scholarship ... I write as one amateur to another." Those who have read any of Lewis' apologetic works will no doubt appreciate his logical and cunning mien, his depth of thought, and his reasoned approach. This man is no more an amateur than I am Albert Einstein. He makes clear right from the start that this is not a book that was designed to provide an in-depth analysis of the Old Testament book of Psalms. He merely wanted to discuss some of the things that he thought about and considered as he read, things that he noted or that troubled him. He states "It may appear to some that I have used the Psalms as pegs on which to hang a series of miscellaneous essays." Then he takes us on a thematic and stylistic journey through this ancient collection of poems and lyrics.

I will say that this book is a very typical Lewis work in that it is not meant to be light, casual reading. I dare say that approached in this manner, one might not glean "the treasure in the stone" as a sculptor might say. Yet it is quite elucidating in its approach. He does not step us through an analysis of the meanings or intents of the individual Psalms. Instead he touches on elements both dark and light in these works, and how he believes that they should be approached. He lends some very adroit analysis to some apparent Pagan (i.e. non-Christian or non-Godly) themes common to the Psalms. He bounds through the surface veneer that likely will be commonly seen by readers of these verses to give additional insight based on the context of the authors. For those who appreciate Lewis and have not read this one, I recommend it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

World Leaders

Recently I was pouring through an old public address by C.S. Lewis where he was expressing himself through the equivalent of a literary sigh. In the shadows of the mid-twentieth century, just after the end of World War II, he was lamenting the membership of the society of world leaders. With familiar names like Roosevelt, Churchill, Mussolini, Hitler, DeGaulle, Hirohito and a host of others floating about in the public consciousness, Lewis noted that the term "leader" is really a modern term. He suggested that this was a deeply significant change of vocabulary compared to the old-world term "ruler".

Lewis noted that with this change, our demand upon these individuals changed no less than their demands on us. For of a ruler one asks justice, incorruption, diligence, and perhaps clemency; of a leader, dash, initiative, and what people called 'magnetism' or 'personality' (or I would add 'electability' or 're-electability'). Today, more than 60 years after Lewis made his observation, I think his words ring truer than ever.

With all of the posturing and pandering that goes on in today's world of politics, the word politician (i.e. leader) has become synonomous with a slick, slimy, criminal mafioso. Gone is the trust of a figure who possesses altruism and a servant's heart. Today, good-looking puppets seek to beat out their opponents in a sort of beauty and/or popularity contest. Election periods are cut-throat and ruthless. All too often there is absolutely no focus on issues, no sense of decorum or decency. It is about spin and photo-ops, about lies and innuendo, about looking strong and courageous in front of the camera. It is about pulling the wool over the people's eyes at every opportunity. I have seen too much over the years, with reinforcements of my attitudes coming every day with the world news, to ever label me as merely cynical.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Now that the days are starting to get longer again, I find it very refreshing to finally have a bit of sunlight still present when I pull into my driveway at the end of the work day. For several months, it was full-on dark before 5:00 p.m.. Well the other day I got home at about 5:15 p.m. and as I was walking up the sidewalk to my front door, I had the most kooky feeling that something was amiss in my front yard. I don't know what I sensed, but my feelings were strong enough that I stopped and gave a quick inspection. Something just seemed different, like something that was once there was now gone. I even got a little bit light-headed (like millions of voices suddenly cried out and were gone). After satisfying myself that I was just tired, or perhaps that I was clinically insane and visions are a typical side effect, I shook it off and went inside. After I set down my briefcase and my lunch box, I decided to walk out back for a few moments to just unwind. That is when my mind was blown.

As I walked off my deck I looked at the area beneath my bedroom window and found that one of my nice ornamental trees had snapped at its base and gone down. I don't often have premonitions or claim to have any relations with dryads or earth spirits, but this was a weird moment. Perhaps all this serves to tell me that I should buy a bandanna and embrace a gypsy lifestyle. If that doesn't pan out, I could try to find employment in a booth at the county fair guessing people's weight.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Spirits in Bondage

This new e-reader craze is sweeping the country, nay the planet, nay the solar system! If you have been living under a rock, I will tell you that an e-reader is a small tablet-style computer set up to view digital copies of books (or magazines or newspapers). Given that I am years behind the curve, I decided to try out this new craze and read my first e-book. I didn't make this decision because I fear the taunts and jibes of the youngling hipster doofus generation, I made this decision because the book that I wanted to read was only 40 pages long and I could download it for free. Free! That is a price that fits my budget.

The book that I read was by C.S. Lewis called Spirits in Bondage. It was his very first published work from 1919 when he was only 20 years old (originally published under the pseudonym Clive Hamilton). It represents a book of poetry that chronicles his world view, shaded by his experiences growing up in Ireland and England and his stint as a soldier in World War I. I had just finished reading Lewis' own account of his early life (Surprised by Joy) and I thought it might be interesting to read some of his thoughts penned during the same period. The book contains a random sampling of verse reflective of his thoughts on nature, war, friendship, and mysticism.

In truth, I was reminded that I am not a great fan of poetry. Try as I might to find something of resonance, it always leaves me in a rush to read it just get it over with. Such was the case with this work. I do know enough about writing poetry to appreciate just how complex the thought patterns of Lewis were, even at this relatively young age. Each word was carefully and methodically chosen for a specific purpose, to convey a certain mood, to paint a precise landscape. Yet for all of the recognition of the craft, I just cannot feel any appreciation from the art.

I also might add that I infinitely prefer reading from a book than an e-reader. It just feels so much more natural to me. So, I won't be going down this road again any time soon, unless the price is free.

Monday, February 4, 2013


My daughter likes to wear boots to school in the cooler weather. They kind of remind me of army boots but with an uber-fashion sensibility. Somewhere along the way, she started to attach ballpoint pens to the tops of the boots. Today she now has an assortment of five or six clipped on. I think she does this so that she has options to more fully respond to her creative muse when she is doodling or daydreaming. Some few weeks ago, she sensed that something in her color palette was lacking and she asked if I could buy her a turquoise pen to add to her collection. We made a few attempts to find something when we were out and about on our errands, but had come up empty handed. Apparently turquoise is not a particularly in demand color. After our failures, we got serious and consulted the webternet. We found a local office supply depot that stocked what she was after, so we hopped in the car and headed over.

When we arrived we found the pen that she was looking for, but it only came as part of a set of eight pens of different colors. When she saw the price, she put the package back on the shelf and I could see her spirit deflate right before my eyes. When she gets her hopes up for something, she hopes with gusto. With disappointment in her voice, she asked if we could just head back home. I told her that it would be O.K. if we bought the whole pack. It wasn't that expensive and it might be her best bet to get the color that she was after. Somehow this possibility had not occurred to her. But her smile just lit up her face. On the way up to the cash register she gave me a hug and told me how thankful she was. As a parent, these moments where you get back these spontaneous tokens of love and gratitude, are priceless treasures.

Friday, February 1, 2013


After completing my first book by author Philip Yancey, Where is God When it Hurts?, I knew that I wanted to read more of his works. The second Yancey book that I selected to read through was Prayer (Does it Make any Difference?). Like many Christians, I pray to God every day. Prayers for my daughter, my friends, folks in the news, trouble spots in the world, and myself. I have come to the conclusion that most of the prayers that I pray for myself are not answered. If the prayers that I pray for myself, which I would admit are the lion's share of my prayers, are not answered, it gives me serious doubt as to whether any of my other prayers are answered. The truth is that I find prayer mostly frustrating, haphazard, and all too often pointless. This may be the case since I am more focussed on the day to day, while God works on a much more extended time period. It may be that I am far too impatient. It may be that my prayers are selfish. Yet given who I am, given my makeup, I cannot think up and out when I am so focussed down and in. When black clouds fill my life, I cannot see the sun. So, with all of this, I thought it would be appropriate to get some wisdom from a source that I have found trustworthy and reliable.

Let me list a few questions/insights from this book:
  • Why does prayer rate so high on surveys of theoretical importance and so low on surveys of actual satisfaction?
  • Prayer can seem a spasm of words lost in a cosmic indifference.
  • Is prayer a pious form of talking to myself?
  • Prayer as transaction rather than relationship can decline into a practice more duty than joy.
  • If God knows everything, then what is the point of prayer?
This book explores prayer from many different points of view and Yancey asks and considers the natural and hard questions. Does he have all the answers? Certainly not, nor does he claim to. He approaches the subject by discussing what prayer is and what prayer is not. He states that prayer is a declaration of dependence on God. He prays for others because he often feels helpless to do anything else. It is the main staple of our relationship with God, it is what brings us together and binds us. Prayer is not meant to be wishes to a genie in a magic lamp or chantings to some mythical sky spirit. It represents an opportunity to regularly approach God with what is on our hearts and minds. It helps to sensitize us to the needs of others, to seek the will of God, and to declare our dependence on God. You may gain some insight in reading this and you may find some answers to long-held questions on this critical part of your faith. However, regardless of what you take away, I think that you will find comfort and some ease.