Thursday, February 28, 2008


I just watched the first half of a two DVD set of a concert that Pink Floyd did in 1994, "Pulse". It was incredible! Oh how I wish I could travel back in time and be at the live concert. Tons of my all time favorite music accompanied by a light show that surpassed anything I ever imagined. It was so good that I was delerious with happiness! And I started thinking about heaven. I thought, as good as that concert was, it was only a tiny taste of how good heaven will be. I could imagine myself in a vast crowd worshiping God as he shows us what light truly is. I don't mean that I think that I can actually comprehend it. I just got a glimpse of the fact that it will be better than anything I can imagine.

Barbara is gone. And I miss her. But I started the day with the privilege of playing with little kids while their mom got clothes for them at the kids kloset. I put in some time this afternoon helping folks connect with opportunities at Wycliffe projects. And then I had a taste of what it might be like to worship God in heaven. That is just plain cool.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Back In the Day

"Back in the day" is one of those odd little idioms. I suppose it is an abbreviated form of "back in the old days". More and more I notice that the "old days" are different for people at various ages. For example, I noticed a group of "born in the 70's" Facebook members. I immediately thought: Oh, young people, 38 at the oldest. Then I realized that "born in the 70's" was supposed to be a group of relatively old Facebook members. Most Facebook users seem to be born in the 80's or 90's. However, since I was born in 1950, I was calibrated very differently than most.

That is one of a number of things that lead me to consider how our time sense is calibrated. Like many folks, I have come to the conclusion that as we age, we tend to see a year or a decade as an increasingly small increment of time. Supposedly a 100 year old woman was asked how her days were going. She said "It feels like I eat breakfast every twenty minutes".

Getting more specific, I think we tend to compare any given length of time to the total time we are aware of having been alive. I have only vague memories from before I was about 6 or 7 years old. So I could use 50 years as my "conscious life". (I am 57). I find that something that happened 5 or even 10 years ago seems very recent. My twenty something children have a conscious life of 15 or 20 years. A decade is a much bigger deal to them.

This also seems to work for multiples of my lifetime. The year 1900 happened about two of my lifetimes ago. It seems astounding to me that there where no airplanes, no computers, no radios or TVs, etc. etc. Just two life times ago. Three life times ago it was still legal to own slaves in much of the United States. Four life times ago, there were a few primitive steam engines, but the vast majority of work was done with human or animal muscle. Oddly enough, the little bit of mechanical power that was tapped was all renewable energy, mostly sails and waterwheels. Wealthy men wore tight capri pants and powdered wigs.

Now consider multiples of 20 years. Two life times ago, hippies and Vietnam war protests were much in the news. There was no Internet, but personal computers were common. Three life times ago, baby boomers were being born. Formal racial segregation was rampant. TV was in its infancy. Four life times ago, the great depression was about to begin. Movies were still silent. Traveling on an airplane would be very rare indeed.

The time calibration also affects how we look at the future. It is unlikely that I will live another whole life time. For a twenty something, several more life times may loom ahead. If I live another couple of decades, I will find that I have at most a small fraction of a lifetime remaining to me.

Meanwhile, I find that one hour can still seem to creep by if I am doing something I don't like (waiting for an overdue airplane, or having a root canal done). One hour can fly by if I am enjoying a good book, good company, or a good meal. Every thing I know suggests that it is no different for someone much younger or much older than myself. So we all have twenty four hours a day for all the days of our lives. And each one of those hours may be agonizingly long or regrettably short. Yet when we look back or look forward, our sense of time is very much affected by the total number of those hours that we have lived.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Account versus Recount

I enjoy giving a recount of many of the episodes in my life. If I emphasize the right details and throw in a bit of self deprecating humor, there are times when it may even be enjoyable for my readers. Giving a recount sounds so close to giving an account, that we might be tempted to ignore the difference. However, an account includes the reasons for why one did something. An account is offered to someone who has a degree of authority. Hence the term, accountable, as I am accountable to my wife or he is accountable to management. As I recount events, I can relax a bit. I may bore my reader, but I am in little danger of judgment. Accounts are more harrowing. In the midst of an account I may realize that the one to whom I am giving the account wants a great deal more than entertainment.

We will be called to give an account of our lives to God. God is the highest authority. That is why he is referred to as the king of kings. There is no higher authority. God has made the necessary sacrifice to allow us to be forgiven our misdeeds. Nonetheless, I think that giving an account to him will prove very challenging. God is good. God is love. There is every reason that we would want to win his approval. However, a frank account of many choices we make in this life will undoubtedly strike us a very unsatisfactory when we stand face to face with God at the end of our days on this earth. I thank God that we can be forgiven. I thank God that there is another, eternal life, after this one.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

News from Julia and Viggo

I posted an update on Julia and Viggo's blog based on information we have received via phone calls from them. They recently moved to the camp in the Tanzanian countryside where they will study Swahili for four months. See it here: News from Julia and Viggo

New Day, New Perspective

I do learn something new most days. It also seems that I get lots of opportunities to adjust my perspective. I wanted to record a couple of such things that had a substantial impact on me in recent days.

Jennifer Goodenough (see her blog in my links) sent us an e-mail with an article about the impact of higher grain prices on people in Haiti. Life is marginal for many folks in Haiti during the best of times. As grain prices have risen lately, lots of Haitians have turned to a traditional practice to stave off hunger pains. They use local mud, mixed with a bit of salt and vegetable oil, to create dirt "cookies". These are made in large numbers and sold very cheaply (but not free!) in the markets. When grain is out of reach, families turn to eating this mud concoction: Eating Dirt . It is estimated that about a billion people are malnourished on this planet. Somehow, the extremity of eating dirt opened my eyes a bit wider to how terrible a problem that is.

The other perspecitve adjuster was watching The Diving Bell and the Butterfly . The movie is based on the memoir of a man who was paralyzed by a stroke at age 40. He is completely paralyzed except for the ability to blink one eye. He can see out of that eye. He can hear. And his mind is fully functioning. His only means of communicating is to painstakingly learn to blink his eye at the right moment as someone recites the alphabet to him. In that way he is able to spell out words. Over months he "dictates" an entire book, which was published to critical acclaim. He dies of complications from the stroke ten days after the book is published. I walked out of the theater feeling tremendous gratitude for the ability to move, to touch, and to taste. This morning I added those to my list of things I regularly thank God for. I realized that I had been taking such things for granted. I hope it will be a long time before I do so again.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Did I Mean What I Said?

About four months ago I was in the throws of withdrawal from oxycodone. I wrote the following in a post at that time:

I may regret saying this, but I welcome this chance to confront this nonesense about who I am. I am God's creation. I am also a sinner who does not deserve forgiveness. The very sins that I am guilty of are those which have created the chaos and misery in this world that also has so much beauty and pleasure. I am saved by grace, not by my own efforts. All that I own. All that I treasure. All good that I am able to do. All are by the grace of God. I am not defined by those things, they are gifts and blessings from God. Now for a season I am able to do less. That is a trial. What I am will be revealed more by trials than by the blessings God has bestowed on me.

I don't regret confronting the nonsense about "who I am" that was triggered by my surgery, subsequent drug dependence, and the change from HP lifer to "retired" . I am, however, surprised to see how difficult it is to get the nonsense to back down. The surgery and drug dependence feel like very old news at this point. However, I continue to struggle with feeling that I have lost meaning and purpose in my life, now that I am now longer working for a wage. I was aware that leaving my corporate job would impact me. I am surprised that the impact is as powerful as it has been at times. It seems so strange to feel locked in a struggle when all the outward aspects of my life are so good: family, friends, health, money, etc.

If it happens that you have read this far and that you are thinking about your own struggles, please be encouraged. It seems that the struggle is part of growing. You are growing. May God enable us all to grow to be more like him.

So I am still confronting a lot of nonsense about what it is that gives my life meaning. I am dedicated to using my life to serve God. I know that he has called me to encourage and serve others. I look for opportunities to do that, and I have been blessed with some great ones. Yet I am constantly fighting the feeling that the ways in which I serve are trivial. I think the foundational problem is that I became far too accustomed to judging my success in "worldly" terms: how strong, how handsome, how rich, how influential in world affairs, how smart, how adventurous, how experienced, and a multitude more.

I think God measures us by very different measures: how repentant, how humble, how patient, how kind, how faithful, how obedient, how loving. These sorts of things are the fruits of the spirit of God. If I seek to obey God and be reassured that I am succeeding, my success can only be measured by God's metrics, not by the world's.

So yes, I still welcome the chance to confront nonsense about "who I am". It is painful. But it is vastly preferable to the alternative, which would be to continue to measure myself by worldly standards. All the things of this world: looks, wealth, physical strength, fame,

Saturday, February 02, 2008

1:30 AM

It's early morning now. Instead of sleeping, I am messing with the computer. Why? Well, the short answer is that Barbara is gone (that would be "the wife" for those who do not know us). I thought, "Why stay up all night just because the wife is gone?" I have no answer to that question. However, it did occur to me "Why did I stay up all night, every night, for three months during the summer of 1969? Answer: Because I had a night shift job at a machine shop that paid a whopping $2 per hour. That is an even less satisfying answer than "I have no answer."

For a stream of consciousness grand finale: I suddenly realized today that I could use Google Earth to look at the town in Ohio where I spent my senior year in High School. I used the search feature to find Machine Shops in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. And there it was: Reuther Mold and Manufacturing. The site of that dismal summer of night shifts. Still in business. Still at the same location almost four decades later.

Some time I'll have to tell the story of why I kicked the 6' 8" shot putter in the butt as he labored at his station in Reuther Mold and Manufacturing. Not now.

Sweet dreams.