Saturday, June 30, 2012

I Want To Live Like That

I’m not ready!  Tomorrow the wife and I have committed to begin our ‘Radical experiment.”  Last summer we purchased a book by David Platt titled Radical.  The cover jacket subtext is, ‘Taking back your faith from the American Dream.’  So we began working through the book.  At the same time for lighter reading we both read “A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life (see my post on Wrestling With Story).  So tomorrow we jump in with both feet.

As I type the Sidewalk Prophets play in the background,

“Sometimes I think what will people say of me when I'm only just a memory
When I'm home where my soul belongs.
Was I love, When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of those
Was my worship more than just a song…”

Stepping out on faith we begin these five specific challenges:

• To pray for the entire world
• To read through the entire Word
• To commit our lives to multiplying community
• To sacrifice our money for a specific purpose
• To give our time in another context

The challenge it seems to me is to impact the world for Christ and to see how Christ impacts us personally. So tomorrow we begin. I will keep you posted.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Slow Fade

My integrity flowed away. This is how it begins I thought. This is how good politicians become corrupt. This is how salesman become thieves. This is the baseline for taxes, the hunger for more, and the greed for gain. I took one step down that path today.

Last week I had a visit from the main branch. The training representative indicated that some of the basic procedures had changed. For one we no longer only made Iced Expressos but now made Iced Coffees as well. This meant brewing extra expresso in the morning. The brewing process meant a need for extra containers. The containers had to be ordered from a vendor. The vendor had prerequisites for the orders.

The main requirement is each order is a minimum of thirty dollars. Here’s where the dip into depravity begins. I don’t need thirty dollars worth of stuff. I do need the pitchers though. Three pitchers are what I need. Three pitchers cost (wait for it) about nine bucks.

I called the vendor and asked the girl on the other end of the phone how liberal I could be with their minimum order. She was less than helpful. Negativity flowed from the phone, I barely heard her grunt. The phone wiggled in my hand from the shrugging of her shoulders. So I ball-parked it.

I order five pitchers. I also ordered a thermometer which I don’t really need. I may need it one day. The one we currently use may break—someday. I now await two extra pitchers and one extra thermometer. And so it begins.

It’s the budget that needs to be spent by years end so next year we get the same amount of money. It’s the fat that greases the customer, the ‘little something’ for the vendor. It is money growing on a tree that doesn’t exist. The customer pays a little more and the vendor sells a little more. We buy an extra shelf for the pitchers and thermometers.

I tried creative alternatives but to get the pitchers I got caught up in the system. It’s a warning to heed. It is too easy to go along with the crowd and play the game. Integrity is a battle. Being fair and honest cost us in the end. The reward however is worth it. A good night’s sleep and a reputation as a straight shooter---for we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against world systems.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Borman--Borman818 via Flickr.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Curses and Coffee

On workdays I am up at four in the morning. During the school year if I am off on a weekday I get up at 6 a.m to take my daughter to school. Today is a summer day without work which means sleeping in. Then my neighbor turned up the music.

It was some sort of reggae or ska. I’m eclectic in my musical taste and enjoy both styles. I don’t enjoy them so much when they act as my alarm on a day I don’t need one. To compound matters my neighbor began singing along with the music loud enough so that it was clear through my bedroom window. Gads.

There’s a verse in proverbs which states that it is a curse to shout a greeting to your neighbor in the morning. That is wisdom. For many of us the mornings bring sunshine from the outside but not on the inside. Do not stand between bed and coffee pot. Do not sing Ska to me before I’ve gotten my eight hours and my morning coffee.

Funny thing is that when I am on vacation I wake up earlier. Perhaps even cheerier. You may have to check in with my family to verify that. I suspect that they will say there’s a caveat. They will tell you that I am a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type person. Zombie-like before coffee and tap-dancin fool afterward. Ah the joys of caffeine.

Tomorrow’s another work day. I’ll grind beans tonight. Tomorrow I’ll roll out of bed stumble into the kitchen and hit the switch on the coffee maker. Then I will go through my morning ritual. I am thinking of adding a step tomorrow. I’ll throw open my window and Harry Belafonte and I will start the day with a rousing Daaay-O!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Space Shuttles and Mindsets

We looked up into the sky and watched its flight, 250 miles above us flying at five miles per second.  It is difficult to wrap my brain around such numbers.  We stood in a backyard and watched the Space Shuttle cruise by, not even lit by its’ own power but by sunlight.  Yet we take such things for granted in this age of computers and space.

Working for Prudential Insurance in 1990 they had professionals come in to teach us how to use desktop computers. Today nobody would be hired that did not know how to use a computer. Life and technology change rapidly.

You function best in your first language; and some do well in a second language as well. Those under 35 years of age are in their first language skill set when it comes to computers. Those of us that are older work harder at that which comes natural to them.

Beloit College has been creating a “Mindset List” for each graduating class in which they note what the current class has always lived with vs. what they had never known, that is, their mindset upon entering college. When you finish reading theirs go ahead and make your own. When I’m done I’m going to go onto Facebook and update my status right after I download this new App I found….

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ice, Booze, Women and Hope

“Pick a job that’s recession proof either ice, booze or women,” was the advice given to the cooling repair guy by his grandfather. As he fixed the machine in the coffee (stimulants are also somewhat recession proof) kiosk we spoke about the economy and the difficult times we live in. We chatted as he waited for the ice to drop and verify that both fan and condenser were working. His phone rang and he stepped outside to answer it.

Animated with excitement he stepped back into the kiosk and shared about the phone call. A friend of his does drywall as he finds jobs. Drywall work isn’t consistent but the bills are. In his off time he has been under the tutelage of the Ice Man. The call was the Ice Man’s boss asking for his telephone number to hire him. Studying and learning, hope against hope to get hired. And he did.

We can learn two things from this story. The first is that not all advice given by all grandpas is good advice. The second is that it is good to hope for, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Monday, June 25, 2012

Moments of Delight

After work yesterday I settled into the couch. A breeze blew in through the screen door, the sun sat low on the horizon lighting up the yard while not blazing in heat and whiteness. I felt my body creating the perfect dent in the pillows. It was a wonderful moment.

Healthy people enjoy those moments. Those off-balance power through those moments and miss them completely. Those moments of delight are what keep one healthy and thankful.

The events that make up moments of delight don’t depend on us but rather come to us through nature, others and the gentle hand of a loving Father. They are gentle reminders that we can’t claim credit for the truly good stuff and we shouldn’t stress about the horrible stuff that happens.

I wonder if I can train myself to notice the moments more. Can I let the silence lure me into quiet meditation. Can I be refreshed on the bend of a cool breeze? After a work day filled with frustration and anger can I let the stress seep out at the laughter of another?

I will think about that tomorrow. Let me look for the moments of enchantment and find joy in the small surprises the day brings. I know it will bring the right perspective. I need only bring a students’ attitude and a heart ready to receive joy.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

On Community-We Rub Shoulders and Bang Elbows

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”-Acts 17:26

God has placed me in the high desert. It isn’t my ideal choice of places to live. Last year I met a woman online. She lived near the beach. We fell in love. My daughter also lives in the high desert. When courting I asked said woman if she would move to the desert if we got married. We did and she did.

We attend a bible study with a small group of friends. Coincidentally (cough, cough) God moved them to the desert at the same time. Two were living in Arizona. Two were serving in the military. Two returned from the brink of disaster. God brought us together at the same small church. Somehow we click.

We are accountable to one another. Conferring about Christ we came to that conclusion. We rub shoulders and we bang elbows. We walk arm in arm. We hug and we hold to standards. We do it because we are one body. We provoke one another---to love and good deeds.

We broke early from study for a barbeque. The church body came together to eat, laugh and watch a movie. We talked of politics, jobs, social security; life in general. We told our stories. Where God had moved us from and where He is moving us to.

High desert living isn’t the first choice for many of us. The action of moving to another location would be easy. Far richer though to build bonds and celebrate community. For God has caused living water and pools of refreshment to flow from these. As the Psalmist has said, “the boundaries have fallen for me in pleasant places.”

Saturday, June 23, 2012

On Dating-A Time When We Dressed to the Nines

I’m more likely to hear, “I’ve got tickets to the game,” than “I’m taking out my dame.” The romantic male is going the way of the dinosaur. As a matter of fact dinosaurs are the only ones wining and dining their women. The youth of today think taking their girl out for a burger is a date; and Las Vegas a romantic getaway.

There is a joy in treating my wife to an adventure of dinner at a swank restaurant or a night of live theatre. Setting aside the time and showing her that she is the highlight of the evening is a grand privilege. Fine food and classics can’t compare.

There was a time when we dressed to the nines and focused on our women. Now we drag them along as companions and equals; to the game, or the races, or for the breakfast burrito. Hey who doesn’t love a hearty breakfast right?

We fell in love with them because they were mysteriously different. So why start treating them as they are exactly the same as all our other male friends? Wooing our wives and girlfriends is a great honour. There is a rich and mysterious adventure awaiting. Her name is woman.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Is For Swimming

There is no water in the desert. Not to play in anyway. Where I grew up summertime meant swimming. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley the beach was thirty minutes away and swimming pools were in abundance. Neither is true here.

Over coffee this morning I meditated on options. The local high school has a pool, but it’s the only water around so you end up walking or treading water rather than swimming in it. We used to travel down the hill to a Spa Hotel but I ‘Yelped’ it and the reviews were bad. One said that if you filled up a bus with people with tattoos, beer bellies, low-riding shorts and bad teeth and dropped them off in one location it would look like the Spa Hotel.

At coffee cup #2 (funny how that caffeine works) the light bulb went on. What if we drove down the hill, out of the desert to Yucaipa Regional Park. We packed up cherries, Gatorade, picked up sandwiches and ice and left town.

The swimming lagoon looked blue and clear. Grass and trees were on the immediate bank of the pool. We easily found a spot and spread out. Then into---no, not that easily—the water. It was cold but comfortable once in. A quick swim then the teenager and I headed for the waterslides while the wife enjoyed the pool.

Out of the pool and into the shade we plunked down into our chairs and grabbed our books. Cherries, Skittles, crackers and drinks then back into the water. Down the slides and swim the length of the pool while the daughter freaked about floaties and possible human body fluids.

Summertime is for swimming and sun baking out the stress; family and fruit, good books and laughter. Desert dryness causes us to celebrate the summer streams fully.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bike Bottles, It's About Control-Post #2

Chesini bike water bottles

The box on the porch contained my life. Mom went into my room, scooped up all my stuff and threw it into this huge box. Half a lifetime later and I’m still not certain why. I missed that lesson somehow. Still it was a brutal invasion of me and my privacy.

I have always been picky about my stuff. I’m certain it’s a control thing. As a teen I hated it when my sister borrowed my records. I have issues.

My wife and I misplaced the lids to my cycling water bottles. I was going to go riding this morning and couldn’t find them. In my mind I blamed my wife. I realized too I may have put them in the wrong place. I felt myself begin to freak out.

It's about control. Everything in life should be in its perfect place. My trials should all be of size that I can handle. My finances should manageable. My friends shouldn’t get sick with cancer. People should do what’s right (that is, the way I want them to act).

The wife located another water bottle to use. Not my favorite but workable. It still held Gatorade. My ride was still wonderful.

So I would pray with St. Francis,
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Picture courtesy Ragnar 1984

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Beauty and Brokeness (Post #1 of year challenge)


It’s a startling sentence. “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” In the days before the ‘old testament,’ before Noah, before ancient history, “Enoch walked with God.” How did Enoch know enough about God to worship Him? Enoch was impacted by two forces; beauty and brokenness.

Eve echoed in Enoch’s wife. One less rib, breathless, her beauty stirs him. He takes her under the night sky, the beautiful night sky. The stars flow like water. He can’t count them nor see their beginning. They spin in orbit. Nine months later water breaks and Methuselah is born. All echo Eden.

The verses read that Enoch became father and then he walked with God. A big world. A little boy. Enoch and his wife; impure hearts, imperfect parents. Helpless, broken, fearful Enoch cries out. God answered personally and closely. Whispering even. Walking with. And when it was time taking Enoch home.

Photo from Davedehetre's photos in flickr