Monday, January 27, 2014

A Barista's Battle With Attitude

Somebody should hit me with a roaming charge because I’ve been all over the map this last week. A week ago the wife and I had a nice three-day weekend. Should be recharged but I’ve been scatterbrained and lacking energy. One second I’m excited about God and life’s possibilities and minutes later I want to go home and crawl into bed with a good book--- for a long time; like a month or two. Oh the joys of being in skin!

It’s more serious than that. It’s a battle with the will to just think right. I find I’m not worshipping God. I don’t give a rip about other people. (Although I have to pretend I do. It’s my job). I get stuck thinking about me or stuff that has to do with me. Two days ago the wife and I had a disagreement. Most of my energy was spent in worry along with a quick prayer to be wise and loving (mostly for me, less for God).

It’s easy for me to just set everything on cruise control during these periods. I used to do just that. Now I try to fight to keep my brain properly engaged. It’s a battle though. I find I swing from right focus to hazy daydreaming in the blink of an eye.

Times like this I find anchors are important; rituals and habits help maintain equilibrium. Tomorrow I’ll stop on the way home and meet with God at the local preserve. I’ll walk and talk and God will listen. Maybe He’ll interject a thought or two. Tuesday night is Bible study with the men’s group. That’ll help too. Perhaps it’s just a matter of recalibrating.

At work we use a thermometer to indicate when the milk is steamed hot enough to make a latte or other hot drink. Once a week the thermometer is placed in a cup full of ice water to make certain it reads at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Though rare I’ve seen it off by as much as ten degrees thus making a hot latte only tepid in reality. I feel like I’m running ten degrees off—tepid not hot. I’m hoping recalibration will help.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Threat of Cancer-Living Fully In The Face Of Death

I was caught off-guard when a fellow employee said to me, “You seem to be a Godly man. Would you do me a favor? Please pray for me as the doctors tell me that I have Melanoma.” Being a barista is much like being a bar tender; customers tell me of their struggles. The topic of cancer comes up often. Everybody seems to either have it or know someone that does.

World wide new cases of cancer are increasing not decreasing according to a recent article in World Magazine. According to World, “The World Health Organization released new estimates in December marking the trend: In 2012, there were 14.1 million new cases of lung, breast, colorectal, cervical, and other cancers, up from 12.7 million just four years earlier. The annual number of deaths from cancer ticked up as well, to 8.2 million in 2012 from 7.6 million in 2008.” The article cites some significant possible reasons for the uptick; pollution, unhealthy Western lifestyles such a smoking, Human Papillomavirus and fallout from abortions which has links to cancer. For all of our scientific advancement we still have far to go to claim victory in this war.

I lost my sister-in-law last year to brain cancer. I’ve lost an uncle and a cousin to Leukemia-a blood cancer, an aunt to pancreatic cancer and two friends (Eric and Erik) to brain cancer and melanoma. Cancer is an equal opportunity attacker. Though it may not be the cause of death for all of us it may be the cause for many. It doesn’t wait for old age either but will attack in mid-life without an apology. True we could also choke on a piece of bacon while at breakfast in our own kitchen. Something will provoke our dying; how does that affect our living?

My wife and I spent last weekend in Cambria where we attended a wine pairing and tasting. My being raised Jewish and her Protestant ethic mean we can do ‘guilt’ well. So we wrestled with extra money on a nice weekend with many niceties included. What I kept coming back to is the whole issue of death.

Wisdom teaches us that money is a stewardship granted to us for God’s glory. We should save it and not squander it. We are also challenged by verses such as this, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” I keep coming back to Augustine’s encouragement to “Love God and do as you please.” For we know that death is the end of everyman but fully living means we need not regret it when it comes.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Something's Got To Change

In my mind’s eye I see it; cartoon-like, in crayon, written all over the inside of a house; like The Shining, sans-horror. Scrawled on the doors, the oven, the refrigerator and on a placard above the central writing desk it says, “Something’s got to change!” The phrase appeared in the letter of missionaries we know. They were the words that changed everything for them! Propelled forward---the arc of a life sprung from that basic thought; “Something’s got to change!”

When I was a teenager I would get the sense that life was standing still; a sailing vessel on the sea stuck with no wind. I would sense that there was something coming—something just off in the distance that would change. I’d whistle Phil Collins, “Can’t you feel it coming on the air tonite? Hold on…”

Now I’m in my early fifties and newly married. Both of us look at our current life situation and think, “Something’s got to change!” It’s not one easily-identifiable simple thing but it’s a slew of different things some of which are just gut feelings. Like what? There’s got to be more of God. Deeper, we want to go deeper. We live in a little run down rental. We’d like a bigger place; want to be able to garden, to relax, to spread out a bit. Others—the desire is to pour life into others. What does that look like? How does that happen?

We seek, we pray, we read and we reflect. We bounce questions around. I guess they call that brainstorming. It’s the act of moving. It’s too easy to get complacent and settle in. Soul isn’t satisfied in complacency.

We’re waiting for God to fill the sails. There are days it seems daunting. Still we keep seeking, keep moving, keep believing that God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. We move and we knock on doors and then God reminds us that being still is important too. I guess the process is important. Something’s gotta change. I’ll keep you posted as we wrestle with what—and how.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pushing The Envelope For Passion

Capt. James T. Kirk, Captain of the Starship Enterprise, is a man of passion. There is no episode of Star Trek in which the character enters half-heartedly into any situation—unless he drugged, possessed or inhabited by another sentient being. That is how we should strive to live our lives.

My passion should shine in all that I do. Passion should echo in whatever it is one does; teaching, writing, singing or eating. So I have to enjoy it. Somehow some aspect of that which I am engaged in should bubble up into passion.

I can’t keep doing what I’m doing the way I’ve always done it. Passion should push the envelope for me. That got me to thinking about Chuck Yeager and breaking the sound barrier. There is reward in going outside our own comfort zone.

Being passionate about our art will drive us to try new things in pursuit of doing it better. I can understand (though I don’t condone) an artist that tries “mind-expanding” drugs in hopes to be a better artist. In the throes of creation there is a hunger born to be better, different, to think outside the box.

Let the consumers of your product know where you are wrestling to grow. In this your fervor becomes contagious. In this they enter into the struggle with you.

It’s not all about art either. Zeal for any aspect of life; your marriage, raising your children or working on your car will drive you to learn more and improve. Study your kids and know your wife. You will be a better parent. You will be a better fit for your wife. Passion will drive you to love them better.

Pursuing God should involve ones whole as well. God Himself uses imagery of experience, passion and sense; “Taste and see that I am good, I will be a well of water springing up, Delight yourself in God.”

Life should not be walked one slow-step after another with no energy and no zeal. We must allow those things that light us up to fire us up. If we remain continually complacent we should examine our hearts. We shouldn’t be afraid to let go and enter in. That is where passion will grow. That is where we will fully come alive.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Better Story For 2014

H/t to James Clear for the format for this post….

The goal in development this last year is taken from Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: the idea is to edit my life into a great story. In reviewing the past year and concurrently setting goals for 2014 the significant questions are:

1. What was accomplished in 2013 that makes for (or leads to) a good story? What went well?
2. What chapters would I leave when I looked at 2013?
3. What accomplishments will be additional good chapters for 2014?

Chapters In A Good Story

Writing: This was my 2nd year of consistent blogging and page views increased significantly! Though I can not measure it I feel that my writing is more concise and my personal editing is better than previous years.

Travel: Mrs. Dillo and I stepped out of our comfort zone and flew into Guatemala. We spent nine days with missionaries that we’d never met. We went into small villages and were embraced by God fearing Mayan’s. Mrs. Dillo ran vision clinics and I helped with construction—both areas skirting the line between comfort zone and total lack of skill/experience zone. The family visited the Sequoia’s and San Diego. As a couple we took a trip to Temecula and toured the wine country.

Cycling: I Participated in a number of rides including The Mile High Century, a 105 mile ride in Lake Almanor, California. It was great to accomplish a ride of this distance but my overall time to complete the ride was slow and disappointing.

Spiritual: Our annual men’s retreat took place in November. By default I ended up point-man on the planning committee; not a goal accomplished but an achievement. During said retreat I was challenged to pray consistently. For half of November and all of December I stopped on the way home from work, read Psalms and prayed. The result has been dynamic in both my attitude and through God’s responding.

I led a number of men’s Bible studies; Ephesians, Galatians and two sessions on forgiveness.

Finished reading The Gulag Archipelago.

What Didn’t Go Well

Spiritual: I attempted to read through the Bible in a year and I’ve read through a small chunk of the Old Testament. Prayer and reading were inconsistent at best.

Bicycling: Didn’t train well for the level of rides I did. Speed training non-existent. Not certain how hard I want to push and train in cycling this year.

Employment: Work is still a struggle. I had plans to research what’ out there and work toward making changes. None of that happened. In the current economy I think I’ll stick it out and wait to hear from God before making a move.

Finances: Still a catastrophe in 2013. The wonderful wife’s perseverance finally paid off and she landed the desired position. This should help getting us back on even keel in 14.

Good Chapters for 2014

Writing: I will resume blogging three times a week. The desire is to push myself with different styles and be willing to risk more. This means some blog posts will be edgier than some may appreciate---the joy of honing the skill will be worth the risk.

Nanorimo: November is National Novel Writing Month so I will be writing a novel.

Photography: My desire is to reacquaint myself with my camera. I am reading some excellent books on lighting and exposure. The challenge will be to find the time and place to shoot more with life and schedule already full.

Spiritual: I will continue to stop and pray on my way home. Will start a journal of prayer requests and answers.

Travel/Training: Beyond the usual summer trips we are committed to attend the Storyline conference this year and work through long range life planning.

Finances: Will pay off THE credit card.

In broad brush strokes those are the main goals (I’ve purposely left off family oriented goals such as time with wife and child) for this year. The hope is that God will reward as He is sought for “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” May the reward be a life and a story that is worth the telling.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Goal Setting Strategies for 2014

I tend to see goal-setting like Clint Eastwood in a western; one man, one gun and one goal (one gal as well but that’s beside the point). The War of Art is a book I consider a must-read but it too tends to eschew the view that pursuing a goal is a one man enterprise. There is some of that but effective incentives and processes are more complex.

To set goals you can put it all out there as James Clear does in his 2013 Annual Review in which he evaluates the past year; what went well, what didn’t and related goals for 2014. This is the wrong thing to do---according to a post on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog titled, “Don’t Share Your Resolutions.” I understand that sharing my goals robs them of energy. What energizes me is completely different.

Miller recommends you don’t share your resolutions but promotes personal coaching as a means to accomplishing your goals. I am an extrovert—which means I gain energy from interacting with others. Setting my goals and having others come alongside to encourage and challenge me in accountability consistently aides in my progress in multiple areas. While I won’t be hiring my own personal coach I will be enlisting others to assist me in my pursuits.

Each strategy to accomplish one’s goals incorporates some level of being energized and pushed toward achieving your specific outcome. The authors of Bicycling magazine (January/February 2014), in talking about weight loss goals, note a strategy called “incentive-based weight loss.” The idea need not apply to weight loss but can apply to any goal---“many people who struggle to get leaner can succeed by pursuing short-term gratification. So…give yourself a decadent cycling vacation or cash bonus if you hit a weight loss goal.” Set your goal and treat yourself when it’s accomplished.

My first goal of the year is to lay out my basic goals similar to the post by James Clear. I’ll have those up on Tuesday. That’ll help me get this year kick started—my hope is that you’ll be helped along the way as well.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The Happiest Life-A Book Review

It’d be impossible to do 10,000 interviews without gleaning significant wisdom. More difficult still to distill some of that wisdom into a small book that can be placed on the nightstand or bathroom reading rack but Hugh Hewitt has done that! Not to say that this isn’t a great book; rather that it is entertaining and thought provoking but concise enough to chomp on in small doses. I found myself revisiting sentences and ideas more than once and my copy has notes in it such as, “Wish he’d written more on energy; great chapter on empathy; friends encourage; important note on the gifts being applicable in all relationships and spheres…”

The challenge in pursuing the Happiest Life that Hugh talks about is to seek to give to others through encouragement, energy, enthusiasm, empathy, humor, graciousness and with gratitude. Hugh challenges us to look at other human beings with new eyes to see the glory that is in each of us; and the blessing of bestowing these gifts to one another as we move through this life.

‘The secret to success’ is woven throughout the book and I found the rabbit trails and side-stories to be as rewarding and instructive as the key points. It is one of those books where if you skim you run the risk of missing some hidden treasure; even the conclusion was a cohesive addition to the entirety of the work.

This book would make a great gift for the young adult in your life or for yourself as a tool for self-reflection. Happiness and success are pursuits worthy of the investment.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book and asked to give it an honest appraisal.