Archive | March, 2012

Is it a Forest or a Bunch of Trees?

31 Mar

Some people see every tree and can count them, tell you the day they first broke the soil, describe the precise height of each tree and where the leaves lie. Hopefully these people are getting paid to know that kind of detail, but either way, they know the details. This is tremendous knowledge, to be sure, but sometimes that is not the information you need.

That leads me to another person, who does not know the specifics of each tree, but he does know the forest. He knows the best place to enter or exit. He knows what is around the forest. He knows why someone would enter the forest, and what they are likely to see when they get in the forest, but sometimes that is not the information you need.

While I believe there are better analogies, this one has the back-story of years of use that allow me to skip a better explanation. In an ideal world, someone would know the forest and know the trees, but the human brain power being limited and the time for study not as abundant, most will fall into a trap of being one or the other.

At various points in my life, I have felt that I have erred in one direction or another of whatever the proper balance is. Maybe, just maybe, that is the key. Without omniscience, there may be no way to have the proper balance. It is possible that we err continuously in one of the two, because we just can’t do it all.

While that may be hollow consolation when you run into a situation like I did this last week, it could be. I just refuse to accept it personally. This week I had a situation where I have been looking at the big picture. I had a tremendous view of everything that was going on and I felt I had it handled. It just so happened that the guy I was working with was staring at a tree and just couldn’t get over the fact that I neglected that tree.

As I think about that potential of impossibility, I know that I press forward with the hopes that I will have the perfect balance soon. I work to learn the forest and the trees. And since my latest escapade where I erred on the side of being too globally focused, I am sure the next experience I have (if there is one) will be one where I study each tree too much.

The real question is how do we know what the proper thing to prioritize is in each situation. And as I look at how I’ve compensated for my shortfalls over the years, I’ve tried to bring in people that complement me. While I struck gold with my wife, Kelly, I still find that in some areas of my life, I am not as well augmented as I could be.

If I am worried that I will fail, I’ve already put my belief in me, which is really the wrong person. So as I continue to struggle, I will know that the only real way I can approach completeness in any area is to call on the One who does know it all. I will continue to lean on God, so that my weaknesses can bring forth His strengths and hope that I never again overvalue the forest (or the trees).

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I Want to Keep My Friends!

29 Mar

I just had a wonderful conversation with a fantastic Christian friend that I have had the good pleasure of (hopefully) mutually challenging each other in our Christian walk for some time now. As I think back on the years we have known each other, I am so happy that all the little pitfalls that can and do happen in a relationship seem to have avoided us, but unfortunately, I cannot say that we have been unaffected by conflict.

Now, I do believe that conflict can be a good thing, but I also think conflict is only good when it is approached correctly. You see, conflict without real resolution is merely a feeling of angst in a situation that will never benefit the two parties. Unfortunately, in my life, I have had many people over the years where small issues have been ignored and there were small matters of contention for which resolution was never sought.

On the positive side, most of these issues were at the center of relationships that didn’t matter enough to really lose sleep over. As much as it is possible, I look forward with the hopes that even the smallest of contentions can be resolved in a biblical manner. I think merely the realization and desire will help this to become a lesser problem than it could be, but even that may not be enough, as conflict is always lurking around the corner to ruin another small cavern of our lives, so we must always be vigilant in our efforts.

While my church is committed to never forgetting the past, I need to personally make a similar decision. The reality is that there are always things that come up. I was speaking with my niece the other night about the potential for a friendship to be broken up over $40. While I’d like to say I’d never be that petty, without Christ’s redeeming influence on my life, I’d be even more petty. I had a business deal today with a man who potentially will work with me into the future on a regular basis, but due to a small difference of opinion, he was willing to throw it all away.

This is where I can greatly appreciate that being a peacemaker is a very difficult thing. Sometimes this requires us to have uncomfortable conversations with people. To take ownership of your own faults and not look to the faults of others is difficult and not part of the natural man. The only way we can effectively do this is to allow God to continue to work in us. This is my prayer on a daily basis.

The biggest thing I have noticed in my own life is that I need to not glean all my information from outside people. My aforementioned friend and I had the biggest conflict when we were both listening to a mutual “friend,” who would tell us things that made us both think less of one another. The damage took years to undo, but by God’s grace we made it through. The one thing about which I most worry is who are all the people that I wrote off due to talking to someone else, where I could have a wonderful relationship today?

So, as I muddle through my daily life, I am reminded to not accept unwarranted gossip and not get upset over petty things. Most of all, however, I pray that my own nature would be lost in a DNA-reboot as the Lord of all Creation continues to work on me.

Can Anyone Write Every Day?

27 Mar

Writer’s Block. Clearly we can see that sometimes people who are attempting to write something cannot come up with something to write. While one may assume that this is the sign of a weak writer, there is evidence throughout history of great writers having a period of time where they could not write. But the question that begs to be asked is, “Why does it exist?”

Do we see great cooks having a period of time where they cannot cook? Do we have great designers going through a period of time where they just cannot come up with new designs? On the other hand, do we even see mediocre contributers to society in some way, go through a dark period where they just cannot produce whatever it is they produce?

While it does seem that writing is the area when we see this the most, all of creation is subject to the sabbath. God commands us to rest. God commands us to rest the land. There is strong support that taking a sabbatical for men in certain positions reaps immense benefits. Is it possible that the art of writing also falls into this trap?

I believe that writing is similar to these things! Resting of the land is where it takes a break from what it is actually intended to do to become sharper at what it does. Taking a sabbatical is much the same. Even a weekly sabbath where we take a break from what we do is something that makes us a better worker. If you do not believe me, try working with someone who hasn’t had a day off in over a few months. They will not produce like they once did.

God’s built-in design for a break, in my opinion, can be one of the primary reasons for writer’s block. Writing is one of the very few things we can do in this world where the totality of who we are can come through. Someone writing can put forth their entirety into their work. There are very few other things in this life, where the totality of who we are can come through.

So when those who write need a break, maybe we should be more gracious and give them that break without hassle. Of course, once the sabbath of writer’s block is over, we should expect high quality material. So, take your favorite blog writer, and when he takes a break from his schedule, give him time, then hold him to a higher standard!

So Many Crises, So Little Time

23 Mar

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral or spiritual crisis, proclaim their neutrality.” Said by John F. Kennedy in an attempt to quote Dante, neither of which are we probably excited to duplicate in speech or theology. While I certainly don’t want to get into the potential levels in Hell, I do think that we need to never be neutral in crises where there is a clear and definite side taken by Scripture.

David Wooten did a wonderful job in his poem about life. I am not sure why some in the political realm choose to ignore the obvious truth that life exists prior to birth. When we can have babies successfully survive when “born” after 3-4 months gestational period, it becomes difficult to argue in the alternative. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; and before you were born, I consecrated you.”

While we should all be committed to defending the unborn, it isn’t often that we get to make a tangible decision to help. My family gets to make such a decision tomorrow (Saturday, March 24), as we walk for life. My church, Orlando Grace Church, will be walking behind a banner displayed at church this last Sunday, as we show our support.

Many of you are firmly convinced of the correctness of a Pro-Life stance, but you are not sure of the benefits of a crisis pregnancy center. Well, the aforementioned crisis is often the position a pregnant woman is in. We live in a society, where parents can win court cases because they were advised against killing their child.

Clearly, there is something wrong with this picture, and people who find themselves in this crisis situation, can use support and outfits like these are invaluable. If you want to learn more about what a crisis pregnancy center can do, you can attend a “baby” shower this coming Thursday, where you will participate in typical shower games, learn about the benefits, and give gifts to help support the crisis pregnancy center. Usually only women attend the showers (though men interested in learning can find another conduit for that also).

If you want to support the walk monetarily or attend the shower, feel free to contact me. Above all we desire your prayers for our country, the issue of abortion, and the mothers and families in crisis. May we never be described as people who, in times of crisis, proclaim our neutrality.

The Joy of the Mundane and the Irritation of the Everyday

21 Mar

If you are unaware, my sister is on a one year mission, where she only eats things that are made from scratch. I am thoroughly enjoying reading about her journey from afar. Today, however, I had the inordinate joy of joining her as she cooked a few loaves of bread and some cookies. Of course, my contribution was encouraging and watching (and at least one of those I did poorly).

As I encouraged her to contribute to her blog with the story of bread and/or cookies, she told me that her adventures in cooking of the commonplace were not worthy of writing. As much as I may try to convince her otherwise, I really ran out of good arguments. The fact is that writing is most interesting when you have a story to tell. While this seems obvious, I also realize that we have a definite issue with this in our lives.

We tend to undervalue the prosaic. We tend to not enjoy the journey. We tend to not recognize the greatness of the moment we are having. I’m not necessarily referring to enjoying each moment as it comes in this blog, but rather, I am advocating that we should see that some of the things we do each day are extraordinary. Even if what we are doing would not make a good story, there is value in recognizing that each day of our life is outstanding.

We need to see that drama is not necessary for success in a given day. If we recognize that the things we see as mundane as reasonably joyful, we will love our lives quite a bit more. It is simply extraordinary that my sister can take an array of nondescript ingredients and turn it into something as tasty as bread or yeast-free cookies. She sees it as a procession of the everyday, and I see it as amazing.

I think that the danger of not doing this is that we begin to become irritated with our everyday lives. I have had interactions with people recently who are so convinced that what they are going through is not God’s will that they are attempting to get others to augment what they are doing. I’ve had discussions with several people who are thinking divorce is a viable option for them, all because they are failing to see the wonder and amazement in the everyday static.

While I concede that it is possible to fall somewhere in the middle, I think overall those who fail to find joy in the mundane begin to find irritation in the everyday. And I think my sister does see the joy in cooking with weird ingredients, she just doesn’t want to blog about it, and for that, the world is saddened by the lack of top notch writing!

Do We Really Need Art?

19 Mar

I have been accused of loving math. While this accusation does not bother me, I don’t believe it is as good of a description as is possible. I think I just understand math. That alone probably puts me in the minority, but it doesn’t make me a tin foil hat wearing guy. Does it?

There is a simplicity to numbers. It is easy to see when something is off. Symmetry (or lack thereof) becomes an easy thing to evaluate. When you want an answer, there is a definite one. There is no room for atrtistic expression with numbers.

Numbers do not lie, and noone would suggest that they do. People don’t frequently evaluate the originator of a good spreadsheet as something to be desired. On the other hand, people will value an original of something artistic at a thousand times more than a knock-off that looks exactly the same. Why is this? I watch TV shows like Remington Steele and White Collar and marvel about how a simple imperfection here or there adds millions to the value.

Now, I can look at two pieces of art and determine which I believe to be better. Of course, you may look at the same two pieces and make the opposite determination. This is really what frustrates me. My high school art teacher was a great person, but even when I had followed the instructions to a tee, she had a firm grasp of the obvious—I have no artistic talent.

One offshoot of this is that I struggle even with sports which grade artstic creativity. I have no problem accepting divers, gymnasts, and ice skaters as legitimate athletes. By the same token, I have a real hard time accepting that something with so subjective a determinate can be a sport. Clearly there are subjective calls made in football and basketball, but the score is very objective.

This also affects the way I look at just about everything.

  • I ran a website design company while in graduate school, which I wrote all code for and yet, I couldn’t put together the page to actually make the sites look good without serious help.
  • I ran Vacation Bible School a while ago, where people were exuberant about the event, but they were disgruntled by my lack of decorations.
  • I run many Bible Quiz tournaments and a league, where everyone always enjoys the events, but my awards are shady.
  • I write a blog occassionally for my church, which Pastor Curt claims to like, but claims I need to brighten it up with pictures (which he goes back and inserts later). Having written almost 80 blog posts and never once included a picture may have led my faithful readers to know that already.
  • This may also be why I am also the most disheveled guy in a typical group in which I travel. I just can’t really tell what looks good and what doesn’t.

So, I guess I am pleading with you to not take offense if I do something to visually frustrate you. It isn’t that I don’t care about you, just that I couldn’t care less about art.

The Tracks of Our Tears

17 Mar

As I sat down with a dear friend earlier today who was tremendously sad and needed a good cry. I couldn’t get my friend to cry, which almost made me cry except I choked back the tears, as that would be weakness shown and I wanted to be strong for this friend. Then I decided to drive home in my rental car for the week (which should be a post of its own) and turned on its satellite radio (another post also) to the sappy channels.

As I heard the song, “Don’t Cry out Loud,” I felt it hit a little too close to home and I changed it over to the 60’s station. There I heard, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and I thought God was directly speaking to me through the radio, like the aliens in The Greatest American Hero. Then I went to the country stations, where I heard a couple lines like, “I know I’ve never seen him cry in all my fifteen years” and “Real men Never Cry, They Never Shed a Tear.”

At this point I was drawn to consider this culture’s view of crying. I had a friend in high school who refused to cry ever. In fact when he was around people crying, he would walk away to show his disapproval. I also remember a discussion with many people in college, most of which stated that they had never seen their father cry.

Fortunately (I believe), these are foreign concepts to me. My father was exceedingly willing to let us see him cry when the occasion called for it. My mother was very much against whining, but that was largely so there would be value in our tears. We were raised to allow our tears to show when the occasion was appropriate, but I firmly believe that my family was correct, but not normal. And this realization leaves me sad for our culture, in general and specifically for those I know who are afraid to cry when they should.

I cannot understand why our culture criminalizes the crying, but I really dislike it. The fact is that there are times where we will be sad. There are times when we will have such over-riding joy. There will be times of immense disappointment. There will be times where we marvel at the greatness of the gifts that are given to us. There are times where the best, easiest, and most accurate way to communicate our feelings is to shed a tear (or many tears).

In my humble opinion, we have taken away this natural, helpful activity as an option for many in our society. As a father of children in their formative years, I want to make sure they have a healthy view of crying. I want to teach them that false, deceptive tears are an abomination, and being overly weepy and whiny is a sign of a loathsome person. On the other hand, someone who bottles in tears is someone who will burst eventually. While my children may learn what I believe to be the correct theology of crying, they will almost certainly exist in a world that does not.

So how do we deal with our friends who need to cry and won’t? What can I say to my dear friend who needed to cry and felt like he couldn’t? I think I would have been a better friend by empathising with him, crying with/for him and telling him I was there for him. And beyond that I think I am not powerful enough to overcome decades of societal ingraining, but we certainly can hope, eh.