12.31.2011

New Year's Reading

I don't know how you'll be spending your new year, but I'll be spending mine in the written word. Here are five things that will be keeping me busy over the next couple of months.


1. The Stand by Stephen King

2. Crazy Love by Francis Chan

3. unchristian by David Kinnaman

4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

5. My Kindle. It was a Christmas present. On it is Stephen King's 11/22/63, Dean Koontz's Shadow Street, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons, and a half-dozen novellas/short stories.

What's in your book stack?

12.25.2011

Merry Christmas from the Casey family

And the cutest kids in the universe. Of course, I may be biased.



12.15.2011

All I want for Christmas

A while back, Nintendo partnered with West Coast Customs to construct a working life-sized Mario Kart go cart.



And now, Gamestop is giving one away as a part of their PowerUp Rewards program.

I told my wife about it yesterday and did my best to describe the epic-ness of such a prize. It didn't go so well. The conversation went something like this...

Me: Hey, if we buy or trade a game at Gamestop, we'll be entered to win this full sized Mario Kart.
Bekah: (pitiless sarcasm) Ooooohhh.
Me: Wouldn't that be awesome? Christian would love it.
Bekah: Who in their right mind would want one of those? What would anyone do with it?
Me: I'd drive it to work.

She proceeded to mock me.

12.06.2011

Hijinks

If you were following my twitter/facebook feed on Saturday night, you may have noticed the following updates.

• I actually broke a sweat playing ping pong. On the plus side, I won.
• Feels like should be midnight. #dang
• Been playing air hockey & ping pong with the kids for the past two hours. #ImGettingTooOldForThis
• However, I took a break from the fun & games for highjinks that may or may not have included toilet paper. #AlsoFun
• For the record, toilet paper was involved. Lots of it. There are pictures.

Pictures were promised and I deliver.


I told Bekah about our plans via text message.

Which leads to one of the other tweets you may have seen from me:

• "Are you one of the adults?" question someone just asked me. #hehe #thanks

12.01.2011

Revisionist History

The following email conversation is one I actually had yesterday. The name has been changed to protect his ego.

From: Nicholas Casey
Sent: Wednesday, November 30
To: Coworkers
Subject: Message about Einstein

(company related jargon)



From: Odie
Sent: Wednesday, November 30
To: Nicholas Casey
Subject: RE: Message about Einstein

Einstein has been dead for over a 100 years. I am pretty sure everyone knows already he went down.



From: Nicholas Casey
Sent: Wednesday, November 30
To: Odie
Subject: RE: Message about Einstein

Actually, it’s only been just over 55 years, and it was from an abdominal aortic aneurysm.



From: Odie
Sent: Wednesday, November 30
To: Nicholas Casey
Subject: RE: Message about Einstein

Really? Lol I thought he died like forever ago. How long has the light bulb been out then?



From: Nicholas Casey
Sent: Wednesday, November 30
To: Odie
Subject: RE: Message about Einstein

That was Thomas Edison. His light bulb came out in 1879, but he wasn't the first to invent the light bulb. He died 80 years ago from diabetes.



He never replied to that last email.

11.30.2011

Nicht rasieren November, Teil zwei

No Shave November has finally come to an end. Das Ende, el final, till slutet. A full month plus a week's worth of growth - it had to go. Stat.

My brother-in-law challenged me to a duel of sorts. In his words: "You have to shave it into a moustache first. I'll do it if you will."

Deal. Game on.

So I grabbed my weapon of choice.

A few minutes later I had a fierce mustache. And since Dan lives by the "pics or it didn't happen" rule, I present you with the photographic evidence.

Alas, the chimo-stache had to go. I'd rather avoid my wife's disproving glare. It's all gone now. I am no longer sasquatch. I am human.

Although, it should be noted that Bekah isn't a fan of this 100% clean shaven look either. She says it makes me look too much like my brother.




To see how my brother in law is doing ...
Part ONE.
Part TWO.
Part THREE.
Part FOUR.
Part FIVE.
Part SIX.

(ps, if you're not following him on twitter, you should.)

Das Ende: Nicht rasieren November

11.25.2011

Things my daughter is thankful for

Zu's class made a Thanksgiving art project writing the things they're thankful for on leafs.

In case you can't read the writing from the picture, below are the things she is glad to have in her life. This is the inner workings of my 4 & 1/2 year old little girl's mind.

Mom:
"I love her snuggles. I'm Thankful for her hugs and kisses."

Dad:
"I'm thankful for when my dad hugs me really tight and when he lets me draw a unicorn."*

Christian:
"I'm thankful for when he jumps on the trampoline with me and for when he plays chase and tries to catch me."

JJ
"I'm thankful for when he likes to wrestle with me and when we eat apples together."

Grandma & Grandpa:
"I'm thankful for when Grandma gives me licorice and when she and I go on special dates. I'm thankful for when Grandpa hugs me and snuggles me and throws me up in the air.

* I do not recall ever letting her draw unicorns. I don't remember prohibiting it either.

11.24.2011

Animals


Seeing this face brings me joy. I grew up watching the Muppets (and Fraggle Rock). There is a soft spot in my heart for those furry hippy monsters. But none of those puppets can coax a smile out of me like Animal. That unkempt, crazy-eyed, blundering, red-furred fool.

He's the only Muppet that could coast through an entire movie without uttering a single sentence until he shouts out one word, the best line in the whole movie: "QUIET!"

Audiences love Animal, but he exasperates the rest of the Muppet gang. He's not eloquent with his speech. He's loud and obnoxious. He's socially awkward. He always seems to cause trouble for himself and/or others. He breaks things. He walks into walls. It's difficult to be friends with a friend like Animal.

But if you dig deeper, there's a wholly different creature behind Animal's animal tenancies. He has a passion for music and is deeply spiritual. He had a kind soul; he wanted to help out and be of good use. He just wanted to belong.

Looking back at my younger years, it's easy to see that I was Animal. I have previously explained my outcast status - a geek in a crowd of cool kids. I was loud and obnoxious. I could never manage to find the right words to say. I was socially awkward and got into a lot of trouble. I got picked on and bullied - some of which I probably deserved. I instigated fights and got the crap beat out of me. Through it all, I just wanted to fit in.

Thankfully I found an outlet. An art teacher who believed in me. A theater director who was willing to give me a chance to be a part of something awesome. A few good friends who were outcasts in their own way. Creative and musical roommates that were willing to help me grow. And an amazing wife who refuses to give up on this animal.

These days, I look at my oldest son and see Animal's goofy grin superimposed over his face. Sometimes I see that my boy's blonde hair and blue eyes have been replaced with uncontrollable red fur and a wild stare.

He shares my genetic make up and is predisposed to many of the same temperaments that I've struggled with. And he has Aspergers. Whatever challenges I faced will be exponentially harder for him. He all ready displays inadequate social aptitude. He's clumsy, full of energy, loud, and constantly blurts out what ever thoughts cross his mind. He loves people and doesn't understand how others might not appreciate him and his quirks.

The most difficult aspect of life with Christian is that he does not recognize the impact his words and actions have on others. He can pull a bar stool out from under his sister because she's not supposed to be sitting on it, then wonder why she's crying. Not only is he skilled at annoying others, he lacks the ability to discern when he's causing others to be annoyed.

But there's more to him. Christian is smart. Not just the good at school kind of smart, but ridiculously intelligent. His grasp on science and math is scary yet amazing. His reading skills are the best in his class. He's artistic and imaginative. Give him a cache of art supplies and he will spend hours creating pictures and projects. He has moments of greatness that make me believe he is capable of conquering the world. I know he's smarter than I was at that age. I can see a future grown up version of Christian directing blockbusters and Oscar nominated film. Or rescuing endangered creatures from the most remote corners of Earth.

It's those other moments that discourage me. Those moments he inadvertently hurts his friend's feelings. Those moments that he is so lost in his own world that he can't get ready for school, or set the dining room table. Those moments where he falls apart because he can't remember where he left his shoes. Or those moments where he is pestering his younger siblings and won't stop.

That's my Animal.

Sometimes it's hard to look past the insanity. Sometimes I look at Christian and I see an obnoxious creature who breaks things and walks into walls.

He craves second chances. One of his favorite lines (usually uttered in those moments between a bad choice and the punishment): "Don't I get a second chance?"

No, he still needs to go to his room. Or he is still going to be grounded from his Wii. He still has to face the consequences of his actions.

"But," he'll protest, "God gives us second chances."

I am not naturally a gracious person but my son is teaching me more about grace than he may ever comprehend. I know that second chances made me the man I am today, and Christian is now altering my definition of second chances.

A second chance isn't permission to re-offend. It is unending forgiveness.
A second chance isn't a prevention of consequence. It's a strong hand to help you carry your burdens.
A second chance isn't always immediate. It has it's own timing.
A second chance doesn't say "Do whatever you want." It says, "I'll love you no matter what you do."

Christian is in frequent need of grace. He is lost without second chances. Through this he is forcing me to be a better dad.

It's not easy raising an Animal, but I love him. I am thankful for the Animal in my life.

(The image at the top of this post is a part of People of the Second Chance's Never Beyond Series. Read more at POTSC)

11.18.2011

Winter driving tips (bonus post)

If my last post didn't explain clearly enough, we in the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene area have our first significant snowfall of the year. And the city street crews have done little to nothing to make the road passable. To complicate matters, drivers around here have what I refer to as Collective Seasonal Amnesia (or CSA). CSA is what happens when large portions of the population completely forget how to drive in wintry conditions.

To help you avoid the symptoms of CSA, I present you with the following driving tips.

1. Slow Down.
When the roads are covered with mirror smooth ice, the posted speed limit is probably too fast for the conditions. Just because you can go a certain speed, doesn't mean you should. If you're travelling in a straight line and feel your traction slip, you're going too fast. Drive slower on snow than you would on dry roads.

2. Ease Up.
Use your gas pedal with a gentle touch. Pulling out of your driveway is not the start of a drag race. Leaving a stop sign should be done with care to the ice beneath you, not with the pedal pressed through the floorboards. Ease up off that gas pedal.

3. Ease In.
It takes longer to come to a complete stop on wet roads - even longer on compact snow and ice. Give yourself plenty of room to slow down. Ease into a complete stop. And for the love of all that's good and holy, do not slam on your brakes.

4. Back Off.
You shouldn't tailgate others on dry roads. That rule is truer on ice. If you can not see the treads of the car in front of you, you are following too close. If you can read the speedometer of the person you're following, you're tailgating. You are not a hemorrhoid, get off that person's back end. Back away; give yourself space to stop in case the driver in front of you has to stop.

5. Plan Out.
If you're driving slower, taking more time to start/stop, and giving more space between you and other drivers, your drive is going to take longer. Plan ahead, leaver earlier, and make sure you have enough time to safely reach your destination.

Recipe for a beautiful disaster

As I write this the Inland Northwest is blanketed under a lovely pile of frozen precipitation, Highway 95 is a mess, sections of I-90 are shut down due to spun out cars, and Spokane authorities are dealing with a 17 car pile-up on the South Hill. Ah, snow. The strange dichotomy of beautiful scenery and merciless carnage.

I'm not sure how much of the chaos could have been negated. It's not like we didn't know this was coming. It's not like every meteorologist from every major network predicted a hefty winter storm. Oh, wait. It was forecast. We had ample warning.

So, here's a five step recipe for disaster in the face of post-card worthy weather.

1. Wait until there is 4 to 8 inches of snow on the ground before reacting.
2. Keep plowing to a minimum. Allow local traffic to melt, compact, and/or slushify the snow covered roadways.
3. Do not sand. Avoid all de-icing measures.
4. Spend the day watching feather textured flakes fall from the sky while temperatures hover at 32°.
5. Continue to do nothing to improve road conditions as temperatures drop into the teens, turning every paved surface into a skating rink for 4,000 pound metallic beasts.

ps: if slushify isn't a real word, it should be.

11.14.2011

Adoption stories

If you know our family you know why stories like the one below are important to us. Because of two special treasures in our lives, we will always be advocates for those willing to open their hearts for kids needing a home.

"One Less" by Matthew West - The Story Behind the Song from Digital Accounts on Vimeo.

11.08.2011

The System is Broken

Today is election day. In the Cd'A area we're looking at municipal races. A year from now, we'll be heading to the polls for another presidential election. It seems like now is an appropriate time to analyze all that is wrong in the world of politics.

Those that are running for office (and to a lesser extent those that are dialed in to the political realms) are swinging from one of two irreconcilable extremes. Those differences can easily be broken down with the issues below. Prepare for some gross over-generalizations.

The Role of Government:
The liberal view: The public sector can do everything better than the private sector.
The conservative view: The private sector can do everything better than the public sector.

Public Education:
The liberal view: Our schools are broken, we should do the same thing we've always done - just with more money.
The conservative view: Our schools are broken, we should get rid of them and force everyone to pay for private education.

Government regulations:
The liberal view: The government should have no control of moral issues, but they should regulate everything else.
The conservative view: The government should have no control over any aspect of our lives, except for moral issues.

Class Warfare:
The liberal view: The rich have exploited every loophole at the expense of the poor.
The conservative view: The poor are lazy moochers at the expense of the rich.

Grassroots Organizations:
The liberal view: The Tea Party is composed of racists that are ignorant of history.
The conservative view: OWS protesters are a bunch of disorganized and violent anarchists.

Taxes:
The liberal view: It's a necessary evil. We need more.
The conservative view: It's an unnecessary evil. We need less.

Social Services:
The liberal view: The disadvantaged are incapable of success with out it.
The conservative view: The disadvantaged are incapable of success because of it.

Opposing Viewpoints:
The liberal view: Conservatives are brainless morons who must be stopped at all costs.
The conservative view: Liberals are vile and manipulative morons who must be stopped at all costs.

Problem number one: The majority of Americans do not exist at either end of the red and blue spectrum. The majority live in that vast purple area between the two extremes.

Problem number two: Politicians that enter the playing field from that purple area are unelectable. They are vilified as a DINO or a RINO and are ostracized by their own party. With out partisan support, they face an uphill battle running as an independent candidate.

Problem number three: Those that live purple don't vote purple. We continue to support the crazy ideologues pandering to the wackiest segment of their own party. This insanity exists because we continue to support it year after year with blind strait party voting habits.

10.29.2011

Occupy Wall Street: Better Methods

Cold weather is coming. On the left coast, our forecast is a La Nina winter: frigid and wet. Despite the insistence of OWS organizers, it won't surprise me to see the number of occupiers dwindle of the the next month.

I've never understood the value of protests - at least not in it's modern incarnation. The practice has lost it's swagger since the days of the civil rights movement. Sure it gives you attention, but your voice could easily be drowned out by those who disagree with you. As for long term impact, the results of the OWS protests remain to be seen. But if recent history proves anything, I'm not anticipating much.

Protesting can be a thrill, but if you really want to change the way corporate America functions, there are better options than standing on public property holding up poignant signs.

1. Get your money out of the major banks. Close your accounts with banks that got bailouts. Move your funds to regional banks or local credit unions.

2. Shop local and/or buy used. Buy as much as you can from local retailers. Support community farmer's markets. Avoid fast food. Patronize thrift stores. If there is something that you can't find locally, buy it used or second-hand. (ps, you can still find name-brand items through local merchants or second hand retail - it just takes a little more effort.)

3. Find an alternative commute. Use public transportation. Carpool. Walk. Ride a bike. Invent a teleporter. OK, I was just joking about that last one. Kidding aside, find ways to use less gas and limit wear and tear on your own vehicle.

4. Support local artists. Watching open mic night at a coffee shop is far more affordable than catching a movie at the nearest cinema. You might not be able to go see a play on Broadway, but you can see a show at a local playhouse. Visit your local galleries, find ways to see a local band play live, hire local photographers instead of going to a chain portrait studio. This does more than provide us alternate entertainment options, it increases opportunities for our kids. Studies have shown that students involved in the arts perform better academically, they develop creative problem solving skills, and are more likely to become leaders in their community. We can give our kids tools to make this a better world.

5. Give. Be generous. Give your time, your money, your resources. Donate to charities and food banks. Volunteer your time at homeless shelters, retirement home, or youth centers. Cook a meal for someone who needs it. Help your neighbors. The possibilities are bountiful. The free gift of your time and energy, your funds and goods is the polar opposite of greed. It's illogical from the viewpoint of how capitalism works, but generosity can be the catalyst for something bigger than you could ever imagine.

So do that. If you really want to occupy Wall Street, do the above. Not only will you be cutting into Wall Street's pocket books - but you'll be making a positive impact in your own community and improving your own physical, emotional, and financial health.

10.25.2011

Inertia vs. Initiative

In his book Understanding Physics Isaac Asimov said "This tendency for motion (or for rest) to maintain itself steadily unless made to do otherwise by some interfering force can be viewed as a kind of 'laziness,' a kind of unwillingness to make a change. And indeed, [Newton's] first law of motion is referred to as the principle of inertia, from a Latin word meaning 'idleness' or 'laziness.'"

This view of inertia is, to a large extent, defining of human nature. To do nothing, or at minimum, to do what has always been done. Is it possible to undertake significant accomplishments while doing little more than maintaining status quo? Dave Anderson, a writer and motivational speaker, suggests that you can only achieve your personal best when you do something different, out of the ordinary that challenges the norm.

As Christians, we should always strive to do our personal best. There should be a desire inside us to accomplish great things. God wants us to change the world.

But somewhere we have failed that mission. We wake up and begin our routine; juggling work, home, school, church, family and friends. We are compelled to work because we need the paycheck, we spend time with friends so they don't hate us, we feel obligated to go to church because that is what good Christians do. But if we go through life as if it is a to-do list, we have failed to see the big picture. Much like Peter, we end up sinking when we could be walking on water.

Our faith requires initiative. Wiktionary.org defines initiative as a first move, a fresh approach, the ability to act first or on one's one. Without this first move, this action, our faith is dead. We must step outside of the usual to truly accomplish what God wants to do in and through our lives.

Hebrews 11 gives us great examples of what can happen when we make changes to our routines and allow God to do extraordinary things. We build boats. We leave our homes, not necessarily knowing our destination. We leave a legacy. We worship God, bless and inspire others. We conquer and are spared. We see more than just the here and now.

God has great things planned for us but we still need to do our part. Life is supposed to be an uphill battle. It is through this difficulty that we are able to attain our greatest accomplishments, prove our faith is genuine, and ultimately how we give honor to God.

It is much easier to stand still. To do nothing. Coasting is uncomplicated because it is all downhill. The cost of not taking the initiative and breaking the standards is a great loss. We deny our savior and friend. We run away. We fall prey to our own selfish and sinful desires.

The first law of motion states Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight ahead, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed. Are you compelled to change?

We must put action to our faith and not be lazy. At the risk of losing comfort and complacency, do something different. Let God enact something amazing with your life.



(Originally posted on What's Inside on 8/17/06)

10.24.2011

Valley of Dry Bones

This short film dramatizes one of my favorite scriptures. Regardless of your religious beliefs, this clip is visually stunning. You will want to watch it in full screen (the four arrows to the right of the HD logo).

Dry Bones from danDifelice on Vimeo.



The rest of the passage (not included in the video) is a message of hope: "They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them ... I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.'" (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

10.23.2011

Multnomah Falls

I meant to post this on Friday, but lets just say it was a crazy weekend. Ending to this blog was the last thing on my mind. That being said, here are the five best pictures I took during a break at Multnomah Falls last weekend.







I can't wait to go back with the kids as see their eyes fill up with wonder.

10.17.2011

Meet Bob

Be sure to watch until after the credits.

BOB from Jacob Frey on Vimeo.

10.13.2011

Testing, this is only a test

This is a test of the blogging from my iPhone system.

I will be taking a few weekend road trips over the next several months and I wanted to test my ability to compose and post blog entries from my phone. The first trip starts tomorrow; I'm off to Portland and my phone will be my only connection to the interwebs until Sunday night.

By all appearances, this test was successful. I take no responsibility for any autocorrect failures.

Keep an eye on my twitter feed (@niccasey) as I will be tweeting until my battery dies or we lose cell reception.

10.10.2011

Dracula in Under 2 Minutes

I just finished reading Bram Stoker's Dracula. To celebrate, I present you with this, the simplest retelling ever.

10.08.2011

Why I love being a dad

Christian: Chocolate and milk go together. When you mix milk with chocolate, you get chocolate milk.

Me: Actually, Christian, bananas and peanut butter make chocolate milk.

Christian: Huh?

Me: That's how you make chocolate milk, you mix bananas and peanut butter together.

(He pauses for a few moments and studies my expression to see if there's any hint of deception)

Christian: Are you joking?

(I just smile)

Christian: You ARE joking!

10.07.2011

What I've learned from Ke$ha's music

My brother-in-law believes that you should never take an artist with symbols in their name seriously. I think he’s on to something. All I’ve ever learned from listening to Ke$ha is that she has a stuttering problem.

Don’t believe me? Consider the following evidence – lyrics as sung (autotuned?) by Ke$ha:


1. We R Who we R
“Tonight we’re going har har-har ha-ha-hard
Just like the world is our our-our our-our-ours
We’re tearin’ it apart part-part pa-pa-part
We’re dancing like we’re dum dum-dum dum-dum-dumb
Our bodies go num num-num num-num-numb
We’ll be forever youn youn-youn youn-youn-young

2. Blah Blah Blah
Stah stop tah talking that
Blah blah blah…
Not in the back of my
Car-ar-ar

3. Tik Tok
“I'm talkin pedicure on our toes toes
Tryin on all our clothes clothes
Boys blowin' up our phones phones

4. Crazy Beautiful Life
“I’m in love all ri-i-i-ight

5. Blow
“This place about to blow-oh-oh oh oh oh
Go, go, go, go insane, go insane
Throw some glitter, make it rain on 'em
Let me see them hands, let me, let me see them hands”


Please, America… stop giving money to these hacks. Only you can prevent poor artistry.

10.03.2011

Revenge of the Nerds

Boss (to coworker): It's just the nature of the job we do. We're not like a bunch of frat boys or anything. (pause) Well, maybe.

Me: If we are we're Lambda Lambda Lambda.

Boss (smiles): Heh...

9.30.2011

5 Days, 5 Ties

It's not often that I wear a tie. I do with some consistency, but it's not a daily occurrence. This week was a bit different. With an interview and a funeral scheduled over the past few days - I decided to go all out and dress up for the rest of my work week.

On the upside: my daughter now thinks I wear a tie every day.
On the down side: I feel pretentious.


Did you do anything out of the ordinary this week?

9.24.2011

How to Live in Four Easy Steps. Part 4: The Example Has Been Set

Before you start reading, look into a mirror for a few minutes. Go ahead, it's OK - I can wait.

Now, what did you see? More important, who did you see? Are you happy with your reflection? Are there things in there you would like to change?

Mirrors serve a purpose, even if we don't appreciate the results of looking into them. They help us to see ourselves, to know our own appearance without having to rely on the testimony of others. But beyond reflective glass, there are other mirrors to help us see ourselves in a new light.

Through God's word, we can see our lives in light of divine measure. It is by reading God’s law that we are able to see our sin, our failures, and shortcomings. And even though we may not be able to see ourselves clearly, one day we will.

We also know that we are a reflection of God. God is love and love should be apparent in all our actions and define our lives.

He has also given us His Son, the ultimate example of how we should appear – both inside and out.

Isaiah 53 gives us the clearest example of how others saw Him (and often see us). He did not have an alluring appearance. He was despised. Despite being beaten and broken by others, He remained silent.

When we look at our reflection in light of God’s word it is Christ’s refection that we should see. But we are far from perfect. Sometimes we may see more of ourselves in the mirror, and less of Christ. But we can change our appearance, and Jesus has all ready given us His example.

Paul tells us that our attitude should be of the same “mind Christ Jesus had.” (Php 2:5) His very nature was fully God and in Him we are heirs in His Kingdom, but He never used his nature for his own gain. This is how we should live.

“He made himself nothing
By taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human being,
He humbled Himself
by becoming obedient to death.”
(Php 2:7-8)

To make ourselves nothing. To be humble and obedient, even to the point of death. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? But just as Jesus’ reward was great, so is ours: life.

It is this gift of life that gives us hope. It is in hope that we live. And we are to live as a reflection of God. That reflection brings us full circle... God is love.

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Php 2:1-4)

Now, take a moment to look in the mirror. How do you like what you see? Me personally, I want to look more like Christ.



(Originally posted on What's Inside on 8/4/06)

9.22.2011

3 Things

There are three things that my mind cannot comprehend today.

1. That it is the 22nd of September. Too soon.
2. That the weather is forecasted to be 80° today.
3. That it is supposed to be 80° on the 22nd of September.

9.20.2011

How to Live in Four Easy Steps. Part 3: Why Quit Now?

Bob Dylan once said, "When you feel in your gut what you are and then dynamically pursue it - don't back down and don't give up - then you're going to mystify a lot of folks." It's funny, perseverance in any incarnation amazes and bewilders people.

Don't quit: it's a popular theme. One that is shouted at athletes in locker rooms across America. Whispered in broken marriages. A message of encouragement or rebuke, of promise or hope. It is an attitude we instill in our children as they learn to talk and take their first steps.

From Winston Churchill's Never Give In speech, to the cartoon of a frog choking the stork that is trying to eat it. From Tim Allen's cry "Never give up, Never surrender" in Galaxy Quest, to Reliant K's song Pressing On. The will to keep going - no matter what - is embedded in our culture.

Yet, quitting sometimes seems to be the easiest thing to do and those who defy that logic to weather the storm are often considered irrational.

The wisdom of man is foolish in God's eyes. The call to persevere is a constant element in God's word, in the conquest of the promised land, in the words of Jesus and the prophets who foretold His coming, and in many of Paul's letters.

In those times when perseverance seems the hardest thing to do, Paul gives us the first (and likely most difficult) step, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead." (Php 3:13) To move on you must let go of past failures. I'm not saying to ignore them entirely or lose the lessons learned from those mistakes. But DO forget the act itself and never dwell on your errors. It's been said that without failure, success would be impossible. When I teach colleagues a new concept, I often explain it then let them try it out for themselves, knowing they won't get it right. Only after they have completely and utterly failed, I show them the correct way so they can see what they did wrong and how to succeed on their own. Don't let the act of a misstep distract you, but learn from it. Focus, and keep going.

But keep going for what? There is a reason to all we do, a purpose for why we are here. "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Php 3:14) There is more to life than what we can see. The unseen should be our focus and will be our reward. Quitting is such a selfish thing, and nothing should be done for our own ambitions, but for the glory of God.

There are a few keys to this perseverance. Know God. Know yourself. Realize you're not infallible. "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Php 3:12)

God's got a hold on us, He won't let go even if we do. It is up to us to grasp on to the purposes Christ has for us. And His plans for us are amazing, why quit now? Like Dylan said, you'll mystify a lot of folks.



(Originally posted on What's Inside on 8/4/06)

9.18.2011

How to Live in Four Easy Steps. Part 2: Think About This

Some one once said the mind is a terrible thing to waste, yet we do it everyday. We waste our time, thoughts, and energies on frivolous things, to no purpose or reason than to stay busy.

There is a story that many of you may have heard, of two cronically ill men who shared a hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn't hear the band - he could see it. In his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days and weeks passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

Can you imagine? For weeks this man had filled his mind with imagery of beautiful scenery, the glory of God's creation, and humanity at its finest. But for what purpose, there was nothing to see out that window.

But the story doesn't end there. He asked a nurse why the other man had lied about seeing such wonderful sights. The nuse explained that the deceased roommate was blind and could not see a thing. But why? What compelled him? The nurse's only explination was, "perhaps to offer encouragement."

What do you see when you close your eyes? What passions and ideals consume your mind? I think the blind man in the story got it. He knew how to live. There were a lot of other things that he could have been thinking about. It all would have kept his mind busy, but would it have served any greater purpose?

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things." (Php 4:8)

Think about that. How do you keep mentally fit, emotionally centered, and spiritually healthy? It's all about what's inside your head. What do you think about? Is it productive to dwell on your problems? Or to hold onto anger? God's word has given us a blueprint for a healthy frame of mind. To think about truth, honor, justice, purity, beauty, excellence.

What kind of world would we live in if we gave more thought to such good things? Today's world is much the opposite. It thinks about lies, contempt, inequity, wickedness, disgust, and failure. We could do so much better.

In all things, in thought or deed, practice joy. "Rejoice in the Lord always." (Php 4:4) And keep your mind focused, "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Php 4:5-6)

Just think.




(Originally posted on What's Inside on 7/11/06)

9.16.2011

Motivation

There are many things that inspire me. My kids. Funny conversations I hear in the world around me. A compelling song. The way fog wraps itself around Canfield Mountain at sunrise.

Motivation is a different creature. If inspiration is how you do the things you do, motivation is the why. In my universe, inspiration is in infinite supply. However my motivation frequently needs a hint.

At home, I have that reminder to the right of my computer sandwiched between my hat collection and a cup of writing sticks.

This is what I see every time I reach for my mouse. Every time I sit at my desk, they're telling me to do something. Write something. Be productive.

They are as follows.

1. The Elements of Fiction Writing series that my sister-in-law bestowed upon me for my birthday.

2. A borrowed copy of Stephen King's On Writing.

3. Three dictionaries. English, Spanish, and German.

4. A book about parenting a kid with Aspergers.

5. Jon Acuff's Quitter. (ps, Quitter is currently available through iTunes for $5.95 - you should get it. Really, you should.)



What motivates you?

9.14.2011

Productivity

Yes, I actually said the following.

"Just imagine how productive we could be. We'd be both productive and unproductive at the same time - which is way more productive than being productive on it's own."

I love my job.

9.11.2011

How to Live in Four Easy Steps. Part 1: Shine Like a Star

Every one wants to be famous. If you don't believe me, ask a bunch of elementary aged children what they want to be when they grow up. Answers will range from noble (policeman, fireman, doctor) to spectacular (professional athlete, rock star, actor/actress).

While you might find a kid who wants to be the ice cream man, you'll never find one who wants to be a lifetime Dairy Queen employee. Some kids dream of becoming the president of the USA, but none wish to become a crooked politician. I would doubt you could find any who wants to grow up to spend their lives stuck in middle management, work one meaningless job after another, or be a career telemarketer.

The existence of such jobs not only tell me of their necessity, but also of a tragic loss of hope on a nearly unimaginable scale. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood we have forgotten how to dream. Perhaps it is the nature of our modern education system, one that sacrifices creativity on the altar of financial burdens. Perhaps it is just a simple change of perspectives as we get older.

My own career ambitions went through many phases while growing up. In fifth grade I wanted to be an astronaut, in junior high I wanted to be a rock star. I studied engineering throughout high school and planned on doing the same for college to eventually become an architect. After high school my hopes were to become a radio DJ, one of the funny ones with their own morning show. Now, more than a decade later, there is still that little boy inside of me who wants to be a rock star.

Every one wants to be famous. How is it that such a longing can be so ingrained into the very fiber of human nature? Is this yearning for the limelight wrong? This desire to be someone?

I believe those aspirations are very much a part of the God-shaped hole that each of us are created with. We try to fill that emptiness with fame, power, popularity, notoriety. With selfish ambitions, the spotlight can be a very dangerous place. But God fills it with His Glory. "for it is God who works in you... to act in order to fulfill His good purpose." (Php 2:13) If God is at work in us, then it is His purpose for which we do all things.

But would God allow each of us to be famous? Of course. But how?

"Do everything with out grumbling or arguing" (Php 2:14) No one likes a whiner, but God rewards those who keep a good attitude in all that they do. And what do we get out of it? "that you may become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.' Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky." (Php 2:15)

I love that last part - that we'll shine among our generation like stars. In one of Charlie Peacock's songs he sings "I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens." Shining like stars. Does that mean we'll be recognized everywhere we go? No. But for the people that God puts in our lives we should be famous - though it shouldn't be us, but the light inside us that is instantly noticeable. When we share that light, that hope, whether it is on stage in front of a thousand people, in a coffee shop with a group of friends, or with a stranger at a bus stop, to them... we are famous. Not for our own glory, but for the glory of God. "Then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain." (Php 2:16)

Keep your dreams. I do. Maybe some day, I'll actually get paid to write. But I will be famous, even if it is only in the eyes of those who see Christ in me. It is worth the effort, to be a star.



(Originally posted on What's Inside on 7/8/06)

9.09.2011

tidbits (ish)

Christian started school this week.
So did JJ.
Zu starts next week.


I share my office (over-sized cubicle) with one other person. He does the job that I did before I got promoted. There is a lot of overlap between the two of us because we're the end result of a consolidation of four job titles that used to be held by six people.

This makes it easy for us when one or the other needs a vacation. He covers for me while I'm out and I cover for him while he's out.

Beyond the ease in professional duties, we have similar personalities (we're both geeks). We make each other laugh and we're frequently mocking the coughers on the other side of our cubicle wall.

Regardless of what happens during the day; the ad hoc requests, the never-ending parade of reports, being the big brother of our staff... the highlight of our day is what we've affectionately called "parking lot tetris." This is the time of day when several employees either take a lunch or end their shifts at the same time and all try to navigate their cars out of the narrow basement lot at the same time. It is usually haphazard and always entertaining. As one side of our cubicle is a large picture window that overlooks the basement parking lot, we have one of the best views from which one can observe this phenomenon.

However not everything we see happen below our office window is entertaining in a funny kind of way. Sometimes it's a "did that just happen?" kind of funny. Like the time we saw a fight a couple of months ago. Well, not actually a fight. More like an argument. A domestic dispute really. But the girl did slap the guy a couple of times.

My office mate and I watched the whole ordeal. And we gave our statements to the police. Then we forgot it ever happened. Speaking of which...

I got served this week.
Helpful hint to my female readers - if you slap your boyfriend/husband, technically that's called domestic battery.

I'm not the only one that got served. So did the guy that shares my office. The plus side: we get to testify at her trial on behalf of the prosecution. The downside is we both have to testify. Hopefully we don't have to testify at the same time as we usually cover for each other. If we're both gone, the system breaks.

I sent our boss an email today to explain our dilemma. The email said something along the lines of: "We'll both need these dates off. We've been served."

He quickly responded via IM with the question: how did you both manage to get served at once?

My response: well... we were at this dance competition and these two guys were busting these crazy break dancing moves that I'd never seen before. They spun and shuffled their way over to where we were standing, one pointed at us and the other shouted "you've been served."

Thankfully, my boss has a good sense of humor. When I told him the real story (fight, parking lot, police, she's been charged) he said it sounded like fun.


Two best statements I heard at poker night this evening:
1. "I'm a rapper, of course I carry a gun."
2. "I don't listen to other people's songs, I write my own."

That's called swagger.


If you look to the right, you may notice links to my secondary blogs. My original intent was to keep them separated as each blog has different purposes. However, the result has been that those secondary blogs are left ignored (both by me and by the rest of the interwebs).

This also prompted some tough decisions when I wrote my Church series. Should I post it here - where I have the most traffic and those posts would have the best visibility? Or should I post them on my What's Inside blog as that blog was designed to be an outlet for my religiously themed writing. End result, they ended up here. The dichotomy isn't working, so over the next few weeks I'm going to be doing some consolidation and cross-posting. You'll see entries here that originally appeared there. So don't be surprised to see some blog posts with a decidedly theological bent for a while.

9.06.2011

Oddities

My parents came to visit last week. We all had a great time but there are a couple things that I can't seem to sake. Two things really. Two things that just don't add up. Two things that no matter what I do to rationalize them, I just can't make sense of it.

1. My dad using a smart phone.
2. My dad talking about rap music.

There. I said it. I feel better now.

ps, it is nice to see him doing things that doctors once told him he'd never do again.