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Archive for August, 2010

Recent tweet from leadership guru John Maxwell:

At the day of judgment, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done. -Thomas A’ Kempis

Excellent thought. May my eyes be opened to what needs to be done before me each day, and those in need of help and love.

I was unfamiliar with Kempis before this. A few more facts on the man (wiki):

He was born at the Lower Rhine region in Kempen (Germany), County of Cleves in 1380 and died in 1471 near Zwolle in the Prince-Bishopric of Utrecht, 75 miles north
of his birthplace. His paternal name was Hemerken, Kleverlandish for “little hammer.”

His writings are all of a devotional character and include tracts and meditations, letters, sermons, a life of Saint Lydewigis, a Christian woman who remained steadfast under a great stress of afflictions, and biographies of Groote, Radewijns, and nine of their companions.

Works similar in content to the Imitation of Christ, and pervaded by the same spirit, are his prolonged meditation on the life and blessings of the Savior and another on the Incarnation. Both of these works overflow with adoration for Christ.

The following quotes are attributed to him:
“Without the Way,
there is no going,
Without the Truth,
there is no knowing,
Without the Life,
there is no living.”

“If thou wilt receive profit, read with humility, simplicity and faith, and seek not at any time the fame of being learned.”

“For man proposes, but God disposes”
— The Imitation of Christ, Book I, ch. 19

“If, however, you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Him. ”
— The Imitation of Christ, Book II, ch. 7

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Statistics are funny things.    I had a good friend that once said “someone good with statistics can make them represent whatever they want”.      Sometimes confirming, sometimes condeming, always telling, stats make us think about what’s going on behind the numbers.

In terms of this blog, there seem to be some interesting correlations:

1) People go read the blog at a greater frequency when a link is posted on Facebook (duh),

2) Few people seem to go read a blog in a link on Twitter (interesting)

3) There is a greater frequency of reads and referrals when a picture, or a number
of pictures, are imbedded in the post.

Some quick analyis and opinion on each of these:

You have to post the link to get the read. While writing a blog is a risk in and of
itself, you really put yourself out with the link that says “I am wanting to share”.

The Twitter thing, I’m not so sure. Either I don’t have inquiring followers, Twitter readers are in a hurry, or there is heavy overlap with my FB friends.

Readers like pictures. But therein lies the mystery. Unless it’s the thumbnail in the FB link, I don’t know that someone can necessarily see the pictures without opening
the blog post. So is it a true case of risk and return? More investment made (deeper thoughts and thoughtful pics, combined?) in these particular posts?

I think that’s how it is with relationships: the more we risk, and the more we invest, the greater the reward. That was certainly true for Jesus and his disciples.

Stats suggest that there are an average of 25 or so reads a day, and 3 sites per day, so probably only 8 to 10 are visiting in any given day, and most of those I assume are family.

Rest assured, unless we converse on a topic from here, you remain anonymous. My pledge remains to take the risk in the writing. For myself, the return is there from the process. My hope is that it be an investment that returns for you, as well.

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The Midshipman Prayer (Traditional version)

Almighty Father, whose way is in the sea, whose paths are in the great waters, whose command is over all and whose love never faileth; let me be aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and in deed, and helping me so to live that I can stand unashamed and unafraid before my shipmates, my loved ones, and thee. Protect those in whose love I live. Give me the will to do my best and to accept my share of responsibilities with a strong heart and a cheerful mind. Make me considerate of those entrusted to my leadership and faithful to the duties my country has entrusted in me. Let my uniform remind me daily of the traditions of the service of which I am a part. If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again. Guide me with the light of truth and keep before me the life of Him by whose example and help I trust to obtain the answer to my prayer, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

My grandfather was in the U.S. Navy during WWII.    The pictures above are of he and my grandmother, my mother and uncle, and their dog, before he left for his tour of duty.    I recently received his copy of the U.S. Navy issued sailor’s New Testament, and as shown in the picture above, it contains this prayer.

I am not sure of his rank, but he served as a postmaster in the South Pacific.    Pressed into service by the draft, he was called away from family and into harms way for several years.   While not a combat soldier, he told me stories of near misses from Kamikaze attacks on ships adjacent to his.

I also heard stories of how he sent every dime he earned home, just so my grandmother would not have to work and could stay home with their two kids.   In turn, she saved enough to buy a house for the family before he returned home from the war.   Talk about a great generation.

So how did they do it?   How did he survive the war, when so many, including his own brother, did not?     How did they stay close, raise a family, and serve the Lord faithfully for years?    Even today, their influence has a family of almost 60 children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren and spouses raising Christian families and serving the Lord.

They did it with prayer.    And so should we.

We are all midshipmen, pressed into service by the war for the world and the hearts of our kids and others we love.    The words of the midshipman’s prayer can still serve us all well today:

Almighty Father, whose way is in the sea, whose paths are in the great waters, whose command is over all and whose love never faileth; let me be aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and in deed, and helping me so to live that I can stand unashamed and unafraid before my shipmates, my loved ones, and thee. Protect those in whose love I live. Give me the will to do my best and to accept my share of responsibilities with a strong heart and a cheerful mind. Make me considerate of those entrusted to my leadership and faithful to the duties my country has entrusted in me. Let my uniform remind me daily of the traditions of the service of which I am a part. If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again. Guide me with the light of truth and keep before me the life of Him by whose example and help I trust to obtain the answer to my prayer, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Time Passages

In Texas for the weekend to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.

Enjoyed time with the family last night, and this song from the early 70’s by Al Stewart came to mind.

It was late in December, the sky turned to snow
All round the day was going down slow
Night like a river beginning to flow
I felt the beat of my mind go
Drifting into time passages
Years go falling in the fading light
Time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight

Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don’t last
Well it’s just now and then my line gets cast into these
Time passages
There’s something back here that you left behind
Oh time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight

Hear the echoes and feel yourself starting to turn
Don’t know why you should feel
That there’s something to learn
It’s just a game that you play

Well the picture is changing
Now you’re part of a crowd
They’re laughing at something
And the music’s loud
A girl comes towards you
You once used to know
You reach out your hand
But you’re not alone, in those
Time passages
I know you’re in there, you’re just out of sight
Time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight

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My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking before I knew it and as he grew
He said, “I’m gonna be like you, Dad,
You know I’m gonna be like you”

And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you comin home, dad, I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then, Son,
You know we’ll have a good time then.

My son turned ten just the other day
He said “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on lets play
can you teach me to throw?” I said, “Not today,
I got a lot to do” He said “Thats okay”
And then he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m going to be like him”

And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin home, dad, I dont know when,
But we’ll get together then, Son,
You know we’ll have a good time then.

Well he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say,
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head, and he said with a smile

“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?”

And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin home, Son, I dont know when,
But we’ll get together then, Dad,
You know we’ll have a good time then.

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day……..
I said “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said “I’d love to Dad, if I could find the time.
You see my new jobs a hassle, and the kids have the flu.
But It’s sure nice talking to you, Dad,
It’s been sure nice talking to you……..”
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me,
My boy was just like me…………..

And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin home, Son, I dont know when,
But we’ll get together then, Dad
We’re gonna have a good time then.

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Cigarette, gambling and alcohol stocks up in down market
 
BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS   
Published: August 22, 2010

BOSTON — So much for virtue.   Sin is in.

That’s according to a mutual fund manager who’s finding investment opportunities in companies profiting from vices like smoking, drinking and gambling. Jeff Middleswart’s aptly named Vice Fund is beating the house in a down market.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is down 1.9 percent this year. Yet stocks of cigarette makers are up an average 12 percent…
….Defense contractors — another fund mainstay — are up an average 12 percent. Alcoholic beverages? Up 6 percent.

As discussed in this space a few days ago, a friend from high school updated his Facebook status for religious beliefs to list hedonism.     This has had me thinking on the topic at many levels for the past few days and the issues accompany such a life choice.

Hedonism is defined as the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good, a devotion to pleasure as a way of life: The later Roman emperors were notorious for their hedonism.   Synonyms: sensualism, libertinism, debauchery, dissipation, carousal.   

Hebrews 11:24-25 tells us: It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.  

The fleeting pleasures.    That’s just it.    No argument that the world and even sin is alluring.   Just ask Eve about that piece of fruit.   The depth of the canyon draws us in.     But it’s fleeting: there is no lasting “high” that does not need to be replicated.    This life is not the ultimate and complete experience.    We all live, and we all die, but the end is not goodbye.    

Solomon had a lot to say about this topic following his later years of life and pursuing his passions, pleasures, and riches and power unknown to people like us.

Ecclesiastes 2   (The Futility of Pleasure)

 1 I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. 2 So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” 3 After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.

 4 I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. 7 I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. 8 I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!

 9 So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. 10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

M*A*S*H is an American television series adapted from the 1970 feature film MASH about three army doctors. The series is a medical drama/black comedy that follows a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War. M*A*S*H’s title sequence featured an instrumental version of the song “Suicide Is Painless”.  (wiki)

As I was mulling over this post a few days ago, an episode of M*A*S*H came on TV.   I’d not seen it in years.     There on the screen was Hawkeye Pierce, and principal character, hero, funny guy, and all around hedonist.    No one character probably better lives out the hedonistic persona in my mind than this one.     Caught in the midst of a horrible time and trying circumstances, Hawkeye seeks to avoid pain and seek pleasure in any way possible.    Guilt is not in his vocabulary.   Supporting characters follow some moral tones throughout the seasons of the show, each influencing Hawkeye is some small way, but each being influenced by his lifestyle as well.

In the end, the pain is still there.    Life is still short.   And suicide is not painless.    To quote Hawkeye:  “in war, there are two rules.   Rule number 1: young men die.   Rule number 2: doctors can’t change rule number 1.”

But hope does not disappoint us.  Romans 5:3-6

3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

 6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

M*A*S*H can be an entertaining show.    Just realize that the characters are not “saints in surgical garb”, and that there’s more to life than pleasure.

There’s also more to life than the “American Way”.     More to follow…

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Ideas shared in this space over the past couple of weeks have carried my thoughts to related topics, the next thread spinning in the back of my brain many days.    Thoughts on hedonism as a person’s “religious view” and how that might apply to many aspects of our lives and culture are running through my mind.     Before exploring that question together, something more simple came to mind this morning.

Touring the OC campus to review things that need to be done before classes begin next week, I stopped to glance at the condition of some carpet.     It seems to have been installed yesterday, even though it’s been probably 12 years since this particular building was renovated.    While the color and condition of the carpet looks great, it has been strained by the traffic, continuous vacuuming, and natural stress at the seam points.    Yes, it is quite literally “coming apart at the seams”.

My mind immediately went to that line in the 70’s tune by the Eagles, sung by Don Henley.    The analogy of the Eagles (OC), “The Best of My Love” song title (and what we are supposed to be all about offering, each day) and the line “coming apart at the seams” (highlighting the natural stress, strain, and pull each of us go through despite the quality of our fabric, weave, and thread count) was too “serendipitous” for me to leave alone.

Accordingly, here is a copy of the lyrics to “Best of My Love”.     Applying different paradigms, one could hear this as a person talking to themself, talking to their beloved, or even as a prayer to God.    Where does this song take you?    Give the best of your love to all who come your way, and I will seek to do the same…

Every night I’m lyin’ in bed
Holdin’ you close in my dreams
Thinkin’ about all the things that we said
And comin’ apart at the seams
We try to talk it over
But the words come out too rough
I know you were tryin’
To give me the best of your love

Beautiful faces and loud, empty places
Look at the way that we live
Wastin’ our time on cheap talk and wine
Left us so little to give
That same old crowd
Was like a cold dark cloud
That we could never rise above
But here in my heart I give you the best of my love
Oh sweet darlin’ you get the best of my love, oh
Sweet darlin’, you get the best of my love

I’m goin’ back in time
And it’s a sweet dream
It was a quiet night
And I would be all right
If I could go on sleepin’
But every mornin’
I wake up and worry
What’s gonna happen today
You see it your way
And I see it mine
But we both see it slippin’ away

You know we always had each other baby
I guess that wasn’t enough
Oh, but here in my heart
I give you the best of my love

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