Too Much, Or Not Enough

Do you remember language word problems of school years?

Apple GrapesPerhaps it is known as a comparison and contrast example, but “red is to green, as apple is to grape” helps me compare colors and objects via a their colors and purpose. Poor example, I know, but when life passes by so quickly it is often hard to slow down and find a better example!

Many terms clicked through my brain this morning as I considered where I am in life…

  • Too much to do and not enough day light vs Bring it on!
  • No mas’ vs Adelante’!
  • Bit off more than I can chew, or Hit the wall like a ton of bricks

What is it about life that we often accept more than we can handle, or we always look for more? Is it really too difficult to say “no”, or do we not see our own schedule with clear eyes? Perhaps it is simply learning how to better schedule our time, or organize our personal world more simply.

Each of us has a ceiling, or a wall, past which we cannot go less we become ineffective in everything. That barrier is not set in stone, but often changes with the seasons of life. Add one additional flavor to life, and it’s like adding one more egg to the brownie mix and change the results from that soft gooey version so many like, to a cake version that I prefer.

Snap of the fingersIt’s almost like taking a walk with someone that you enjoy walking with, until you get into a certain mode and their stride becomes different than your own. When I walk the store I like to “saunter” but my speed and pace does not match my wife’s!

She will walk off and leave me, “snap”, just like that!

We all have our limits and if you cannot recognize this, then you will fight this battle over and over.

How do you determine you limits?

My personal way is to consider my effectiveness. It’s a personal checklist determining whether I am doing a good job, vs simply being adequate, vs failing miserably! Regardless, there are ways to adjust, just as their are ways to consider the timing of life.

Along the way of life there are surprises that can change your world in a flash. Everything can turn upside down and all those controlled portions of life can flapjack in a second!

I’ve had a few of these things the past few months. Nothing tragic, but the overarching desire to go with the flow, while trying to control every detail – well, let’s just say that everything doesn’t always go your way!

The resulting experience can be maddening.

Then I think about the Psalmist and one particular scripture comes to mind.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.  (Psalms 1:3 ESV)

Fruit is produced in its proper season… Proper season. A time for everything. I wonder if this is the lesson his son learned as he wrote;

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV)

There is a proper season for work, and rest, busy and slack, planting and reaping. Seasons change our perspective and work load and not knowing how to read where you are in each stage of life will keep your world confused.

One last thought: Be sure you are ready for the proper next step before it steps up to your plate and says, “Let me on!”

Time Capsule Found

Not that it was ever truly lost.

© Stephan Savoia/AP Photo Pamela Hatchfield, a conservator at the Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, holds a time capsule she had just removed from the cornerstone of the Statehouse in Boston, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014.
© Stephan Savoia/AP Photo Pamela Hatchfield, a conservator at the Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, holds a time capsule she had just removed from the cornerstone of the Statehouse in Boston, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014.

A long night of power outage, and a disconnect from the news, this morning I read the various stories on a time capsule that has been found.

Founding Fathers Samuel Adams and Paul Revere took part in the original ceremony, when a cowhide capsule was placed as the state moved from its old statehouse to its new one across from the Boston Common.

Samuel Adams. Paul Revere. Wow! Read the entire story by clicking here.

It has been removed and possibly updated in times past, but a water leak made it available to this modern public. I wonder what’s inside?

This made me consider my post from yesterday, “Foundation Values” and what their feeling would be if they could compare their present, with our present.

Too many may try to put words in their mouths and talk about how they may be overjoyed or totally dismayed. Instead, think about this. Any time we try to put ourselves into another’s time period, we still carry the image and thoughts of our present. Samuel and Paul could not automatically show up now and grasp where we are, especially if they do not know the intervening history of 200+ years. Nor, could we go back with our present day knowledge and fit in seamlessly knowing all that we know!

Think “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” story by Mark Twain back in 1889, and then watch the old movie with crooner Bing Crosby. The future knowledge may give you a hint of the past, but your superior knowledge will look like magic to the ancients.

You can’t go back, and you don’t want to go forward.

So, let’s make this moment the best it can be!

Foundation Values

Why do any of us believe what we believe?

This is not an argument starter on who’s right and who’s wrong, rather, it’s a thought process on determining why we believe the things we believe in.

Where does that belief system come from?

Swiftly, we look to our source of life and realize we have acquired certain values instilled into us by birth, nature, culture, country and time period.

  • Were any of us born to a different time period, then our values could be substantially different.
  • Were any of us born to a different country or culture, then our values could be substantially different.

And this will be true of any of us, anywhere, anytime.

Having been born in the 50’s has given me a different perspective of national identity than perhaps someone born in the 90’s. Just 40 years separate us, but in that generation of time our core national values may say the same thing, but rest assured that the definition of these values have altered dramatically.

Consider this key statement on which our Declaration of Independence hinges:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

From the 50’s we defined these values perhaps a way that is shaded by our frame of reference. The next generation will have a different frame of reference and define this statement somewhat differently.

Consider my frame of reference back in the 50’s that colored everything we thought and did.

  • WWII was over and the Baby Boomer’s were being produced at a prodigious rate.
  • Our president was born in 1890 (Consider his frame of reference!) and was one of our greatest generals and now led our country. Dwight David Eisenhower was from Texas. (Consider this frame!) He was the last president born in the 19th century and served during both world wars. He died when I was 14 years old.
  • Black and white Television was new technology, the transistor began enhancing computing power, and for most of America life more people lived in rural settings than in the city.
  • The Space Race was beginning, along with the Cold War, fear of nuclear annihilation, and backyard survival bunkers.
  • Race Relations was a huge topic that led to mandated changes in order to bring equality. Even with our country document, there was still a huge disparity between the races and even the civil war did not automatically make these issues disappear. In my early life there were still black only and white only features to the landscape.

Move ahead to present day where I’m nearing 60 and when you consider how the world has changed, then maybe we grasp why there are unique differences between the generations.

What will it be like with the 2050’s roll around?

Often headaches, and yes, even heartaches, exist between these generational differences. Life is continually changing and those of us with the reference of the past are often struggling with present life that is diametrically opposed to what our birth decade was like.

The new generation shrugs off the old framework with what we often only understand as disrespectful abandonment.

Still, I suspect that those born the generation before me considered that we were doing the same thing to them, after all, the 50’s birthed Rock and Roll with the likes of Elvis, Chuck Berry, and the like. But it was probably they who confused their ancestors with the Roaring 20’s!

With every generation, the core foundation values may say the same – but they have changed their definitions dramatically.

How do we rectify the differences between our understanding of these value differences? I think it’s hard to put a “rule” to it and make everyone follow a guideline. With each generation we will change “who” we are as a nation. We see this in corporate and religious America equally.

Everything has changed!

Yet, the rallying cry to our national identity must still be what our founders presented in all of their documents.

As the future changes the image of who we are as a nation, we must not forget those that are hooked to the past, nor should we dismiss those who are promoting what the present and future portend – but we must keep our foundation values as our core beliefs.

A “Doolittle” Experience

Junior High Was Fun

Night Sky StarsThere are many reasons why I enjoyed school, and probably as many reasons why I disliked it so much. This is probably true about everyone of us. Give me shop class, science, literature and history. Keep English, math, gym … Hmmn…. Is that all there was?

In the 8th grade, Mr Doolittle’s science class was enjoyable. He focused just enough on the “doing” of science to keep it enticing.

 

Now, a definition of science might be in order:

the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

 

So, we study the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. That’s exactly what we did in this interesting science class!

When we were learning about astronomy he had us conduct an experiment.

  • Get a medium size card board box and cut out one side.
  • Get on top of the house long after sun sets and on a clear night.
  • Lay down with your head in the cut out side of the box and look at the stars. The box will hopefully block the periphery and let you focus just on the stars.
  • Now, let your mind run!

Having grown up in those early years of the space program, and with enough of Tom Swift novels thrown in the mix, and living close to and experiencing life around those early astronauts and engineering families, well, anything that had to do with space travel was a fixation of sorts.

Science Fiction novels did not contain the mix of Fantasy as many of them do today. In fact, if you read those early writers like Clark, Asimov, Heinlein (just to name a few), then many of their stories contained futuristic science that became reality – tablet computers, mobile communicators, communication satellites… Just to name a few.

So, a Doolittle experiment made tremendous sense to me because we were allowed to think about the depth and breadth of space, what could possibly be out there, and, my favorite question: Does Space End? If so, what’s on the other side of the end?

Calvin and Hobbes - I am significantI do not remember any classroom results of the experience, but I do remember that I felt so small in the scope of what I could see. Knowing that the visible starlight was light years in coming our way, there is really no way of knowing what was happening in those distant places in the present tense. Why? That beam of light that you see is traveling your way at 186,000 feet per second. That’s 671 million miles per hour.

That’s a huge distance!

Our sun is far enough away that it takes around 8 minutes and 19 seconds for the light photons to strike planet Earth. If the sun were to blink out of existence right now, you could probably finish reading this blog and still not know it…

That’s Amazing!

As I think back to my experience on the roof of our house, I grasped the idea of how unrealistic it would be to think that everything I could sense was strictly an accident and we were simply in the right place at the right time for some action to lead us from “nothing” to “something”…

We are too complex to simply have happened. There was purpose behind the world and the entire solar system and universe as we could grasp it. We have made too many complex migrations of knowledge to simply be an accident.

Surely there’s reason and purpose to who we are and why we are here.

AtomIt was also Mr Doolittle that made us look at the microscopic view of the miniature. Consider an atom with all the electrons circling it. What does it remind you of?

Of course, you probably said it looked like our sun with the planets in orbit.

Similar yes, but not exactly. But just assume the similarity is correct.

How many atoms are on a pin head?

If it’s a hydrogen atom, scientist calculate that 5 million million (yes, a huge number with lots of zeroes) atoms would exist.

So, Mr Doolittle asks us to consider how many atoms exist in the palms of our hands? Gazillions! With every clap of our hands we are destroying solar systems and all the potential representation of life that could exist on each atom – much like our own solar system and the life that exists on Planet Earth.

Who, bigger than we are, is standing ready to clap their hands and we are resting in their palms? About to be wiped out of existence!

Microscopic and Macroscopic… Study of near and far. We are part of a really huge picture that we cannot possibly understand the depth and breadth of our existence.

Can this seasonal event of Christmas help me to understand the plan behind what we know? Perhaps. For me there is no doubt, but it still does not bother me to think this through…

 

Why Christmas?

Why Not?

Christmas DecorationsLooking around at the Christmas Scene, again, we see all the views of the Holidays that have absolutely nothing to do with the original Christmas story.

Trees, Lights, Garland, Tinsel, Decorations, Shopping experiences, Presents, Family Gatherings… NOTHING….Like the original.

Bethlehem Church of the Nativity
Bethlehem Church of the Nativity

Even going to Bethlehem in the Muslim quarter I can tell you that what some believe is the original birth scene has been so “deified” and commercialized that you would not be able to recognize it.

It’s located inside of a building that is hundreds of years old and controlled by several religious groups. We stood in line for several hours before we crowded down these steps.

Entrance to the Grotto
Entrance to the Grotto

This picture does not do the real event justice. It was crowded and we had been standing in line for several hours. The doorway contained another stairwell underground into the grotto.

When you get inside you can look to the right and see two prized locations – birth and manger.

Manger
Manger
Birth Location
Birth Location

They are crowded by the building and decorations. Although you can reach in and touch the supposed location of each, there is so much “coverage” that I doubt much of the unexposed site is available.

It was so very much a weird experience!

Candles, decorations, grates, marble… It’s amazing how much of this has been commercialized. And with a swift understanding I look at our modern decorations and maybe they do make a little bit more sense!

While we were at the bottom stair step, a train of Catholic priest came in at noon and performed a 15 minute mass. I was one step away from these men as they lit the incense and chanted their mass in a language I did not know. The incense was so strong and cloudy I was surprised that I did not break into a fit of coughing.

As they left and the crowd returned, there were many other foreigner tourist that stooped on their hands and knees, crying and praying over the birth site and the manger location.

View from the back of the Grotto
View from the back of the Grotto

I felt disjointed. How could anyone connect these places with the actual birth location and time of Jesus? It looked nothing like all the manger scenes dotting the landscape in my neck of the woods!

The presentation of the site could in no way stand up to my imagination of the reality of the original in much the same way that modern Christmas scenes can not in any way compare to the original.

Even with all the human connection to the location, I think that my question is very valid to consider today.

Why Christmas? And I still think my answer of “Why Not” is very apropos. We must understand the purpose for the birth of Christ, and, we must be able to share it in such a way that we can make it relate – not to the madhouse modern scene, but to the simplicity of the moment nearly 2,000 years ago.

Over the next few days I hope to answer this question. Please, stay tuned.

 

Rhymes and Reasons

No Poet am I….

Yet, there are words pounding through my head and heart. Robert Frost - American GalleryPhrases, I am sure, that eventually could end up in a rhythm and espouse some reason.

To some, the words and thoughts probably flow easily. I have an uncle who seems to be able to do this and it is an admirable trait for those of us who love the expression of Words.

But, a Robert Frost I will never be!

When we read many of the Psalms in their prose and lyrical presentation that some Bibles have placed them in, and if we truly understood the original language wherein they come from, then the flowing of words makes much more sense than the blocked approach of many a printed page.

For example, the shortest Psalms is 100 with verses only 1-5.

A Psalm of praise. Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. (Psalms 100:1-5 KJV)

In the original there is probably a cadence that flows the words and thoughts from one to the next.

This process often makes a poem easy to remember. Sort of like Nursery Rhymes.

Yesterday, I wrote a few sentences that could be massaged into a poem, if only I knew the structure of poetry. Yes, there is probably a secret that I do not know, and if only I remembered my grade school years then perhaps it would be easier.

Many song writers have found the formula. They know how to take the words and put melody to them, and then change around the words and notes to make them flow.

One of my favorite singers of old is John Denver. On my first long distance drive to Alaska in 1977, I listened to his Windsong album, oh, maybe a hundred times.

It was on his first album in 1969 as a solo singer that he set the pace for the words and melody style that he would follow until his death. The best song on the album is the title song:

“Rhymes And Reasons”

So you speak to me of sadness and the coming of the winter,
The fear that is within you now that seems to never end,
and the dreams that have escaped you and the hope that you’ve forgotten,
and you tell me that you need me now and you want to be my friend,
and you wonder where we’re going, where’s the rhyme and where’s the reason?
And it’s you cannot accept: it is here we must begin to seek the wisdom of the children
and the graceful way of flowers in the wind.For the children and the flowers are my sisters and my brothers,
their laughter and their loveliness would clear a cloudy day.
Like the music of the mountains and the colors of the rainbow,
they’re a promise of the future and a blessing for today.Though the cities start to crumble and the towers fall around us,
the sun is slowly fading and it’s colder than the sea.
It is written: From the desert to the mountains they shall lead us,
by the hand and by the heart, they will comfort you and me.
In their innocence and trusting they will teach us to be free.

For the children and the flowers are my sisters and my brothers,
their laughter and their loveliness would clear a cloudy day.
And the song that I am singing is a prayer to non-believers,
come and stand beside us we can find a better way.

 As I read the words I hear the voice of John Denver singing and strumming his guitar.

This brings me to my thought – we are no longer students of poems as many have penned through the ages. Their names and tomes are forgotten in a sea of rap, rock, hip, and hop. (Hmmmm… Rhyming?)

Just like modern Christian songs are no longer a semblance of the favored songs of old, we are in a split generation where the old fades and the new constantly evolves.

Will there be a favorite of the “new” some day? Maybe. Time will tell.
But until then, my heart will go on singing…. Until then, with joy I’ll carry on… Until the day…

Putting My Best Foot Forward

Or, Let’s make a good impression!

Best Foot ForwardThe constant pressure of being perfect can take a toll. It means you never get to be “just you” nor do you ever get to have a “bad day”… There is no way you can ever make a mistake.

Why? Because you always step forward with the best intention to be the best you can be.

Still, we see sports figures have bad days all the time and it is often played out on the national scene in some sporting contest. Think Tiger Woods, or Tony Romo. Whether it’s the entire team, or a single player, having less than a perfect day is really quite normal.

Actors may do a perfect impression of a character on the screen, but their off stage life is just begging you to forget you ever knew them.

Politicians… Well, should I call them by name? No. I’ll leave you alone with your personal thoughts about all their failures.

It’s just that we don’t want to broadcast our own imperfect day to everyone else!

“Quickly forgiven and forgotten is the greatest complement you can give someone for their bad day…” ~Michael Gurley

Unless it becomes a habit! Then it’s difficult to remember their good ol’ days!

The Apostle Peter is often described as impetuous, quick to lash out in a fiery way, and probably a hot tempered personality.

  • He was the one that asked to get out of the boat and walk on water, and quickly learned the lesson of taking his eyes off of the one that bid him to come.
  • He was the one that began to rebuke Jesus but was likened until Satan.
  • He was the one that cut of the ear of the high priest servant when they came to arrest Jesus.
  • He fled into the night.
  • He  denied he ever knew Jesus and fled into the night, again, when some thought they knew him.

These thoughts come quickly because it is often the bad impressions people leave us with that are more easily remembered.

But let these same people do something right, or magnanimously perfect, then we hail them as almost god-like. This makes me think about all the accolades a “star” receives posthumously.  Their bad choices in life are often glossed over and the main intent is to help all have a good impression of them that will last through the ages.

Think about it like this. Good looking people do not have to be good people. Here’s a famous quote I just made up this week.

“Quit gauging people by what you think their visage portends. We put our best view forward and hide our true self. A pic can LOOK friendly!” ~Michael Gurley

Even beautiful people make mistakes!

We all often make bad choices, or get out on the wrong side of the bed (another idiom). These are the times we work harder to change our impressions of our own self, as much as the way we want to be seen by others.

I posted this on Facebook the other day and have thought about it a lot.

This is the absolute truth! Quick to judge others and find fault, but aggressively defend our own actions as justifiably perfect!

“We are very good judges for the mistakes of others but very good lawyers for our own mistakes.” ~Nicky Gumbel via TFTenney

Our attempt at being the best is often tempered by the way we defend our own actions in front of others. I am more apt to appreciate someone who is quick to take ownership of their bad choices than someone who keeps blaming others.

The one thing I have experienced: I am more than often my own worst critic. If we do not learn from our bad impression moments, then we will never improve.

After every speaking moment I look for what I could do to make it better. Not to be second guessing myself, but I want to always be improving who I am and not trying only to make a good impression for the moment. I want it to be a life time improvement.

Perhaps we need to look at ourselves as others see us. IDK. The one thing I know is that I am responsible for my choices and I want to constantly improve who I am – regardless of the way others may view me.