The Power of the Unintended Action

Where does the arrow go when it leaves your bow?

There is a short poem I remember from years gone by.

Bow and arrowThe Arrow and the Song

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I shot an arrow into the air,

It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For, so swiftly it flew, the sight

Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,

It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For who has sight so keen and strong,

That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak

I found the arrow, still unbroke;

And the song, from beginning to end,

I found again in the heart of a friend.

 I do not like to lose arrows, and back in the day I worked hard on finding all those flung arrows from my bow. The stabilization of an arrow in flight is made so by material, such as feathers, to ensure that the arrow goes where intended. As a kid, I had an older bow and an arrow with a missing strip of fletched material. As I fired at a tree, the wind caught the arrow and it sailed straight up and over the 40 foot tree and landed in the pasture behind.

No control. Wild. A mind of its own.

With all fletching in place, the arrow would have struck the tree. With the missing feather, the arrow had a mind of its own. 

Strange how you can send something in flight one way with an intended target or direction – and then, like the poem, it goes awry and in a totally unintended direction. Perhaps lost.

2015-03-25 09.33.06Every day I play with my dogs. Bailey, my golden retriever, loves to retrieve the flung ball. Nukka cares little about it unless she can hide it from Bailey.

The other day I tossed the ball back to the house to let it clean off in the grass as I fed the dogs.

Walking to the house I could not find the ball anywhere, so I left it for Bailey to find the next day. Surely he could find it by scent. He did. Excitedly he refused to let me fling again until the next day.

Made me think about the unintended directions of our words. Perhaps we have said the same thing over and over. It’s a regular part of our conversation. But then one day, by accident, our words swing wildly out of control, escaping to an unintended direction.

EmbarressedIt’s like that basketball player that was on a panel being interviewed. Thinking the mic was silent he uttered his thoughts to the others on the panel. Then he was shocked that the audience had heard him and then hid behind his hands…. (Watch here)

 Politicians, stars and starlets, and even pageant contestants… And yes, even you and I. We all say things we do not intend on others hearing. Yet, out of the abundance of the heart… the mouth will speak! 1-2-3-4…. (Matthew 12:34)

There are times we say the same thing we’ve always said, only the consequences of words come back to haunt us because it has been taken amiss.

Sometimes there are hits, and sometimes there are misses. By a country mile!

How do we respond to these moments? Each of us has a unique way of handling these problems. Et tu?

All Things Being Equal

…Is an oxymoronic thought…

William OckhamNot everything is equal to each other. If it were, then the logic Apples to Oranges would work. We know that it will NEVER work, even though they are each called a “fruit” – they are uniquely different from each other and the twain shall never meet!

The simplest response to choosing one option over another does not gives us the correction solution!

This premise of choice is often called Occam’s (or Ockham) Razor. Many use it to slice arguments down to the simplest solution of choice. It is often summarized as, “All things being equal, the simplest solution must be the correct choice.”

It’s not a new way of looking at arguments and can be dated all the way back to Aristotle.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) writes in his Posterior Analytics, “we may assume the superiority ceteris paribus [all things being equal] of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses.” (Wikipedia)

But Ockham’s work has been much analyzed, critiqued, and restated since his death in 1347. First, consider who he actually was: “an English Franciscan friar and theologian, an influential medieval philosopher”. Second, most of his writing is focused on religious subject:

Indeed, Ockham’s contribution seems to be to restrict the operation of this principle in matters pertaining to miracles and God’s power: so, in the Eucharist, a plurality of miracles is possible, simply because it pleases God. (via Wikeipedia)

His references seem to be related to theological topics alone, at least in my realm of study, but many have taken his concepts to apply to other areas of study, including science, problem resolution, and directions for life choices.

We often chose the “path of least resistance”, or the way that causes the less obligation. We want to whittle down the choices to some simple sliver that makes us feel comfortable about direction. Flip the coin and let “luck” choose for us. My favorite is the write out the Pro & Con list to help make correct choices.

There are many random ways of charting options, but selecting the final option is still troublesome.

In fact, I use a version of this when driving: “All things being equal, if we are going the same direction and speed, I would just as soon be at the head of the line.”

We live in a time of complicated actions and belief systems. Not only have we changed from where we once were, we are not yet to the end of what we are going to become. Generational, cultural, science, technological, and even religious thought, has changed. What was once the norm is no longer accepted. What was once abnormal is now accepted as normal. It seems our entire world has flipped!

For many of life’s woe’s, this is a welcome and acceptable change. In other areas, too many still struggle with the consequences of the flip. Many of the “flips” pushes against ones belief system, one’s normal life and forces everyone to make difficult choices.

Tiddly WinksLife is constantly placing us in situations of choice. Every news cycle gives us choices to believing one side or another. Every law pushes us to once side of life over another. Our tiddly wink is flipped at the signage of law, or change of society

A long time ago I made a choice to believe a certain direction. A Godly choice. I was willing to follow Joshua’s command of choice that I can go one way or the other. Which way do you want to choose? Can you allow Occam’s Razor to point you correctly?

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”  (Joshua 24:15-18 ESV)

Less Than Perfect Rest

Have you ever wished for a more perfect restful night?

BlurryThere are times when we want the best night of sleep, and as experience has taught me, that is when we often have the less than perfect rest.

My mind is full of stuff – projects, tasks, events, deadlines, people…

Projects, tasks and deadlines are easy to handle. Right? Simply squeeze everything else out, and focus on the needs. People are a different story.

Put all of these together and whisk them like a bowl full of eggs, and what do you get? Often, a scrambled mess!

How do you handle a restless night? It’s not a sleepless night. Just not restful.

Why Must Every Question Have An Answer?

Crash leaves many unanswered questions

… says the headlines, in question to “Why did the pilot do what he did?” (Click to read)

It seems we have many questions to plane crashes over the recent months. Several in Asia, and now Europe. Pilots. Equipment. Failures. Quien sabe? Who knows?

Other than questioning what happens to the the innocents involved, do we not question actions of others? Yes! All the time!

  • Bernie Madoff.
  • Josh Powell
  • Gary Ridgway
    • … this list is endless!

Still, questions of motives often leave us gasping for understanding. Knee Jerk reactions forces new corrective actions to ensure it never happens again. Reactions become Actions, which become rule of law, and the list of laws to try and manage the unknown create even more future reactions.

Then more reactions, actions and laws…

Before long, the law book is thicker than the memory of why it was started to begin with!

I remember the time at Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH) when everyone could go out the jetway and say goodbye, or even greet, the passengers. We could take the stairs up above the gates, and sit outside just a few feet above the plane and watch them taxi and take off. When did they stop this?

As we tighten the reins, we witness a changing world faster than we can shake a stick at. Where life was once restrictive, rules and laws are considered arcane in light of the present world. Yet, we wish for control to prevent tragedy from ever happening to an innocent again.

I remember when I used to mow barefooted, ride in an open pickup bed at highway speeds, carry a huge pocket knife onto any flight, and would laugh insidiously at anyone who thought a bicycle rider would be caught dead in a helmet! In fact, I remember cars before there were seat-belts, kids sleeping on the deck above the back seats, and a crowd of “whosoever will” packed into every square inch of seating places.

Yet, anyone doing any of these things today would be considered lawless!

I live in an age when past actions continually catches up to reactions of horror by the present world. There is no answer to the question of “Why?” It’s just that we did.

Still, we live in a time when there are seldom satisfactory answers to the tragedies that are happening every day. War, terror, disasters – there are no answers. Yet, we continue to look for answers.

A song came to mind from my younger years. It was in the hymnal and we sang it often…

We are tossed and driven 
	on the restless sea of time;
	somber skies and howling tempests 
	oft succeed a bright sunshine;
	in that land of perfect day, 
	when the mists are rolled away,
	we will understand it better by and by.
	By and by, when the morning comes,
	when the saints of God are gathered home,
	we'll tell the story how we've overcome,
	for we'll understand it better by and by.


Home Again. But Will I Stay?

Sometime last year…

El Diablo
El Diablo

We had another stray cat show up. A big, beautiful, black and white male. He seemed friendly, but as my wife quickly realized, you do not reach out to touch him. He clawed her, drew blood, and left a whopping big bruise on her hand.

There has been a time or two that I have had to teach the cat manners. This normally includes stomping my feet on the porch, and speaking sternly to “El Diablo”, as we came to name him. Most times he jumps a few feet away and then turns back to us, almost as if he understands a wrong action.

2014-06-26 08.50.15So, we added him to our mixture of animals to feed and watch over. Birds, cats and dogs. We drew the line at the raccoon’s and possums! And the deer have plenty of green to feast on – and somewhere out there are bears, cougars, lynx and coyotes… We do not leave food around for them to investigate. Our animals are fed just enough to get them through to their next feeding schedule.

Still, Diablo would disappear for a few days, or weeks, and then show back up to reestablish himself as the owner of the front porch. Our yellow stray cat, Buster, now stays on the back porch and seems to be scared of facing the devil on the front porch.

Local Yellow Cat Stray
Local Yellow Cat Stray

On those early days of return, Diablo would be scraped and scarred from obvious tussles he had gotten himself into. He’s been gone for nearly 2 weeks and showed up last night. As I went to feed him I called to Brenda to come see – he had obviously been in another scarring fight. It made our hearts go out to him – but still, you cannot touch him!

In fact, we keep a broom by the front door to help corral him from the food dish as we pour in his daily ration. He has come to love the broom and uses it as his scratching and rubbing post, and will follow it as we lead him away from the empty and soon to be full food dish.

Still, you cannot touch him.

He comes running when the front door opens, but do not dare to reach down to him…

I have yet to fully grasp why we attract animals like this. Brenda and I have made home for many strays over the years. Mostly dogs. Some are intimidating and aggressive – we shoo them away. Others know how to wheedle into your heart and they become some of our best, and normally short term, friends.

Most strays seem to be on their way somewhere else. It has been recorded of dogs and cats traveling great distances to return home when they are inadvertently stranded miles from home.

I wonder, could this be the same for people also? Do we always end up back “home”? Where Is Home? Or, are we simply passing from this point to another, and look for a friendly front porch to connect with for a while.


When That Which Is Hidden…

…Shall Be Revealed…

Flash News!

Unearthed WWII 1000 lb bomb“Huge unexploded WWII bomb found in London” (Click Here to Read) According to the story bombs are found in historical war zones every so often. Seven have been found in London over the past 5 years. This is not unusual, maybe, except for the size. It is 5 feet long and weighs 1,000 lbs. and has been under a retirement home for at least 70 years!

Hidden. Bomb. Just waiting for an accident, or nature rusting to the core… Potential devastation. Two schools and 400 homes evacuated. Not a ticking time bomb, but potential danger just a few feet away.

I was thinking about the things we have purposefully hidden from view. Things we hope are never revealed in the light of day. Thoughts. Deeds. Things we have buried deeply. From loved ones. Friends. Even from self. We do a good job of masking the signs of what is hidden.

Until something reveals a portion of the bomb, maybe just the tail fin. Then, in a flash, our past is unearthed and all is revealed.

There are many who have hardened their heart against their past. Like armor their past is protected from discovery.

But there are those with a tender heart, and maybe even guilty feelings, who are easily dislodged by the past. Hidden things. Secrets. They look for resolution. Forgiveness. All the while they worry about the sudden exposing of the past.

King David wrote about this internal struggle a number of times.

O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.

(Psalms 38:9 ESV)

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. 

(Psalms 69:5 ESV)

If he already knows, then why are we worried? Lets look a little deeper. Jesus warns in some of his teaching that anything hidden will be eventually revealed.

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.

(Luke 12:2 ESV)

It’s a fearful thought that who we “were” and what we hope to never be “revealed” will somehow come to the light of day. However, there is a way to assuage the guilt, to erase our sin. A single scriptural principle.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! (Psalms 111:10 ESV)

This word “fear” should be better interpreted as “moral reverence” – it is not the fear that leaves us quaking from the boogey man. Rather, it’s the reverence we have for the moral superior. It’s respect. Almost like the feelings we get when we are around somebody we want to rub shoulders with, but are perhaps afraid of getting too close to them.

Revere. Respect. Even worshipful. It’s almost as if we expect this special one to see right through our thin veneer. What’s under the surface? What are we hiding?

That’s when we need to work on making things right, but at the same time seek forgiveness. Only then can healing begin.

Notice that other phrase, “all those who practice it have a good understanding“… All those who “practice” this concept.

It reminds me of a story about a famous and perfectionist violin player. Someone says to him one day, “I want to play just like you.” To which he replied, “No you don’t. If you did, you would be at home practicing right now!”

Practice. Practice Reverence. Practice Respect. This action of “practice” will give us a good understanding! What does this give us? Check out this last scripture…

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
(Psalms 103:10-13 ESV)

Good, Better, Best

What do you call the progression of words?

Do Not Stay The Same Be BetterI know there is a name for this. It is not necessarily something revolved around tenses, but the idea is the progression of words from one level to the next. Maybe “past, present, future” describes this, but there is definitely a name for this progression.

I tried to remember a particular quote yesterday but my mental file drawer would not open.

So, I found it this morning:

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.” ~Tim Duncan

My question: What’s after “best”? Is there where it all stops, or do we simply chose more descriptive words to define the range.

Good Better BestBut stop and think a moment about each of these words. It’s not that you are limited in the progression from left to right, rather each word diverges into different direction. Based on the purpose and usage. And each word has an antonym, or opposite meaning, as well as synonyms, or similar meanings.

Basically, these dissimilar words connect a thought of relational progression. Digression reverses the flow. Regardless, I wonder what would be the words that connect to Good and Best?

Depending on your need for the word, there are numerous ways to choose progressions, opposites, or similar meanings.

I thought about this progression in light of friendship. I have good, better, and best friends. Some have been good, but are in the process of becoming better. Some have been best, but they’ve slipped down a notch, or two.

Some are in regular contact, but that does not make them less than best. Each one is unique! Some only show up, it seems, when I most need someone in my life.

I thought about life and how much better it has become. I thought about my paychecks and how much smaller they have become – can this be notched down from best to good?

I considered my marriage and though we are aging through life, it just keeps getting better. Can I find better words than “best”?

Though church keeps notching upwards, there are still plenty of steps higher than where we are today.

And thought retirement keeps creeping closer, I am hard pressed to think whether it will be Good, or the Best! More than likely it will be better than I can imagine, but there are still concerns looming.

When it comes to what we wish for, the Apostle Paul tells us to:

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
(1 Corinthians 12:31 KJV)

Covet = desire. Best = nothing higher. Still, he points to an even more excellent way. Once you reach the “best” there is, Paul seems to promote the concept of something even more excellent.

What could that be? Perhaps we find it in his very next word? Chapter 13? What is this? It’s traditionally called the Love Chapter. He ends it with these words.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.  (1 Corinthians 13:11-13 KJV)

Charity used here is the Greek word Agape. A word that speaks to a Godly love as described by the Apostle John.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11 ESV)

Perhaps this is the totally “best” way to look at progression. None of it matters without the “Love” and this is the foundation for everything. Nothing gets Good, Better or Best unless we have Love.