How Do I Love Thee?

Let me count the ways.

ASL CountingNo… This is not a blog about Love. Although there have been more words written about the definition and expression of love, including the familiar title by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I do not feel the need to add to it today.

This is a blog about counting, numbering and valuing the results.

Remember those words, you know, back when you were really, really young. You were learning to count on your fingers and this little nursery rhyme, along with the associated actions, helped you memorize, and know, how to count from 1 through 10.

One, two, Buckle my shoe;
Three, four, Open the door;
Five, six, Pick up sticks;
Seven, eight, Lay them straight:
Nine, ten, A big, fat hen;

I’m sure you can locate other versions, but this one is commonly noted throughout my research and memory. This particular one was in use as early as 1780 in Colonial Times.

Remember road trips?!! We used to count cars, license plates, road kill, and just about anything countable. We planned Mr Smith’s trip to Washington with the 26 letters of the alphabet and he always started out, it seems, with an Apple and Banana!

Throughout my travels I have noted rode side markers that show the mileage countdown between two main points. You could use these markers to tell where you were in your travels, and know that certain things existed at certain mileposts. There are about 879 markers from the Texas-New Mexico border, across the state to the the Texas-Louisiana border. I’ve driven this segment a number of times, but Interstate 10 is the longest Interstate highway of any.

Number of Miles– 2460

  • California – 237 miles
  • Arizona – 392.33 miles
  • New Mexico – 160 miles
  • Texas – 879 miles
  • Louisiana – 279 miles
  • Mississippi – 77.192 miles
  • Alabama – 67 miles
  • Florida – 369 miles

And if you drive this round trip, you will only make the journey from Houston to Anchorage, AK about one time (depending on whose mapping service you believe!). I’ve driven that route a dozen times and have no hesitation of doing it again. Today. Let’s go!

You see. Counting, and knowing numbers, is an important act. I’ve written before about that wonderful catalog of a magazine called “The Alaskan Milepost” that tells you all the needed information you must have in order to enjoy your drive from the Lower 48, through Canada, and to all points North in that huge state. It follows the Milepost numbering system from the beginning number “0” of the Alaskan Canada Highway (AlCan), through Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and winding up at various locations in Alaska.

We count our days from one year to the next to know our age. I never understood how Jack Benny never aged past 39! We have anniversaries of special markers of life, as in marriage and career. We know the number of days in a year and if you understand the Julian calendar, then you know 01/01 of any given years is Day 1, and 12/31 is Day 365. We tally up our collection of stuff with numbers that can scare you – total quantity and maybe even total worth!

I woke this morning and an old song ran through my mind. I do not remember singing all the verses, though I’ve included them here. It was published by Johnson Oatman in 1897 and some scripture references to it are included below… [This Link has it playing in the background.]

  1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
    When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
    Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
    And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

    • Refrain:
      Count your blessings, name them one by one,
      Count your blessings, see what God has done!
      Count your blessings, name them one by one,
      *Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
      [*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]
  2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
    Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
    Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
    And you will keep singing as the days go by.
  3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
    Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
    Count your many blessings—*money cannot buy [*wealth can never buy]
    Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
  4. So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
    Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
    Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
    Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.(Psalms 40:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 1:3)

When times are tough, take a moment and start counting your blessings! Remembering and reflecting upon them should make the dark clouds a little bit lighter. If truth be known, then counting our blessings should be easier than counting our losses. Every day is a blessing from God, and we should count them one by one. If every day counts as one, then I’ve been blessed with 22,507 blessings! Go ahead. Count your days here.

One of my favorite Psalms is found in the 139 Psalms…

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.
(Psalms 139:7-18 NKJV)

Take a few minutes today and count your blessings. Number them one by one. Use your fingers and toes, matches, toothpicks, or marbles, and count all those blessings and rejoice today… Go ahead… I challenge you!

What Happens When We Age?

I was listening to a commentary about a group of football players…

March 27, 1954
March 27, 1954

There was much conversation about those players that take care of their bodies, follow sound nutritional advice, and get the necessary and needed rest to rebuild the body, mind and soul. Then the comparison looked at others who were beginning to rethink how they had lived and were making necessary changes to be better off in later years.

Not one time did I hear them talk about me…Whew! Dodged that dart!

We often enter the game nearly too late to enjoy our later years with healthy habits. From eating to exercise, work and rest, we have kept our life ramped up to the notion that this is simply how life is lived! We age. We slow down. And some day our bodies simply quit. Yes. This will happen to all of us. Some day.

A local news talk show was fortunate enough to interview a beautiful singer he adored when he was a young teen. She, and he, are older now. He did not want to meet her face to face. He was happy to simply remember her as she was to him back in his younger days. Then I saw that “I Dream of Jeannie” star, Barbara Eden, turned 85 yesterday…

When did I get so old as to see this movie and TV star age out!??!

And something came to light with blinding clarity. Enough so as to give pause to consider the concept of “aging gracefully”… If all goes well throughout life we will all age, gracefully, or not. And somewhere within that visage of present day is the person that someone remembers at a younger age. I do this unconsciously with my kids. In my minds eye I see them at particular ages of youthfulness. It’s hard to take that image and successfully overlay the physical person they are today. But that image is stuck in my mind… They know which pictures I’m talking about!

You see, someone always remember us as we were…not as we are. And I always remember so many by a different age than they are today. What brings this up?

Yesterday, my dad had a heart attack. Hospital. Blocked artery. Operation. Stent. Do I need to go home? Let’s play it by hear. Then I talked to him in ICU and found out that he may go home within a day. Marvelous technology! Doctors can do so much, but there is only so much they can do if the body is beyond repair. His wasn’t!

However, the one thing a doctor cannot do his rebuild his image to what he was in those youthful years. I met him when I was born, and he was nearly 25 years old. My memory is not fixed to that birth day, rather, I see him a few years later in my mind as a man not quite 30 years old. Curly hair. Mischievous smile. Beautiful singing voice. He loved to laugh and reminisce about life at an earlier age before I knew him. And boy does he love to drink coffee and play Texas 42!

Here was a man who could work up a sweat and do it all day long.

WashtubIn fact, one of my fondest memories is in the fall of 1961. After Hurricane Carla. While cutting up those 60 trees that had come down in the storm, he found a bees nest. Honey! Smoke ’em out! Rob that hive! Dad walked into that smokey cauldron and shoveled and loaded the honey into a number 3 washtub for us to enjoy. With a shovel! Yes. He got stung. I think. But boy did we enjoy the experience! I see him. Right now. As I think about that day!

That one memory sort of places him in my mind at a certain age – let’s say he would have been 31… Just 30 years younger than I am today. Though I see him with natural eyes as a graying 86 year old today, I remember fondly that time of 55 years ago…and know I will always have him pictured as he was back then.

Love you dad! Get well… See you soon!


Apophenia, Revisited

Apophenia…. Palindrome… Onomatopoeia…

(Revisited, and Updated!)

Scrabble - WordsWhile making a little trip with my wife yesterday, I commented that the day was unique day for those of us who like to see pattern in things. I pulled over to the side of the road and grabbed my cell phone and opened it up to the calendar page and, at the appropriate time, I screen copied 11/11/11 at 11:11 a.m. … Don’t believe me? Well, consider this – I made sure that at 11:11 p.m. I duplicated my morning effort! Still don’t believe me?

Here’s a screen shot of my files on my iPhone!

11/11/11 - 11:11 a.m. and p.m.
11/11/11 – 11:11 a.m. and p.m.

I know my mind works differently than others around me. I am not a conspiracy theorist, nor a gazer at stars and planets to find patterns, nor even a gambler trying to find patterns in the world around me to gain the upper hand on a randomly selected group of numbers. Still, I do pay attention to things around me to find balance.

Patterns are a fact of life. We see them in numbering schemes to help memorize charts of ascending and descending counts. When someone tells me it’s 240,000 miles to the moon (average distance) and it’s 25,000 miles around the earth (rounded), then I determine that it’s nearly 10 times as far to the moon as it is to travel around our globe (actually, it’s 9.6 times, but who’s counting extra digits of rounding?!!). Then when we see that it’s 93 million miles from earth to the sun, I figure out we would have to go around the earth 67 times (rounded). Oh, I wished I had studied math better in school!!

Having been a programmer for many years, I often noticed the pattern of code that helps to point to problem resolution, or even to code successfully. Especially, if code is aligned to certain columns. A broken pattern can point to broken code… Trust me. I know what “I’m” talking about!

Where does this pattern noticing come from? Those pictures you would often see in a mall that required you to let you eyes sort of lose focus so that you can see the hidden picture – these generally baffle me and I seldom see what others so easily see. Still, my subconscious works through the world around me and every so often a pattern emerges and for those I cannot help but to stop and think about it.

In fact, most of my work career has shown me that there is indeed a “pattern” to numbers, letters, and words. My uncle Henry showed me a phrase that can be read the same forward, or backward, while making allowance for spacing of letters to make the words appear. These are called “palindromes”… I have shared this a lot, what Henry showed me nearly 30 years ago!  Here’s what I remember:

A Man, A Plan, A Canal – Panama

Try it… Read it from the backwards forward, making allowances for spaces to form the words! Many sentences and paragraphs have been written just so this event can happen! It’s a real mind twister…

Still, this is not a pattern easy to discern. It is easier to see patterns in numbers. Repeating numbers, sequentially ordered numbers, and even numbers that can be uniquely calculated to show a result that has patternicity.  This new millennium has given us an opportunity to see these patterns that show up every 100 years.

01/01/01, 02/02/02, 03/03/03, 04/04/04,
05/05/05, 06/06/06 (some like the fact that this was 6/6/6),
07/07/07, 08/08/08, 09/09/09, 10/10/10, 11/11/11, 12/12/12

Then, add the same time of the day, and you have created a very pattern! Capture it at the correct time and you have living proof of a pattern! We have one more year to see this work out and then we move into higher numbers that will goof up our synchronicity view point.

The questions is, does this mean anything? The answer is – you tell me!

In 1958 Klaus Conrad penned the word, “apophenia” that:

“… described this phenomenon in relation to the distortion of reality present in psychosis, but it has become more widely used to describe this tendency without necessarily implying the presence of neurological differences or mental illness.”

Uh oh… He’s likening the focus of seeing patterns in things as something related to mental illness! Quick, quit thinking… hey did you notice that the first two words of this sentence began with “qui” (is this a pattern of something and where do I find how to fit this into meaning in my life?) and this makes me realize that most words that begin with Q are often followed by U and a vowel. You know. A, E, I, O or U. Makes it quite interesting to the quick mind who has quit trying to be dis-quieted by seemingly inconsequential (okay, maybe an E falls into place every so often) patterns in things that mean absolutely nothing!

Essentially then, apophenia is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. This phenomenon has found application in many different areas of life:

  • Some use these patterns to define opportunity to gamble on an opportunity with the hopes of winning big
  • Some see conspiracy theories evolve as these patterns show forth. And, in fact, many popular novels of late have delved into the study of patterns – the authors have made great sums of money feeding off of our desire to assume these theories might be based in reality.
  • Even in religion, regardless of which one you choose, patterns often emerge and followers base past, present and future understanding of events on these patterns. Although some may be truth, many are just our desire to search out for the pattern that will explain the mysteries of life.

Other similar scientific sounding words are often used to document this pattern seeking process – patternicity, onomatopoeia, synchronicity…

Regardless, there are definitely patterns of numbers that can be found in anything.

Yesterday (11/11/11) and the day before (11/10/11) can be arranged into numerical streams of numbers that read 111111 and 111011 respectively. To any programmer we see these numbers as binary – the original coding language of all computers. Even today binary code is simply the storage location of data where one bit (it takes 8 bits to make a byte or character of data) is either charged (1) or not charged (0), and like a light switch, electricity (magnetism) is either on (1) or off (0). Still, 6 digits of binary stream must be manipulated in order to make it into a binary code, because you need 8 bits to decode. Do we assume then that “00” is added to the front of the number stream or behind?

  • If it’s before then 00111111 = ? and 00111011 = ;
  • If it’s after then the data becomes essentially garbage and that makes no sense for this blog

Of course, in order for all of this to work we have to ignore the fact that the year is really 2011, not simply 11. In binary, the only numbers that work are “1” and “0”. Again, in reality it only works because we like shortcuts to everything around us. All you need to do is read the text of this modern world to see how we like to shorten things. Imagine if Shakespeare had been able to text: 2B or not 2B…! An artist might think he’s talking about the selection of a pencil, while a texter might realize he’s actually saying: To be or not to be…

So, this is  how my mind works. I take off down these quirky (qui…) paths and file away the knowledge until such day that a pattern emerges and I can be satisfied that I “already knew that”!!!

One last thing… I do not know Hollywood, but they did create a movie and called it 111111… I’m sure there’s nothing there, do you think? Besides, if you were to watch it today you would be one day too late… Hmmm… One Day… Is a pattern emerging?


Life = A Lot of “I Don’t Know!”

When did you ever think you had life completely figured out?

Sam Gross - Meaning of LifeWas it when you grabbed your diploma as you left your teenage years behind? Or perhaps it started when you added a “-teen” to an age. Maybe, just maybe, you figured it out yesterday and awoke to a completely different comprehension of life today!

Regardless, we seldom figure out the intricacies of life from the macro view, much less the micro view. The best we often accomplish is figuring it out as we go, making the best of the choices we made earlier, and hoping that the next step we take will be okay.

There was a time when I trusted everyone. Then life happened and I had to start choosing who to trust, and with what can I trust them. Now, before you shake your head and wag your finger at me, I know… This is exactly what you are thinking about me. Can I trust you? With what can I extend this trust?

citckijGiven. We are on each side of the coin. Heads. Yes. Tails. No. Go ahead and flip the coin and make sure you have it right with the answer!

I’ve always trusted the parents in our lives to understand what was right, good and necessary in order to direct my choices. But the time came when my choices were not coached by their voices, but their influence remained. And will remain for a long time to come. Just like I hear my grandparents coaching them, I know there is power to the words and choices I make. I wonder if my kids think the same thing? I pray they do!

Still, the time comes when we simply shrug our shoulders and say, “I don’t know!” (IDK in twitter speak…)

How do you handle these answers to life questions? For the most part, I love to research and find the answer! The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing… So, I pose questions to myself when attempting to figure out life as it is presented…and I attempt to hear the voices of influence as they speak to the issue.

Can I clarify the question?
What do I need to do to understand the choices?
How does it apply to my present and future choices?
What is the best possible direction or answer?
What will it cost? Do I have sufficient to cover the price?
Does it make sense?
Is there a downside? An upside?
Can I live with the results?
If I have to make a choice now, is the solution an emotional choice?
Can I sleep on it?
Will I be able to keep my commitment to the solution?

It’s these kinds of questions that I ask, answer, and hope the results reflect the correct choice! I’ve done this a number of times when deciding about careers and jobs, whether to spend money on repairs or replacements, even determining the best way to spend my money and time!

Pro and COnIt begins with a simple accounting “T” on a piece of paper. Label the left side “Pro’s” and the right side “Con’s”… Then be as brutally honest as possible, write the good under the left side, and the “not so good” under the right side. Then, think it through, pray about it, find someone to help me see the problem in a different light, and then the resulting choice is all about what I THINK is the best answer to the situation.

Here’s the rub… Once a decision is met, and the direction becomes our focus, we have to pay for the consequences of our choices. The author of Hebrews says it like this:

Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. (Hebrews 9:27 MSG)

I just want to make good choices so that the consequences are the best possible one for me, and those that my choices will impact.

Path. Purpose. Passion. 

It was a busy week…the last several weeks, in fact.

Olympic Medals Rio 2016I am not much of an Olympic follower. There are many stories of great success, and even success in failure. For four years, or more, Olympiads have been rushing down a path with purpose and passion. They aim for a goal, perhaps a medal, or at least a personal best. They strain and train. They compete. Winners, one and all, but those medal winners are considered to be the “Best of the Best.”

All I can say is, “Whew. Olympic games are over!” and maybe life will return to normal for casual followers. School is in session. The World Wide Little League competitions with teams from many continents, countries and cultures. Football starts soon, local, college and Pro. Couch potatoes are in “hog heaven”!

But for those athletes of the the Olympic games, many of them will take a short break and then start from their platform and launch into a new 4 year span of preparing for the next games in Tokyo!

That’s the path of a winner! That comes from someone who knows where they are going. They have purpose that spans years, and they must dig out the passion to train and trial when there are no immediate rewards. I bet they already have their new goals in place and check-list compiled for the next games!

One Chinese Gold winner, Fu Yuanhui, was translated as saying:

“Only ghosts know what I have endured in the past three months. Sometimes I thought I was going to die. The training sessions for the Olympics are a fate worse than death,” she said at one point.

She dipped into her “pre-historic energy” and likened the effort of having the Force of Star Wars helping her! And she did not even know she had won when she emerged from the event! I will not be surprised to see her competing in Tokyo!

How do I replicate their effort in my own personal walk of life?

The older I get the less energy I have to compete on any Olympic level, so my focus is toned down to more practical goals – refuse to be a couch potato! Get and stay in a better health condition. Continue to fulfill God’s calling on my life. Be a good, no, great, family man. Keep plugging away at the financial needs of a retiring life. Make good decisions. Live the life of a wise person, not a fool. Keep emotional control, even in the face of withering storms. Develop and keep friends that help carry my load and are there for me to carry their loads! Love my wife with continued undying love. Yearn for a more even keeled approach to doing and accomplishing.

There is NO WAY my life does not stay busy, day to day! There is much to continue doing, and much to pick up and do better.

So. What’s your path? Your purpose? Are they fulfilled by your passion? If yes, then Good! If not, then you need to figure out which path and purpose are completed by your passion, or you better find where your passion intends on taking you!

In the after experience of Egypt, Moses was overwhelmed by his responsibilities. Much as we are when suddenly thrust into a role we have not truly prepared for. God called him. God ordained him for a particular path and purpose. He is the God ordained leader of millions! Big decisions. Little decisions. In fact, every decision comes from him. There is no real organization to the madness. Not only is he the leader on a global scale, he is also the judge over the disputes that normally arise at personal levels.

He is over worked!

Finally, he listened to wise counsel from his father-in-law (Yes! In-laws do have good things to add to the discussion!)

So when Moses’ father-in-law [Jethro] saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” (Exodus 18:14-16 NKJV)

Jethro gives order to the chaos. Moses obeys. Life is not only smoother, but a better path, purpose and stronger passion is realized… (Read the rest of the story here.) A better pathway to success is found! Clearer purpose on leadership is fostered! Passion gets restored for the bigger picture!

Sound familiar? I’m talking to my self right now… Read and Heed…Then be like Pete and Repeat… Keep speaking. Keep practicing it. Over. And over. Again. And again. Players will come and go, but the process is always there. Fully developed. Fully maintained. Fully available to all.


Yesterday Was Day of Rest

That was yesterday…and now it’s History!

2016-08-20 06.52.08Sunday morning is not some laid back restful place, like it was yesterday. At least not for me. It is getting up and moving early so as to put some final polish on my morning sermon.

It’s making sure I have everything ready to take with me (…and still I forget things…).

Finally, when is all said and done,
I will hopefully have a few moments to self
and will enjoy the start, or maybe the end, of the day.

Most may not understand this, but Sunday is often a day of “work” for me. It’s not a day off mentality.

It’s also not what I live for as a pastor. Sunday is often the culmination of all the “stuff” of the prior week, more than it is a kick off for the week yet to arrive. Seldom is this day spent in idle contemplation, or relaxation. It is a work day… And I am totally okay with it. Since my wife works a normal job this often means Saturday is our only time off together for the entire week. We may get an evening together, here or there, but with OT, phone calls, school, etc. we are often busy with our respective duties.

Sunday follows Saturday. Saturday ends out the week. God said we would work 6 days and have 1 day of rest and since Sunday is a work day, then Saturday is our personal day of rest. And I want to obey God with this day!

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11 NKJV)

I treasure Saturdays off – a few tasks to do around the house, a nice dinner with the kids to celebrate this, that and the other, and some pure lazy time if I need it.

But I love Sunday morning. I get up between 4-4:30 and begin a morning routine that is unique to me for my day. No one else needs to follow it – this is simply who I am.

Still, I love Sunday morning. The house is very quiet. The sun is still down. Nothing is moving. It’s really my time to enjoy.

Hope you love your Sunday morning!