Friday, March 30, 2012

On Faith

Last night was really cool. I got invited to the Confirmation dinner at our church where I sat down to a meal with several friends. The meal was a good time but the key event of the night was the presentation of the statements of faith by the 8th grade students that had completed the confirmation class.

Ok, what is a confirmation class? It's a class that spans several months in which young people are confirming their baptisms. A very large number of families in our church baptize children when they are infants or toddlers. Most people that age aren't really in a position to make an affirmation of what baptism represents. So, starting at 8th grade, the young folks are able to take the confirmation class in order to "confirm" their baptism and their acceptance of their faith.

The class incorporates pairing the youth with a more mature mentor and several classroom sessions on church history, doctrine, biblical teaching, and open discussion about following Jesus. At the end of the period, the Youth (called confirmands) put together their statement of faith and present it to a collection of church elders, clergy, and advisors. That's what happened after the dinner.

It was an amazing time. I have known many of the confirmands since they were toddlers and watched them grow up. It was great to see and hear their statements. I was blown away by how these young men and women talked about the concept of faith and how it has and does impact their realities. Too see that a group of people often characterized as ADD or immature could approach something with this much insight and caring was very inspiring to me.

Along with being very happy for these young people, I was challenged to take a deeper look at how I express my faith. How do I talk about it? How do my actions reflect what I do/don't believe? How do I server God in my home, my work, and elsewhere in my life? Do people see God in my life or is He a well kept secret?

Not sure what the answers are to all of these questions. As I dig into them more over the next days and weeks, I'll post more about them.

Have you ever developed a "faith statement?" What struggles have you had trying to describe your faith to someone?

On the scale

I'm 2 weeks into doing a 5K training program and have run about 11 miles in the past week and a half. That seems to have helped move things along as the scale reported this today:


Another pound towards the goal of 200lbs. That also brings the pledge amount to $40: $20 for Love146 and $20 for To Write Love On Her Arms. These are two great organizations and if you feel called to help support one or both of them, please let me know what you would like to pledge - a flat amount, a number of dollars per pound I lose, etc. Thanks in advance....

Photo credit to The U.S. National Archives on

Friday, March 23, 2012

On Sons

Having been a son my whole life (after being born at such an early age), you might think that I would be an expert on the subject by now.

Turns out that's not really the case... at least for the dealing with the early years.

It should go without saying that boys are different from girls in a lot of ways (I'm not going into most of the differences - this isn't THAT kind of blog). But somehow I'm still surprised by certain things my son does that his older sisters didn't.

Two of these things are 1) a strong desire to basically try to destroy just about anything at least once and 2) an inability to sit still for more than about 7.5 seconds.

This came home in a very clear way when he had to take a steroid medication recently. The doctor said that it could "increase his activity level a little, so don't give it to him right before bed." Had I been more in tune with things at the moment here's what I should of heard, "This will be like throwing gasoline on a fire. A really big fire."

Wow. Within 30 minutes of the 1st dose, we had a small human buzz saw in our living room. His sisters, who are used to him trying to use them as jungle gyms, practice targets for lightsabers, and good training for Nerf guns, were exposed to a new level of terror. I was fearful for my own well being a few times (I did not escape unscathed...)

This lasted for at least an hour before subsiding to a more manageable level of mayhem. The next dose (only one a day Thank God!) was a little less dramatic, but maybe because most everyone cleared the area when they heard it was medicine time.

But these meds, and steroids in general, list side effects that can include "anger and frustration". What does that mean? It means that coming down from the brightly burning energetic phase leads into a slow, smoldering fuse that can flash into life and ignite amplified emotions.

This means that, after the immediate danger of the whirling dervish of 3 year old terror has subsided, we have a tantrum time bomb waiting to go off at the first utterance of the words "No" or "Time for bed."

I tell you all of this not to try to garner sympathy or show you just how much better you parenting skills are than my own (you are welcome). But instead, I wanted to say that I realized two things out of this situation this week. The first is that I'm sure I probably owe my parents some deep apologies for the ways I acted and the things I did over the years that I didn't even realize were "bad".

The second thing is that I realized that, regardless of how old we are, most of us have the ability to be an amp'ed up 3 year old. Not necessarily on the activity level or with the wanton destruction of physical items but more at the root level - we want what we want, we want it now, and we deserve to have it or be able to do it when we want and how we want.

Many of us restrain acting on this, at least publicly, because of decorum, laws, reputation, etc. But that is just training ourselves to act a certain way or play a part. We haven't done anything about the real issue - our hearts.

In Proverbs chapter 4, King Solomon is giving advice to his children. He speaks often of the importance of seeking (and gaining wisdom) and then, down in verse 23 he hits on the thing I have found to be most important:

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Proverbs 4:23, NLT)

In other words, it really matters what's under the surface (in your heart) and not just your public actions. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Luke:

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. (Luke 6:45, NLT)

We must pay attention to the things within us, understand where they come from, and ultimately deal with them. It ain't easy (or maybe even possible) to do it on your own. We just aren't made that way. As hard as it would be for my young son to do it, even adults can't often do it because the issues and causes are so deeply rooted in the human existence.

But there is hope and help, in my personal experience. I've been learning, and still am learning, to look to God to help me. By understanding His love for me and what He wants for me (not just from me), I better understand that there is something better. To quite the Lord speaking through Ezekiel:

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT)

 It's not about following some moral code or set of rules to show that I'm good, or even good enough. It's about reacting to the love that God has for me and accepting Him and that what He has for me is greater. This leads to a change of heart and a desire to follow - instead of a reluctant outward adherence to a set of laws.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on matters of the heart as well as any stories you have about God changing a heart (yours or someone else's). I'm also open to any questions on the matter as long as you understand that I'm not a pastor or Bible scholar...

From matters of the heart to matters of the waistline....

The scale told me this today


Another pound. It feels good to have 2 weeks of forward progress. I'm looking to make it more....

Photo credit to The U.S. National Archives on

Friday, March 16, 2012

On Dads

In the past week, two friends have had their fathers pass away. It shakes you up to see this happen to people your own age and then think about the similarities in age to your own parents.

At the service for the first gentleman, I was blown away at the things that people had to say about him. He was a pretty amazing man and, as a football coach in his younger days, was able to make an impact in many people's lives. He never really stopped touching people's lives even after coaching either and several people, former players and coaches, as well as simple friends, talked about what kind of man he was.

But it was the incredible moments during which one of his daughters spoke that moved me to tears and gave me a lot to reflect on during my long drive home. The young lady had written a letter to her late father and she read it at the funeral services.

Within a tale of the unconditional love that her father had for her, she pointed out things about his character and about how he taught her life lessons through the way he lived.

I won't go into all the details but I will say that I drove home with a pretty big sense of, what was it? Was it guilt? Fear? Worry? I'm not sure to be exact. But the main thing on my mind was "Am I doing all that I can to be the best father that I can be to my kids?"

And especially for my daughters. I call them out because I feel that, with them, it is the easiest to mess up. Why? Because daughters don't just look to dads for lessons on what kind of behaviors and character to have, they also look to their dads to show them what a "Man" is supposed to be like. Ultimately, how they see me will probably greatly influence the sort of man they look for as they grow into women.

I will admit right here that I don't often intentionally think about how I'm impacting the emotional life of my children. And that's a big (huge) shortcoming and not fair to them at all.

I'm wide open to suggestions and encouragement from those of you that have daughters out there. What have been your successes and failures in this arena? What are you doing there day to day?

The Quest Continues....
Another week and another trip to the scales. From looking back on the week, I feel like I did better this week. There was some "cheating" on the weekend but nothing like before.

I also looked at the LiveStrong data for te week and see that, indeed, I did do better overall for the week.

So, then, I looked at the scale to see what it had to say about the week. It's reply?


Apparently, the scale is in agreement with the rest. That makes 1.5lbs for the week. I'll take it!

Here's this week's LiveStrong data: Week 10

Photo credit to The U.S. National Archives on

Friday, March 9, 2012

On Being Useful

I've got this hang-up about being useful. Call it codependence or a need for acceptance and validation or some other psych terminology. I'm aware of it and deal with it in some good and some bad ways.

That being said, here are 2 things on being useful that came through my feed recently.

The first is from a pretty well respected blogger/author who has had a long career in software development and made the jump from programmer to technical management. That's the same basi trajectory of my career: Graduate college and get hired to write software. Lead a small team. Lead a bigger team. Run a department. VP of Engineering for a software company.... There is a prevalent concern with folks in that track that they will cease to be "productive" and, therefore, not useful. Here's what Rands says on the matter:

My deep-rooted fear of becoming irrelevant is based on decades of watching those in the tech industry around me doing just that - sitting there busily doing things they’ve convinced themselves are relevant, but are just Faux-things-to-do wrapped in a distracting sense of busy. One day, they look up from their keyboard and honestly ask, “Right, so, what’s Dropbox?”

And then I found this piece written by Oswald Chambers in the daily devotional "My Utmost for His Highest":

The issue is never of being of use to God, but of being of value to God himself. Once we are totally surrendered to God, He will work through us all the time. 

Just a few things to ponder...

Now, "On being Fat...."

Yeah, I'm in a mood today. Guess why....


That's a half pound gain for the week. And no wonder, the weekends are killing me. I gotta figure out why eating is such an overriding thought for me this time. In 2010, it just wasn't occupying so much of my thoughts but now it's on my mind all the time... Ugh.

Here's the LiveStrong data for Week 9.

Photo credit to contemplative imaging.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Anti-Social Media

No, I am NOT against social media. I've had a Facebook account for years as well as being one of the earlier adopters of Twitter.

What the title of this post is shooting for is the idea that being connected isn't really being connected. That is, I can have 500 friends on Facebook and 400 followers on Twitter (what do you do on Pinterest? I have no clue.) and be no closer to having any real relationships.

What I've noticed about myself lately is that I'm not doing much of anything on any of the social media sites except for browsing/scanning what's there. I might pop a "Happy Birthday" to someone if Facebook reminds me. I post links to this blog each week. But I'm not engaging anyone on there.

I think a lot of people do the same thing (and a whole lot don't). It's just too easy to hide from people on social media. Being face to face with a monitor or phone screen is nothing like being face to face with a person.

Plus, it takes some time and effort to meet with someone or at least have a real time discussion with them (phone, skype, video chat) without multi-tasking (like chat and IM). And most people feel valued when someone takes time or puts some effort into them.

So, back to the title, while some people absolutely love that Facebook, Twitter, etc can connect them to a lot of people and give them avenues of engagement, there are a lot of people who push deeper into being "anti-social" because of it. For me personally, I've pulled back a lot because it's easier to "hide" than it is to engage and, honestly, part of me wants to know who thinks I'm worth the effort.... Selfish, I know. But it is how I feel.

On to the Quest! I started this week off with a one-two punch of being disappointed with last week's results and with having a weekend with friends at the house. That turned into a "cheat" weekend that involved a combo meal from Zaxby's, pizza and cheese bread fromLittle Ceasars, and something called a Super Sonic Bacon Double Cheeseburger (nom nom). I felt so bad on Monday that I wondered if I should just throw in the towel.

But, I rallied and got back on track keeping the rest of the week right at or below the new 1700 calorie per day level. So, with much trepidation, I stepped up on the scale this morning and saw


Whew! I finally cracked the 240 mark. And didn't completely blow it with the wanton weekend. I don't think I'm going to make the cheat a regular part of the plan but it was good to see that I'm not back into my old habits of "Well, I messed up a little so I might as well dive into the mistakes all the way." Old me would have stretched the weekend into a week. And then the week into a few weeks. And so forth...

It's a good thing future me has current me looking out for him....

Here is the link to this week's LiveStrong data: Week 8

Photo credit to Krypto