Category Archives: personal

Workin’ for the Man – Part 3

jim-trombone-1977.jpg Music Librarian

At Newberry College as a music major, I worked in the music library for a short time. I have no strong memories of the music library. It was a job that gave me a little spending money. I was a student at Newberry for two years majoring in Music Education. The funny thing is, I didn’t want to be a music teacher. Does that make sense? It didn’t make sense to me either so I dropped out much to the chagrin of my parents.

I was quiet and kept to myself a lot, but I loved to perform… still do. I wish I had talked out my feelings about school and career and sought the wisdom of others. I don’t wish that because of regret for my choices. I wish it now because it would have been healthier for me emotionally then. I was pretty headstrong and sure of myself. On the inside I was scared of the future and unsure that I was really making wise decisions. In a way, I think I was full of questions and afraid to ask them.

I have a lot of fond memories of Newberry College. We had an excellent jazz ensemble and I got to play trombone a lot. (If you click that goofy picture, you can see the rest of the Jazz Ensemble). I had some pretty good chops back then… not as good as I thought I had, but pretty good 🙂 Each year, the jazz program brought in a world class professional jazz musician to do a clinic and play a concert with our band as the backup. They featured some really big names too. Each year, they rotated through the different sections of the band. My first year was trumpet year and they brought in Marvin Stamm. I remember Marvin as being a “health nut”, which meant that he was a runner and ate yogurt. One of the trumpet players in our band, Steve Wentzky, in imitation of Marvin, began eating yogurt like there was no tomorrow. Sadly, instead of making him a better trumpeter it led to kidney stones. The doctors had to open up his back to get them out, which meant no trumpet for several months. I felt so bad for him. He was a really good trumpet player. In fact, he played for Jeanie’s and my wedding.

My second (and last) year was trombone year, the year that they featured a pro trombonist. This was extra special for me because I was the only music major whose main instrument was trombone. Much to my delight, they decided to feature Bill Watrous , who was the number one trombonist around. I was beside myself. It felt like they had brought him in for me alone even though their choice was merely because it was trombone year.

I know this post was more about school than work, but it’s my blog and I can write what I want to. Tongue out

Next time, the beginning of my musical instrument repair career.

Workin’ for the Man Series

Workin’ for the Man – Part 2

This is part two of a series about my work career…

Sheet Metal Mechanic’s Helper

elbow.jpg Much like my first job, this was working for one of my dad’s sub-contractors. In the 1970’s we didn’t have flexible duct work like I see in houses today. Air Conditioning ducts were either sheet metal boxes that we had to custom make or hard sheet metal pipe. All the sheet metal and pipe was stored at the shop where we met at the beginning of each day. We, helpers would be assigned to work with a crew each day. Sometimes it was mildly interesting. Mostly it was hot, hard and miserable work. Even though we were working on AC, we didn’t get to enjoy AC for ourselves. I was paid minimum wage (about $3/hr) and with overtime, I could bring home over $100 in a week! That made it all worth while.

The owner of the company and I had a few unpleasant episodes. He was not a happy man. angry-boss.jpgOnce in the middle of the day, he was away and there were two or three crews at the shop making ductwork for our jobs… only we weren’t actually doing much of that. We were all sitting around or lying on the tables shooting the breeze. The owner drove up into the parking lot and everyone jumped up and started looking busy. Everyone but me, I should say. I wondered why the others thought we needed to pretend that we were busy when we weren’t. I guess I felt that we should be the same whether he’s around or not. Deep down, I can see that I had a good desire to be transparent. Had it been a perfect world, the incident might have turned out differently. As it was, I got an ass chewing that I won’t soon forget (it has been over 30 years). Although this probably wasn’t the message he wanted me to take away, I learned the importance of “not drawing attention to one’s self” and “always looking busy when the boss is around.” That lesson has haunted me ever since and has kept me from being as productive as I could be. I wish I could unlearn it easier.

One day I was assigned to a sheet metal mechanic from Vietnam. I have two memories of that day. First thing was that he was late for work, so on the way to the job site, we swung by his house to pickup breakfast that his wife had made. She had made some sort of egg roll looking dish, which he shared with me. I don’t know what was in it, but it stays in my memory as one of the best things I ever ate. Later that day, I asked him a rather insensitive question, but I wanted to know. I asked, “Why do your people always have names like, ‘Hong’ or ‘Wong’ or ‘Fong’?” His answer was perfect. He looked me in the eye and replied, “Why your people always have names like, ‘Jimmy’?” I didn’t ask him anything else.

One day, we had more helpers than we needed and I was designated to stay behind and clean the shop. Cleaning the shop consisted of sweeping the floors and straightening out the bins. The bins were wire cages in a storage room where the different sizes and shapes of pipe were separated. That room was a complete wreck! I started picking up pieces of pipe and throwing them in the right bin, but quickly realized that I wasn’t really making it any better because the pipe that was already in the bin wasn’t the size that belonged there. I realized that the only way to straighten the bins was to empty them completely then put everything back in its place, so I did it. It took all day to finish, but when I was done it looked great! Everything was in its place and the whole place was neat. When the crews came back at the end of the day, they were amazed. They had never seen that room so neat. Someone must have told the owner because he took a look and even he complimented me on what a good job I had done! Takeaway lesson of that day, “I like organizing things and I’m good at it.” In fact I still like to organize things. I think that’s why I enjoy working with databases so much.

Next time, My exciting and short career as a music librarian. Stay tuned.

Workin’ for the Man Series

Workin’ for the Man – Part 1

manhole.gif My cousin, Fernando asked me recently what other kind of work I had done before I turned geek, and why I am not doing that anymore. I kinda put it on the back burner for a while. However, since this blog is all about letting my family know who I am, I thought I’d tell a few work stories. These are the many types of jobs I have held over the years. Please forgive me if I mess up the chronology of it all.

  • Electrician’s Helper
  • Sheet Metal Mechanic’s Helper
  • Music Librarian
  • Apprentice to a Brass Musical Instrument Technician
  • Manufacturing Woodstove mats
  • Tree Planter/Tree Killer
  • Forest Firefighter
  • Painter
  • Iron Worker
  • Cook / Restaurant Manager
  • Musical Instrument Repair Technician
  • Business Owner
  • Computer Programmer
  • Other IT stuff

I will chop it into a few separate entries and then in the end, I may join them together in their own page.

Electrician’s Helper

When I was finishing my 8th grade year of school, my dad (a homebuilding contractor) arranged for me to work for his electricical subcontractor, Heyward. I was legally too young to work, but Heyward paid my $25 a week (a princely sum for me) out of his pocket. The work was hard and hot and I am sure that I wasn’t a good worker. Once while digging a ditch for an electrical wire, I was so tired and uninspired that I stopped to rest. I started working again when the boss arrived. I don’t remember him being angry, but he didn’t let me off the hook completely either. He told me that the way to do it is to work when the boss isn’t around so when he arrives, you can stop and shoot the breeze with him. Good advice. I learned to install plugs and switches in houses. The hard part (at least for a youngster) is installing the cover plates on the wall after they have painted without getting the wall dirty. Although I am sure I didn’t recognize it at the time, it was a great experience for me. Thanks Dad.

Next time, I’ll tell a story or two about being a Sheet Metal Mechanic’s Helper…

Workin’ for the Man Series


reader.png I did something different tonight. I photo-read The World Café, a book about creating environments where we can encourage and explore conversations that matter. My friend, John recommended it. When John tells me he thinks I’ll like a book, he’s usually right on target.

I like the idea of creating “café” environments where we invite a diverse mix of people, ask important questions, encourage everyone to share freely, “cross polinate” ideas, observe and look for the emerging ideas in-between the spoken thoughts. It reminds me of another book I read about a year ago, The Wisdom of Crowds , in which the underlying message is that all of us are smarter than any one of us. It is an idea that intrigues me and stirs me.

I find that most of the conversations I am a part of are about unimportant things and I do not feel compelled to jump in with my ideas. Sometimes I have the courage to inject some of my thoughts and try to steer the conversation into a dialog about things that matter. That opens the door to ridicule, bewilderment or silence. Every once in a while, it leads to a bigger conversation. One statement stirs another person to say something that stirs someone else and before you know it, we are talking about things that matter.

I started this entry with the intention of talking about photoreading, not the World Café. Disclaimer: I am not recommending any “PhotoReading” course. I have never taken any course or studied it formally to make such a recommendation. I just want to tell you about what I did tonight 🙂

I first ran across the idea of PhotoReading on another blog where a course was being offered at a substantial discount. I have read enough articles on this blog to have some respect for his integrity. While I do not always agree with the author, I feel sure that if he says he uses the system and likes it, he does. It was enough to pique my curiosity, which lead me to search the web about it. Of course the comments I found ranged from its being a waste of money to a life saver. I learned enough to decide that I didn’t need to spend $100 to find out more. I learned enough to try it all by myself. Here’s what I did:

  1. Sat up straight at the kitchen table with good light
  2. Looked over the book to see how it felt, type size and style, length of chapters etc.
  3. Looked closely over the table of contents to see how the book was laid out and what it covered
  4. Closed my eyes and breathed deeply for about a minute to help clear my mind
  5. Read the book by scanning each page. Took about 2-3 seconds per page, not worrying about getting all of the content
  6. Three or four times, I stopped for a break to stretch or go to the… well to take a break.
  7. After about two hours, I had read the book completely!

Thoughts about the experience:

  • The layout of the pages changed between 2 or 3 styles. Some pages were printed all the way across, while others were a narrower column with a wide margin. Some pages had lots of graphics and a few were laid out completely differently to put a lot of organized info on a page. The differences slowed me down.
  • I found that on the wider pages, my eyes were following a figure eight motion on each paragraph. On the narrower pages, I could simply scan them in a single, linear motion.
  • A few times, I read a page or two and realized that my mind had completely wandered to something else and I went back to re-read them. While this was mostly frustrating, more than once, my wandering mind was imagining applications for the information. That was neat.
  • Normally, this book would have taken me about a month to read. I wonder if I got as much out of the book reading it in one sitting as I would have reading it “normally”. My guess is that I got more out of it this way. When I read slowly getting every word, I don’t remember everything I read. I don’t remember every word now either, but I don’t think that is that the point.
  • The thoughts I shared at the beginning of this blog entry were from memory.  I don’t know how well I captured the whole book, but I do remember some of it 🙂
  • I could not have done this if there had been any distractions.
  • I really wanted to read this book, so that was a big motivator.

I said this was something new. It is actually my second photoreading session. I recently photoread, The Papa Prayer and then immediately re-read it “normally”. The second time through, I got more of the details. I wasn’t sure if it would feel like a second reading. It did.

Will I do it again? Definitely! Will I read every book like this? Probably not. I can’t imagine reading a novel this way.

What do you think? Have you ever tried anything like this? Would you? If you do, let me know what it was like for you. If you buy the program, I’d be interested in hearing about that too.

Growing From the Edges

broken-jim.jpgIn my last post, The San Francisco Trip , I wrote…

We had a great time and a few adventures ; some planned and some not so planned. I am learning that the unplanned adventures are where growth occurs… or not. These are the places where it is possible to get un-stuck.

This is about the unplanned adventure…

The Adventure

The night of the Alcatraz tour, Jeanie and I drove into San Francisco in the car while Justin and Erin came from Berkely on the BART (subway). We parked in a garage and they walked from the BART to Pier 33 where the Alcatraz tour meets. The tour was awesome and afterwards, we had dinner. We offered to drive Erin and Justin to the station because it would save them a mile long walk and also because it was getting close to the last BART run for the night. When we arrived at our garage, the doors were locked and the garage was closed for the night! We couldn’t believe it. In a big city like San Francisco, the garages close? We were without a car.

My feelings were running strong right then. I felt very tired; I was ready to stop walking and go to bed. I felt foolish for having parked in a garage that closed while we were out. I felt confused because I was tired and forced to make a decision that I had never been faced with before. I didn’t know what to do. We quickly discussed what to do next and came to the decision that we were all going on the BART to Berkeley for the night. We quickly realized that we no longer had the luxery of a drive to the BART, we had to walk… FAST to get there AND buy tickets for Jeanie and me before the last train.

We walked and walked and walked some more. Finally arrived at the station and there was a line to get tickets! ARGH! While I waited in line, Erin tried to buy them on the other side of the gates, but that didn’t work. I finally got to the ticket machine and called Justin over to me. I said, “Tell me what to do.” I didn’t have the luxury of time to figure out what to buy or how to tell the machine. He told me which buttons to push and everything was going just fine until the machine rejected my ATM card. I froze momentarily then decided to use the credit card. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t using the card I thought I was. I thought I was using my debit card, but it was a credit card. I said, “Oh, I used the wrong card,” as I put the right one in and typed my PIN. While I was doing that, Jeanie asked me, “Which card did you use?” I’m afraid, my response was not what I wished it had been. In the moment I snapped at her, I don’t remember the words, but the message I sent very strongly was, “It doesn’t matter which card I used, just leave me alone and let me do this!”

I got the tickets and we hurried down the escalator. Just as we stepped off the escalator, the train came to a stop in front of us. It was literally that close of a call. Had we missed the train, I am not sure what we would have done next. I am grateful that we didn’t have to make that decision. After we settled in for the ride, I apologized for snapping at her, but it was clearly not the right time to resolve the issue. We were both just too tired to think clearly. It was a very quiet ride to Berkeley.

When we got to their apartment, Erin was so wonderful. She got on the computer and printed out the instructions for us to ride the BART back the next morning and what bus to catch to avoid the long walk on the other side too. It was just what we needed and I was too sleepy to understand it the night before. We got back, got the car, complained to the garage attendent (who was sorry for us, but charged us the overnight fee regardless). We drove back to the hotel and begged for a little extra time to check out, which they were very gracious to allow us. (Thank you, Holiday Inn Express in Redwood City). Lastly, we checked out of the hotel and drove back to Berkeley to really visit with the newlyweds.

What I Learned

I was not happy with my behavior that night. I was feeling emotions very strongly for good reason and I couldn’t seem to control myself. The next day I was better able to articulate what I learned. On the way to the hotel, I asked Jeanie if I could tell her what I learned about myself. She listened as I shared my heart. I shared with her how I have a tendency (maybe even a need) to focus on a single thing at a time. When I am concentrating on a task, nothing else matters. If someone interrupts me when I am focused, I feel irritable because the thing I am focused on is all that matters to me. That ability to focus is a strength, but if I am not careful, I can run roughshod over people I care about all for the sake of a task. I feel like I want to be left alone and yet, I recognize my need for community.

Mostly what I took away from this experience is a feeling that I am in a bubble with a very thick skin. I try to keep my heart and emotions well within this skin where I have control over them. I imagine others living in similar bubbles. When we move close together, our skins rub agains one another and wear thin. It feels like the emotion escapes as I begin to lose control. It is in the connections, the places where the bubbles touch and rub agains one another that we have the ability to understand ourselves better and to grow. When I feel, and I know I am feeling, I can examine the emotion and ask what belief or desire is causing me to feel that emotion. In this way, I learn what my heart of hearts truly believes and what I really desire from my core being. Let me try to explain…

My friend, Curt used to say, “We say what we think, but we live what we believe.” I think that is true. The heart-belief I am talking about is from the core of our being rather than an intellectual belief that we talk about. It is the belief that is so much a part of us that it controls our behavior. shakerchair.jpgIt is the difference between saying, “I believe that chair will hold me up,” (intellectual belief) and sitting in the chair (heart belief).

What will happen on an emotional level if I sit in the chair and it works just like I expected it to? Nothing. What happens if the chair breaks beneath me as I sit on it? I will feel strongly. I may feel angry or embarrassed. Whatever the emotion, it is easy at that point to blame the chair, but the feelings don’t come from the chair. They come from my core belief that chairs are supposed to hold people when they sit on them.

My friend, John has taught me that if I can stop myself (while I am feeling strongly) and ask, “What am I feeling?” Then I can follow it with the next question, “What do I believe or desire that causes that feeling?” The belief may be true or not. The desire is probably good on some level although it may be expressed in an unhealthy way.

The cool thing is what I can learn from my emotions. When I feel, I can learn what my own desires and beliefs are! I can know myself better and as I know better who I am, I know better who God made me to be.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. –Psalm 139:23-24

The night of the adventure this is what I learned that I believed and desired…

  • I felt irritated because I believed I was the cause of our stressful situation — A false belief. I didn’t cause the situation.
  • I had a desire to fix the ticket problem and get to the train — A good desire.
  • I felt frustrated because I believed I should be able to answer Jeanie’s question and finish buying the ticket too — A good desire, but based on a false belief. I was unable to do that. I need to know my limitations.
  • I felt frustrated and pressured because of a fear that we were going to miss the train — A very likely possibility that fortunately did not come to pass.

I am thankful that I have a sweetheart who loves me in spite of myself and who is willing to listen to me and truly hear my heart. I am also thankful for a God who pursues me as if He really loves me. What a concept!

Getting Un-Stuck


A few months ago, I was stirred as I read this article, Feeling Stuck? Getting Past Impasse by Timothy Butler. Sometimes I like to try things out before I share my opinion. As I have applied the lessons, they rings true for me. It has changed my outlook and the way I approach life greatly. As I shared the lessons with my church group this morning, I realized it was time to share it with my blog community too.

Getting Unstuck

mudpuddle.jpg The first step in getting unstuck is realizing that I am stuck. It comes to me as a frustration or irritation. It feels like I’ve been here before many times and I didn’t like it. Yet, at the same time, it feel inevitable. Maybe I am doing something for the millionth time that I know I shouldn’t… but I just cannot help myself. Or maybe I am avoiding or procrastinating something that needs to be done. Maybe it feels like outside forces are pressing in on me, forcing change that I didn’t ask for and I do not want! I feel powerless to change me or the circumstances.

I feel stuck, (like my son-in-law, Mark with his jeep in the mud, but it isn’t fun). Just spinning my wheels. Going around in circles and never getting any closer to what I want. The most important life lesson, I have learned from this is that, as uncomfortable as the feeling of impasse is, it is necessary in order for me to grow. If I don’t feel the discomfort, I will have no reason to make adjustments.

Climbing the mountain

impasse.jpg Picture a narrow path around a mountain as an upward spiral of growth. As I move along the path, I am moving upwards towards a healthier life (physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally). Along the way, I encounter difficulties. I can ignore them for a time… but by choosing to ignore the impasse, I am also choosing to ignore the upward path. I may travel along happily around the mountain and be surprised to find myself back at the impasse. The impasse is unforgiving. It will not let you progress untill you deal with it. Like the person driving the car up the road in this photo. They are not getting up the mountain until they get past the bus that is sideways in the middle of the road

I can change plans, or I can just go around the mountain again, but when I return, there it will be. I can only go up the mountain (grow) by dealing with the impasse. How many people spend their whole lives running up against the same impasse over and over and over and… I don’t want to be like that.

Applying the principles

Dr. Butler has divided getting-past-impasse into six neat phases. While I don’t think life usually works out so elegantly as to fit the phases, it does give us a lens through which we can observe and learn… and grow. He starts with recognizing the impasse, moves to learning other ways to view and deal with it and ends with acting on what we have learned. I encourage you to read the article to understand all six phases and begin to give them a whirl.

There are two tools that Dr. Butler does not mention that, as a Christian, I feel are very important. The first “tool” is prayer: When I climb up on Daddy’s lap and tell him my troubles, He is faithful to listen and extend grace in my life. Grace in this sense is both forgiveness and help. That grace/help leads me to the second “tool”: My community of faith helps me to get through impasses in my life (I Pet 4:10). When I am vulnerable with Jeanie or one of my close friends and share my problems, they can listen, understand my situation and share their thoughts and advice. With their perspective, I can see things very differently, which helps me to rethink my approach. They also hold me accountable to do what I say I want to do. (“Accountability” sounds legalistic, but I don’t mean it that way. The difference between legalistic accountability and grace accountability is that with grace accountability, my community is merely encouraging me to do what I said I wanted to do. Legalistic accountability is telling me what I ought to do that I didn’t agree to).

So there you have it. To keep moving up the mountain is to get through the impasses that we face. It takes willingness, insight, faith, vulnerabilty and courage, but it is worth it. I encourage you to name an impasse in your life, imagine yourself on the other side of it, write it down, pray, seek counsel, courageously face the impasse and lastly, leave a comment to tell me what happens.

Back on the Horse

When I was a little guy, about 5-7 years old, I was visiting my grandparents in Southside, West Virginia. Their house was right across the road from a farm owned by the Hopson’s. I honestly don’t know what drew me to Hopson’s farm beyond the fact that I was not from the country, but I was drawn to it for sure. They had cows and pigs… probably a lot more animals than that, but cows and pigs are what I remember. The cows would graze near the road and “look in our eyes”! I don’t know if it was me or my brother who was scared of the cows “looking in our eyes”.

jim-on-pistol.jpg One day, I went for a ride on their horse, Pistol. Someone led me because I was not an experienced rider. I don’t know for sure who was there. What I do know is that they walked Pistol and me across the pasture to the other side, near the highway. What I didn’t know at the time (that would have been extremely valuable information) was that Pistol had a habit of running as fast as he could to the barn. That’s it. No particular reason, but to run as hard as he could to the barn where he would just stop running. Sounds like Forrest Gump.

Somewhere along the ride, the person who was leading Pistol had either let go of the reigns or didn’t have a tight grip. Pistol decided to take advantage of the situation and go to the barn. He wasn’t interested in a leisurely stroll, but bolted for the barn and I didn’t know what to think. Here I am, a little boy on the back of this horse running like his tail was on fire. Panicked and not knowing why he was running or how far and long he would run, I began to reason that I must jump or fall off. I started scooting to the side so I could get off. Fortunately, falling off of a running horse is much scarier than staying on, so I stayed put. Pretty soon, Pistol reached his beloved barn and stopped.

The whole ride couldn’t have lasted more than two or three minutes, but it was indelibly marked in my memory. I am so thankful that I was not successful at getting off while he was running. If I had been, that day might well have been remembered for something else.

Family, do you remember that day? What do you remember? Who was there? What time of year was it? How old was I? Did you see me on the horse? What did you feel in that moment? Afterwards?

Why I Value Creativity

cave-painting.gifI value creativity because I see God in it. I love it when someone creates something new. In a way, that is closely linked to my value of variety. I appreciate art in whatever form I find it because I studied art appreciation! Whether music or painting or sculpture or knitting or web design or photography or landscaping or architecture. The unusual causes me to pause. There is something unique in a person’s artistic expression. Something of the fingerprint of our Creator that is a part of us all.

I enjoy being creative. I like putting letters and words together with a photo or two or three to create a message that was never said quite like this before. There’s a risk in the writing and publishing. Will people like it? Could I have done it better? Will it make a difference? When I play music, I wonder if I shouldn’t hang it up because someone else can play better than I. Is that the right note? the right accent? the right feel? I turns into a perfectionist game, which I can never win. Creativity isn’t right. It isn’t wrong. It isn’t even about right or wrong. That’s the wrong measuring stick.

The value of creativity is from the value of the creator. Creative ventures are an expression of something that is inside of us. It is like nothing else. If you like my music or not does not set the value of the music. If you like my blog or not, does not set the worth of the art of my writing. Your opinion of the quality of my art is different than the value of the expression of my art. Does that make sense?

michaelbrecker.jpgI like jazz music, but I do not like all jazz music. There are some artists that I enjoy listening to a lot more than others. Pat Metheny is one of my favorites. I also love the sound that Michael Brecker got out of a saxophone. He was amazing! I was so sad to hear that he passed away earlier this year. I love listening to live jazz more than studio jazz. There is something raw and creative about hearing the music as it is produced. The occasional mistakes, the wrong notes, the intonation problems, the missed cues… everything. It is art. No one wants to make mistakes, but that’s part of the creation. The risk one takes when you pick up the horn.

I said all that to say this. I wish I had understood that art is not about perfection when I was a youngster. I think I would have tried pushing the boundaries of artistic expression more. There was music inside me that I was afraid to express. I distinctly remember hearing tunes and musical arrangements, but I didn’t think I had what it took to make it happen. As a young adult, I wrote a short piece for piano (real short, like just a few bars). I really liked it, but I couldn’t seem to finish it, so it remains… unfinished, unshared. Oh, if only I could take my 49 year old mind and heart back to my 10 year old self. If only…

Express a new thought

Place the words just so. It is


I can still create and I can appreciate the creativity in others. How do you express your creativity?

A Doubting Place part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about my feelings of doubt in the moment. My friend, Anthony, reminds me in his reflection that it is in the dark where we find the light… well, he didn’t remind me personally, but his message was timely. I don’t want to doubt, but I want to be ok with my doubt. Does that make sense? Over and over this God whom I worship makes Himself real to me. I doubt and he comes through. I question and He takes me to deeper depths to reveal Himself to me.

masks1.gifI know I am taking it somewhat out of context, but in John 8, Jesus said that that truth would make us free. I value truth and I believe that it very much does set us free. When we live behind masks, we create illusions that we have it all together. Then others see us as having it all together, so they put on their masks so that we won’t know that they are a mess. So, one by one, the masks go up and we hide behind them. All the while we are dying inside. We want friends we can confide in. We really want to have true confession. We want to live lives of truth, but it is uncomfortable. Scary even. Jesus said that the truth would make us free, but he didn’t say it would be easy or comfortable.

I am not the one to argue what truth is or to come up with scenarios to test the boundaries of truth. When is it ok to tell a white lie sorts of exercises. But I know what I mean by truth. I know when I am hiding behind the mask. The truth is, I am a mess. If you don’t see that, you haven’t really been reading my blog. Do a search for the word, “mess” and see what you see.

Do you have doubts? Are you ok with that? Do you see others as having it all together? I haven’t read this book, but I love its title, The Only Normal People Are the Ones You Don’t Know That Well. I say, “Let’ s take off our masks and be real.”

Why I Value Variety

If there is any one characteristic in me that just comes naturally, it would be a love of variety. When I go to a restaurant, I look for something that I have never eaten before. I love lots of different music that is full of surprises. I want to read different kinds of books because any one genre over time gets old to me. I want to see movies with good stories… to be pulled into the story and surprised. I do not like predictability. The same old thing bores me. Variety inspires me.

24.gifI do not want to “see the pattern”. A few years ago, a coworker told me about the TV show, 24. I got it on DVD and watched it with Jeanie. What a great show! I loved the way they put it together by doing it in “real time”. After the first season on DVD, we watched the 2nd season. By the end of the second season I was starting to “see the pattern”. I was seeing the formula. I started watching the clock and thinking to myself, “It is too early to solve this now. Something really off the wall is about to happen.” Sure enough, a new character would turn the whole thing upside down. By the end of season two, I didn’t care. In fact, I never saw the final episode. I didn’t skip it on purpose, but got too busy to watch it. I could have rented it again, but I just didn’t care any more.

flugelhorn.jpgWhen I am playing jazz on my trombone or flügelhorn, I may find myself running out of ideas. Sometimes I will just pick a note out of the blue (no pun intended)… one that will just stir things up for me. I won’t know what it will sound like and that’s the point. It may fit well with the tune or it may not. The challenge then (whether it fits or not) is to make it sound like I meant to do it. The mere change can inspire me to weave a different musical pattern completely because of where it took me.

When I am running, or riding my bicycle, or driving, I love to take different routes, just because I can. I sometimes shave my face backwards because I can.
A long time ago when I was in the musical instrument repair business, I toured a musical instrument factory. A group of my colleagues wandered away from the “official” tour when they saw a man engraving a saxophone by hand. As they watched him in awe, one of them asked him if he ever made a mistake. He said, “you mean like this?” and he purposefully scratched the instrument with his engraving tool. He paused a moment to let us take in the gravity of what he had just done, “I just make it look like I meant it,” and he began to add leaves to the scratch to make it look like a vine or a branch. That inspires me. Turning a mistake into a work of art. Creating variety. Using variety to be creative.

After all, a rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out.