Category Archives: personal


I am learning a lot about who I am (because that’s what 49 year olds do). Recently my friends and I began a discussion of values asking questions like, “What do you value?” “What do I value?” and “What do we value?” Exploring these questions is helping me define what I like, what I dislike and, most importantly, why.

Values are the fundamentals. Just the process of asking what a value is opens up a whole new set of questions. In general, I guess I always thought of values as being virtues. We are supposed to “value” them all. But if I say I value everything equally, I am really saying that I value nothing at all.

Although on some level, I value hundreds of things, it is only helpful if I narrow the list down to a few manageable items. If I could list the hundreds of things I could value, but only focus on the top few things, it would be helpful. In fact that’s what I did. Thanks to John for providing this list of values to start with.

Car Values
I just bought a Nissan pickup truck from Carmax. As I was shopping for it, I instinctively thought about the qualities I valued in a vehicle and chose this truck. Because it was:

  • A pickup truck
  • A brand known for reliability
  • Used
  • Good price
  • Relatively low mileage
  • I could buy it for the sticker price without having to haggle.

Change any of those top values and I probably would have bought something completely different.

Life Values
So the similar, but more important question is, “What am I looking for in life?” Here’s where I found some of the answers to that question:

  • What do I just naturally do over and over? Patterns of thoughts, feelings and behavior.
  • What resonates with me? What makes my heart do a flip?
  • What do I desire to be more intentional about valuing?
  • What do I admire in others?

At the risk of being known as Master of the Obvious, I don’t know what I don’t know. So many things that are important to me now, were not even on my radar just a few years ago. That tells me that values are not carved in stone. There will be things that I learn and am drawn to that will change my values in the future. But it is a starting place. My hope is that it inspires you to think about what you value.

These are the values I identified. If you know me, I hope you will see a picture of me in this graphic:


What’s next?

For the last several months I have been focused on two events. My daughter, Erin’s wedding and the 10K bridge run. Now that these are past, I find myself asking again, “What’s next?” My “to do” list has grown and my “to be” list beckons. What’s a “to be” list? It’s a constant question nagging at me to know more of who I am. What makes me tick? Does my life matter? For many years since reading and re-reading the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I have struggled with my Personal Mission Statement. Answering the question, “What am I here for?”

A tight group of my friends and I are exploring this together beginning with our values. Together we are wrestling with defining what it is we value in life. I find it difficult to narrow down and nail down what I value. There are so many things that I value in different ways. I think that there are different ways to approach this whole exercise in naming values. I can identify values by where I invest my scarce resources. My friend Mark (who writes a blog here) calls this revealed preference. We value what we value because… well, we just do. This is revealed by examining what we are already doing. In Matt 6, Jesus said, “…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That makes perfect sense to me, and it is a start, but it isn’t enough.

There’s a part of me that wants more than just whatever feels comfortable in the moment. This part of me realizes that I have tendencies to do what I don’t want to do. I also know that I can make choices that will get me to what I’m after in the long run (even though they are not comfortable). I know that I’m no good at fighting my urges alone. I need the power and Grace of God and the help of my friends. I know that God has made me the way He made me for a reason. As I learn more about that reason, it will help me know what I want to value and where I want to go. Ultimately, I want to live for Christ… and if you know me at all, you know that when I say that, I do not mean becoming more religious. I mean being the best damned1 Jim Anderson that I can be, infused with the Holy Spirit of God living in me.

I don’t fully understand it, but i know that God is calling me to be more me and more Him at the same time. One thing I am sure of… when I am fully me and God is fully Himself in me, it will look like no other person in history. We aren’t supposed to be identical. He gave us different gifts, strengths and talents for a reason. He loves variety!


1Sorry mama. I know you don’t like bad language, but I needed to write that word. It wasn’t against you, it was for me.

Disappointing Run

This year will be my third year running the 10K Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC. I started running when I was about 45 years old, which is not an easy feat to do. I really wanted to run the bridge. My buddy, Curt ran it every year and inspired me to run it too. The first year, my goal was to “just get over it”. My finish time that year was 1:17. Last year, I ran it with my friend, John in 1:07 and wrote about it here. This year, my goal is to run it in 60 minutes.

Continue reading Disappointing Run


Jeanie’s and my philosophy on disciplining our young children was to consider their motive when they did something that needed to be corrected. For instance, if one of them broke a dish because they were being willfully defiant, we would have handled it much differently than if they had accidentally knocked it off the table. The former would have required a lesson in who is in charge. The latter possibly a reminder that we don’t run in the house. Hopefully that makes sense.

I believe it is important to recognize that we can do the same behavior for a myriad of reasons. Those reasons are important… maybe even more important than the actions. This is true of little children and adults.

We are way past the little children stage. Our former little girls are now adults, and I find myself asking them to judge me by my motive, rather than my behavior. You see, I don’t always behave in ways that make sense for what I want to achieve, and often, my behavior sends the wrong message. I have desires for them to have great lives because they are all great women. (I am amazed at how different they are). I love them and everything I do is ultimately motivated by that love.

but sometimes…

Continue reading Motives


alarmclock.JPGAbout 6 weeks ago, I read this blog about getting up early in the morning. I want to be more disciplined about my wakeup time. Reading this raised my awareness that I had slipped back into a pattern of fighting the pillow every morning (and the pillow was winning too often). I was getting up at the last possible moment and rushing out the door almost every day. I decided to do something about it. I would get up at a specific time every morning 7 days a week for one month and then evaluate whether or not it was working for me. I did it and this is my evaluation…

I quickly realized how untrustworthy my will is at 5:15 in the morning. As soon as the alarm goes off, I start whining (on the inside) about needing five more minutes. In the moment, I truly believe that five minutes will make all the difference in the world. Just a little more rest and I will be ready to get up. Of course five minutes really makes no difference at all and if I give in, I’ll be whining for five more. The key for me is that I put my feet on the floor immediately when the alarm sounds. I can sit for about a minute before my backup alarm goes off. Yes, I have a backup alarm. I am sneaky and untrustworthy at 5 AM and I love to sleep. Here’s the wakeup alarm algorithm. I have a fancy radio/CD/alarm clock that my family gave me for Father’s Day a few years ago (Thanks ladies, I still like it). It has two independent alarm settings. I set the first one to go off at 5:00 AM softly playing NPR news. It gets gradually louder until I reach up and turn it down. I am still mostly asleep. At 5:15, my phone alarm sounds. This is the “real” alarm. When this one goes off, it is time to put the feet on the floor. No excuses. I mechanically sit up and put my feet on the floor. After about another minute, I get the backup alarm. My Father’s day alarm clock changes from news to an annoying buzz (just to make sure I didn’t talk myself into sleeping in again).

Even then I am still not really awake. I could easily lay back down and snooze away. So, I go brush my teeth, shave and either shower, or get ready for my morning run with the guys (depending on the day). Only then can I trust myself to stay up. So that’s the routine. Boring, eh? Some of the toughest things for me in life are the boring, repetitive tasks that have to be done.

Each morning, the goal was to get up. that’s it. Not to have a quiet time or to read my bible or anything else. Just get up. I’m a simple man with simple needs. I know how easy it is to take on too much and fall flat on my face. At 48 years old, I know that there have been times in my life that I have been good about waking up early, but they didn’t last. I wanted to evaluate getting up alone, so I limited my focus to the getting up part.
So what did I do? Some mornings I read the web, books, read my bible, meditated, reflected on stuff, prayed. I wrote in my journal and I wrote a blog or two. There were a few mornings that I was still very tired and sleepy even after my wakeup routine… so I took a nap. If that sounds like cheating, I didn’t see it that way at all. I made the decision using my rational, awake mind. The cool thing was that I could be up for an hour, take a 30 minute nap, feel refreshed and still not have to rush out the door.

The first Friday night after completing the month, I stayed up late and decided that I wanted to sleep in on Saturday. Again, this is my rational mind doing the decision making. So, off with the alarms. I slept in until about 8:30 and it felt great! I needed the rest and I didn’t feel like I violated any promises to myself by sleeping in. Later that day, I realized how much I missed that time. The day just flew by even faster than ever.

Sleeping in helped me come to make the decision to continue to get up early. I am making a few changes though. Fifteen minutes of radio is too long. It is just long enough for me to fall back asleep. So I am cutting the “gentle wakeup time” from fifteen minutes to five. The other change is that just getting up is not enough for me now. I am ready to kick the discipline heat up a notch. Now that I am sure that I can get up out of bed even when I don’t feel like it, I believe that I can add one little thing to that routine. I have decided to begin writing every morning for 20 minutes. I can write here, on my blog. I can write in my journal, I can write a letter… anything I want to do, the promise to myself (and anyone who’s reading) is to write for 20 minutes every day. I will try this for a month and evaluate it.

What Happened to Questions?

My son in law, Mark told me recently about a conversation that he had with a buddy who is not a follower of Christ. They were discussing spiritual ideas and his friend posed a hard question. The question isn’t important, but his answer was very important. He answered his friend with these words, “I don’t know.” Mark’s friend was surprised and impressed. He told Mark that he was one of the few (maybe the only) Christians who had ever admitted to him that they didn’t have an answer to a hard question. He felt like Mark was honest and humble. My guess is that he gained quite a few trust points with his friend and rightly so.While I applaud Mark, I ask myself why this is a noteworthy story. Isn’t honesty one of the virtues that Christians hold dear? Rather than just fix it though, I believe we need to examine the roots of this behavior. We could try to merely change our behavior, but I think we would do well to remember what Stephen Covey had to say about our ability to change. He says that if we want to make small changes, we should address our behaviors. If we want to make huge, quantum changes, we should address our paradigms. Paradigms are the way we see the world, the maps we hold in our minds that tell us why people do what they do. Sometimes these maps are just plain wrong. (Read Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to learn more).

We hold beliefs in our core being that tell us what to expect. Then we operate out of those beliefs and when things don’t go the way we expect, we feel uncomfortable feelings. If I believe that my cup with a lid holds steaming hot Starbucks coffee and I take a sip, anything other than that a hot coffee taste is going to make me behave in potentially ugly ways… Most mornings at work, I get a cup of Starbucks bold coffee. I like it black without any sweeteners. After I finish the my coffee, I refill the cup with water and drink that over and over during the day. Not too long ago, I got distracted for a while before I finished my coffee. When I returned to my desk, I picked up the cup, for a sip. Because the cup now felt cool, my mind (my belief) said, “This is water.” But it was not. It was cold coffee. Yuck! A classic example of my beliefs not lining up with reality.

What if I find out that my beliefs about the world (that are more important than what is in my coffee cup) don’t line up with reality? Come on, let’s be real. I do not hold all truth. There is still so much I have to learn and unlearn.

When my four daughters were little girls, they all learned the way we did things and what we believed as a family. What were our values and what did we believe about God. One by one, they became teenagers and the questioned everything… and I mean everything. That caused three things in me:

First it caused me to realize that I had never given myself permission to ask some of these hard questions. I chose conformity so I could find acceptance.

Secondly, realizing that I didn’t have the answers they were looking for, I started looking for answers. Why do I believe what I believe? When Danae challenged me on how God decides who goes to heaven, I remember reading through the entire New Testament looking for anything to do with salvation. I used a pink highlighter so I could easily review and digest what I read. The first thing that struck me was that several times, people came to Jesus and asked him how to get eternal life. His answer was different every time. If he was looking for a simple, repeatable 1-2-3 answer, he could have done better… maybe he could have printed a tract with the answer … but I digress.

The third thing their questions did in me was cause me to feel embarrassed that I didn’t have the answers they were looking for. In my mind, a good dad would have the answers. Once I remember Erin asking me a question while we were watching TV and I felt annoyed towards her. When I realized that I felt annoyed, I asked myself why in the world I would feel annoyed with her. That was when the reality hit me that I was living from a paradigm that said I have to have answers to all of the questions. As goofy as it sounds, that was what was going on deep inside of me. Once I recognized that she didn’t expect me to have the answers, I was doing this to myself, I was on my way to freedom. The next time she asked, I felt that feeling of annoyed embarrassment (because the feeling is automatic), but I quickly reminded myself that I didn’t have to know the answer. I looked at her and said, “I don’t know,” and she was just fine with that.

On this side of teenage-hood (I am happy to say that there is life after teenagers), I am still asking questions. One answer seems to lead to ten new questions. It is a process of uncovering new things all the time. Frequently the new learning challenges my old ideas. That can be uncomfortable because old ideas are like a warm blanket in a cold house (that was for you, Melody). Exposing false beliefs feels like pulling back the warm, comfortable blanket. It feels cold. So why do it? Why not enjoy the warmth of the ideas that make me feel good about myself? Because I am lazy and I would rather create a world that makes me feel good about me whether it is true or not. Left to my own devices, I will create a world that works for me. I, me, mine… That is not what I believe Jesus had in mind. When he was here, he pushed against the people in authority who created rules and social orders for the purpose of making sure they (the rulers) were ok. He wants us to have an outward focus. It is truly not about me. It is about me in the sense that God has put unique gifts, talents and strengths in me (that I am only now beginning to recognize), but these gifts, talents and strengths are not for me. I Peter 4:10 says that they are to serve others.

When we shut off questions or pretend to have all the answers, we invite pride and idolatry into our lives. We lose credibility with people who are genuinely looking for truth. And we allow (or even cause) things to come between us and God. My prayer is from Psalm 139:23-24

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.

Confessions of a Wonderer


I was just thinking about going to lunch with my sweetie. We have been going out for Sunday lunch for so many years that it just feels like it would be sacreligeous to do otherwise. I was thinking of going to K&W cafeteria and imagining the crowd we would run into on a Sunday at lunchtime. I imagine a long line of folks “dressed for church” in their pretty dresses, maybe a hat or three, men in suits or at least ties. I confess that I generalize and prejudge these folks. I don’t want to, but I do. Who are they really? What have they given up in order to feel comfortable in their nice clothes? Do they still have dreams and passions, or have they given them up in order to just get along? I remember my grandparents telling my brother and me that God expects our best, so that’s why we dress up. I wonder… doesn’t he care more about our hearts than our clothes? Do we dress up to keep from upsetting Grandma? I am sure this says much more about me than it says about this crowd of people who I don’t even know… especially since I am imagining the whole thing.

Did you ever see the far side cartooon where the two ostriches are running along together. The one is looking at the other and thinking to itself, “Man I am sure glad I don’t look like that!” Of course what makes it so funny is that they are identical. I am the one ostrich looking at the other. I may not have a tie on, but I am no different.

I think what bothers me is that I see things about myself in them that scare me. How much have I given up my soul in order to conform to a way of life in order to get a form of community? I don’t dress up for church, but I “go” to church. Why? Am I looking for a place where I fit in? Am I going to “learn” more about God? Am I going to be part of the Body of Christ?

When I look at the dressed up folks in line, I answer the question for them (which is unfair, but easier than answering it for myself). I do want community. I want to be part of the Body of Christ. I want to continually discover and use my own unique spiritual gifts to minister to the body. That sounded more churchy than I meant it to. Here’s what I mean… I believe that God made me unique. He put a unique set of likes and dislikes in me. My values, my interests, my dreams, my fears, my passions are all rolled into me in a unique way. I don’t think that was an accident. It is who I am. The things that bother me, bother me because they bump against the things I value. Those are clues… everything is a clue to find out who I am… not some existential bellybutton contemplation kind of thing, but genuinely asking who I am and why I am here. I dont’ know if any theologians would agree with me, but I believe that these are all clues to the spiritual gifts in me that the Bible talks about.

Puzzle Pieces
Puzzle Pieces Finding my gifts, my strengths, my talents, my passion is a process of elimination. For me it is not trying something and deciding I’m not good at that. For me, it is a process of learning what lights me up inside. What fires up my spirit? What makes my heart do a flip? What pulls me out of a depression? I think it is a lifetime journey… like a jigsaw puzzle… sometimes I sort through a pile of pieces that don’t seem to be connected, other times one piece after another just falls into place.
Like this:

Friday mornings, I meet with a group of guys who I am on a journey with. When we meet, we “check in” with one another to see how we are doing, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I told them this past Friday that I was feeling depressed about my job. Without going into those details, I just don’t enjoy what I am doing at work right now. That afternoon, I met with my counsellor and told him about my checkin that morning, but then it occured to me that I wasn’t depressed anymore. After thinking about it, I realized that I had actually enjoyed my work that morning. I was working on understanding a technical problem and finding a solution to it. A puzzle piece snapped into place. Solving problems is something that I do well and something that lights me up.

Does this sound narcissistic? I know that the world does not revolve around me. I want to be an active part in making the world a better place. I believe that the best I can be is to be who I am. That sounds dumb, but life consists of a series of decisions… one after another. Some will be more effective than others. Some will just get me in trouble. I want to be more and more effective, but at the same time, I want to live on the edge experiencing life to the full.

Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you’ll live… at least for a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!

–William Wallace in Braveheart

Fathers Day Thoughts

Today is Fathers Day in the United States. I am proud to be the father of four wonderful young ladies. It feels good to be the dad. There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with being the dad, but there’s a whole dimension to life that I would miss, were it not for my daughters.I share something different with each of them and so we all connect on different levels. The cool thing is that we all connect, and that makes life sweet for me. We have been through good times and bad, and I am sure that there are good times and hard times to come. I aim to make the best of all of them. To squeeze every drop of goodness each moment has to offer.

My girls have taken me to the hard fundamental “why” questions that I never gave myself permission to ask. When I was a child, I didn’t ask those kind of questions because I needed to be accepted, to fit in. Whatever it took to “fit in the box”. When I became an adult, I stayed in my comfort zone; busy with learning how to make a living, and I still didn’t ask “those questions”. It was enough to assimilate to the group’s beliefs.

One by one, my ladies entered teenagerhood and pushed back hard on my box of beliefs. They were asking me the hard questions like: What do we believe? Why do we believe that? How do we know we are right? How can a loving God…? Oh boy! I was suddenly faced with the questions that I had ignored and pushed down deep inside me, except it wasn’t just about me anymore. It was the ones I love more than life itself. My love was bigger than my discomfort and I started searching for answers for them… encouraging them to ask the questions… and allowing my long-held beliefs to be put to the test. Some of my beliefs have come through unscathed, some have been discarded as somewhat less than true, others as lies. The jury is still out on the lion’s share of them. For every answer I get, there are usually three or more new questions that come with it… but I keep asking. And the asking is rich even when I don’t get the answers. It’s ok to be honest about that.

No one knows you like family. And it is not a given that you will be loved in spite of yourself… and yet that is where I find myself; loved in spite of my shortcomings. Thank you for pushing me. Thank you for loving me in spite of me. Thank you for hugging me and telling me that I am a good dad. I need that. (That feels very vulnerable to write. Will I have the courage to post it on the web?). Thank you for showing me that I don’t have to have all the answers in order to be a good dad.

I am a blessed and thankful man today because I am so proud to be your dad. Happy Fathers Day to me!


Sometimes my heart is full and my mind is full and yet I cannot think of a thing to write. This is an experiment to see what happens when I write whatever comes to mind.I just put on earphones and am listening to Pat Metheny. Normally, I want quiet when I am writing, but tonight the television is on and is playing mindless sitcom reruns. The noise is distracting. I just turned up the music because I could hear the TV over the music. I despise the TV. Especially commercials and the stupid laugh tracks on sitcoms. Actually, I think this show was recorded live, but it still annoys the heck out of me.

i have gotten spoiled by Microsoft Word’s autocorrect feature. i never type upper case I’s anymore. i expect the program to make them uppercase when i hit the spacebar. As you can see, this editor doesn’t do any correction at all. i guess i will have to keep backspacing and retyping my i’s.

At work I am programming again right now. It is fascinating for me to watch myself. It has been several years since I have written any “real” programs. My work has been more about creating and managing processes, reporting, teaching and training. The team I am on now has a need for some java programming and that was some of the last programming I did. So I am the java programmer.

I am in an endless pursuit of who I am. What are my strengths and weaknesses. What is it that I love to do. What do I hate doing? What is God trying to build into me? What is it that he wants to show me about myself?

As I am writing code, I find myself “head down” at the computer much more than I am normally. Normally, I am out and about talking with customers and coworkers or reading documentation. I spend a lot of time reading and responding to emails and dealing with “crises”. There is a part of me that likes the heads down nature of programming. It is a finite job. I can see the results of it and see how much I have accomplished.

One of my strengths is my ability to take something apart and see what makes it go. I used to take my toys apart when I was little. I remember the steel cars we had. They were almost always manufactured by putting the separate pieces together like so: One side had a slot and the part that matched it had a little tab that fit in the slot. Then the tab was bent over at a 90 degree angle. I would get a little screwdriver or a knife and pry up the tab and separate the parts. I wasn’t satisfied until I had all the parts separated. I don’t remember putting them back together again so much as I remember taking them apart.

The part of me that drove my taking things apart to see what makes them go is the same strength that drives me to understand whatever it is I am working with. It sometimes goes like this. I will be typing in Word and accidentally hit a key, like hitting Control+d when I meant to hit Control+s to save. Up pops the Font dialog window. Most people would say (or think) a dirty word, close the box and continue. I would close the box and try a few key combinations to make sure I remembered that combination just in case I might need it again sometime. Another time, I need a program to do something that I could get around, but I spend 5 or 10 minutes researching it. I want to know how to let the computer do the work. In the long-run it pays off for me. Lots of people come to me for help with Word or Outlook especially. There are so many obscure tasks that most people never learn how to do. I thrive on it. Those are some of my jimazing strengths. What are yours? Do you ever look at yourself and ask those kinds of questions? Maybe my asking those kinds of questions is just an extension of this strength in me.

Another observation about myself when I am writing programming code is that I can so easily get myopic and forget about the world around me. That one scares me. When I get like that, I am less aware of my surroundings and I risk neglecting the people and things that I hold dear. It is part of who I am. In fact it is happening right now. I want to call one of my daughters who is going through a rough time, and I’m spending too much time here writing… I guess my experiment was successful.