October 26, 2008

Random News

Posted in books, family, travel at 10:50 pm by jimazing

Trip to the Mountains

Jeanie and I spent this past weekend in the Mtns of NC.  Our main purpose was just to get away and take a break from the pressure cooker that life has been lately.  This was our first time at a Bed and Breakfast and I think we chose well.  The Mast Farm Inn is an old house that has been restored as a B & B.  They treated us very well!  We used to live up there and still have lots of friends in the area, but we chose not to let anyone know we were coming.  We just didn’t know what the weekend would hold.  We did end up visiting with several good friends.  Other highlights:

  • cimg4742a.JPGcimg4736a.JPGI visited my trees.  Last year I wrote about my job planting trees.   There was one particular site that was near where we lived that I have visited many times.  They have gotten rather large!  I wonder if they will be harvested anytime soon for lumber. (click the photo to see it larger)
  • cimg4763a.JPGWe have wonderful memories of hiking at Price Lake, so we took a trip around “memory trail”, which was a muddy mess in one section.  It was cloudy and cool at first, but by the time we finished, the sun was out and it was a beautiful day.
  • Since the sun came out, we visited the Lynn Cove Viaduct.  I also worked on the construction of this bridge for several months, which I also wrote about last year.  It is very cool to visit something so much bigger than I am, but that I played a small role in building.
  • I started reading Reaching Out, by Henri Nouwen.  I wanted a book that would drive me to reflective thought and meditation.  Nouwen usually does that well.  This was no exception.  The timeliness of this message in the place I am in life is remarkable.  It feels like Nouwen is interpreting events, thoughts and stirings that I have had over recent months and years.

Finished “A Thousand Splendid Suns”

My sister-in-law recommended this to me (and loaned it to me too).  A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini reminds me a lot of his earlier work the Kite Runner.  The setting is Afghanistan as he follows the lives of two women from different backgrounds, but who’s lives come together.  Both stories have helped me to understand a little better about the history and ways of life in Afghanistan.  If nothing else, when I hear anything about the Taliban, I now have a vivid picture of some very evil men.  I recommend both of these books by Hosseini’s.  Thanks Cathryn.

Erin’s Latest Accomplishment

I am so very proud of all of my daughters.  They are each making their respective marks on the world in huge ways and I am proud of them all.  Every once in a while, one of them just takes things completely to the next level and I cannot ignore it.  I will not belabor the point and I’m getting too choked up to describe it anyway, please check it out for yourself here.  Can’t you see me in her?

October 19, 2008


Posted in personal at 12:40 pm by jimazing

election.gifKeeping in mind that the purpose of this blog is to communicate first and foremost who I am to my family, both present and future, I want to express some thoughts about the political process.  This post is not about who to vote for (or against) nor is it about any of the particular issues that this particular national election seems to turn on.  These are just my thoughts and observations:

The Game

The political process is not really about solving issues.  It is about getting into office.  Not that I doubt the sincere desire of those who are running for office.  I am sure that they truly care about the economy, the environment, human rights… it is just that right now, they are trying to get into office.  It is understandable.  If they don’t win, they don’t get to put any of their ideas into practice.  The other candidate does.  As a result, they say whatever they think will get them into office knowing that at best they won’t have full control to do what they say anyway due to the checks and balances in our system of government.


This irritates me to no end.  I hear more arguments against “the other side” from the candidates (and folks who have already decided) than reasons to vote for “us”.  These kinds of statements attempt to persuade out of fear of what will happen if the other guy gets in i.e.  “Obama is a closet Muslim”, “McCain = four more years of the same thing” etc.  They capitalize on our fear of the unknown.

I am afraid of fear.  Fear causes us to react without thinking.  It appeals to our primitive nature, which works very well for escaping danger, but sucks for making political choices.  Fear causes suspicion.  It hinders listening to one another.  Fear polarizes us.


As a friend said in my group this morning, we are all in the same boat.  We have different ideas about how to solve real world issues, but we all have a vested interest in making the world a better place.  Broadly speaking there is no right way or wrong way.  The democrats/republicans didn’t create this mess and the democrats/republicans cannot get us out with their policies.  I am not saying that both sides are saying the same thing, nor am I saying that it doesn’t matter.  I am saying that each “side”  has something to bring to the table and if we could just learn to listen to and value the thoughts that each side presents, we would be able to live together more peaceably.

One huge obstacle to listening to one another is an irrational belief that if we hear and acknowlege someone, we are somehow sanctioning their thoughts.  I want shout out loud, that it is a lie.  The most powerful tool we have for coming together as a nation is to listen to people we do not agree with and reflect back to them what they believe so that they feel heard.  That alone can create an atmosphere in which we can present our side of the disagreement… disagreeing agreeably… or as Stephen Covey put it, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.  This is one of the most powerful tools for communication and collaboration that we have… and we are afraid of it.


This might sound strange coming from a middle aged, middle class white guy, but I feel marginalized by the lack of dialog.  I don’t know of any better system of government, but at the same time, I didn’t have a voice in determining the candidates we are voting for.  At the same time, I cannot imagine how it could be done better.  I almost erased this paragraph because I don’t have a solution.  This feeling of being marginalized or disenfranchised may be completely irrational… but it is what I feel… so it stays.  I hear lots of people saying that they aren’t happy with either choice.  I guess that could be sour grapes, but it could be a feeling that we are stuck with two candidates and neither side represents our individual desires for government very well.

Repeated History

I frequently hear the cliche, “If we don’t learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.”  I think that statement only works in hindsight.  History is too complex to really be repeated a la Ground Hog Day.  In retrospect, we can always see patterns of repeated history that we had we recognized, it would have prevented some repeated historical problem. It’s not the same though.  It never is.

Each of us sees things differently.  If each of us has a voice, we can evaluate things along the way from a much greater perspective.  Remember the Indian tale of the blind men and the elephant.  “It’s like a rope.” “No, it is like a wall.”  “You are both wrong.  It is like a tree trunk.” Most of the time, it is not about right and wrong.  Most of the time, it is truly about perspective.


Doesn’t Tina Fey make a great Sarah Palin?  I’m kicking myself this morning because I forgot to record SNL last night.  DOH!

World Views

While I think that as a country we need to take the right  actions for the right reasons, I also believe it matters very much what the rest of the world thinks of us.  As Thomas Friedman describes in The World is Flat, we are living in a global economy.  Whether we like it or not, we are no longer an isolated world power that gets to dictate to the rest of the world how things are going to be.  I believe that protectionist measures that are founded on a desire to keep things the way they have always been are dangerous.  We are not repeating history.  The rules are changing and we need to stay in the game.  The stakes are too high for us to shut off from the rest of the world, or worse engage with the world solely through acts of war.  We  must pursue peace… not peace at any cost, but neither peace on our terms alone.  We must negotiate from a position of strength, but one of compassion by choice.

Who am I voting for?  Wouldn’t you like to know!

Update – Do we really learn from history?  Check out the facts below…

October 14, 2008

Blog Action Day – Poverty

Posted in community, personal at 10:56 pm by jimazing

boots.gif I promised the folks at Blog Action Central that I would write about Poverty today.  The idea is invite bloggers to all write on an important topic in order to influence the conversations that we have today with family, friends, co-workers…  Most of the time we talk about the weather, politics, the economy and other things outside our circle of influence.  Today, let’s talk about poverty.

At the beginning of this year, I set some goals for myself, one of which was to

Move my spiritual journey from one of “learning about” to intentionally expressing God’s love in a tangible way to people who are in need. (hurting (everyone), poor, hungry, homeless…)

Even as I read that statement, I am stirred.  What does it mean when your own words stir your heart 10 months later? One of the biggest lessons of my year is around humility in my beliefs.  I want to hold my faith with open hands up to God and declare, “I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t believe the same things I believed 30 years ago.  I don’t even believe the same things I believed 10 years ago.  I am constantly changing, learning, adapting and I won’t believe the same things in 10 years that I believe now.  With that in mind, I pray God to help me have a humble heart that values the thoughts, beliefs and feelings of others.  Help me to see your thumbprint in everyone.”

This year has been one in which I am intentionally moving my focus from my intellectual beliefs to actually doing more of what God is calling me to.  Moving from talk to action.  you might say that I am adding more orthopraxy to my orthodoxy.  With that goal, the Justice Project has truly captured my heart; “a yearly comprehensive service initiative, where we invite a diverse collection of churches, organizations, & individuals to help us make a change for good in an inner-city community through selfless service, radical hospitality, & a message of God’s love & ability to transform the human heart.” I can hardly tell you how excited I am about what is going on here.  I am such a small part of it with such a huge desire to be more involved.  Folks from all over Charlotte have joined together to help folks in just one inner city neighborhood.  It’s a grass roots organization with little funding and the intention to remain that way.  It is relational from the ground up.  The focus is on building relationships with the community in Villa Heights as we serve them and partner with them to promote positive change in their community.  It’s about building relationships within the helper groups as well as those who have needs.

When I think about poverty (like any other problem), my troubleshooting skills take over. Let’s solve this problem once an for all!   I begin to consider the causes of poverty, but to find a solution, not just to blame.  The problem overwhelms me.  Part of me would like to explain away why it cannot be solved then walk away having appeased my own conscience.  H. L. Menken said, “There is always an easy solution to every problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.”  There is no easy answer… and I fear that many “easy answers” exacerbate the problem.  I could be oversimplifying things by saying so, but I believe that the solution begins in Jesus’ answer when someone asked him what the greatest commandment was.  He replied that nothing is more important than loving God and loving our neighbor.  Oversimplified or not, that’s where I am focusing my efforts.

Anyone want to join me in Villa Heights this Saturday?