Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Coolest Gifts Ever

I took my last 1/2 day of vacation for the year this afternoon. (Probably good to use that thing up!) I stopped by the grocery store (twice), worked around the house, and got in a 4.6-mile run. It was a bit snowy and windy for running!

This Christmas, I received two very special gifts. I've learned that I'm kind of an emotional guy and both of these resulted in some seriously watery eyes. The first came in the form of a totally unexpected Christmas card. In this modern era of instant communication, Christmas cards almost seem to be a ritual of the past. Yet, I still send them - and receive them. This year, an unexpected card ended up in my mailbox and included some words that were so encouraging that I was truly awestruck. The second gift came in the form of a tin of cookies. On Tuesday, I sat down at my desk and right in front of me was this tin of cookies with a card on top. My first thought was, "How the heck did someone get into my office and leave a tin of cookies?" However, I read the accompanying card and, again, just sat their awestruck.

Too often, I find it easy to slip down that dangerous slope of sadness and woefulness - to question what the heck is going on - to wonder if this thing called kingdom-building really is possible - to struggle with a sense of purpose. These two gifts provided a huge reality check that there is a larger purpose - that other things are going on that most of the time I don't even see.

Happy New Year!!

Todd

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Send Your Rain

Wow, can't believe it is already 11:04 PM. I went to a family gathering in Mishawaka after band practice and need to get to bed soon! However, I just wanted to write a quick reflection about band practice tonight. We sang this beautiful song, Send Your Rain. The holidays have definitely been joy-filled. Yet sometimes, they almost seem hectic and crazy - just going from one party to another, going to packed shopping facilities, dealing with crazy weather. You probably know the drill. Tonight, though, in a darkened room, we sang quietly, worshipfully this song.

Send your rain, oh Lord
Send your rain, oh Lord
Send your rain, oh Lord
to your people

May your kingdom come
and your will be done
on Earth as it is in Heaven

This is basically the song and their is repetition of the verses.

Yet, in the midst of what sometimes has been a chaotic holiday season, this song proved to be a powerful reminder... of Jesus and his kingdom.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Sunday Afternoon Post



Wow, is anyone else just pretty much shocked right now at the weather over the last week. Just a few days ago we had frigid temperatures and ice covered everything. Today, the sunshine is out and provided for a second day of running. Yesterday, it was warm enough to break out shorts. Yep, I wore shorts almost all day on Dec. 27. I even got a few smiles in the parking lot from... ah geez, I'll stop right now.




Yesterday, Troy and I had an interesting experience in the Meijer parking lot. I tend to park the Cavalier pretty far out in parking lots. There is a two-fold reason for this practice. First, I like the extra walk that this provides. Second, it is just less hectic to park further away from the door. After a quick stop at Meijer, we headed back out to the car - a red cavalier relatively far out in the parking lot. We got in and I put my bag in the back-seat. Then, it dawned on me, "This isn't my car!" I quickly turned around and grabbed the bag and we made a mad dash away from the car!




Last night, we had the Huff family Christmas. Years ago, Grandma made Merry Christmas bingo. This has been around as long as I can remember and now we play this with white elephant gifts instead of doing the more formal gift exchange. This year, it struck me how much effort and love that Grandma put into making this game. Guess what? We still enjoy it today - our second Christmas without her. I kind of wonder if this is a little gift that she left with us. Last Christmas, Dad wrote a poem and lit a candle to give Grandma some physical presence at our family gathering. I arrived late to Christmas this year. After grabbing some food and a bingo card, I settled in at the table. A moment later I realized that the the light of this candle shone right in front of me. The picture above kind of startled me because the candle has this special coating that reflected the flash and made the candle look totally different. I thought about this some last night and realized that things are not always as they appear. Perhaps this is another gift from Grandma.




Saturday, December 27, 2008

Under Armour


My brothers gave me some awesome gifts. Chad gave me an Instant Canopy (tailgaters beware - we are going to a new level next fall!), Bob Dylan and Beatles CDs, and Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell. Troy gave me a Saint Joe mug and an Under Armour sweatshirt (he still has 3 more Christmases of Saint Joe gear - can't wait!).
I've never understood the Under Armour hype and thought it had to be over-rated and too expensive. However, I tried out this sweatshirt today on a run and was pretty impressed. First, this thing is so light it feels like I don't have anything on (I know, that sounds pretty scary). Second, the hood is the perfect size. I have a big head and have never have had a hood that really fits right. Third, it kept the wind from penetrating. Fourth, it kept the sweat away. I am a major sweater so this was pretty surprising. I'm not sure where the sweat went. Normally, when I run with a sweatshirt, it gets drenched. Not this sweatshirt.
My brothers rock and picked out some great gifts!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Of the Tablecloth and Jesus

Whew, the day after Christmas. Troy and I had planned to head off to Chicago this morning on the Southshore. Brilliant plan. Avoid road traffic by taking the train. However, there was one small problem. We couldn't get to the train! Ice completely covered the road. Being the stubborn Huffs that we are, however, we did attempt the trip. We did not make much past Community Gospel church before encountering a roadblock. Already running behind, we knew at that point that we would not make the 8:48 AM train and nixed the trip. Maybe we'll try again on St. Patrick's Day (seriously, as Pumas we can march in the St. Patrick's day parade!). Upon arriving back at my house, we hunkered down for some serious work - watching Harry Potter Prisoner of Azkaban. I haven't watched a movie at 9:00 AM well maybe ever. So today ended up being a pretty relaxing day and we'll probably head up to Mishawaka tomorrow.





Rewind to Christmas Eve night. One of the traditions that we have at Grandpa and Grandma Wise's house is the tablecloth. Each Christmas Eve dinner, every guest must add a drawing, phrase, etc, to the tablecloth. We have years and years worth of drawings and have expanded to two tablecloths. Well, I went to Grandpa and Grandma's house and then left to come back to Bremen for church at Horizon. After church, I headed back to Grandpa and Grandma's house. While driving, I thought about what I would draw. Jim has talked several times about two spheres, Heaven and Earth, that he saw in Europe. So I decided to draw two circles slightly overlapping to represent this connection between Heaven and Earth with the birth of Jesus. To clarify the drawing, I wrote "Heaven" and "Earth" in the circles.



Later that night while with the fam at the Grace Christmas Eve service, I thought more about these simple circles and was startled by something else. In my mind, I rotated the combined circles 90 degrees and peered at the overlap region. I traced the overlap and smiled (I know that I was smiling because one of the singers from the praise team came up to me after the service and said that it was nice to see a big smile in the congregation).
Situated neatly between Heaven and Earth is this symbol, the Ichthus. In some circles, this "fish" is a symbol for Jesus. I really like this drawing of Heaven, Earth, and Jesus. I tried to visual the drawing in 3D and all of the sudden the Ichthus is like this small portal (like a wardrobe, painting, or garden door in the Chronicles of Narnia) between Heaven and Earth.

So I'm sure that this is probably not a new drawing, but it is pretty crazy that even a tablecloth can be a remember of Jesus.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A New Look

Yesterday, Trent gave a Photoshop lesson that resulted in the new blog banner. This led to giving this blog a whole new look that even required getting in and tweaking the HTML. (There are a couple new features including verse of day and chemistry webelements.) As I was working with Trent, I thought a little bit about how easy it is to get into a rut. It is easy to just let the world go by and kind of lose track of new technologies. It is easy to just do the same things over and over and over again. It would be easy to just go to work and just go through the motions. It would be easy to go to church and just kind of pretend to worship. However, there is so much out there. I really hope to do some more work in Photoshop and create some new backgrounds and other artistic elements for the Powerpoints and Copperfield. This could help take our internal and external communication to another level and that would be exciting!

Well, today is Christmas Eve. That means tomorrow is Christmas - the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. I like to think of this as God in the Bod - God entering into this world in an entirely new way. God entered this world as a man - Jesus - who experienced pain, suffering, love, friendship, anger, abandonment, betrayal, compassion. Jesus - God - entered this world in a new, personal, relational way.

In Jesus, we get a new look at God.

In Jesus, we get a new look.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sledding



So last night, I had this idea. I'm not sure if any of you have noticed, but the ground is covered in ice. That means that the sledding hills are covered in ice, too. I started thinking down the list of people who might be interested in sledding. This afternoon, I called Tim. He sounded a little hesitant and then remembered that he had stats at the basketball game tonight. However, the game ended up being cancelled and we headed out to locate sleds in B-town.


Family Dollar - NO


Dollar General - NO


A bit despondent, we looked and beheld a sign hanging outside Koontz Hardware.


Sleds


Alright!


After getting some warm clothes, we headed over to Sunnyside park. Sure enough, the hill is covered in ice. It was awesome. We could sled all the way across the soccer field to the parking lot. (Actually, my red racer made it 3/4 away across the parking lot.) Because of the sleet, we stopped by my house for safety glasses and goggles. This is definitely a benefit of working with chemicals! Off to Shadyside park for more sledding and a bit of a snowball fight. I asked Tim why he sounded a bit hesitant when I first asked him about going sledding.


He said that it just seemed a bit spontaneous.


Spontaneous.


I like the sound of that.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Today (Sunday)

Last night ~6:10 PM: Arrive back in Bremen at Horizon for church (see previous post).

7:30 PM: Return company car

7:45 PM: Arrive at Christmas Vacation move night. Great movie. Great times.

At the end of the movie: Roll over on side. Crash.

~11:15 PM - Wake up. Watch some TV. Laugh.

~11:45 PM - Get back home. Crash again.

Sunday 6:37 AM: Awaken to phone call. "Toddahito," says the voice on the other end of the line. I learn that the power is out in much of Bremen. This means that garage doors don't open. However, Clella needs to get out on a plane from South Bend to Detroit to Portland, Maine. I wait to hear back if the flights are still ago.

7:17 AM: Power goes out at my house.

7:18 AM: Receive confirmation that Clella's flight is a go.

7:19 AM: Call Clella. "Let's go."

7:20 AM: Stumble over shoes. Put them on. Find spare key to car because can't find regular key ring.

7:25 AM: Leave house. Drive through dark streets of Bremen. No lights on anywhere including stoplights.

7:30 AM: Pick up Clella. Start journey up 331. Treacherous.

8:19 AM: Arrive at airport.

8:45 AM: Get to counter. Ticket agent looks up. Oh no. "The Portland leg is cancelled," says the agent. Get on phone.

8:50 AM: Decide that Clella can continue on revised flight plan.

9:10 AM: Depart from airport. Use change from floor of car to pay $2 parking fee because no cash in wallet.

9:20 AM: Receive call from JDM. Turn around to go back and get Clella. Portland, Maine is supposed to get 2 more feet of snow.

9:30 AM: Meet Clella at Northwest line. Wait in line.

9:40 AM: Waiting in line. Waiting in line. Waiting in line.

10:30 AM: Get to counter. Full refund!

10:43 AM: Out of airport and on the way back to Bremen.

11:30 AM: Arrive at Steve and Amy's. The power is still out in Bremen but they have a generator and gas heat. Hang out with Steve, Amy, Jim, JDM, Clella, Charlotte. Good times!

3:00 PM: Taco soup time. Beans. Oh yeah!

4:45 PM: Arrive home. Take much needed shower.

6:00 PM: Arrive at farm. Enjoy a few hours with fam.

9:00 PM: Arrive home again.

10:00 PM: Reflect.

Wow, the last few days have been pretty amazing - honestly, in a good way. In recounting everything tonight with my mom, she inquired how I managed to stay calm out in New York. Actually, I just pretty much felt at peace with the entire situation. I was kind of taken aback by this sense of calmness.

Tonight, it dawned on me about what a blessing it was to spend time with folks today. It is kind of weird that adverse weather conditions bring people together in a special way. Helping Clella get to the airport and back home, maintaining steady contact with JDM to work on the travel situation, spending the afternoon with a group of people just having fun and staying warm, hanging out with the family. I can't imagine a world devoid this richness of relationships. I can't imagine a world without this huge opportunity to do this thing called living with these people.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday (Today)

Thursday ~ 8:00 PM: After talking with Dylan and Alex, I have a premonition that Friday's travel plans might be a bit dicey due to weather in Chicago. My flight is to depart at 9:30 AM. Oh, if it could just leave a little earlier. Bingo. I check out the United website. Syracuse to O'hare - 6:00 AM. Only one seat available. Syracuse to O'hare - 7:00 AM. Multiple seats available. Ah ha! Thinking that I am pretty clever, I go to bed in order to be ready to wake up at 4:30 AM to arrive at Syracuse, standby, and get on that 7:00 AM flight. Pretty clever!

Friday ~ 4:30 AM: Alarm goes off. Quickly get ready. Put on remaining clean shirt. Check out.

5:30 AM: Return rental car. Head to United line. The line is long. I mean long. Those cool little Kiosks aren't working and the line is long.

6:00 AM: First flight to Chicago leaves on time but presumably mostly empty because the 6:00 AM people are still standing in line due to the aforementioned technical difficulties.

7:00 AM: Second flight to Chicago leaves on time. This time it is full because the ticket agents call the 7:00 AM passengers to the front of the line (novel concept). The 6:00 AM passengers are still waiting to be re-booked.

7:30 AM: Finally, I get to the ticket agent - a bit smugly, of course. I mean who would have thought that it was necessary to get to the airport 4 hours in advance? (Me, of course.) The agent is looking at his screen and says, "Oh no. Here we go again. 6752 is cancelled." (Yes, that's right. 6752 is the third flight, my flight to Chicago.) Keeping my composure, I wait for the possibilities. The only remaining possibility for today is 5:30 PM in Rochester, NY. Okay, I'll take it.

7:45 AM: Go to rental car counter. I need a car to go back to work and then to Rochester for a 5:30 flight. The agent looks up. "That's not a good idea. There is a winter storm warning until 10:00 PM. You won't get out." I call my boss (one of them anyway) for advice. He says to find something for Saturday and head back to work.

8:00 AM: Proceed back to United line. It is not moving. Call travel agent. She says 5:30 PM Saturday is earliest on United. Call travel agent again. What about another airline? American has a flight at 12:45 PM. Call boss to see if okay to purchase another ticket. Call travel agent and get ticket on American because United line hasn't moved.

8:45 AM: Go back to rental car counter and rent a car. Previous car is Pontiac G5. Can't get this one back. End up with Ford Focus.

9:00 AM: On the way back to Oswego. Starving. Stop for McDonald's break.

9:45 AM: Arrive at Oswego plant. Change clothes. Replace "clean shirt" with outer shirt from Wednesday as under shirt and outer shirt from Thursday as outer shirt again. Head out to plant. Pass break room and notice box of chocolates. Eat a piece. Eat another. Eat another. Eat another. Amazing. Head out to plant. Work.

12:30 PM: Chinese carry-in. Delicious. Enjoyed company of Oswego folks.

Afternoon: Work on floor plans. Check dimensions. Continue studying platers.

5:00 PM: Pack box of dirty wire mill clothes and wet gym clothes. Nasty. Ask to have sent back on a truck. No rush.

5:30 PM: Depart for Rochester. Stop at Big Lots for clean underwear, socks, and t-shirt

8:15 PM: Arrive in Rochester. (Note: 78 miles)

8:30 PM: Head to restaurant. Monterrey chicken sandwich (includes avocado!) and a beverage.

9:30 PM: Gym

10:15 PM: Shower

Now: Bed

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shocking

The other night I read one of my favorite verses. In fact, this verse is printed on a plaque that hangs in my dining room. However, I happened to read it in the Message and it was as if I was reading the verse for the very first time (just a reminder, this is hanging on a plaque in my dining room).

So here it is in the NIV.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Despite the fact that this verse is hanging in my dining room, if I would have referenced this verse in any way shape or form, I would have thought that "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind" was the verse in its entirety.

It is almost like I just totally ignored the other part of the same sentence - the part in blue.

Check it out in the Message.

Brace yourself.

This is shocking!

Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:2 MSG)

I have more to write but am pooped and tomorrow is going to be a long day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Link Love

Just wanted to welcome a new blogger to the blog-o-sphere - although I know some of you have already found this blog! If you live in Bremen (and even if you don't), take a gander at the 12/15 post. This dude touches on some pretty important stuff. Although it is in the context of a merger, it really addresses some areas in our town that need some serious consideration. So, check it out.

Chuff's Thinkings

Keep up the good work, bro!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Some pics...





Sunday, December 14, 2008

Psalm 1

Last night, I wrote about finding Praise Habit by David Crowder. This is a book that I have already read. However, lately, I have found my daily Bible reading to be increasingly difficult. I struggle to maintain any type of focus. In his book, Crowder takes various Psalms and reflects on them in the in the tradition of Lectio Divina. I'm hoping over the next few weeks to also reflect on the Psalms that he has chosen and may share some of these reflections.

Psalm 1 (MSG)
How well God must like you—
you don't hang out at Sin Saloon,
you don't slink along Dead-End Road,
you don't go to Smart-Mouth College.

Instead you thrill to God's Word,
you chew on Scripture day and night.
You're a tree replanted in Eden,
bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
always in blossom.

You're not at all like the wicked,
who are mere windblown dust
Without defense in court,
unfit company for innocent people.

God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row.

Two phrases from this Psalm really stood out in my mind.

The first, "You're a tree replanted in Eden."

Reading this, I was reminded of post by Trent about this tree named, Rudy. If you click on the link, you'll see that Rudy is getting pretty big. Eventually, he'll need a new home. What would it be like if that new home were Eden and Rudy had the opportunity to drink of never ending streams of living water? What if Rudy could breathe in air free of pollution? What if Rudy could take root in rich soil filled with nutrients? What if Rudy could bask in the radiance of the sun and simply praise God and produce bountiful crops of "whirly-birds"?

The second, "who are mere windblown dust."

An image came to mind that is in stark contrast to the above image. One winter, I was on the way to Rensselear to a basketball game. Needing to release a 24 oz coffee, I stopped at gas station. Upon getting out, I was taken aback by my surroundings. This area is particularly flat and wide open. For miles around me, all I could see was snow covered with this dirty brown film. The winds had turned up dust from the farm fields and covered the clean white snow with grime. In fact, while dashing up to the gas station, my face was pelleted by these grains of sand.

Psalm 1 clearly delineates between the righteous and the wicked. I'm thankful for this God who offers an alternative to the barren wasteland.

Out.

(Stay tuned for some crazy pictures.)

Praise the Source of Faith and Learning

The lyrics to this hymn go with the same tune of Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.

For anyone interested in faith and learning, take a minute to read and reflect on these beautiful words.

Praise the Source of Faith and Learning

Praise the source of faith and learning
Who has sparked and stoked the mind
With a passion for discerning
How the world has been designed.
Let the sense of wonder flowing
From the wonders we survey
Keep our faith forever growing
And renew our need to pray:

God of wisdom, we acknowledge
That our science and our art
And the breadth of human knowledge
Only partial truth impart.
Far beyond our calculation
Lies a depth we cannot sound
Where your purpose for creation
And the pulse of life are found.

May our faith redeem the blunder
Of believing that our thought
Has displaced the grounds for wonder
Which the ancient prophets taught.
May our learning curb the error
Which unthinking faith can breed
Lest we justify some terror
With an antiquated creed.

As two currents in a river
Fight each others’ undertow
‘Til converging they deliver
One coherent steady flow.
Blend, O God, our faith and learning
‘Til they carve a single course
While they join as one returning
Praise and thanks to you their source.
---Thomas H. Troeger (born 1945)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Blessing or a Curse




I know some people who are extremely organized. Some people have a place for everything. One of my friends even has his garage completely organized. This amazes me.


I am not one of these people.

I'm just not wired that way.


The strange thing is that I know how to organize things and have done this for various projects at work - dies, cabinets, even tools for operators. However, I have absolutely no interest in maintaining the organizational scheme once it is set up.


Since purchasing the house, I have been on a purging mission. However, trips to New York and school interrupted this mission. This afternoon, I hit it hard again for a few hours - organizing files and cleaning in one of the closets. While working in the closet, I was just baffled by the randomness. I really don't know what is going through my head or how things end up where they end up. Above you will see some pictures to demonstrate the point.


The first picture is of various items that were piled together on a top shelf.


A blue sweater vest
Finger nail clippers
Discolored wire samples from when I was working in Lafayette
A broken umbrella
A paper entitled "Controlled Reactions on a Copper Surface"
Sheet music for Halle, Halle, Halleluja and Christ Has Risen

The second picture is the contents of a plastic bag stashed on the shelf. Items in the bag:
A German Dictionary
7 unused envelopes
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
pg 92 of UL1581 - Physical Properties of XLPO Insulations
The second page of sheet music for Were You There?


The third picture is the contents of a second bag stashed on the shelf. Items in this second bag:
A letter from Bremen Chevrolet
Praise Habit by David Crowder (I have actually been looking for this book so was delighted to have it appear.)
2 notebooks
A couple pads of unused sticky notes
Cleansing the Leper by Bob Swank
2 one dollar bills
1 glove


Okay, now I'm actually laughing out loud at this random compilation.


This really leaves me with the question: Is this deficiency in organization a curse... or a blessing?
Out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gifts

Tonight, at student ministry, we did a little activity. Each person had a gift envelope filled with phrases describing gifts falling into four categories: leadership, service, teaching, and encouragement. Each person picked the statement that best described him or her. Then each person taped descriptions onto other people. After everyone was done taping, we sat down for a discussion. However, there was a little twist to the activity. The phrases were color-coded according to the four categories. One of the students realized that we each had a color that was more common. It was pretty cool to read through the descriptions and realize how accurately we had identified the gifts of each person in the room. This led to a really interesting discussion and each person had insights to share. One student shared challenges that she encounters because of her gift. One thing that really stood out to me was how we identified the gifts of others. Isn't it weird that others can sometimes see our gifts - maybe even more than we can see the gifts in ourselves? Isn't it crazy that each of us has a gift - a gift to share with other people? What an amazing responsibility. This kind blows my mind.

1 Peter 7-11, MSG: Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God's words; if help, let it be God's hearty help. That way, God's bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he'll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Intrinsic Motivation

This semester, I took accounting and economics at Bethel. I have always really enjoyed school. However, this semester, more than ever, I experienced intrinsic motivation or "motivation associated activities that are there own reward." In other words, the freedom to just learn for the sake of learning pervaded my experience in these two classes. Economics helped me to think more about how and why we make decisions. Accounting was like solving these cool puzzles that also happened to be quite practical - like developing a mortgage amortization schedule or calculating present and future values of money. Tonight, though, my professor said something that just really took me by surprise. After turning in the final, he handed me my last homework assignment and held out his hand. I thought that was kind of strange, but I shook his hand. He said, "In all my years of teaching, you were by far the best student I have ever had." What? That just floored me. However, some things really started to make sense to me. I like school. I like learning. I like being a student. The cool thing is that it isn't even about grades anymore - it is about learning. Is it possible to be a professional student? That would be amazing.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

An Evening Journey

Well, tonight I did something a little bit unusual (at least for me)...

As I opened the door of the car, the sharp air took my breath away. I started on my way. Soon, I turned the corner and looked up. Before me, through the flurries and amidst the sounds of the carillon, stood the Golden Dome. To its left stood the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. My pace quickened in anticipation of the the warmth inside. I climbed the steps and opened the door to find a church filled with people. A few seats remained in the left section of pews. I sat down, and a moment later, the organ filled the cavernous structure. Voices sang out, "Rejoice, rejoice, believers, and let your lights appear." The procession rounded the corner in front of me and soon the pungent odor of incense filled the air.

The Feast of Lessons and Carols was a beautifully solemn experience anticipating the coming of our Lord. This year, more than ever, has proven, thus far, to be difficult to find a few moments to contemplate the coming of Christ. Tonight, however, provided an opportunity, amidst the hustle and bustle and uncertain times, to think about Jesus. As the incense permeated the air, I thought about Jesus permeating our lives offering this amazing connection, this link, between Earth and Heaven.

______

Justin shared this link to Advent Conspiracy. Check it out.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Glory to God in the Highest

Okay, I want to be honest about something tonight. I have been going, going, going for days, weeks. Sometimes, I feel like the game Atari Pong. We still had my dad's game when we were younger. My brother and I would play it on the old TV in our upstairs bedroom. My favorite part of the game was when the Pong block would get "stuck" and just go back and forth horizontally. That is what it has kind of felt like lately with work, school, church, and trips to Oswego. So honestly, Holy Walk this year seemed kind of like another thing on the calendar.

Holy Walk is this great event in Bremen that has been around for 28 years. In fact, my parents were involved in organizing the original Holy Walk and it was at our farm. It is a journey to Bethlehem and includes encounters with Mary and Joseph, shepherds, angels, the innkeeper at the inn, the merchants in the village, Jesus in the manger, and the wise men.

With some reluctance, I donned the angel garb and headed out in the cold with my trumpet and halo. The amazing thing is that it was so worth it. The "heavenly hosts" had a riotous time telling stories, laughing, eating. Several groups had passed by and then this special group came up to visit the shepherds.

Upon observing the signal, I did the little trumpet fanfare and exclaimed:

"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:10-12, ESV)

As I said, "Fear not," every person, EVERY PERSON, kneeled. Now typically, the shepherds will kneel and maybe a few kids, but in this group, every person kneeled.

Then, the rest of the angels sang,

"Glory to God in the Highest,
Peace on Earth,
Goodwill,
Toward men."

Wow.

Seeing those folks kneeling, hearing the angels singing, I thought about worship, about Heaven and Earth touching, about praising God.

Glory to God in the Highest!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Monday

Okay, I realize tonight is Wednesday night already. However, I'd like to back track to Monday for a few moments to record two events for posterity.

Monday morning, I headed into the weight room just like any other Monday morning. After lifting for awhile, I started cardio on the stationary bike. Usually, I just stay on one machine, but for some reason, the treadmill looked enticing. (I had some negative vibes to sweat out and the bike just wasn't getting it done.) So I cranked that thing up to 9.5-10 mph and got in a quick mile and then was ready to head to the stepper. I backed the speed down and then pressed "stop." The machine continued to slow down and I thought it was slow enough to step off.

Uh, yeah, about that.

It wasn't.

The floor felt kind of hard after flying off the machine.

In the past, I would have been pretty mortified by this little situation. However, I just got up and head over to the stepper. It was kind of comical really.

Fast forward to Monday night after class. I was heading south from campus and it was sleeting. I was droving slow because of the slippery road. However, despite the caution, the headlights from the car behind me were not reflecting in the rearview mirror. No, they were shining right into my eyes. In an instant, my car had rotated 180 degrees and was still in the correct lane. So I checked the other lane, turned the car around, and headed on my merry shook up way.

These two events were pretty powerful reminders to me. I needed these events. They reminded me that some things are beyond our control, that life is fragile, that sometimes it is necessary to just get up and get going again, that sometimes it can feel like things are going in completely the wrong direction. However, the enemy - whether it be embarrassment, guilt, shame, even death - has been defeated.

We sang this great song from Hillsong last night...

The enemy has been defeated
And death couldn't hold You down
We're gonna lift our voice in victory
We're gonna make Your praises loud

Monday, December 1, 2008

Music

Music has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. As a youngster, I remember singing in the programs at church. Piano lessons started in 1st grade. Band started in 5th grade and extended all the way through college. I even took some piano in college. Now, I play keyboard in the worship band at church. However, this is extremely difficult for me. Why? Well, the music is not written out on the page. By this, I mean that all of my music background has involved reading the music - attempting to replicate the notes, rhythms, tempos, etc, that are written on the page. In fact, as students, we were graded on how close we "perfected" the sheet music. This past Friday, instead of replicating someone else's music, we (Trent, Ben, and I) created music with the dulcimer, guitar, and keyboard. No sheet music. No plan. We just played. I don't know about the other guys, but this was really amazing for me. I felt free.

I think that there is much more to this experience. The parallels to both life and church seem quite striking. Do any of you ever feel that your life is somehow trying to be scripted by our culture? I do. There is the right type of haircut, the right job, the right car, the right clothes. However, what happens when we are free to create the music and not let the sheet music create us?

I think this is similar to the church, too. So much of contemporary Christianity seems scripted, religious, just going through the motions. Honestly, that is what it seems like for me right now. Yet, last night I was reading about this amazing Jesus - the Revolutionary. The Jesus who deliberately healed on the Sabbath, who defied traditions, who ate food with unwashed hands, who healed with spittle and clay - in direct defiance of Jewish law. (see Pagan Christianity) To continue on with the analogy, Jesus created his own music - a song filled with freedom, spontaneity, and joy.

What would it be like to be a part of this music - to be at the "center of the beating heart of God?"

Right now, I don't know.

However, I long for this.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Other Side of the Story

So the last couple of posts involved being thankful.

However, there is another side of the story. Honestly, right now is also a time of significant struggle - personal demons, cynicism, and frustration. It is a time of desert-wandering, of aridity, of thirst.

In the past couple of weeks, I have discovered that loyalties, alternate ideas, and apparent successes do not necessarily result in dividends. From a personal stand-point, my "old" defense mechanisms are coming back into play.

Why? I don't really know exactly.

Yesterday, though, I had the opportunity to hit the pavement for a farm run. The farm run is, well, a run to the farm - conveniently around lunch-time. So I run for 4.76 miles, eat some lunch, let lunch settle, and run back 4.76 miles to my house. Just a few blocks into the run, an acquaintance walked out into his yard. Suddenly, thoughts from summer biking and running started to come back. Thoughts of being closer to the surroundings, to being out in the world. So I shifted into reverse and stopped to talk for a few minutes... just the normal "how was your Thanksgiving?" Then all of the sudden I remembered a picture of the guy in the Bremen Enquirer and said congrats about that. It was pretty cool how the words just came out of no where. This happened at the grocery store on Friday afternoon, too. I was picking up items to make BIG sandwich and soup. I passed by a different acquaintance. About two months ago, I had been out on another long run and had seen this person taking senior pictures of her son out in the yard. So I had stopped at the time and talked with them for a few minutes. So on Friday, I turned around and asked about the pictures. They turned out great. The really interesting thing was that we passed again in the grocery store and she asked about swimming (because evidently she sees me running back and forth from school) so we talked again.

Well, I guess that in the midst of this desert-wandering, one possibility would be to withdraw, to retreat. However, the noted experiences are not-so-subtle reminders that the better alternative is to go out, to advance.

Later!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Good Times

Here are some pictures to accompany Trent's post. The evening included serious competition in indoor lawnsports. The last round became quite heated. The mountain dulcimer made an appearance and resulted in two concerts featuring Trent on the guitar, Ben on the dulcimer, and Todd (that's me) on the keyboard. It also included a rendition of Let It Be with four hands on the piano. However, as you can see below, there was also interest in the trumpet. That thing sure left a puddle when the spit valve opened up.


Chemistry in action. The evening included recitations from Corrosion and Corrosion Control. It also included a demonstration of Boyle's Law relating pressure and volume (as seen above).


Indoor cornhole

Indoor cornhole


Trumpeter 1



Trumpeter 2 with mute





Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Moments

The holiday season started off with a bang last night in B-town.

Last night the Horizon band joined the high school band and Santa Claus at the town Christmas lighting. Down-town Bremen was packed with people of all ages just out having a good time. Some people may or not have even sported blinking red noses. Grandpa was really in the festive spirit and came up by the keyboard to sing a long.

After the lighting, my brother and I carpooled all of about 5 blocks to my aunt's house for some amazing soup. We welcomed our family from Wisconsin as they finally made it into town after some busy traveling conditions. We all made s'mores around the fireplace!

After setting up the chairs and tables with Jim for Horizon's dinner, I went out for a "turkey trot." Wow, it really couldn't have been more beautiful... the crisp air, the radiant sun, clear skies. Amazing.

All Mom's side of the family met in Winona Lake for lunch. This included two rousing games of Pictionary.

The evening featured the Huff gathering in Mishawaka and I think ten rounds of Catchphrase. I'm glad that my dad could be with all of his three sisters this Thanksgiving. That hasn't happened in a long time.

And now...

Sleep!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Simple Gifts

Lately, this idea of simple pleasures has been coming up in communication. I'm not really too keen on pleasures so I'm changing it to gifts.

So I am thankful for simple gifts...

Some of these gifts...

On Saturday, I drove out to the farm and Chad was cultivating the soil. (I'm sure he has a more appropriate term.) The smell of the newly turned soil permeated the Cavalier. The richness of the soil was overwhelming!

Tonight, I helped Clella move her furniture back. She is a special gal and I'm thankful for her pies, friendship bread, and hugs. (By the way, she is a great lifeguard!)

I am thankful for the opportunity to take the plunge in the mornings into the cool pool water. It sure is a great way to clean away the cobwebs. (The run across the field in a damp swimming suit is fun, too.)

When Troy was in high school, he used to stop by my house sometimes for lunch. Sometimes, our schedules would coincide and we both be at the house for a few minutes. Those were great moments. Now, he is away at college, but I still am thankful when he calls while at home to see if he can come into town and watch one of the games on cable (like he is tonight).

I'm thankful for the opportunity to play music with the band at church as we worship God. Sometimes it takes being away from practice a week to really realize what a wonderful group that we have.

Feel free to share the simple gifts for which you give thanks.

Out!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving

Has anyone checked the calendar lately?

Well, just in case you haven't, please note that this Thursday is Thanksgiving.

Wow, can you believe it?

I can't. It is almost shocking how fast time has passed and seems to be passing.

This week, I hope to offer thanks on this blog.

I'm going to start with a letter from Mom that I received in 2001. The crazy thing is that, as you will see, it refers back to 1995 when I was a freshman in high school.

Dear Todd,

In November of 1995, you wrote a paper on thankfulness. You spoke about being thankful for life and making the most of the time that we have. You stated that each person should "participate in activities, assist others, set high standards, and get to know God. Do not dwell on the past, but plan for the future. All people should work to improve themselves and influence others positively."

I know that you have done all those things, plus much, much more. I am so proud of the fine young man that you have become. My prayers are always with you as you continue with life's challenges and adventures.

Love always,
Mom
So tonight I'm thankful for my family - Mom, Dad, Chad, and Troy. Today, we shared a meal together. It was amazing. We had a serious conversation about church, about our town, about life. Although we were unable to solve any of the world's problems, this was a great time of sharing that I'm not sure we have ever shared previously. Although "growing up" sometimes still seems very scary and uncertain, I was so reassured today because although we are no longer three boys running around the farm, we have changed and are changing, we have grown and are growing... and it is okay.
Tonight, I am also thankful for the past. Although I apparently wrote, "do not dwell on the past," I think it is okay to be thankful for the past. I'm thankful growing up on the farm... for building straw forts with Matt, for playing in the sandbox with Chad (the ants in his pants were particularly funny), for building furniture for the treehouse, for having been so fortunate to live right by Grandpa and Grandma, for the chance to work the soil, for riding with my dad on the combine, for campfires, for camp three stones, for playing trumpet out on the deck...
There is much more that I could write about, but I guess that I'm not embarrassed to say that the screen is a bit difficult to see through the tears...

Good night and God bless.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oswego

I left for another trip to Oswego on Tuesday. The trip out was uneventful and I made it into town in time to hit the health club in the basement of the hotel.

I focused much of the trip on the electroplaters. While studying the platers and contemplating improvement opportunities and strategies, it occurred to me that plating is how I entered into this business. It is kind of strange how some things seem to end up cycling back. Situations and context change but many of the underlying issues remain the same including containment of corrosive chemicals, identifying key parts and maintaining adequate inventory of these parts, and drag-out concerns.

I have enjoyed getting to know the people at the plant. It is interesting to hear their stories.

The trip back to the airport of Friday ended up being a bit challenging due to white-out conditions. The snow was really coming down! I couldn't see the road. However, it let up as I approached Syracuse and the flight ended up being delayed by just an hour.

Friday night, after flying into Chicago, I met a friend for dinner at Giordano's. Now that is some good pizza!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Trivia question...

Is this my office?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Restoration

While writing an email tonight, I had this realization of sorts. I have been working in the electroplating department. We are working on helping to keep some very old machines running - hopefully for years to come. We are also improving the appearance of the overall department. It dawned on me tonight that this is restoration work. Wow, all of the sudden this work has much more value - much more urgency. Actually, in thinking a little bit more about this, so much of what I do does have a deeper meaning. For example, most of the cost saving work that I do involves material optimization and conservation. This means that valuable resources are being used as optimally as possible - stewardship.

Pretty cool!

Later!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Desert

This evening, I had the opportunity to spend some time reading in Mark. I had the privilege to read a paper by my friend, Kevin, and this led me to Mark's Gospel. At St. Joseph's, I wrote a paper entitled, The Good News Came Out of the Desert, that was based on the Gospel accounts of Jesus in the desert. Consequently, I thought that I had read the first chapter of Mark multiple times. (Well, I have.) However, tonight, it was like a different story. Specifically, verse 12 seemed totally different.

"At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert,"

Somehow, the Spirit never stood out when reading this. My jaw dropped when I read this tonight. What in the world does this mean? The Spirit sent Jesus into the desert where he was tempted by Satan. What does this mean in our individual and collective journeys? It seems like a lot of Christianity wants to create this protective shield around us. I kind of get this impression from the current institution of higher education that I am attending. (By the way, I really like this school.) However, the entry is surrounded by this really large, beautiful fence. What is this structure fencing in or out? God doesn't seem to have put a fence around Jesus. The Spirit sent him into the desert.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Rational Faith?

I continue to read Pagan Christianity? This is a book that I read about 2/3 of the way through this summer and am now working through the last 1/3. Last night, I read about Christian education. This chapter addresses something that puzzles me about contemporary Christianity. The first sentence of the chapter:

"In the minds of most Christians, formal Christian education qualifies a person to do the Lord's work."

Although this is a pretty sweeping generalization, there is certainly a lot of truth in this statement. In my on journey, I tend to think that surely if I read another book or study some more things will make more sense. I also tend to feel pretty intimidated by those who have undergone formal Christian education. It seems like they must be Super-Christians or something.

However, another sentence stood out in the chapter:

"As products of the Reformation, we are taught to be rationalistic (and very theoretical) in our approach to the Christian faith."

I laughed when I read this statement.

I wonder how many people thought Jesus was a particularly rational guy.

How rational was it for fishermen to just drop what they were doing and follow some random guy just because he said, "Come, follow me."

The authors shared a quote from Blaise Pascal:

"It is the heart which perceived God, and not the reason."

The Heart!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

We Are Marshall

First, I just need to let Ben know that a select few have photographic evidence confirming one of his deepest questions. Someday, he, too, might enter into this inner circle.

This weekend involved a lot of action. However, I was able to try out some new things and learned quite a bit, too. Tonight, though, is not the time to share most of this. The house-cleaning, though, has made significant progress and even extended to the bag shed with the help of one of the high schoolers. It is such a relief to be getting drawers, closets, and, now, even the shed purged. We also raked the leaves!

So tonight, after running in a snow shower, I sat down to watch a movie. I rarely watch movies anymore so this was unusual and felt kind of weird. However, it was so worth it. I watched We Are Marshall for the second time. I could probably watch it several more times. It is the true story about rebuilding the Marshall football program after a plane crash wiped out the Thundering Herd. First, can you imagine what the people of that college community felt like - particularly the handful of people affiliated with the football program who were not on the trip with the team. We've all lost loved ones, but an entire plane filled with "family?" However, this crazy guy, Jack Lengyel took a job - the job of coaching the Marshall team only months after this tragedy beyond all tragedies. He became a restorer, a bringer of hope, and instiller of heart.

Some awesome parts of the movie...

Seeing the President of Marshall University standing outside the NCAA in Kansas City, drenched, pleading for an exemption to allow true freshmen on the team. He says, "We are hurting. We want to play football but we can't do it without your help."

Lengyel and his assistant at rival West Virginia watching tapes to learn about the veer. As two WVU players leave the film room, the coaches see a cross and MU on the back of the helmets.

Lengyel talking about winning... Winning is everything and nothing else matters. This is what he thought until coming to Marshall. It wasn't true at Marshall anymore. It was not about winning or losing, or even how they played the game. After experiencing tragedy, the only thing that mattered was that they

took the field.

Out!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Collision of Two Worlds

This past summer, I read most of the Chronicles of Narnia. What struck me is the idea of these two worlds that are so close together - just a wardrobe apart. The kids could walk through the wardrobe and be in Narnia. This left me wondering a lot about Heaven and Earth. I grew up praying the Lord's prayer every Sunday, but never really put a whole lot of thought into the prayer. Now, when I don't know what else to pray (which is pretty often), this is what I pray.

... thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. ...

This part of the prayer strikes me every time. What is it like in Heaven? Where is Heaven? Jim shared a lot about this tonight in the message. However, one verse struck me in particular...

Then I looked, and, oh!—a door open into Heaven. The trumpet-voice, the first voice in my vision, called out, "Ascend and enter. I'll show you what happens next."(Rev 4:1)

Can you imagine what John felt? It was a door to another world...

Heaven.

Maybe Heaven is not in some distant place beyond outer space. I know that is what I always sensed Heaven must be - some place, far, far, far away. What if Heaven is kind of like this parallel world? What if Heaven is behind the back panel of the closet? What if Heaven is right around us waiting to be recognized and realized?

Where are the doors??

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hair and Image Management



Before



After


Well, as my coworkers duly noted today, I got a haircut. It was kind of funny really. I heard probably ten times, "Whoa, you a got a haircut." No way, is that what you call this? The haircut came about because of swimming - that is the only reason, just wanted to make that clear. As a novice to regularly swimming, I did not know that it was necessary to get a special shampoo because of the chlorine in the water. Consequently, my hair did some pretty crazy stuff. It got all tangled together and started to feel strange. Much to my chagrin, it had to go. Of course, it will grow back - at least for now (hopefully, for many, many years yet to come!).


However, I started to think about this in light of my previous post - specifically, the line about image management. So okay, I'm going to tell you that I felt kind of naked after getting a haircut. Why? Well, with the hair also went the "mad scientist" image. In fact, someone said today, "I like the mad scientist look better." I guess that kind of ties into the whole dressing up thing, though. It is kind of like Adam and Eve. They felt naked. They "dressed up." What would happen if we all were able to be ourselves before God - to not worry about how we look or about having a certain image?
I wrestle with this verse:
"In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you." (Mt. 5:48, MSG)
Out!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Letter to the Editor

Unfortunately, I tossed the paper before cutting out this letter to the editor. However, it has kind of been in the back of my mind since reading it. The author shared his utter disdain for the clothes that "young" people wear to church. He wrote that no one would wear the clothes that these people wear to wedding or funerals and that these clothes dishonor God.

The question I wanted to ask this author:

Would you prefer that these people don't go to church at all?

Honestly, I would be afraid to hear the answer.

I was also reminded of a chapter in Pagan Christianity? entitled, Sunday Morning Costumes: Covering up the Problem. In this chapter, Frank Viola and George Barna explore the roots of "dressing up for church."

Dressing up became increasingly popular with the invention of mass textile manufacturing. Why? Well, all of the sudden, the common people could afford the clothing of the aristocracy. By the 184os, fashion had developed into an important part of "honoring" God. However, the reality is that dressing up for church was nothing more than common folks attempting to show off their improved status by their clothing.

The authors go on to describe why the whole dressing up thing is a problem.

It is nothing more than image management.

From the book:

"Dressing up for church violates the reality that the church is made up of real people with messy problems - real people who may have gotten into a major-league bickering match with their spouses just before they drove into the parking lot and put on colossal smiles to cover it up!

Wearing our 'Sunday best' conceals a basic underlying problem. It fosters the illusion that we are somehow 'good' because we are dressing up for God. It is a study in pretense that is dehumanizing and constitutes a false witness to the world."

Wow, these guys really go at this issue. I can honestly say that this makes sense to me. I know from my own experiences that I act differently when I'm wearing a suit or even a tux - maybe a little less farting, for example. It is kind of like I insert legs into pants and arms into jacket and enter a different world. Honestly, when people dress up to go to the wedding are they really "honoring" the couple or are they concerned about their own image? Again, from personal experience, I would lean toward the latter. In regards to wearing clothes to "honor" the dead. Hey dude, guess what? The people are dead. I doubt that they give a darn about the clothes people are wearing.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8, NIV)

Monday, November 10, 2008

This Evening

I just had something strange happen. When I walked in the door, I locked at the clock.

9:01

9:01? I was so confused. I ran into the bedroom and checked the alarm clock.

9:01

What the heck?

Then, I it dawned on me.

Duh!

I haven't changed the clock in my car and was driving back from Mishawaka thinking that it was already 10:00. (My guess is that the car clock won't be changed until a road-trip sometime next summer.)

It was a pretty amazing feeling, though, to realize that there was still an "extra" hour in the day.

So tonight we had our second accounting exam. It was actually pretty fun in a warped sense of fun. Before class, I was talking with the student behind me. We were just kind of chatting and then she asked if I had thought about tutoring in accounting. (Tutoring in accounting? Another, what the heck? for the night.) She told me that she knew I was doing good in the class - kind of weird what people know - and wondered if I had thought about tutoring. Flattered, I said that I only get to campus once a week so the timing wouldn't work out great. However, it was pretty cool to be asked. For a long time, I've been the "mad scientist guy" so it was neat for a few minutes to be the "accounting guy."

After class, I headed down to Kohl's for some gloves. I'm hoping to run in the AM and my old gloves failed to keep my fingers warm. (What are gloves for, anyway?) After finding gloves, I headed out of the parking lot and an amazing sign drew my attention:

Del Taco.

I had never been to Del Taco but succumbed to temptation and drove the Cav across the road into the parking lot of Del Taco. With great anticipation, I casually sauntered into the establishment and checked out the menu like I had been there a thousand times. I concealed my delight at seeing "Crispy Fish Taco $1.49" listed on the second menu panel from the left. What to get with the fish taco? I casually turned my head to read the rest of the menu and an sublime image drew my attention. The picture depicted a concave vessel nearly overflowing with a vast orange-hued web encompassing premium gems - cosmic legumes. Dazed, I whispered the remainder of my order and waited, gazing in awe at the picture, until the order came up.

Beans, so magical.

(Okay, so I only wasted 1/2 of my extra hour writing this. Night!)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Worshipping

Last night was pretty awesome. For most of my life, I have gone to church expecting to get something in return - that somehow God would come send some special message during that single hour of this thing we call church. Last night, it was all about giving it all to God - worshipping. It was awesome. Strange things start to happen when you enter into church with this modified mindset. When I would go to church expecting to get something, sure sometimes there would be this tingling feeling, but many times I would walk away disappointed. However, giving it all to God creates a huge place for God to enter and it was awesome to leave re-energized. In fact, there was such a buzz after church, it was hard to leave.

Time to rake leaves!

Out!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Difficult Pill to Swallow

First, I need to correct a grievous error that Ben pointed out regarding the previous post. The two friends did not visit my office. Instead, they visited my workcenter. As some of you know, the office is where I go to read the Wire Journal International. I'm certainly sorry for any confusion or concern that this oversight created.

As written earlier, I rode bike with Trent last Sunday. However, it just didn't seem the same as rides earlier in the summer. The earlier rides seemed filled with anticipation and enthusiasm. The time spent riding seemed much more carefree and joy-filled. More recently, life seems much different. For example, I learned that working hard to save money for the company does not necessarily equate to saving jobs. This really crushed my spirit. Recently only one student showed up for student ministry. We learned that two of the students were at Taco Bell in South Bend. Again, at the time this seemed pretty disappointing.

However, a good friend shared something with me this week:

"I recall a particular Saturday when a one Todd Huff spoke of expectancy and anticipation while riding a bicycle through the church. Expectancy that God will show up. That the Spirit is going to work. "

Whoa, I was taken aback by this comment. In the past few weeks, this expectancy and anticipated has drastically dissipated. Today, though, I'm thankful. I'm thankful that we still are able to employ as many people as we are employing. I'm thankful for the time that the other leaders and I had to spend with the student who showed up - we played UNO and had a pretty serious conversation in the process. I'm thankful for a friend who offered a not-so-subtle reminder the Spirit is at work and is going to work.

God is present!

Off to band practice and to worship this God.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Friend

Two friends stopped by my office today. One recently experienced a lay-off and is not working right now. This friend really reminded me of how much I take for granted. I really admire her because of the genuine sense of enthusiasm and optimism that exudes from her - even during this challenging time. She explained that this is forcing her to trust God in a totally new way. She also shared that she is taking this time to head back to school. Wow, that is so bold and courageous!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Times They Are A-Changin'

This line from Bob Dylan's song with the same title has been going through my mind over and over again now for days. There is a lot of change going on right now. At work, we are experiencing change - reorganization and new challenges due to the weak economy. On the national scene, we elected a new president yesterday. The time changed over the weekend. The leaves have changed color. I have been thinking a lot about change - lamenting some changes and taking joy in others. Maybe it is just consequence of all the change that is happening right now, but I've been wondering about changes in my own life. Are there areas that need to change? Questions of purpose and identity have floated through my thoughts as of late. I read some letters tonight that I had kept from years past. They left me feeling challenged more than ever and with even more unanswered questions.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Voting

Well, tomorrow is the highly anticipated election day that has been in the news nonstop now for months. It is a historic election. We will either have our first black president or first female vice president. It is pretty amazing to live in a country that offers these possibilities.

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I really hadn't finished a book in quite some time. So I returned to reading Shane Claiborne's, The Irresistible Revolution. In the chapter, Kingdom's Collide, he writes about the conflicting allegiances Christians face - allegiances to God and country. He shared an interesting statement about voting:

"After all, we vote every day by how we live, what we buy, and who we pledge allegiance to, so I just decided to write in my vote, as I did not find it on the national ballot."

Later!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday

Wow, has anyone looked at the calendar? Today is November 2 and the temperature in Rensselaer peaked at 74 balmy degrees this afternoon.

However, this morning, in Bremen, the conditions were quite different. After a lengthy hiatus, Trent and I headed out for a bike ride this morning. (We missed Ben. We had a lot of great rides this summer! Last night, we were reminscing about the "lost" hay wagon.) The sharp winds warranted wearing gloves and a long sleeved shirt. As we started out, the wind seemed to create a pressure differential that made breathing seem like gasping. However, we persisted and eventually encountered the wonders of fall. The trees were ablaze with color. This year, the reds are especially vibrant. As we sat in the yard after finishing the ride, the sun gleamed just right on some trees to our right. The damp, golden leaves shimmered in the sun's rays.

On to Rensselaer...

After lunch with a friend, I headed to campus for the 50th Kairos closing Mass. Following Mass, I caught up with friends, Mo and Nick, at the reception. Later, I walked across campus and met Troy at Bennett. We enjoyed a pleasant stroll around the reflecting pond and through the grotto and then worked on his schedule for next semester.

Now, it is time to rest!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Blessing Machine

I sat down to start typing a few thoughts and this peculiar odor wafted into my nostrils. It is this kind of sour odor. It took me awhile to figure out and then I noticed the half gallon milk jug that I finished last night. Yes, it is on the floor by the sofa without the lid. I guess that there is still a lot of working to go in developing cleaning habits.

This evening at church, Jim made a comment that forced me to think about this morning.

His comment was something like, "God has blessed us every single morning before we even get up." This might be paraphrased a bit, but I think it captures what he was trying to say. I thought back to this morning. I woke up and really didn't want to get out of bed. I hadn't slept great and just felt pretty much exhausted - physically and mentally. However, Justin had left a reminder on the blog about the Run Baby, Baby Run 10K in Plymouth. So a bit grouchy, I stepped out into the cold morning and just thought, what the heck am I doing? At the race, I saw Pete, and he said, "Oh, I didn't know you were going to be here." Unfortunately, I'm a bit embarrassed by my response because it was something to the effect that it was hard getting out of bed and it was cold. What kind of response is that? It is pretty warped. I wasted the first few hours of the morning moaning and groaning rather than recognizing that God is the Blessing Machine. What blessings did I overlook? Well, let's see. Friends. Beautiful fall colors. Crisp, fresh air. The opportunity to run. The list goes on and on. Yet, it is so easy to get this all mixed up. This morning, I missed the mark entirely - putting my focus in all the wrong places. However, by the end of the race, the situation had been rectified and the day seemed to start over again in a new and awesome way - culminating in an amazing worship experience at church tonight.

Tomorrow is a new day! A day to wake up, mindful of God's blessings from the very beginning!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Flashback

Tonight, at group, Keith referred to Proverbs 31.

I opened to the verse, looked at the title for the passage, and immediately started to fight back tears.

The title:

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

I read this passage (10-31) at Grandma's funeral.

I remember sitting in the pew and then seeing it was time for the scripture reading. I passed the beautiful casket, climbed two steps, slowly turned, and faced a church full of faces - the faces of family and friends. Grandpa sat in the front pew to my right with the rest of the immediate family extend on to the left. I looked down and somehow read through this passage - and was struck by how accurately it described her.

I learned a lot that day.

Together, as a team, Mom and Dad read a letter that Dad had written to Grandma. I was blown away by their obvious unity and love for one another as they supported each other through this difficult endeavour.

Before the funeral, the casket was still open for visitation. Grandma and Grandpa's Sunday school class all gathered together just before the end of the visitation time. Together, they filed past the casket - all together for one last time.

I remember the tears of a little girl who also called Grandma, Grandma.

I remember hugging Grandpa and him saying, "It is hard. Isn't it?"

So I learned a lot about love, about unity, about family, about pain.

But I also learned about comfort.

As Matthew writes, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (5:4).

And with this comfort

comes

hope.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Gazelle

Whew, I'm beat. Not sure what hit me today but it feels like running into a wall and ending up kind of dazed. (Been there, done that.)

On Saturday night, I missed church at Horizon because of wedding. A buddy from work got married. It was a nice evening. On Sunday, I decided to go to church at Grace UMC.

The message was quite thought-provoking. I think it ties in kind of with my last post. The pastor talked about Acts 9:36-42. This passage is about a lady named Dorcas. She dies and her friends are really sad. They hear that Peter is in nearby town and send some guys to bring him back to their town. Peter arrives and goes into the room with Dorcas. He prays and says, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes and got up. On Sunday, I noticed that the only part of this passage that had previously drawn my attention was verse 40. How do I know this? Well, I had circled, "Tabitha, get up." This is because that is what I thought the story was all about - bringing someone back to life. However, Pastor Garver shed some further light into the story.

Why were her friends so upset?

She was a disciple.
She was "always doing good."
She was always "helping the poor."

She made such an influence on her friends that they sent people out bring back Peter.

Dorcas sounds like a pretty cool lady. Her name is cool enough. Okay, in all seriousness, she sounds like a lady who left a legacy when she finally did die. She made a difference. She impacted the lives of others. In fact, the pastor pointed out that her legacy continues to this day with a Tabitha school in Tel Aviv and the Dorcas Society. (Tabitha is Aramaic translation of the Greek name Dorcas.)

Both Dorcas and Tabitha mean

Gazelle.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reflection


Gate to Huff Cemetery

Great-Great-Great-Great Grandpa Huff


Great-Great-Great Grandpa Huff


Great-Great Grandma Huff

Great-Great Grandpa Huff

Great-Grandpa Huff


Great-Grandma Huff


Grandma Huff




On Sunday night, I had a chance to take a breather. With the recent trip to New York, finishing up the econ project, closing on the house, and various other demands, I just needed some time to sit back, read, and reflect. I came across these verses from Psalms. While this entire passage is quite beautiful, I am most struck by the last three lines below. "All the days ordained ... before one of them came to be."

Psalms 139:13-16 (NIV)

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.



After my grandma died, I became pretty fascinated with the local cemeteries - specifically, the Bremen and Huff cemeteries. In fact, for several months, I regularly walked through the Bremen cemetery and looked at the stones. In a strange way, these walks gave me an incredible sense of time and place. When I started thinking about just my own ancestors, the odds of me (or any of us) living at this time in this place seem absurdly slim. Yet, as the Psalmist describes, this has all been planned out before any of us came to be. Now that just kind of blows my mind. I think it adds an incredible sense of value and purpose to our lives. No one else will ever have the chance to live in this specific location at this specific time under these specific circumstances with these specific opportunities. Kind of mind boggling.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cleaning House

Well, I was able to borrow a charger from work so am able to use my laptop again. My charger is enroute from Oswego on a CCI truck.

Tonight, I drove through snow showers on the way home from Bethel. That was kind of shock to the system!

Okay, this may come as a shock to those of you who know me best. This past weekend, I commenced on a house cleaning journey. Yes, after closing on the house, reality hit and I now have this desire to start over with a clean slate. The first step in this process is the elimination of "low hanging fruit." This is stuff that does not require much thought. Examples include old magazines, broken items, old notes and papers from work that somehow found their way into the house, and tattered clothes. The second step has been cleaning out closets and drawers in order to put in the stuff that does not currently have a home. Honestly, I kind of hover back and forth between these two steps because I have cleaning ADD. I bounce around from cleaning project to cleaning project.

The weekend ended with 4 larger trash bags out on the curb. On one hand, it was kind of embarrassing to have this much rubbish to purge. On the other hand, it was such an amazing feeling to let the bags drop... let go of all that junk. I kind of felt lighter, less burdened. This cleaning process will continue on for probably a few more weeks. Not sure what will happen after that.


Later!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Home Again

On Tuesday, I left work in Bremen and headed out to our sister facility in Oswego, New York. The journey started with a drive to O'hare and continued with a flight to Syracuse. This trip included a "first" for me. Until this point, I have always traveled with others who rented the car or had ground transportation provided upon arrival. This time, I actually rented a car and ended with this Subaru. Honestly, I actually really liked driving the car. It was quite spacious and had a lot of features not included in the Cavalier. Oh well, I think that I'll stick with the Cavalier!

I stayed at the Best Western in Oswego. It had a fitness club in the basement that was open to hotel guests so it was nice to be able to continue with some of the routine from back home in Bremen. The work at the Oswego facility included broad topics and will take extensive effort in the weeks and months to come. However, I really enjoyed spending time with several of the employees. It is not often that one has the opportunity to work with individuals so excited about change and continuous improvement. This has been a bittersweet week, though. Folks, we are in some extremely tough economic times (as if anyone needed this pointed out). Our company is not immune to this reality and the difficult decisions required in these troubled times. In the midst of these struggles, we need amabassadors of hope.

Friday night, I flew back into O'hare and headed down-town (in the dark and rain) to meet up with John, David, and Megan. I went to school with John and we shared a wall for three years. We ate at great little Italian restaurant and shared many stories and laughs. Needless to say, it ended being a late night and I rolled back into Bremen at 3:30 AM this morning.

Because I left my computer cord out in New York, I'm writing this at the farm after partaking of some phenomenal chocalate chip pancakes!

Out!