Monday, March 30, 2009

Aromatic Gasses

Recently, a friend let me borrow his coffee grinder. This opened my world to this beautiful thing known quite simply as the coffee bean. Right now, I have single of of these dark brown nuggets resting on my laptop. My olfactory is basking in the aroma emanating from this single bean.

Over the last several years, I have become quite fond of Starbucks. Before that time, I would have choked at even the thought of spend severaling dollars on a cup of coffee. However, it is so much more than the coffee. It is about the experience:

That famous green circle is visible in the distance. The thought of a warm caffè mocha forces the car to turn off the highway and find a place in the parking lot. Upon entering the store, an employee offers a friendly “hello” and the appealing smells of specialty coffee and baked goods permeate the olfactory system. Peering up at the menu board, a separate language – a coffee language – greets the eyes. Upon receiving a grande cup of mocha, corner chairs and table offer an inviting place to relax and chat with friends. The place offers the opportunity to relax for a few minutes and escape from the fast-paced world outside.

This interest in Starbucks led me to start reading a book, The Starbucks Experience. In this book, I came across an interesting little factoid about the freshness of a coffee: "What defines coffee as fresh is that it actively gives of 3 to 20 times it volume in aromatic gas."

Wow, first, a question: How the heck do you measure the volume of aromatic gas given off by coffee?

Regardless, with this information, it is no wonder that the aroma of coffee has this ability to permeate through an entire room and provide such an aura of peace and contentment.

I started wondering about us. Sure, some of us give off plenty of aromatic gasses. I, for one, probably give off more than my fair share. However, more seriously, do I provide an aura that permeates a room and fills it with peace and contentment? The little coffee bean is such powerful reminder that something small can have a much greater influence than one might expect - 3 to 20 times more in the case of the bean.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Here I Am/The Love Story

Recently, the church hosted a book group to discuss The Shack. I've mentioned this book before and don't really want to write too much more about the book itself because I highly recommend that you read it. If you want to borrow my copy, just let me know!

The book offers the reader the opportunity to glimpse into experiencing the relational (Triune?!) God - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A God who loves, laughs, cries. A God who wants to know each of us in an intimate way. This God stands in stark contrast to the God envisioned in many circles - distant, inactive, judgmental.

This morning, Jenn and I went to Mass at St. Dominic's. We sang a song with this refrain:

Here I am, standing right beside you.
Here I am, do not be afraid.
Here I am, waiting like a lover.
I am here. Here I am.

The first time singing this refrain, I came to the part, "waiting like a lover," and kind of stumbled over these words.

God, a lover.

This is still something very difficult for me to grasp. However, I'm starting to understand this a little bit more as time passes. Understand this wonderful love story - of love so deep, so perfect, so beautiful. A story of love - unconditional love. A story free of condemnation. A story filled with joy. A story of sacrifice - the ultimate sacrifice. A story of life - new life.

The true love story.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Last evening, my eyes rested on one of my bookshelves that contains a lot of my school books from over the years. For some reason, I just started reading through some of the titles.

Of course, chemistry titles abound:

Solid State Chemistry
Computational Chemistry
Physical Chemistry
Inorganic Chemistry
Medicinal Chemistry
Classics in Total Synthesis
Name Reactions
Contemporary Polymer Chemistry
Organic Chemistry
Analytical Chemistry
Organic Synthesis

However, situated among these books are other titles:

Engineering Mechanics
Economics of Today
Organizational Behavior
Educational Psychology
Fundamentals of Business Law
Financial Statement Analysis
History of Education in America
Jesus the Christ
Modern Geometries
The Western Experience
Project Management Methodology
Abstract Algebra

Both lists have many other additional titles.

Yet, last night this left me a bit troubled. A conversation today did not help to ease this unease. Today, during the conversation, the idea of filling a niche came up discussion.

According to, niche is

2 a: a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted

Despite trying out many different subjects, I've never really found my niche.

However, I've started to wonder if that could be my niche - knowing a little about a lot, having interests in different disciplines, willing to try out new things (biking and running last year, this year maybe something new). I don't know for sure but I'm starting to like it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Expectation v Expectancy

Last week, I finished reading The Shack - after the last discussion group meeting, go figure. A chapter at the end of the book is entitled, Verbs and Other Freedoms. I really enjoyed reading this chapter. One point that really stuck out is the distinction between expectation and expectancy. These words really are different and have different connotations. For me, expecations connote negative sentiments. When I think of expectations, I think of rules, laws, performance, disappointments, and hurts. For example, today, on my way out of work, a comment was made that maybe I should not wear my holey sweater to a meeting tomorrow. (In case the person who said this happens upon this post, I'm just using this as an example. Don't read anything else into it! You are right.) For the meeting, there is minimum expectation of sorts for clothing. However, in my mind, I of course bristled a bit and immediately thought about rules and about just wanting to be able to wear my favorite sweater - that just happens to be full of holes after a lot of wearing and abuse. I started wondering about what the big deal is anyway. So contrast expectations with expectancy. For me, expectancy connotes an air of excitement. Christmas time is still a time of expectancy. On Christmas morning, honestly, I can't wait to open gifts. As the years go by, though, I also can't wait to see others open the gifts that I have given them. Expectancy is anticipation, thrill, excitement, opportunities, and even nervousness. Right now, I am most filled with expectancy when I head out for a bike ride or run. Who will be there to wave to or stop for a brief chat? When out with others, what will come up in conversation? Sunrises, the transition from darkness to light, the wind, the sun, budding trees, crazy dogs, and the list goes of all the things that add to the expectancy.

The book describes this as an "incredible dancing of being" moving with the wind - the Holy Spirit.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sheep II

So before getting so sleepy last night that I couldn't type anymore, I mentioned sheep and reading John 10 on the john. From the message, "The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice."

The sheep recognize his voice.

We had sheep on the farm and they lived in the pasture adjacent to the house. The lambs used to have such a great time out there. Sometimes, there might be a mound of dirt out there and they would play king of the mountain. Other times they would race around the pasture. I remember Dad calling the sheep and they would come racing for food. He had this special way of calling the sheep. He also has this special way of calling the pigs. Grandma had a special way of calling the cats. In all three examples, the creatures recognized the voice... and responded.

I find it really difficult to recognize God's voice amidst all of the noise and clutter. Unfortunately, I find myself to often thinking about my dilemma or my problem or you get the point. This too makes it pretty difficult to recognize God's voice.

Today, for example, I was at the eye doctor waiting for almost an hour for the doctor to check out my eyes. Well, during this hour, I spent some quality time thinking about how I unbelievable it was to be waiting for an hour, about how much work I needed to get down, and, again, you probably get the idea. Well, that was an entire hour truly wasted. Yet, it could have been used for a much higher purpose. Who knows? Maybe, if I had been listening, I might have even recognized God's voice.


Sunday, March 22, 2009


First, I need to make a correction. Ben actually said, "suffocating." My apologies on this quote being incorrect.

Second, it is great to be at home this evening. Since Thursday morning, I have been home all of about 9 hours (mostly sleep). I had a meeting, a great visit to Rensselaer, a lock-in, a birthday party at Grandma and Grandpa's, a 10.2 mile run followed by a walk with Jan, and a campfire at Aunt Lois'.

So this past week, I have been thinking a lot about sheep and shepherds. When I was in second grade, Mrs. Harrison's class (my class) and Mrs. Beatty's class (the class that shared a retractable wall) took a field trip to my house. Yes, I can still see the big yellow limousine parked in the middle of the yard. We took a field trip to see the sheep shearing at our barn. Actually, now that I think about it some more, this was preceded at some point by a visit from my dad and a lamb to our classes. This was a very cool day for me because how many kids actually get to take a field trip to their own barn?

This morning, I was taking a much needed break in the "office" and continued reflecting upon John 10. Well, now it is too late to finish this so I'll finish tomorrow.

Take care,


Friday, March 20, 2009

Daily Rituals

Well, I stepped away from work for a few minutes to grab a bite to eat and decided to write a quick blog post. It is quite unusual to write a blog post at lunch during the work week. Actually, I'm not sure if I have ever done this. However, it is kind of keeping in them with this post. This week, I realized how almost ritualistic my days had become.

Wake up at 6:00
Scramble over to weight room
Lifting and cardio until 7:20
Race back home
Get at work by 8:00
Work until noon
Step out for lunch
Okay you get the idea

To break it down even further, the first thing I do at work in the morning is go around the plant and check out copper weights. Then, I work on set-up sheets. Then, engineering of new products.

This all is just so ritualistic and repetitive. I like Ben's word from last night, "stifling."

So this week, I tried to intentionally shake things up just a little bit. For example, on Wednesday, I stayed home from the weight room and finished the Shack while drinking some delicious coffee. Yesterday, during lunch, I took off for a 10k run. Today, I'm writing this blog post.

I'm just not wired to get into that time of ritualistic living. It truly is stifling. Hopefully, in recognizing this, opportunities will arise to reinject some creativity into the journey.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jesus Be the Center (or Centre)

This is one of the songs that we sang tonight with the kids at group. It was a pretty ragged rendition because I haven't played it for awhile and the kids really didn't know it. But we kept seeing the first verse over and eventually we got it and could sing through the rest of the song. The first four words, Jesus Be the Center, have been stuck in my head all week - not sure where they came from because I can't remember the last time singing the song.

Yet, these four words capture so much.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Just Some Thoughts

Well, yesterday was the day that I had been eagerly anticipating since last fall. After work, Ben, Trent, and I headed out on the first official bike ride of the season. The title of Trent's blog post made me laugh. The Chronicles of Ben, Todd, and Trent Eructation, Flatulation, and a little bit of bike riding. So I'm sure that there will be more bike posts to come but it was definitely a blast hitting the road with the guys again.

On Sunday, I ventured over to Grace UMC for the morning service. Pastor Bill shared a message, "The End Is Only the Beginning." This message had particular relevance to the congregation because they are embarking on this amazing journey. In a few short months, they will cease to exist as Grace UMC and will combine with a church down the street to become an entirely new church with a new name. Opportunities like this don't just happen every day. This is such an amazing opportunity to start anew, to turn a new page, to begin a new journey.

At my own place of employment, Friday also brought significant and unexpected change. It marked the end of an era of sorts and the beginning of possibly something new and different.

Of course, one of the most difficult endings to discuss is death. Two students I know are dealing with the sorrow and grief resulting from the death of their aunt to cancer.

I wrote down a couple phrases that caught my attention:

All endings are beginnings
Every exit is an entrance
When one door closes another opens

Endings are difficult. Endings are painful. We don't really like to talk about them. Yet, there is this thing called hope and hope burns somewhere within me. Sometimes it burns brightly. Sometimes the flame is nearly extinguished. But even the littlest flame can fan out as Bill shared this reminder from Mark:

Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade." (4:30-32)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Ides of March

The last week or so has been pretty interesting in the life of Todd. (At least it has been interest to me. If it is not interesting to you, kindly check out another blog.) Anywho, back to the topic at hand.


Yes, after several months without a biking post, biking is back.

A few Saturdays ago, Jim, Trent, and I headed out on a field trip to Albright's bike shop in Mishawaka. We had a great time and learned quite a bit about bikes and gear. A road bike (something that I have wanted to purchase) caught my eye, but it just seemed like it needed some time to simmer.

Fast forward to this past Sunday in the weight room at school. This phenomenal athlete (i.e., iron man), Greg, from here in Bremen was working out in the weight room. My brother is friends with Greg's son. However, I just felt pretty intimidated about asking him what he would recommend for a bike. In other words, I didn't want to come across sounding stupid because I really don't know a whole lot about bikes. So after a few minutes, I decided to ask him about what he would recommend for my price range. Surprisingly, he told me to call this guy, Mike, also from Bremen, and see if he could put something together for me.

Well, coincidentally, I was also supposed to email Mike about teaming up with the upcoming food drive. Also, this happened to be the same Mike whose vehicle randomly stopped in the intersection before school as I was walking to work and we pushed it off the road into the vet clinic parking lot.

So Mike emailed back and said call him. We met on Tuesday at lunch and had a great time talking about bikes and he showed me a bunch of components and options.

On Friday, he called and said it was ready to go. (This is the bike in the above picture. Right now, it is in the living room. My bike storage in the kitchen is running out. The kitchen of course being the most obvious place to store a bike. Consequently, the next most obvious place to store a bike is the living room.)

Friday night, I could barely contain my anticipation for hitting the road on Saturday morning. (Those around me probably would question if in fact I really did contain my anticipation.)

Saturday morning arrives. It is sunny, but it is cold.

Nevertheless, I set out for a ride around the lake. About halfway through the ride, I realized that I was cold. I mean cold like I've never felt before. The wind was so brisk and I was a bit under-dresssed (understatement). I was so cold I almost waved a person with a truck down and see if he would give me a ride back to town.

However, it was about that time that I started thinking about the poorest of the poor and how they must have felt this winter outside struggling to survive. The cold gripping and numbing the toes and fingers. The cold numbing the very heart and spirit - the soul of people - leaving them without hope.

Then it dawned on me that I was praying - praying for the poorest of the poor and then those without jobs in this crippled economic state. This led back to an email conversation earlier in the week about prayer. In that message, I indicated that prayer was a major struggle for me. Yet, during this frigid ride, it dawned on me that part of the problem is my perception of what prayer is. It always has seemed like we must have to have these perfect, powerful prayers that just resonate. Yet, on the bike, prayer was more like a conversation with a good friend about concern for our world.

So anways, thanks for stopping back and take care,


(P.S., the picture that I really wanted to share didn't end up happening because the batteries were dead on the camera. After getting back in the house and beginning the thawing process, I sensed some dangling from my face. This major stream of snot dangled down to my shirt. It was cool.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fish Fry

Tonight, I went with the McGrews to the annual fish fry at St. Isidore's Hall. This fish fry is a pretty big deal in B-town and the place was packed as usual. Keith and I were pretty excited about this thing, well, all week long. There is just something about a good fish fry - the fish, the people, the community.

One thing I really like about this fish fry is that the helpers bring the fish out to the tables in baskets - baskets that never seem to be empty - baskets seem they never stop coming. Everyone leaves (overly) satisfied)

Okay, some of you probably know where this is going.

On Wednesday, Keith shared some reflection about Jesus feeding the five thousand.

"How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see." When they found out, they said, "Five—and two fish." Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. (Mark 6:37-43)

I wonder how many opportunities exist using just what we have to do amazing things.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

2:09 AM

Last night, the power flickered sometime between midnight and 1:00 AM. The answering machine restarted and woke me up. This led to pretty restless night. However, the night actually got pretty interesting. I woke up again just after 2:00 AM and was pretty much wired. So I decided to get up and walk around a bit. Wanting to kind of get things off my mind, I decided to check out a few blogs on the computer. However, I ended up checking my email instead and there was this cool little comment left on the last post.

Todd, I have spent most of this evening reading thru your blogs over the last year. I shed several tears as well as many smiles. Fathers day, the boat and mushrooms, tributes to mom and grandma. Ive missed so much. Thanks for a great blog. Love Dad

When, I read this comment the tears started welling in my eyes - just like they are doing right now. Why? I'm not really sure other than knowing that my dad had taken the time at the end of his busy day to read through this goofy blog was the most incredible thing. Then, all of the sudden the lightbulb just kind of went on and I was thinking about God doing the same thing - sitting back and taking the time to read a blog, shedding some tears, smiling, and... loving.

This reminded me of a some lines from The Shack.

Mack is eating with Papa (God), Jesus, and Sarayu (the Holy Spirit).

"Conversation seemed almost normal. Mack was asked each of the childen, except Missy, and he talked about their various struggles and triumphs."

Later on Sarayu shares, "As we are listening to you, it is as if this is the first time we have known about them, and we take great delight in seeing them through your eyes."

Last night, I wrote about imagining God to be this wrathful judge.

Tonight, I'm seeing Papa (God) at a gigantic computer, eyes glistening with delight, while checking out a bunch of blogs - catching up on all the struggles, the tears, the triumphs, the fears, and the joys of his beloved creation - whispering comments here and there to his bloggers.

Dad, thanks for reading.

Papa, thanks for reading.

Love you guys.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Here Come Da Judge"

This is the title of a chapter in the book, The Shack. In this chapter, Mack encounters Sophia, or wisdom. I don't really care to write about this encounter because that is why Wm. Paul Young wrote the book.

However, I do want to reflect on a few sentences from the chapter.

"Mack felt shame reddening his face. He had to admit he had done an awful lot of judging in his time. But he was no different from anyone else, was he? Who doesn't jump to conclusions about others from the way they impact us. There it was again - his self-centered view of the world around him. He looked up and saw her peering intently at him and quickly looked down again."

Whoa, I started thinking about all the judgments that had passed through my mind - just today. The most recent one involving some rather sarcastic commentary regarding a person's knowledge of said machine. In hindsight, I'm sure the guy was probably just trying to ask a question, but somehow I twisted it into this warped interpretation of the entire situation.

I have always been taught that God is the judge. I kind of picture him up some where with a black cloak and anvil ready to issue his wrath. However, tonight, in our book discussion group, Jim and Phil painted an entirely different picture of judgment.

God judged all of us worthy of his love.

So worthy, in fact, that Jesus bore all the judgment on the cross.

Wow, we have such a propensity to judge and than project this judgmental nature on God. Yet, that is not how God judges at all. He judged us all - every one of us - worthy of his love. This is such a different view of God that I'm still having a hard time with it. However, looking at situations through this lens will hopefully lead to interactions with entirely different outcomes.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

One Year

Well, about a year ago, Trent mentioned this thing called blogging and suggested that I start a blog. I had never really heard of this phenomenon and didn't really know what to think of it. However, tomorrow this blog will officially reach the one year mark. So just now, I checked out the first entry

"For now, the title of the blog is Keeping it Real. I'm not exactly sure why or what that even means. Maybe we'll find out. Stay tuned for thoughts, ideas, or perhaps a rant from time to time."

After one year, I'm still not sure what Keeping it Real means. However, in thinking back over some of the posts, they included some real sorrow, some real frustration, some real confusion. Yet, they also included some real joy, some real anticipation, and some real enthusiasm.

Friends, keep it real!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rocking Out with the Brothers

Tonight, Chad and Troy stopped by to get my Wii going. They are great with this kind of stuff. I am not. So it was kind of a relief to turn them loose and get it and Rock Band set up. Then, we rocked out and it was a blast - Chad on the drums, Troy on guitar, Todd on bass.

While traveling yesterday, I finally had the time to start reading The Starbucks Experience. I used to really balk at the idea of spending 3 to 4 dollars on a coffee beverage. However, now I really value these occassional stops by Starbucks. After the hectic trip to O'Hare, nothing calms me down like seeing that green circle after getting through security. The introduction to my recent paper on Starbucks kind of highlights why the place has become so appealing to me.

That famous green circle is visible in the distance. The thought of a warm caffè mocha forces the car to turn off the highway and find a place in the parking lot. Upon entering the store, an employee offers a friendly “hello” and the appealing smells of specialty coffee and baked goods permeate the olfactory system. Peering up at the menu board, a separate language – a coffee language – greets the eyes. Upon receiving a grande cup of mocha, corner chairs and table offer an inviting place to relax and chat with friends. The place offers the opportunity to relax for a few minutes and escape from the fast-paced world outside. This experience is an essential component of the success of Starbucks and is captured in the words of founder Howard Schultz: “My highest aim is to have not just our advertising but the entire Starbucks experience provide human connection and personal enrichment in cherished moments, around the world, one cup at a time” (Schultz and Yang 266). The success of this commitment to the Starbucks experience is evident in the over 5000% increase in stock price (see Figure 1) from the early 1990s to its peak in on April 13, 2006.

The first chaper of The Starbucks Experience is outstanding. One quote from Howard Schultz really stood out: "We are not in the coffee business serving people, but in the people business serving coffee."

This quote just left me so fired up and I started thinking about manufacturing and specifically, wire and cable.

What if rather than focusing on making wire, we focused on the people? What if we could truly say, "We are in the people business making wire." The implications are crazy and could transform the manufacturing landscape.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Verse of the Day

Philippians 4:6 Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.

Tonight, I went to the blog to update and noticed the verse of the day posted on the right of my blog. It really caught my attention. Don't fret or worry. How much more basic can it get?

Contrast this to today's USA Today front-page headline, "For Investors, 'Bloodbath' Reflects Fear."

Wow, equating the economic crisis to a bloodbath and fear. I don't know. This just seems to take things too far. In the end, we can't take our money, we can't take our possessions. Is this economic crisis truly a bloodbath? Is it truly something to fear?

The chapters that I read yesterday from the Shack had a lot more to offer into this issue of fear and worry. However, the books is upstairs and I am not, so good night.

By the way, I'm definitely not saying that I am free of worry and fear.

However, I can say that lately the more I talk (or write) about things the more likely they are to become reality.

Keeping It Real,

Wire Boy (as named by a hotel receptionist) full of barbecue and salsa

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Taking a Big Bath

So this has been a go, go gadget Todd kind of weekend. It started with a gathering at Don and Jackie's on Friday. Wow, let me tell you that those were the best enchiladas ever! At 9:00 AM on Saturday, Trent, Rusty, and I met Fred to move the new entertainment center that Fred built to the church. Then, Jim, Trent, and I headed up to Albright's bike shop to check out bikes and do some research. We saw an amazing bike. It was possible to lift the bike with the tip of a finger!

(Back to writing this post after dinner in Valparaiso.)

Jim found a cool bike that is similar to what I have. I'm looking at a true road bike.

After church, I headed down to Rensselaer but then had to turn around and head back up at 7:30 this morning to help with inventory at work. After work, I got my first 10k run in for 2009! Wow, it felt great and then went swimming!

So my driving time this morning included some thinking...

about big baths.

Now, don't worry, I was thinking about big baths in accounting not some kind of, well, never mind.

The big bath earnings management strategy "involves taking as many write-offs as possible in one period. .... This affords an opportunity to write off all past sins and also clears the deck for future earnings increases."

This reminded me of a section in Colossians 2. (Sorry, back to Colossians.)

"Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ's cross."

Big bath and baptism - kind of similar really. Well, I had hope to elaborate a bit more but am completely out of gas (well, gas as in energy).

Take care,