Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Making puddles

Last night, Jenn and I had a stepping marathon at the fitness center. While I was in Tennessee, Jenn discovered that reading while stepping helps pass the time. Before heading out to the fitness centerer, she asked if it was okay for her to bring her book along. So I grabbed the iPod shuffle (a wonderful Valentine's gift from my sweetheart) and we headed out to own the stepping machines. Jenn dove into her book, and I decided go all out on the stepper. Soon the puddles formed below the machine. They were the biggest puddles yet. Actually, the puddles really have nothing to do with the post but they were impressive nonetheless.

Chris Tomlin's Arriving is one the the CDs that is on the shuffle. He is a great singer, and I have been listening to this CD while running. Lat night, I kept playing "The Way I Was Made" over and over again. These lyrics capture so much about who I want to be.

"The Way I Was Made"

Caught in the half-light, I'm caught alone
Waking up to the sunrise and the radio
Feels like I'm tied up, what's holding me?
Just praying today will be the day I go free

I want to live like there's no tomorrow
I want to dance like no one's around
I want to sing like nobody's listening
Before I lay my body down
I want to give like I have plenty
I want to love like I'm not afraid
I want to be the man I was meant to be
I want to be the way I was made

Made in Your likeness, made with Your hands
Made to discover who You are and who I am
All I've forgotten help me to find
All that You've promised let it be in my life

Monday, April 26, 2010

Car #5

A few weeks ago I received a call from this guy. In our brief conversation, he told me that I went to school with his brothers and that he was raising money to race in the Little 500 go-kart race. Well, he definitely succeeded in putting together a race team, and as you can see by the t-shirts in the pictures above, he had plenty of "Green Lightning" supporters. Although the race didn't turn out the way that he probably wanted, he really highlighted so much about what Saint Joe is about. It is about bonds and connections that so far have carried on for years. In many cases, they have evolved and deepened since our years on campus. For me, a friendship with Jenn evolved into a proposal and our upcoming marriage. Future Pumas have started to emerge. Family members continue to carry on the legacy of our school. (Troy just shared a great story this week.)

A friend commented, "You know, every time we get together, we end up telling the same stories. But somehow the stories are still funny."

The stories are still funny because they are a glue of sorts that holds us all together.

The wonderful thing is that those stories have not ended. (Car #5 is evidence.) In fact, they have only just begun.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Back at the Joe

Last fall, I moved to Rensselaer in order to spend more time with my wonderful fiancee, Jenn. (We are getting married in a few weeks :) so I guess that the move worked out okay.) The neat thing about Rensselaer is it home to this little haven known as St. Joseph's College. Jenn and I both graduated from St. Joseph's. Both of our youngest brothers are there now. Jenn's family has other SJC graduates as well. We are fortunate to be able to spend quite a bit of time at this park-like campus. We enjoy watching intramural volleyball games while stepping at the fitness center. We also run and bike through campus often - almost daily. We attend Mass at the Chapel and enjoy the music. It is interesting to be so close to Saint Joe once again. I just made the comment to Jenn this afternoon that I don't know if I really appreciated the beauty of the campus until now.

Yesterday, I was back in the Evans Arts and Science Building room 313 for a general chemistry lecture. However, this time around, I was the lecturer. It was wonderful to be on the other side. The lecture was on electrochemistry and the subtitle was, "Yes, It Really Is Relevant." During the lecture I shared practical applications of electrochemistry and then turned the students loose on a project. They looked at samples of wire and cable and recorded their observations regarding a discolored copper problem. We regrouped and recording some of their findings and ideas. In less than an hour, they were able to come up with many potential causes and focus areas that have come up with the project thus far.

I am extremely thankful for this and other opportunities to be around people with such an enthusiasm for life and learning.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"No, those aren't boogers." Part II

Well, Jenn wowed me for the second Wednesday in a row. (Click here for the first.)

Yes, she referred to boogers at dinner.

Well, she did refer to boogers.

But her cooking continues to amaze me.

Tonight, we dined on a tantalizing blend of spinach, white beans, and pesto with grilled chicken breasts. Another exciting and healthy meal!

Work and Gift

How many times have you heard someone say,

"The company doesn't pay me enough,"

"Why aren't we getting a raise," or

"We deserve a raise?"

Note that all of these imply that speaker is on the receiving end of some kind of exchange.

However, what happens when the things get switched around a bit?

What happens when the shift in focus turns from receiving to giving?

A new perspective quickly develops.

This is a major cultural shift.

Let the giving begin.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Loyalty to your mission?

Seth Godin's book, Linchpin, continues to offer so many valuable insights into my work. One of the great things about this book is that it has put words to so much of what I experience and haven't been able to fully describe.

For much of my career, I have grappled with a great deal of fear: fear of rejection, fear of failure. This has its roots in my academic career and a screwed up understanding of self-value. I get that and am working on overcoming it.

However, something that I did not pick up on is a sense of loyalty. More specifically, where are my loyalties? Are there conflicting loyalties? Godin writes, "The self-hating artist burns out. The hypercritical lizard brain will pick apart anything we do in order to preserve a sense of short-term safety. The alternative is to develop a sense of loyalty to your mission and generosity to your work."

I'm reading this and thinking, "What the heck?"

Loyalty to your mission?


It is okay to be loyal to your mission.

It is okay that perhaps loyalty to mission might trump loyalty to a company, a brand, or some kind of corporate identity.

This developing sense of loyalty to my mission is beginning to develop into a new sense of what my work is about.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

French Pressed Coffee...

Yeah, this stuff was potent!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"No, those aren't boogers."

Once again, Jenn amazed me with her ingenuity. Last night, we enjoyed turkey burgers with spinach. They were absolutely delicious and absurdly health-conscious. Way to go, Jenn! (If you want, we can have those every Wednesday. :) )

Jeans and Marketing

Sunday is the bridal shower and it is traditional in Jenn's family for the groom to attend. Jenn bought a shirt for me to wear, but I have been having khaki problems. One pair ended up with candle wax in a particularly problematic region. (The wax dripped from the candle at the Easter Vigil.) Washing them did not get rid of the candle wax marks. The other pair of khakis is too short.

Consequently, earlier this week I embarked on a hunt to find a pair of 30x34 khakis. Going into the search, I assumed it would be in vain. Finding pants in size 30x34 has been an ongoing struggle. (The best luck that I had in previous endeavors was online. The problem with online, though, is that it is not possible try them on before purchasing. If I am going to pay money for clothes, I need to know they are going to fit and don't want the hassle of sending them back.) Jenn did not believe me when I told her this so she started looking as well.

Guess what? She couldn't find a pair of khakis. They are rare - and so are 30x34 jeans. So the journey began at American Eagle. They had two pairs of khakis in the entire store. Of course, none of these were 30x34. I went down to Old Navy although I knew the story would be the same. (Actually, I would not have even been able to find a pair if they existed because the place was a disaster.) Jenn already informed me that Kohl's and J.C. Penny did not have them either.

I decided to just call it quits. But, then on a whim, I decided to take one more pass through the mall and find a store that had a pile of khakis that I could see visible through the window. One store stood out, The Buckle. I've never shopped there before but was met by a sales associate who asked what I was needing to buy. She promptly pulled out a pair of 30x34 khakis. Recovering from shock, I ask about jeans. She says, "We have someone in the back who can get you any length of jeans that you want." She proceeded to get me a couple pairs of 30x34 and then recommended the best pair.

Meanwhile, as I was trying on the khakis and jeans, she found a couple shirts that she thought would fit great as well. Now, all of this was particularly interesting to me because I have been thinking a lot about marketing. The Buckle distinguishes itself from other stores because it will modify jeans to desired lengths. They realize that people are truly different, and even the standard sizes do not fit all people. In addition, this particular associate was outstanding and offered personalized attention to get the sale done efficiently and effectively. As a guy, this was really important to me because I was ready to leave the mall as soon as I walked in the door. If other associates even exhibit a fraction of the enthusiasm that this associate demonstrated, then the store is far advanced compared to other clothing stores. This combination of fit and service sets the store apart from any other place that I looked. So actually this ended up being a positive experience, and I'll hopefully be set on pants for quite awhile.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Does your job match your passion?

This is a question that Seth Godin asks in his book, Linchpin. This is a book about what it takes to be indispensable in the workplace. I have been reading it for quite some time now because I can only handle it in spurts. It offers so much to think about and areas to improve upon.

One area that I have wrestled with for so long is this whole concept of work. For me work should not just be a place where you go, figure out how to pass the time, collect a check, and then leave. It should be invigorating - part of a larger purpose. I have always assumed that the only way to make this happen is to find the right job. In my case, I have always wanted to teach. Teaching is the only way that I believed that I could pursue my passion of making a difference - of positively impacting people and creating connections. (Note to self: part of the problem is this idea of passion is too broad. Hone it down into something manageable.) Yet, despite two opportunities to focus more heavily on teaching - the journey has continued to wind through the business world. You might argue that not taking the plunge into teaching is due to fear or something of that nature. However, I can honestly say that it is not out of fear - it just hasn't been the right thing to do.

Godin points out that most people think that we have to find the job that matches the passion. (I would argue that a lot of people just settle and become cogs without even thinking about it.) However, he offers a great reversal by suggesting, "Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than find a job that happens to match your passion."

And so the the challenge begins...

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Picnic in the Backyard

After Mass yesterday, we headed out to the back patio and soaked in some rays while reading. Later, Jenn went inside - I assumed that she was just getting a glass of water. However, I knew something else was up when I went into email my boss an idea and Jenn said, "Don't come in unless you need to go to the bathroom." Well, it was already a little too late, but my interested was certainly piqued. After a few additional minutes, Jenn brought out a blanket and food, and we proceeded to the yard for a picnic lunch. The time was awesome and it was quite difficult to abandon the blanket for a band concert at the college. One comment stands out in my mind from the picnic. Jenn observed, "The grass looks different from down here."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

We just never know...

As hard as it is to think about sometimes, we just never know when we are going to die. (We also don't know when a loved one, a friend, a coworker, or a perfect stranger is going die.)

Oftentimes, we also don't know when we do something that impacts a life for a moment or a lifetime.

Friday, April 9, 2010

It's a Tense Issue

On Sunday morning, I woke up thinking about stones. Imagine hesitantly and sorrowfully approaching the tomb of Jesus only to find that the stone sealing the ink-blank depths of the tomb had been rolled away. The early morning rays of sunlight cautiously bled into a place where they did not belong - a place of stagnant air, a place of no future, a place of death.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. (John 20:1, NIV)

Okay, so on Sunday, I asked the question, "Did someone role the stone back into place?"

Not likely.

So this means that the stone is removed from the entrance to the tomb. The stones are removed from all the dark areas of life - the fears, sorrows, mistakes.

Now, perhaps, if I can be bold enough to go one step further:

The stones are being removed...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Finding the "Easter Egg"

This morning during the commute, I was reflecting back on this past weekend. Eric's Easter egg hunt was one highlight of Stunday afternoon. Eric is the only grandchild that still "qualifies" for the hunt and Auntie Reg made sure to take great care of him. (I mean how many kids have an auxiliary Easter bag that includes Legos and other cool gifts? :)) So the whole Easter egg thing is kind of interesting. Eggs containing candy, coins, and other cool things are hidden throughout the yard. Then, the search begins. Inevitably, these treasures end up being right in front of the hunter - except the hunter can't always see them. The angle is not quite right. The focus is not quote there to see the egg. Yet, as I was driving, some other images came to mind:
  • Jenn leaning down to the daffodil to see its full beauty
  • Meg picking up the baby chick from the heated box
  • Troy stooping down into the window sill to find a salamander
Jenn, Meg, and Troy each had the focus and the eyes to see these treasures of life. Some might have walked right on by the daffodil. Others might not have even thought to see the chicks. Still others wouldn't even think to look for a salamander. But each of these people demonstrated the beauty of a different sort of Easter egg hunt. This hunt continues on from Easter and celebrates the beauty and awe of restored life.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Reflection in Pictures

Romans 8:18-25
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Freedom of God's Friendship

Whew, is it really Friday morning already? The past two weeks have certainly been a bit of a whirlwind. However, as indicated in the previous post, I want to take a few minutes to discuss God's friendship.

God's friendship

This certainly is not an easy concept to fully grasp. I mean, how many times do we totally miss it? Yet, somehow, we need to come to some kind of deeper understanding of this deep friendship. In preparing for my recent Kairos talk on God's friendship, I noted four key words in the outline that came with the talk: freedom, mystery, gift, and risk. Seriously, though, how does one tackle such an abstract topic as God's friendship? It turns out that oftentimes, God's friendship is right in front of us - if only we have the eyes to see it. In contemplating the talk, I decided to put this point to the test and look back over pictures in search of God's friendship.


When I think of the freedom of God's friendship, several points come to mind.
  • Friendships are not forced. We choose to enter into friendships with others. Others choose to enter into friendships with us.

  • The freedom of true friendships enables those in the friendships to be more fully themselves.

  • Within the friendship, we understand that mistakes happen. Despite these mistakes we continue to love and know, with confidence, that we are loved.

  • We are free to love.

One of the pictures that I chose to highlight this point is included in this post. This picture is of one special lady, Clella. She taught me a great deal about the freedom of friendship. I tend to be a pretty awkward guy - particularly when it comes to dancing. Yet, whether in the the desert of the Dominican Republic, on the plaza in Woodstock, VT, or on the grocery store parking lot in Bremen, IN, Clella instilled in me a freedom to dance. She didn't care if I missed up. She didn't care if we looked goofy. In those elusive moments, we had the chance to live life freely and to its fullest.

If you are so inclined, please take a minute to share an example of the freedom of God's friendship. It just might be a sign of hope to someone else!