Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Whose Plan?

I like to plan. I like to help other people plan. I'm a financial planner. Makes sense. It's my nature, my vocation, and also my weakness. Another blogger recently wrote about core sin. This is one of mine: I sometimes rely more on my plan than on God's purpose.

People are worried about the economic and market woes we are experiencing. I understand that. On some levels, so am I. What happens will not only have an effect on my retirement savings, but potentially on my livelihood as well. I have a plan to pay off my mortgage. I have a plan for retirement (what I like to call financial independence). To execute the plan, I will exercise my skills whenever opportunities are available to do so. Here's my issue. I often forget to acknowledge that God has given me the skills, and He has provided the opportunites for me to exercise them in the context of executing my plan...earning a living, giving, and building a nest-egg. He could just as easily take them away in the context of executing His plan. A physical illness. An economic downturn. What will it be?

Fortunately, God reminds me regularly that success has little to do with executing my plan, but everything to do with trusting in His plan and His purpose. None of what is happening in our economy or the stock market is catching God off guard. His plan is not at risk. Forgive me, Lord, for worrying sometimes that mine is.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Bob Barnes, who spoke at our church last night, always amuses me, yet at the same time challenges me. Nice combination! My kids are raised, but when I listen to Bob, it makes me want to have a "do-over". So many things I wish I had done while the kids were under this roof.

We are blessed with two kids who are both married and both following the Lord. We had help parenting. Godly friends and mentors, and great resources from Focus on the Family. When we blew it, God stepped in. It's the only explanation, when I hear Bob talk about so many things I could have done, but didn't. I did some of them. I wish I had done more. I'm glad God stepped in.

Today, I couldn't be prouder of my kids. Rachel, who will turn 30 in a few weeks, is a homemaker and stay-at-home-mom raising twin boys, now 19 months old. She's been married to a believer for nearly 8 years, and is active in her church. Ben, who will be 28 in a few weeks, is a Student Ministries Pastor at a church in Charlotte, and is attending seminary. He is also married to a believer, and is showing real leadership qualities both at church and at home. I am fortunate. indeed, to be their dad.

I thank the Lord for the insights he gave us when raising our kids. That still doesn't stop me from occasionally wishing for a do-over. Even though our grandsons are 3,000 miles away, I'm anxious to have an influence on the next generation. Maybe that's my do-over!

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I had the great pleasure yeterday of re-connecting with somone I hadn't spoken to in over 37 years! It was my high school algebra/trigonometry teacher. Mr. Werley (now Skip) was also our class sponser, and he coached the boys varsity basketball team. The last time we connected was back when I had a rotary phone (what's that?) on my kitchen wall, and probably 15 years before I owned my first microwave! I was a senior in high school!

Several months ago, a HS buddy I've kept in touch with asked if I'd ever had Skip as a math teacher...yes! My buddy mentioned that Skip, now 68 years old and retired, had been sending out a daily email to many friends and acquaitances called Thought for the Day. Skip enjoys keeping in touch with many people whose lives crossed his during his 40 year public school teaching career, so I emailed him and asked to be included on his mailing list. He wrote a very gracious return email, and I was very surprised to learn that he actually remembered who I was. I've been receiving his daily email ever since.

We had a great time of reminiscing about people and events we both remembered. We joked a little about how much the world has changed over the years. Though I didn't really recognize his voice at first, the more we talked, the more familiar it became. We spent over an hour in a very comfortable and enjoyable conversation.

Two things struck me as we talked. First, I was keenly aware of the many technological changes that had taken place over 37 years. Nothing stays the same, and the advancements will continue now at a breakneck pace. That's partly what's behind my decision to blog and to begin using Twitter. While I might only have a partial picture of how useful these technologies can be, as I imerse myself in them and discover more about how they change the way people interact, I expect my use of them to change from recreational to "must-have" technologies.

The second thing that struck me was how nice it can be to re-connect with people you've known over the years. Skip and I had only a teacher/student relationship back in 1971. I didn't know him well, but he was a fine teacher, and I remember liking and respecting him a lot. Now, both adults, we have re-connected, and I am enriched because of it. Technology allows us to stay connected in so many different ways. We have no excuse. If a re-connect doesn't really click, there's no harm done. When it does, like it did for me this week, it's an incredibly enriching experience.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


"Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry." Prov. 19:15

Did you ever have one of those times when it seemed like God kept telling you the same thing over and over, just so you'd get it? He's been nailing me this week.

It started on Sunday with a message from Brian Frost. The concept he was getting across was that even if we know the right thing to do...the right road to take...the right moment by moment decisions to make, if we fail to avail ourselves of the necessary resources, we simply fail. The football team analogy was perfect. The coach of an inferior team, when scheduled to play a superior team, has a game plan designed to defeat his opponent. However, if the team lacks the necessary resources of talent or ability to execute the game plan, the plan will fail, and his team will lose the football game.

My resource for living the Christian life is Christ himself. When I fail to make use of that superior resource, and depend on my own inferior resources, I fail in living the life I was designed to live. I become unproductive. Skipping quiet times and prayer...not a good idea! Skipping for long periods...just plain stupid!

My through-the-Bible reading plan had me in Mark 9:14-32 this week. This is the story of the disciples being unable to cast a demon out of a young boy, after having had many previous successes. Fast forward. Jesus is called over, and successfully casts the demon out. Afterwards, the disciples ask Jesus why they had been unable to cast out the demon. He answered that "this kind can come out only by prayer." The disciples, rather than praying and relying on God as their one superior resource for the power to cast out demons, had instead been relying on their own past successes. Hey...we did this before, we can do it again! Jesus reminded them that they must always look to God for the power to cast out demons in the name of Christ. Rely on the resource if you want success. Otherwise, plan on being unproductive in the things that matter. OK, Lord. I'm starting to get it. I need to plug in every day.

Later in the week, I ran into the Proverbs verse at the top of this post. I knew I could be lazy at times, but shiftless? Seriously? When I hear the word shiftless, I think of a scruffy unshaven dude in an old western who is always up to no good, because he doesn't have a job or any motivation to do anything productive. Just to make sure I had the right meaning, I looked up shiftless in the dictionary: "lazy and inefficient, lacking resourcefulness!" I take that to mean, "failing to take advantage of available resources". There it was again. The same old problem, only with an ugly new name. Shiftless! When I don't plug into my superior resource for the power to live a productive life, I'm guilty as charged.

I'm glad Brian preached the truth so clearly, and that God has continued to school me on this issue throughout the week.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Critter Issues

Today I am about at my wits end. One word should explain. SQUIRRELS!

We apparently have the tastiest deck in the neighborhood. One of the fluffy-tailed varmints has been chewing all up and down part of the railing. Not attractive. Until I moved it, our potted hybiscus tree served as a nice hors doeuvre platter. Leaves, branches, and of course the "just ready to bloom" flower buds. All fair game. One little scavenger in particular would pull those buds off and sit there on the railing and eat them like they were acorns. Last year when everything was so dry, he bit a hole through the bottom of a planter so he could take a drink after dining...perhaps to mitigate the effects of his "hybiscus high". Then for variety, he would hop up from the railing right into both hanging planters of sclavera...and chew through the flowering shoots about an inch above dirt level. The flowers have a hard time surviving once severed from the plant...but apparently our little critter has no interest in helping us maintain the aesthetic beauty of our deck. Food is food.

Fortunately, we discovered and installed a birdfeeder that is impervious to hungry squirrels. They tried in vain for several weeks to figure out how to reach the seed. Now five or six of the little pests can be seen dining on the seed scattered on the ground by the undisturbed bird population. We have found no similar solution to our deck invasion.

This might not be quite the mystery to me if we didn't have one of the largest oak trees in all of Wake County smack dab in the middle of our spacious back yard. Acorns everywhere! More food than you could ever want if you were a squirrel. One would think!

Now, don't get me wrong. I think little animals are cute, just as much as the next guy does. I've been known, when vacationing out west, to take photos of squirrels and chipmunks. Truth is, when we're on vacation, and the critters are thousands of miles away from my deck, they ARE cute. But here at home, I have no use for them.

So this morning I'm sitting in my office, and I keep hearing a noise on the roof that sounds a bit like a bird building a nest (wrong season for that...I know). I could see nothing from the window, so I decided to go downstairs and step outside to see if I could see anything. You guessed it. Right up near the gutter, there was the pesky little critter..staring right down at me. I spooked him, and with what I swear was a guilty look, he turned, ran over the top of the roof, and was gone. Then I looked over again where he had been. I happened to notice what looked like a rust stain at the end of a piece of wood trim that I was sure I hadn't noticed before. The longer I stared at it, the more I came to realize it wasn't a stain at all. It was CHEWED WOOD! That little varmint was eating my wood trim, and now there is an area on the end that is bare wood...no paint...exposed to the elements. The perfect recipe for rotting wood. Great! All well beyond the height of any of my ladders (not that I'd climb up that high even if I DID have a larger ladder!).

I've never handled a firearm of any kind, let alone shot one. But let me tell you how close I am to getting a gun (or borrowing a friend who comes with one!) to shoot the little tree rats! I know that might offend some PETA people (depending, of course, on whether you think PETA stands for "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals" or "People Eating Tasty Animals"...I've seen both T-shirts!). This, of course, would be a last resort. But I'm close. Dangerously close. A critter eating my deck and plants is one thing. One who eats my house is, well...close to DEAD.

If anyone has a more humane suggestion for dealing with these pests, I'm all ears. If not, you better get ready to cover yours!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blog Hog

So I've been known to post repeated comments to other blogs, and sometimes I end up feeling like a blog hog. But sometimes a blog post will trigger something in me that prods me to express myself. While I'll still participate in the other blogs, I figured it was high time for me to bite the bullet and set one up for myself. Now I can let my thoughts zig and zag in all kinds of directions, and I have a place to talk it out. If I find it as useful as I'm hoping, I'll keep it going. If others choose to join in, I will most certainly enjoy the interaction. If it becomes a chore, well...I guess I'll go back to being a blog hog.

I'm kind of new to this whole concept of social networking. Don't have a FaceBook page...do have a Twitter account...have responded to a number of LinkedIn requests. I don't participate in chatrooms, but I do follow several blogs.

I've seen some really great blogs, and I intend to learn how to add some cool stuff to this one over time. I tend to follow blogs that I know are updated fairly regularly, so I want to make this a blog I would follow if I weren't the author.

I've run into some blogs that have pretty much been abandoned. I'm always disappointed, particularly if I've read some decent posts there, and then they stop. So here's my pledge...to myself, and to anyone who happens to run across this blog: If I stop keeping it updated, I'll delete the whole thing. I certainly don't need another "to-do" hanging over my head. Either I'll use the blog as an outlet for my thoughts, or if it becomes burden, I'll abandon the idea and delete the blog.

What's a "fifty-something" doing messing around with all this new-fangled technology? Heck, when your mind zigs and zags in all directions, a guy just has to write stuff down.