Thursday, December 31, 2009

State of Reflection

If it’s December, ’tis the season to remember. I can’t help it, but this time of year tends to lull me into a state of reflection. And for the past couple of years, it’s helped me to compile a list of highlights from the last year, reminding me of several reasons to be thankful.

As I reflect upon the year’s highlights, I am reminded of how I’ve grown in my life, including the journeys I’ve traveled, books I’ve read, relationships I’ve cultivated and yes, gadgets I’ve gotten, among other things. I am not sure what it says about me but I have realized upon closer introspection that when my life needs rejuvenating, I tend to read a book, buy a gadget or go on a trip.

For example, when I craved a breakthrough recently, my reaction was to order some books off Amazon for a creative jumpstart, buy an iPod Touch for connectivity on the fly and experience a shared dream by celebrating the holidays in New York City with my beloved wife.

While in New York, I was inspired by the sketching of an art student at a museum to finally get a Moleskine notebook myself. And it was while snapping pictures there that I decided to spring for a Leica camera to develop my interest in photography. With my latest creative cache in mind, I collated a photo album of my favorite things for perusal at my gallery.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pocket Computer

While I didn’t “need” another iPod, I took the plunge the other day and got an iPod Touch. Its capability as a pocket computer is what moved me to get it. The Touch has all the functionality of the iPhone less the phone. Its 5 ounce footprint saves me from toting my 5 pound laptop around much of the time and it is a ton of fun. I visit the New York Times for news on my porch and check the TV Guide for programs on my couch.

With Apple’s ample App Store, there is no shortage of free applications to download to the Touch, including one that allows me to read electronic books on it. My wife and I are headed to New York City for the holidays and I am looking forward to surfing wirelessly at neighborhood cafes during our visit. And I got an email from Delta notifying me that eBay is even sponsoring free WiFi on our flights to and from the Big Apple!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sacred Time

In the book Sacred Time and the Search for Meaning, author Gary Eberle writes, “Sacred time is what we experience when we step outside the quick flow of life and luxuriate, as it were, in a realm where there is enough of everything, where we are not trying to fill a void in ourselves or the world, where we exist for a moment at both the deepest and the loftiest levels of our existence and participate in the eternal life of all that is.”

A couple of words from his definition leap out at me: luxuriate and participate. It seems to me that what troubles so many of my fellow travelers through time is the patent unwillingness to “step outside the quick flow of life” in order to luxuriate in the languid experience of living. Notice that I didn’t say it is an inability to slow down one’s pace, but an unwillingness to do so, that hinders people from enjoying life by participating actively in it.

I am reminded of a story I heard about a businessman who encountered a fisherman plying his trade and subsequently suggested a strategy for growing his fledgling enterprise. The ambitious plan called for the fisherman to gradually expand his operation until he was ultimately able to slow down, fish at his own pace and spend time at home with his family. The irony, of course, was that the fisherman was already enjoying that lifestyle without the businessman’s plan.

As far as I can ascertain, that is the way many people strive to live their lives: ever chasing after the illusion of success, yet failing to realize the simple pleasures of the life they possess. And the sad fact of the matter is that the life most dream of is much closer than they realize. As the saying goes, it doesn’t pay to climb the ladder of success, only to learn that it leans against the wrong house.

Easier said than done, some may say, but I beg to differ. It is all a matter of how badly one wants a simpler, more meaningful life. People live the life of their dreams all the time. And it simply involves making conscientious decisions on a daily basis that move one closer to the preferred destination. Sacred time is within reach of us all, if we’ll only let go of what limits us.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Case for Editors

With an intriguing twist of irony, I ordered a book the other day from Amazon titled The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future by Robert Darnton, who happens to be the director of the Harvard University Library. So what is so ironic about that? Other than the fact that the book is a hardcover that I got for a third off the cover price from the place that has popularized electronic book reading, there was a glaring TYPO on the back cover proving my point that besides the case for books, there also is a case for editors.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

White Space

In design circles there is a term to describe the limited use of graphics on a page: white space. A similar term regarding the placement of text is called margin. Whatever you call it, the idea behind it is that specific elements stand out in relief. In other words, an uncluttered background allows the focal point of a design to come to the fore.

My wife is helping a friend of ours, who happens to be a fellow editor, organize her living and working space to better function at home, both personally and professionally. And the first move toward a more beautiful space is to remove the clutter from it. Nothing mars a homescape more than too much stuff and no system in place to corral it.

No matter how cramped one’s quarters might be, any space can be made more livable by weeding out the detritus of life gathered over the course of time. For example, I am one of the more organized people I know, but even I found myself with an odd surplus of electronic gadgetry accumulating in the storage closet of my office.

So I finally tackled the tangled web of cords and discovered that, among several outdated devices, my wife and I had collected one set of earbuds, two cell phone cases, three old cell phones, four cell phone chargers, and five corroded batteries. But the best part of the process was my discovery that a set of Aiwa speakers I had stored work wonderfully with our Apple laptop.

Never mind that I’ve had the laptop for 4 years and the speakers for 24 years and somehow they are only now being united in sonic bliss. The sole reason for their belated coupling can be attributed to the saying: “out of sight, out of mind.” As my wife and I often remind each other, “it helps to know what you own so you can use it.” If I’d only explored our spare electronics box earlier I could have been jamming long ago.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sense of Place

I got to travel to my home state of Virginia this past weekend and while there I visited founding father Thomas Jefferson’s private retreat called Poplar Forest, outside of Lynchburg. This year marks the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s initial visit to Poplar Forest, one of only two homes he designed and created for his own use—the other being Monticello in Charlottesville—and free admission made it even more fun.

The home speaks volumes about the man and his mind, as it is reportedly the first octagonal home built in America and featured many state of the art amenities, including indoor toiletry to supplement his octagon-shaped outhouses. Of Poplar Forest, Jefferson wrote to a friend: “When finished, it will be the best dwelling house in the state, except that of Monticello; perhaps preferable to that, as more proportioned to the faculties of a private citizen.”

Poplar Forest’s website at hints at the special place it held in its owner’s heart: “Poplar Forest was an important part of Jefferson’s life: a private retreat, situated far from the public scrutiny, where he could indulge in his favorite pastimes of reading, studying and thinking. Poplar Forest [was] a place where he came to find rest and leisure, rekindle his creativity, and to enjoy private family time.”

In a letter written to another friend, Jefferson wrote of Poplar Forest: “I write to you from a place 90 miles from Monticello…which I visit three or four times a year, and stay from a fortnight to a month at a time. I have fixed myself comfortably, keep some books here, bring others occasionally, am in the solitude of a hermit, and quite at leisure to attend to my absent friends.”

What was so special about visiting Jefferson’s hideaway is that it gave me a sense of place and how his home informed and inspired one of the truly revolutionary thinkers in history. It was moving to spend time in the same space that the author of our nation’s Declaration of Independence used to read and study and think grand thoughts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thinking of Abundance

I share my thinking on this blog for the creative fun of it and the simple satisfaction that comes from communicating with readers about what’s on my mind. With that said, like any other blogger, or creative artist of any stripe, it always feels good to be validated in one’s thinking and that is the prompt for this posting.

As a longtime subscriber to Fast Company, I am regularly treated to a cornucopia of innovative and interesting ideas so suffice it to say that I was particularly pleased to read a recent article about the business success of Panera Bread [which I had written about in my 06/15/09 posting titled “Mobile Avenue”].

As I mentioned in my post, Panera’s “unlimited Internet access is the drawing card for countless professional nomads like myself who are looking for a cool, cozy place to conduct business.” My point was, and continues to be, that businesses with an abundance mindset will trump those with a scarcity mentality.

As the aforementioned article states, “Mention Panera Bread and fans are as likely to praise the free Wi-Fi as they are to gush about the Asiago cheese bagels. And that, execs at the restaurant chain say, is the point. While its competitors scale back on upscale ingredients, trim portion sizes, and create value menus, Panera is selling fresh food and warm bread at full price, and encouraging customers to linger. That recipe is succeeding.”

The article also points out that while others aim to limit laptop-lugging patrons, Panera has realized that fostering community contributes to cash flow: “And the company has combined that menu with an unpretentious atmosphere—there’s no table service, but also no time limit. As a result, it has become as much community gathering space as a bustling lunch spot. ‘In many ways, we’re renting space to people and the food is the price of admission,’ says CEO Ron Shaich.”

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Speaking of Stuff

I came across a thought-provoking article in this weekend’s New York Times magazine titled “The Self-Storage Self” by Jon Mooallem and you can read it at Whether or not you use self-storage (I do not), there is no denying the behemoth of a business it has become.

One of the more compelling points of the article captures the sheer size of the self-storage movement: “After a monumental building boom, the United States now has 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space. (The Self Storage Association notes that, with more than seven square feet for every man, woman and child, it’s now ‘physically possible that every American could stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self-storage roofing.’)”

As the article further suggests: “Maybe the recession really is making American consumers serious about scaling back, about decluttering and deleveraging. But there are upward of 51,000 storage facilities across this country. Storage is part of our national infrastructure now. And all it is, is empty space.”

I can’t speak for others, but it sounds to me like people need to discipline themselves when it comes to acquiring stuff. Despite average home sizes doubling to more than 2,300 square feet, many people apparently have trouble fitting it all into their super-sized McMansions (that many also have no business buying).

I recently heard that for the typical buyer of a NEW Rolls Royce, it is the 17TH car in their collection! When the vast majority of the world subsists on about a dollar a day, I can’t help but think that too many of us have our priorities out of whack. I personally subscribe to the philosophy that “less is more” and am reminded of the admonition to “live simply that others may simply live.”

Monday, August 31, 2009

More Free Stuff

I saved some of my thoughts about the book Free for a second subsequent post. At the end of the book, author Chris Anderson outlines “The Ten Principles of Abundance Thinking,” and so I list them here:

If it’s digital, sooner or later it’s going to be free. In a competitive market, price falls to the marginal cost, and bits want to be free.
Atoms would like to be free, too, but they’re not so pushy about it. Businesses will always find ways to redefine their services to make some things free while selling others.
You can’t stop Free. In the digital realm you can try to keep Free at bay with laws and locks, but it is better to take Free back from the pirates, and sell upgrades.
You can make money from Free. Free opens doors, reaching new customers, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t charge some of them.
Redefine your market. Changing your perspective opens up opportunities to make money around your core business.
Round down. The first to Free gets attention, and there are ways to turn that into money.
Sooner or later you will compete with Free. Match the price of your competitors or ensure that the differences in quality overcome the differences in price.
Embrace waste. If something is becoming too cheap to matter, stop metering it.
Free makes other things more valuable. Every abundance creates a new scarcity and when one service becomes free, value migrates to the next level, so go there.
Manage for abundance, not scarcity. As business functions become digital, they can also become more independent without risk of sinking the mothership.

I highly recommend reading Free regardless of one’s personal profession, as the ideas discussed in it are applicable across a range of industries. However, I find them particularly pertinent to those involved in the creative arts. Whether we like it or not, artists must adapt to the digitization of their creations and agree upon an equitable form of compensation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Free for a Fee

Whether you are a producer or a consumer of media content or both, you cannot afford to not read Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson. The editor of Wired and author of The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, Anderson has his finger on the pulse of creativity and commerce like few others.

As Anderson writes, “The new form of Free is based on the economics of bits, not atoms. It is a unique quality of the digital age that once something becomes [digitized], it inevitably becomes free—in cost, certainly, and often in price. And it’s creating a multibillion dollar economy—the first in history—where the primary price is zero.”

“The rise of ‘freeconomics’ is being driven by the underlying technologies of the digital age. Just as Moore’s Law dictates that a unit of computer processing power halves in price every two years, the price of bandwidth and storage is dropping even faster. What the Internet does is combine all three, compounding the price declines with a triple play of technology: processors, bandwidth, and storage,” Anderson continues.

Anderson is quick to point out the difference between free as in “freedom” (libre) and free as in “price-less” (gratis), i.e. free speech versus free lunch. Of the types of free (gratis) models, perhaps the most familiar one to readers is the “freemium” model, which is free to basic users and offers a premium paid version (think Flickr and Flickr Pro). The key to freemium is the Five Percent Rule: five percent of online users support all the rest.

To clarify an often-misquoted axiom, Anderson writes, “Commodity information (everybody gets the same version) wants to be free. Customized information (you get something unique and meaningful to you) wants to be expensive.” In other words, as long as there is a fee associated with its creation, information needs to be subsidized somehow.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Join the Revolution

Kudos to the good people at Barnes & Noble for finally joining the revolution and giving us digital nomads complimentary online access at all their locations nationwide. Of course, Panera Bread has done this for years [scroll down to my 06/15/09 entry titled “Mobile Avenue.”] And Starbucks has finally begun offering a limited online service of two complimentary hours per day with an active Starbucks card.

Speaking of digital nomads, the Washington Post recently published a story titled “Digital Nomads Choose Their Tribes.” A couple of featured business partners made this insightful comment: “In real estate, the emphasis is always put on ‘location, location, location’ and thanks to ever-evolving technology, we can now be productive from almost any location. And while we understand that there is no place like home, we like to think we have many homes—the primary one being the World Wide Web.”

And a recent New York Times article covered the effort of Baltimore to offer citywide Internet access through a developing technology called WiMax, which delivers the Internet through radio signals broadcast from cell phone towers. It is being touted as a “4G network,” to signal its superiority to today’s 3G networks. While the results are mixed so far, the point is that emerging technology is supporting the mobile lifestyle.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Renewed Perspective

It has been said that we are each the sum total of all the people we’ve known, all the books we’ve read and all the places we’ve been. And I can’t help but think of how today’s social networking technology is helping us all broaden our respective spheres of influence.

Over the course of the past several days, I’ve spent time beefing up my online presence in each of these areas by connecting with professional colleagues through LinkedIn, posting about the interesting books I have read on Shelfari and listing favorite trips I have taken on TripAdvisor.

As a mobile professional, I particularly benefit from the renewed perspective gained by getting out of my home and interacting with people, reading publications and visiting places. For the purposes of thinking differently, there is simply no substitute for a change of place.

My location of choice today happens to be a café with a steady stream of clientele, an eclectic mix of music and online access to a wealth of information at my fingertips. But it is not so much information as inspiration that I am in search of as I write these words.

I am not sure what it is about leaving one’s usual surroundings that lends itself to creative output but I am thinking it has something to do with the change of pace as well as the change of place. Space and time tend to yield to those who slow down and savor life rather than seek to speed it up.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Thoreau Primer

I recently finished reading a fascinating book titled The Thoreau You Don’t Know by Robert Sullivan. As a big fan of Henry David Thoreau and his classic Walden, it was fun learning more about his life sequestered in a 150-square-foot cottage he built on friend Ralph Waldo Emerson’s property and lived in from 1845-1847. His book has been called the bible of simple living, a point supported by Thoreau’s own accounting that he spent all of $28.125 to build his home at Walden Pond outside Concord, Massachusetts.

Much like me, he was a writer who had trained to be a minister before turning to writing. An excerpt from Sullivan’s book speaks to this point: “He had written that a writer publishing in the popular press had more influence that a preacher in a pulpit. Thoreau became a writer who was in no camp completely and, as such, eventually learned to write for two audiences simultaneously, the popular press and a reader he imagined to be like himself, who reads obsessively and is always thirsty for spiritual renewal.”

Another similarity is the era in which we each lived. Sullivan writes, “It’s important to think about the economic climate. As the country reeled from market forces, as the gap between rich and poor widened, as people strained to make a living and saw their social and family life begin to change as a result, Thoreau was about to give a very practical answer to the question that Emerson asked, the question that was not just on the mind of philosophers past and present but on the mind of the country: “‘How shall I live?’”

I was particularly drawn to Sullivan’s depiction of Thoreau as a marketplace minister: “Thoreau had trained to be a preacher and, like Emerson, he was one in the end. He was working in the culture, not apart from it, and the culture was the culture of enterprise, as in business. Business was now a moral term, as in the business of your life. Your commerce was your work in resisting the mass culture, what you are told to do. Your profit was your virtue, your principal your principles.”

For the first several years after I left pastoral ministry to follow journalistic pursuits I struggled from time to time with my calling. It was the faithful words of a friend that finally helped me to break through my self-imposed funk: “You are still in the pastoral ministry, you just traded pulpits.” While I may not track with Thoreau’s transcendentalist leanings, I do sync with his message of simplicity, as well as his means of sharing it through the printed word.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Traveling Lightly

I like the simple life. It is a way of living that has appealed to me for as long as I can remember. From my boyhood days of reading My Side of the Mountain, the tale of a boy who ran away to the woods in search of himself, to adulthood readings of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, another tale of a guy who wandered into the wild for a renewed perspective, I’ve enjoyed stories of learning to travel lightly through life.

Speaking of Thoreau, his stated philosophy was simplicity personified: “The rule is to carry as little as possible.” And other kindred spirits include Harper Lee, the reclusive bestselling author of To Kill a Mockingbird, who is quoted as saying, “All I need is a good bed, a bathroom and a typewriter…books are the things I care about.” Amen to that.

Jesus charged his followers to “keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” So what does it mean to live freely and lightly? For starters, I think it means that we own our possessions instead of them owning us. Also, we can’t be drowning in debt if we hope to keep our heads above water. In other words, learning to live with less is key.

My personal journey with living lightly is typified by a move to Cape Cod for the summer of 1985, when I shared a room with a friend of mine in a boarding house just blocks from the beach. I moved there with a couple duffle bags of stuff and, except for the Aiwa portable sound system and the Schwinn ten-speed bicycle I bought, I left there about as lightly as I arrived.

Of course, living lightly as a bachelor at the beach is different than living as a couple in a community but the principles of simple living are the same and can be adapted to fit any lifestyle. Far from an ascetic existence, my life is designed with aesthetics in mind, from the Cape Cod-style cottage I inhabit to the Volvo and Vespa I drive. But I am mindful of the cost of consumption and consequently strive to live and travel as lightly as possible.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mobile Avenue

I was working the other day at one of my homes away from home, a local Panera Bread near my wife’s office, and I had just headed outdoors to get some fresh air when I noticed that it is located on…wait for it…Mobile Avenue. How ironic is that? If that isn’t a “sign” of the times, I don’t know what is!

What Panera has figured out that the Starbucks across the street hasn’t yet is that unlimited Internet access is the drawing card for countless professional nomads like myself who are looking for a cool, cozy place to conduct business. It was only my second visit to that particular location and both times I bumped into friends of mine who are also consultants needing convenient offsite meeting space and good coffee.

Thankfully, twenty-first century technology gives us a type of mobility that was unfathomable even a few years ago. For example, upon my discovery of the street sign for Mobile Avenue I was able to snap a photo of it with my cell phone and forward it to my laptop computer wirelessly via Bluetooth technology for posting on my blog.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Testing Your Dream

I enjoy books about dreams and I thoroughly enjoyed one I finished today titled Put Your Dream to the Test, the latest by leadership expert and bestselling author John Maxwell. Subtitled “10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It,” the book suggests you analyze your dream in order to move from merely believing in it to actually buying into it.

As Maxwell points out, it is one thing to dream and another thing to live your dream, and the determining factor is often whether or not your dream has been tested. He gently guides you to answer questions of ownership, clarity, reality, passion, pathway, people, cost, tenacity, fulfillment and significance. In his trademark style, the book is peppered with motivational quotations and moving stories of people who achieved their dreams by practically testing them and then tenaciously pursuing them.

No matter where you might find yourself on the dream continuum, it would benefit you to read this book and practice its principles. Whether or not you have mapped out your dream destination, you will find here the help you need to navigate the challenging detours of life and continue your journey toward a life of passion and purpose.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Simple Pleasures

I just returned from a quick but restful trip to visit family, friends and a client in the Nashville area this past weekend. I was reminded that I had a free roundtrip ticket that had to be used within the week so I called my brother-in-law [who has nine kids] and he agreed to pick me up at the airport on Friday and return me there on Monday so that I could fit in a quick consult with a client before heading home. In between, I was able to visit some friends at the church they pastor.

Whereas visiting six nephews and three nieces may cause some people to cry “uncle,” my brother-in-law and his wife have done a fantastic job of childrearing so it was actually a pleasure to spend the weekend with them. Facilitating matters was the fact that they live on three hundred acres of bucolic pastureland in a restored farmhouse, complete with a spacious guest room, a porch swing and rocking chairs.

When not playing pool or watching videos with the kids, my time was spent listening to relaxing music and reading a good book, either out on the porch swing or in the luxurious guest bed. And the spring showers we enjoyed the first couple of days only served to enhance my refreshing interlude. I retreated for a time of renewal and returned with a profound appreciation for life's simple pleasures.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Going Dutch

One of my very favorite places to visit is Amsterdam, Holland. I’ve only gotten to explore it once, and that was during a long layover on an assignment to Africa, but it left an indelible imprint upon my memory. One of my fondest memories of the Dutch city is its all-enveloping old world charm, accentuated as it is by a strong sense of place that moves to a kinder and gentler pace than Americans abide.

It reminds me of sleepy Savannah, Georgia, where I used to live in a renovated brownstone for three years, only instead of Savannah’s picturesque squares, Amsterdam features scenic canals in its historic city centre. Above is a picture I took of one of the canals during my visit there and on the bridge are several bicycles, which the city of Amsterdam has more of per capita than anywhere else in the world, adding to its charming mystique.

Amsterdam’s laidback lifestyle is cogently captured in a recent New York Times article titled “Going Dutch” by American expatriate Russell Shorto, who writes: “The Dutch seem to be happier than we are. I’ve found that Dutch people take both their work and their time off seriously. Indeed, the two go together. The fact that the Dutch work only during work hours does not seem to make them less productive, but more. I’m constantly struck by how calm and fresh the people I work with regularly seem to be.”

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Changing Bookscape

I blogged about what I call the changing bookscape about a year ago in a couple of postings titled “Print is Dead” and “More Print is Dead,” based on observations from a book with the title of Print is Dead by author Jeff Gomez. I won’t repeat the conversation here but its thoughts are echoed in a compelling article in the Wall Street Journal by writer Steven Johnson titled “How the E-book Will Change the Way We Read and Write.” It is must reading for publishing professionals and can be read in its entirety by visiting

Monday, April 20, 2009

Media Matters

Over the course of the last couple days I’ve come across some thought-provoking stuff online and at the theatre that I think proves the point that the media matters, perhaps more than ever, as does our use of media in all the evolving forms and formats available today.

I read an intriguing article in the online version of the Columbia Journalism Review titled “Overload: Journalism’s Battle for Relevance in an Age of Too Much Information.” Included below is a brief excerpt from it and it can be read in its entirety at

The article neatly summarizes: “The future of news depends on the willingness of journalistic organizations to adjust to the new ecology and new economy of information in the digital age. ‘I think in some ways, we need a better metaphor,’ says Michael Delli Carpini, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

‘The gatekeeping metaphor worked pretty well in the twentieth century, but maybe what news organizations should be now is not gatekeepers so much as guides. You don’t want gatekeepers that can say you can get this and you can’t get that. You want people who can guide you through all this stuff,’” suggests Delli Carpini.

Speaking of curators of culture, I saw a compelling movie this weekend called State of Play that juxtaposed the emerging influence of the blogosphere against the fading power of the mainstream media. Russell Crowe plays a veteran old-school journalist and Rachel McAdams plays a new-media blogger, and watching them cooperate to cover a breaking story is interesting and instructive.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Time is Relative

Today is the fifth anniversary of this blog and so I thought I’d commemorate it by posting about the topic I most passionately cover: time and our relationship to it. As today’s title suggests, time is somewhat of a relative concept. It was Greek orator Antiphon who said, “Time is not a reality but a concept or a measure.”

And Albert Einstein explained his theory of relativity this way: “Sitting next to a beautiful woman for an hour seems like a second. Sitting on a hot stove for a second seems like an hour. That is the relativity of time.” In other words, time can be our friend or foe, depending on how we relate to it.

Nowadays, I rarely wear a watch, and then it is more as a fashion accessory than anything else. Granted, the ubiquity of cell phones and other digital devices has contributed to my ability to tell time on the go. But my decision to go watchless is as much a philosophical one as it is a practical one. For me, life is more meaningful when not timed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Gift of Rest

About a month ago, a friend of ours lent my wife and I the use of her beach cottage. It was the second time we’d had the pleasure of visiting it, with the other time being about three years ago, and both times we’ve come away relaxed and refreshed. Upon closer reflection, I think it is safe to say that what our friend gave us was the gift of rest.

The nondescript cottage is a simple bungalow located just steps from the beach behind some windswept sand dunes so the surf beckoned for us to come and stroll along its shore. Yet aside from long walks on the beach, we passed our time peacefully ensconced within its shabby chic interior with candlelight, soothing music and good books.

As I reflect upon the time spent at our friend’s beach cottage, I am reminded of Jesus’ admonition to “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while.” It could be said that if we don’t “come apart” in order to rest that we will simply “come apart.” In other words, if we aren’t willing to periodically rest from our busyness and activity, then we may prematurely enter that place of perpetual rest, the cemetery.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Words of Encouragement

I was rummaging through an old shoe box the other day that I had labeled “stuff” and came across a stash of cards, letters and notes of encouragement that I’ve collected over the years. I was feeling somewhat melancholy at the time and so it felt good to be reminded of others’ appreciation of me.

What got me to thinking about going through the box was a phone call I received from a former client of mine who wanted to thank me for my kind words to him a couple of years ago at a critical juncture in his life. He shared with me how much my words of encouragement helped him to transition from his architectural practice into full-time pastoral ministry and he wanted me to know of his gratitude.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to hear from him and humbled that the words I spoke to him struck a resounding chord within the sanctuary of his soul. His call was a timely reminder to me of just how much our lives can influence the journey of another through the power of encouraging words.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

I was trying to think of what to blog about today and then I was struck with an “attitude of gratitude.” It seems that just when I get to thinking about the trials I face I am reminded of how very good I’ve got it. For example, I was at my favorite café this morning thinking about some challenges I am facing and in walked a fellow regular who happens to be blind. Suffice it to say that my perspective was radically changed.

Speaking of challenges, I’ve got several friends who have placed their homes on the market in order to ease the burden of debt, reminding me that my challenges pale in comparison. My business may be experiencing a relative lull but my sister recently lost the job for which she moved to another part of the state a few years ago. She got a couple weeks severance pay and qualifies for unemployment benefits but it is small consolation.

My wife and I are among the millions of Americans without health insurance but we have been blessed with extraordinarily good health, we do what we can to take proper care of ourselves, and above all, we place our faith in God as the Chief Physician. Meanwhile, we attend church with others who are facing life and death struggles concerning their health and we are reminded to not only pray for them but to count our blessings also.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A New Era

About a week after wrecking our Honda Accord my wife and I have purchased a pre-owned Volvo C70 convertible. It has all the bells and whistles one could dream of and drives like a dream with the top down. The car is reportedly the safest convertible in the world, a comforting fact given that my last convertible, a Mazda Miata, got totaled when I was chased off the road by a truck.

I’ve always admired Volvo’s reputation for safety and durability and so when it came time to get another car, it was on our short list. Volvo’s motto is: Volvo. For Life. The company started business in 1927 and its founders are quoted as saying, “Cars are driven by people. Therefore, the guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo is—and must remain—safety.” And the average lifetime age of a Volvo is 20 years, so they last.

For inquiring minds, the car is a 2.4 liter, 5 cylinder, 197 horsepower, turbocharged 5- speed automatic, soft-top convertible. As my wife and I cruised home from church this morning with the top down, we were reminded how much we had missed owning a convertible. It is safe to say that we look forward to making many more such memories.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

End of Era

My wife and I bought our first new car on January 2, 1996. It was a burgundy Honda Accord LX that we babied from day one. And it more than lived up to its reputation for quality and dependability. But it met its demise a couple days ago as my wife was commuting home from work. It was raining and the car in front of her abruptly stopped so she had to hit the brakes, causing her to hit the other car.

Fortunately, my wife escaped the accident unscathed, but our car was totaled, as the attached picture attests. Unfortunately, we had discontinued our collision coverage on it about a year ago to save money so we’ll be car shopping for an extra good deal. We put about 188,000 miles on our old car over the course of 13 years. And I am praying that our next car, while not likely a new one, will be as good an investment as our last one.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Designing Spaces

I am intrigued by other people’s work spaces, as they can be snapshots of insight into a person’s psyche or philosophy of design. As for me, I converted one of our cottage’s spare bedrooms into my work space. My office contains four filing cabinets, three desks, two bookshelves, and one supply closet. I am not sure what that says about me, other than that I am an infomaniac.

As the attached picture attests, I am also a neatnick who likes a relatively clean desk and black, white, and grey hues. For fellow technologists, I use an Apple iMac desktop computer and Airport Express wireless router, a Sprint DSL modem, a General Electric digital answering system, a Radio Shack cordless phone, and a Hewlett Packard scanner and printer.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Coping With Busyness

Contrary to popular opinion, busyness is not next to godliness. While it threatens to dupe us into believing that we are invaluable, graveyards are full of so-called irreplaceable people. We all may be busy but we can cope with busyness by prioritizing our personal and professional lives according to the principles outlined in Scripture.

“Everything is permissible for me,” wrote the apostle Paul, “but not everything is beneficial.” The truth is that there is an awful lot that we could do but it is often a matter of whether or not we should do it. After all is said and done, we want to be able to say “no” to good ideas in order to pursue God ideas. Saying “no” to the rest enables us to say “yes” to the best that God has for us.

I read a card the other day that captures the attitude of many: “Jesus is coming, look busy.” It’d be funny if it weren’t for the fact that many of us act like that. But the good news is that Jesus came to reveal a better way and reminded us: “I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.”

Part of the trouble with living in our fast-paced times is that often we allow the busyness of life to choke out our dreams and destinies, not to mention our purposes and passions. Sadly, many of us settle for being an echo of someone else instead of the unique voice that God created us to be. It is helpful to remember that the concert we are called to play cannot be performed if we only copy other people’s music.