Monday, August 31, 2009

A Wealth of Friends

If a measure of wealth is how many friends you have, and I believe it is, we are among the world’s richest people.

Saturday night we had a few friends over for a party. No special occasion, just a gathering of friends. Ninety people came. We live in a modest apartment in the ‘burbs, so the place was packed. We had no idea who or how many people would come, but we knew that we had a variety of friends and that the mix would be eclectic.

Sure enough we had musicians, artists, antique dealers, sales people, financial planners, doctors, and everything in between. Some came on motorcycles and some in mini-vans. It was a great time!

We realized how truly blessed we are to have a community of friends that care about us and are willing to stand around our cramped apartment and enjoy each other’s company.

I believe that life does not consist of what we own, but rather who we are and the relationships we have with others. Sometimes we need to just get everybody in the same room to confirm those relationships and remind ourselves of what is important.

Friday, August 21, 2009


The Kansas City Star today carried a front page story about anger. ( The story was primarily about health care reform, but the article suggested that Americans are just angry in general. In fact, we have always been angry about something. America was born out of anger toward the British Crown.

This came home to me again when I was in Europe recently, and I was reminded that not every place in the world is as angry as the US. I noticed it most when we were in England, but it is also apparent in the Scandinavian countries as well as other places. There is a peacefulness among people that doesn’t exist here. For reasons that I don’t understand, Americans are just always angry at something.

This shows up in our high crime rate, our high levels of incarceration, in entertainment, and even in the high cost of health care. We have more attorneys than anywhere else in the world because we are much more likely to want to sue somebody.

As we were riding the subway late one night in London, I realized that I would not get on public transportation after midnight in any US city. In London everybody was friendly and having a good time after a pleasant night on the town. The lack of fear and anger was startling compared to any similar situation in just about any US city.

Some people argue that Jesus showed anger when He turned over the money changers tables in the temple, but a close reading will show that that was a planned protest and not an angry outburst. And even that was the closest thing to anger or violence that Jesus showed. (Matthew 21:12)

I think it comes down to contentment. Our constitution guarantees life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Pursuing happiness as an ideal almost guarantees that we will never be happy. Lack of contentment, never being happy with our circumstances, breeds anger and resentment. Anger and resentment show up in all sorts of ways from the highest murder rate in the industrialized world to perpetually low ratings for our politicians.

I don’t see any solution short of divine intervention, but being aware of the problem and committing to personally make our little bit of the world a little less angry will certainly go a long way.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Getting to know you, getting to know all about you"

A friend of mine named Bob was telling me about a situation involving another friend, Ray. Bob told Ray that he would like to get to know him better, develop a relationship, and ultimately become better friends.

A few days later, Bob received an autographed copy of Ray’s autobiography in the mail with a note suggesting that this should tell him whatever he wanted to know. If he had any questions, feel free to call.

Needless to say, Bob felt cold and rejected. He didn’t want facts, he wanted a relationship.

I have written a short autobiographical book and have written extensively on other subjects, and I sort of assume that my friends have read at least some of what I have written; but I wouldn’t confuse that with friendship or a meaningful relationship.

Relationships are built on shared experiences and time together, not just information and facts.
I think there is a parallel here with the Bible. God has written an autobiography. Like most autobiographies, it contains history, some teaching, poetry, and solid insight into what the author is all about. Reading about God and all He has done, should not be confused with a relationship with Him; nor should we worship His book more than Him.

My mother has written her memoirs and I love the book, but I love her a lot more than I love the book. Having read the book, I feel I know her better and understand some of the things she has been through a whole lot better than if she hadn’t written it, and if I hadn’t read it. But the book does not define our relationship.

It is the same with God. I would have very hard time understanding who He is if I did not read and study the Bible. But a relationship is different. I must spend quality time with Him and share my life with Him in a significant way while living it in such a way as to please Him and bring glory to Him in the end.

A number of years ago a friend told me that he was having a hard time finding a church he liked. He pointed out that some groups loved the Bible, but didn’t know God; and that others loved God but didn’t know the Bible. Since then I have sensed a lot of validity to that observation. It seems odd that there is such an either/or situation.

It is a puzzle that some of the most Godly people I know don’t seem to know all that much about scripture and that some of the most knowledgeable people on the Bible, display very little love or compassion for others.

I have tried to keep a balance, learning about God through the studying the Bible, but at the same time, not becoming so hung up on study that I miss God and His purposes in the process.

Friday, August 14, 2009


A while back I was talking with a web designer who assured me that everyone uses Mozilla Firefox as their primary browser and that I should optimize my site for that browser. According to him, Internet Explorer was blasé and I could pretty much ignore it.

I am often reminded by my Mac friends that everyone important uses Macs and to stop fussing with Windows.

I did a little research, which is quite easy to do, and determined that 8% of people accessing my sites use Firefox. Over 90% use some form of Internet Explorer. Also, about 7% of the total are Mac users.

With over 90% of the people using Windows and Internet Explorer, this reminds me to always take other people’s opinions with a grain of salt. It also reminds me to be careful about the opinions I express when the facts are easily verified.

Since then I have downloaded Firefox and have found that it has a few advantages. Internet Explorer also has some advantages and I find myself switching back and forth depending upon the situation. They are both just tools and there is no universal tool. The more tools you have in your tool box and the more you know when to use them the better.

Three points to remember: don’t believe everything you hear, use all the tools that are available, and don’t get stuck with only one approach.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Road Trip

Main Street - Eldorado, TX
This weekend we dusted off my wife’s Cadillac and made a road-trip to deep in the heart of Texas. My wife has a long lost cousin who lives just under the “X” in west Texas. We drove to Wichita Falls, Texas Friday and then on down to Eldorado on Saturday. We returned home to Kansas City on Sunday, so it was a quick trip.

It was good to get some “windshield time,” to talk and listen to music. The Cadillac purred along and turned in 27 mpg at Oklahoma’s 75 mph speed limit.

We are, however, slow learners when it comes to Holiday Inn food. Of all the times we have walked out of a restaurant because we couldn’t get waited on, or our food never came, 100% of the time it has been at a Holiday Inn. This was another time. We lost an hour waiting for breakfast before we gave up, walked out, and stopped at a 7-11 for muffins. We considered stopping on the way back to see if our food was ready, but we passed.

We had a good visit with Louise’s cousin, learning that they had spent the past 30 travelling almost continually. We couldn’t think of anyplace we had been that they hadn’t been twice, and they have been a whole bunch of places we hadn’t. He moved to Texas as a petroleum engineer, and there are still a few oil wells around.

Eldorado is the only town in the county and there isn’t much there. There are a few cows, but mainly goats. The land is so barren that cactus and mesquite is the main scenery.

Since we take turns driving, 1600 miles in two and half days is no big deal. In fact, this trip reminded us of how much we like to just get out on the road and see what we can see.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

God's Faithfulness

For several years I have felt that I was being obedient and faithful to God but He was not returning the favor. I prayed and tried to do what God was calling me to do, but the fruit of my labors just weren’t what I was expecting. Everything was too hard with minimal results.

When I expressed my frustrations to my wife she suggested that we sit down and write out some of the ways God has been faithful over the past ten years or so. Specifically she suggested that I list everything that has happened that was apparently God working in my life, things that I had no obvious control over.

As the list grew to about ten things, I saw the obvious pattern. Nine out of ten cases involved people and relationships. The vast majority of instances where I saw God working in my life involved Him bringing people to me that I didn’t expect. He brought new friends in unusual ways, He brought people that would solve problems, and He brought people who would encourage and teach me at just the right time.

My frustration with God, in every instance involved material items; things that I knew were only temporary in nature. His work involved permanent things like people, relationships, and truth.

I knew that God’s priorities were people and that material things are only secondary at best. God will provide all our needs, but I was still expecting to be rewarded with luxuries and the result was frustration.

The long list of wonderful people in my life makes me embarrassed that I ever doubted God’s love and faithfulness to me.