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Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

Sabbath

In Wise Eyes on August 31, 2008 at 7:33 pm

Resting can be exhausting!  By the time we left Sower’s Middle School on our bikes, I was weary.  We had loaded up the bikes on our unsteady bike rack, packed lunches, then driven over to church.  We helped the tear down crew after service – our church meets in a school building, so we setup and tear-down for over 200 members each week.  I say we in the general sense, but the truth is, I am rarely a part of tear-down.

I had my backpack slung on my back. Three books, which I didn’t end up reading, water bottles, and Lindsay’s bathing suit all filled the main compartment.  It was my birthday.  I decided I wanted to take a bike ride with Lindsay.  We had Newport Coast in mind, but quickly decided that 20 miles was a little out of our range today.  We settled on the ‘Wedge’, a corner of jeddy at the end of Newport Peninsula.  This spot was famous among body surfers and boogie borders especially when there was a large swell.  We stopped off at the church barbecue before we had gone very far.  The notion of Sabbath and intentionally slowing down to rest did not necessarily mean solitude.  We can enjoy rest with others too.

I kept wanting to talk to others about my plan for writing.  I wanted to let them in on the journey that I was taking.  It is rare that I find someone that connects on similar literature with any kind of intensity.  Denny and Lauren get it.  They will be leaving in less than a month to Montreal, Canada with their newborn.  Denny will release his first cd later this month.  Going to Montreal to study art, culture and social justice is definitely a risk for them.  It goes against the practical steps to success.  My plan with writing stikes a cord with them.  Perhaps they see Lindsay and I embarking on a similar journey.

Lindsay had surprised me when I had woke up with a book called Sabbath.  It was written by a Jewish Mystic and had been recommended to her by two different sources on the subject of slowing down or resting.  I guess the Jewish writer offers some interesting insights about resting.  We agreed to read it, as the situation presented itself, on the days we practice slowing this fall.  We plan to set one weekend day apart to just be together and receive from God.

My idea for a bike ride as rest came from a high school youth pastor, who had dedicated his life to bringing purpose and meaning to youth in Huntington Beach.  Lindsay and I saw him down in Newport once when we were on a date.  He looked so relaxed; no shirt, sun-leathered skin, baseball cap, moppy brown hair and shades.  He looked like an oversized teenager, but he spoke with a stilled wisdom.  I kept that visual in my mind when I tried to envision resting today.  The load on my back was a subtle reminder about my remaining questions with the Sabbath.  I was trying to rest, but I still carried a burden.

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Skeptical Silence

In Onward on August 29, 2008 at 5:21 pm

I woke up irritable this morning.  In fact, I was angry that I was irritable.  Have you ever been irritable without knowing why?  That was me this morning.  My wife got the first dose – when I crawled out of bed.  It was the kind of morning that I could not bring myself to write.  I just wanted to know why.  Did I need more space from my writing?  More creative time to just ‘be’ without having to produce?  Had I been neglecting my ‘spiritual’ time in prayer or Bible reading?  I did not know.  I was just irritable.

The last few days, when I have driven home, I have had a similar experience.  A car that did not need to be in front of me, decides to speed up and squeeze in front of me.  This gives that person an extra car length.  It is almost a positioning.  It suggests “I am better than you.” In no way does it get them to their destination sooner.  I’ve been cut off.  Pretty common experience, right?  I mean, I do that-cut people off.  And it frustrates me.  But, the last few days I have had a different experience of this.

My frustration was not with the person, it was merely wanting to get out of the petty games that I go through in my mind.  I no longer want to squeeze through traffic metaphorically “flipping the bird” to those around me.  I don’t want to care if another person gets in front of me.  I just want out of the race; the race I have participated in.  That is how corporate life feels to me.  It is a competition with nuances and political graces that seem trite.  It is not that I cannot play the game.  I can ‘swerve’ in front of coworkers just as well as the next guy.  What am I spinning my wheels for?  Why am I racing to get home from my job?

My job has been extremely busy since I returned from Dana Point.  Since I have an end point in sight, every move counts.  Normally, I am regimented about break times and reading the scriptures throughout the day.  This week, I have cut loose all my old demands on break/lunch times.  I have persisted on projects, as if I could work faster to get to November.  I am ready to be done.  Interesting how my stress level has picked up since I knew I was leaving.

At times the stress seems to mix with a fear of the future.  As I was cycling last night, my buddy Ray did not have much to say in response to my announcement.  It was a skeptical silence.  How will I deal with the change?  Will I make it as a writer?  The questions are there, but they are not nearly as important as what I might gain.  In Dana Point, I took off with a lunch slung over my back.  I walked to the harbor, munching my food as I explored on foot.  I did the same when I returned to work the next day.  I was exchanging rituals and routines for a sense of adventure and exploration.  I felt alive.

Getting to ‘Yes’

In Onward on August 28, 2008 at 6:52 am

“How was the seminar?” Lindsay asked as she leaned into her new merlot pilows on the love seat.  I leaned forward from the lazy boy, bracing myself.  I could not help feeling convicted to make a change.  I told her about the co-worker who commented about my ‘checked out’ appearance, my mind having checked out of the hotel conference room.  Apparently, it had decided to walk out of the hotel, across the street to the harbor and was crossing the green, Bermuda grass to the sand.  I had decided to leave the corporate world to be a writer; the writer that I know I am.  But, how would Lindsay take it?

I let her know that I would like to give notice at my job, burning the ships like Cortez.  I would face the difficult reality of making it without corporate luxuries, delicate medical benefits and mundane office conversations.  I wanted to apply my energy, my abilities and my strength toward a real risk.  I had become ‘metaphorically’ plump in my cubicle chair, longing for a spontaneous stroll for lunch into a place across the street.  Lindsay listened to my account peacefully and announced that she was at peace with the timing.  She gave me two conditions; waiting to leave until my 2 year retirement vesting kicks in (November), and that I maintain a part-time job with some income during my time of exploration.

Just like that it was done.  The conversation was all but over.  I, perhaps we, sat basking for a few minutes as if under the sun for the first time.  I was excited and terrified.  But, the excitement far outweighed the terror!  I would have to make it on my own in the brave new challenge.  On the other hand, I would not be alone.  I hope in God’s provision as I step out on faith.  The scary thing about stepping out to write was that I have the authority to do it!  Had I depended on the resistance so long?  I half expected a battle with Lindsay.  This time the doors were open.  Perhaps doors that my fears had prevented me from knocking on.

Course on Change

In Onward on August 27, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Today, I attended a conference in Dana Point.  The instructor, a retired weatherman from the midwest, secretly infuses his ideas with the group by talking about real challenges in our organization.  He fleshed out the powerlessness of being halted by Sr. management and left the responsibility with us to know our audience.  When developing buy-in, he suggested to speak the language of your audience.  If your audience is front-level staff talk about flexible schedules and day-care, school and doctors appointments.  If your audience is senior level leadership, then cut to the chase by doing their job for them.  Answer the questions, “How much is this going to cost?  How long is it going to take?  What are the benefits?” Read the rest of this entry »

Breath-taking vistas and Brute-force climbs

In Onward on August 25, 2008 at 6:50 am

I spent an unusual amount of time reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Many Waters this weekend.  The plot has really picked up.  L’Engle left several characters and interactions mysterious at earlier points in the book.  As some of those mysteries begin to unfold, I find myself more drawn into the plot.  That feature about great literature struck me this weekend.  Stories that require some degree of perseverence on my part (as the reader) are usually more rewarding and memorable.  Should I be surprised?  No wonder I struggled through the first 50 pages of Faulkner’s Sound and the Fury; a book I am determined I must read.

In most great stories there are dry spells, disorienting observations on the part of the narrator and overly-elaborate imagery.  These attributes are more like colors on a palette, rather than bricks of a wall.  They are not necessary for the foundation of a work, but they can illuminate the reader.  I suppose this attention to nuance is what makes the masters.

Once again, I was drawn into the nuance of the road bike this weekend.  I took my second trip with Ray’s group of riders.  Actually, these guys have been riding together on Saturday mornings for over 20 years!  They are a great group based in Irvine/Turtle Rock area.  The guys consist of a marketing director, software consultant, insurance agent and a real estate lawyer to name a few.  Despite their vocational differences, they are united each week by their love of riding.  Two of them have worn ‘double century’ jerseys, which suggest that they have competed in races that are over 200 miles long!  Before, I only saw space aliens in funny jerseys.  Now, I am noticing great athletic accomplishments and seasoned veterans.

We rode over fifty miles on Saturday morning, exchanging the normal route for an extended version.  We swung round to Santiago Canyon for an absolutely astonishing view of the mountains.  They rose into mist.  I could not see the tops.  It did not matter; they were impressive.  These were the same mountains Dugard looked up at from his corporate-marketing position.  He too marveled at the rugged, natural beauty that towers so close to the frantic urgency of our lives in the city.

We pedaled past Cook’s Corner, the ‘other biker’ hang out.  I decided to be clever and weave in and out of the orange pylon cones on the street outside.  My pedal-mounted shoe knocked one of them over.  I visualized three angry bikers peeling out of the parking lot to chase me down and beat me up.  They did not come.  I took the lead through the next few canyon passes.  My legs pushed and pushed; relentlessly up the hills.  I was picturing Lance in the mountain stages at the Tour de France.  My legs could not stop.  One of my teammates kept pace, encouraging me for my strength.  I could have kept going.