Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reinventing Business

One of my favorite people to quote is Albert Einstein.  His uncommon genius was often expressed in very uncommon ways.  Below is one of my favorite Einstein quotes:

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex...It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction."

Although Einstein's field was theoretical physics, many of the things he said make a lot of sense in other fields of endeavor.  I believe the quote cited above is the key to business success in today's economic environment.  It is the concept often referred to as the KISS method -- Keep it Stupid Simple.

For a number of years I had the good fortune to work with the CEO of a company who didn't understand this concept.  In fact, he once stated something to the effect that in business, you need to make what you are doing complex enough that it is difficult for your competition to duplicate it.  At the time, I fought against that very philosophy and it led to my demise with that company.  I am fortunate, because it also led to the demise OF that company.

I once read a book that made a tremendous impact on my philosophy of business.  It was called, "The Death of Competition," by James F. Moore.  No, it's not about destroying your competition, it is about a management strategy of creating alliances that allows each member of the alliance to do what they do best.  It is the philosophy behind many of the joint ventures that have been most successful.

The meeting that I was so concerned about yesterday seems to have resulted in the continuation of a strategic alliance between our company and our largest supplier.  It did get a little tense at times, but all parties want to achieve similar goals and all are willing to invest the resources necessary to make that happen.  The next step is to formalize the agreement in writing although in reality, the handshake agreement is the most critical.  There is an entire profession built around the breaking of written agreements.  It always ultimately comes back to the integrity of those involved.

I am extremely fortunate to have business partners who have the highest level of integrity.  I have seen a couple of them turn down deals that would have made them a lot of money simply because they were not the right kind of deals.  One of those yesterday made the comment that the only thing any of us will take to the grave is our personal integrity....did we do what we said we'd do.

There is more to the deal than just an agreement.  It is the simplicity of the deal.  I will be shocked if the agreement exceeds a one-page letter.  That's the way a contract should be.  You don't see many that look that way anymore though.

Tomorrow's post will begin with the letter "S."  Please leave any suggestions in the comments!


Monday, January 30, 2012

An Additional Post for Today

Today I feel led to include an additional post -- one outside of the "Alphabetically Inspired Series" that I have been writing.  This morning I am preparing for a very important meeting.  It is one that could determine the direction of my company for years to come.

My earlier post entitled "Quiet" is important because I am fortunate to be able to have some quiet time this morning for that preparation which I need.  It is a time in which I have been able to contemplate the issues that will be discussed and to prepare myself to meet them.  It has been a time in which I could pray and seek God's wisdom and guidance and to listen to His response.

He gave me these verses this morning and I just wanted to share them with whoever might read this post:

"I love you O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I am saved from my enemies."  __ Psalm 18:1-3

Once again I come to the conclusion that it is all about faith.  If my faith is in myself alone, I will fail.  I must place my faith in the only One who can save -- Jesus Christ.  I must trust that His will is best and that whatever occurs, He has what is best in mind.  That doesn't mean that it will be what I expect, but that whatever occurs will be what is best.  It is His Kingdom that is being built, not mine.  I seek merely to be useful, unworthy as I am.....



I like it quiet;
Perfect silence.
I don't need the noise,
It's just a distraction.

I like it quiet;
I am good with my thoughts.
I don't need the noise,
It just makes me tense.

I like it quiet;
There's nothing to fear.
Most people want noise
To keep them company.

I like it quiet;
It's easier to hear God.
In everyday noise
I can't focus on Him.

I like it quiet;
Especially when I read.
I don't want music playing
It just pulls me away.

I like it quiet;
Away from the hum
Of the noisy electronics.
They make my head ache.

I like it quiet;
It helps me relax.
Noise just keeps me
From falling asleep....Zzz.....

Tomorrow's post will start with the letter "R."  The alphabetical journey continues....


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Panhandle People

I've had the good fortune for many years to travel all over this country.  I typically have not travelled to the resort areas, but, to the rural areas.  Sometimes I pass through cities known for their attractions, but I don't generally get to see those attractions -- just pass through the airport.

One thing that I've found wherever I travel is that the Texas Panhandle is known for friendly people.  I have heard countless stories of people visiting the area or being stranded in a snow storm or just passing through and having encounters with people from the Panhandle that were both remarkable and memorable.  I'm sure that I've speculated on this before in a post, but I'm too lazy to look back and try to find it.

I think the reason for the friendly people is that they have to depend on each other.  If you think about it, it makes sense.  It hasn't been all that long ago that this country was frontier.  It was the domain of the Comanche Indian until 1876.  The first big ranches were established in the 1880's.  The farmers really didn't start rolling into the area until well into the 1900's.  It was a tough and bleak existence until the first irrigation wells were drilled in the 1950's.  Sometimes it was a long way between neighbors yet, they had to depend on each other.

I suspect the majority of people living in these windswept plains today are descendants of those hardy, pioneering types who settled this country.  We don't see a large number of immigrants from places with trees and water -- the landscape just doesn't seem to appeal to them.  It takes a special type to enjoy the beauty of this country of far horizons.  It takes someone who appreciates the wide-open spaces.  It takes someone with a streak of independence and a knowledge that neighbors are important.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that Panhandle People are generally known for friendliness and the willingness to offer a helping hand to someone in need.  That must be a diminishing quality in this fair land, otherwise it wouldn't be so remarkable.

Tomorrow I will post on the letter "Q."  I fear it may be one to give me some trouble.  After all, there aren't all that many words that start with "Q."  Helpful suggestions would be appreciated.  Please feel free to make them in the comments.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Oxygen Please!

A couple of young ladies with whom I am acquainted are running a 10K race in Amarillo today.  They are twins.  Neither of them are obvious marathoners.  Yet, they both set a goal to become runners.

I think originally they decided to run in a race to raise funds for a mission trip.  They sought and obtained pledges of so much per mile completed.  Apparently they caught the running bug and have since run in numerous races.

I was never a great athlete although if there was an athletic event for which I was suited it would be long distance running.  I didn't have the speed for sprints.  If I wanted to compete, it had to be on endurance.

Endurance is related to character (given of course that a particular body is healthy enough to stand the strain of distance running).  It is a matter of pushing yourself beyond the point where every part of you is crying out, "This is stupid to punish yourself this way!  Just quit and be done with it!"

Over time, with diligent training, the body is able to stand more and more and that point of "enough" moves further and further until goals are reached.

Nearly everything in life worth attaining is that way.  We start on a project until we reach a point of difficulty.  It is our character that determines whether we persevere or quit.  It is a trial.

Why do we put ourselves through trials?  Why don't we always take the easy path?  I suspect it is something rooted in our cellular makeup which drives what we call "the survival of the fittest."  It is the way we are designed.

I decided a long time ago that distance running was not something that gave me joy.  I run occasionally purely for the basic fitness aspects of it.  My goal isn't to be a marathoner, merely to run a couple of miles to prove that I still can.  But, in other ways I consider myself a marathon runner.

A marathon can be life itself.  I have been fortunate not to be faced with the challenges of life-threatening illness, or even with extreme difficulties.  However, I always have goals toward which I am working.  There are always obstacles to achieving those goals.  The more hurdles I have overcome, the higher the next obstacle becomes.  The key is not to quit.

Running places extreme demands on our lungs.  Our bodies struggle to get enough oxygen.  Fortunately, with a few minutes of huffing and puffing our supply is replenished.  I wish sometimes it was that easy in other types of marathons.  It would be nice to say, "Oxygen please!"


I know this wasn't the letter "O" topic suggested by one friend and loyal reader.  However, I decided his suggestion was too controversial.  I would probably write such a lengthy post that it might need to be in book form rather than blog post.  It's not that I didn't like his suggestion, I just couldn't limit it to a reasonable length!  Tomorrow I will work with the letter "P."  I will seriously consider all suggestions.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Needy People

We are born with needs, but as we grow we develop wants.  Sometimes we have difficulty distinguishing between the two.  Our cravings for a particular thing often cause us to see it as a need rather than a want.

Everyone is "needy" on some level.  Babies are born with needs for virtually everything due to their helpless state.  They need someone to feed them, to change their diaper and to love them.  They need shelter and clothing to protect them from the elements.  They are dependent.

Neediness takes many forms.  In the summer of 2009, I had the opportunity to go to Niger.  The needs there are great.  The people live in a very harsh environment and have been victimized by colonial and later by corrupt governments.  They are extremely poor and have little opportunity to escape their poverty.  The needs for basic things like adequate food and health care are great.  Their needs are obvious.

Last January I had the opportunity to go to Kenya.  It is a country with very different conditions than Niger.  Kenya has an excellent climate and the opportunity to be highly productive.  However, it too suffered first at the hands of a colonial government and then later at the hands of inept or corrupt officials.  The greater problem in Kenya lay not in the desire of the government to do good for its people, but in a false understanding of how to accomplish that goal.  Their focus was on industrial growth rather than on building a strong agricultural sector to serve as the foundation of the country's economy.  They skipped a step in their development and have paid for it by dependency on other countries to feed their people.

The needs in Kenya are also obvious.  Many of the impoverished people of the rural areas have been struck by the AIDS pandemic.  The number of widows and orphans throughout the country is not only a sad testament to moral failure, but places an inordinate burden on the economy.  Their needs also are obvious.

In the United States, the needs are less obvious.  There are pockets of poverty in our inner cities and in certain areas dependent on a particular industry that has suffered loss of vitality either to foreign competition or to changing technology.  But, even in those areas the level of poverty is nothing like other palces in the world such as Niger or Kenya or even parts of Mexico and Latin America to our south.

There is also the need for affordable health care for many people.  There are merits to the desire of the current administration to find a way to insure that all people in this country receive adequate health care.  I believe their approach is wrong, but this post is not the place to discuss my reasons for thinking so.  Suffice it to say that many in the U.S. do not receive the best medical care available due to either the lack of insurance or the lack of funds.

All of the needs discussed in the above paragraphs could be met.  There is sufficient wealth in the world to see that everyone is fed, clothed, sheltered and receives the best possible medical care.  Some, such as those currently in power in Washington, make the case publicly that these problems could be solved by redistributing the wealth of those who have accumulated what they deem to be excessive amounts.  This won't solve the problem.  When you take from the producers and give to the non-producers, you take away the incentive to produce.  In the end, the result is less for everyone.

Re-distribution is not the answer.  Love and compassion is.

Love is another basic human need.  We all want to feel valued and appreciated.  We all need to be wanted.  That need is the reason for many of the ills that people suffer.  They fail to recognize that to get love they must give it.  They instead try to "take" it in various forms by exercising power over other people.  Love is the anti-power.  It is giving instead of taking.

Why do we "look for love in all the wrong places?"  I think it is because of our selfishness.  We see ourselves as self-sufficient -- after all, we have learned how to gain food, shelter and clothing.  We think that we must be able to gain, through our efforts, the last necessity missing in our lives -- love.  So, we focus on self and our own efforts.  Self-focus is the anti-God.  It is a failure to recognize dependence on the only One who can meet all of our needs.  It replaces the true God, Creator of all, with the false god of self.

The only true solution to neediness is God.  The only way to find God is to first recognize that we cannot of our own efforts reach Him.  That is why He had to be the one to provide the way for us.  That is why He came to earth in human form as the man Jesus.  That is why God alone could provide the means for us to come into His presence.  It was the only way because otherwise, it would just be our own efforts.  Look what our those efforts have created; a world of need.

Tomorrow I will post something beginning with "O."  As always, suggestions are appreciated.  I see there was one in the comments on yesterday's post.  Hmmm......we'll see.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Modern Conveniences

The complexity of today's modern conveniences astounds me.  They are supposedly designed to make our lives easier yet, I find that for the most part, their primary purpose is to drain any excess disposable income from our pockets.

One of my favorite leisure activities is to read.  I love a good old-fashioned, well-bound book.  I can carry it with me wherever I go.  I can read while grabbing a quick bite to eat.  I can read in my recliner.  I can read on an airplane.  It is enduring.  I can pass it on to others for their enjoyment once I am through with it, or loan it to them for a brief period so that if ever returned, I can enjoy it again.

Many believe the paper and print book is a "dinosaur" that will eventually be replaced by electronic media.  I understand their thinking but, I am not interested.  I have to purchase the Kindle or whatever brand of electronic book and then purchase each electronic book separately.  I can't legally share the books with others as I would loan a bound copy.  I can't read it during takeoff and landing when on an airplane.  I can't read it when the charge dies on my electronic reader.  If the reader breaks, I have to buy a new one.  What happens to all the books that I have downloaded?  I must admit to ignorance on this particular point.

Another example of the wonderful modern conveniences that I don't really understand is the new type of coffee maker.  I purchased one for my wife for Christmas because she loves to sample exotic flavors of coffee.  I am satisfied with the most basic of varieties.  This new type of coffee maker is designed to brew a single cup at a time.  I purchased a Keurig brand for her.

I must admit that it is convenient.  I typically am the first to rise in the morning and usually made an entire pot of coffee.  I made it a little weaker than I prefer because she doesn't like hers quite as strong.  With this new coffee maker I can make a single cup for me and use one of the stronger versions.  She can make a single cup for herself and use something weaker, or perhaps flavored.

The next consideration is the cost.  The new Keurig was considerably more expensive than most traditional coffee makers.  Plus, you have to buy the individual cups -- or whatever you call them -- to brew it.  The cost of a dozen cups of coffee is about what a two-pound canister of coffee cost before which would last for several weeks.  Sure, it's convenient, but I can just see the numbers on the cash register turning like a slot machine.

Automobiles are another example.  It hasn't been that many years ago that I could work on just about any automobile that I purchased.  They were fairly simple -- especially the engine.  Today, it takes special training and special tools just to find the oil filter let alone change it.  The on board computer in a car today is much more complex than the computer that controlled our flight to the moon many years ago.  Uh, did I say how expensive they have become?  Not to mention that it is such a chore to change the oil that most people take it to someone else to do that for them.  More expense for the convenience.  If something quits working you have little choice but to take it to a specially trained mechanic for repairs.  What happened to simple?

I guess I'm not completely convinced that all these modern conveniences are good for us.  It just means that more of what we earn must be spent to maintain the convenient lifestyle that we live.  I'm sure that there are better uses for that extra income than to make our sedentary lives even more sedentary.  But, there's always the convenience of the local gym where we can pay to go exercise......

Today marks the halfway point in our alphabetically inspired journey.  Tomorrow we start the downhill slide with the letter "N."  Suggestions are welcome.....


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Leading Lemmings

Although it has been shown to be untrue that the small Arctic rodents called lemmings commit mass suicide by blindly following a leader off of a cliff, such characterization has stuck and entered into popular culture as a description of those who follow blindly.  I think rather than calling people who exhibit such behavior lemmings, they should be called Zombies. 

Zombie is a term from Haitian witchcraft denoting one who was dead yet brought back to life by some mystical means.  The term is often used to describe a person who behaves as if hypnotized, but able to move about normally while appearing to have little or no self-awareness.  To me, this is a better description of those who follow blindly.

There are multiple types of leaders.  I would like to focus on two specifically; those who lead Zombies and those who lead the self-aware.  The former are what I would consider to be pseudo-leaders and the latter, true leaders.

Pseudo-leaders are common throughout the world.  The best example of them is a creature known as the politician.  Politicians speak soothing words designed to appeal to the unthinking masses.  They are often of the parasitical subspecies of mankind.  They tend to be manipulative and do nothing that is truly productive.  They live off of the productivity of others.

True leaders are motivators of self-aware and critical thinking people.  They typically have a strong vision of what they wish to accomplish.  Their gift is in sharing their vision with others in such a way that large numbers choose to contribute their skills and talents to the accomplishment of that vision.  Good examples of such leaders exist in the military and in private business.  People such as General George S. Patton and Steve Jobs come to mind.

At one time in the history of this country there were many true leaders sprinkled among the elected officials in our nation's capitol.  I fear that is no longer the case.  It is obvious to me that anyone who exercised independent thought and was fully self-aware would quickly reject the rhetoric coming from the halls of Congress or the White House. 

There must be an underlying reason that Washington has become so bereft of true leadership.  Perhaps it is a failure on the part of the American people to exercise their vote wisely.  Surely there are more self-aware, thinking people in this country than there are Zombies.  We need a true leader to step forward and motivate that majority.  It is time to replace the false with the real.

Tomorrow I will be at the halfway point of this alphabetic journey.  If you have suggestions for a subject beginning with the letter "M" I would appreciate you leaving a comment.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kinetics Wasted

All of life is about the capture and utilization of energy.  We are beings of energy. 

Einstein formulated that mass and energy are equivalent.  More specifically, that Energy = mass x the square of the speed of light in a vacuum.  It is the formula that depicts the conversion of matter into energy.

From this concept we can deduce as we look at our surroundings that everything we can see, touch or otherwise experience with our senses is captured energy or is energy in transition.  This makes sense when we think about what makes up matter.  Those my age were taught that the atom is the smallest unit of matter.  We have since learned that there are many particles much smaller than the atom.  Many, if not all of them exhibit some state of motion.  However, they have been captured and bound together to form a higher unit of matter which we call the atom.  Atoms form molecules which then bind with other molecules to create substances that we can experience through our senses.

Kinetic energy is the energy of motion.  It is energy that must be expended in order to accelerate or decelerate an object.

When we think about our daily activities and how they relate to energy we soon realize that everything we do is focused on the capture and use of energy.  Perhaps an example would be the easiest way to explain this idea.  Let's consider a cattle rancher.

A rancher grows grass which is essentially an organic machine for capturing the energy from sunlight.  Since grass is something that isn't desirable in itself for human consumption, it must be converted to a different form of captured energy.  This is done by another organic machine called a cow which consumes the grass and converts it to meat.  She also replicates herself in the form of a calf which she raises.  The calf is then grown to a sufficient size for consumption by humans or to replace aging machines (cows) for converting grass to meat.  The energy of the sun was captured by the rancher in the form of grass and then converted to a form that humans like to consume -- beef.

The rancher derives benefit from capturing and converting the sun's energy to a utilizable form.  He stores that benefit in the form of money which he uses for additional resources for expanding his operation or he saves it in the bank or perhaps spends it on items for his own enjoyment.  He also hires workers who use their paycheck to purchase items that they desire.  The demand for those items creates more jobs and results in what we call an economy.

Similar examples can be made from other industries.  Petroleum is captured energy.  Wind turbines are machines for capturing energy.

The more efficiently we capture and convert energy, the greater the benefit that is derived from the process.  That is why the emphasis on efficiency of processes in any type of work is essential.  Work is another term from physics.  It is the expenditure of energy required to move an object.  Once it is moving at a particular velocity, the amount of energy expended by the work required to accelerate it to that specific velocity is called the kinetic energy -- or the energy of its motion.

At this point you should recognize that all I have written is merely a layman's understanding of some basic physical principles related to energy.  I am certain that there are mistakes based on my misperceptions of some of the concepts.  But, I'm not particularly concerned about it because very few will even read this brief post.  Perhaps that is the ultimate example of what the title of this piece describes -- wasted motion.  No, it didn't take a lot of energy or time to write this, but, I suspect the message will go unnoticed.

So much for the letter "K."  Tomorrow we will see what develops for "L."


Monday, January 23, 2012

Justifiably Unfashionable

It has been said that "clothes make the man."  I understand the sentiment but disagree with it to some degree.  I think it should be restated to "clothes enhance the image a man wishes to project."

Aside from the obvious need to protect ourselves from the environment and the perceived need for propriety, why do we wear the clothes that we wear?  Perhaps propriety is a guise for protecting our public image -- face it, most people look better in clothes than out of them I suspect.  Obviously clothes are worn in order to project a specific image.

The following quote says it all:

"Fashion for the most part is nothing but the ostentation of riches." -- John Locke

I've always been a boots and jeans guy.  They are comfortable.  They are never truly out of style in the places I travel or among those with whom I associate.  They project a certain image; one of being associated with the cattle industry or horses.  Some people immediately associate the image with Texas.  I'm comfortable with such associations.  It is the image I wish to project.

But, what about the person who is constantly changing their wardrobe to fit the current popular styles?  I see this especially among young people.  What is it that they are trying to project?

The image of current style is one of insecurity in my opinion.  However, most who change the contents of their closet with the fickleness of popular magazine and entertainment culture most likely do so in the desire to be "just like" the icons of those industries -- television, movie and music stars.  I find it especially interesting that the same thread of fashion currently extends to the White House where the first lady spends outrageous sums on clothing so that media reviews will be favorable.  Is it a sign of insecurity with her as well?  Perhaps it is better that I don't judge.

Clothing in the current popular styles is expensive.  This is true even for the ragged jeans worn by many of today's students.  I am amazed that faded jeans with gaping holes and stains are more expensive than those without such signs of wear-and-tear.  Long before mine reach such a disreputable state, they are assigned to the work clothes section of my closet -- you know, the ones that I don't wear in public except possibly to the hardware store to pick up a part for some project.

Many of the clothes seen today are impractical.  Women's clothing is especially impractical unless its sole purpose is to attract an undesirable mate -- one interested only in the physical attributes rather than the complete person.  Clothing once suitable only for the red-light districts of major cities is now commonly seen in the hallways of our high schools.  Something has gone terribly wrong in a society which values such public display.  Is it merely a reflection of entertainment culture or is it a symptom of the underlying loss of morality?  Perhaps it is the natural inclination to find a mate expressed in an unhealthy way.

I am thankful I do not feel compelled to dress in the current fashions for men.  They quite frankly are often somewhat effeminate.  When I see pink ties and pastel shirts I immediately think that the wife has far too much influence on the man's clothing choices -- or that the male in question is somewhat unsure of his maleness.  I've heard it said that it takes a real man to wear pink.  I disagree.  It takes a real man to tell her no thanks, honey, I can dress myself.

Don't expect me to change the way I dress.  I will stick with my boots and jeans.  I can justify my behavior on practicality alone.  I may be unfashionable, but it works for me.

Well, so much for my thoughts on fashion.  Tomorrow I will choose a topic beginning with the letter "K."  As always, suggestions are appreciated.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Illumination, Inspiration and Infinity

"Change your thoughts and change your world." -- Norman Vincent Peale

"Give light and people will find the way." -- Ella Baker

"Great hopes make great men." -- Thomas Fuller

"Ideas shape the course of history." -- John Maynard Keynes

"In a gentle way, you can shake the world." -- Mahatma Ghandi

"The power of imagination makes us infinite." -- John Muir


Each of us, in our own way, shapes the world around us.  We may choose each day how we impact others through our actions.  Our actions arise from our thoughts.  If our thoughts are negative we will have a negative impact; if positive, we will make things better.  Be a light for the world around you.  Place your hope in something or someone bigger than yourself.  Shape the world in a positive fashion by your actions.  A gentle spirit can move mountains.  Let your imagination know no bounds.

Tomorrow I will post something beginning with the letter "J."  Any suggestions?


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hearing Impaired

My frustration with the younger generations continues to grow each day.  It seems they are constantly doing things to annoy me.  I don't know if it is just the general rudeness that has crept into our society or if there is something more pernicious involved.  It is tempting to think at times that it is actually a conspiracy aimed solely at me.

Something that really bothers me are the endless subtle references to my age.  What is going on?  You would think I was ancient or something.  They keep referring to me as Mr. and not by my first name.  They offer me their chair and comment something about how tired I must be.  I have even heard the words, "Let me help you with that sir," or something similar.  It is just plain rude.

But, the thing that really gets to me most is the constant whispering and mumbling.  You would think their parents would have taught them it is rude to whisper in front of -- or behind -- someone.  Apparently not these youngsters.  I find myself constantly having to say something like, "Speak up!"

I don't know what is going on with people my own age either.  They are constantly yelling at each other.  When I go to visit one upon occasion I can hardly hear what they're saying though because they keep their television turned up to an unbearable level.  They must be getting hard of hearing or something! 

Not me though.  I can still hear just as well as I did thirty years ago -- well, except maybe in my right ear.  It must have been affected by all the shooting I did when I was younger.  Too bad we didn't wear ear protection back then. 

Of course my left ear wouldn't have been affected by that.  It makes me wish sometimes we drove on the opposite side of the road like the British.  That way the steering wheel would be on the right and I wouldn't have to continually comment to any passengers about their mumbling.  I'm certain I could make out what they were saying if they sat to my left.

Or, maybe not.  It might just be that my ears aren't what they used to be.......

I wonder what I'm going to post tomorrow......it will be time for the letter "I" in this series.  Suggestions anyone??


Friday, January 20, 2012


Continuing with the theme of alphabetically inspired posts has presented a challenge, not because I have had difficulty in thinking of a subject on which to write, but because I have had difficulty choosing from among the many things that come to mind.  The letter "G" has been especially difficult because there are so many possible subjects.

I have chosen the subject of grace because it is the fuel of my very existence.  I find that as I contemplate the unmerited favor by which I have been blessed that I was remiss in not using the word "faith" for the letter "F."  It is particularly appropriate to my way of thinking that the words should follow each other just as grace follows faith in the natural order of things.  Faith must come first.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast." __ Ephesians 2:8-9

Grace is a difficult concept for the human mind to grasp.  After all, it is a "works" based world in which we live.  We are rewarded based on performance -- meeting expectations.  How could it be possible that to gain heaven we must simply have faith in the saving power of Jesus Christ rather than it being the reward of good works?

Yet, the things we do -- works -- are self-focused.  They are the epitome of reliance on self, not on God.  How can we worship God if our focus is on self?  It is only when we realize that anything we do in an attempt to gain His favor is merely self-worship that we begin to understand who God is.  If He is truly a God worth worshipping then there must be a different path into His presence.  Fortunately for us He provided such a path.

When we see that the requirement to come before God is perfection, meeting all of His expectations of behavior, we quickly realize that none of us can ever be perfect.  The response to such realization can be rejection of God in His entirety because we refuse to acknowledge that in ourselves we are incapable of perfection, or we can turn to God Himself to provide a way into his presence.  Fortunately He has done so by coming into His creation in the form of one of us -- the man Jesus.

It is the grace of God -- His favor upon us, though completely unmerited -- that provides the path for salvation.  But, what is salvation?  From what must we be saved?  If God created the heavens and the earth then existence is totally dependent on Him.  If we cannot enter into His presence, the alternative must necessarily be an existence away from Him.  This presupposes that our earthly life is not all there is; there is a life after physical death.  Separation from God must also be in a place of His creation since He created all things.  Such a place is what we call hell.

To enter into the presence of God requires faith that Jesus conquered death, paid the price of our sins (the focus on self, not God -- for all sins are ultimately rooted in selfishness), and that He will intercede for us with God.  I am thankful to live in a state of grace.  I hope that any who read this also live in such a state.

Tomorrow's post will begin with the letter "H."  I welcome any suggestions as to the topic!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fortuitous Encounters

Have you ever met someone, or perhaps run into a previous acquaintance at just the right time?  Did you think it was purely chance or did you wonder if a higher power was at work?

Do you believe in luck?  How does luck differ from chance?  Are they related?  How do you account for the many things that "happen by chance" yet upon retrospect appear to be design?

I have always struggled with the concept of luck.  I tend to subscribe to the idea that we make our own luck.  Luck is just opportunity coupled with preparation and action. 

But, what about chance?  Chance is more-or-less the mathematical odds of random occurrences.  Things happen at times just because things happen.  For instance, what are the odds of winning the lottery?  Someone will win but, until the numbers are drawn no one knows who.  Each person who buys a ticket or, tickets, has a numerical chance of winning.  Some would say that "luck" enters into the equation at that point.......I don't buy it.  I also don't buy lottery tickets because I know the odds of winning are extremely slim.

Yet, frequently as we go through life, things happen that appear to defy the odds of random circumstance, or chance.  Many times a particular person has come to mind that I have not seen in years and within a few days I have run into them at an unexpected place or time.  It makes me wonder if there is some kind of cosmic connection that is established between people.

I also have often experienced thinking of someone and they would call or text within moments of the thought.  It is almost as if their thoughts went out ahead of their action.  How do you explain such things?

I suspect there is a spiritual connection between people.  I don't know of a better way to describe it other than with use of the word spiritual.  It seems to be something beyond the physical.  Some would say it is a "God" thing.  I tend to think that we each have both a physical and a spiritual aspect to our existence.  Could it be that on a spiritual level we are in close proximity and yet be distant physically?  Maybe the spiritual contact is strongest with those whom we have previous relationships.  Perhaps the stronger that previous relationship, the closer we become on a spiritual level. 

I obviously don't have the answers.  I'm just philosophizing regarding the letter "F" this morning.  My thoughts run to fortuitous friendships and chance encounters.  Speaking of chance, I would appreciate suggestions for my post tomorrow related to the letter "G".  Otherwise, I must trust to chance to choose a word for my post......anyone have a hat?


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Elegant Elephant

Elegant Elephant wearing pearls
With frills about her waist
Took upon her elegant self
A job much to her taste.

Pretentious Donkey held the throne
Where Elegant wished to sit.
She set upon the lengthy road
In hope of claiming it.

The field was crowded for the feat
As others also vied
To claim the bully pulpit seat
For which she gamely tried.

Her cousins of the elephant clan
Fought hard to claim the prize
And slung such mud upon their quest
They mired her bulky size.

But one by one they all dropped out
As Elegant won the day
To enter on the lofty quest
The public for to sway.

But tarnished pearls and tattered frills
Were difficult to hide
As voters of most every stripe
The contest would decide.

Finally the time had come;
The grand election day
Pretentious versus Elegant,
Which one would get their way?


So we post with letter "E"
And hope you understand
That "F" is coming next in line
As the alphabet does demand........


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dare to Dream

It could be argued that this post should have been yesterday, but my sense of timing with this alphabetically inspired theme is tied purely to the sequential progression of the letters, not to the calendar and the day honoring the man best remembered for the words, "I have a dream."

We all dream -- although I have heard some claim that they never dream.  I think dreams are how our mind organizes the deluge of information it receives each and every day.  Perhaps dreaming is how our brain "connects the dots" and establishes the neural pathways to allow us to retrieve that information at a later time.  That would explain why dreams sometimes take on very strange connections -- it is our mind searching for order among the chaos.

The dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a dream from the land of semi-sleep.  It could best be described as a vision, or pathway for the future.  I guess in that sense it was similar because it was his attempt to search out order, to chart a path, for those whose ancestors had been enslaved.  It was, and continues to this day, to be a destination of sorts for his people.

As children we have within our hearts visions of what we want to be when we "grow up."  Those dreams are often squashed in teenage or early adult years.  Rare is the individual who is able to devote his or her life in the attempt to achieve those dreams.  The result is that many reach a point where they refuse to set a course forward and merely survive.  I think this describes the majority of people.

How does one reignite the dreams of youth?  Granted, the realities of individual athletic ability, or the lack of giftedness in the arts is often the reason for the fading of many dreams, yet, it isn't necessarily such dreams to which I refer.  I am speaking to having a vision of any kind -- a chart by which to move forward toward some worthy end rather than merely drifting through life hoping that the "means" will outlast the "end."

It is never too late to dream.  It doesn't have to be Professional ballplayer or Movie Star or even CEO of a major corporation, it can be as simple as the best mother or father to your children, or the best employee in your workplace.  The key is that it must be something worthwhile -- something that will make a lasting impact.  It can be as large as that of Martin Luther King, Jr. or it can be more personal such as the Afghanistan War veteran who chose to conquer the loss of his legs and walk again.

Wherever you are in life, dare to dream.  Start the day with a vision of where you want to go and what you want to do and then do it to the best of your ability.

The letter "D" completes the fourth in our alphabetical series.  Suggestions for "E" would be greatly appreciated.  Just leave a comment!


Monday, January 16, 2012


I believe that it was William F. Buckley who wrote a syndicated column in which he took a circuitous route among various subjects, all of which were connected in some fashion and led back to his point of beginning.  I always enjoyed reading Buckley's columns and felt stongly a desire to write something similar.  The man was a brilliantly astute observer of the American scene.

Although probably not as brilliant, yet no less astute, Paul Harvey was another of those men who could connect the dots of arcane trivia into a cohesive point illustrating some deep truth or possibly revealing little known facts about some famous individual.  His style was decidedly different from Buckley's and yet both had a tremendous impact on the people who were inspired by their work.  One dealt more in the academic realm while the other primarily appealed to the common man.

It is uncommon for an individual to come along who appeals to both academics and the common man.  After all, the former typically esteems himself as highly learned and somewhat above those who are less educated while the latter often holds such learned individuals in lower esteem than perhaps they deserve while valuing the virtue of "common" sense above such self-proclaimed intellectual elite.

Common sense on the other hand is certainly a rare thing today.  I say it is rare, yet, who am I to judge?  Perhaps common sense refers only to our own beliefs as recognized in others.  If that is the case, then such sense is common only if the beliefs so defined are held by a majority of the individuals in whatever subset of the general population is examined.  If that is the case, it would be that set of common values least subject to change.

Since change is the mantra of progressives in our society, which frequently is a group closely associated with the most educated and therefore with academia, it must follow that those who lack common sense are found most commonly among those who constantly seek change.  Since conservatives have a tendency to resist change, it must mean that the majority of those holding the values identified with common sense are conservative.

The Republican Party has been labeled as the party of the more conservative subset of the general population of this country.  Therefore, it would be logical to assume that those who self-identify as Republican would be those with a greater degree of "common" sense.  This would leave those without "common" sense to identify with other political parties of which there is primarily only one and the "chief campaigner" (or is it complainer) of that party resides in a large white mansion in Washington, D.C.

While appealing to the more learned circles rather than to the common man, William F. Buckley would logically be one who most might think fell among those not of the Republican persuasion.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  He was a staunchly conservative supporter of the party represented by a large pachyderm.  It would be wonderful to see another such brilliant individual step forward to fill his shoes.  Alas, there does not appear to be one in sight.

I suppose in some sense my feeble attempt to create a connection in the style of Mr. Buckley has been accomplished since the circle begins and ends with him.  It also completes my attempt with the letter "C" in my alphabetically inspired series.  Stay tuned tomorrow for something beginning with "D."  As always, suggestions for "D" subjects are welcome.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

By the Way

Incidentally -- a change of subject:  notice that I am starting a new topic in the conversation.  That's what "by the way" means in current usage.  I want to thank Hillbilly Willy for offering the title to this second piece in my series of alphabetically inspired posts.

By the way, I wonder if he meant something by the choice?  If I caved to my insecurities I would think he was telling me that "alphabetically inspired posts" was not what I should be doing -- that I should change the subject.  Fortunately, I've mastered that particular insecurity long ago.  I just barge on ahead even when the caution lights are saying, slow down, watch out!

By the way, Willy just happens to be my uncle.  He is also the one who got me started blogging back in 2007.  He is an Olton, Texas, transplant to the beautiful hills of Arkansas.

By the way, if you have never been to Arkansas you should go; it really is a beautiful state.  From the Ozarks to the Mississippi Plains, it is a land of trees and water, hills and cropland, chickens and cattle and it is the home of Wal-mart.

By the way, I am on track so far with my posts.  This one starts with a "B" and it is the second day for the series.  That puts me one step closer to re-establishing the daily post habit.

By the way, the weather feels like Spring, not like January.  It was beautiful yesterday, but today it should reach the mid-60's and the wind might do the same.  It is almost Noon and the sky already has a touch of brown.

By the way, I need inspiration for the letter "C" which is next in the series.  Please feel free to comment!

Just my "B" thoughts for the day.....


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Alphabetical Inspiration?

Like many writers, I go through spells of, maybe not writer's block, but not knowing what topic to choose for a post.  I've tried keeping a notebook with ideas but when it comes to actually choosing something I can't make up my mind.

I have always done my best writing when writing to a deadline.  There is something about that ticking clock that squeezes out the creative juices and it happens.  So, I've tried to figure ways to re-create that with "artificial" deadlines.  It doesn't work.  Deep down I know the deadline isn't real.

I have sought ideas from others at times.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  Most people seem reluctant to provide ideas.  I also am somewhat reluctant to ask.

So, I have decided to try using the alphabet as inspiration.  I might even pull out the old Dictionary.  I intend to start at A and work my way, one day at a time, to Z.

That's half the battle.  The other half is to discipline myself to actually do it.  I figure that the alphabet will give me 26 straight days.  Surely that's enough to get back in the habit of posting daily.

Since the title of this post starts with "A" I suppose that I am on my way!  Oh, if any of you feel inspired to suggest a word (keep it clean) for a specific letter I will do my best to use it......


Friday, January 13, 2012


Waiting is something
I often do.
I wait for traffic.
I wait for customers.
I wait for the right time.
I wait for inspiration.
I wait for Dinner time.
I wait and wait and wait.....

If I wasn't waiting
What would I do?
Would I go fishing?
Then I would wait on the fish to bite.
Would I go shopping?
Then I would wait in line to check out.
Would I watch television?
Then I would wait for the commercial to end.

When will the wait
Ever end?
Not until the Good Lord comes again.....

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I've frequently considered the addictive nature of the Internet, Social Media, online games and things of that nature.  I have slowly withdrawn from some of them -- at least on some level -- yet, here I am blogging.  Is it the same?

I rarely update my "status" on facebook anymore.  I enjoyed it, but, occasionally the comments were such that it took the "fun" out of it.  So, I pretty much quit.  For awhile I was really into some of the online games -- mindless games -- like Bejeweled Blitz.  I am trying to quit that.

I spent some time this morning going through all the application, privacy and other settings on facebook.  For some reason I just feel that too much is shared with too many people.  I deleted a number of applications.  I thought I had better control of it than I actually did.

I used to spend a good deal of time on various news sites on the Internet.  My usual routine was Fox News, Amarillo Online, The Drudge Report, The BBC, Yahoo News, Reuters and occasionally others.  I now find myself barely scanning the headlines.

I wonder why I am withdrawing......is it boredom?  Or, is there something else.

Just wondering.....


Monday, January 2, 2012

Short Handed

It's strange, I suppose, but I am much more productive when I have too much to do and not enough time in which to get it done.  OK, maybe not strange, maybe normal.  I don't know.  It's just a description of today I guess.

I am being two people for awhile.  The manager of one of my company's locations decided to pursue another opportunity so I'm getting to do his job (at least part of it), as well as my job, while trying to find a new employee to do his job plus some other responsibilities that I need to assign.  So, I also am taking calls from interested persons as well as scheduling and conducting interviews while doing both jobs.  Does that make it two and a half jobs??

The worst part is that I need to do some travel for my primary job of managing the company which means I  need to be two geographically separate places simultaneously.  It is not going to work too well I suspect.  So, I find myself putting in extra hours this evening to hopefully get ahead of what I can expect later in the week while I am traveling.  The travel is for a meeting that requires a good deal of preparation which I haven't done yet but, I can't count that as another job because it falls within the normal bounds of my primary job.  Oh, well.  I was keeping score but, that one got called back.  You can tell it's bowl season, huh!

I like the pressure.  I am more productive.  It's like writing to a deadline.  It's a fast track to burnout though if I am not careful.  Recognizing a problem is half the solution -- well, it's a big step toward a solution anyway.

OK, enough of the break.......


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Another New Year

This day is another beginning of beginnings.  Hmmmm.......let me try that again.  We begin again today another beginning.  That's not much better is it?  What about this.....On this beginning day we begin again with another beginning.  For some reason, none of this sounds quite right.  After all, why is today any different than any other day?

The words of Solomon from the book of Ecclesiastes come into my mind.....

1 The words of the Teacher,[a] son of David, king in Jerusalem:
2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.

Today is just a place to begin counting again.  We count so we can keep track of the days and make note of those of significance, yet in the long run, very few really have any special meaning.  Everything is connected.  Events are cyclical.

I don't really mean to sound mystical in my view of the passage of time, I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is life-shaping events that are meaningful, not dates on a calendar.  It is those things that make us who we are that matter. 

Many people consider the first day of a new year as one in which to begin something new -- a resolution -- to become a better person.  I think we should face each day with that attitude.  If we would choose one thing that would be an improvement and work diligently to implement it into our life until it became habit and then choose something else and so on, we would each improve -- no matter what time of year it happens to be.

Ultimately though, there is only one thing that matters and that is our relationship to God.  Until we know Him we can never truly experience meaning in our life.

Just my thoughts to start this new year