Outside Outlet

Today has been consumed by the quick job of installing an electric outlet.  New work, outside.  20A.  120VAC.

A job like this will usually take about an hour, maybe two if you hit a snag.

If you hit several snags, that’s gonna work out to anywhere between 14 hours and 6 years.  I won’t bore you with the harrowing details, littering the web with phrases like “a spade bit shouldn’t dull so quickly on brick” and “I could’ve swore the drill was level when I did this.”  I won’t trouble you with pointless chatter like “they were serious about this PVC cement setting quickly” and “can you even sharpen a wire stripper?”  But I will say that it’s almost done because Mac and I had to stop and eat dinner.

Mac is a brilliant helper.  Sure, he wants to do something else most of the time, but a bit of fatherly arm twisting (“listen, I’m your dad, and you need to learn this stuff, so I’m teaching you, so put your phone away) usually does the trick.  He’s fun to have around and has a sharp sense of humor.  I like him.  Plus, he’s now certified in unlicensed electrical work, just like his dad.

The best part of any home improvement project?  Going to Home Depot again and again.  Here’s a few tricks I’ve learned along the way, especially when it comes to that big orange box of a store:

  • Yes, you can park in “Pro” parking because you’ll end up making several trips to Home Depot in a day, and your accrued experience will classify you as professional.
  • They serve coffee at the contractor entrance.  No one has ever stopped me to ask for my contractor ID, but I do get second glances for drinking coffee on 85 degree days.  What can I say?  It’s how I was raised.
  • No one at Home Depot can help you except for the lady who works at the kitchen design center.  My hunch is that she ends up answering a lot of questions because she’s there, sitting down, and can’t run from customers as fast as the orange aproned on foot.  (Sidenote: I once asked her where the propane cylinders were, and she answered in perfect Hank Hill vocal font.  Delightful.)

I’ll keep you updated on project outside outlet.  Projects at home are like long hikes: you appreciate the trail once you’re done with it.  The journey is about maintaining your sanctification.  In other words, if you’re looking for an opportunity for spiritual formation, consider installing an outlet on the back wall of your house.


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The Role Radio Now Plays

I’ve been listening to a local college FM radio station for a few months now: WIDR 89.1 out of Western Michigan University.  https://www.widrfm.org/

WIDR is a student-run grab bag of miscellaneous alternative, jazz rock, progressive, post-progressive music.  Haven’t heard a bad cut yet (seriously).   I’ve Shazzamed 20 songs to go back to later.  On the ride home tonight I heard something froman album called Paradise by the band Mattson 2.  LA Jazz/psyjazz.  Excellent. Heard of ’em?  Me neither.

Here: https://themattson2.bandcamp.com/album/paradise

The role radio now plays?  It helps me sift through the noise and connects me with people (not skynet, not Amazon music, not YouTube guessing at what I should listen to).  Clearly, WIDR’s Programming Director and I are pals (by osmosis).   Every car ride is a little sonic Christmas for the ears.  I don’t normally recommend radio stations, but… you do what you want.  I dig it.

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Remembering Ross Perot

Today, between meetings and a walking lunch, I noticed that billionaire and former presidential candidate Ross Perot died.  Upfront confession: Ross Perot hasn’t crossed my mind in a long time.  Hearing the news brought a jumble of thoughts to my mind:

  1. Remember when presidential  elections were quirky and not stressful?  Ross Perot was quirky, eccentric, and had some good ideas.  He was fun.  He fully embraced his Ross-ness and didn’t care what we thought.  So we grinned.
  2. Because of my age at the time and the era of his campaign, the only reason I actually remember Ross Perot is because of a really funny impression on Saturday Night Live.  Like it or not, Dana Carvey burned a lot of historical “facts” into the minds of me and my compatriots.
  3. Self-made billionaires are fascinating because they have all the money they need, yet so many seem unfulfilled, or, at least, bored.  Bored enough to become president.
  4. H. Ross is like me, in that I’m R. Adam.  From there, our similarities diminish.

Every day is a gift.  Simply put, we do what we can with the time we’re given.   You and I probably won’t get media coverage when we pass.  How we live matters.  Who we trust and follow matters, because eternity matters.

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Vacations are difficult because it takes work to rest.  Saturdays were the best when I was a kid — waking up at the regular school time only to realize that there’s no school always made my legs tickle.  Back to sleep or bowl of cereal & cartoons — either way, it was easy to ignore school.

It turns out ignoring work is really, really difficult, even when you have a week (or two) of Saturdays.

In our youth, we’re like little speedboats that cruise through the harbor and into open waters.  Our capacity is limited but we can turn on a dime.  As our responsibility increases, our capacity expands, and our hull gets bigger (in nearly every way).  It takes more than a few seconds to make a turn because of the momentum.  Physics at work.

The way of Jesus is to rest at regular intervals.  Sabbath is rehearsal for vacation.  Hitting stop every week makes sure we don’t build too much momentum.  Sabbath is a no-wake zone.  Rest keeps us nimble and stops us from burning out.

It takes me three days to wind down, and that’s ok.  And now I’m winding back up, but hopefully with a little more insight, humility, and trust that my job isn’t to make a huge wake.

Jesus wasn’t in a hurry but He did have priorities.  At the top?  Prayer and rest in the presence of the Father.  May it be true of me.

How about you?

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Pentecost 2019

This Sunday (June 9) is Pentecost Sunday — the day the church (since about the 4th century) observes the gift of the Spirit on the 120 believers and the birth of the church (Acts 2:1ff), liturgically symbolized by the color red, the imagery of fire, and the mystery of the Holy Spirit, whom Francis Chan rightly referred to as “the Forgotten God.”
If your church observes Pentecost, you know that we’re about to dip our toes into Pneumatology (study of the Pneuma/Spirit) which is always a good idea, given that we’re a people who are to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). We are empty containers, all of us, filling the void with who knows what. Only Spirit can satisfy, mysterious as all of this is.
The Old Testament helps us understand God the Father, the New Testament reveals Christ, who shows us the Father and promises the coming of the Spirit. We cannot know Father and Son without the Spirit, and we cannot know the Spirit without the Father and Son. Surely both testaments reveal the Trinity in glimpses, but it was the early church that wrestled with the theology of the Three. These three are inseparable, yet the Spirit is the most misunderstood of the Trinity. We like hierarchy, function, and predictability. Our curiosity pushes us to discovery. The Holy Spirit is a mysterious person who knows us better than we will ever know Him. He knows Father and Son, too, and somehow makes a connection that brings us into community with the Trinity and with each other. How peculiar. This whole thing is so bizarre, yet beautifully accessible by grace.
“Many books have been written by scholarly and spiritual men on the Father and the Son… the Holy Spirit has, on the other hand, not yet been studied with as much care and by so many great and learned commentators on the scriptures that it is easy to understand his special character and know why we cannot call him either Son or Father, but only Holy Spirit.” – Augustine (De fide et symbolo)
The Apostles creed declares “I believe in the Holy Spirit…” which is a bold accusation of ourselves. I don’t fully understand, I will never fully know, I cannot simplify the Spirit. But I believe in the Spirit, which has something to do with knowing but a LOT to do with relationship.
God isn’t a subject to be mastered. He’s not like the Periodic table — memorize this and you’ll be able to cook up anything. He’s a distantly complex creator who, for some absurd reason, wants to be so involved with our lives that He pours out as fire, counsel, wisdom, joy, and love. That should change the way I live.
Enjoy the mystery as we keep writing the book on how the Holy Spirit inhabits and enables the church to do the Kingdom building work of God. Can you believe that? He wants us to do this with Him, by His Spirit, broken and cleansed vessels as we are.
Pentecost Sunday is a day where, if you think about it, most of us should be looking at each other, saying “what right do we have to be doing this…?”
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Book Readin’ in Decline

No big surprise: physical books (their usage, at least) are going the way of AM radio, the fax machine, and Myspace. Encouragingly, when Yale announced plans to relocate a majority of their collection of books from the main library, students staged a sit-in.  Well done.

From an article in the Atlantic:

Statistics show that today’s undergraduates have read fewer books before they arrive on campus than in prior decades…  it is all too conspicuous that we reached Peak Book in universities just before the iPhone came out. Part of this story is undoubtedly about the proliferation of electronic devices that are consuming the attention once devoted to books.

The sharp decrease in the circulation of books also obviously coincides with the Great Recession and with the steady decline of humanities majors, as students have shifted from literature, philosophy, and history to STEM disciplines—from fields centered on the book to fields that emphasize the article.

The steady decline of humanities majors will have a negative impact on the collective perspective of our culture.  Without a certain depth of knowledge in history, philosophy, the arts, and yes, theology, we will lose the why.  “I study engineering!”  Cool!  Why? “Uh… it’s lucrative?  I like it?  They said I should?  I dunno…”

My friend, engineers can change the world for the better (infrastructure) or worse (nuclear war).

We will know how to do something without asking if we should, which is my paraphrase of Dr. Ian Malcolm (in the middle) from the book/movie Jurassic Park.


I read a lot less than I did 5 years ago, and it’s because I, too, am now wired for articles and blurbs, skimming a webpage or google books for the essentials.  The long, slow burn of a novel or commentary is something I have to fight for, a battle best won if my iPhone is out of reach.  I sense mental atrophy when I’m not reading.  Conversely, reading something — anything, really — has a profound effect on my thought life, my outlook, and even my general sense of God’s presence.  He is, after all, a Wordsmith.

What if we practiced a 1:1 ratio of electronic media to print?  What if every 30 minutes on XBOX led to a 30 minute time with a book (electronic or print)?  Or, maybe ever binge on the Netflix can lead to a disciplined binge of the Narnia books?  The shaping of our minds can’t be limited to only utilitarian goals, and the leaders of the future will need to think differently, which only happens if our brains are shaped differently now.

So… whatcha readin’ these days?




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[RadCast] Easter Monday, still resurrecting (1 Cor 15:19-22)

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