Monday, May 28, 2012

"Land of the Living" by Matthew Perryman Jones

Matthew Perryman Jones is scheduled to release a new album tomorrow.  I was fortunate enough to get a pre-release download about five weeks ago, and it has been in heavy rotation on my player.  You, too can get a download of you make a donation to Blood:Water Mission.

You can also check MPJ website for the official release on or after May 29, 2012.

Here are my thoughts on the pre-release:

This was my introduction to MPJ's work, and I am impressed.  His vocals are strong and controlled.  His lyrics are thoughtful and clever.  His music is layered and melodic with a gritty rawness.

Basically, if you like U2, the Call or Michael Been, you'll want to give this a listen.

The entire effort is strong and well presented.  A few tracks worth mentioning are  the infectious "I Won't Let You Down Again", the haunting "O Theo" [thumbs up to any musical artist who can pull off a song about Vincent Van Gogh-- this is a fine song from the artist's perspective], "Waking Up the Dead" is a rocker, and the title track "Land of the Living" is a passionate, driving capstone of hope.

Here is the link to get the album. Give it a listen, and let me know what you think.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Lesson from Running

I have been training at a local park for an upcoming 5k race.  I'm far from an expert on running, but I would say that 3.1 miles is about the shortest distance that can be considered "distance" running.  I would also suggest that pace is the key to distance running.

I realized yesterday that I do better on my pace (and time) when there are more people walking or running on the track.  If I am going around someone or if there is someone ahead of me, my eyes stay focused and my strides exhibit a sense of purpose or urgency.  If, however, there is no one else on the running path, I take short, choppy strides and my mind and eyes tend to wander from directly in front of me to things on the periphery.

It hit me yesterday that this is a picture of the spiritual walk for many of us.  When we have people around us, we are more deliberate about our actions, but when we are alone, we are sometimes prone to wander.  That really frames this commonly shared definition: Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one else is around.

As a man, I like to perform in sight of others.  It's part of the way we guys are wired.  What football team would work as hard as they do to play in an empty stadium?  We love to perform in front of others.  The challenge with integrity is to practice it not just when others are around, but when you think you are all alone.  Here's the catch:  you are never all alone.  Your all-seeing, all-knowing Creator is around all the time.  He's not waiting to swat you when you make a mistake.  He's there for you to enjoy.  So the next time you are running alone, run with all you've got for His glory.  And perhaps, like the Olympic medalist Eric Liddell, you can feel His pleasure.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Unexpected Layoff (pt. 5): A Question of Faith

Everyone has faith.  Faith that the bed will hold me when I fall into it at night.  Faith that the car will get me across the intersection in front of the oncoming traffic.  Faith that my pharmacist gave me the right dosage. And the list goes on.

The question for each one of us is not do we have faith?, rather in whom (or what) do I place my faith?

It's all too easy to place your faith in a job or career.  I've been reminded of that with the recent layoff.  I had a "permanent" job in education with a state agency.  How much more secure could a job be?  (Laughter here)  The truth is that nothing in this world is secure in and of itself.  Our idea of "job security" is a mirage.  I don't say this in order to bring anxious thoughts, but to help put things in perspective.  We should work hard, we should always do our best, and we should place our faith in Jesus Christ, who is the only unfailing, unchanging rock of salvation.  Trust Him.  He alone is worthy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pixie Stix for the Low of Energy

Do you remember the tart powder that came in paper straws?  They were called Pixie Stix.  I used to love them!  Now I need something with a little more kick. 

Please don't try this at home.  I'm only joking.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Important Restaurant Theory

Do you ever go to a new restaurant, wonder about the quality of their iced tea, try it, then regret your decision?

Nearly twenty years ago, I developed a hypothesis:  I noticed that the restaurants that offered captain's wafer crackers, rather than the run of the mill (square) saltine crackers had a better tasting iced tea.

I don't have the hard numeric data to quantify the study, but I will tell you that almost without fail, the hypothesis stands. Therefore, I declare the Captain's Wafer Theory.

Let me know if you find the same results.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Unexpected Layoff (pt. 4): Figure Out How You Are Wired

We all become creatures of habit, and as a result, we sometimes forget our own dreams, ambitions, and strengths in the trenches of the day-to-day. One good thing about a layoff is it forces us to stop and examine ourselves.  In some cases, someone may already know what he enjoys and is good at. In that case, it's just a matter of finding a position in the same field of work.  In other cases, we need to get some fairly objective feedback on our strengths, weaknesses and other personality traits before we can embark on a new direction.

One such profile that was a benefit to me is called Your Unique Design .  This is a very thorough profile that costs $35 and requires a bit of effort to complete. The results, though, are well worth it.

The other day, I pulled out a part of the report that it provided.  I was reminded of my three areas of strength as they relate to work.  I am most satisfied with my work when I am 1) initiating 2) influencing and 3) teaching.  As I continue to assess opportunities and ponder the next step, I plan to keep these three abilities in mind.  

If you don't have a good idea of how you are wired, perhaps a tool like Your Unique Design would help.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Unexpected Layoff (part 1) the Sequel: Trying to Avoid the Lloyd Dobler Effect

It seems that very few 18-year-olds really know what career they want to pursue.  That's expected.  When you're over forty; however, people think you should have it all figured out.  Granted, some people have found a great match between what they enjoy and how to earn a living doing it.  Others haven't.  It's very important not to lose sight of the fact that life is a journey, not an event.  Sure, there are events along the way, but they just lead to other events, as well as times of struggle and transitional periods.

One of the craziest paradoxes in life is our struggle against ourselves, primarily our pride.  My pride thinks it must be all together, all the time.  It tells me I must have all the answers to any questions; that I must be ahead of the curve in anything "cool" or "hip."   While our pride promises to protect us, the truth is that it becomes a shackle.  It becomes a facade that shields the real person inside.

So, the next time you find yourself getting the career question-- and you're not quite sure of what most people would consider an acceptable answer; don't try to fight the Lloyd Dobler Effect-- fearing what others might think.  Be like Lloyd.  Be real.  Be authentic.  Tell your pride to take a seat because the only way you will figure out a "good fit" is to be yourself.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Gift from Garrels

Yesterday, I received a wonderful surprise in the mail.  Almost a year ago, I came across an album called "Love & War & The Sea In Between" by Josh Garrels.  I had never heard of this artist, but I decided to download the digital album.  Why?  Easy.  It was free.  What did I have to lose beyond some space on my hard drive.

After about three times through the 18-track work, I was hooked.  So, I made a meager donation on his noisetrade site. (By the way, you can also find it on a bandcamp site now.)  My donation (or tip) was a small way of saying "thank you" for the music.

So, yesterday when I opened a package from Portland, Oregon, I found a shrink-wrapped, beautifully packaged cd release of the album and this wonderful signed note from Josh:

Today, I will confidently tell you that the Josh Garrels' release was my favorite album in 2011, and it's still in the top three albums for my current, regular listening.

I am truly blown away by his generous spirit.  I am moved by his desire to bless people with his music in such a sacrificial way.  Josh, thank you for the gift of your music!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Unexpected Layoff (pt. 3)

Back to the question: So what do you want to do?
Quite often I find it is easier to define something by what it is not.
One of the things I must do is eliminate what could be the next step.

So, I have been praying for wisdom and seeking counsel from others.
Today, thanks to a couple of friends, I was able to dismiss something that I had held as a possibility.

Wisdom has spoken, and I no longer consider owning a coffee shop a viable option.

Give me a little while longer on the question.  I'm working on it.