Click

I am extremely envious of my wife, who is able to achieve a moderately high level of productiveness, constantly, all day long.  She gets up at seven and works steadily all day, and then crashes precipitously exactly twelve hours later, leaving me at my own recognizances for putting children quietly to bed. The next day, same results.  My own productivity runs more like those Halloween costume stores you see in October.  No one knows where they came from, but they do a bang up job for an extremely short period of time before disappearing into the night.

I have to wait for the click.

Tennessee Williams’ play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a surprisingly useful piece of literature for reflection.  In it, Brick Pollitt spends the majority of the play drinking, in pursuit of “the click,” a certain peaceful state of mind.  Fortunately, alcohol has nothing like that effect on me, but I find I am only really productive after a similar click, where I enter in to a flow where I become insanely productive for several hours.

What gets me there is quiet meditation, so it’s something like a Zen state.  Only thinking about nothing is not a valid kind of meditation.  Prayer works, and singing.  But mostly for me it’s reading.  Especially when I’m stressed, I wake up and it hurts.  Nothing physical, but my mind is out of joint.  Mentally, I’m thirsty.  I need to read.

Reading scripture is best; it leads to praise and prayer, but I usually start with popcorn text: Facebook, Twitter. Thoughtful articles on various blogs.  Long-form investigative reporting. Then scripture.  Then Bible commentary.  Slowly inching up, widening my aperture for thought.  Then: click.  I can think.  Widely, broadly, productively.  Occasionally, practically.

Under stress, from a hard start, it’s a process that can take 3-4 hours.  I don’t usually get 3-4 hours. But I get what I can with the time that I have, hiding in a makeshift study somewhere, building up reserves until I’m interrupted by some event, called upon to react.

I don’t like being reactive; much better to wait for the click; ten times the productivity.  But so hard to get together the necessary blocks of time.

Caffeine helps, of course.  It kind of jump starts the entire process.  With a sufficiently large dose of caffeine, I can skip straight past meditation into 2-3 hours of reactive productivity.  Very useful in my line of work.  But there are diminishing returns.  Too much caffeine and the mind is dizzy the next morning.  Always better to wait for the click.

Sometimes I think that I might get similar results from a few hours of intimate conversation, but it’s been a very long while since I could test it.  So many conversations are… reactive instead of meditative.

So there it is.  Is this introversion?  I’m not really hiding from people.  The need to be kind draws me out.  But I’m thirsty for the flow state, always waiting for the click.

Driving Through the Irish Mountains

I do not care to travel much.
It’s not so much that I don’t like
To see the sights and feel the shock
Of fresh experience. I do
Enjoy that rare experience,
But in my mind these things take time,
And time is rare on trips like this.

We rush so fast from place to place
That all we really see is our
Reflections on each other. We
Can survey our environment;
The study is what we perceive
The clearest in our chartered screens.
And in this rush, the mountain view,
Its waterfalls and craggy peaks,
Is vanished in a vasty green
That blurs the glints of treasure far beneath.

My inclination then is just to run
As quickly as I can — to hide
In some secluded, quiet place,
Far from the madding crowd, and hold me still —
To mine for what is hidden, what is real.

I often fail to find it, whizzing down
The mountain roads, but always there’s
A hint of something beautiful:
The way the pubs all close at ten,
Or how the Irishman says, “now,”
To mean a process is complete;
The sight of all the hills denuded of
Their trees and filled instead with sheep.
The sight of barebacked mountains has
A holy feel to someone raised
On tufts of grass and clouds of dust
That stretch beyond the skyline.
Plains! they call them.
Furling out another world away,
And furling always in my heart and mind.

And so it always shocks me, when
I see variety. It feels
Just like my first time driving through
A city filled with trees. The things
Amazed me, how in just a little time
Abandoned plots could be transformed
Into a checkered wood, and grow
So thick and lush with pines and firs
And vines of every species. Trees
Were everywhere, and everywhere I looked,
It seemed so deep and rich, enfolding you
The way a mother holds her child.
But once a little time had passed,
The trees grew old on me. Eventually
I longed to see the sky again.
I have no way to tell the sense I have
for going home: again to feel the wind
And gaze into a great big sky.

And this is how I come again
Upon these mountains jutting up against the bus,
My window sometimes flecked by giant ferns.
The road seems almost out of place
So smooth and even is its keel.
The clouds are flowing rapidly,
A breath above the mountain peaks.
I like to think that from those points,
My eyes could grace a hundred vales
And see a thousand stone-walled fields,
Littered full of grazing sheep.

I lift my eyes, and looking up,
I feel myself surrounded by the heavens:
Bits of home inside me, reaching out to every place.

The best kind of officer

Clauzwitz is channeling Aristotle again. He says that strength of character consists of having powerful emotions balanced with self-control:

If we consider how men differ in their emotional reactions, we first find a group with small capacity for being roused, usually known as ‘stolid’ or ‘phlegmatic.”

Second, there are men who are extremely active, but whose feelings never rise above a certain level, men whom we know to be sensitive but calm.

Third, there are men whose passions are easily inflamed, in whom excitement flares up suddenly but soon burns out, like gunpowder. And finally we come to those who do not react to minor matters, who will be moved only very gradually, not suddenly, but whose emotions attain great strength and durability. These are the men whose passions are strong, deep, and concealed. Continue reading “The best kind of officer”

Why I want to be an Army Officer

Below is the essay I was required to write as part of the application process for the Army Officer Candidate school. The title isn’t mine – it’s part of the guidelines for the essay. Of course I left out certain motivations, such as “to lift up and encourage the saints who are there,” and “we need the money.”

The first time I considered joining the Army was shortly after September 11, 2001. That was the first time it became spotlessly clear to me that every individual and every organization is responsible to God, not on the basis of their capacity, but their potential. Only America could be the “world’s policeman,” so America, by Providence, is – whether we want it or not. And therefore the role of defending civilization planted itself on our doorstep. Applied to myself as a Christian man, I have a responsibility to provide leadership and protection for my family, for my church, and for my country. Continue reading “Why I want to be an Army Officer”

Ambitious discontent

My greatest difficulty at present is that I am afflicted with too many ambitions. In the past 24 hours I have:

  1. Wanted to be a college professor,
  2. Felt called to prison ministry,
  3. Wished to start a Christian high-end grocery store,
  4. Debated whether to join the Army as enlisted or an officer,
  5. Imagined starting a young married couples ministry at my church,
  6. Re-structured my morning devotionals (twice),
  7. And planned a novel series.

Every one of these was a serious consideration, and not a passing whimsy. It’s like I’m suddenly seven again, except that I was never like this, even at seven.

What I can’t decide is whether this sort of ambitious discontent is from God or somewhere else.

Early-afternoon Links?

I’m late this morning. David had a doctor’s appointment this morning at 8:45 for a case of RSV, which is actually something like a really, really bad cold. So bad that it causes pneumonia. An 8:45 appointment means seeing the LPN at around 10:00, which is to say we got home at around noon. As an added bonus, the doctor’s office and the pharmacy are having a little disagreement about whether our insurance will pay for David’s breathing treatment. Fortunately, a moderate case of pneumonia is as nothing to basic asthma, so I’m unimpressed with his pressing need for expensive asthma medication.

But links:

  1. Confusing “unfettered capitalism” with mercantilism.
  2. Billy Graham at Harvard. Unfortunately, in RealMedia format.
  3. Obama and his teleprompter. I thought it was safety glass.
  4. Apparent proof that Obama is not an idiot. Though it leaves the other option (either stupid or…).
  5. Often, good politicians lie. Adroit politicians lie often.
  6. It looks, however, like Obama is really starting to feel the weight of the presidency. Or at least, the press is beginning to feel something.
  7. Scripophily – like collecting stamps!
  8. An excellent quote by the former president of my seminary, especially when applied to 1 Corinthians 12.
  9. Divine Vinyl – Brace yourself.
  10. Well it ought to be.
  11. Two words – Central Planning.
  12. The complications of being a senator and an OBGYN.
  13. Barry Manilow – not a weapon? (H/T: Dan Phillips)
  14. Also via Mr. Phillips: Letters to the editor re: Galatians.
  15. Just don’t get it. “Don’t waste your sports” is only slightly more confusing than “don’t waste your jigsaw puzzles.”
  16. Proper use of capital and lowercase numbers – which is why I now type everything in the Georgia font, if I possibly can.
  17. Also: spacing between sentences. So hard to unlearn!
  18. Barak Carter? Jimmy Obama?
  19. Logic!
  20. Watchmen, a review. Any movie rendition without the pirate comic would be a certain improvement, but even then, this movie is rated R, for the same reason the Passion was rated R, with the exception that the Passion is about the gospel, while Watchmen sort of wants to be, but isn’t. Well, they got sin right, anyway.
  21. Flash fiction. (Officially creepy.)
  22. Love makes for great photography. Because there’s no way that those bowls are intrinsically beautiful.
  23. Taking up slack. As soon as I get done taking care of my perpetually sick kid, I’ve got a list of certifications to work on while I look for new work. Oh, and I’m writing again.
  24. Worse than poverty? Yes.
  25. Ha! Something about a historical “living document” which claims a triumph of orthodox theology over heretics just sticks funny with me. Are we talking orthodox or Orthodox, here? The “living document” thing is why I’m inclined to mistrust the Textus Receptus over against modern critical versions of the Bible. The Textus Receptus was preserved by the Orthodox, and they have this thing for preserving “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” in “living documents.”
  26. Professors tend to be liberals. Who knew?
  27. Continuing a classic trend in American prison systems.
  28. Bankruptcy, as seen through a cheap gass grill
  29. Against children’s church.
  30. Might be useful.
  31. Fleeting temptation. Just… wow.
  32. On the other hand, an interesting paradigm for avoiding it, though lacking in detail
  33. Confusing Sam with John.
  34. A different Sam. Check the quip quotes at the end.
  35. Don’t lose the keys! Rather the Protestant position, I should think:

    Some poor prelate forgot to pass them to his heir,
    but when Martin Luther found them,
    il Papa claimed they weren’t there.

    Well, he claimed that those keys weren’t the keys, anyway.

  36. On the health care debate. There’s a gap in these arguments that I could put my finger on, if I took the time to find it.
  37. In which “woo-woo” is exemplified.
  38. A new approach to scripture memory. This actually works. I can still remember the titles of books I never read as a child, because they were on my bookshelf and I looked at the binding every day.

Thought to Ponder

From my reading this morning:

God’s people tend to suffer a lot of false guilt over sins they have already confessed and received forgiveness for. The big ones and the minor ones. Even attitudes. We long to live lives that are beyond reproach. We want to be perfect parents, perfect children, perfect friends, perfect Christians, perfect people. But we are not always empathetic and forgiving. We have trouble demonstrating unconditional love. We are not always kind. Sometimes we even have temper tantrums. And sometimes we are blanketed by depression.



Why do we have all the struggle? Why is it so difficult to see ourselves as God sees us — on the one hand, sinners who cannot be good enough to please him; on the other hand, his beloved children, forgiven and restored? Once reason, as we’ve discovered, is that we’re often preoccupied with the opinions of other people rather than with God’s. We’ve adopted this world’s standards. We judge ourselves and others by those standards, forgetting all that the Father has to say about us.


But as we begin to recognize and accept our standing in God’s value system, we can be free from the struggle for self esteem, the maneuvers to bolster our egos, the fight for our place in the pecking order. Freedom will come when our views of ourselves don’t depend on the looks, physique, or intelligence we inherited, the family we were born into, the size of our bank account, or even how others treat us. A general principle is: When you feel comfortable about yourself, about who you are and what you have, you can direct your focus away from yourself and toward others.


Norma Kvindlog and Ester Lindgren Anderson (From Beyond Me)