Life Changes

Today I accepted a new full-time programmer/analyst position with a wood products company in Eugene, and gave my two-week notice with my current employer.

Roughly three months ago my employer reduced my hours (and pay) by 40%. Otherwise known as a partial layoff. The reason given was dollars. Government budgets are tight everywhere and the particular services I am employed to support are not bringing in the revenue to justify the cost. And I was the last one in my group to be hired… so that made me the first to go.

If you count both of my stints with the ESD… I’ve worked there for a total of 9 years. That is far longer than I’ve been with any other programming job. Most of the people I work with have been there that whole time. My coworkers have been great. And no matter what else has happened… it’s the people I work with that made the ESD a great place to be. I’m definitely going to miss that.

So a new chapter is beginning. I’m moving from a government job back into the private sector. And this is not only a private sector job I’m taking, but it’s in a family-owned business. About as far from a government job as I’m likely to get.

I mentioned to my new boss today that I might experience a little “culture shock”. But I made sure he knew that I fully intend on stepping up to the plate and doing a good job for them. One of the notable things about my new boss so far… it’s obvious that he really *wants* me there. They are totally glad to get me. That’s a nice feeling.

Regarding the culture shock… at the ESD we are limited to 40-hour work weeks. At my new job, they are scheduling me for 48-hour weeks right off the bat. I will be one of two programmers… and the other guy typically puts in 50 hours a week. But the job is salary… so 48-hour weeks pay the same as 40-hour ones do.

They don’t award sick leave at my new job. They just figure if you’re sick, you’re sick. I guess with overtime being the norm, they assume you’ll make that up and it will still work out in their favor.

They are initially going to have me working four 10-hour days in the office, and one 8-hour day from home each week. In addition to the mandatory overtime, I will have a one-hour commute each way. That’s going to make for some long days. Each workday that I’m in the office will be about 12 hours long if you include the commute. I haven’t figured out how lunch will factor in. At least I will only have to do that four days a week.

I feel like I’m making a big leap. Not really sure what I’m getting myself into. Not sure how it will all work out. A lot of unknowns. But I have high hopes and a sense of adventure. I am feeling pretty good about a challenge. I think I will probably find out a few things about myself in the process.

My wife has also taken a new job. She has one day left to work on her current job before she starts on with the office of the state fire marshal (part of the state police). I will see if I can get her to blog a little about that.

Great C.S. Lewis quote

I posted a portion of this quote on Facebook today. Then I found myself wanting to read the context in which it was written. Well here it is!

“But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away “blindly” so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Our wayward selves

I’ve been reading one of those daily “one-year” Bibles for a number of years. They walk you through the Bible in one year. They give you a little Old Testament, a little New Testament, a little Psalms and a little Proverbs each day.

This really gives one a clear contrast between the Old and New Testaments. The New Testament is full of the love of Christ. All about Him wanting to give us new life.

But the Old Testament seems to paint a very different picture of God. The God of the Old Testament seems to really be a jealous God who is not always that merciful toward His people when they go astray.

So as I read, I’ve been trying to see some sort of balance between the two seemingly different pictures of God.

Yesterday I ran across this in Jeremiah.

“My wayward children,” says the LORD, “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.” Jeremiah 3:22

This verse comes after a fairly lengthy description of how unfaithful Israel had been to God. In spite of that, God wanted them back.

The neat thing about this is, God appears to be saying that if they return to Him, He will essentially help them to be less wayward.

Even though I may not want to do what is right all the time, I would like to want to. I think that as we turn to God, He helps us want to.

There’s a rule and there’s a judge

There is a new movie coming out about the start of Scientology. It’s called “The Master”. Apparently it’s quite good as far as acting and recreating the 1950 time period goes.

I was just reading another review of the movie here.

The review states that some in Hollywood turn to Scientology to help them have the discipline to combat the temptations of the show biz world. Below is an excerpt where this benefit of Scientology is compared to similar benefits of other religions.

And of course, others will say that traditional religion provides even better answers to eternal human concerns. Those traditional religions, after all, can provide plenty of rigor; indeed, it can be argued that the more rigorous the faith, the longer it survives and flourishes.

A case in point is Orthodox Judaism. Lloyd Green, a lawyer in New York City–and sometime contributor to Fox News Opinion–notes that every day, the observant Jew recites a liturgy that includes the words, Yesh din v’yesh dayan–“There’s a rule and there’s a judge.” Green explains: “We are reminded that there are rules and the individual is not the ultimate self-arbiter.” Those rules were decreed by God, and have been adhered to for thousands of years. Now that’s rigor.

So yes, “The Master” is an interesting movie to see, and Scientology is interesting in its way, too. But for most people, other traditions provide more. Much more.

I really like that Jewish saying… “There’s a rule and there’s a judge“. We are not to be our own masters. Not a bad idea to remind oneself of that daily.

One Person Can Make a Difference

I believe that one person really can make a difference.  All too often we hear reference to the fact that I am just one person, I can’t change the world.  I am learning that we really do all individually and collectively make a difference.  Just like the rock that is skipped across the still water that sends ripples as it disappears into the bottom of the lake; we too send ripples across not only our lives but the lives all around us.  Just imagine what the lake would look like if 3 or 4 were skipping rocks at the same time, now imagine how dramatically the face of it would change if a hundred all did the same.  The ripple effect becomes exponential, not only do we have an impact on those around us but also on the spheres of influences that those around us have.

One can look back at history and see many examples of individuals who made a huge impact on the world.  Billy Graham, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Abraham Lincoln just to name a few.  We see their influence on the world and attribute it to some special gift that they had.  While circumstances may have impacted their influence they each chose to use the situations they were given to make a difference for others.  I am not sure that they were really anything “special” more that the outcome was based on the decisions that they made.

We are all nobody special and yet we all are special in that each and everyone regardless of status, upbringing, mistakes of the past, and even natural ability can and do make a difference.  Recently I received notice that my son was going to receive the Presidential Unit Citation.  This award is given for “extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy.  The unit must display such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign.”  How does a young man from Keizer, Oregon; raised by a single mom; not associated with anyone of high stature; just a regular every day kid become such a hero?  I would like to take credit that I was such a wonderful mom who had all the right answers and did all the right things but that’s really not true (except the wonderful mom thing, well okay truthfully, I just did the best that I knew how with lots of mistakes and tons of God’s grace).  What really shaped this young man was a result of the seeds that were planted by all those who crossed his path, yes even the bad seed.

Kind of an interesting thought how does bad seed turn into good fruit?  While the seed that was sown may not have necessarily been meant for good; our attitude, decisions and choices that we make can stall us, turn us bitter, or even develop into a full blown pity party.  (Oh yes I have often had coffee with pity, sometimes even a full scale lunch, it was a lonely gathering that only I enjoyed, unfortunately for those around me it often had a rancid odor, in other words while I might have enjoyed the pity party it stunk for those around me.)  Or we can use the seed to turn a different direction, reevaluate our purpose and mission, or in my sons’ case set out to prove that they were wrong.  Whatever the motivation it still boils down to decisions and choices and in many cases those decisions and choices must be made over and over again.  The problem with much of life is it is so daily.  Daily decisions (often the same ones being made over and over again), daily habits, daily choices that often don’t really seem to make a difference.  Maybe it’s just that we don’t see the difference that they make.  Consider eating a 3 inch chocolate chip cookie.  Will it make a difference if I have one today? Probably not, but if I make a decision to have a cookie today, and then tomorrow, and the next and so on that simple cookie that adds 120 calories a day, adds 3600 calories in a month or 43,200 calories in a year.  There is power in exponential growth.  Influence works the exact same way; if we each only made a difference in a person’s life exponential growth will automatically kick in.  But even more what if we each made a difference each and every day whether it be simply holding the door open, buying a meal or a bag of groceries for someone who is hungry, a kind word, or even simpler sharing a smile with everyone we walk or drive by.  By looking at things this way changing the world seems more of a possibility, maybe even a reality.

One may never know the impact that they have on others.  I have been extremely blessed to see the impact of one’s life that really just loved and accepted others where they were.  I have had so many come up to me and tell me how much they knew that Ryan loved them.  He didn’t just say it, he showed it.  It has impacted me to emulate my son and make a difference in others and I do believe that I can inspire others to do the same.  It is best summed up by John F Kennedy “One person can make a difference and every person should try.”

Shawna

For Your Birthday

I like to think about
God watching over our lives
from the beginning…

…arranging things
so that our paths would cross
and we would realize
we were meant for each other.

God made you for me…
and I bet it makes Him happy
to see what a wonderful husband
you are.

It makes me happy, too…
having your love
and sharing our faith
in the One who knows us so well.

I love you.

—————————————

Above was the verse on the birthday card my wife gave me today. While I’m not entirely sure I’m worthy of such praise… I can truly identify with the idea that our relationship was divinely arranged from the beginning. I know that some people have their faith reinforced after witnessing healings and such. Our relationship is one miracle that has definitely reinforced mine. It was as much an obvious evidence of God as I could imagine.

Pondering Thoughts of the Vastness of Life

I sat outside this afternoon at the picnic table at work soaking up the sun (yes it does shine once in awhile here in Oregon).   The view was tremendous.  My office is on a hillside overlooking the south part of town, it is almost a park like setting.  The industrial area below was humming with work, and you could hear the traffic moving along I-5, yet the birds chirping seemed to be a much stronger sound, well at least more peaceful and beautiful.  The valley gives way to rolling hills which leads into the mountains, really quite breath taking.

As I sat there taking it all in I was overwhelmed by the vastness.  Quite different than the view from my desk which is really limited.  I began to wonder what God’s view was at that time (and yes for a brief minute, Ryan’s view from Heaven, how spectacular it must be).

I began to think about the little details.  I am confident that in one of the houses, way across where I could barely see, was someone.  However, my view being limited I couldn’t tell if there was someone, let alone what color their hair was, or eyes, or were they wearing flip flops?  Probably not at least not blinged out ones like those of us who are “cool” do.  Okay squirrel….(for those of you who are wondering what in the world that means, watch the movie UP). Focus…okay back to the view and thought.

How in the world can God up in Heaven, look down at the vastness and yet care about each and everyone of us individually?  He not only knows what color my hair is, He has a plan and purpose that is specific just for me.   While I don’t doubt this at all, I just don’t understand how that is possible.  He is not surprised by anything that happens and He promises to work all things for good.  Our lives are indeed like the tapestry.  Lots of threads all woven together.  

While I prefer bright cheery colors and could live with out the black and dark brown colors, I realize the blacks and the browns or dark colors if you will, are what give the tapestry definition.  Just like the dark times in our lives, they add definition and dimension to make up the final picture. While I know this is true, I still would prefer to live without the dark.  Perhaps I have already had enough of the dark colors and now its time for the brightness to paint my life.

It’s been a little over 5 years since Ryan was KIA.  I am reminded of it again as the anniversary of some of his best buddies approaches tomorrow.  I couldn’t help but ask why they were taken.  Ryan’s purpose was to protect them, if they were going to be taken as well, then why did he have to die also?  These questions still remain unanswered, although the more I learn the more I wonder if he could have handled it.  He took the other losses so personal.  He told me his job and mission was to protect the others.  He had felt like he failed.  So when he was killed I accepted it, knowing he was saving the others (okay so accepted may not be the best word, but it did help knowing that he was doing what he was “called” to do).  All that to say that the darkest days have also shaped who I am.  I definitely have a different perspective on life and it’s brevity.  In fact 6 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to sit out on the picnic bench.

We don’t always know what God’s plan for us is but we can stand on His promises knowing that He loves us, never gives us more than we can handle and will work all things for good.  Just like the sunshine that beat down on my face today, God has blessed me immensely with a new phase of bright colors and sunshine with the perfect man for me.

You’re the Best, Shawna

Principles for Life

I have been reading Black Belt Patriot by Chuck Norris (which I highly recommend). Imagine what this country if not the world would be like each if us adapted his Principles for Life:

  1. I will develop myself to the maximum of my potential in all ways.
  2. I will forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements.
  3. I will always be in a positive frame of mind and convey this feeling to every person that I meet.
  4. I will continually work at developing love, happiness and loyalty in my family and acknowledge that no other success can compensate for failure in the home.
  5. I will look for the good in all people and make them feel worthwhile.
  6. If I have nothing good to say about a person, I will say nothing.
  7. I will give so much time to the improvement of myself that I will have no time to criticize others.
  8. I will always be as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.
  9. I will maintain an attitude of open-mindedness toward another person’s viewpoint while still holding fast to that which I know to be true and honest.
  10. I will maintain respect for those in authority and demonstrate this respect at all times.
  11. I will always remain loyal to God, my country, family and my friends.
  12. I will remain highly goal-oriented throughout my life because that positive attitude helps my family, my country, and myself.

Just imagine…. Shawna

Civic review

The following is an excerpt from a review of the Civic by a Kelley Blue Book editor. After our trip up the coast yesterday, I can say it’s pretty accurate.

Driving Impressions

The 2012 Honda Civic is not the smoothest or quietest car in the category. Nor is it the most fun to drive. Curious, then, that we’d rate it tops in driving dynamics in our shootout of the four newest cars in the category. How does it do it? With the help of steering and pedal response that other automakers could only dream of delivering. It’s easy to overlook excellence in these areas, but just as driving feel is a big part of the magic in a Porsche, the way the Civic gracefully listens and responds to a driver’s input is a key reason we consider the 2012 Honda Civic the connoisseur’s compact sedan.