Monday, January 29, 2007

When Knowledge Is Not Enough

We live in a world of knowledge saturation. We have far more information than we can ever process into useful relevance.

On the other hand, we often have awareness that could help us in dilemmas or extricate us from difficult situations – but we don’t act on it.

It is said that a form of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Yikes. How often I find myself resembling that!

I am, however, making attempts to effect changes in some lifestyle habits. Us retired folks tend to become less active (while at the same time not pushing back from the table soon enough), and it's easy to find ourselves entrenched in old habits.

Some years ago I was told by my doc that I have “adult onset (Type II) diabetes”. It was a shock. Obviously, whatever I had been doing up to that point wasn’t working. I began to investigate the wealth of information available on the internet. And I found a treasure of interesting things along with some wonderful suggestions.

Just by exercising regularly, for instance, I discovered that I could put a clamp on the progression of the disease. I now have a regular exercise routine, as personally distasteful as I find doing exercise just for the sake of exercise. I'd much rather play racquetball and get the exercise by playing a sport.

I learned that certain natural herbs, minerals and vitamins could also claw at the disease. I now take several each day, including vitamins B & D, gymnema sylvestre, selenium, vanadium, and cinnamon (NOT via a danish).

And I learned that it’s carbohydrates, more than anything else, that cause the blood sugar spikes that relate to Type II diabetes. I have drastically limited carbs in my diet, especially the bad ones (yep, there are good ones and bad ones).

What happened? My blood tests last month were the best they’ve been in five years. Wow. Changing my behavior brought a different result. The late, and relatively unknown, psychologist, Abraham Maslow, has this sage observation: "I can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act."

To me, that’s sound wisdom. If now I would just apply it in more areas of my life.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Retirement May Not Necessarily Be Golden

One of my very close buddies is contemplating retirement sometime soon. The image above is how most of us might like to picture life without working.

However, from my own experience, I know that going through this process can be intimidating, if not at least vague, ambiguous, tentative or even daunting.

If you’ve worked at a job all your life, and you’re looking at living without that income, it is not a pleasant contemplation. Large corporations, and even lesser companies, have drastically cut “retirement plans” from their benefits, and have instead encouraged individuals to participate in their employer’s 401k plan or to start their own IRA.

But even though the number of 401k’s and IRA’s has mushroomed, many who now face retirement are looking at least at a significant life style adjustment if not a whole new paradigm for living. This appears to be true even for many of those who have planned to some degree for the “golden years”.

The idea of completely maintaining one’s standard of living in retirement looks now to be completely ludicrous, except for the very wealthy. Virtually all of us must look at ways “to cut back” or “to adjust our lifestyle” as we approach withdrawal from the workforce.

My same bud also tipped me to a most interesting article in USA Today this past Tuesday that notes, among other disturbing trends, the alarmingly increasing debt load being accumulated by seniors. Click here to read the full story or to print it out if you want.

The story points out that it’s those 75 and older that are accumulating debt-weightiness the fastest. Their indebtedness has risen 160% from 1992 to 2004. Even for households of 55 and older, overall debt is growing faster than the rate of the overall population. That sounds like a dead end to me.

A high debt load when approaching retirement is a phenomenon of recent years, the article says. Baby Boomer debt, for instance, is much higher than that of their parents at the same age. Those “golden years” of retirement might well look a bit tarnished.

Those who have owned homes during their working years now have a fortuitous advantage. Many studies of 30 years ago indicated that there was little material difference, over a lifetime, between owning and renting. What few foresaw, back then, was the real estate explosion of the last 15 years in much of the country.

There’s little justice in what has evolved. I know people who’ve sold their paid for, price-inflated California homes and bought new, larger homes in areas in Oregon, Idaho and Washington for CASH and still had enough passive income from the remainder to live comfortably.

Contrast that with the person who’s worked dedicatedly all his life for wages and then finds out the retirement hopes he or she had are dashed, and Social Security is the meager staple. According to USA Today, many are having to work into their 70’s and 80’s before they can even think of retirement.

And God forbid you have a serious health problem as a senior. The increased cost of insuring one’s health is alone keeping many working into their golden years.

Are there answers? Unfortunately, each individual now must look at the available options for them. As Robert Kiyosaki points out in his popular book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, it’s assets, not a job, that will generate a sustainable income. And that’s true whether or not you’re retired.

Kiyosaki’s latest book Cash Flow Quadrant is a quick-read blueprint to a relatively rapid path to financial freedom. It’s not complicated, and his observations are not speculation; they’re proven.

My own problem often can be procrastination. But for us seniors, the time to procrastinate is rapidly evaporating.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Date With A Gorgeous Brunette

This afternoon & evening I had a date with a gorgeous brunette.

It was a dinner/movie date, but at our ages, the movie comes before the dinner.

Of course the date was with my wife, Kay Lynne, who’s just about the youngest-looking grandma I know.

We saw the movie The Queen. Surprisingly to me, it was quite good. I’m usually not much for “slow” films, but this one was the quickest passing “slow” flick ever.

If accurate, it gives interesting, inside looks at the British monarchy at the time of Princess Diana’s death. We both gave it a “thumbs up”.

Following some tasty Mexican food at Isla Bonita, I got to do what I could never even think of doing when we were actually dating some 42+ years ago.

I got to take Kay Lynne home with me.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Scriptures Supercede Superbowl Shaping

In spite of a day of football games which shaped the Superbowl contest in two weeks, my thoughts today have been more on the Scriptures we studied in church this morning.

We now know that the Bears will meet the Colts in Superbowl XLI. I’m going to root for the Bears, because as a kid I listened to many a game on WLS radio in Chicago (no TV then) in the days when Bulldog Turner was snapping the football to Sid Luckman under the watchful eyes of Coaching legend George Halas. So… GO BEARS!

More important, however, are the things I am learning in the Lutheran tradition. Each Sunday during worship, we read three different sets of Scripture, one each from the Old Testament, New Testament and Gospels.

The Scripture selections are taken from the “Revised Common Lectionary” which pretty much escorts you through the entire Bible in three years, with a different Gospel focus (Matthew, Mark or Luke) each year.

Our senior Pastor Don Jukam has been conducting a month-long adult Sunday School class which is explaining how the Lectionary guides our Scriptural focus each week and how we can use The Bible Guide, a singular, complete background guide, to better understand the Bible.

Compiled by theologian Andrew Knowles and published by Augsburg Press, The Bible Guide explores, explains, and brings to life the history, stories, culture and message of God’s Word.

Click here to see (and purchase?) The Bible Guide on It’s a marvelous assist to personal Bible study.

Today, for instance, we learned a key point from The Bible Guide regarding our Scripture Reading of I Corinthians 12. The Guide suggests that the Corinth Church had much to learn regarding spiritual gifts, or “things of the spirit”.

Paul is setting up in chapter 12 the famous “love” text, which follows in chapter 13. The Guide directed our thinking to realize that even the greatest gift (from ch 12) is worth nothing (noted by Paul), if it isn’t received and used with love (ch 13).

We are familiar with "the love chapter" because its contents are commonly quoted as a stand-alone at weddings and in sermons that attempt to define what love (itself) is. The Bible Guide points out that its context perhaps makes I Corinthians 13 more accurately an enhancement of the gifts, or "things," of the spirit mentioned in chapter 12.

It’s these small, seemingly insignificant but serendipitous discoveries that make The Bible Guide a wonderful (layman’s) help in studying the Scriptures. Knowing the history, the context and possible meanings certainly sheds wonderful new light on even familiar passages. Thanks be to God.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Yet Another (Different) Expression of Creativity

I got this via email from an old (and long-time:-) California friend. If not a trick of some sort, the “art piece” below is quite unique.

It seems in dry, rural Texas there’s a lot of dust. Couple that with the fact that a man named Scott Wade does not like to wash his Mini Cooper. Instead, he uses brushes and home made instruments to create art on the dirt-caked rear window of his little car…

You might recognize Van Gogh's “Starry Night” and Da Vinci's “Mona Lisa” above. I only hope he parks under a roof or it could suddenly be a lot of wasted effort.

I know, I know, I need a day job.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Another Creative Solution

Need a flat-screen TV?

No problem. Just imitate this guy who lives in a trailer park in Arklahoma. I love creativity.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

You Saw It Here First

My son Gregg’s steelhead fishing exploits up here last month, on the Olympic Peninsula Bogachiel River, appear on page 24 of the current issue of the Washington Edition of Fishing and Hunting News.

If you click on the pic above, you can better read the blurb (which they “stretched” by saying WE caught other fish). What they were told was that “other similar fish were caught in the area that day”. And, of course, because the story is in a Washington publication, they had to rib him about his Oregon U hat.

I scanned the upper left corner of the page, and the quality is not all that good. You can see the original story and pic from this blog by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Kicked Out of the Playoffs

The photo above shows the Chicago Bears’ winning field goal in overtime this past Sunday, which literally kicked our Seahawks out of the playoffs (I’m still grousing about the whole thing, but I’ll get over it).

What’s interesting to me about the picture is that it was taken by my second cousin Tina (daughter of Chicagoland cousin Larry Brooks and wife Deb) who was at the game with her husband, Jose. They were just married this past year (and I hear a new little Bears fan is on the way).

If you look carefully (click on the above pic to produce a larger image), you can see the ball just going past the right goal post on its way through the uprights.

That’s Tina and Jose at left, braving the harsh Soldier Field cold to enjoy the game. The win for the Bears made their inconveniences all worthwhile for them, but up here in the Northwest we still have questions.

Like why didn’t the Seahawks act like defending NFC champs and hold their lead at the end of the game? And why, when given the ball TWICE within the last few minutes with the score tied, couldn’t they move the ball close enough for a field goal? And finally, after winning the toss in overtime and receiving the ball AGAIN, why couldn’t they move the ball close enough for a kick?

And, by the way, who made those two awful “Alexander up the middle” calls on fourth down? Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren is a former FORTY NINER offensive coordinator. Remember the flat pass? Throw it to a back and let him run with it. O well, now I’m getting worked up.

Thanks, Tina, for the great photos.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Good To Know…

During our mid-December hurricane-force wind storm here in the Pacific Northwest, we were without heat (and electricity) for about four days.

When a similar thing happened in another part of the country, the photo below shows their creative furnace solution.Good to know about things like this in case we lose our heat again for a long period of time.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

For the Common Good

At church today, we heard another great sermon from one of the Pastoral "Triumvirate” at First Lutheran.

This time the discourse was delivered by the Rev. Kent Shane, our associate co-Pastor. His fresh perspective shed wonderful new light for my wife and me on the subject matter – the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The sermon text, taken from the lectionary, was the first 11 verses of I Corinthians 12. The common, and usual, focus in these verses (and about which my wife and I were most familiar) is on the gifts of the Spirit, and, often, on who has what gift. All of that is well and good.

Pastor Kent, however, pointed out some interesting contrasts to the familiar. The first occurred in the initial verse, and it turns out that Bible translators may have caused some inadvertent blurring.

Most translations, including the NRSV which we use in worship, say, in verse one, “now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters…” Pastor Kent observed that the original Greek, instead, simply says “spiritual things” (or as he mentioned with a wry smile, “spiritual stuff” in our younger vernacular).

The distinction is subtle, but the effect of the latter is to take the emphasis off of “gifts of the spirit” (and our natural focus on what particular “gift” we might have) and to place the focus where it probably should be – on the Holy Spirit and his appropriation of things, or stuff, (gifts, talents and services) within the body of Christ.

The rest of the text goes on to describe how there are “varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit”; how there are "varieties of services, but the same Lord”; and how there are "varieties of activities, but the same God activates all of them in everyone.”

Pastor Kent suggested that we can benefit from this text by realizing that the Holy Spirit is the one who works in each of us “for the common good” (v 8). It’s a wonderful picture of how the body of Christ should function.

The good news is that we can experience the grace of God every day as we participate in the activities of that body, by effecting our gift, service or activity “as the Spirit chooses” (v. 11). Thanks be to God.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Just For Fun

Every once in a while, we humanoids need a little diversion.

Click here to play a mindless game. See how many times you can hit the waste basket with a wad of paper. Just click "go" and then click "play".

You might even want to bookmark the site as I did. Caution: it’s a commercial site and they try to sell you stuff with banners and pop-ups. So just play, have fun and ignore the ads. There are several other time wasters (games) there as well.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Catch

On this date in 1982, Joe Montana found Dwight Clark at the rear of the end zone to give the San Francisco 49ers a 28-27 NFC championship win over the Dallas Cowboys and send them to their first Super Bowl.

You can view "the catch" by clicking here Enjoy!

Since that day 25 years ago the 49ers have played in and won a total of five Super Bowls, tied with Pittsburgh for the most SB wins for any franchise.

In my view, the Niners are one of the greatest sports franchises ever, and "the catch" was one of the greatest football moments ever.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Who Didn’t Belong?

When the BCS computers decided that Florida should play Ohio State for the national college football championship, I was chagrined.

No way, I thought, along with a lot of other people, did Florida deserve to play the mighty Buckeyes. It should have been Michigan, who came very close to beating State a few weeks previously.

Well, I guess computers can now outthink people.

But not dogs.

Buddy was for Florida from the get-go! He couldn't take his eyes off the blue uniforms that matched his sweater.

Last night’s Fiesta Bowl title game not only showed that the Gators deserved to be there, but also that it was maybe Ohio State who didn’t belong there. Florida proved they deserve our respect.

Not to raise more controversial questions about the BCS (however, maybe I am), what does this outcome say about the exclusion of Boise State from the whole BCS process?

Maybe quite a bit.

O yea, one last question, this one from my wife: Does Urban Meyer have a brother named Rural?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Kissed By the Lady

In the kind of playoff game you'll see maybe once in your lifetime, the Seattle Seahawks yesterday could not believe their good fortune as the ball suddenly got slippery for the Dallas Cowboys near the game's end. As Tony Romo attempted to "tee" the ball up for a Martin Gramatica fourth down game winning field goal with about a minute left in the game, the ball just squirted out of his hands (right, above).

The only thing Romo could do was to scoop up the ball and run frantically for the left corner of the end zone.

He was tackled by the Hawks' Jordan Babineaux just one yard short of a first down and two yards short of a potentially winning touchdown.

After failing to make a first down to ice the game, Seattle had to punt, giving Dallas a last gasp attempt at a "hail Mary" pass. The ball was knocked down, and Babineaux (#27) celebrated with his teammates at games end.

So for the Seahawks, it's now off to Soldier's Field in Chicago and next Sunday's game with the Bears. After the way lady luck kissed them last night, the Hawks maybe ought to head for Las Vegas instead.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A Vitamin D Infusion

For a little while this morning, between fronts, the sun broke through to reflect brightly off of the freshly snow-capped Olympic mountain range. It was a glorious, but brief, event.

Old sol was soon replaced by gloomy, gray skies as the clouds just kept coming in. So now we’re back to “normal” winter weather – clouds for the time being and some rain later on. And the low temp is dropping each night.

That, of course, means some nasty could be on the way – again. Snow, and maybe ice, is predicted by as early as Tuesday. Such is the fun of living in the Northwest.

But for those of us who love to live here, that brief glimpse of the spectacular was enough to tide us over till the next one.

And for those, like me, with S.A.D.. these short bursts of sunlight give us a quick vitamin D infusion.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Historical Link To Faith

Pictured is a fragment of the “Calendar Scroll” from the first century BC, which was discovered in 1952 as part of what is now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Scribed in Hebrew, it is a record of the Sabbaths, first days of the months and the community’s festivals.

* * * * *

I think I had an inkling, yesterday, when visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit in Seattle, of how the righteous man Simeon felt, who, as promised, lived to see the Christ child in the Jerusalem Temple some two millennia ago.

To paraphrase his exclamation, “my eyes have seen my salvation.”

Admittedly a metaphorical stretch, my life, nevertheless, has been forever impacted by actually seeing writings that later became part of our canon and are recognizable today.

I realize these scrolls in and of themselves do not prove the validity of my faith. But they sure go a long way toward establishing a degree of authenticity.

About this season of the year in early 1947, a Bedouin shepherd boy discovered an obscure cave on the northwest corner of the Dead Sea near some ancient ruins known as Qumran. What he found has rocked the archaeological, scientific and religious worlds.

Inside the cave were 10 tall pottery jars, worn and weakened, along with a lot of other shattered earthenware. The boy and his cousin gathered up what appeared to be pieces of leather and parchment scrolls, not having any idea either what they were or what their significance was.

What young Muhammad Ahmed el-Hamed found that day were biblical manuscripts that date from 250 BC to 68 AD and were parts of the oldest record of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament of the Christian Bible). The previous oldest manuscripts dated from about 900 AD, so the scrolls found here turned out to be 1,000 years older than anything previously known.

We have come to know them as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Their significance has been immeasurable. But not without some disquieting revelations.

For instance, they show that there were probably three different versions of Scripture at the time. Perhaps the most surprising disclosure was the fact that some 670 of the nearly 900 documents are “non-biblical” (like the photo sample above) and have to do with cultural commentary and rules for Jewish living.

It is thought that the scrolls were written and compiled by the Essenes, an ancient spin-off sect from rabbinic Jews in Jerusalem around the time of Christ, who inhabited the city of Qumran, now in ruins.

The most fascinating thing to me was to be able to view the Hebrew manuscripts from Psalms (many not even in our Bible), Genesis (“and God created humankind”), Exodus and Ezekiel. The experience provided, for me, a link to “the roots” of my faith.

I cannot begin to cover, in a short blog post, the depth of meaning in the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls. But what I saw with my own eyes, and what I learned from the exhibit, has fashioned a strong substantiation for what I believe.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

City Lights and Birthday Bites

My wife and I enjoyed another day in Seattle today, the second within the past 11 days. The heavy rain and strong winds (again) this morning let up just in time.

We spent the late afternoon visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit in Seattle Center; my next post will be about that impacting experience.

Tonight, however, we enjoyed some time in downtown Seattle (top left) followed by a birthday dinner with our son Doug and his wife Jamie (right pic – taken following the meal). Doug’s birthday was actually last year (Dec 30) but the celebration was still good.

Doug’s restaurant choice was the popular P.F. Chang’s China Bistro in Westlake Center, where everything on the menu makes your mouth water. And we gave it our best shot.

We shared an appetizer, four great entrees and a dessert. A friend of theirs had recommended trying Dan-Dan Noodles, a mixture of stir-fried scallions, garlic and chili on hot egg noodles with a veggie garnish. It was incredibly delicious.

It’s always great when someone in the family has a birthday. And we can celebrate.

Monday, January 01, 2007

So… What’s New?

Well, it’s January 1st, and that means the New Year is here.

From my vantage point, little has changed except the date. There’s still a war going on in Iraq. Most of you will go back to work tomorrow, and NFL playoffs begin Saturday.

I’m not much on New Years Resolutions, either. Hey, at my age, if I can pick ‘em up and put ‘em down, I’m happy. Whether or not I eat less, exercise more or work harder is of little material consequence, although all would admittedly be good.

It’s hard to get a meaningful perspective on the prospects of living in the latter half of one’s seventh decade. My mind still thinks I’m 30 (heck, I was forgetful then, too). However, what quickly brings me to reality are the body aches and pains.

I’ve been told to exercise more and my knees will hurt less. Right.

I’ve been advised to “eat right” (whole grains, cumquats and spinach?) and I’ll be healthier. Uh huh.

No matter what I do, or don’t do, my knees will hurt if I’m on my pins for too long. I still fight balancing my cholesterol. And my scale is off by 30 pounds.

Wait a minute, it’s time for dinner. Finally. I’ll look for the elliptical later on.

So, what’s new?