Five Reasons I’m Making a New Commitment to Reading…

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(NOTE: This is an adaptation of a post from May, 2006…when I blogged a lot more regularly and rather well at times! The re-post is occasioned by a reading tear I’ve been on this month. Be gentle.)

May has brought about a kind of “renaissance” in my attitude and in my take on things.

One of the new commitments I’ve made is to get serious about reading again. I’ve always loved books, and I want to keep up with the latest/coolest/hippest/hottest books that people in my field and in the world are reading.

But my commitment to getting serious again about reading is also due to a desire to read books that have indicated and influenced the human condition over the centuries.

I sat down and thought about this whole “renaissance” thing a couple of nights ago, and this is what fell out of my Moleskine…

Why I’m Getting Serious About Reading…

  • I’m reading for my ego. For someone who’s supposedly “educated,” for someone who prides himself on being knowledgeable, I sure don’t know a whole lot!
  • I’m reading for my mind. I want to be intellectually stimulated, to get in contact with the Great Themes, the Great Ideas, the Great Thinkers, who have molded, shaped and influenced the world with their ideas and words!
  • I’m reading for my writing. I’ve always wanted to write, and in the past at least, I’ve been pretty decent at it. To put words on paper, to follow the Great Tradition of writing, to sharpen my meager attempts at the craft of writing: these benefits come partly from reading.
  • I’m reading for my heart. I want to feel deeply the pull and tug, the ebb and flow of powerful ideas and stories.
  • I’m reading for my spirit. I want to soar, to get more in touch with God and His world. I want to hold up the mirrors that have reflected the human spirit, as it is and as it could be. And I want to be better for it.

Do you read? Why not? What are you reading right now? How is what you’re reading influencing your life? Jump in!

Snowed In: Day 3 (I Think)…

Fabulös & Korthuggen - Produkt Linus Ekenstam via Compfight

This is the third day (I think!) of our second major winter weather shutdown in three weeks (I think!).

It’s all running together. But I digress…

I’m not a fan of winter. I’m especially not a fan of winter weather shutdowns.  However, this winter weather shutdown has reminded me to be grateful for some things I usually take for granted.

Today, on Day 3, I’m grateful that we cooked on the grill on Monday, because we have dinner to last all week.

I’m grateful for free time. Even though I haven’t accomplished anything significant – and at times, felt guilty about it – a few days without any pressing obligations has been therapeutic. OK, maybe not really therapeutic, but it sounds good, and it has been good to be lazy.

I’m grateful for heat. I’m grateful for plenty of food and other assorted necessities.  I’m grateful for coffee, even though it’s on a rationed status now. I’m grateful for hot water. I’m grateful for this computer and that iPhone.

Most of all, I’m grateful that we have not lost power. I mentioned I’m not a fan of winter. I’m really glad and grateful we haven’t had to be holed up with no power,  no heat, no TV, no food, no coffee, and no Internet!

Power gives us something to do. It keeps us from going stir-crazy. It lets us keep up with the weather conditions and the condition of our friends and family in the weather.

I can deal with being stuck inside. I can appreciate not having to drive on icy streets. I can do all that a lot better with electricity.

Craig Ballantyne wrote a piece about the five steps to using a gratitude journal, and he lists Step One as listing your gratitude for “one big thing in your life.”

Today, on Day 3, my one big thing is uninterrupted power in the middle of a brutal winter.

What’s yours?

2014 Intentions…

On the Camino againCreative Commons License José Antonio Gil Martínez via Compfight 

Three weeks in, and I’m just getting around to my intentions for 2014. I quipped on Facebook that #1 would be  “Stop Procrastinating.”

Please note I didn’t say “resolutions.” I discovered a long time ago that “resolutions” don’t really work so well. You make unrealistic ones, and then when you fail early on, you pile guilt on top of the necessary changes. So let’s just say I’ve thought about some “intentions” for this year and leave it at that, shall we?

Anyway, these are not the only things I need to do/stop doing/change, but here’s a start…

  • Read the books currently on my Kindle. I love books. I consider myself a reader. It’s important! I love to find new books and have others recommend them. But I have plenty of books already on my shelves and my Kindle that are in various stages of unread. I need to finish them. I intend to start with the “almost-finished” ones currently on my Kindle as a launching pad for my reading plan in 2014.
  • Learn Adobe Photoshop. I don’t expect to become an expert. I just want to become proficient enough to use this powerful tool for improving our church media, my class materials, and any other digital imagery needs I have.
  • Learn Adobe Illustrator. See above.
  • Learn Adobe InDesign. See above again.
  • Write 300 words every day. I keep talking about wanting to write. And I keep coming up with excuses why I don’t. I know it has to become a habit. The only way it becomes a habit is to do it. Daily. I’m not sure how to estimate 300 words. (This post is currently at 277.) Jeff Goins, Guy Kawasaki, and many others say you have to be brutal about developing the habit. Starting today, I’m putting on my writer’s mask, and going for it! Some of those words will be in the old Moleskine. Others may be here in this space. I hope some will be compelling enough to end up on your must-read list!
  • Cultivate my LinkedIn account. I did a workshop on using it and other social media at a university career event last summer. I set up my own account but since then it has languished in disuse. I see the value. I need to take advantage of that and other tools.

That’s about it, so far. I wrote in my Moleskine that I intended to “use my daily time wisely.” I scratched through that line, because I knew it wasn’t specific enough to motivate me toward action. I need to make better use of the days, but I’m not sure how I’m going approach that task yet.

There are other areas I need to take intentional steps toward improvement. I see this year as a pilgrimage of sorts. The journey begins today. Let’s see where we end up! Buen camino!

Random Thoughts from a Rainy Morning Run…


The lovely and gracious MrsCharphar and I head out for a run/walk every morning before daylight. She runs the whole way, while I do more interval training. At any rate, we end up running by ourselves together. It offers a great opportunity to listen to some great music, engaging podcasts, and random thoughts from my own mind and heart. Here are a few that were bouncing around in the rain this morning.

  • Fitness after 50? Funny, from where I stand, fitness after 50 is the same as fitness at any age: consistent healthy nutrition, an active lifestyle, regular intense training, and a positive mental attitude should do the trick. At  25 or 75. Or beyond.
  • Miles Davis, “All Blues.” When I played in the high school jazz band, I was afraid of improvisation. I thought great improvisation had to be ornate, complicated, and busy. But Miles’s solos (the others, too, but especially Miles) are spare, sparse, economical, and elegant. I like that, and I think that may be what makes Kind of Blue my favorite jazz album of all.
  • Like it or not, it seems our culture is being influenced by Buddhism and other Eastern thought. In some of my moments, I wonder exactly what is the fascination. At other times, though, I wonder what principles can translate to make what we do better. What frightens me is that we may diluting the very thing that makes Jesus-apprentices “Followers of The Way.” Maybe it’s not Buddhism per se. Maybe it’s the hodgepodge, cafeteria-style approach to spirituality that seems to be all the rage these days. This is indeed a different world in which we live.
  • What I like about Alton Brown, I think, is that he comes across as a regular person. I know his public persona may be a lot different from who he really is. But at least on the podcast, he seems ordinary. And he also seems like the guy who wants to learn a lot about a lot of things. He even shows his guests to be the kind of folks you’d like to have dinner or coffee with. Or a beer, if you’re into such things. Even Valerie Bertinelli!