A digital commonplace for a Regular Guy called Charlie Pharis

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 4)

Because I Have To, That’s Why…

Here we sit on the third day of 2024, and I’m writing this at 4:26 am because I have to. 

If I don’t, there mightn’t be time to do it later, what with the return to the office and the daily grind and all. So, here we are.

Now, there’s the key difference. I have to write this to keep up the habit. To keep the commitment I made to myself. To not break the streak. I have to because I want to, and if I don’t…well…it’ll be a lot easier next time to blow it off. And that might apply in something else besides the worthless ramblings of a wannabe blogger. I mean…who would know? Would either of the two of you loyal readers miss it if I didn’t? I don’t think so.

But I would know.

Cover of Bob Burg's The Go-GiverOn another note, I finished reading the first book of 2024, The Go-Giver by Bob Burg. It’s one of those little business/success parables that are so popular. While it was an easy read, and while I reported in my notebook it seemed rather trite and formulaic, there were some good points. It made me think about saving and authenticity, two things I consider to be important. And now I’m trying to recapture why those two aspects are crucial. Maybe it’s because I’ve struggled so long to look like an authentic servant, that it has become just another finely crafted and carefully maintained mask for the character I want to portray.

And that leads us back to the start of this little screed. I’m writing this because I have to.

And I want to reclaim the servant heart because I have to. Or I’ll continue down the path of Whatever This Is.

Thanks for coming along. One of these days, there might really be something here worth reading and pondering.

Habits, Old and New…

It’s that time, readers. It’s time to assess where we’ve been, where we’ve gone wrong, where we’ve gone astray, and where we’ve failed; and to figure out and commit to a way forward, a way to get back on track, a way to improve our lot in life. Yep, it’s the new year, only a day and a few hours old.

I listened to Justin Whitmel Earley on The Habit podcast this morning, and he was talking about habits, daily and weekly. One thought that stuck with me is that habits help us to become free. Freedom doesn’t mean we can do whatever we like, but it means living the way we were created to live.

I need to develop some good habits this year, and the best place to start is with the habits of my heart. So I committed—again—to investing quality time into spiritual practices: scripture, prayer, worship, gratitude, service, etc.

Last year, I joined a couple of my church folks and used the Navigators Bible reading plan. This year, I’ve settled on the Five Day plan from Lower Lights. It’s an interesting format, somewhat chronological.

“Let’s do this, Lord!” I said. And then it hit me suddenly. There really is a Resistance to doing what you know is right and necessary and helpful. That Resistance for me, comes from two distinct dangers.

One is the danger of Distraction. As I started to find the document with the Bible reading plan, I thought for a moment about a quote from the earlier podcast. “Wait,” I said. “I need to get that quote in my head because it will help me as I think about this new old habit. I opened the podcast page on my computer. While I was there, I noticed I only had four minutes left in this particular episode. So I hit the play button and listened to the end. I wrote some notes in my notebook, and started to close out the podcast app and get to my Bible reading.

But there on the podcast episode page were some recommendations for other podcasts I might like. I clicked on one, and as I began to read about the host, I navigated to her website and started looking through the content there. But that wasn’t all. I thought about the design of the website and how I liked the font choices and the layout. So I started trying to find the fonts. And as usually happens for a guy who loves typography,   I started down the rabbit hole of fonts. I didn’t find the exact matches but I did find some I liked and noted for future use.

That’s not the point. The point is I was distracted from what I had intended to do: start a fresh reading plan. Of course, the fonts were not bad things. But they were distractions that kept me from the main thing. In our world, distraction is all around, and it fights our best intentions and keeps us from the parts of life that make it abundant.

But the other danger I faced this morning is the danger of Familiarity. The reading plan starts on Day 1 with Genesis 1–2, Psalm 19, and Mark 1. Having read and studied the Bible as a “professional” for all these years, it’s hard to avoid the “yeah, yeah…I know that already” attitude. It’s as though I said to God, “Give me something new and stop boring me with the basics that I already know.” Wow! What an attitude!

They say familiarity breeds contempt, but more insidious than contempt is apathy. Apathy may not be the best word here, but it’s all I can come up with. Just because we’ve read the words hundreds of times doesn’t mean the words have done their work in our hearts. I know the creation account in Genesis. I know the heavens declare the glory of God and that His words, laws, and precepts are good, corrective, and restorative. I know I need His activity to keep me from sin and make my words and thoughts acceptable. I know Jesus started His ministry, was baptized by John, called his disciples, healed people, and all that. I know all that.

But knowing all that sometimes blocks the power of all that. I need to guard against the apathy of familiarity, and see the Lord’s work as real and active.

Thanks, Greg Morris, for the Reminder…

…that sometimes, the best thing we can do is do something for ourselves, because we like it, not because it’s making money or getting attention or approval, or any of that other stuff.

From his post

This isn’t another don’t do it for others, do it for yourself post – there are enough of them online. It’s a realisation that one of the backbones of the web, Google search ranking, and to a certain extent, social media, has ruined so much of it. There are a huge number of people still blogging and not giving a damn, but many more that don’t bother because of these feelings.

Perhaps we are edging our way back towards a better social web that encourages blogging more, or perhaps this is just wishful thinking. One thing I am certain of is that a lot of blogging has been ruined already, and it will take a concerted effort from us all to build it back up again.

Random Tuesday in October, 10.17.23…

As devoted readers of this space—all both of you—know, I’m a firm believer in serendipity, that happy circumstance of finding something valuable on the way to looking for something else. This morning’s installment is brought to you, in part, by serendipitous observance, AKA, the fine art of looking around. For instance…

Serendipity #1: I came across the word welter in one of the blogs I follow. That led me straight to the Little Red Web, where I discovered welter is “a state of wild disorder; turmoil; a chaotic mass or jumble.” Here’s the serendipitous part. A couple of entries down the page, my eye caught the word weltschmerz, a fancy German term denoting “a mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state; a mood of sentimental sadness.”

And there it was. Those two dictionary entries together summed up what has been the late theme of my life. Oh, there’s nothing particular that has me in that state, just a general feeling that this old man is in the October of the years. And that he (that would be me) is looking back upon a life mostly well-lived, but lacking in real significance or value.

Serendipity #2: This quote about G.K. Chesterton, from Joseph Pearce:

‘Not facts first,’ Chesterton insisted, ‘truth first.’

Serendipity #3: This suggestion from Rilke to the young poet, Mr. Kappus:

So you mustn’t be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloudshadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall.

Substitute “the Lord” for amorphous “life” in that passage, and the serendipity finds its way back home, and there is an assurance, a confidence, that this life, mostly, but not always, well-lived, isn’t a vain endeavor for something you can’t grasp. It is the life that you’ve been called to experience, to live. And there is more to come, more for which to be thankful, and more about which to be curious.

Look for the life around you, and you never know what you might find.


Random Friday Morning…

Watercolor painting of coffee cup with steam rising.

This morning, I don’t even know why I’m sitting here at the desk with this screen up on my computer. I don’t really have anything to say, or anything worth saying, and come to think of it, that’s been going on for a while now.

I started out this morning, as I usually do, reading through my RSS feeds on Reeder, but quickly found myself hitting the “Mark All Read” button without so much as skimming the individual posts.

I noted in my notebook that today’s adventures were brought to you in part by the words “melancholy” and “whimsy,” two words that seem as disparate as possible. And yet, for me today, they might be connected. Maybe a certain amount of whimsy just for its own sake would be the cure, however temporary, for the foreboding in my mind these days.

(And maybe, just maybe, all two of you dear readers might want to close our your browser, and forget this post ever happened. It’s not getting any better at present.)

In fact, this post may not really happen at all. It may just be the latest attempt to do the morning pages. I notice I’m currently at 198 words, on the way to 300, and then I might stop without hitting the “Publish” button. Some things might be better left in draft mode, you know?

On a positive note, it was good to catch up with The (Big) Boy for a few minutes yesterday. There’s something about tacos and chips and enchiladas that make things better for a moment. And for some reason, I love hearing The (Big) Boy talk (OK, gush!) about The (Little) Boy. I really want the picture of The (Little) Boy standing (yes…standing!) at the library window. That they’re taking The (Little) Boy to the library warms my heart, and reminds me that I need to get there myself, for a change of scenery and a change of outlook.

Happy Friday, Y’all…

Random dark and early Friday thoughts rattling around in my heart and head…
  • The only reason I’d even consider living some place that gets colder for longer would be so that I could enjoy a fireplace. But then again, the first year we lived here, we used our fireplace, and I seem to remember it was a mess and a chore to keep a supply of wood. So maybe, just maybe, “enjoying a fireplace” is not exactly a good reason.
  • I wonder if I could get paid to be a professional hermit, where I could sit around, drink coffee, read, write, and listen to music, with minimal interaction…I mean…interruption!
  • That said, there’s something about seeing people you haven’t seen in a while, especially when one of those people is a little reddish-blonde boy who is unstoppable!
Happy Friday to all!

Miscellaneous Monday…

My day started with an incredibly productive time…until our obligatory virtual meeting which always, always puts me in kind of a way the rest of the day. It’s not that anything bad actually transpires during the calls. It’s just that I’m in a fog or something the rest of the day. So here’s the miscellaneous part of this Monday…

Short prayers to add to your day.



Sunday Night Unwind, 10.02.22…

Welcome to the first Sunday Night Unwind in a looooooooooonnnnnnnng time! For both of you dear readers out there who may have forgotten, the Sunday Night Unwind used to be a regular feature in this space. It was usually tapped or scribbled out after our evening services at church (when those were a thing!) and usually included random lists o’ links.

This Sunday evening, I’m thinking of things that are neat about my perfectly imperfect, extraordinary ordinary life. In no particular order…

  • Turning 62. It’s not 39, but it’s not as bad as they’d have you to believe. Especially since a whole lot of folks don’t get to make it this far.
  • The lovely and gracious MrsCharphar.
  • The Boy and The Girl.
  • Grandsons.
  • And great-nephews.
  • My best and favorite big brother.
  • Homemade peanut butter.
  • Good coffee.
  • Darjeeling tea.
  • C.S. Lewis.
  • Pencils, pens, and good notebooks.
  • New friends from strangers.
  • Old friends who’ve stuck around.
  • Christmas music after Labor Day. Irish Christmas music, even!
  • October.
  • October baseball that matters.
  • Naps, planned and otherwise.
  • The uncanny ability God has to forgive even though I have the uncanny bent toward justifying my own sin and failure.
  • Clean cold water.
  • King of Pops orange cream.
  • Quiet afternoons.
  • Real books.
  • Birthday buddies, near and far, famous and not-so-much.

That’s only a smattering of October goodies for which I’m grateful on this first Sunday of my 62nd trip around the sun. Peace and to all a good night.

Friday Free for All…

Happy Friday, y’all! And happy October Eve. Some of you may be getting back on track after a hurricane, and some of you may be hunkering down, waiting for it to hit land again. Either way, if that’s you, prayers going up for you right now.

Let’s dive into the Friday Free for All, shall we? Here’s a couple of things I found on the way to somewhere else this week…

  • We learned from the erudite ornithologist, Barney Fife, that songbirds speak their own language and that their songs are really intricate communication tools. Did you know woodpeckers drum to their own song? The incessant hammering on the side of my house? It’s not just random banging away, looking for insects or whatever.
  • It’s no secret to the both of you that I’m right in the middle of a C.S. Lewis jag. So I’m noticing stuff about Jack all over the place. Hillsdale College is offering a free course about C.S. Lewis. It’s online and it’s free. You can’t beat free, right?
  • Did you ever want to do something, wish you could do something…but struggle to move into action? Leo Baubata gives us some tips on moving from desire to action.
  • Don’t worry, be happy? No, don’t worry…be thankful!
  • Finally, with National  Coffee Day yesterday, and International Coffee Day tomorrow, Lifehacker asks, “How Many Cups of Coffee You Should Drink Per Day, According to ‘Science’?” The real answer, of course, is four! Why four? Because four cups of coffee is an effective vaccine against Ebola and Covid-19. How do I know that? Because for as long as I can remember, I’ve averaged four cups of coffee per day, and there was no Ebola in sight back  in the day. The same has held true in the age of Covid, so far, at least. “Science” has the answer for every important question, right?

Happy weekend. Do something fun!