The Blessing

For everyone at The Colorado School of Mines, class starts today. Despite the fact that I’m not in school, I still like to celebrate this day, taking note of its significance. For me, it’s almost like New Years day, being the start of the school year and all.

I’ve been thinking recently a lot about the desires and challenges of life and where they lie. I have fond memories of playing in my backyard with my brother and my neighbors when I was little. During the summer, I would design tree forts and think, “If only I had the money to build this.” I had a desire to have the means necessary to fund my adventure.

Back then, I got something around a $5 allowance/week. And I could earn some extra money by doing some extra chores. But the $250 in materials needed was freaking huge. I dreamt of ways to come up with money so I could build the ultimate tree fort; I mowed lawns through middle and high school and eventually started fixing computers for friends and family who would also pay me. It never seemed like enough and always got spent in other places, mostly LEGOs. But I desired for the day that I would be a grownup and making lots of money; and then I could do anything!

Of course, there’s a certain innocence in being a child. While I wasn’t making any money, I also didn’t have to worry about other adult things, like figuring out living situations, paying for rent and utilities, working a little bit, and being generally responsible.

I had a desire to go to college, learn about engineering and get a job. Maybe I would build airplanes. I knew it would be a challenge, but I was prepared.

I went off to college and learned a lot. I had to deal with finding food on my own. Mom and Dad were no longer there to cook meals and I was 1000 miles from home. I had to do laundry, get up on my own, plan ahead, and keep my grades up; all without anyone else being there. I had several internships where I traded in some more responsibility for some more pay. But it wasn’t enough. I felt restricted in what I could do as an intern and in the limited confines of a classroom. My desire was to be done with school and to grow up; to go out into the world and make a difference. I wanted to make my mark on society and I was going to do this by challenging myself to be the best damn engineer the world has ever known1.

When I graduated, I took on an entirely new set of responsibilities. I had a job — a real, full-time job — and practically all the responsibilities of being grown up2. I had to deal with insurance in all its wonderful forms, making doctors appointments, scheduling vacation, getting enough sleep, budgeting, etc. I was working on integrating myself into society as a contributing member of what makes this world work. I had the desire to grow up more though, to contribute even more to society. My new challenge was to meet a woman, date her, marry her, and start a perfect nuclear family3.

Several months ago, probably starting during my trip to Haiti, I took pause.

At every point in life, I was measuring my level of happiness not by what I had, but by what I desired. It was never enough to have accomplished what I set out to do, because there was always another bigger desire behind it. And each desire became increasingly complex and time consuming. What was I really chasing?

I wanted to be grown up. I think I saw not being grown up as a limitation on what I could accomplish and a limit on what my opportunities were.

I came across this bit from C.S. Lewis4:

Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

This was one of those “A ha!” moments for me. Before, being an adult meant being grown up. But now, I can start to see the difference between the two. And so I think about what my desires for life really are; what are the things that I truly could not bare to be without?

So far, I’ve come up with three things:

  1. A loving relationship with my creator.
  2. A loving relationship with the people I care about.
  3. Never to be left unchallenged.

The last one, while it is last for a reason, is also important. As Scott Adams has pointed out, “Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.”

I love solving things. I love figuring things out. What makes me excited to wake up in the morning is knowing that I have still have so much to figure out. I know I can be a better Christian, a better boyfriend, a better friend, a better engineer, a better coworker, a better person. I know there are so many things left to explore, there are many questions left to ask, and there are many challenges left to solve. I know I won’t be able to accomplish everything, but I that’s not the point. Besides, if I were to accomplish it all, what would I do with myself?

And so I wake up saying, “Today, I will try to be better than I was yesterday.”

Perhaps this is the blessing5 and what makes me so excited: a God who loves me, friends that care about me, and things — such as dating Carly — that challenge me in all the good ways….and vice versa.

Here’s to another successful trip around the sun.


  1. or something like that 

  2. or so I thought 

  3. this is simplified version of a complex challenge, but I think the point still stands 

  4. emphasis mine 

  5. read Hustling God by M. Craig Barnes for background 

Quotes of 2009, Part 1

I’m usually able to amass my entire collection of yearly quotes on my Facebook page in one go; However, this year I have seem to run out of space, so I’m having to clear it out early. Thus, you can enjoy my yearly quotes a bit early1. Also try to notice a theme; it’s subtle, but I think there is one (although it’s not present in every quote).

“Women. Can’t live with them…..they will not go out with me.” – Vork/Herman Holden, The Guild S2E102

“Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.” – Scott Adams

“But let’s remember who made that rule: Goliath. And let’s remember why Goliath made that rule: when the world has to play on Goliath’s terms, Goliath wins.” – Malcom Gladwell, How David Beats Goliath (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/11/090511fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all)

“Attempt such great things for God that without His help, they are destined to fail.” – E.M. Bounds

“I work extremely hard doing what I love, mainly to ensure that I don’t have to work extremely hard doing what I hate.” – Hugh MacLeod, GapingVoid.com (http://twitter.com/gapingvoid/statuses/1521887425)

“Ideas are Almost Worthless. What you should be focusing on instead is Execution and Perseverance. A mediocre idea with fantastic execution and staying power is going to be an awesome success. A fantastic idea with a guy who cant hold a single thought in his head for five minutes and thinks of another great idea is not going to be anything.” – David Heinemeier Hansson

“Be true to your work, your word, and your friends.” –
Henry David Thoreau

“…honesty doesn’t have to look good.” – Becca Arrowsmith, http://beccarrow.blogspot.com/2009/02/back-from-break.html

“The core skill of innovators is error recovery, not failure avoidance.” – Randy Nelson, Dean of Pixar University

“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” – G. K. Chesterton

“I think my biggest problem is that I ask for competence in the people around me.” – Bill Wadman, http://www.ontakingpictures.com/2009/01/frustration.html

“Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends – hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism – these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.” – Barack Obama

“Don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.” – Edwin Land, Inventor of Instant Photography

“Talking to girls is lame. It makes my stomach hurt…because I can’t fart.” – Jacob


  1. Enjoy them early on my blog at least. They’re always available on my Facebook page. 

  2. Season 2, Episode 10 

My Life as a Beach Ball

Sometimes, I feel as though my life is like a beach ball. I’m walking along the beach, between the crashing waves and the rocks, carrying my beach ball. Most of the time, I hold on the beach ball because I’m afraid of loosing it in the water.

Every once in a while, though, I’ll toss up my beach ball. The reasons vary. Sometimes out of frustration, sometimes to see what happens, sometimes because I want to. Whatever the reason, I really think I need to let go of my beach ball more often and trust that God (the prevailing Wind) keeps it out of the water. For the times that I do trust God, I’m usually pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

And for the times I’m not, fail with grace.

Lost, Angry, Confused, Helpless, Hopeless

From www.caringbridge.org:

Thursday, October 30

Scans yesterday revealed that the cancer in Ben has aggressively progressed since the end of July. There are four new tumors – three on his brain and one on his liver.

We will be starting full brain radiation tomorrow at UW Hospital. They will do this for two weeks – in the hopes of reducing the swelling in Ben’s brain and slowing the cancer from metastasizing to his other organs. In two weeks they will scan him again and from there we will make some very difficult decisions.

We are lost and in complete despair. At this time we ask that you please respect our privacy. We will not be taking visitors. Thank you.

Jeff and Carin

Lost, angry, confused, helpless, hopeless. Just some of what I’m feeling. I really don’t know where to begin.

1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
2O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest.

-Psalm 22:1-2

For a long time, I’ve dreaded the though of seeing a post:

“Ben passed away last night…”

This isn’t that post. In some ways, though, I think it’s worse. I don’t think people are afraid of death, people are afraid of dying…the process of death. The process is what haunts us. If we just went to bed one night and the next morning we woke up in heaven, I think everyone would be pretty happy with that. So to see a post like this, that is what makes me sad. Ben is dying.

How can I keep putting off the what is surely the inevitable? I’m having to reject every ounce of logic in my being just to hold out hope for Ben.

What do I pray for now? A miraculous healing? A merciful and peaceful passing?

What do I do?

Post script: The world seems very small now. Politics. War. Homework. School. Halloween. They don’t seem relevant now. For God’s sake, a child is dying! How can anything else matter?

Discernment

I had a post a couple weeks ago regarding callings…the holy kind. I think Jeff Staples’ comment was the most helpful:

One of my favorite professors here says that discernment is about the intersection of three things. Discover what brings you joy. Discover what you’re good at. Discover what the world needs. The intersection of those three things at any given moment is your calling. If (as I think you might be) you’re choosing between two good options, listen to where your desires are strongest and deepest. I think God wants us to be most fully ourselves, so I think that for some people emotion may play a significant role in the decision-making process, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

At the end of the day, knowing what you’re called to do means knowing who you are. It’s not a one-time deal, based on an isolated decision that impacts the rest of your life. It’s about living in a way that is in touch with your real identity, and the more you understand about that the more all of your actions and decisions are just an extension of yourself.

Kind of a ramble, let me know what you think or if it was helpful (or not).

The paraphrase originated from Father Michael Himes, a professor of theology at Boston College (where Jeff goes to school if you didn’t make that connection). Jeff was able to give me some more information about Father Himes thoughts: Three Keys to Intersection and a book Doing the Truth in Love: Conversations About God, Relationships, and Service.

I read the web page and I requested the book be sent over from Regis (they were the only library which had the book which makes it rather fitting I think).

I really like the concept of Three Keys to Intersection. I’ve know what I wanted to do for a long time now. It what brings me joy, which Himes differentiates from happiness because “[joy]comes from within and has to do with a deep and abiding sense of the rightness, the goodness, the fruitfulness of what you do with your life” whereas happiness “often depends on external things, your physical well being, the weather, whether you had a good night’s sleep or a good meal.” I think the joy/happiness differentiation also helps explain my love/hate paradox of Mines. In any event, the current thing that brings me joy is working on space exploration and that’s what I am doing and that’s what I’m going to continue to do for now.

I suppose it helps that I’m good at what I do, at least in theory. Himes also notes that knowing what I’m good at may not be a cut-and-dried answer and that there are people in my life who might be able to use to act as a mirror.

The final key to the puzzle is need. Not what I need, but what others need. To me, this seems like a “no duh” point, but I see people making this same mistake all the time and I pretty sure I’m not immune to it either. You could probably fill entire encyclopedias with stories of young and hot programmers who couldn’t just wait to code something, only to find out that it was something that nobody wanted.

That brings me to the Venn diagram I made up and included above. It has all three aspects: Joy, Ability, and Need. The intersection of those three circles is my target — my calling.

There’s a fourth point worth noting as well. What brings me joy, the abilities I have, and what the world need are all constantly changing. “We are constantly searching, not just for answers to our questions, but for new questions. We are explorers. We explore our lives, day by day.” 1

There’s a reflection part of the Three Keys to Intersection. One of the questions asks:

Perhaps you now find yourself entertaining several life choices. That would not be surprising at all. Vocational discernment is an evolving process, a journey. Your goals may change several times as you try out some choices and learn more about the match between your passions and the world’s needs. But do you feel that you are growing in possession of the kind of knowledge that will enable you eventually to narrow down these choices in the future or to figure out how to combine them?

1 See https://andrewferguson.net/2008/01/22/constantly-searching/

A Calling?

I never really got what people meant when they said “I was called by God.” I figured that if/when I was ever called, it would be abundantly clear.

I don’t think that’s the case.

However, I’m confused as to how one discerns between a Godly calling and a desire? I worry that in cases of extreme desire, I could be blinded by emotion.

Does it even matter?

Mad at God

I’m mad at God right now. Last night, Duane told us all that Jeff and Carin were at Children’s Hospital and that it appears that Ben Towne probably has cancer.

I feel a sickness in the pit of my stomach and the very first thing I thought of was Jesse. Not again. Why are you doing this again?