Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cast the first stone

I've always believed one can not be defined as a whole based on their past. It is the path we choose forward which continually redefines us. We are accountable for the past yes and we should learn from it so we might better choose our path forward but regardless of circumstance we must stay true to the best vision of ourselves.

One thing that life's experience has forced me to think about is how one forms a picture or ideal of one's self; that bit of consciousness that peers out at the world through the eyes and without truly seeing oneself forms a mental picture of the 'self'. From our inner beings, the thoughts we think about to the outer being which is that bit of thought that when we close our eyes and imagine ourselves is the image our mind sees. For instance, when considering myself I see a rather heavy but overtly muscular man with a strong set jaw, piercing blue eyes and dirty brown hair which is just slightly graying. Contrast this to what I see in the mirror when I stand before one in the morning and it has very little resemblance to what my mind has made me out to be. Consider then the imaginary internal man I've constructed for myself. This man is honorable, loving, patient, kind, thoughtful, wise and strong and the reality is probably very far from that. I know that I am sometimes not honorable, can be cold and insensitive, selfish, self-centered, childish and cruel. How then does a man reckon one with the other? I'm not quite sure but I think your on the right track. I believe that track begins with self analysis and not accepting the lies we tell ourselves. I lie to myself all the time and haven't quite come to that point where I am able to call myself a liar. I am working on it though.

I consider what love is and I start there. It seems to be the antithesis of where I started from so I struggle everyday to move to a place where I am kind and selfless. In all honesty I fail miserably a lot of the time. But I am trying.

I begin with the 'self' because if one considers that which makes up our society as individual human beings comprising the whole it is easier to see how we look out upon or fellows within this society and pass much harsher judgments upon those who we feel have wronged the whole than we would impose upon ourselves. It is very easy for each of us to look upon the sin of another and pass the harshest of judgments and condemn the perpetrator as something less than ourselves; baser than we could ever be. What we fail to look at or consider is the person. We see a felon, or a criminal and subconsciously we categorize them with out feeling and whilst not spoken aloud we caste the moniker of 'evil' upon them. Yet we fail to see our own sin. We fail to realize that in each of us there is evil and it has nothing to do with Satan. Most people will not look upon their own 'true' face yet cry out against others whose sins are brought into the light.

Today, being older, I consider men and myself differently. I look upon my fellows in this maelstrom which is life and I see the child they were and the at the center of it all I see myself as I was and wonder how I can make the man that I am into the man I think I am which is to say the man I should be. To those that throw stones ignoring the planks in their own eyes who chide me for holding onto my stone I say "I am not without sin and I will not throw the righteous judgment I deserve upon another." Perhaps above all else I have learned that regardless of whether or not a man is religious these words hold true: "Let he who is with out sin cast the first stone."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Freedom of Religion

At the risk of being ostracized by my conservative brethren I must say that I agree with the president’s remarks regarding a mosque being built in New York at “ground zero”. Now before you come running for me torches and pitchforks in hand please hear me out. I am Christian, an American and a conservative. For years I’ve lamented the restrictions placed upon the free expression of religion by the government. The constitution is very clear about this. In the first amendment of the US constitution it states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” How can we expect or demand religious freedom for ourselves and yet cry out at our government asking them to step in and prevent the mosque from being built when they clearly are not empowered to act. This mosque is not being built on government land but on private property. Whilst it may be in bad taste or bad form to open such an establishment it is clearly within their rights to do so. Okay, let the burning commence.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Brave New World

It is my hope that for those of you who know me, or who have at least read my posts in the past, will attest that I am a proponent of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is very clear to me, and, I would wager, anyone else who’s read the US Constitution, that the authors of that historic document had truly believed in and sought after those very ideals. These ideas are simple and yet again…not simple. Well over 100 years prior to the Revolutionary war colonists who had many different motivations left their homes, families, and communities and set out for a strange and unknown land. Their lives were most often filled with desperation, starvation, deprivation of all sort, sickness, misery and eventual death. So, what would prompt these people to give up relative comfort for a life fraught with hardship, loss, grief, pain and death? I believe it was hope. Hope drove them to consider a life that would one day eventually be better than the one they had. A life where they were truly their own masters and had the freedom and liberty to choose their own road. This road as I’ve mentioned earlier was most often hard and it is difficult for those alive today to understand why one would choose that life.

I believe whilst most American’s claim to still believe in and hold these truths to be self-evident, they neither really understand them nor want them anymore. Life. Sure we each want to continue living and it is almost silly to consider this as a basic human right, however, in 1973 judicial activists decided that all life is really not equal. History provides many examples of what happens when societies lose sight of the value of individual life and the result has always been tragic. This, in my opinion, is happening today because we each are so consumed with the day to day minutia which makes up our own lives that we cannot be bothered to stand up for something so esoteric as “life”. Why should we care what happens? As long as it doesn’t affect me I don’t care. This has been the American attitude for many years. We flatter and lie to ourselves saying we really do care about others but God forbid that caring would take time away from dancing with the stars.

This leads nicely into the next self-evident truth: Liberty. Again, the average American man or woman has little to no idea of what liberty truly means. Nor, I would say do they care.

Over the last forty years our liberty has become less and less important. We can no longer pray in school, around the school, on sidewalks, in public buildings, or anywhere someone might complain. Notice, I didn’t mention Christianity at all but I be that’s where your mind took you when you read the word prayer. We’ve given up our property rights, personal rights, allowed our government into our homes, hearts, businesses and schools. We’ve given up our liberty in the form of free speech. It is considered a “hate” crime to speak negatively toward another person. We have been limited to where we can smoke, what we can eat, when and where we can travel, what we can say and who we can say it to. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why the American people seemed so blasé about giving up their personal liberty when it is so blatantly clear that this is one of the primary reasons this nation was founded. Finally, it dawned on me that American’s have chosen to give up their liberty because like children we don’t want the responsibility that goes along with it. Our government that was once “by the people” and “for the people” has taken the place of our parents. We have relinquished our responsibility to the government because life is “hard” and American’s predominantly believe they are entitled to an easy life simply because they are Americans. We don’t want to choose anymore; we want to be told. It’s too hard to discipline ourselves, eat in moderation, and exercise. We’d rather be told what we can and cannot eat, and if you don’t think that’s where our new health care legislation is going your fooling yourself.

Look at smoking as an example of where our benevolent and ever watchful government will take us. At one time people were free to smoke where they wanted: in their cars, homes, yards, restaurants, places of business and so on. Today, our society has come so far that smokers are now an anathema often shunned and hidden by businesses behind buildings, legally banned from restaurants and bars and any public place. These restrictions were put into place to “protect” the society at large from the ravages of second hand smoke. Understand that I am not a smoker. I never have nor do I wish my kids to be exposed to second hand smoke when we go to places like restaurants, movie theaters or any other public place. This is my own personal choice however and I will not begrudge smokers their right to personal liberty. There was a time when smokers had their place and non-smokers theirs. If you didn’t want to inhale second-hand smoke you didn't go to places where people smoked. It was that simple. Our liberty should be exercised by our free choice not be limited or infringed upon by legal mandate.

Recently, many companies are refusing to hire smokers at all and are motivated by insurance companies who offer better membership rates for non-smokers. Very soon businesses will be compelled, either financially or by law, to not only discriminate against smokers but also obese people. The idea is often times couched as “value based health care”. The idea at its core is sound. Each person is ultimately responsible for their own choices. This is the crux of that two edged blade that is Liberty. One the one side an individual is entitled to live his or her life as he or she sees fit. The other side is one of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. This means that when one chooses to smoke cigarettes he or she is personally responsible for the health problems that may result from that choice. Is it our job as a community or is it the job of the government to save that individual from themselves? No. It is not. The same analogy can be made for a person who drinks too much or eats too much. No one makes a person go into a fast food restaurant and eat too much. No one forces a person to drink alcohol. It is a personal choice and one that has consequences. For many years American’s have demanded the choice but not accepted the responsibility that was associated with it. So, now in the guise of health care reform the government has accepted that responsibility and will, like any parent, soon begin to limit liberty in an attempt to control the cost associated with this responsibility.

Finally we come to the pursuit of happiness. Of all these inalienable rights this should be the easiest for people to embrace. This fits hand in hand with personal liberty and life. The pursuit of happiness is allowing each of us the personal freedom to choose our own paths in life. Whatever your definition of happiness is you should not be limited or hindered in your quest. Each of us is accountable for our own actions and should be afforded the freedom to choose. I think if we are honest we could each confess that at one time or another in our lives we’ve each made choices that were unwise and tasted of that bitter fruit as a reward. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness means that we, and not the government, are responsible for our own actions and are entitled to reap the harvest of those decisions whether good or ill.

Regardless of whether you are left or right, liberal or conservative, republican or democrat I believe it is our duty as Americans to embrace these inalienable truths and allow your fellow American’s to do likewise.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Time, Family, Love and Life

Sitting here I find myself pondering about life, family, and love. It seems only yesterday when the boys were new to the world. All those years ago we lived in a different house in a different town. Was it really so long ago when we moved to Western Washington? Was it so really long ago when I held the hands of my children in my own and marveled at how very small and incredibly perfect they were? How could it be only last week that I watched my eldest son as he left the house and walked to the truck in his football gear and thought "Dear God! He is so tall and is too quickly entering into his teen age years."

Moments like that make me acutely aware of the limited and fleeting time parents are gifted with before their children naturally grow away. A day will come all to soon when each boy in his turn will become self sufficient and spend more time with all the other actors in their world than with their mother and I. That day, I pray, won't come for a very long time. Until that time though, I look eagerly to the times each day when I wake them up with a hug and kiss or to those priceless moments when I get home from work and they run to the door to hug me. When your children hug you cling tightly as long as you can and know that for that very brief moment at least all is right and good in your world.

I look forward to reading to them before they go to bed and to the times when we simply play together. Never miss an opportunity to play with your children because one day you will look into their eyes and realize that where once a heart of childhood innocence dwelt will be the pragmatic mind of an adult. This is a place where the magic and wonder of the child's world transforms into feeble illusion; a place where Pan has grown into that corporate lawyer and there really are no such things as fairies.

Dad's - do not seize the day; seize each moment! Drink in each and every moment as if it were a precious gift and never choose to spend time on lesser things. Love your children, love your wife, allow them to love you in return. Show them you love them often and loudly.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Youth Football

Athletics for kids is a great way to improve their overall health, stamina, focus and discipline. In early 2005 I was preparing to move to the middle east for a one year project when I was working for Northrop Grumman. A few days before I left my family and I were shopping at COSTCO for a laptop bag. That’s where we met the president of the Mukilteo/Meadowdale Wolverines Youth Sports Association. Since then both my 8 and 10 year old have been participating in MMWYS youth football. There are several parents of kids who play for MMWYS who work here at Premera and I think we can all agree that youth sports in general and youth football in particular is a great way for kids to keep fit, learn and grow.

Last year I was blessed by being able to coach these kids as an assistant Pee Wee football coach. We had a blast! The focus of youth football is promote good sportsmanship, team participation and discipline through group organized activity. The head coaches are a great group of dedicated men who really have a heart for the kids and do a great job motivating the kids. For my part it was extraordinary to watch the kids’ determination, spirit, drive and enthusiasm.

Signups for youth football are going on now so regardless of your team preference I highly recommend the sport for kids. If you’re not sure whether your child would want to participate and you just want to check it out there will be a summer week long football camp being held June 22 – 26th. If you’d like more information you can check out their web site at:

Monday, April 13, 2009

My oldest son's first fight

After driving home from work last Wednesday I arrived as I normally do; I kissed my wife and hugged my boys and asked how their day's were. It's kind of a ritual at our house. My oldest son (10 years old) was painting a bird house on the kitchen table and was barely aware of my presence until my wife declared "your oldest son got in his first fight at school today." There was no anger or malice in her words. Strangely, she was looking at our ten year old with a kind of subtle pride and admiration.

It was all I could do not to blurt out "well did you win?" and trying to keep a straight face asked what happened. You have to understand that while Teddy is the average height and weight of a 12 year old and very aggressive on the basketball court of the football field he is a very kind and gentle boy to his family and friends. Much like my father in law, Teddy would give a stranger the shirt off his back and not think twice about it. So, to consider him actually fighting someone is a stretch by any means.

While capable of deep compassion children can also be very cruel. As will happen amongst the "lords of the flies" there was a child in Teddy's fourth grade class who was targeted by another boy who then cajoled a group to torment this one unlucky child. During recess my son approached the leader of this band and told him what he was doing was wrong and that he should stop. This boy threatened my son and told him to mind his own business. When Teddy wouldn't the boy swung away. Teddy knocked the kid down and there was a brief fight. The fight was quickly stopped by a teacher and the children returned to their classes. Now here's the odd part and the part that gives me hope for our school system.

After hearing the story I asked Teddy whether he got into trouble and went to the office. Nope. He sure didn't. Hmmm… That's a bit odd don't you think? So, my wife and I waited to hear from the teacher or principle and nothing. So, my wife spoke to the teacher about the incident. What do you think the teacher did? She did the right thing. She gathered her students together and told them she was very upset and angry with them that they should stand by and allow a student to be bullied and ridiculed. She asked why there was only ONE boy in her class who had the courage to stand up for what was right? Anyone else getting chocked up besides me?!?!?

Teddy saw what was happening and took a stand against injustice. Am I being a bit melodramatic about this? I don't think so. This ten year old boy decided to do what was right rather than do what was easy even if it meant he might get into trouble. There is a lesson here we can all learn from. In our daily lives how often do we see the smallest injustices and turn away or worse. This is the attitude that drove the civil rights movement. It's the attitude that stopped Hitler in WWII. Ordinary people choosing to do the right thing instead of the easy thing.

I am very proud of my boys. They are a constant blessing to me and at times like these they become a mirror of sorts that forces me to ask myself with the heart of a child "Am I doing what's right?"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Running again at 42

Twenty years ago I ran five miles a day four or five days a week. I didn't do this because I loved running. I hated it actually. I did, however, love the feeling I got after I ran. I also realized that, given that at the time I ate like a bird (which is to say I ate roughly my body weight in food each day) I had to do something to burn off what I was eating. Life was good. I was trim and could play racquetball for hours. We'd play six games at a time which would take us the better part of three hours. We thought nothing of it.

Now I find myself twenty years older and much slower. Oh, and might I add just a wee bit bigger. Okay, a lot bigger. Ruddy huge actually. Over the last five years especially my body has rebelled and the couch has become my closest and dearest friend. Last year I divorced my couch ending a long and dysfunctional relationship that left me sluggish, weak and tired. Leaving the couch was not easy and to make matters worse it still resides in my living room. We still see each other every now and again and my wife and children remain cordial but we still sense the couches sadness. I can't say as I don't feel for it but life moves on and my family realizes that to maintain a relationship with the couch just isn't healthy. I feel for the couch. I do but we must move on to a healthier life style. It's not as if I am kicking it to the curb. We've really just grown apart.

What makes things worse is I am sure my couch has noticed the time I've been spending with my treadmill. I try to be discreet and run only in the early morning when the house is relatively quiet. I turn the news on in an effort to placate the couch and let it live on in a delusion that nothing's changed. I imagine it sits there watching the morning news trying not to hear the treadmill in the other room. I am feeling that euphoria I had twenty years ago and it feels great. Every day I run farther and faster and look forward to the day when I am up to five miles again. It's never too late to do the right thing. Perhaps this is my mid-life crisis.