Sunday, November 16, 2008

flat ponderings

I bought a craftsman kit a couple weekends ago. The Mullet River 36 foot flatcar is a combination of brass details and wood parts to be glued, soldered, and painted. The painting so far took some work but I am right proud of it. My attempts at gluing are quite fair and I am happy with them. my solder joints look awful. The good news is you can cry cry again over solder joints. Up to a point. Once a soldered assembly is glued to the car it is best not to try to fix it.

I am learning some things while building this car. If I build anymore cars I am going to make a fixture for truss rod shape. I did make one to line the turnbuckle up with the truss rods going left and right, but then hand bent the truss rods after installing them... I can tell.

The good news is there are only a couple more items to solder, the brake wheel to its stand, and the chain to the bar going to the brake lines. I could glue those if I wanted. There is only a couple more hours of work to do on this car.

It is sad to be making a car that cost $132 in parts, knowing I cant sell it for that much due to craftsmanship. But I am learning from my mistakes, and while I could give up, I don't want to. The lessons learned while building this is worth the price.

I want to have a car that I am proud to take to work on the 21st. While I won't be absolutly proud to the point of perfection I will be proud that it is my first finished craftsman project... that is if I keep going.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Lowered three Bachmann On30 flat cars by cutting the boss off the top of the truck per the Pacific Coast Airline Railroad method. Lost a power connector spring while looking at how to lower the Bachmann Shay. Will be lowering the shay the same way as the cars by shortening the boss on the trucks and also removing the ashpan under the boiler.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


I believe Jesus is the son of God, He died on the cross for my sins, rose again and is in Heaven preparing a place for me and everyone else who also believes in Him.

What will heaven be like? What will I do there. Here I am an engineer, I design things and help them get built. I am not a bridge engineer but for the sake of argument lets say I am. Will I be a bridge engineer in heaven? I could build bridge after bridge after bridge... even if each was the size of a grain of sand there would be more bridges than there is sand grains at the Chennai Beach.

This makes me think that what I do in Heaven will not be physical building, it will be something else. It says in the Bible that a place is being prepared for us, will it be a place without time? Will I be an object in a picture, frozen in place never to move again?

The reports of death experiences seam to point another direction, meeting relatives and friends past. Those are relationships, the good relationships you had with people during life, people who also chose to believe in Jesus. I think that is all that will be left in eternity, relationships. One giant happy cruise ship of people talking and never getting sad or angry. What will we talk about? A lot will be about the good things we did while living.

I sure don't want to be stuck with nothing to talk about for eternity.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Am I one of Paul's Brothers?

I am trying to think who I identify with in the bible. Is it Paul a great letter writer and founder of the christian faith? Or is it more with David a man having ups and down following God, still having His heart. Certainly I am not like Job having everything taken away and to God's glory have it replaced.

No when I read the Bible I identify most with just being another Israelite. Now I am not of Jewish lineage but I am of a christian lineage, with parents, grandparents, great grandparents all good church going people. We all lived in an area of the world that has many people like us, a culture of good church going people. We are weekly told of David, Moses, Paul, Jesus, Peter, Ruth, Elijah. Weekly we are told about the ten commandments, the Lords prayer, the beatitudes, and parables of farming. Through it all it is easy to be zealous for this God that loves us, keeping all the rules and adding more just to help us be pure.

But what good is it that we don't smoke, drink, or shop on Sunday, don't use swear words, mow our lawns on Tuesdays, or wash our cars on Wednesdays? But all this is easy to just be like the people described in Romans 9 and 10, good but not God's. It is easy to miss the point of faith and grace, of Jesus and God. Until today I always thought that Mark 10:17-29 was about having lots of money and being blinded. But maybe it is more general, maybe I am rich with too much good and that is why it is so hard for me to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Oh how hard it is to not eat ice cream on Sunday. Sunday is a day of relaxing, ice cream is a food of relaxing, why oh why must the rule be they do not go together? Maybe that is the point of these rules, to show how hard it is to do on our own to call our attention to God such that we cry out to Him asking Him to fill in that gap, to make us good as we lack the ability to do it ourselves.

The scary part is unlike the Israelites God did not make a promise to my forefather that all of my race will be saved. Israelites whether good or bad are God's, my brothers and I are not. But we have hope and confidence, and all those rules have a new meaning, continually reminding us of God's purity, helping us to not let our weak brothers stumble. But the truth is this whole thing is more basic, Christ, God, eternal life, and bringing heaven to earth is blinded to me by my wealth. Not only my wealth of money but also my wealth of good is keeping me from graping God the way He wants me to.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

mosquitoes are back

The hot season was nice for one reason. The mosquitoes were gone. Sadly with the cooler weather I have also returned to my former profession here in India.

Nightly I go mosquito hunting. Tools of the trade are an electric racket and a hand towel. From prior experience the towel is needed to smush those little buggers. The racket is set to stun and if I just let them fall to the ground the kill rate is only 50%. (An experiment with a glass jar proved my theory earlier this year.)

The route is easy, starting in Anna's room tap curtain, a couple fly off, swing, zap, smush. Tap a little harder and a couple more come off, swing, zap, swing, zap, smush, smush. Shake the curtain violently, swing swing swing, zap, smush. Go to next curtain and repeat. Do a couple swipes under the bed (the most I got under there was 5 in one pass) and under the chairs. Then to the next room to repeat the process. I have to cover the whole house two to three times to get them all.

Except that one super mosquito able to drill down through the sheet and my pajamas to suck my blood and give me a welt in the morning big enough and itchy enough to give me pause to wonder if ghost mosquitoes exist and if they would all bite in exactly the same spot...

Thank you Mom for bringing more hydrocortizone.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A picture

I have been thinking about how the Lord sees us. While I wish I could pin down a single verse in the Bible that this is based on; these thoughts are based on reading all of Paul's letters, and the book "90 Minutes In Heaven." Like most illustrations it is not complete but presents part of the picture.
I have been thinking about how the Lord sees us. And I think the Mogul Indians from 300 to 700 years ago have provided us a great illustration. They have carved screens from rock. Many small holes to make a lace of rock that it is possible to get an good idea what is behind, but not a completely clear picture.
The way I am understanding how the Lord sees us is that he can only see our good, our sin is blocking His full view of us.
Much the same way if He was on one side of this rock screen, our sin, and we were on the other. The thing is we can't open up these holes on our own. We ask Jesus, our rock carver, to carve for us, the best we can do is a little polishing. We must ask Jesus to carve here and carve there.
Then why the heck am I trying to make a pretty screen between me and God, polishing and intricately carving my rock of sin into a beautiful masterpiece? Why am I picking up that stone dust that has fallen and making mud to fill holes already made? Why can't I ask Jesus to smash the rock, break it open to expose in full view myself to God and God to myself?
The way I am understanding it only the good things that God sees will be in heaven. The first hole that is made is Jesus, faith that He died on the cross, and rose in victory. When the time comes the only part of you that will be taken to heaven is what the Lord can see. Why should I waste my time on stuff that is not eternal?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Forty Days

Forty days… Not that many, just over a month. Many times the Bible mentions 40 days. found 23 places. Stories about destroying, waiting, mourning, suffering, testing, scouting, communing, warning, proving, and rejoicing.

Genesis 7, Genesis 50:3, Exodus 24:18, Exodus 34:28, Numbers 13:25, Numbers 14:34, Deuteronomy 9, Deuteronomy 9:25, Deuteronomy 10:10, 1 Samuel 17:16, 1 Kings 19:8, Jonah 3:4, Ezekiel 4:6, Matthew 4:2, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:2, Acts 1:3

In forty days, July 15th, at one in the morning Nancy, Anna, and I will be boarding a plane in a 24 hour journey through Brussels and New Jersey end at Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. We will be sad, we will be happy, we will be tired, we will be... ‘home.’

We are also anxious, for as it stands now we have little knowledge of what comes then. We are so worried, it is so hard to tell if we are being faithful or foolish. Our support will end, again we will need to work to provide for ourselves, we will need to start a new life. And it is a new life. With the prayer and fasting that I have been doing this past year I have the idea that life is like an oak tree. My past is like an acorn, a sapling, but now I am a tree. Our future will not look like our past, a mature oak tree comes from an acorn, but it is no longer an acorn.

In 40 days things will change.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Debt Visualization

I was listening to Moneylife the half hour radio show by Crown Financial Ministries. On the April 23rd they talked about how to make a paper chain with each link representing a payment left on the debt. Mortgage, credit card, car, etc. place this in your bathroom or dining room, after each payment you can remove a link. If you are paying ahead remove more links.

Wow what a great thing to do.

From 2000 until 2006 I had an excel file that visualized the same thing, each debt in two columns, principle in one and monthly payment next to it. Each row was a month. Nancy thought it was horrible mess but it helped show how many years it would take us to pay off everything, and how much of what we paid was interest and how much was principle.

Our student loans should have taken us until 2012, cars until 2006, house 2034. The good news is we paid off the cars early, and when we sold the house we paid off the student loans. WE ARE DEBT FREE!!!!

Now this next step in my life I am trying to figure out if I can stay debt free. We still have a credit card, I used it this week to pay a $4000 travel bill. Good news the money is in the bank to cover that when the grace period is up at the end of the month. I would love to by this Christmas close that account. The challenge? am I willing to wait the many years it will take to save up to buy a house? Is Nancy willing to let me?

We have signed up to the fact that we will rent at least the first year after we return to the USA, and probably for a full year after we are settled. We pray that God will provide us the right job, church, friends, housing, school, dreams, in these months to come so that HIS WILL is done on earth, in our lives, and in our hearts.

I worry how different that will be from average, I worry how different that will be from easy, I am considering the cost and still I pray Thy Will Be Done.

Prayer Request

It is a sad day for Ryan, as well as for everyone enjoying our pictures from India. While riding the bus this afternoon someone stole the camera from Ryan's hip pouch. We have filed the police report and also talked with the bus officials but the probability of locating a 7mega pixel camera in India is incredibly low. It will only be by Jesus's providence will it be returned, or even replaced. The cost was more than half our income for this month! Ryan had sold some of his trains so he could afford the camera before we left the USA and there were very few days he did not take at least one picture.

Please pray that Ryan gets over being sad, and if it is God's will the camera is found and returned.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thinking Outside the Box

I think differently than most other people. I am not sure if that is because I am a swan waddling around with the ducks, or if I am a duck with some drain bamage. I have known that I think differently for a long time... one thing I have learned from it is to keep my mouth shut... an idea not perfected yet, I just rewrote my last post after being told that while I had some good thoughts my approach was off.

I wrote a little cartoon a couple weeks ago... I am shown as a stick figure who thinks outside of the box. I then show a bunch of heads in the box of people who don't think out of the box. After a little conversation I turn the box into a wagon and pull them off the stage.
Man that is insulting. In a mean way I am saying that people that think like everyone else are stuck being a follower of those that don't think like them. No one likes to be thought of as mundane. And as someone who thinks differently I need to be certain that if I am going to lead I am right not wrong, lets pull a whole load of lemmings over the cliff why don't we?
As a Christ follower I am struggling right now with why I think differently. Honestly I don't think I should think and act like everyone else, but have thoughts in line with Christ. I do my best to filter what I think through what I know from the Bible, and I always try to learn more from the Bible to filter my new thoughts.

Lastly I think that there are others out there that think about the things I do and in the way I do. Other swans whos box I can hop into to be pulled by a goose. I am praying to find the swans or the geese or the loons to be iron to sharpen my iron.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Manner Become Accustom To

I first wrote this post on April 11th with a lot more guessing into what Ben Arment should do, Scott in the comments section, and Ben in an email called me to the table on it, I did not in the beginning want to tell Ben what to do, I was trying to place myself in his shoes and figure out what I would do. I rewrote the post on April 21st to remove telling Ben what he should do.

Ben Arment's post below is a catalyst for getting into words something I am trying to figure out for myself. What kind of lifestyle I should live? For the past 10 years (and before that living with my parents) I have had enough income to get everything I reasonable wanted myself. It was easy to spend less than I made, in fact our savings helped us have the funds to live a year an a half before our support began for this year in India. But now I am failing to support my family on $600 a month, I keep spending more, sometimes up to $1000 or $1500, and our savings is almost all used up, I am starting to feel like a rat on a sinking ship.But I think this situation is temporary, I have it in my head that I will again make more money than I need again some day, but how I spend it will be different this time. I am thinking of the concepts behind either the Crown Money Map, or Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps. I am thinking how Paul lived in the Bible. I am thinking of so many free trusting fly by the seat of the pants pauper missionaries I have met.

I am struggling with this idea of lifestyle, my mind is stuck, I see the issue, but I do not fully grasp the answer in a way I am comfortable. In full truth I want a rich lifestyle, I am blessed with the income potential and cursed with the demand for quality. Even so I would not be happy in either place in either town Ben has shown. As near as I can figure out is they both show a stale consumerism lifestyle. But even that does not fully grasp the ideas in my head.

What is floating around? What would I do?
1. Set up a comfortable yet cheap lifestyle way below my income and keep it constant.
2. Give at least 15% and maybe more each year.. maybe 10% +1%*years of marriage?
3. Build up a huge savings, to the point that I could honestly live off from it. Hey by using the equity in our last house Nancy and I had 1.5 yrs of money that allowed us to go to India so I know it is possible. Just next time I want to keep the house.
4. I need to have a reason for a job... this contradicts the above... my nature is if I can sit back and be lazy I will.
5. The environment is pretty important, people are important, the Lord is important.
6. live in a house that is different, that shows a better sense of the concepts of community and solitude in economically viable manner.
Having had a week to think about it more I am dissatisfied with the world, I long to be in perfect heaven. And while I am stuck here I want to do my best to bring heaven to earth, by my example and by my teaching. That means living in a way that pushes average towards the Lord.
I look forward to seeing what Ben and his family does, I am confident he will make the right choice for him, which in turn will be an example for me.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

How to get a photo for CCS from an Autorikshaw

The things I will do to get the shot of a CCS (Crummy Church Sign) for Joel to ridicule. I realized why risk a one shot miss of the illusive Ashram of Sri La Sri of Pighill sign when I could take a video... then a screen shot.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

10 questions for Christians

In what area of life have I lost my passion? (What can I do to get it back?)
If the enemy were going to “take me out,” what are my three most vulnerable points?
What new burden has God given me in the last year?
What have I unlearned that has made me closer to God?
What new discipline is God calling me to do?
What has God asked me to do that I haven’t yet done?
Is there something that I think about more than I think about pleasing God? (Money, possessions, ministry, family, recreation, something else.)
Do I have an increasing joy in serving Christ?
Am I handling the pain of ministry with integrity?
Am I still being persecuted for my faith in Christ?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Money Management

For a long time, almost 10 years I have been tracking my spending, my debt reduction and even how much I have in my model trains. That is right tracking... watching... observing... trending...

Budgeting is something different it is planning... managing... doing...

I was never firm in my tracking... I would know that I would spend about 100 dollars in food and if it was 110 that was OK because I was saving lots too I would take it out of there.

As I said in my last post I learned something new from listening to the Dave Ramsey Podcasts. I learned the easy way to change what we do from spending trending to budgeting. And it is a good time to learn it!

Here in India our support came in as 18k up front, plus we get an additional $660* each month. For the last 8 months we have spent on average 1,000 a month, plus some extras like our paper newsletters and our visa renewal trip. Well now our spending has caught up to us... our savings account is close to zero at the end of the month... we now need to spend only 660 or what ever comes in or we will be spending invisible money.

With credit to Dave here is what we are going to do.

1) Write down everything we want to spend and how much it will cost.

2) take that list and say What is the first thing I will do with my money. Put a 1 next to that.

3) Then a 2 next to #2

4) keep going down the list until we got them all prioritised.

5) Add a new column and total everything above it... ie 1=$1; 2=$2+$1; 3=$1+$2+$3...

6) Take the income for the month (what we were given last month to support us this month) and see that total. If that will allow us to do 1-93 on the list but not #94 to 1000 we don't do any of those.

7) If something comes up that did not make the list that must be paid then you put it on and cut out 90-93 to keep the total = income. If new item is below #94 in priority you don't do it.

It will take some work and a little more discipline but we have 3 more months here and prob a couple more in the states before we get our $avings rebuilt... plus we will keep doing it in general life from now on out.

*The truth is we need about 900 to 1500 to live and do our full list of conservative activities. As it stands Important things are being cut out of our spending to be at $660, our landlord is not charging us for electricity or Internet, our neighbor is cooking meals for us, we are not buying meat to put into the meals we make. We have not sent out a paper newsletter (the plan was to send it in time for Easter.) If you are reading this I ask you to pray about our financial support, and for some of you that also means the Lord will lead you to giving. -thank you in advance.

Money Management

Crown Financial vs Dave Ramsey

Both are Christ centered trying to get people to use money better. Why should someone choose one or the other?

Sick and tired of being in debt, not being financially free, not having enough money? Both

Have too much money and don't know how to use it? Both

Are you very conservative? Crown.

Do you need a cheerleader with lots of energy? Ramsey.

Do you make each choice through verses in the Bible? Crown

Do you try to not take the Bible so literally but as a general guide? Ramsey

Since i graduated college I have listened to crown's half hour radio show. Applied the theories in my life, saving much, spending less than I earn paying off my debts. All in a conservative way. Great stuff, it has allowed us to fix up a house and sell it at a loss and feel no worry. It has given us more than a years living expenses so we could prep and return from a year volunteering in India.

But still when I would talk about Crown and financial management with friends many of them would respond about Dave Ramsey. Seeing how I have studied to be a coach for people to follow crown's principals I thought I would take the time to understand Dave. For the past month I have downloaded his 39 minute free podcast and listened to it with Nancy.

So much of the foundations and steps are the same between Crown and Dave. But as Dave has a 3 hour / 15 hour a week talk show... six times as long as Crowns 1/2 hour daily he can cover many more topics, he can afford to be looser and less organized.

Yet at the same time he cuts deeper... reached crisis and have the house being repossessed and credit and medical bills chasing you? Pay the house and let the dogs cry in the night. Set priorities "if you can only pay for one thing this month what will it be? -basic food" Next shelter next... next... last vacation. Dave encourages people to drop everything when in debt and fight it off until it is gone gone gone. Don't worry if people are not happy in the process, keep them informed that they will be paid... just not first.

I have even learned something from the way the two companies are organized. Dave and financial peace is based so much on his personality and him. When he dies so will his coaching and energy. Crown is less dependant on a single person... they have already survived the loss of a leader. The loss hurt but they go on. If I am involved in an organization I will set it up like Crown. I am key but not THE key, Christ is.

The truth is as a Crown Money Map Coach there will be times that I will tell people they should look at Dave (financially a competitor because both sell products that are the same) But with good reason, if someone needs the energy to stick with the program all the way to step six or seven then so be it... why let them fail because of my selfishness?

Dave has done one other thing of great value to our family... read about that in the next post.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


This is a sad time....
In the spring of 1999 I graduated from MTU, shortly after I traveled back up north to visit my girlfriend Nancy. While she was in class I visited a favorite haunt, the local animal shelter. While in college I went weekly if not more often to walk dogs for them. I am a cat person, frequently saying that I was raised by cats in the wilds of west Michigan. Mostly due to my second most loved cat, Kitzy who was shot by a hunter poaching on our land when i was in Jr High. Ok back to tech, the animal shelter had 17 kittens, plus the usual adult cats. They wanted me to take a kitten, I told them I could only take an older cat as I would be working long hours. They wanted me to take a cat, i told them it had to be declawed, they found one that was... I told them that i had no funds for one as I was a few weeks from starting at GM. They said they would give it to me free, I told them i had no carrier, they found one for me free... no litter box... gift free... litter... gift free... food... gift free.

Well when Nancy found out that I had gotten a cat, and left him in the car (they do not allow cats in the dorms and after Jimmy while i was still a student there... I had thought twice about pushing it) she made me bring him in. Then the issue of a name. Well after much discussion with Nancy and friends I chose Dutch as he had blue eyes, and was free.

Dutch survived the week without being found out... even after a late night walk around the dorm :) what were they going to do kick me out of school, I was graduated. At home we settled into a routine. I would go to work, and when I was home he would jump on my shoulders until bedtime then lay by my feet, waking me up in the morning for food. Going to the bathroom when I went (our toilets were right next to each other.) If I was in the apartment he was there.

Now here is something about Dutch, I doubt if he ever knew he had a tail. I had a fish tank, he sat on top, tail in the water... fish nipping at the fur... later when Nancy was around we learned that we could not have candles and dutch in the same room.

Dutch and I used to play fetch with those little mice, he would bring it to me and I would throw and he would pick it up and bring it back.

When Nancy graduated the next year we realized that unless we did something we would never have any time alone. We got Kaysa from a shelter in Pontiac, I went in looked at the cats, said I wanted the Siamese playing in the water they said come back next week and pick her up after she is fixed. When i came back they gave me a different cat... I thought for 30 seconds and said OK i will take this one... which really surprised them. I figured God could chose a better pal for Dutch than I could. Kaysa was abandoned as a kitten and really has issues with being alone. When I got her home she sat on the arm of the couch trying to figure this new place out. Dutch then got up on the arm right in front of her, then stood on his hind legs reaching his paws way up in the air, Kaysa's eyes were huge!! then dutch mewed at the spider plant just out of his reach. That is when Kaysa figured this all out. And I had been replaced as best friend.

Nancy made chicken and rice for me just after she graduated. As she was serving it some of it fell on the floor, Dutch ran over, sniffed it, then started to do the motions of burying it. (I wanted to do the same... but could not do that for my girlfriend. My wife now knows I do not like chicken and rice.)

We gave money to the human society the summer after Nancy graduated.

There are so many other things about him I can say. When I was making wax drawings I drew this picture of his eye. After our moving company cracked the glass on this picture I brought it in to be reglazed, Sue would not let me take it home again until it was properly framed... $500 later sue was happy. In the future I will be designing a house... an area of it will be done specifically for this picture. My free cat is costly...

Dutch liked to be up high.

Dutch would sleep in a closet all day, with the door closed, when we would open the door he would go out eat, drink and then go back to the closet and settle down again. Kaysa did not like this... she needs to know where her best bud is.

Dutch had allergies usually resulting in dry skin and his right eye being glued shut, the allergy shots we gave him were not good for his liver but did help his eye and skin.

In the morning when I ate breakfast and did my bible reading Dutch would jump on my lap, I would push him off he would jump up again. The most times was 21 before I gave up. He always sat on my lap during breakfast. Unless he was stuck in a closet.

When we had to sell our house in 2006 we gave Dutch and Kaysa to my parents... when they went on their yearly pilgrimage away from the snow down south the cats went to stay at my Aunt and Uncles who already had a cat and a dog.

Sadly, Dutch was not keeping his food down, and at 14 years of age the time had come for a hard choice... further medication or...

I am glad that Kaysa was staying with Dobby and Baxter, else I think the shock of his loss would have been too much.

I would have liked to have Dutch buried at the cabin where Kitzy is buried, but that is too much to ask for when I am in India.

It is a good thing Anna is a girl, I found out that Nancy will not let me name my child the same name as a pet I have had.

I miss you Dutch, you have a special place in my heart.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Hobby

This picture on Seth Godin's blog is used to illustrate the fact that the owner let feature creap dilute his core offering. Seth is worried that soon this will be some dusty trains in the back of another convience store.

Truth is, having been in many many hobby shops in my life that this shop is not isolated, the fact that it did add coffee and lottery and maps has allowed the shop to survive just a little longer to sell trains. Most shops start out in year one with all the latest offerings, five years in they offer some hard to find items. Ten years they have some oldies, and twenty oh the nestalga.

You can tell how long the shop has been in business by how old the stock is. There are very few truely profitable shops.The whole hobby industry is in decline, it has been for almost 20 years now. Most shops are hobbies started by men who wanted to share their hobby. They break even if not loose money until the owner gives up or dies. The passion for the product overshadows the passion for profits.

Now this is where Seth has it right... ish. If this guy was smart he would find a partner to get the coffee business done right. Then there would be a high profit activity to support the love of trains which this guy can focus on. Or he should specialize, then use the internet to reach those people wherever they live.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

What I Am Called For

Well actually I do not know why I am living in the fullest sense. I just heard a quote recently "perfect is worthless" on Seth Godin's blog. You know that has changed my life and actions. I am now choosing good enough in some of my actions to not make it perfect. This does not mean I am choosing to be shoddy but I did start work making a model railroad even thought it will never be perfection in miniature.

So another of Seth's posts got me over to a video by Jan Chipchase at TED.
I am rocked, and motivated. He tells a story about how the poor are using mobile phones as an informal wire transfer network. He talks about how the poor of the world are starting to have the same tools to connect to the world as the rich. How they are going around the systems that the rich and designers and companies set in place. It is amazing to me how the poor are able to boil down things to what mater.
I am an engineer, my career ability is to support and be part of the team that Jan and his counterparts lead. To take what he observes, what others dream, I develop, so others can build, and everyone will use. If I do my job right I become invisible. If I do my job wrong we all fail.
At the end of the video below Jan lays out 4 aspects of designing things for the future:
1) The big idea is only a big idea if it is part of BIG change (Truth is you can not design for big, big happens after an idea is let go.)
2) Small products move to everyone world wide, rich and poor (for me I worked last for a car company, a product that reached only a couple people. Well ok what I did affects everyone that buys any car that manufacture makes and that IS a lot of people, but not everyone in the world. Right now my product will affect at most a couple hundred directly and a million indirectly. WOW I never realized how important what I was doing was!!!)
3) No mater how well a product is designed as soon as it reaches the marketplace all the people out there will find better ways to use the product, different than intended.
4) The poor want to be part of the world, the conversations that are driving the direction of the world, they have something to say that transcends their lack of education, money, literacy, and so many us vs them things. They are still people who, when it all boils down, have relationships.

I am a stuff designer, that is who I am and what really gets my juices going. I love to be a part of the team that figures out this stuff. And this stuff ROCKS when it is kept simple so simple that it is hard to believe it has never been thought of before. Or like nokia that there is so much technology behind the device the shell belies in simplicity. It would rock even more to know I have stuff out there that the poor find use in, that means the whole world needs it, not the elite few who waste money and time.

In a 15 minute talk Jan covers so much more than the above, his thoughts on design, what is important and why, how delegation works, how innovation happens and trust. All as it relates to how I want to earn an income to support my family and my self. Watch his video to see into what I care about. To me this is a rally cry and a call to action and pride in my job and skills.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I do not think that a single picture out there can tell you how I feel right now But to give you a visual clue I submit this: No music is loud enough, pure enough for me right now. Oh how I long for 100% pure. Instead of being part of the pure white at the top I feel like I am just that little hint of color in the lower left corner.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Going To The Next Level

Friday was Anna's convocation, we still are not sure if she is in preKG or LKG and going to LKG or UKG? What a hoot if the parents did not realize their kid got a midyear grade promotion. (Ok foundation is that Anna now sits on the LKG side of the room, way far from the preKG and her last report card said LKG not preKG...
I do know the guy bending over gave a great commencement speech, "Twinkle twinkle little star, no we do not have to look in the sky to find the stars, they are all right here." Nancy and I both said awe. I was glad to be able to be there, I got a bug that made me curling on the bed in pain, praying to feel better, and I did!
Thought saturday we hung low, good thing because Anna started not feeling good about noon, and Nancy that night. I ended up going to church in the morning alone. Again this sermon series was great, it hurt, I am quite mad and frustrated at my inlaws right now, this sermon quickly put me back where Christ wants me to be. And then after church...
Some friends dropped me off at Nugambakam Railway station so I could take the train to Saidapet. I noticed walking up to the station that an express was slowing to a stop, odd because usually they go through quite quick blowing their horn sounding like they are afraid they might hit someone.
The people on the overwalk and platform confirmed my worries. In a culture where the reset button is an option another followed through. It is interesting so see how in this culture where no one is certain of what is absolutely right almost everyone is confused, while I did not want to take a picture of the body, I thought about and chose not to photo the watchers on the platform. I saw no emotional reactions from anyone. Just standing and watching. By the time I got to Saidapet the express was passing me, going faster and blowing harder than ever.

I like what Nancy said, "It is pretty easy to not get hit by a train."

Sadly I am already forgetting what I saw, they long red cloth of the saree wound around the body parts, the guys pulling it to the side of the tracks, knowing it will take until morning for someone to remove it to a morgue. My local train arriving, me hopping on and going on my way.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ultimate Intention -DeVern Fromke

I have completed reading another book, this one was a tough read, it was started six months ago, and one sleepless night I pushed my way through the last ten chapters. It has some great content, but the author wrote the book for pastors who have attended seminary in the sixties or before. Words like 'philosophical rectification' made the book difficult to read with distractions (All of India with a 3 year old) around.
All the complaining out of the way... the question that the author is trying to explain is that God has a bigger goal in what this world and time and humanity is than most people admit to. Quoted from chapter 27 of the book: "The Father receives a vast family of Sons like the First Born. The Son receives a glorious Body for His expression. The Holy Spirit receives a temple of living stones for his Eternal Abode." Fromke insists that even Adam, before the fall of sin, was in need of Jesus in order to reach the full potential that God desires.
I like that idea, the kingdom of God is bigger and better than even Adam before the fall, when life was "good." Christ did not just die to restore us, but to go beyond and make better. Some say perfection was the garden, and we should desire that relationship with the Lord. But no, Jesus pointed to a new heaven and a new earth, a city, a place for those that choose to follow. "The least in the kingdom of God is better than the greatest on earth" Luke 7:28 That is amazing to me, refreshing to me, so often I feel that I am the least in the kingdom. I know I am not the greatest on earth, by either the worlds standards, nor God's.
In my own words what DeVern Fromke is trying to say is that the world and time is like baking a cake. God took the good stuff, flour, water, sugar, eggs. And through the messed up world of sin, time, and personal choice is making a cake for himself. We have the choice if we are going to be part of that cake, to go through the hardship of doing what he wants or we are going to be hard, a shell, to live life easy, if a little cracked up by the happenings of life. Only later the shells and waste will be thrown out, only the cake will be kept.
If you are trying to figure out why in the world a perfect God ever wanted to make an imperfect world, then read this book. As you move forward it will help you see the world through the three faceted lens that God sees it through.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Consider Carefully

"Therefore consider carefully how you listen." Luke 8:18

How should I listen? What is the right way, what is the wrong way? Lets go back in Luke to see what Jesus said before this.

16"No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18Therefore consider carefully how you listen.

What I am listening to is a light to what I already know. In Tim Stevens book he talks about how we filter things. What we read in the TRUTH (Bible) is a light on our filter. The dust, the things we keep hidden, the underlying desires for what we do, what we listen to and how we respond to that.

Therefore consider carefully how you listen.

Read the Bible in a way that you are willing to change, to sweep away the dust, and strengthen what is weak.

18Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him." 19Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you."
21He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice."

If you think and work at improving your filter you will be given more on top of what you have been given. And then if you act on what you are Jesus' mother and brothers. Note how this passage starts with Light, moves to listening and thinking, then on to actions expected.

What worries me, is that working at GM, and from my Masters, it has been proven that one bad step for a company is worth about seven good steps. It is not one step back one step forward. If you do one bad thing, it will take seven good actions of equal weight to get back where you were, then one more to improve. One bad speck in your filter, leading to one bad action, will corrupt the whole system. It will take seven times the work to clean the lens, to get to starting over, then still there is the need to move forward. "Even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."

(all passages from NIV using

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Is Tie Day

When I worked for General Motors I use to be countercultural and save wearing a tie for fridays, a day we were told could be considered more casual.

I was told to bring a tie to India for those rare cases it would be needed.
I saw it in my dresser languishing unused.
I wore it on friday.
I was laughed at.

Now a month later.
It is Friday again.
Six of the 12 males in the office today are wearing ties, myself included.
I bought my tie in Thailand, for $1, the most I have ever paid for a tie.

Monday, February 04, 2008

"Not Far From The Kingdom Of God"

Mark 12:34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

........What is close to the Kingdom of God?

Mark 12:33 "To love him [God] with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

So often when studing this passage my teachers have focused on the the red letter verses of Mark 12:29-31. Not on the response of the teacher of the law.

As Nancy had said our heart broke in ChainMai seeing the long neck people. Living a life on show, actors on a stage they really don't want to be on to eak out a few dollars. They are away from their home they love, the peace and traditions they crave. How they need love. If I was called to long term overseas mission I think I would be involved at a resort, a place for christians to relax and see the world as God sees it. And to reach people like this teen, as real people. Nancy and I could feel her tension, she fully represents her people, her internal struggle showed, the older women were broken, the younger ones did not know yet.

But for now while I would love to show this teen God's love, she is not my neighbor, right now so many others are. Help me not to become so used to my neighbors that my heart does not break like it does for that teen.

Back to Mark 12:
I wonder why the man is only close to the Kingdom of God, what is between where he is and where he needs to go?

I wonder what are my burnt offerings and sacrifices.

I cry out to God that I want to love Him more.

Both verses taken from the NIV Bible.

Friday, February 01, 2008


For some time I have been unhappy with my prayer life. For the most part my prayers boil down to "Lord codle me like a baby"

Reading Tim Chesters post about prayer gives me hope.

It is short, go over, take the time to read it. At the same time make Tim's blog one of your favorites, for me he is one that I find worthy of the 10 blogs I watch regularly.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pop Goes the Church

I finished the manuscript of 'Pop Goes the Church' and it has been hard to post about it because I had written in so many room for improvement notes that I was not sure how I could be positive. After reading what some others have written I do think it was a good book. Better yet it did open my eyes spiritually into an area that I have been keeping under lock and key in a this is the law way. And it is not one of God's laws but my own. It was pointed out to me years ago that Music and Movies are categorically the same as drugs and alcohol for what they do to a mood. In the future I will be paying more attention to how the current movies and top ten songs etc are setting the mood of the whole population. Like the unity of 'God bless this country' after 9/11 it is happening, the media world is setting up lots of people to be ready to hear spiritual issues, our job is to be ready to respond as Christ wants us too.

In my first post about the book I said I felt like I was going into 'big dog' leadership crowd. Honestly I think the Lord has been leading me that way for a long time* (15 years.) To give a mental picture I feel like a freshman at college who just left his know it all world of high school and has now realized that I know there is a lot of stuff I do not know. Many of the leaders are working on their PHDs they have been at this college a long time. God has not given me the curriculum or the grading system and so much else I only know what to do today.

Back to the book. When it comes out it will be a very good book, if you are a church attender and wonder why your church is changing its ways this book will give you some insight as to why and a foundation to stand on for when you walk up to your leadership to ask questions. Or maybe the opposite is true, you want your church to change but it is not moving yet. It may also scare you at the same time, it did me, it was not until the last chapter of the book that I was positive that Tim was not calling for each Church to reach people in the same way his church does. Each one of us needs to have discernment, because of my 'church shopping' experience I know sometimes leadership of a church will try to change in order to steal sheep from the faster growing church over there. God has a real place for each Church body, you need to know where yours is, it may not be ultra trendy, seeker friendly but much more Conservative, but it should always be an open door to those who have not accepted Christ as their savior.

*Ok this is where I am scared! if Tim posts my comment on his blog many of those leaders will be looking at this web page. Given that I read many of their webpages regularly I think that they will laugh at me, my hope is some will pray for me that I will follow God's will. And if it God's will one of them will start watching me and might be a part of my what's next issue next July.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


The Kingdom of God is like...

A man hiring workers...

Having just read through Mathew I have leaned that the Kingdom of God parables talk about a couple things. 1 Working, i need to work as my part of the kingdom. 2 be ready, I need to be ready as my part of the kingdom. 3 black box, I am not the only player in kingdom of God lots of other things are going on that I do not understand.

This week it has been the reality that work is an important part of being part of the Kingdom Of God that has been my lesson.

Pop Goes the Church

I have been chosen to review a book. Tim Stevens has chosen me to be one of the 10 plus to review his new manuscript, Pop Goes The Church. I am stoked, honored, humbled and maybe almost overwhelmed. Tim is one of the guys out there thinking big about how to turn the Bible and Jesus and that Church (building and people) into something we can use the other 6.5 days of our week. Just like when Anna is with the big kids and she feels like she is a big kid too... that is how I feel. I may feel like a big kid... but maybe I am not fully, or maybe I am and do not know it? Where is the mirror so I can figure that one out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

One Day Book

Yesterday I read one of my Christmas presents. My mom sent me 90 Minutes in Heaven. What an interesting book, it took me almost all day to ready, with several breaks for food and fun with Anna.

If you get a chance I would say read the book, it is about Don Piper who dies in an auto accident, and 90 min later has a pulse and is responsive. His experience in heaven is a small part of the book, most of it is about his year long recovery and how he was able to help people afterwards who were in a similar situation.

I will admit that parts of the book made me cry, and I understand perfectly his depression. And for me personally I think it was a good time for me to read the book, to reset my spiritual 'walk' which has felt stalled the past month. While my knowledge has been growing this past month my choices have been centered on my instant gratification, not what is best long term. Even though I am praying to God to give me a good long term life.

Like Don how I long to go to Heaven, to experience the ultra reality there. Some quotes from the book. 'both heaven and hell are more real than anything we experience on earth' 'when in Heaven you know who is there and who will be coming but you do not know who is not there or not coming' Oh how I long to be washed of all my sin and just be good like I really want to be yet find it so hard to do. And then I think of all the good people I know, ones who I have not talked about Christ with... why should I be allowed in heaven if I am not giving them a chance to go?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

My Old Nest

Today I happen to chance upon these two photos of what was at one time my living room. Oh the wave of sadness... I really liked what I did to make this area look good. Last summer I did have the chance to see what the new owners of the home did with this room. The red walls is now tea colored, there is a hospital bed in place of the couch (with hope Jen is doing well enough that that is gone) The counters were a little more messy... OK the house actually looked lived in, they were doing a good job of enjoying in their own way what I enjoyed... esp given that Jen had a major issue with her back. But selfishly I miss this room just a little... it was a place. And sadness and fear come because I am six months from not having a clue where I will be... this was my 'nest' but it will not be my 'nest'.
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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Pea do

I am letting Anna play with play dough. When i was getting it out she started saying 'pea do pea do' I asked her what that was, she responded 'it is a funny way of saying play dough'.

It is funny enough that Anna is speaking with a UK or a Australia accent since spending a couple days with people from those countries, but the fact of her slurring words and knowing it...

Never before having my own child did I ever realize that children are so smart at such a young age.