Archive for March, 2013

Liebsteraward 1While I have been writing here at “Sharper Than…” only since Labor Day 2012, I’ve been dipping my toes into the blogosphere for about three years now, in fits and starts (I’ve abandoned more blogs than many better writers have ever started); so naturally I have seen lots of nominations for awards being discussed. In all honesty, I never paid much attention – to me, an award is something you work for, a prize for competing; with this blog I have tried to move away from being competitive and towards being competent. Then I signed up for the A-to-Z Challenge this year, and something wonderful happened – I was nominated for an award! Specifically, my new friend Rebeccah Giltrow over at Rebeccah Writes has nominated me for a Liebster Award, and I owe her a special “Thank you!” for doing so!!

For those unfamiliar, the Liebster Award is a way to help expand the community of connections among bloggers from all over the ‘Net, by bringing the “smaller” sites (like mine) to the notice of more people, in a “pay it forward” system that shares the love and recognition with others, according to these conventions:

  • Post the award to your blog.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
  • Post 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer 11 questions that have been set by the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers with fewer than 200 followers to accept this award.
  • Ask your nominees 11 questions.

So with the first two items complete, here goes the rest – enjoy, and be sure to visit and show some comment love to Rebeccah and to my nominees!

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I have a terrible memory for names, so I routinely make up names for people that nobody knows but me.
  2. So far, the only food item I have ever found that I do NOT like is liver – no style, no way, never again.
  3. My wardrobe consists of 80% t-shirts and jeans, and 20% everything else.
  4. Of the four children my wife and I raised, only one shares my DNA, but everyone tells us how much they all look like me.
  5. Every vehicle I have ever owned was at least ten years old, and all but two cost less than $1,000.
  6. I have worked in commercial air conditioning for nearly twenty years, but my house does not have central heat or A/C, and probably never will.
  7. My jeans are the same size today as they were when I graduated high school in 1986.
  8. I never have less than three books which I am reading at the same time, sometimes as many as five.
  9. I can use any tool I own in either hand, but otherwise my left hand is truly my “dumb hand”.
  10. I failed the test for my SCUBA dive card because I cannot tread water – I sink like a rock unless moving forward.
  11. I don’t really listen to the lyrics of most songs, I just kind of bop along to the rhythm of the words; I am often surprised when I learn what they are saying.

11 Questions from Rebeccah:

1.Where in the world are you right now?

I live in Houston, Texas – born and raised, and except for 2-1/2 years in college, never lived anywhere else.

2.What has been your best gift?

If you define “gift” as “something given by a person”, it was when my employer offered to pay for my dental reconstruction because he thought I was “worth investing in”. (Botched dentures several years ago left me missing 2/3 of my natural teeth, with all the problems you can imagine go with that.)

3. Can you play a musical instrument?

Sadly, no…I have taken piano and guitar lessons, but not with enough consistency to actually learn anything. I did learn to sight-read music singing in the church choir, so it’s not hopeless!

4. If you could time-travel to any period in the past, where would you go?

Torn on this one – United States, end of 19th century, at the birth of the Industrial Revolution; or 1st century Judea, to experience the earthly ministry of Jesus first hand

5. What’s your favourite dessert?

No contest – my own recipe: Harvest Spiced Cornbread Peach Cobbler

6. Who was your favourite teacher at school?

Ellen Farrell, 5th grade at Dechaumes Elementary – she was the first teacher to challenge me to be to do more than merely pass, but to excel…I didn’t know it then, but she was teaching critical thinking before it was a “thing”.

7. Do you have any pets?

Yes, we have a pair of rescue dogs we saved right off the streets – a 4-yr old American Pit Bull named Cinnamon, and a 9-month old Pit/Boxer mix named Li’l Girl; and we just recently lost our 12-year old chow-chow, Ginger, who came to  us as a 2-month old puppy.

8. Where did you go on your last holiday/vacation?

We drove across Texas to Waco to visit my daughter at the birth of my granddaughter, and then stopped in Austin on the way back to meet an Internet friend in person for the first time – both wonderful experiences!

9. What languages can you speak?

I have a semi-functional command of Spanish (useful on the jobsite, in restaurants, etc) but I am working to improve.

10. What’s your favourite word?

“accoutrements” – gleaned from a Daffy Duck cartoon as a child

11. If you could exchange lives with anyone, who would you choose?

I would not; each of us is a unique creation, shaped by our experiences…dropping into another’s life would not be the same as living it, and so it would be a disappointment at best, and a waste in any case.

My 11 nominees:

11 Questions to Answer:

  1. What is your favorite candy/sweet treat?
  2. Where is the farthest from home you have ever traveled?
  3. Name one book that you have read at least twice.
  4. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner – which is your favorite meal?
  5. What modern “convenience” would you gladly do without?
  6. Which is your favorite holiday?
  7. How long has it been since you climbed a tree?
  8. Have you ever had an unusual or exotic pet?
  9. What sports or games do you participate in?
  10. What movie have you seen more than five times?
  11. What place in the world would you most like to visit?

Thanks again for playing along, and be sure to pay this forward. See you all in April!

Many of you may be wondering why, after finally finding a nice steady pace, I suddenly stopped posting…yeah, there’s been the  occasional re-blog, when I see something I find especially moving…but no writing. And isn’t that the whole reason I started this blog, to give myself a forum to practice my art? Well, that is an interesting question, so let’s examine this idea.

I must admit that I have let myself become pretty divided lately…after all, I am just a guy, and I have trouble doing more than one thing at a time very well; multi-tasking has never really been one of my spiritual gifts. Here lately, I have reached critical mass – taking care of Karen as she slogged through cancer treatment; handling an enormous level of responsibility trying to drive the design process on a complex construction project at work; helping to kick-start a prayer-and-share ministry at a halfway house; and “standing in the gap” at the church while we struggled through the transition period without a pastor, or much of a leadership team at all, for that matter. The Lord has been with me, and these things have prospered…I have been blessed to have been a part of it all. But even seasons of insanity come to an end…and strangely enough, that has been the problem!

Karen has finally reached the end of her regimen – only two more radiation treatments and one more follow-up, and she will be done, hallelujah! The project has been designed to a fare-thee-well, and actual construction begins next week. A new crop of volunteers has been trained for prayer-and-share, and a routine has been developed, duties spread around. The church has merged with another fellowship, so we have a pastor, and a staff, and budget, and a vision. Suddenly, I don’t have a gap to stand in, and it has left me off-balance and questioning  my role, and in fact my value, because that is just how I am wired.  I have a lot of trouble functioning well unless there is a crisis going on…smooth seas and clear skies leave me twitchy and anxious, and I have never really understood why; in truth I still don’t. But that doesn’t mean that I have to accept that as a healthy or right way to live, because I can recognize that it isn’t…it’s just a matter of learning a new way to behave; substituting better habits in the place of bad ones, and rediscovering passions from my past that I have allowed to wither under the weight of “busyness”.  I have been working on that very thing for a few months now, with success, and so I think I can expand this behavior into other realms of my life.

Back on New Year’s Eve, I made two  life-changing decisions: I stopped smoking cigarettes, and I started distance running…something I really enjoyed back in high school, but allowed to die out.  I also began blogging about the journey, at the suggestion of a friend, who reminded me that accountability and support from others in a similar situation are invaluable for making commitments stick. She was right, and I have so far succeeded: I have not smoked for nearly 12 weeks; I have run almost 80 miles this year; I have completed one 5k race, and and I’m signed up for a 10k in May; and my running blog is doing quite well. So, let’ s apply some of these principles to my current issue: how to spend less time in agonies of doubt, and more time pursuing my God-given art of writing (the reason I began blogging, remember?) Here’s what I came up with:

I have registered for the Blogging from A-to-Z in April Challenge, as a way to encourage myself to write something every day for a month. I will focus on themes relevant to Christianity (my own unique spin on the challenge) and in the process, try to recover some of my joy and wonder at the purpose God has placed in me – to express in writing how great He is, and yet how accessible He is to any who will seek after Him. THIS is my role, THIS is my value to the kingdom of heaven…and I am grateful that the Lord is patient, and continues to minister to me and encourage me. He has done this through many mediums – the sermon series our pastor is doing on how God’s plan for humanity has always been that we are blessed to serve Him and to serve others for His glory; the brothers at the halfway house and at the prison where I serve, who are constant examples of how God’s grace extends to “the least and the lost” of this world, and that our worth in His eyes is in no way dependent on how the world sees us; and by a book I finally picked up off the shelf and started reading: Quitter, by Jon Acuff, who tells how finding fulfillment of our dreams is more about recovering than about discovering…a message I really needed to hear! (Jon also recently reminded me that artists are specially blessed by God, and that writers are artists.)

I welcome your comments, and pray that God will lead me in finding 26 creative ways to write about Him in April. I have heard that once you do something 21 times it has become an ingrained habit…let’s put that to the test again, shall we? Stay tuned, spread the word, I believe some wonderful things are about to happen!

Posted: March 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

For all my Blogger friends wondering what to do…I use this, it’s great!

The Blog

The big news on the internet the last couple of days has been that seminal RSS reader Google Reader will be shutting down on July 1, 2013. Google Reader had lots of fans, including many of us here at Automattic, but it’s time to move on.

Speaking of moving on from Google Reader, did you know that you can import your subscriptions directly from Google Reader into the Reader? We launched the Reader about 18 months ago; it’s responsive to fit any size screen, you can like and reblog content without leaving the news stream, and if you run out of new posts to read, you can discover new content in the Recommended Blogs section.

To import your subscriptions, just visit the Reader import page; you’ll be reading your feeds in the Reader in three clicks or less, or your money back.



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Posted: March 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

Morning Story and Dilbert

He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes
in it, jeans, and no shoes.  This was literally his
wardrobe for his entire four years of college.

He is brilliant.  Kind of profound and very, very bright.
He became a Christian while attending college.

Across the street from the campus is a well-dressed,
very conservative church.  They want to develop a ministry
to the students but are not sure how to go about it.

One day Tim decides to go there.  He walks in
with no shoes, jeans, his T-shirt, and wild hair.

The service has already started, and so Tim
starts down the aisle looking for a seat.

The church is completely packed and he can’t
find a seat.  By now, people are really looking
a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything.

Tim gets closer and closer and closer to the pulpit,
and when he realizes there are…

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Jacob had it easy…

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

At least when he wrestled with God, he could use his hands, his body, his frustration…and it earned him a draw, and a blessing!

I’m reduced to my thoughts, my groaning spirit, and my knees…I don’t expect a draw – I will gladly receive my blessing in surrender (which is not a defeat, it’s a victory) – I just want to know WHO and WHAT and HOW…

You knew me before You made me. You have Your purpose for me in mind. I don’t deserve an explanation, I’m not demanding an answer…

I just want to know that I’m serving You, not me.