Equilibrium — a word that sounds vaguely, and indeed is rooted in, Latin. Kind of like Londinium (Roman name for the city of London) or palladium. Anyway, it occurred to me today that this is what I have frequently lacked. Here is a complete definition:

e·qui·lib·ri·um| ˌēkwəˈlibrēəm, ˌekwəˈlibrēəm | noun (plural equilibria | -ˈlibrēə | ) a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced: the maintenance of social equilibrium.
• a state of physical balance: I stumbled over a rock and recovered my equilibrium.
• a calm state of mind: his intensity could unsettle his equilibrium.
• Chemistry a state in which a process and its reverse are occurring at equal rates so that no overall change is taking place: ice is in equilibrium with water.
• Economics a situation in which supply and demand are matched and prices stable: the market is in equilibrium | [as modifier] :  the equilibrium level of income.

New Oxford American Dictionary

Please do not conclude that I am slipping into something New Age-y, and that I’m sitting cross-legged now, uttering weird noises with my hands raised and thumb and middle fingers touching. No, that’s too much effort, anyway 😉

I think the issue of balance, life balance, is very Biblical and consistent with Christianity. One example I can think of off the top of my head is Jesus going away from his disciples and crowds, up into the mountains to pray (Luke 6).

My ability to juggle things has been severely diminished over the last year or so, much more than before, and the pandemic situation has played a big part. I especially grieve the mess I made of teaching a new graduate class this Spring and wonder if students in that class will ever get over it. My second graduate degree progress has crashed to a halt. There is lack of progress in many other work, home, and professional areas of responsibility as well.

Equilibrium helps when going through rough times, and it requires significant work over a significant period of time to work up to. I’m not there yet but I’m working on it and the good news is, I think it’s doable and I’m already able to feel a bit calmer about things than several months ago. Exercise helps, as does many other things but above all else, what helps is trusting and learning to trust more in how much God is in control of all things. There are many things that are mysterious and unknown, things that seem impossible and unfair, which only in retrospect, and only sometimes, can I see and understand that the Lord’s hand was in them.

Flies in the ointment

As I sit this morning in my chair, sipping a cup of royal milk tea from Asia and eating cardamom rusks from Sweden, I think on and read about what’s going on in the world around me. I wonder what the day ahead has in store other than grading a ton of short papers for my course (yuck). And I am thankful for the opportunity to enjoy international flavors in food and drink.

The weather lately has been pretty darn near perfect. The hours of available sunlight are waning but the trade off in lower temperatures and humidity, as well as freedom from most mosquitoes and other annoying insects, is worth it. The windows are open through the night and the cool air is soothing.

Of course, there are flies in the ointment, such as debilitatingly frequent migraines. I wish I could isolate their cause once and for all. I just need to keep trying various things to reduce their frequency and severity. (By the way that phrase, fly in the ointment, has always been an unusual one, and I’m sure it has interesting origins.) Friday night I had to take one of our children to the emergency room with second degree burns after they had accidentally spilled hot water on their leg while at work. Fortunately, I think the leg will heal ok.

In closing, I hope you’ll gain some amusement, as I did, by looking at the following oddly named whiskey bottles spotted in a nearby antique store. Who knew these brands even existed?!

Oddly named whiskey bottles

The greatest danger

There is a lot to be anxious about these days, obviously. Dangers and fears are around every corner and they are especially obvious when reading news headlines. I won’t even mention TV “news” shows and various talking heads spouting their own partisan viewpoints. I am thankful, personally, to not have TV so that I can more easily avoid the constantly blaring of sales pitches (commercials) and images of dressed up people with overly white teeth, fake tans, and smooth talking demeanors.

Many believe the greatest issue of our time is climate change. Others say it is immigration and migration. A good case can be made for political and social polarization, or rampant racism, or gun violence, or drug use, or economic hardship, or that old standby, war. You name it, there is a reason or cause for anxiety.

I’m beginning to think or realize, however, that none of these is anywhere near as important and insidious as the misuse of information. To the extent each of us ingests daily information to guide us in our life paths, we are incredibly dependent on knowing things, hearing or reading about things, and creating and sharing knowledge. We heavily depend on receiving and processing information that is reliable, helpful, good, trustworthy.

We are witnessing rampant misuse of information in key areas today, although the misuse of information is nothing new. It’s as old as time. The scale and reach of today’s information mess, however, seem to me much greater and more dangerous than ever before. Witness what happens with social media, for example.

In libraries, we have a long tradition of something called “information literacy.” The idea is to help others be better, more informed and skilled consumers of information, to build up evaluative techniques that help people to properly assess and use information. It seems like this tradition is more needed than ever before, and in a much more widespread manner than just helping college freshmen write a good persuasive essay.

As daunting and difficult as it may sound, I think it is increasingly important that at some level, we critically assess and evaluate the flows of information that we process on a daily basis, many of them without much thought. Why is someone saying x? What motivates another person to write y statement?

I’m only just beginning to flesh out the implications and details of this idea or assertion, and I realize that someone reading this post may think I’m a little bit crazy, or at the very least, paranoid. However, I stick to my point: it’s the misuse of information that we need to be concerned with the most in today’s society.

A crooked man

Recently, someone I meet with regularly read me a quote from Teddy Roosevelt that he found inspiring. As a librarian, my instinct was to go find the source of that quote, to verify that it was really what Roosevelt said and where he said it. In my experience, quotes are notoriously unreliable and poorly documented.

This led me down a bit of a rabbit hole, although I was able to track down what I wanted after a while. In the process, I came across another quote of his. I have very ambivalent feelings about this famous American president, but the guy certainly was eminently quotable:

This country has nothing to fear from the crooked man who fails. We put him in jail. It is the crooked man who succeeds who is a threat to this country.

From a speech given in Memphis, TN, 25 October 1905.

I wonder, who does that immediately bring to mind? Hmm? Although, as I’ve said many times before, the real problem isn’t one man, it’s the many thousands or millions of people who put him in power and continue to support him.


Walking — simply, walking — may be the key means by which I get better, physically. I’ve begun to walk 1-2 miles every other day. Honestly, it is not easy. It is quite hard, but at least it is something I can do to get some exercise. I don’t need special equipment or complicated instructions to do it. What is needed, however, is persistence, to keep at it over time, even when I don’t feel like it.

These are early days, but I already feel a bit of encouragement in taking this step, literally and figuratively. It goes against every inclination and habit to be more active, but once I make the effort, I begin to feel better.

Of course, as in many other things, the Bible has a lot to say about walking. Perhaps the most fitting verse I can think of is as follows:

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

John 8:12 (NLT)

I like the imagery of walking in the light rather than in darkness. I have felt a lot of darkness lately, a strong sense of being overwhelmed and overcome by circumstances and situations over which I have little or no control. I have often felt hopeless and broken. But as I trust in the Lord and walk in His ways by His strength, things start to look and feel lighter even if circumstances and situations remain grim.

The art and drudgery of writing

Writing has been a struggle for me lately, and the flow of blog posts has dried up. It is not an issue of great concern for me, however; inspiration and drive to do something creative tend to be cyclical. Also, there is an art to writing, and sometimes a drudgery to it, as well.

I decided some weeks ago to once again put my second Master’s program on hold, and not take any classes this semester. (I didn’t take any during Spring, either.) The biggest reason for doing that, aside from being convinced that I could not handle the extra workload right now, is that it involves a lot of writing. And the pressure of doing that at this point in time is just too much, too stressful. This makes me feel somewhat guilty and like I’ve failed, but on the other hand, it is simply a reality that I need to accept. I think it is a good decision in a bad time.

Those who are good at writing, and studying, and producing essay after essay seemingly without effort, appear to have an innate confidence that I lack. A willingness to spend the time to do the work of putting pen to paper or more likely, fingers to keyboard. It does not seem to faze them, or overwhelm them. They just get on with it. Over the years, I’ve been told many times that my struggle with writing is because I’m a procrastinator (I am), that I’m a perfectionist (also guilty), and that I do not plan or organize my time well (also probably true).

On the other hand, and in my defense, for many years now, I’ve carried a heavy load of too much responsibility, too many metaphorical balls to constantly juggle. The pandemic and other personal circumstances have forced me to pause, to think more deeply about how and whether to be more balanced in what I do or what I commit to. For perhaps the first time, I’m coming to grips with how finite are my abilities and my time. I need to think much more carefully about what I do. If I choose to do x, I have to be prepared to give up y.

I’ve known all of this for years, but again, it seems like I am at an inflection point where I have to face reality. This is a gift of these times of great uncertainty and disruption: to deeply think through and decide on what is really important, and what is not. And then to begin to change one’s life and orientation to fit around what is truly important.

Writing happens to be on that list of truly important things for me. I may not consistently and daily post something here, but I will continue on as best I can, and when I can. Hopefully those who read this blog or care in some way about my writing will stick with me through this whole journey.

On a visit to a nearby antique store, I immediately was struck by the physicality, design, and meaning of an old manual typewriter I saw displayed on a shelf. I took a photo of it and enjoyed the result, which is shown as the featured photo of this post. I hope you like it, too.

Fruit (of the Spirit)

Yesterday I enjoyed eating part of a fresh papaya, something I haven’t had in a long time. I had forgotten how beautiful they are when cut open — the striking orange-y yellow with the glossy dark seeds in the middle — so I decided to take a photo.

This time of year is when locally grown fruits are still available, such as cantaloupe and watermelon. (I doubt papayas are grown locally.) In another month or so, we’ll be into apple picking season as well. And lots of pumpkins.

One of my personal goals is to eat more fruit. Less sugar, more fruit.

This then reminded me of the verse that talks about the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

I definitely need more of these things, and the world around us does, too.

Sunrise, sunset

Yesterday, my wife and I had the rare opportunity of a day pretty much to ourselves. The younger two kids had busy social calendars while the older one was at work. We decided to go for a drive in the country and finished up in a local pie shop and café where I enjoyed a generous slice of quiche.

In the evening, we went out again, and on the spur of the moment, decided to eat supper in a nearby park to watch the sun set. It was beautiful. We really didn’t accomplish much of anything, just enjoyed driving around and being in each other’s company.

This morning, very early, we were awoken by lightning and thunder which had scared one of the dogs and caused her to whine and bark. Neither of us could sleep so we just sat in the living room and watched some videos while the day eventually dawned.

Sunrise, sunset. Another day.


It is hard to keep going when hope is lost. And when hope is lost, it is surprisingly hard to get it back. These are some of the thoughts running through my head of late.

This morning a Bible verse came to me:

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12 (NIV)

Perseverance is an important character trait, as this verse highlights. You keep going, just keep going, somehow trusting that things will work out.

Another thought I’ve frequently had lately is that every day is a gift; every day is unique and cannot be repeated. I think we all get overwhelmed at times by what we are going through. It is hard sometimes to see or feel like anything good can be found in a particular day. But good can always be found, somehow, or so I believe. I often need help to look for and find it, that’s all.

I hope these ramblings offer a small bit of encouragement to someone else. They are neither revelatory nor unique, I realize.

Don’t lose hope. Keep going. Look for the good.

Love to teach

I love to teach and was reminded of that after last night’s class session, the second week of the Fall semester. If done well, it is exhausting and exasperating and a ton of work, yes, but also very rewarding. The class I am teaching has the largest enrollment of any class I’ve ever taught spanning nearly 20 years.

Over the years, I’ve had students join my classes from all over the world, from places as far away as Japan and Australia. This particular group of students represents a lot of geographic diversity as well, including a student from South Korea and others from all over the U.S.

We are just starting to get acquainted with one another. Last night, I deliberately chose to break students into three separate groups to work on an in-class activity. Part of my thinking in doing this is to get them familiar, early on, with how to function with Zoom. At the end of the course, each of them is required to give a live presentation to the class, so this early work will hopefully help them to prepare for what is to come.

I also wanted them to wrestle with a particular problem, which has to do with definitions. Each time we do this in class, I’ve found that the experience really opens students’ eyes to the complexities of definitions in ways that they otherwise might not appreciate. Each group presents their definitions, along with commentary, to the rest of the class. Each time, I find that groups choose different approaches. This gets the point across to everyone in a very effective way.

An added benefit to this in-class activity is that it enables students to begin to get to know one another. That is especially important for a class this large. I was really pleased when one of the students pointed this out when the whole group was discussing what was learned from the in-class activity.

It excites me when I am able to work with motivated and interested people to learn new things. In some ways, I wish this was something I could do full time.