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April 29, 2003

The Station

by Robert J. Hastings

Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We're traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hills, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing, and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering ... waiting, waiting, waiting, for the station.

However, sooner or later we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

"When we reach the station, that will be it !" we cry. Translated it means, "When I'm 18, that will be it ! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it ! When I put the last kid through college, that will be it ! When I have paid off the mortgage, that will be it ! When I win a promotion, that will be it ! When I reach the age of retirement, that will be it ! I shall live happily ever after !"

Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.

"Relish the moment" is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

All Rights Reserved
Robert J. Hastings Estate

Which one of us doesn't wonder if life wouldn't have been better if we had turned left instead of right? If I had only married Sue instead of Jill! Tom instead of Alex! If I had only gotten that degree in Accounting... If only I could start all over again knowing what I know now -- I'd surely do it better than I did this time around.

My dad used to say, "If 'ifs' and 'buts' were candies and nuts, then we'd all have a merry Christmas." Alas, reality will never measure up to the fantasy of "what might have been." Life is full of choices and it's complicated. Events happen which we have little or no control over, some good and some bad. Choices cannot be avoided, and mistakes will be made. The point is not to dwell on them, but to pick yourself up and move forward. -- a greater failure would be to live a life without risks or to sit inside all day and wonder what could have been.

The joy of life is the journey. Every year is new, every day a new chance to begin again.

Youíve got to sing, like you donít need the money.
Love, like youíve never been hurt.
Youíve got to dance, like nobodyís watching.
Itís got to come from the heart if you want it to work.

Posted by mjwoods at 10:16 PM

April 27, 2003

The Dark Side of Info Tech

Why didn't I stick with accounting? How many accountants do you know that are sitting at their desks at 23:15 on a Saturday night verifying their work...

As I recall, Principals of Accounting I & II were somewhat interesting. It was Macro Economics that turned me against accounting as a career choice -- BORING!

The path that I took led me to computers, and I really have few complaints. It's been a fun career for the most part.

OH GREAT! The guard insisted on turning on all of the lights inside the building -- I told him that I was just fine with them off. Night work is best done in the glow of the desk lamp and monitor. Now it feels like I should have proper work clothes on instead of shorts and a T-shirt.

Anyway, it's been a fun career, even discounting the missed vacations and holidays. Tonight is the last bit of paid overtime that I'll get for a while. Monday I will be an official employee. I've made the transition from consultant to employee a few times in my life. It's sort of like dating someone then getting married to them -- nothing should change, but it always seems to. I think that the biggest change will be the overtime. They were reluctant to insist on it in the past since I got paid for it, now it will probably be expected of me. No big deal -- that's what fast Internet access and VPN networks at home are for.

23:30 -- Thirty minutes till Showtime. Last minute verifications that the scheduler has all of my batch jobs lined up and ready to go.

I look back on my twenty-eight years in the biz and marvel at the twists and turns that I've taken to get here. I used to believe that it was just good fortune and a bit of luck, but that doesn't give the Father any credit and all of the credit is due Him. The course that I've navigated to arrive here is just too unlikely not to have Him in control of it.

Well, things are starting to get busy here so I'll publish this now and then turn my attention to what I'm supposed to be doing.

01:30 -- Home at last! But here's the rub -- I'm buzzing on caffeine now and it will take some time to clear my mind enough to sleep. Thankfully it was a successful installation with no anomalies. Time to get horizontal and work at getting some rest...

Posted by mjwoods at 02:05 AM

April 24, 2003

Vice President Woods

My client finally twisted my arm sufficiently to get me to accept a position with the company. I've been told that my official title includes the words "vice president" in it somewhere. My daughter and the dogs are impressed. My wife knows better. Fresno, my cat, reacted with his usual indifference...

Those of you familiar with the banking industry realize that just about everyone with the exception of the tellers and the janitor is a vice president. Still, I was surprised to land at this job grade. It's one ahead of most of my team members, and equal to my boss.

In real terms, I'll continue to do the same stuff that I've always done around here, but now the overtime that was non-existent (and that I would have been paid for) for the past six months will now become commonplace (now that I won't get paid for it). Not that I'm griping! I can't believe how much vacation time I get on top of company holidays, I just have to find the time to take it all...

I'm not blinded by the illusion that being perm instead of temp will afford me any real security -- it won't. However, I won't miss writing that check for health insurance every month. And searching for a new gig every twelve months gets old after a while, so it will be nice to stay put for a change.

Overall, I'm grateful that I've been provided for so abundantly. Everytime that I get down in the dumps about this place, I remind myself about the scores of programmers that are still unemployed or under employed. Whatever faults this company has, it still allows me to do the things that I really love to do.

Now if I can just find the time to get that studio built so that I can get back to my stained glass work...

Posted by mjwoods at 08:19 PM

April 21, 2003


"Hope ... means ... a continual looking forward to the eternal world.... It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.... It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither." --C. S. Lewis

We had some encouraging news this week...

Daniel's grandfather is breathing on his own now, and his organs are functioning again. He's not out of the woods yet, but it's more than anybody hoped for last week. He has a long road ahead of him in rehabilitation, but he's tough. Thanks to all of you who have kept him in your prayers -- they are appreciated, and they do work.

I've struggled with faith and prayer a lot in my past. It's hard to want something so bad, and to be told no, you can't have it. So I sulk, or rebel, or just howl at the moon till I'm exhausted. And sometimes in that stillness, after all the emotion is drained from me, I can hear my answer.

It's so easy to substitute "Thy will" with "my will," but that's generally the source of the frustration within me -- putting myself in front of God. I've been blessed with some very good teachers in my life. Without them, I'd have my attention focused squarely on this rock instead of things eternal. Whether it was with a gentle word written, or a 2X4 smacked between my ears; the instruction has been priceless. I look forward to that glorious reunion with those who have loved me enough to guide me through this obstacle course in life. That gives me comfort, and gives me hope.

Posted by mjwoods at 09:05 PM

April 16, 2003

Bless Them All

Iím sitting here at work puzzling over the crisis du Jour yet my thoughts are really focused on the other side of the world with Daniel, my nephew, and Topel, my nieceís husband. Daniel and the rest of the 4th Armored Cavalry Regiment finally arrived in Kuwait last week, and are somewhere in Iraq right now. Topel is a sailor currently serving aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the Med, also in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

There are thousands of other men and women who have put their lives on hold to support this endeavor. All of them have their own stories, but I'm only familiar with these two.

Waiting in Texas for Daniel are his family, his sweetheart and his friends. Unfortunately, his grandfather had a heart attack a few weeks ago and his condition is critical. Depending upon the hour, we're either guardedly optimistic or preparing for the worst.

Waiting in Virginia for Topel are his wife Kendra, their children Corey and Benjamin and another to be named later (after the baby's birth). Topel left Norfolk on the 5th of December, and has missed Benjamin's first steps.

Please keep all of them in your thoughts and in your prayers.

Posted by mjwoods at 11:39 PM

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