“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” - Albert Einstein

Friday, January 25, 2008

Getting Plastered

Brenda & I are at the Italian School of Plaster in Dallas, Texas. We're learning the art of plastering using products that have a 2000 history. The Romans used lime plasters in their buildings. The lime in the plaster calcifies and returns to stone, giving a long-lasting finish. Builders in Venice used polished plasters to imitate the look of marble. Their buildings on stilts wouldn't support the weight of real marble.
People in America today think "Venetian Plaster" is any plaster with a texture. Most of them are surprised when we show them a smooth-as-glass, polished plaster and explain the true nature of Venetian Plaster. We have worked with the traditional lime plasters in the past, but our training came from Americans and was sketchy at best. Doyle Self, our instructor, was trained in some of the same schools we were. When he took on the Safra plaster line he went to Italy and learned from artisans with a centuries-long history of plaster application. He had to unlearn his American training.
Brenda & I are working to unlearn some of our habits as well. We've created 32 sample boards using 20 different products. It's the end of the week and Brenda's brain is at the verge of information overload. We've got a home show in 2 weeks and need to put some of these new finishes on display. We tried to think what products to buy, but at the end of the day yesterday we couldn't think very straight. We've got to put an order together today. Looks like we're going to have a working breakfast.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Losers and Sinners

Have you heard Christians say, "I'm just a sinner saved by Grace."? This statement sounds spiritual and filled with humility. But how does this one sound? "I'm just a loser."
Brenda & I recently had a long discussion with Rob & Elan about the power the subconscious to form our identity. The subconscious controls more than 80% of our thoughts and actions. In a fight, the conscious mind will lose out to the subconscious every time. What I've learned is that my subconscious shapes much of what I believe about my identity.
God has straightened out my beliefs about my identity in Him. I used to buy into the whole "I'm a sinner" rubbish until He showed me the scriptures describing just who I am since I've been reborn. "I'm no longer a slave to sin because my old self was crucified with Christ so that my body of sin might be done away with" (Rom. 6). My identity in Him is as saint, a saint that sometimes sins. When I sin it doesn't make me a "sinner". And if I walk around with the mistaken attitude that "I'm just a sinner saved by grace", that belief makes it more likely that I will fall into sin because my subconscious believes that is my nature.
I recently discovered in my subconscious a belief that I can't be a winner. I've justified it to myself by saying that I'm just not competitive. I enjoy the process more than the outcome. This belief was harmless enough when I played ping-pong with Don Brent and every game was a deuce I ended up losing. I was good enough to stay close, but not to win. But I'm finding this loser mentality creeping into other areas of my life, and it isn't just innocuous any more.
I'm working to convince my subconscious that I'm a winner who sometimes loses. If I lose it's not because it's my nature. The good thing I've discovered is that my subconscious is pretty gullible. This truth is a mixed blessing. It can be convinced of almost anything and doesn't know if something may be impossible. On the other hand, once it believes something is impossible it has the power to make it so.
I believe that this process I'm going through is what the Bible means when it says to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" and that our goal is "the salvation of our souls". What the world calls the "subconscious" is a part of what the Bible refers to as our soul. What I'm learning is that the work the Holy Spirit does in us is to get the life that is the Spirit of Christ worked into our soul (subconscious) so that we become like Christ. That is my identity. That is my destiny.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Colorado New Year

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The last day of 2007 was my first time of ever snowshoeing. We visited Rob & Elan in Colorado and had planned to go skiing on December 31, but I-70 was closed because of wind blowing the snow into white-out conditions. Rob found a pair of snowshoes for me and we headed out in the bitter cold to hike up a mountain trail. We were somewhat protected from the gale-force winds, but the gusts still made the snow like hundreds of needles on exposed skin. We climbed about 1000 feet and almost made the summit, but time required us to turn back.

The following day Rob & I went skiing at Loveland. I hadn't been on skis since 2 years prior. It took me a bit to get my ski-legs. Rob gave me some pointers and I was moving with confidence by the end of the day. I only fell over a few times just as I came to a stop.

We also got to spend Sunday with Rob & Elan checking out the housing market in Evergreen. We stepped inside one house and were transported back to the late 60's. Every room brought new surprises in retro decor: pink toilet and tile, pull-down light fixtures, felt-patterned wallpaper. The architect who drew the plans was a rectanglophobe, that is he had an aversion to anything resembling a rectangle. Rooms were diamond shaped and trapezoids, but none were rectangular. Brenda dubbed it the "psycho house". We agreed the only hope for this house was to bulldoze it and start over. It was beyond rehab.