Category Archives: Life prep

March madness: basketball and work

As I walked with the dogs this morning, two things were on my mind: the Jayhawks game tonight (playing Ohio State in the Final 4 match up) and my work. While basketball is the connotation most of us have when it comes to the phrase “March Madness”, I could not help to think it described my work this month, and for that matter, most of the last 15 months.

I have not written much about my work here and I plan to remedy that in the coming weeks and months. We will start with the basics here, esp. how I got to my current position of Chief Engineer.

[I also plan to write in the coming months on my reading on the topic of stress management.  While I think I deal with stress fairly well, earlier this year, the effect of the seemingly unremitting pace of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012 showed itself in new ways. Fortunately, I recognized it for what it was and headed to the library…].

My work, an introduction – I was trained as a civil engineer (KU 1977), worked in consulting for three years in Minnesota, and then spent 3 years in developing Africa as a water resource engineer.

In 1984, on our return to the U.S, I began working for the Kansas Division of Water Resources (DWR) where I have worked since. Having decided that water resources was the specialty of civil engineering where I intended to devote my career, I worked on my master’s degree in water resources engineering, one class per semester from 1984 to 1991. Over the next 23 years I worked up the ranks of DWR in various positions. For a fuller treatment of these years, see my public profile at Linkedin at:

DWR’s major responsibilities include: administering the Kansas Water Appropriation Act (KWAA), the most significant of numerous Kansas water laws. The Act governs all water development and water use in Kansas. The Division also has significant responsibilities under numerous other statutes including exclusive state regulation over dams, levees, and other works in our streams and floodplains as well as administering Kansas interstate (water) compacts.

The Division is led by a position called the Chief Engineer (CE). The media regularly calls the position Kansas “water czar” due its significant regulatory responsibility of the state’s water resources.

How I came to be DWR’s chief engineer – I never really aspired to the position believing it above my capabilities.  When the position of Assistant Chief Engineer opened up in 2005, I did not apply for it because of this. I also never thought my career path within DWR was leading me there (I spent 15 years prior to 2007 out of the mainstream of the Division’s work, leading our technical team dealing with our interstate compact work). But I was wrong. My interstate work had me working regularly and closely with our chief engineer, David Pope. It had me regularly working through difficult, detailed, and very technical negotiations with our neighboring states and the federal government. It had me learning to work with the media and the public and to a limited extent the Legislature.

In 2007, when David Pope suddenly retired after 24 years as chief engineer, I was asked to be Acting Chief Engineer. I was shocked at the time, and agreed to be the Acting CE, but again, did not initially consider applying for the Chief Engineer position.  Over my 5 months as Acting CE, I was encouraged by many persons around me to apply for the job.  I thought long and hard about whether I could do the job well and whether I wanted a job with so much responsibility.

I found that I enjoyed the position, despite its demands.  I also believe it was more than just coincidence that David retired as our last daughter was graduating from high school. Further, during my tenure as acting CE, Cathy and I got some unique input in our lives (something called LEAD; we applied to go before David retired; more on this later) that helped me to see some of my key skills and abilities were well-suited to a position like a CE.

After praying about it, I ultimately decided to apply for the job and in November 2007 was made Kansas fifth Chief Engineer (since 1929; DWR has had 3 chief engineers that have served over 20 years each).

March madness – I have written more above than I intended so I will leave to later to describe the 15 months of madness I have been going through at work.  A lot of March’s work madness has been legislative in nature. This is my fifth legislative session as Chief Engineer and its significant in terms of water legislation is greater than the other four combined.

That is it for now. That other March Madness is calling. The first game is on now and KU plays in two hours. Rock Chalk Jayhalk, go KU.

Learn, grow, and save via a weekly trip to the library

For twenty-six years, I worked a few minutes from the Topeka public library but I never got a library card there until March (2010). Once there however, I discovered a great number of resources that go beyond books: a wealth of books-on-tape, magazines, movies, and more. I am now visiting the library on a regular (approx. weekly) basis and recommend this to all who want to learn and grow and save money.

[note: article updated December 2014; for more on what I have learned on the topic of health, see our web site:]

What got me there was my search for a few good books to buy and read on diet/nutrition. I wanted to spend my limited time and budget for books on the best I could find. So I first assembled a list of potential books by spending some time at Amazon’s web site. While Amazon has helpful information and recommendation of others, there are so many recommended books on this topic, I decided I needed to see them myself before buying.

So over that first lunch hour, I took my list of titles to the library. They had most of the titles on my list and many others besides. I looked them over, eliminated some from my list, added others, and checked out about half a doze books that first I wanted to look at in more detail.

In addition to books on diet and nutrition, I have been exploring other topics: finances and investing (The Random Walk Guider To Investing), leadership (Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality; Today Matters; Good to Great), exercise, time management, and more.

But once there, I found more than just books at the library:

  • Books-on-tape , mostly CD’s.
  • Magazines, some of which you can check out (helping me to decide which ones to subscribe to myself and which ones to look at there)
  • Videos (DVD’s) of all kinds.

As my initial lunch hour at the library went quickly, I decided to go back the following week. I dropped off some of the books I was done with and found a couple more to check out to look and explored more of the resources above.

Books-on-tape – As a commuter (30 minutes a day each way), I was drawn to explore the library’s extensive set of books-on-tape. Actually, I may be benefiting more from this than the books themselves. At any one time, I will get 2-3 books-on-tape checked out. Some times, it only takes a short time to determine I am not interested. Frequently, I listen to a book-on-tape as a way to preview whether I want to read/purchase the book (I have seen moved on to listening to books via Audible, see my article on this).

I have listened to a variety of selections so far:

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,
  • an excellent, short summary of the life of Isaac Newton
  • Good to Great, an engaging management book analyzing factors that separate good companies from great ones
  • Highest Duty, an autobiography of the pilot who successfully landed his plane that lost book engines in the Hudson River
  • Make Today Count: the secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda by John Maxwell.
  • And more

The library’s magazine selection, some of which you can check out, has also been very helpful. I have decided to subscribe to three magazines (two on cooking; one on investing) as a result and decided to pass on a number of others, instead just looking at them at the library on a regular basis.

The Topeka Library is a very good. On-line you can reserve books and they will email you a note when it is ready to pick up.

A parent’s prayer from a favorite Christmas song of mine

Michael Card’s Joseph’s Song has been a favorite Christmas song of mine since I first heard it in 1991.

The heart of the lyrics are:

How could it be this baby in my arms,
sleeping now, so peacefully,
the Son of God, the angel said,
how could it be?

Lord I know He’s not my own,
not of my flesh, not of my bone.
Still Father let, this baby be,
the Son of my Love.

Father show me where I fit into this plan of Yours.
How can a man be father to the Son of God?
Lord for all my life I’ve been a simple carpenter.
How can I raise a King, how can I raise a King?

[listen to it at:]

At the time I first heard the song, my three daughters were ages 8, 6 and 2. While not called to raise the Son of God, I nevertheless empathized with Joseph’s questions and request – his plea to God to enable him to love the child, his request for guidance in that work, his feelings of inadequacy.

As I heard the song, I prayed the same prayer and I trusted God as Michale Card envisioned that Joseph did.

A few months ago, my youngest daughter turned 20. So now, instead of all under 10, they are all over 20. And yet even now as I hear the song, I continue to emphasize with Joseph’s prayer. My role is different to be sure. In some ways, our relationships are more complex than ever. But the desire is the same: to understand the role God has given me at this stage of their lives and love them in that way.

In my quest for advice on this stage of life, I came across Paul’s words to the church at Thessalonica where he describes his treatment of them, likening himself to their father:

1 Thessalonians 2:10 “You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

So I ask God for help and wisdom on how I can encourage and comfort and challenge these adult children to be all that God has made them to be.

Dear Father, let it be.

(A note from my experience: go heavy on the encouragement and comfort; light on the challenge.)

My Tribute to Chris Klicka, the greatest man I ever knew personally

Yesterday Cathy and Megan returned from a memorial service in Virginia where homeschool champion, Chris Klicka, was honored. I never want to forget this hero of mine. On this post, I summarize reflections from his memorial service, that I might not forget, and in not forgetting, live better.

For a brief summary of his life and some of the words of others, see:

This statement appeared in the memorial service program:  “Christopher J. Klicka was born on Resurrection Day, April 2, 1961 and died on Columbus Day, October 12, 2009. By earthly standards Chris (being a slightly premature baby) arrived early and departed early – at age forty-eight. Not limited by earthly standards, however, Chris packed more into life in those forty-eight years than many do into ninety, and is recognized as one of the foremost leaders of the homeschool movement. Chris completed his undergraduate studies at Grove City College, PA, where he met his wife, Tracy. Upon graduation from Grove City College, Chris attended O.W. Coburn School of Law, Tulsa, OK, from which he received is Juris Doctorate. Chris was then welcomed as the first full-time employee and attorney of Home School Legal Defense Association, and soon became HSLDA’s first executive director and later its senior counsel. During the twenty-four years of his employment with HSLDA Chris served tens of thousands of homeschooling families both directly and indirectly as a legal advocate, conference speaker, author, lobbyist, and loving husband and father.”

I wrote the following on my Facebook the day I learned of his death: “This morning, the greatest man I ever had a personal relationship with died. Chris Klicka was a tireless advocate for homeschooling over his exceptional legal career and a great example of a man who loved God, his family, the church.  I hope I never forget Chris’ extraordinary example, knowing him over his 15 year struggle with multiple sclerosis, and how he never let it defeat him or make him bitter but just kept on working. I am glad his struggle is over but mourning over the permanence of the loss in this life.”

I went to Virginia not due to any special relationship with him but to honor Christ via honoring his man, who honored Christ via his life of passion and persistence for Christ and His Kingdom.  As we heard at the memorial service, Chris favorite verse was Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

I also went for myself. Chris is a hero of mine and I wanted to hear that more fully so that I might not soon forget him. Chris contributed much to the work of Christ’s kingdom. He also suffered much, yet never gave in. I need to never lose heart in doing good. And when I am tempted to give in, I want to remember his determination and tenacity and faith and love.  I want to remember his great accomplishments and yet he his time for family and friends and to enjoy life.

A reading of Chris’ life verse: Matthew 6:19-33, esp. verse 33:

Matt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

A favorite quote from C.S. Lewis: “Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you get nothing.”

From Gregg Harris – What distinguishes Chris? His passion.  Gregg told of a time when Chris was a young, nervous attorney and the two of them spoke at a Wisconsin state home school convention. Gregg shared the passage of Job 29:2-17 with Chris and how Chris had expressed a passionate desire to live out that passage, especially v. 17 (Job 29:16 “I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. 17 I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth”). Chris said, “I want to be like that guy!”, and he truly did become that, a person who would break the fangs of those who sought to attack the freedom of parents to educate their children at home.

Gregg also shared of Chris’ struggle with M.S. and Chris’ clinging to God’s promise to provide strength in that struggle and to show His power through it. Chris lived out what Paul spoke of in the following passage:

2 Cor 12:7 “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

From Michael Smith, President of HSLDAChris’ life was exemplified by:

  • His determination (he must have been a strong-willed child; yet he channeled his determination for good).
  • He was a tremendous lawyer.
  • He was interested in every person he met.
  • He was fearless due to his faith. He fell over 400 times, some times causing serious injuries,  and yet kept on getting up and serving.

There is no replacement for Chris. He will be missed. He is leaving a huge hole.

But he also leaves a great legacy for us to see and follow. We can live like him in that we too can be all that we were met to be.

From Joshua Harris

  • Chris sought to protect God’s people.
  • Chris’ favorite verse was from Matt 6 (see above). He passed away a wealthy man in all that truly mattered.

A scripture reading from Rick Boyer

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Chris’ family shared as well. I was impressed by not only their words but their composure. They spoke of:

  • his enthusiasm for life, his infectious joy,
  • his love of the word of God, and of the encouragement and confidence, it gave in his later life
  • his deep love of people.

His daughter Megan read from Philippians 3:7-14

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

She also shared of his hero, Eric Little, who said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” Megan closed by stating, “Daddy felt God’s pleasure.”

His oldest daughter Bethany shared from Hebrews 12:1-2

Heb 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

She said that Chris ran not to finish the race but to win. She (and I) is convinced that when Chris went to heaven, the witnesses were giving him a standing ovation.

My closing thoughts

Bethany did not read it, but I cannot help but add verse 3 of the passage above:

Hebrews 12:3 “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We need to consider that likes of Chris, so that we may not grow weary in doing good.

Chris wore himself out, to hear the words, “Well Done, good and faithful servant. Enter in the joy of your master.” He has now entered into that joy.

Graduation thoughts for my niece

To my niece Bethany on her high school graduation

May 23, 2009

Bethany – congratulations on your graduation.  You are not a different person than you were yesterday, but your circumstances are changing in a significant way. You will not be going back to your high school; you will soon be moving from home; a great number of your friendships will change and others will come.

I think you have chosen well to serve in your church for the coming year.

You have been blessed as few have with loving and wise and discerning parents. God has also blessed you with a great big sister and great set of friends.  As you move on to the next part of life, do not fail to continue to benefit from them.

I want to briefly share a couple of verses that have meant much to me in my life journey. One is a verse with much encouragement; the other is a passage of challenge.

A verse of encouragement

Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

My girls could write the script of what I am going to share here as they have heard it at their graduations. Here is what I find encouraging:

  • V 8-9 God has brought salvation, not dependent on our good works and therefore uncertain, but based on His grace and gift, we can freely receive.
  • For me as a Christian, who have accepted that gift, I find verse 10 very encouraging.  It should be encouraging to all who call Christ Savoir as I know you do.
  • You are not an accident: you have been made by God. You are His work of art. While you and I may be imperfect in many ways, God declares you as suitable for His purpose.
  • You were made for a purpose: for good works. God has specifically made you Bethany for a specific life work that it is your opportunity to find and do.
  • You are not alone: God goes ahead of you. Finding and doing that work is not always easy. God promises that you are not alone in it. He goes ahead of you and will help you at each turn.

So be encouraged Bethany.  God has saved you and made you to be a blessing to this world. Find it and do it.

A verse of challenge

As good as life is much of the time, seasons of life come that are a challenge. There are times when friends will leave or disappoint; when your work may not be particularly fulfilling; when you will be called to do hard things.  Despite all the good I have in my life in wife, kids, church, career and blessings of living in this free land, I have had difficult seasons of life.

The scriptures speak to this. In the books of Colossians, Paul writes to the slaves of that city and era. I cannot think of a situation where one would feel more trapped. But even in such circumstances, which is so much more difficult than I might have to experience, one can find the ability to live excellently, to do right, and to find reward.

Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The secret of contentment and progress in difficult seasons (really all seasons):

  • Do the work God has given you whole-heartedly. Even when parents, friends, employer or future spouse do not recognize you or praise you or reward you.  Do the work whole-heartedly.
  • Do it all to please Him, not people.  Three times in this passage we are told: we work for the Lord.
  • Realize God sees it all.
  • Realize God that will reward you for those labors to please Him even if no one around you does.

So when life is hard, do right anyway to please God. He will reward as parent, friend, employer, or spouse cannot.

In sum Bethany, do not forget the many, many blessings and benefits God has brought you. Chose and live well for many are distracted or stumble for lack of care of these things.

Uncle David

Accepting and rejecting limitless opportunities

[This is an update of an earlier post; I keep reflecting on it]

Here is a quote worth reflecting on (from an article by Jeff Jones entitled “Getting With the Program” in the Center for Church Based Training’s Life Development Planner that our church’s elders and wives have been doing together):

“Each of us can invest our time, talents, and treasure in many ways. Life involves a process of accepting and rejecting limitless time-consuming opportunities. The same is true of money and the use of talents. We cannot do it all. Those who are effective for God and are actively used by Him to further his mission are those who focus the energy and resources on the Church’s mission.”

I can identify with the quote as I am sure you can. I am continually being invited to almost innumerable opportunities.

Values-based financial planning for my graduates

Here is a note to my two daughters who are preparing to graduate from college on financial planning and goal setting.

David Barfield, March 2007

We have been working with a financial planner (Walt) to help us determine how best to use the financial resource given to us in Mom’s Dad’s estate. Below is an abbreviated version of what the planning took us through that I recommend you work through as you consider your financial future. You have been blessed with a college education without any debt, a good career for the days ahead, and a decent car to start off life. This can be a great launching pad for your financial life or can be wasted depending on what you do now.

Walt brought us through something called value-based financial planning.

1) Draft your financial values (which you should revisit annually) – He asked us to write down values we had that money would help to accomplish. Think about this question long and hard. Again, what do you want to do that money will help you with? Write them first broadly as values. Then think about the specifics of how money can help you accomplish this list.

Here is our initial list of values (in no particular order):    Continue reading Values-based financial planning for my graduates

Dad’s job interview thoughts to Betsy and Amy

David Barfield job interview thoughts

March 2007. Advice to my girls as they prepare for teaching interviews.

Work hard on your resume. It is the first thing they will see and may be the only thing if not done well.

What are they looking for:

  • Credentials are important. So work hard in school. Work hard on your resume.
  • They want someone who will get along and work with others. Demonstrate it somehow (might be one of your key messages to map, see below)

Preparing for the interview    Continue reading Dad’s job interview thoughts to Betsy and Amy