This week the press freaked out about a Russian spy ship off the eastern coast.  It even managed to roll up my way, obviously hoping to capture information about submarine operations near Groton.


The Viktor Leonov, from shipspotting.com

The truth is, this is normal.  The Viktor Leonov didn’t violate any rules.  It didn’t cross into territorial waters.  It didn’t get in the middle of a live naval exercise.  It operated in international waters according to the rules.  Before we jump all over Russia, realize that the United States puts warships in their backyard and conducts military exercises near their borders on a regular basis.  Allowing this vessel to operate where it did is part of being a responsible member of the established world order, an order that has given prosperity to all nations around the world.

What we should be afraid of is attempts to dismantle this order, which is exactly what China is attempting to do with a revision to its maritime law:

The draft revisions stipulate that authorities will be able to designate specific areas and temporarily bar foreign ships from passing through those areas according to their own assessment of maritime traffic safety….”As a sovereign State and the biggest coastal State in, for example, the South China Sea, China is entitled to adjust its maritime laws as needed, which will also promote peace and stable development in the waters,” Wang said.

This should frighten people.  China already considers the entire South China Sea to be its territorial waters.  They’ve gone so far as to plant Chinese flags on the sea floor.  The certainly don’t respect property rights in the area either, as demonstrated by the illegal seizure of a US unmanned drone.

And in case it still doesn’t scare you:

“China’s waters are open to foreign ships as long as they do not damage the waters’ safety, order, or China’s sovereignty,” Yang said

China’s sovereignty.  Which begs the question, what is China?

What is China? From Wikipedia.

That definition seems to keep expanding.  As the above graphic shows, what is China has morphed over the years.  Now it includes Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang, and apparently the South China Sea, and even perhaps Hawaii.

That should scare us.  The bear, while a problem, is deviating from the rule book.  The dragon is throwing out the book entirely.


This post represents the views of the author and not the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.  The featured image is from politicalforum.com.

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This last week I asked everyone to pray for Rebecca, my youngest daughter. She had gone in for open heart surgery on Wednesday to repair an Atrial Septal Defect. The surgery was fairly routine (at least, as far as open heart surgery is concerned), and considering that Yale New-Haven was performing the surgery, we couldn’t have had a better team. But as you know from that same post, she wasn’t recovering well.

On Monday, I went to work, only to get called back to the hospital. My wife and I arrived and consulted with the surgeons, who said Rebecca had gone into heart block, where the heart doesn’t pump well and blood flow is sluggish. They wanted to install a temporary pacemaker so that her heart would keep working, and the surgeons were very hopeful that she would heal out of it. We agreed, and they wheeled her down to surgery.

Thirty minutes later, the nurse came up and said we needed to go downstairs. We were rushed to surgery, where the doctor came in and said Rebecca had gone into cardiac arrest after anethesia. He asked if I wanted to continue compressions or put her on bypass. Either way, she had a high chance of death. I told him “You walk into that room and make the best damn medical decision, and I’ll stand by you.”

Rebecca’s heart recovered on its own. Pacing wires were placed. The Code Blue paging stopped. We went back to recovery, and the local priest came in and performed an emergency Confirmation. The surgeon told us she was critical, but stable. We cleared our Tuesday schedule and drove home, an hour away from Yale, scared, but confident that things would work out.

We pulled into our driveway and called the hospital. They told us to come back. We made it back at 10 pm. I walked in and the heart rate monitor was reading zero. The doctor had his stethoscope on Rebecca’s chest, looked at me, and shook his head.  I clutched her tiny hand, desperately hoping she would squeeze, but that movement never came.  I spent the next hours cradling Rebecca in my arms and crying.

Everyone was in shock. We had the best team of pediatric heart surgeons, cardiologists, NICU and PICU nurses that you could assemble in America.  Rebecca had been recovering.  Her echocardiograms had all been good.  The pacing wires had been firing.  Everything should have worked.  It was like the A Team of cardiology teams was on her side.  They simply don’t lose people, certainly not kids like Rebecca.  But as the head surgeon later told us, “One minute she was fine, the next she was in arrest and would not come back.”

The next few days made me wonder, “Why?”  I’m used to death.  As a Naval officer, I know that I willingly place my life on the line for others.  I work with other members that do the same thing.  I’m OK with that. But Rebecca?  She was just a 7 month old kid.  She spent too much time hooked up to tubes and wires.  She didn’t deserve that.  Honestly, as a Catholic, it depressed me.  It didn’t seem fair.

So we started planning a funeral.  And a wake.  And a reception.  We filled out forms.  We called people and sent emails.  And all of a sudden, I realized that I had missed the point.

Rebecca’s death wasn’t about her. It was about everyone else.

It was about the Yale New-Haven team.  The team of doctors, nurses and surgeons that saw us choose life, saw us pray over Rebecca, and watched her emergency Baptism and Confirmation.  Many of them didn’t share our beliefs on abortion and life.  Some of them do now.  Rebecca had tons of people from Yale that came to visit her even when she wasn’t in their ward or on their floor.  I spied on many a nurse and doctor playing with her and making faces to make her smile.  She touched their lives like no one else could.  Rebecca’s death was about that team.

It was about the Down Syndrome community.  It dawned on us when the Eastern Connecticut Down Syndrome group set up a Go Fund Me page that netted over 1,000 dollars in less than a day.  Rebecca was born with Down Syndrome, and the Down Syndrome community in the northeast mobilized to support us.  So many people that we had never met, or only met briefly, were praying for her.  It brought them together.  Rebecca’s death was about that community.

It was about my Navy command.  My Assistant Officer in Charge told my Sailors the next morning what had happened.  Almost immediately, my Sailors and their families began reaching out, asking what they could do to help.  They didn’t have to.  There are plenty of Navy resources, and often the going assumption is that Navy Officers have it all figured out.  But as one Sailor put it in a text message, “He’s our Officer in Charge, and he always helps us. I want to help him.”  Many of the Sailors had only ever seen Rebecca at the occasional family event, yet they wanted to help.  Our Navy team grew closer.  Rebecca’s death was about my Sailors and their families.

It was about people who lacked faith.  People we didn’t know were suddenly reaching out to my wife.  They said that Rebecca brought them to church and they were praying when they hadn’t done so in years.  A friend of my wife that is a very vocal atheist asked people openly on Facebook to pray for Rebecca.  No clauses in her request.  No “If you believe” or “keep her in your thoughts” disclaimers.  She made a genuine request for prayers.  Rebecca’s death was about her.

It was about our family.  I was honestly frightened about the thought of raising a kid that might live with me forever.  It made me do a lot of research and talk to people.  After meeting people from all walks of life who loved people with Down Syndrome, and seeing kids and adults with Down Syndrome do well in life (even swim the English Channel!), I realized that all life matters, even the ones that we view as disabled.  My kids learned to love Rebecca, despite her being very different from other babies.  Or perhaps, it was because she was so different that they cared even more.  Rebecca’s death was about us.

I realized that I made a mistake.  I focused on Rebecca’s pain.  I watched her cry when she was stuck with needles.  I watched her struggle to finish a bottle because her heart wasn’t strong enough to breast feed.  It made me sad, but what I didn’t realize was that she was changing everyone around her.  My focus on her pain blinded me to how she was an instrument to change those around her.

Many of us spend a large part of our adult lives influencing, or trying to influence, those around us.  We read books, we devise arguments, we make PowerPoint presentations, and we argue on Facebook.  And yet here I had a little girl, not even a year old, who came into my life and changed everyone around her, including people she never met.  Her broken heart was changing those with hardened hearts.

She did it without words, without slides, and without a social media account.

It truly was never about her.  It was always about us, about making us better.  And even though it took her death for me to realize it, I’m glad that I did.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Matthew 18: 1-5


Rebecca will be buried on Tuesday, with a wake on Monday.  If you are in the Eastern Connecticut area, you are welcome to stop by.  Please follow the link for details.


This post represents the views of the author and does not represent the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.

All was well the day of my daughter’s surgery.  Despite waiting an additional two hours because of a higher priority case, the surgeon came out around 4 pm to tell me everything was finished and looked great.  He said someone would arrive in about 15 minutes to take me to my daughter’s recovery room.

Unfortunately, that person never came.  I sat in Yale’s Pediatric Surgery waiting room for another hour, and when the lights went dark, I realized I had been forgotten.  An hour after that, after speaking with various Yale officials and frantically scouring the hospital, I finally found my daughter on the 7th floor in recovery.  Right about that time, I received a Yale text message asking me for my opinion of today’s service.

After dashing off my response, I figured that was it.  Yale is a massive hospital, just the sort of place where little people like myself get ignored.  To my surprise, two days later a young man called me and wanted details.  We spent almost an hour going over what was great and finding where the breakdowns were.  By the time we were done, he told me the two very specifics things that Yale would work on to make sure that breakdown never happened again.  A few months later, when my daughter returned for surgery, I observed first-hand a smoother post-surgery process.

Thinking about it as I’m typing still makes me smile.  Yale took my feedback and acted on it, making their process better.  They took a negative interaction and ultimately made it a positive.  They didn’t pay me compensation, apologize profusely, or give me candy to make the problem go away.  Instead, they acted on the problem, solved it, and continued to provide great medical care.

I’m also part of the military’s medical system, and the difference is stark.  When a doctor at Eisenhower Army Medical Center messed up my wife’s surgery, instead of working to fix the problem, he told her to essentially shut up.  I was at work and got a sobbing phone call, which I acted on.  Our command’s medical team met her at the hospital to address the issue.  She filed an ICE complaint, and our patient advocate met with the hospital to try and resolve the issue.

And in the end, none of it mattered.  The doctor was never disciplined.  The hospital never corrected anything, nor allowed her to go out in town to see a civilian doctor.  Despite all the documentation, nothing was ever done.

This isn’t a one-off.  I’ve had movers break and steal items.  I’ve had an investigator negligently list false information on my security background check.  I’ve had big issues with the Navy’s handling of special needs children.  I’ve discovered yeomen throwing away submitted awards for my Sailors (if you ever wondered how a Medal of Honor could get “lost,” now you know).  And in almost all cases, despite filing complaints, documenting the issues and saving emails, nothing happens.  Nobody gets fired.  Nobody gets disciplined, especially DoD civilians.  I’ve had some great advocates get me compensation in some cases, but the process rarely gets fixed, meaning the Sailors after me probably got screwed too.  Worse, I’m often told that my claims are baseless and I should watch what I say.

Too many people think the military is some sort of wonderful organization that can get stuff done.  Maybe that’s why people are calling (foolishly) for a military coup.  News flash: there is a lot of inefficiency that you don’t see and don’t want.  All too often, uncaring people are allowed to make life miserable for the young men and women in uniform, with no repercussion.

Plenty of people freaked out when Congress approved rules that could zero-out a civil servants pay.  Are you surprised though?  There is plenty of frustration when organizations like the VA still aren’t cleaned up.  And I have to give Congress credit, because when nobody would fix a situation where almost 200 Air Medals for my Sailors “disappeared” (thrown in the trash), a letter to my Congresswoman actually got results.

For those of us who have been constantly screwed by the system, we’re a lot more hopeful that this might bring about real change.  Maybe as we’re improving the military we can truly make our bureaucracy great again.


This post does not represent the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.  It only represents the views of the author.  But that should have been obvious from the start. 

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I’m hijacking a post to ask for prayers.  My 7-month old daughter Rebecca went in for open heart surgery on Wednesday.  She has a variety of heart issues, and the surgeons were able to fix many, but not all of them.  Everything seemed to be going well in recovery, and we were hoping for a Sunday or Monday return home.

Those hopes were dashed yesterday.  Her left lung collapsed, she spiked a fever, and now the atrial part of the heart is beating at twice the rate of the ventrical part (I think I said that right, don’t quote me, I’m not a doctor!).  At best, we’re looking at a week stay in Yale’s PICU.  At worst, she may have to have another surgery to install a pacemaker.  She’s hooked up to so many lines right now the tree that held them all fell on one of the nurses yesterday.  It’s not good by any measure.

We are very fortunate that TRICARE (the military’s health insurance) covers all this, and I know that comes at a cost to the taxpayer, and that taxpayer isn’t a faceless person, it’s people like you.  So thank you.  Seriously, from the bottom of my heart.  Without the generosity that America has shown towards their military families, we would be in a lot worse situation.  You should be proud to know that at least in this case, it’s going towards saving a life.  And while I occasionally rail about the bureaucracy (as in my previous post), in times like these I count myself fortunate for having coverage.

We’re asking for your prayers.  We’ve been praying to Blessed John Duns Scotus for a miraculous cure of her heart.  I know Yale has some of best everything in terms of doctors and nurses.  We’ve been trying to stack the deck in our favor, but I think the earthly stacking attempts are not enough.  So please, when you get a chance, please say an extra prayer for Rebecca.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.


China is not an Asian version of the United States.  It is an imperialistic power that through its 3,000+ year history has sought, in times of power, to turn its neighbors into tributary states, and in times of weakness, to retreat from the world and preserve their gains.  After a humiliating 20th century, where European powers and the Japanese empire exploited China and her people, she is now poised to become a peer competitor to the United States.

Which is exactly why we should fight in the South China Sea.

China is playing an extremely smart long game.  By slowly degrading our alliances and building its Navy, China is set to simply own the South China Sea by default in 5-10 years.  China is best served by the US doing nothing.  Given the last 8 years of US inaction, they have gotten exactly that.  Pressing for war in the South China Sea short circuits this plan.

But let’s not duke it out like China wants. In a bizarre twist, China is now quite similar to pre-World War 2 Japan.  They own a lot of small islands that are difficult to defend and supply, spread out over a large area and contain little to no resources.  Japan expected the US to attack island by island.  Instead, the US hopped around islands and choked out the strongholds, causing them to die on the vine or be destroyed by local forces.  China’s “wall of sand” appears eerily similar.

They are also very vulnerable to economic disruption.  The western provinces of China are not tamed, and although China has tried to develop the region (and outbreed the locals), the western provinces are still quite susceptible to disruption.  This means China relies heavily on the sea for trade and economic prosperity.  Unleashing the US Navy with unrestricted economic warfare, similar to the unrestricted submarine warfare unleashed on Japan, would threaten China’s basic way of life.

A fight with China would be hard.  But China stands to lose much more than the US.


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Vice President Pence speaking at March for Life, from Fox News

I watched Vice President Pence’s speech at the March for Life. It was…OK. As far as speeches go, it was along the lines of “Blah blah, President Trump loves you. Blah blah, you are making America Great Again.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he was there, but I wish he had said something like this:

I am so honored to be the first Vice President to speak at the March for Life. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” the first right he listed was for life, for all Americans.

The right to life is amazing because it cuts across all Americans, regardless of color, gender, or any other subgroup you could come up with. Some in America want us to keep these divisions, and we saw that last week. But today, we unite across those boundaries. Today, we welcome those that see life as a central part of this great country.

We also welcome those that perhaps chose death in the past, but now regret that choice. The right to life is for all Americans, including them. I have heard from those Americans, and the suffering they have gone through after making this choice…it just makes me sad. They have a voice in this movement, a voice that we welcome with open arms, just as we welcome them.

I implore you to carry the life affirming message into the world. Talk to your neighbors. Talk to your doctors. Talk to your family. And yes, even engage on Facebook once in a while. The media is happy to squelch what you say, although President Trump and I will do our best to change that. But changing hearts towards preserving life isn’t accomplished through news media. Changing hearts comes from heart to heart conversations that are full of love. Have those conversations with those you love and care about, and even those that perhaps you don’t.

Thank you for what you do and for what you stand for!


This post represents the views of the author, no the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other agency. If you want more of his professional views, check out his blog here.

I had just moved to the Norfolk area in 2008, and managed to get my TV antenna working on inauguration day.  I sat down with my wife and we watched President Obama mess up the oath, but otherwise get sworn in as President of the United States.  I hadn’t voted for him, but it didn’t matter: he was now my President, and I figured the least I could do is watch history be made.

While he was President, I didn’t personally approve of many of the foreign policy and military decisions he made.  I carried them out just the same, and I certainly tried my hardest to make them work.  I had my chance to express displeasure at the voting box.  Dissent ended there.

Flash forward to 2017, and we had boycotting and violent protests at the inauguration.

To which I say, grow the hell up.

Don’t tell me your  boycott is a private choice, because if you simply didn’t want to watch, you wouldn’t broadcast it on social media.  I certainly don’t remember people openly boycotting Obama’s inauguration, and had they done so, I’m sure they would have been labeled as racists.

Saying President Trump is “not your President” just makes you look like a whiny little kid.  In fact, it turns off those who were on the fence in the first place and it confirms every bad thought they had about liberals.  Want to impress people?  Get off your soap box and prove your ideas work.  I and others are more convinced by missionary stories than when a 20-something whines to me about poverty.

Get up, stop rioting, and get out in your local community and make it better.  Do enough of that, and you might have enough influence to change elections in the future.


This post represents the views of the author and does not represent views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.

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The 21st century isn’t turning out so well for millenials.  They are making less than their parents did at their age.  Home ownership, one of the key markers of financial success, is down for their age group.  And, apparently, in general they are unhappier and more narcissistic.  It’s declined to the point you can now see how poorly you compare to other countries (although I can’t vouch for the data).

But hey, we got that going for us!

Why is this?  Most blame the recession.  But plenty of millenials have done well, despite a recession.

Me when I realized this while writing this article

My current job gives me some insight.  I work with junior Sailors on a daily basis, most in their early twenties.  As their commander, I get to interview them and get a peek into their lives.  I also keep copious notes, and as an engineer, I look for trends.

I see one big, ugly trend: most Millenials come from broken homes. 

Almost 85% of my Sailors come from divorced parents.  These are people from across America, from every state in the union.  I was astounded by this.  In many cases, at least one parent (mom or dad) is completely out of the picture.

These broken homes don’t produce broken people.  My Sailors are hard working Americans, and they arrive with a very deep love of their country and wanting to do right.  In many cases though, their broken home hinders them.

How I feel sometimes

I take for granted that my parents cared about my education and well being.  While they didn’t pay for college (thank you Uncle Sam!), they did set me up pretty well, and helped me cover emergencies until I got on my feet.  My parents taught me about debt and savings.  I didn’t have a credit card until I was in college, and even then, I paid it off every month (and still do!).

Many of my Sailors don’t have this.  Too often they go to boot camp with very little in their pocket.  Many arrive with little to no furniture.  Plenty come in with credit card debt.  Luckily, we have free classes on financial management, and most turn themselves around.  For the average person though, these free classes don’t exist.

Broken homes break down other assumptions.  Driver’s license?  How to dress for an interview?  How to speak without using obscenities?  How to shake hands properly?  Speaking in public?  These basic skills can’t be assumed anymore.  Anyone who has worked with millenials would agree.

Although I enjoy watching my Sailors grow and develop these skills, I worry that in other parts of society, these skills are not being developed.  Yes, we should continue to work on our economy, but perhaps we’ve forgotten what a big influence good family life is on success.


Obviously I’m in the Navy.  In case it’s not obvious, this post only represents my views.  It doesn’t represent the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.  But you’re smart, so you already knew that…

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President Clinton coming aboard the USS INDEPENDENCE in April 1996.

A larger version of the picture above sits on the wall inside the intelligence portion of US Pacific Fleet’s headquarters in Hawaii.  One of my side tasks when I worked there was to find historical pictures to decorate our walls.  This picture drew a lot of heads, as most service members weren’t fond of Clinton’s time as President.

The picture reminds us of an important time in history.  China had already caused plenty of problems with Taiwan, and in 1995 they started the Third Taiwan Straits Crisis.  In response, President Clinton put two Carrier Battle Groups near the straits.  This caused a lot of shame to the Chinese, because their Navy was unable to do anything about it.

There was a marked shift after that moment.  Chinese military focus was almost solely on the Army, with the Navy as a mere sideshow.  This changed.  China began focusing on building a blue water Navy after 1996.  It’s taken them 20 years, and they certainly aren’t done, but now the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) has modern destroyers and submarines, and their navy now exceeds the size of all of our allies.

This week, China moved its only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, through the Taiwan Straits.  The carrier itself represents little threat to Taiwan, much less than the thousands of land-based missiles sitting on the other side of the straits.  But that’s not the point.  China is doing to us EXACTLY what we did to her in 1996.  The Liaoning transit was likely timed to minimize the chance of a United States response and maximize messaging to their people and President-elect Trump:

Whether it acknowledges it or not, the US is declining-otherwise Trump would not need to declare he wants to “make America great again”. And, like it or not, China is still rising, although its economy has slowed. The first Chinese aircraft carrier has become operational and a second one is in the works. 

Trump’s Presidency is going to be interesting indeed.


This post represents the views of the author and does not represent views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.


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My wife is frustrated.

Over Christmas break, I watched her constantly working. Despite the holidays, she would get up at 5:30 in the morning and was working constantly until 8 pm. At that point, she collapsed onto the couch next to me, maybe making it through an episode of “The Man in the High Castle,” and then going up to bed right after.

After a few days of this, I saw an opportunity for us to just sit together and enjoy each other’s company. Her response was “I need to dust upstairs.” Now, I’m sure there are some dust bunnies hiding in the crevices, but overall our house is fairly clean, and certainly dusting wasn’t on the priority list. So I asked her to nix that. She looked stressed, which I didn’t get. I mean, I just STOPPED her from doing work so we could relax together. How is that not…relaxing?

My wife’s reply was telling. “If I’m not working, I feel lazy. But if I work all day, I’m exhausted and tired.”

A catch-22 if I ever saw one, exacerbated, I think, by social media.


Social media has done great things to connect people. One big problem is that it is only a snapshot in time. For every cute baby picture there are a thousand moments of baby’s crying, screaming, puking and otherwise doing things you DON’T post on Facebook.

Every parent of multiple children knows this. Every new parent that grew up with social media does not. We mistakenly view our friends social media as the truth and compare ourselves to this ideal constantly, despite knowing that not everything on the internet is true. It isn’t helping us one bit.

The other brutal truth is that work is not the same as having purpose. We continue to tell ourselves that if we just made enough money, or had a nicer house, or did a bit more to discipline our kids, or whatever, then we would be happy. And yet, we can spend our entire lives working hard and never get any happier, even if our income rises.

So we get stuck in a nasty loop. We’re told that our success is measured by having the perfect kids, perfect house, perfect job, etc. And yet, none of us do, and what’s worse, we see others that we think “have it all.” So we work harder, driving ourselves further into the negative reinforcement loop. Are we surprised that Facebook makes us sad?

This isn’t new, in fact, it’s as old as the Bible:

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” – LUKE 10: 38-42

We can get purpose out of work, but that requires placing work as an offering to God, as a way to find meaning. We short circuit this when we use work to elevate ourselves over others. We get into a comparison war, even if it’s only in our heads, and we always wind up as the loser.

Martha vocalized her comparison war. Jesus reminded Martha that work is no substitute for purpose. We all likely need this reminder more often than not.