Giving Sacrificially

Keep in mind when reading my answer to your question that these ideas are my personal convictions and I don’t expect other people to agree with me. Also keep in mind that I am aggregating US churches as a whole at a macro level. I am aware that there are solid churches that people go to where there is community and spiritual development. Try to separate the churches you’re familiar with from what I will address at a macro level.

I think the institutional church in the US has become oriented around extending its presence in order to support itself primarily and the life of Christ secondarily. Churches in America have accumulated assets in large quantities: buildings, staffs, programs, multi-media equipment, etc. Most churches focus on numbers and one of the primary reasons for this is that as a church’s asset base increases — often purchased with debt — their need to grow and maintain the number of tithing attenders increases as well. I’m not saying all churches pursue money for the sake of money. I am saying that paying a mortgage and the salaries and benefits of staff tends to tug one’s motivation at least a few degrees away from North.

The asset-based church functions on the belief that growth in physical churches will result in growth in the kingdom. I question whether this is the case and to the degree it is true, I question whether making one church bigger is better than intentionally and peacefully splitting off to grow another, smaller church — a kind of spiritual mitosis, if you will. In America, we do things big. I’m not convinced the Big model is beneficial when it comes to body life.

The asset-based church seems to do a poor job of reflecting the nature of what Jesus did to fundamentally change how spirituality was developed. When he died, the temple veil was torn in two and access to the Holy of Holies was given not to priests but to everyone. Through Christ, everyone has access to the Father. The Church itself transformed from a temple-based hierarchy to a reality where people are priests to one another and the temples are no longer made of stones but of the people of God.

Yet, when we look at our church infrastructure, what do we see? A perpetuation of the physical temple and professional priests. We are taught to consume the services and programs of the physical temple and our priests. It makes sense that a consumption-based society would approach church from a consumption perspective but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good model for spiritual development.

So, when we give tithes at these churches, we aren’t necessarily giving to support the advance of the kingdom but rather the sustenance of the church’s asset base. Facilities, staff and programs are the primary building blocks of most churches in the United States. The extent of this focus on facilities, staff and programs can be seen when one considers that in many churches, those three line items consume 85% of total revenue (http://holysoup.com/2013/08/06/the-shocking-truth-of-church-budgets/). About 1% of a typical church budget goes to programs outside of the church.

I believe that this results in at least two significant problems: first, people leave ministry to the professionals and second, the church gives to the needs of the disadvantaged after the asset-based needs of the church have been met. We talk about caring about other people but if we look closely at how our churches behave and spend money, meeting the material needs of others is usually a budgetary afterthought.

The church in the United States has a tremendous amount of capital invested in itself. So, when I get marketing collateral asking me to give sacrificially, I start thinking about what that means to me and what it means to the typical church. To me, it means giving to organizations that seek to alleviate suffering in the world. Tanya and I give to many different organizations and World Vision is the only one we support that has an explicit Christian mission. We like them because of the substantive ways they help improve the material conditions of people they serve through their Five Fingers model and emphasis to lead communities to self reliance.

We donate to cancer several cancer research organizations (because three of our parents have died from cancer), to a couple animal welfare organizations (because we love animals) and to a few social welfare organizations in San Jose and San Francisco. I mention this not because I’m trying to congratulate myself for what we do but to demonstrate that our tithe goes to organizations that seek to reduce suffering and to improve the conditions that people and animals live in.

One could counter that these organizations have their own infrastructures that cost money to sustain and this would be a credible point. That is why we look for efficiency and effectiveness in charities. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with infrastructure; every organization needs structure. But for me, the issue is the difference between supporting the infrastructure for itself and the infrastructure as a means to extend assistance to the world with the intent to improve it. If I were considering giving to a charity and CharityNavigator.org reported that 15% of their revenue went to efforts related to their mission, I wouldn’t give to them.

We say that the demands and expectations of our culture require tooling church the way we do. I’m saying that maybe we ought to question that assumption. The early Christians weren’t renting out the Colosseum on Sunday mornings where bands played through sweet sound systems and pleasing PowerPoint slides were presented on large screens. They met in smaller settings and everyone handled the work of body life. A church that gets 20% of its people to be involved in the logistics of body life is probably average. That means 80% just comes to consume spiritual services. Just on that basis alone, one has to question how well American churches fit the norms of discipleship and spiritual maturity described in the new testament.

Another thing strikes me as significant. One would think that the very best time to advance a message to a global audience would be today. If Jesus wanted to influence as many people as possible, the internet and the information age would seem to be the ideal time to arrive. But he didn’t choose this era. He came instead to what was considered a backwater land at a time that was anything but sophisticated in its ability to spread messages quickly. Either God had insanely awful timing or there is something to the message that is not dependent on communication technology, entertainment, cultural relevance or massive infrastructure.

I’m open to sacrificial giving but I’m not interested in giving sacrificially to an infrastructure. What would happen if we turned the notion of sacrificial giving inside out? What if the churches in America decided to divest themselves of their assets and instead committed to meaningfully meeting people’s needs with that money? Think of all the churches in the country and the amount of money tied up in them. Now imagine all of that infrastructure gone and the tithes of believers being freed to give directly to creatively and meaningfully alleviate need and suffering. There are, of course, practical problems with this thought exercise but the intent is recognize how much money and energy is placed in the asset-based church model that is not being directed to meet needs.

It’s not all about money, of course. But when the primary focus is the temple and the priest, it’s difficult to understand that the kingdom can be advanced very well without temples and professional priests. One time when Tanya and I lived in Michigan, I bumped into an acquaintance from a church we used to attend. He told me we should come back and check them out. I asked why. His response was about the giftedness of the pastor. It struck me that he didn’t mention the nature of the people in the church and the kind of body life they had but rather, that their new pastor was entertaining.

The body of Christ managed to communicate well enough before the Industrial Revolution and its subsequent waves of innovation convinced us that spiritual work required technology, assets and a communication plan. Was the temple veil torn in two? Were we all made priests to one another? Are we not as individuals and as communities the temples of God? If these things are true, where is the best place for giving?

Give sacrificially but give sacrificially to the right thing. For me, the asset-based church is not the right thing.

My Response to “All Hail the Generalist” In HBR

 

Read the article here: All Hail the Generalist – Vikram Mansharamani – Harvard Business Review

Hooray generalists.

Moving to silicon valley five years ago created the personal upheaval I expected and craved. What I didn’t expect was the upheaval that occurred for me professionally due to the intensity with which many valley professionals specialize.  Business and culture here tend to prefer technology specialists. They are uber talented and rightly desired by firms.

I became painfully aware I was not one of them.

It took me one role with a startup run by conflicted leadership, another role with a small business run by an out-of-depth CEO, a valuable experience with Cisco and earning an MBA before I settled into a role where I can do well without needing to specialize in (to me) some kind of arcane technical discipline.

I had a fairly alarming and humbling recalibration process and honestly, felt like I would never find my place here.  Of the five years I’ve been in San Jose, I’ve spent 14 months unemployed.

I appreciate the perspective offered by this article and my slighted ego takes comfort in the nod. However, I don’t think we need to swing from the side of specialization to the side of generalism. Both have great value in an organization, particularly in the valley where technologists and polymaths ascend to positions of legacy, if not fetishism.

Silicon valley lauds the technologist and the polymath at the exclusion of seeking a kind of balance where both specialization and generalism work together — without the usual eye-rolling, thumb-jerking “those guys…” contempt — to develop a more integrated approach to work and creation. I don’t think firms should aspire to the supposed ascendancy of the generalist. Firms should aspire to integrate them both into a solid business model, organizational structure and culture.

Cannot. Stop. Laughing.

Kids Redo Sabotage Video, Better Than The Original (But Only Cuz the Original Was First)

Kid’s Sabotage

Beastie Boys Sabotage

How To Get Out of A Speeding Ticket

There are many approaches to getting out of a ticket. This is a transcript of a stop made by an LAPD officer. It is probably the most effective approach but you need to be cool.

Woman: Is there a problem, Officer?
Officer: Ma’am, you were speeding.
Woman: Oh, I see.
Officer: Can I see your license please?
Woman: I’d give it to you but I don’t have one.
Officer: Don’t have one?
Woman: Lost it 4 times for drunk driving.
Officer: I see…Can I see your vehicle registration papers please.
Woman: I can’t do that.
Officer: Why not?
Woman: I stole this car.
Officer: Stole it?
Woman: Yes, and I killed and hacked up the owner.
Officer: You what?
Woman: His body parts are in plastic bags in the trunk if you want to see.
The Officer looks at the woman, slowly backs away to his car, and calls for back up. Within minutes 5 police cars circle the car. A senior officer slowly approaches the car, clasping his half drawn gun.
Officer 2: Ma’am, could you step out of your vehicle
please!
The woman steps out of her vehicle.
Woman: Is there a problem sir?
Officer 2: One of my officers told me that you have stolen this car and murdered the owner.
Woman: Murdered the owner?
Officer 2: Yes, could you please open the trunk of your car, please.
The woman opens the trunk, revealing nothing but an empty trunk.
Officer 2: Is this your car, ma’am?
Woman: Yes, here are the registration papers.
The first officer is stunned.
Officer 2: One of my officers claims that you do not have a driving license.
The woman digs into her handbag and pulls out a clutch purse and hands it to the officer. The officer snaps open the clutch purse and examines the license. He looks quite puzzled.
Officer 2: Thank you ma’am, one of my officers told me you didn’t have a license, that you stole this car, and that you murdered and hacked up the owner.
Woman: I’ll Bet you the liar told you I was speeding too.

Renting Prosperity – WSJ.com

When Michigan’s housing market started its downward slide in 2003, I started to wonder if home ownership really is the pathway to security that it had been for many families in the past.

Perhaps for those who buy and hold their homes for several decades, the promise of home ownership remains. But for those who have recently purchased homes or those who have upgraded homes a few times, I have a suspicion that there are at least three factors that make home ownership less of the “no-duh” purchase it used to be:

  1. the market is riskier and has yet to stabilize
  2. repeatedly moving from house to house means owners spend more years in the front end of the amortization table where most of their payments are loaded with interest
  3. owners can no longer count on gaining equity through appreciation to offset the dominance of interest in the first seven years of the mortgage

In an expensive and unstable market like the San Francisco bay area, I like the safety of renting a home. Fortunately, I was fired from a job the day before we were going to buy a house in Santa Clara. Had we purchased it, we would have lost about $200,000 in market value. That experience sensitized me to the shocking risk of home ownership in coastal California.

People who bought homes in the past three years had in mind the previously-reliable maxim that buying in a down market was a good idea. The problem was that the bottom didn’t quite arrive -it kept dropping. This also sensitized me to the risk of ownership.

I once read that one should buy appreciating assets, i.e. homes, and rent depreciating assets, i.e. cars. We’ve owned two homes and leased eight BMWs with that philosophy. But now I have inverted those two: lease a home and buy the car. Why?

Because risk has become more important to me that appreciation or depreciation. I want to have the financial flexibility to adjust to a market by moving if necessary and to leave it easily without penalty or to buy a car and own it long term. If I own my car, I free up money that would be committed to a payment and that allows a bit more financial agility to adapt to riskier situations.

This Wall Street Journal article discusses the emerging trend of renting homes rather than buying them.

For an increasing number of Americans, though, it simply makes more sense to rent these days. According to Moody’s, by late 2011 it was cheaper to rent than to own in 72% of American metropolitan areas, up from 54% a decade ago. And the more people who do it, the more socially acceptable and desirable it becomes. The decline in the ownership rate means that about three million more households rent today than did at the height of the bubble.

It’s tempting to view the rise of rentership as an economic step backward. Renters can’t build up equity, and they have less control over their living standards than owners. Renting is generally seen as something you do when you’ve failed as a homeowner or are not yet ready to be one. But I’d argue the rise of rentership is a sign of a system adapting—albeit too slowly—to new realities.

via Renting Prosperity – WSJ.com.

Letters of Note: Iorz feixfuli, M. J. Yilz

Referenced Article: Letters of Note: Iorz feixfuli, M. J. Yilz.

I’ve been thinking lately about how texting and ghetto slang has changed the spelling of words. Spelling Nazi’s come in and correct you’re spelling and tell you your an idiot for not spelling properly and that their should be more emphasis payd to the proper spelling of wordz.

If we are honest, we will consider the possibility that the notion of “correct spelling” is fairly ridiculous. There are many rules and a great number of exceptions. Homonyms, contractions, vowels, consonants, synonyms. All cause problems. Words aren’t spelled the way they sound or don’t even look look like they are pronounced.

For example: conceit. forfeit.

Does spelling really matter? If we allowed some flexibility in spelling variations, would it be such a big deal? Could we not determine meaning from the context of the word? I wonder if “contextual spelling” would make it easier to learn English, especially for someone for whom English is a second language.

Grammar probably does matter but right now, I’m not sure that spelling necessarily does.

This 1971 letter to the editor of The Economist makes an interesting point in a delightful way.
What do you think of proper spelling?

Writing Exercise: Write the First Word I Don’t Know

This is a scene I wrote tonight based on a new writing exercise I came up with. Using vocabulary.com, I will write a scene or story based on the first word I do not know (and which also sounds interesting).

panegyric – eulogic, encomiast
A formal, high-minded speech can be described with a formal, high-minded word — the word panegyric, which is a very elaborate tribute to someone. You could consider most eulogies as panegyrics.
It stands to reason that the original use of the word panegyris, from which panegyric derives, was to describe a public gathering in honor of a Greek god. The Latin, L. panegyricus, altered slightly to mean “public eulogy,” which around the 16th Century shifted to the French panégyrique, which meant “laudation.” In any case, the word today stands for high praise given in a speech or tribute as highfalutin as the word itself sounds.

A stilted silence seized the conversation. Milton, a man with a shiny pate pitifully ornate with greasy strands of hair, had realized five beats too late that he has mentioned the wrong name. Unlike others who might look awkwardly down at their plates, this group looked at each other directly, with foresight and intent, each attempting to read the others’ reaction to Milton’s faux pas. Infrequent light, eradicable flickering lights, tenuous amber vibrations unfolded on white plates, red meats and green and red salads. No one’s eyes averted and Milton did not feel shame in the silence. He had not been shameful but clumsy.
“I’m surprised…” and a shallow bright voice trailed off to a short silence. Still enough to punctuate the moment like punching a man in the stomach with a pillow between fist and abs.
Glances flashed across the table in a rapid network of emotionneurons, looking for revulsion, acceptance, doubt, forgiveness, whatever the current status may be. Without a clear lead, they looked ton one another to follow.
Milton’s shiny forehead was bowed slightly as he seached his cache to wonder how he could have let this happen. What led up to it? That memory that reminded him [of Calvin]. Once the memory is recalled, the name, the face, the recollections of times before banishment, it is difficult not to think of him. One cannot not think of something once they have thought of it. Milton remembered trying spastically to twist himself away from the vibrating sheath through which the memory of Cavin [yes cavin] managed to permeate itself while being pushed away until Milton, casually let him through the sheath of memory into the front of his mind then wetly on his tongue.
“… That we would mentiion him?”
The eyes of the bright-voiced woman closed, opened, closed and opened in an acquiescent code of acknowledgement.
Someone reached to take a drink of wine and in quick conformity, everyone else brought their wines, scotches, vodkas to their lips, a mass gesture of fidgets.
“Tom would know what to say…”
Gregory Townsend brought his glass down to the table with emphatic force, the heel of his hand both cupping his scotch and softening the thudded percussion.
“Tom was a goddamned encomiast. Tom would laud the nature of Lucifer, tumbling and twisting stories and facts so that he be not a tempter but an opportunist. We don’t need perceptions for this.”

It was too much. His palms opened flat and angled toward he breadth of the table to assure them and apologize for using more force than was necessary.
“Milton, you clearly were thinking of him.” Veronica Wells twirling a thick section of hair between her thumb and three fingers. Her eyes seeing his then leading his eyes across the table,  as if to remind him that this was his moment.
Thick Milton fingers rubbed over his bald skull as he leaned toward the table, head tipped down, eyes raised to Veronica. She had a memory of rehearsal, something plotted, planned. Milton stepped to the center where the dominante would be. He had no memory. Though it was him who culled Cavin to memory as they all sat at the table and had thought weeks before their dinner that it had been too long since they had mentioned it. Milton had not rehearsed it but he had planned it. As he drove, Cavin pressed into his mind. The dominance, the potency of the man, pushed against the vinyl membrane of memory, made it porous and now this moment bound them in strands of memory and resentment. Adrenalin surged, dread. The gawking wonder of awkward spectacle, stopping the traffic of conversation, words, rehearsed by each for days to assert personna.
Knives and forks, cups, glasses cascade in tinny, food-eating animosity. Cryptic dashes and dots of forks and knives tapping out staccato beats of rhythms of eating, chewing, drinking. Milton now hearing it all and falling into this unquenched desire for closure, for something that was true, credible, forgivable. Tom’s mighty chest, whose vested suit was the corpulent bodice of his power, thrust out at the table in the memories of them all. It was only their third dinner since.
Milton, covertly confident, crippled by ungainly appearance but welcomed by the thoughtful and attractive, stalled. Not from hesitation but from drama, to separate himself from Gregory’s … [whatever]. Milton chose.
“I was. Thinking. I took — I had a long drive in. Cavin… in my mind.”
A few others thought that if Milton’s attempt failed, they would try to gain Tom’s spot. Spinning, querying.
“Our grief is from two men. One who chose, one who died. This could be the last time we meet. We have to say the words we all know, we hide, we push deep down with our hands pressed flat, pushing from our throats to our stomachs. We stuff it and if we keep pushing with our hands, we will end. We are all too honest, if we prefer, than to pretend that this was the unforgivable. We are all too many liars too and if we let us, we will lie and never meet again.”
Some eyes turned to laps, some looked in the direction of the feigned laughter of an indifferent woman being entertained by the endless stories of her date’s perfection. Those who too had thought of Cavin during the day, who had been unwilling to press their hands down any longer, looked at Milton and invited him with earnest faces to say more.

Kaspersky: Mac security is ’10 years behind Microsoft’ | Apple – CNET News

 

Link to the article: Kaspersky: Mac security is ’10 years behind Microsoft’ | Apple – CNET News.

I expect to be corrected by Kevin, Tom, and Joel on this but I’m going to say this anyway.

I’ve heard OS X enthusiasts say for years that the OS is architecturally superior to Windows and that Microsoft’s long battle against malware proves the inherent superiority of Max OS.

I have argued on bimmergeek.com for years that Macs have been protected by security by obscurity until relatively recently. I have further argued that a legitimate case can be made that Windows actually has substantively better security specifically because it has been attacked relentlessly and updated by Microsoft for years.

Windows has been tested and proven in the wild. OS X has not. All OS X has are claims it is inherently superior.

Recently, there was an outbreak of Mac malware that is estimated to have infected 600,000 Macs and may still be active on 185,000 machines. I have been surprised that Mac adherents say that it wasn’t really OS X that was compromised but rather Java. The distinction is only meaningful to people interested in technology because the end result is that 600,000 Macs were exploited by malware and that’s really what matters to end users.

The article I cite for this post reviews some of the efforts that Apple will use to help protect users and those efforts are primarily functions of Apple’s “walled garden,” which I generally consider to be an effective means of protecting devices. It works well for iOS  devices but it’s a bit more flawed as a security approach for Macs.

With iOS, the only way to install applications is through iTunes or the App Store (assuming the device hasn’t been jail-broken). Not so with OS X. .dmg files and installation packages can be downloaded from any site that offers them. It’s a good move to require apps sold on the App Store to comply with sandbox rules but since the App Store isn’t the only source for apps, it’s not a complete solution.

The problem is that these technical solutions do not protect users from themselves. Most malware depends on “social engineering,” a term that refers to inciting users to bypass security measures on behalf of the malware. Users do this because they are unaware of what they are actually doing when they download an attachment and open it. Malware won’t conform to sandbox rules and if a user is persuaded to open it, there’s not a lot the OS can do until a threat surfaces and patches are issued.

I have been eagerly anticipating this time. We are about to see if OS X is truly inherently secure or if its market obscurity has enabled it to coast on false claims.

 

30 Amazing Sculptures Made out of Cardboard

30 Amazing Sculptures Made out of Cardboard.

I greatly enjoy the use of Durex boxes to build a cathedral.

 

 

 

 

 

HTC, Facebook jointly developing smartphone, say sources

Link to Article: HTC, Facebook jointly developing smartphone, say sources.

This article discusses yet another round of rumors that Facebook seeks to develop its own platform phone.

Why don’t they just make a Facebook application that isn’t a steaming pile of poo?

Trite Bumper Philosophy

I hate this trite saying. A lot.

I hate it because it’s a bullshit value of goodness. It’s supposed to inspire people to be kind and, if the bumper is long enough to contain the full maxim, inspire people to practice senseless acts of beauty.

It sounds so good but it’s fluffy, bullshit philosophy.

Goodness, kindness and beauty are not random or senseless. This tenet of bumper sticker philosophy leaves goodness, kindness and beauty up to whim or chance.

Instead, the message could be: Be consistently and thoughtfully kind to others and show them beauty through your life. 

 

3D Glass Plate Photos From the 1930s

 

Link to PetaPixel Article: 3D Glass Plate Photos From the 1930s.

Instaport.me Downloads Your Instagrams

Use Instaport.me to download all your Instagram images. You know, just in case you’re worried Facebook is going to eff Instragram up.

Caine’s Arcade | A cardboard arcade made by a 9-year old boy.

Caine’s Arcade | A cardboard arcade made by a 9-year old boy..

I saw this video bouncing around Facebook and blew it off because it’s a 10 minute film. But wow! What a great story.

Meaningless Web Marketing Collateral | Ziiva Products

 

 

Link to: Learning Management Software | Ziiva Products

I am working on finding candidates for a learning management system for my company. I have looked at the websites of somewhere around 300 LMS sites and it amazes me how poorly companies communicate what their products actually DO.

They just fill their pages with bullshit like this:

That’s what training directors asked for. Our response is Ziiva Prosperity.

Prosperity product suite brings flexible, easy-to-use tools to your learning and human capital initiatives that successfully deliver documented results.

That’s what CEOs and CFOs asked for. And Ziiva also responds to those needs with a scalable, affordable yet fully functioning LMS.

Ziiva offers a complete package to create, manage and report classroom, online and on-the-job training with Prosperity LMS, Prosperity Creator and Ziiva’s Course Libraries.

This says nothing about Ziiva’s products. It’s just marketing jibber-jabber that some twenty-five year old Communications and Marketing major learned to write in her Marketing Comms 390 class.

I’m pretty sure what CFOs and CEOs are looking for is a product that actually does something.

Commemorating Easter As Cranky Dave

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to separate religion from faith. I think of religion as a set of activities that I can do to make me feel good about myself spiritually (and sometimes, religion is what I do to make other people feel good about me spiritually, too). Faith is something at my core, the essence of who I am, that drives who I am and how I see myself and others in relation to God. The problem is, that even as I write this, my groping definition of faith feels vague and incomplete to me.

The fact that faith feels vague and incomplete while religion feels concrete and specific is probably why people gravitate toward religion more than faith.

I suspect that a lot of religion is oriented around good behavior, where “good” is defined within a society and within the community of believers that one associates with. Faith, while perhaps looking to God for the formation of a kind of goodness, is something that has less to do with good behavior in the moment and more to do with the long-term process of connecting one’s identity more fully with God than with the controllable things in the world.

This is not to say that goodness is immaterial to faith but it is to say that faith is primarily concerned about an audience of One whereas religion is concerned about an audience of many.

As with any tension in life, it is difficult to maintain a balance between two or more forces that cause the tension. Generally, people give in to one of the forces that cause the various kinds of tensions we live in. In the tension between religion and faith, it is easier to give in to the force of religion because it is most tangible, most understandable and therefore, most controllable.

In 1987, during my junior year at Michigan State, I decided to exchange my agnosticism for a beginning kind of faith. My agnosticism was really nothing more than a passive-aggressive stance toward God because I was angry with him about my life experiences to that point. Ever since I was a young kid, I had thoughts about God that, even though they were somewhat vague, had a single constant to them: I believed somehow that God was personal.

And that was why I was pretty pissed off at him and why I held off for 21 years a decision to give him a chance to bring some meaning to the fairly painful experiences I had as a boy. I was pissed because I couldn’t reconcile a personal God with the experiences I had in my youth. I’ve always wondered how I would’ve responded if I had possessed an impersonal view of God. How would I have responded to God if I thought he was just an Initial Cause, something that somehow spun up the Universe and then left us alone in all of this pervasively flawed, magnificent wonder?

Somehow as a kid, I made a connection between what I saw in the world and a God with personality, power, language and some kind of disposition toward people. I don’t know how to explain making that connection, but I still believe they are the critical characteristics of God that make God accessible and knowable.

In June this year, I will pass a 25 year landmark. For 25 years, I have been trying to better integrate my life with my belief in God. Honestly, the difficulty comes not from my love for God but rather from my inability to act in ways that give some kind of indication that God’s presence in my life has made a difference. For sure, when I compare myself today to the kind of person I was in 1987, I have grown a lot and I think I can say fairly that I am a better person than I would have been without some kind of faith in God to guide me.

Yet, after all this time of fairly intentional desire and effort to know God and to please him, I am still selfish, impatient, angry, distant, judgmental, intolerant and greedy. I am laaazy. Though there are parts of who I am that I like, there are also parts of myself that I hate, that I detest. And I hate that I cannot get rid of those parts. And by “hate,” I mean venomous, contemptuous hatred that I sometimes paradoxically direct at others, and at times, sensibly, I direct at myself.

So all this to say that for good and bad reasons, I tend to not get too engaged in Christmas or the Good Friday/Easter weekend. This is because annual celebrations don’t resonate with me. It’s because the birth of Jesus means less to me than that he lived among people and died in the effort to help us. He could’ve arrived suddenly and magically in a cosmic Jesus Prius — having not descended from the lineage of Jewish legacies — and I would still believe in him. The means by which Jesus came to earth is not that important to me.

What matters to me is that he lived.

And it doesn’t matter to me that we celebrate his death and resurrection at this general point in time every year. It’s mostly religious anyway. Chocolate bunnies and colored eggs aren’t symbols that connect me to God.

What tends to work more for me is to be reminded of the life of Christ through the year. I know this sounds like some kind of cheesy aphorism but it is generally true. I felt emotionally connected to God my first couple Christmases after 1987 but not after that. This is probably for two reasons: the novelty of God’s presence in my life wore off and I got back into the commercialism of the holiday.

I am a closet religionist. Dave the Religionist lurks in hidden places and once in a while, he outs himself. It is for this reason that I try to avoid the religious impulse and most likely, I over-compensate to keep religion at bay.

I think it is my badness, my obvious and not-so-obvious defects that compel me to avoid religion. Intuitively, I believe there is no intrinsic power in religious experiences. For other people, there may be power in their religion. For me there is not. My hope, then, has to be in a God who knows me and loves me. My faith is in a God who knows my deep flaws, who sees my hypocrisy and fallibility, and still doesn’t give up on me.

The funny irony of this post is that in the writing of it, I just realized I am reminded of Jesus Christ, which is part of the point of Easter Sunday. I suppose, though, the paradox is that it wasn’t the holiday itself that led me to remembrance but the act of writing — something which is deeply important to me — that called my mind and my heart to remember God.

So, today and for any other day in which you are reminded of God, observe it in a way that is personal and meaningful for you. Perhaps another way to distinguish religion from faith is that one is what you believe because others have told it to you and the other is what you believe because you have questioned it, played with it, rejected it, tested it and finally taken it for yourself, not because someone else told you to, but because it belongs in you.

And perhaps more importantly, there could be a few beliefs that people tell you should not or cannot exist in a person’s faith but you take them inside you because for you, they have meaning.  Religion has cultural momentum; faith overcomes that inertia. There are many examples in the scriptures that show people taking on a belief that was not well-received in their community but which was pleasing to God.

We have an audience of One. We each understand that One in different ways. That’s okay because truth isn’t necessarily found in conformity. Perhaps today can be a time when we clarify what that Audience means in our lives not because others have told us what it means but because we have found that meaning on our own.

I Totally Judge Companies By Their Websites

I’m evaluating learning management systems for work. I found a source of about 400 LMS solutions and am reviewing every single one.

My number one criteria for filtering them out: If their website is crappy looking, doesn’t say anything meaningful or has typos, I instantly bounce. They don’t get considered at all.

Corpo jibber jabber gets a quick DQ too.

  • seamless integration
  • best in class

Crazy Connectivity When Traveling to Monterey Bay Aquarium

A few months after we moved to California In January 2007, we drove down to Monterey to visit the aquarium. Of course, my bladder being what it is, I had to go to the bathroom shortly after arriving. As I angled toward the men’s room, I saw a friend of ours, Kellen, coming out of the women’s bathroom. Kellen was in eighth grade (I think) at the time. She was with her mom, Kathy and her sister, Lindsay.

We had not made plans to see them at the aquarium. We didn’t even know they were in California! So, we were able to spend a little bit of time with them before we headed back to Cupertino.

Yesterday, Tanya and I went to the aquarium for the day. While we were there, I saw this guy walking around the penguin exhibit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had to subtly stalk him to confirm he really was wearing a shirt that was for a color tour in Grayling, Michigan, the small town I grew up in. After assuring myself that he had been to THAT Grayling, I chatted with him for a couple minutes. He was from southern Michigan but had been on a train fall color trip. We chatted about Michigan a bit and then parted ways.

Then on our way home, we encountered this Toyota on the road (click to enlarge):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only is this car from Michigan (not that big of a deal) but it had a license plate from from  Spartan Toyota. This dealership is located in Lansing, where I lived for 22 years before moving to California.

So, I now wonder if future trips to Monterey Bay Aquarium will hold similar kinds of weird connections to my past.

Lottery Tipping Point

 

I’m fascinated by the excitement around a $500M lottery jackpot. I wonder what the tipping point is that causes people to purchase numbers when they wouldn’t do so ordinarily.

Is it a function of the specific size of the pot or of the publicity surrounding the size of the pot?

If it’s the publicity, I get it. Who wants to be left out? But if it’s the size of the pot, it makes less sense to me. Why is winning $500 million different from a $50 million or even $10 million pot? How does the size of the pot matter? What? $10 mill isn’t worth your time?

Anyone have opinions or informed perspectives as to why lottery excitement causes people who wouldn’t ordinarily buy tickets decide to do so?