Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN: Piano forte

There is a residual part of me that hangs on to the belief that it is important that I learn to play the piano. I think this mostly comes from my undergraduate work in music. Piano was a rather import aspect of that time, and I never really thought that I learned it well enough. I know that since then I have let my mediocre talents slide into the abysmal.

We have a piano in our house. It is the instrument that I grew up on, that I originally learned to play on.  My parents gave it to us when we bought a house. My wife plays beautifully, which I love. However, she has never really taken to the traditional piano technique. She plays by ear and is self-taught. She is one of those people who can just sit down and play. I have even tested her, letting her listen to songs I know she has never heard before and seeing if she can replay them; she always succeeds.

Meanwhile, when i sit down to play the piano, I have to take the slow way around. I can read music, which she cannot, but I do not understand the keyboard the way that she does. So I slowly cobble notes and chords together, building a song in a plodding, frustrating manner. A song that she, after hearing it once, could put together with little difficulty.

There is really no reason for me to play the piano. I like the instument, but there is no practical use. I don't need it for my job, or any of my extracurriculars. It is literally a hold over from childhood and college. Yet it sits in our living room and I want to be able to sit and play something beautiful on it. I want to redeem all those hours I spent practicing, all the money that was spent on lessons and on the piano itself. I hold out little hope that I ever will.

My daughter shows some burgeoning interest in the piano.  She is too young to really start with it, but I see that it fascinates her. I hold hope in check, as I do not want to pressure her into playing, but I secretly hope that she takes to it and loves it and accomplishes the things I never could. It will, in a sense, redeem my trifling efforts, since it will have been my haggard relationship with the keys that first introduces her to it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Renewing Mind: Money for Nothin

I am not a financial genius.

I would say that I do average at watching my finances. I am able to tithe, able to save some money, pay my bills, and have a little fun. That was great when I was single.  When I got married, we started trying to be a little more intentional about our money, but it usually ended poorly. Since it is exponentially harder to be aware of 2 people's finances at the same time, we eventually settled into a more advanced version of what I had been doing before.

Now we are having kids. It just seemed that we really needed to get a handle on what was happening with our money. So last night, 2 friends of ours from church who are also financial planners came over to talk to us about it. They made things very easy, gave us a little homework to do, and got us thinking in the right direction. The thing I realized after we talked was that I should have done something like this 15 years ago.  I had this mindset that paying too much attention to my money was somehow sinful, that it meant I was putting money before God. Now I realize that I oversimplified it. Being responsible with the gifts you are given is very biblical.

So, my suggestion to any one who hasn't figured out what your money is doing, figure it out. If you aren't good with finances, that's fine. Find someone to help you. I can recommend some people. If you feel like you don't make or have enough money to make it worthwhile, you're wrong.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Renewing Mind: A lapse in Vigilance

Yesterday I didn't post. It is the first real one that I have missed since I started this, 56 days ago.

As far as runs go, I think that is pretty good, but I still am a little peeved about the lapse. I think mostly it's because I don't really have a great reason for missing it. I just got caught up in other things and forgot. No good reason, just a little bit of absent-mindedness.

I think that is how sin usually makes it into our lives as well. Sure, there might be the one or two big things that you struggle with, the epic, titanic battles; but mostly, I feel like sin sneaks in when we are distracted by other things. It sneaks into the tone of voice I use when I am talking to someone, or into how I drive when I am rocking out, or how my pride peaks out when I am unconsciously judging people on TV. It is an insidious, evil ninja: if there is anyway to get in an mess up your life, it will find it.

Which is why we need to be ridiculously vigilant and why grace is so important. Grace forgives all the sin we have in our lives, even when--especially when--we don't know it's there. It frees us up to be vigilant about what we can see through the power of faith in Christ.

So, I'm not going to be too on myself for missing a day. I'll just start over and keep writing and hope that I slowly get better at it and that my progress somehow helps out someone else.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Renewing Mind/Sensitive Geek MAN: Marriage Works

I haven't been married that long in the grand scheme of things, so I am not sure my advice on the matter is fully vested. However, having been married as long as I have (and also having dated a decent but not overwhelming number of women before I got married) I have come to a few conclusions.

I am going to share one now.

When you are young, you think of all of these things you want in a spouse: the movies they like, the sorts of things you will do together, the books they read, whether they like the outdoors, what music they listen to, whether they like to dance, if you have things in common, blah blah blah.

There is really only 2 things you need to make a marriage work.

1. A spouse that doesn't believe in divorce no matter what.
2. A spouse that will work things through with you no matter how long it takes.

Now, those of you who read this blog or know me are probably surprised I didn't say that one of the things you need is Jesus Christ. Well, I am sure there are people in the world who have functional marriages and don't know The Lord. However, I do believe that knowing and following Jesus is the most important thing you can have in common and for me it was a non-negotiable. Also, if you both know Jesus you should automatically get those other 2 things as well as a good slew of other things that will help.

Anyway, if you have the above 2 things, it is very possible to make a marriage work, and marriage is hard work--don't believe anyone who says otherwise. If you go into your marriage thinking it is going to be always fun and romantic and light and wonderful, you are in for a rude awakening and possibly divorce (unless you also have those above 2 things and/or Jesus.) Marriage is work even for the best couples. There will be times you don't want to work, that you wonder why you got married, that you wonder what the other person could possibly see in you, but you can get through it. When you make it through those sorts of trials, you get something wonderful: a relationship where you can trust the other person unreservedly, because they have proven they will always be there, supporting you even when they don't feel like it and loving you even when they don't like you.

So, this is a message to my wife: When I said I would go where you go and stay where you stay, I meant it. I love you even when we are making each other crazy. We have good times and bad, but the important thing is that we have Jesus and each other.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Renewing Mind: Be Ye Kind

Other people's bad behavior does not excuse your own bad behavior.

The other day I was forced to have a potentially volatile conversation with someone at work. Before the conversation, I made a conscious choice to be kind and gentle even if we were disagreeing. I believe I did fairly well, even though we did disagree a few times.

After the conversation, someone who overheard it accused me of being overly accommodating, although he used more colorful language to describe it. His argument was that the person who I had been talking to is difficult and doesn't deserve my politeness. Even if that is true, I am not being kind to anyone based on what they deserve, I am attempting based on the kind of person I want to be. How you treat others says more about you than it does about them.

I fail at kindness far to often to point fingers, I just believe that my actions are my own responsibility and I am not given a special dispensation just because the other person deserves my wrath. We all deserve wrath and Thank God we don't receive it. I agree that, unfortunately, that people try to take advantage of those who are kind, but that doesn't mean that kindness should stop. It just means that kindness and gentleness need to be combined with strength and boundaries.

So no, I will not fix your computer. But I love you.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Renewing Mind/Sensitive Geek MAN: The American Nightmare

There are days when i think that the "American Dream" is killing us.

I know the most iconic symbol of the American Dream is owning a house, which I think most people would say is a difficult prospect at the moment. However, even though owning a house is problematic at this point, I think the attitude behind it is alive and well. The pursuit of comfort, of things, of increasing wealth and prosperity is ingrained in the minds of a lot of americans.  I know it is ingrained in my brain and my failure to attain those things the way I 'think' i was supposed to causes me a rather pathetic amount of angst.

I don't think it needs to be that way, for me or anyone else. Is it worth having both parents work and miss out on the lives of their children just so the family can have a few more bucks in the bank? Is it worth having a house if the payments on it trap you in it? Is it worth worrying yourself into a stupor over tragedies that might befall you and whether you have the monetary resources to weather them? Our media, our culture, everything around us says YES. But we chase those things and don't feel more fulfilled. We don't feel safer.

Because we are putting our trust in the wrong things. Money is only as good as the government that backs it, and I think most of us agree that our government is having serious issues. Security is only as good as the people who protect you, and everyday we hear stories of injustices perpetrated by the very organizations that are supposed to see to our well-being. Saving is only as good as the institutions into which you put your money for safe-keeping, and none of our investment opportunities have proven to be even mildly trustworthy.

So I say we stop chasing the American Dream. Start being honest with ourselves. I will probably never be able to retire, but really there is no reason to if I am doing a worthwhile work. I may not have every possession that my heart fancies, but less things that I own mean more of my affections are free to be used on better things. I can spend those affections on my friends, my family, my God.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Renewing Mind: A Somehow Pleasing Pain

Being a Christian is funny.

I'm encouraged by things that are actually pointing out how sinful I really am. How often does that happen. that you are really truly uplifted by criticisms? We claim all the time that we want constructive criticism, but how often are you really happy about receiving it?  I think deep down we say we want criticism, but we really want people to just tell us how well we are doing and how awesome we are.

Which is why it is odd when, sitting in church listening to my (in my opinion) brilliant pastor, I feel really convicted by what he is sharing with us and I really like it. I think this happens for 2 reasons.

First, when I feel conviction and see a place in my life that I need to give more to Christ, I have a chance to really let Him into my life more, which is exciting. I know it will be work and it won't always be fun, but because I love Him I know that ultimately it will be for the best, and that excites me.

Second, when I feel convicted it reminds me that my soul has been made alive in Christ. Before I was caught up in the divine grip of grace, my soul would never have felt anything at a sermon of this sort. I was deadened to this sort of stimulus. That I feel it know, can see it working in me, even if it is a slow process, gives me such joy. It is a proof that Christ is in me and I in Him. Anything that reminds me of that can't be something to be sorrowful about, no matter how harsh the criticism.

That's the peculiarity of a life in Christ: Pain is made a joyous experience, wisdom is seen in foolishness, strength is shown through weakness.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Renewing Mind: All Souls Day

Today is the Catholic Celebration of All Souls Day.

I am not Catholic, was not raised Catholic, so I may not completely understand what this day is all about; but from what I understand this day is meant for the remembrance of those souls who are being prepared for heaven through purgatory. The idea is that the 'faithful departed' who have not been fully cleansed because of venal sins or some such are having their final sins worked out in purgatory. This day is in remembrance of them.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no real biblical passage that proves their is such a place as purgatory. My understanding is that is a Catholic tradition more than a scriptural doctrine, although I am sure there are some scriptures that can be taken out of context to support purgatory.

The bigger issue in my mind is that the concept of purgatory weakens the power of Christ. If there are people who, while believing in Christ and trusting Him for their salvation, still are not allowed into heaven because they where not fully cleansed, that demeans the power of Christ to save the lost. It implies that there is something we must do in regards to our salvation other than have faith and that our actions after we have come to Christ can actually dull Christ's salvific work.

Ephesians says:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

This makes it very clear that there is nothing we do that saves us. From the perspective of making us right for heaven, our actions have no influence in our attainment of heaven.

The confusion may come in the Epistle of James, where he says "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” –James 2:14
He goes on to say "Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” –James 2:18

James is not saying that your works save you or even have any influence in the salvation offered by Christ. He is saying that a true faith in Christ will overflow out of a believer, causing them to go spread the message of Christ through good done to others.

 That being said, All Soul's Day, in it's strictest sense, celebrate nothing. Anyone who has died in Christ attains heaven without further issue.

If we take All Soul's Day a little less literally, it is a sad day of remembering those who died without the saving power of Christ in their lives.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Renewing Mind: All Saints Day

Today is All Saints Day, the day that when the Catholic Church (and possible some liturgical protestants churches) celebrate those who have attained entrance to heaven.

Not growing up in the Catholic tradition, I am not sure how the celebration of this day actually occurs, but I like the idea in general. I think it is a good idea to think on those who have gone before, those who set an example for us as we live out our lives here on Earth.

However, it occurs to me that we could just as easily recognize this day as a celebration of Jesus's triumph in our own lives. Those of us who are in Christ are already a new creation, even though we struggle with flesh. We have, in a sense, already achieved heaven. Since our eternity is already secured, I think that entitles us to celebrate on this day, but our celebration should be one that looks to Christ's justification in our lives, not anything that we have done.

So happy All Saints Day, ye saints of the Lord.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Renewing Mind: All Hallows Eve

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, which occasionally puts me at odds with others in the christian establishment.

For the most part, the people I hang out with the most now understand my enjoyment of the holiday and tend to feel at least somewhat similarly. However, once in a while I come across someone who is appalled that I actually really enjoy Halloween. 'It's the devils holiday.'

Actually, it isn't. At least not historically. Historically, it can be connected with a lot of pagan holidays, and a few of them did have death or the dead as its focus. However, the holiday most associated with Halloween is the Celtic festival of Samhain, which is primarily a festival for the end of harvest. Samhain did have some supernatural influences, but not as much to do with the 'day of the dead' as we have made it in modern times.

So then some may argue that 'it's still a pagan festival, we shouldn't celebrate it.' I don't disagree on the main point, that pagan festivals shouldn't be fully recognized, just as pagan gods shouldn't be worshiped. But our modern celebration of Christmas occurs in December, not because that's when Jesus was born (He was most likely born in Summer) but because the early church for some reason associated the birth of Christ with the pagan holiday of Saturnalia. The Christmas tree is from that background. The word Easter has nothing to do with Christianity, it is actually a an Old English/Germanic name for a long forgotten goddess and also the old name for the month we now call April. The egg hunts and the Easter Bunny all have their origin in non-Christian tradition.

It is posited that the early church adopted these dates and/or practices in order to more easily assimilate pagan cultures into Christianity as they converted. Whether you agree with that methodology or not, that is what has influenced the way we celebrate holidays in the modern world.

As for Halloween, Samhain became associated with All Hallows Eve, which is the night before All Saints Day (Nov. 1), the Catholic Church's recognition of all the saints.

I just like to put on crazy costumes and have some fun.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Renewing Mind: Things that need to change.

The way I show my love for God
The way I show my love for my family
The way I think about the work I do
The way I feel about my job
The way I eat
The way I take care of myself
The way I treat my friends
The way I treat my cat
The regularity with which I clean
The way I drive
The way I react to how others drive
The choices I make in regard to how I consume entertainment
the way I play games
They way I react to how you play games
The way i think about money
The way I feel about money
The way i spend money
the way I talk to my wife about money
the way I talk to my wife
the way I talk
how I think about my place in society
how much I contribute to the betterment of society
how much time I spend on relatively unimportant things
how often I cook
how often I put something off because I assume someone else will do it
how often I don't get involved because I don't think it is any of my business
how often I don't get involved because I don't care
how I treat people when I finally do get involved
how often I call my parents
how often I call my friends
how often I pray
how I pray
how I worship
how often I worship
how often I phone it in
how often I overreact
how often I take things out on you
how often I let you take things out on me
how I want what you have
how I want you to want what I have
how I feel about the things that I have
how I think about the things that I have
how ungrateful i am about the things I've been given
how ungracious I am about the things I have to give
how useless I sometimes feel
how prideful I am
how selfish I am
how we think about each other
how we think about where we live
how we think about what we do
how little thought we give to the state of our souls
how little thanks we give to God for His inexpressible gift.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN: The Winter of our Discontent

Once, Winter was my favorite season.

When I lived in SoCal, Winters were dry, maybe a little rainy, but overall comfortable. Average low temperatures were in the 60s. Within a few hours, I could be up in the mountains pursuing my favorite sport: Skiing. It was one of a very small number of sport in which I had some actual talent, and it's just fun. I even sort of enjoyed falling. Even when I wasn't in the mountains, Winter in southern California was enjoyable. You could even still go to the beach, have bonfires, and brave the water if you didn't mind being a little cold.

Now I live in Illinois, and it has ruined Winters for me. Really I blame the whole MidWest. It gets wickedly cold, and after over 15 years here I have still never gotten used to it. I used to love snow, now I see it as an enemy who invades my yard and much be destroyed. Having a white Christmas is somewhat enjoyable, but Christmas is really the only day that snow doesn't feel me with a quiet frustration. The one thing that could have redeemed the whole thing for me would be if there was some sort of skiing around, but the closest real ski mountain is a good 10 or more hours away.

In general, I try not to complain about it. I don't have an issue with Illinois most of the time, there are only a few places I would move to if given the chance, and southern California isn't one of them. I just miss the Winters I loved.

For a long time, I saw little upside.  Then, I was sent on a business trip to SoCal in January, when it was frigidly cold in Chicagoland. In California, it was in the high 60s. The Californians were walking around, bundled up against the 'cold' while I rented a convertible and drove around in short sleeves with the top down..

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN: Why Writers Write

Its getting harder to write in this blog everyday. Not that it is actually hard to write, I'm pretty happy with how well I've been sitting down to write everyday. What's getting hard is thinking of things to write about.

I'll admit that some days are easier than others. There are times when ideas just pop into my head or situations occur that make it easy for me to have something to write about. Overall, though, it is slowly but surely getting harder to consistently have something in mind that I think is worth spending time writing about. Part of the issue is originality. I have this idea that everything I write needs to be original in some way; either I can't have written anything about it before or it can't be an idea that I think has been done to death. Really though, if I am honest, there isn't anything that is truly original anymore. Nothing new under the sun, as it were. The best I think most people can do is have an interesting outlook on some theme, not really come up with a new theme.

I think lack of true originality isn't so much of an issue, seeing as cultures and societies often need new writers to pick up the common themes. As much as I enjoy Shakespeare, he is not as widely read as I would hope him to be. So a newer writer comes along and adapts Shakespeare's work for the modern audience. Also, ideas need to be revisited. Even though equality, racial and gender issues, and questions about poverty are centuries old, we need to be reminded of them fairly regularly in order to make sure that we don't fall back into old, bad practices.

This is why the same general story can be told over and over with just some updates for modern audiences. People need to be reminded of old truths in new ways that are more accessible to them. That is one of the jobs of the writer: not just to come up with new stories and themes, but to revisit the old stories and themes for his modern readers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN: Poetry Day ~ The Fall of Troy

The fall of Troy

Everyone has lost their eyes,
sockets smooth as ancient Greek sculpture,
and, like that art,
they’ve lost their arms as well.
Over the grind of years
their color is worn off of them:
beautiful bleached bellies and
pulverized pudenda.
Forgotten that they were once
meant to be gods,
they feel their brokenness
and lose all of Homer
but his disability.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN: Re-Purposing

I do this sort of 'Recycling' where I keep things I think I can use again. For Example, we recently pulled down a shed in our back yard that was shoddily made by (we assume) the previous owner. I threw a much of it away, as it was not really re-usable; but I kept any wood, screws, nails, siding, etc. that was still in fairly working order. I put them in jars or up in the garage so that I can use them for projects later.

I am pretty sure this practice drives my wife insane, at least with the big things, like wood. Mostly because I can't always explain well why I want to keep it and it takes up room. The reason i can't explain it is because I only have an idea of how to use this stuff again, not a specific plan. With screws, that's not a big deal, but when you are keeping 12x5 sheets of particle board and plywood, it is nice to have a real plan for it. I have ideas for a garden I want to create and the new shed next spring, and I look at those pieces of wood and can just see that they can be useful. Sometimes I'm right. Sometimes I end up throwing them out a month later once I've had a real chance to think about it.

I don't argue that I need to be a little more discerning about what I choose to keep, but I think overall it isn't a bad mindset. I feel like our culture has gone way too far into the one-use/disposable mindset. We talk about how recycling is great and we should all do it, but we only do it for things that are easily recyclable, things we can just throw into a special trash can and someone takes care of for us. I also am not endorsing hoarding. There are things that should be thrown away when they have served their purpose, as well as things that should never really be purchased at all. I just think that most of us could be a bit more conscious on how things can be practically re-purposed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Renewing Mind: The Means Justified.

There are two statements that I tend to put together.  Whenever I hear one, I think of the other. They are:

Life is a journey, not a destination
The ends justify the means.

I take issue with both of these statements. First, while I agree that life is a journey, that journey is all about the destination. The journey has little meaning and usefulness if there isn't a destination one wishes to reach. Wandering can be fun for a time, but a wandering life will still end in a destination, just one that the wanderer didn't choose.

The second statement is trickier. In general, I disagree with it. I do not believe that a beneficial end justifies diabolical means. In day-to-day life, you can't do dishonest, horrible things and simply argue that it was for a good outcome. However, when I think of eternity with God as the end, then suddenly I think that any means would be justified. First, that end is such a grand ending that suffering any means would be worth the cost. However, only one means leads to that end, and that means is through justification by Christ.

Life is a journey. If that journey is a justified one, then the end is a magnificent eternity.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Renewing Mind/Sensitive Geek MAN: Practical Skills for the Apocalypse

I believe I have mentioned previously that I don't believe in the Rapture, at least not the concept of a Pre-Trib Rapture. Unfortunately, the argument that was made by a college professor of mine that convinced me to change my mind to Post-Trib has made its way out of my head, I just remember that it was very convincing. We aren't discussing the merits of either belief. I'm just sharing what my belief has done to the way I think about things.

To make sure everyone is on the same page, I will briefly describe the idea of The Rapture. When the end of the world gets much closer, there will be a period of time that Christians call The Tribulation. This is the time right before the Lord returns that will be full of turmoil, rampant sin, and the AntiChrist, along with other things. The Rapture is the idea that Jesus will call any believers to Him to be transformed before the very end.  Pre-Tribulation Rapture--which is by far the prevailing belief in Evangelical circles--states that Jesus will return before the Tribulation, so that Christians will be spared from it. I believe that Christians will be present for the Tribulation.

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that this influences my way of thinking. There are a handful of things I have become interested in that I know a great deal of my interest lies in how they will help me and the people I care about survive the Tribulation. Blacksmithing is a good example. Martial Arts is another. I suppose I assume that many Christians will have to flee civilization and eek out a living in the wild. I just want to make sure I have at least some rudimentary skills that can contribute to that cause.

Since high school, I have always enjoyed the outdoors and 'roughing it' sort of activities, even before I changed to a Post-Trib mindset. When I was young, I had this idea that I would work in a National Park as a guide or on the Search & Rescue Team during the summer, and on the Ski Patrol or teaching Ski School during the winter. I still sort of miss that I didn't go for that, and I am a bit envious when I hear of people who live that sort of life.

So, I do actively pursue skills I think will help me while the world is ending, but I also enjoy them for themselves. It's just that claiming I'm preparing for some great cataclysm gives those pursuits a bit more practicality than they would otherwise have.

Which is the argument I use on my wife whenever I go off to learn some new crazy thing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN/The Renewing Mind: heh...Fire

I enjoy fire. It is one of the things I really look forward to about fall: getting out the fire pit and sitting around some crackling blaze. I enjoy the warmth, I enjoy the colors, and the way the flames jump unpredictably about.

There is something strangely attractive about fire. It's beautiful to be sure, but also destructive. There is no point at which fire is not destroying something, consuming something. That is intrinsic to its purpose. Of course it gives off light, and it gives off heat, but mainly it devours. It can be good and useful and wonderful, but it demands respect. The moment it doesn't get it, it rages.

If God is a consuming fire as we are told in Scripture, then we should be far more respectful of Him than we are.

Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to have a fire yet this season. Hopefully sometime in the next week or so. I'll make some s'mores, lose some marshmallows in the flames. I'll smell like smoke and wood for a few days and it will be wonderful.

I wonder why they haven't made a cologne that smells like that.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Renewing Mind: That Restless Evil

It is so hard to keep my mouth shut. I struggle with it almost all the time.

When I am at work, I am gossiping or complaining about something far more often than I would like. The environment encourages it and if I am not constantly on guard I get caught up in it. It is especially bad if I am having a bad day.

When I am at home, it is a bit better as long as my wife and I are getting along. If we aren't, then it is a constant fight to keep the things that are going through my head from coming out of my mouth. Occasionally, I lose. I don't really mean them, I just get riled up and come up with the worst things.

The Bible isn't kidding when it says that the tongue is a restless evil. I realize that all these thoughts occur in my brain or mind, but as long as they stay up there then i have the chance to work through them and repent on my own. Once my tongue blurts them out, I enter into a whole new realm.

I believe that I have gotten better at controlling my tongue over the years, but I still struggle with it. I get frustrated that I think of these things at all. I cringe whenever something horrible moves through my head and presses against my teeth. I usually am able to keep it from escaping, but it is somewhat discouraging that my brain even creates them.

Luckily, sanctification is a progression. It is a slow process that doesn't end until we are all dead; the trick is learning to be thankful for even the tiniest bit of progress. Every little victory is Jesus working in our lives. They are all small proofs of the Spirit moving through us and methodically destroying the places sin had a hold on us. And that frees our tongues for far better endeavors, like worship.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Before Brad@Home: Apples

It's my job to sit down with people and train them how to use the technology that our company gives them when they start. I walk though their computer with them, and then we turn to their phone device. Our default device is a Blackberry, but we recently opened up and have started to allow people to attach their personal iPhones to our system. This has been warmly received by our users, but it has increased the potential for me to have to talk about my feeling about Apple, which I am always hesitant to do.

I have very little issue with Apple products from a technology standpoint. I think that, for the most part,  iDevices have their place and serve a decent purpose. At the very least, Apple has been excellent in innovating items that people didn't even know they wanted. I respect that.

My issues come in two places. The first and easier explained is simply price. The price point of Apply products tends to be a bit higher than comparable non-Apple products, which I don't really get. I suppose there is an argument to be made that if people are willing to pay for it, then the company should charge what it can reasonably get. I see some validity to that argument, but I also wonder how far you can go with that mentality before it becomes ridiculous.

The second is a bit trickier. It's the Apple doctrine. There is a subset of Apple users that get a bit laudatory and arrogant about Apple products. They produce this feel of elitism whenever I end up talking to one of them. It is rather disconcerting. I'm glad that they like their product, but it doesn't mean that everything that isn't Apple is completely inferior. I wonder if the price feeds into this, producing a thought that, since Apple products are more expensive then their comparable competitors, they must be better.

I will freely admit that not all Apple users are like this. I know many who are quite normal and conciliatory about their use of iDevices. Unfortunately, the extremists are the loudest voices in the Apple market, so they tend to set the tone of the conversation.

Sort of how the most intense, judgmental, harsh Christians are the ones everyone hears from, making it harder for the rest of us.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Renewing Mind: Quitters

I don't see myself as a quitter, so occasional I struggle with leaving someone or something, even if the reason seems good and valid.

How does one determine when the appropriate amount of time and effort has been put into an unresolved endeavor or fruitless situation before being able to responsibly say 'it is time to put this aside?'

Unfortunately, I think that each situation requires scrutiny and that there is no complete answer. There are situations that one could and even should stop almost immediately; and there are trials that one can never stop, no matter how painful or frustrating they become.

Pain is not a reason by itself to stop a course of action, but it is something that should make you ask questions. If your ankle begins hurting when running, you slow down, assess what is causing the pain. Maybe you stop for the day, but you don't give up running for life. However, if your knees ache every time you run and it never gets better no matter how hard you try or how many doctors you go to; well, maybe it is time to take up cycling.

I believe that a single, or even multiple failures does not mean throwing in the towel. If that were the case, I could never be a Christian. In a sense, the Christian life is about accepting failure: My failure at purity, at holiness; my failure to redeem myself; Humanities failure and fall in to sin, our races complete depravity and complete inability to remove ourselves from it. However, accepting those failures does not mean you don't strive for holiness. Christ's sacrifice gives us the power to become more like Him, the Spirit works in us to achieve that which we couldn't on our own. We will still fail because our dying sinful self fights as it dies, but that doesn't mean we should ever give up, even though we will not have full victory in the life.

The confusion comes with anything that is not as important as our increasing Christ-likeness, which is everything else! How do I know when a situation is beyond me, when it has become unhealthy or impossible to succeed?

I do believe that it is too easy to give up. Struggle and failure is pain, and pain is unpleasant. Of course we should want to avoid it, end it. However, not all pain is bad; the trick is learning whether the pain is a pain that will lead to growth or a pain that acts a warning. Is this a pain of God stretching and increasing Himself in me, or is this pain God's megaphone? Do I keep running or take up cycling?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN: Breaking the Rules

today I was waiting for train. Most of the people group up, waiting for the doors to open. It creates a bit of a back up, and does make it a bit hard for people on the platform to get by if they need to.

But then someone passes me on the right by walking on a different set of tracks.

This bothers me on several levels. First, there are signs all over that say not to step off the platform onto the tracks for any reason. It is potentially dangerous, although I admit that it would be hard to miss a train coming in to the station and get hit while doing this. Second, apparently this guy thinks that, because he is being inconvenienced, he gets to do whatever he wants to get himself in a better position. It doesn't matter that the rest of us are waiting and are actually abiding by the rules of the train station. This arouses in me the almost the same ire as if someone cut in line in front of me.

Now, I am not against rule breaking in general. Many of our technological marvels wouldn't exist if someone hadn't been willing to break some rules. However, that is not the same as someone who cuts in line. There are a few universal rules that we all have to suffer under and waiting in line is a fundamental one. We all have to do it, and it is rude to assume that you have some sort of right to get around it that doesn't apply to the rest of us.

Now, you might be thinking 'well, maybe we could ALL not stand in line.' I think that is obviously the way to chaos.

Creative people don't break the old rules, they come up with new rules that make the old ones obsolete.  Maybe think about it like this: Innovators don't cut in front of others in the current line, they create a new, better line.

Like the line for the new iPhone.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN: Turn, Turn, Turn

Sometimes, when i see people walking down the street, or I pass someone at work, or see someone at church I stop and think "these people were young once, they were children, babies."

If I am really in the right mindset, I can see mind-pictures of them very young, with faceless, Charlie-Brown Voiced parents helping them walk or feeding them peas which they get all over them. I see them a little older, running around the house or out into the yard, playing with a dog or in the sprinklers, maybe slowly reading a book or watching snowfall through a window.

This way of looking at people has gotten bigger as I have gotten older. I used to only do it with people already younger than me, usually High School or early College age. But in the last few years it has grown exponentially, encompassing older and older people. Recently, I have started to see it in people who must be grandparents or even great-grandparents. I see them as I imagine they were decades ago, straight-backed, full of life. It is sort of a bitter-sweet ability. Seeing then as they may have been when they were young helps me feel connected to them, but I also wonder how their life has gone. Did they accomplish the things they wanted, do they have loved ones to support them, do they know the Lord?

It also makes me think about when my children will be old. What will they be like? Looking at my daughter now, small and rambunctious and adorable, it is hard to think of her older, grayer, maybe with a stooped back, liver spots. Her hands now have trouble holding on to things because she is still learning to use them, her wrinkled hands then may struggle to hold on to things because they will start to betray her. Now she has trembles to go up the stairs, she will then as well. It makes me wish I could spare her from it somehow, or at least be there to pick her up like I do now.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Renewing Mind: Joyous Things

The Holy Spirit
My Daughter
My Son
Any future children
My Wife
The Church
My Mom and Dad
My Sisters
my grandparents
my aunts and uncles
that my extended family is awesome
my in-laws, including the extended family I married into
Old Friends
New Friends
when worship music makes me cry
any children
Any ice cream that doesn't have nuts in it.
Dark Chocolate
Board Games
Video Games
day dreaming
Books that make you wonder where the day has gone
the smell of cookies baking
the small of the beach in late summer
Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam
Scuba Diving
Long, Almost-too-hot showers
Getting into a hot car
Snow Skiing
green eyes
watching couples hold hands or kiss
Evergreen Trees
when I am writing well and consitantly
french fries
bare feet
The Holy Spirit

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN: The Disney Generations

I believe that there are 2 'generations' of animated Disney movies.

The first generation starts with Snow White in 1937 and goes through The Brave Little Toaster in 1987.
In 1988, Oliver and Company came out. This was Disney's first movie of it's new generation. While it wasn't a bad film, it was Disney's first foray into it's new direction on movies. Disney wouldn't really hit it hard until it's next animated movie in 1989. The Little Mermaid.

In my mind, something really changed with the Little Mermaid. I'll be honest and say that I am not exactly sure what it was. Perhaps it was just that I hit an age when I started seeing the movies differently, but I really think that something started changing with animated Disney movies at that point. Don't get me wrong, I like many of the new Disney movies. They just feel different.

So, my favorite of the 1st Gen Disney flicks is a tie, between the Fox and the Hound and Robin Hood.
My favorite of the 2nd Gen of Disney movies is, hands down, Beauty and the Beast.

There now seems to be a 3rd generation that has emerged, starting with Toy Story. Even if you don't think that there is a big enough difference between the first two generations to make a split, the differences started with Toy Story are hard to argue with. The characters themselves don't sing, it looks much less hand drawn, and it has a very intentional appeal to adults.

Mostly, I think all this has happened as the children who grew up with cartoons in general and Disney cartoons in specific became adults. There is now a market for more mature cartoons. I think The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Cartoon Network have proven that. The issue that I have now is actually an issue I have viewing a lot of older movies: I judge them by today's standards. The older cartoons were traditionally drawn and relied mainly on story. They are excellent films and well done, but I'm used to computer-assisted drawing and vast musical numbers. So I go back and watch Pinocchio and it doesn't have quite the same enjoyment as it did when I was a kid.

So, I am determined to show my kids the Disney movies, starting with the older ones and moving forward. Hopefully this will help them appreciate them for what they are rather than being jaded by the technological marvels we have now.

I plan to show the Star Wars sextet in the order they were released as well, but that's a different story.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Before Brad@Home/The Renewing Mind: It's Official.

I am no longer a Californian.

I had this idea in my head that I am from where ever I have spent the most time living. I spent 16.2 years in California. I have now spent 17.1 years in Illinois. So, by my own way of thinking about things, I have ceased to be a Californian and am now an Illinoian. Is that how you say it? Is it Illini?

I don't really have an issue with this, although throughout the years I have staunchly defended my association with the Golden State. I grew up in the OC before it was the OC. I lived there during the San Fransisco earthquake and during the Los Angeles riots. Until my parents moved us away, it had never occurred to me that I would like anywhere else. While I really enjoyed growing up there, I see it now and it doesn't feel like home anymore. It hasn't for a while. It's changed too much without me there to change in conjunction.

There is a small issue in that Illinois doesn't really feel like home either. I have nothing against Illinois. With the exception of some brutally cold winters that I have never really gotten used to, it has treated me fairly well. I went to college here, I met most of my closest friends here, I met and married my wife here, my children are being born here. Yet, as a place, it still doesn't feel like home.

Really, I don't believe there is any place on earth where I could settle and think of as home. Home as a location is something I don't believe in as something that can be attained on earth. Where ever God is, that will be my Home. That concept isn't tied to a place anymore.

I'll admit that sometimes that makes me a little sad. I long for the settled feeling home brings, I want a place where I can complete relax, and I know now that I can only get small slices of that here, and mostly through the people I spend my time with, not where I spend it.

So, I'm no longer a Californian, but I'm not really an Illinoisian either. I'm a Christian.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN: a million miles per hour

There are some that would call me careless.

I am not saying that there isn't some amount of carelessness in my life. I am sure that most people suffer from that occasionally. I try to limit the actual carelessness as much as I can, but the problem with carelessness is that you don't notice when you are doing it most of the time.

I feel like I may have an expanded issue with carelessness. I have ADHD. To clarify, I don't mean that I am like those poor over-medicated children who could control their issues with a diet changes, or some allergy meds, or that don't actually have an issues and are just kids. I have a chemical issue in my brain that actually produces hyperactivity and a certain amount of attention deficit. I say a certain amount because their are things that I could do to limit its effects, like watch my diet, exercise, deal with my allergies, that sort of thing. However, the big difference between someone like me and what I believe is the majority of people who are diagnosed with ADD is that even if I did those things, it won't complete erase the issue. Also, a lot of the ADD kids will grow out of it. I didn't and won't.

I should quickly say that I do not see this as an excuse for bad or irresponsible behavior. It isn't 'just the way I am.' I believe that I have an issue that has a physical component that I can't do anything about, but I can do something about how I deal with it. Everyone has something they have to deal with. Responsible people don't complain about it or use it as an excuse for bad behavior. They suck it up and do their best to deal with it, and they apologize for their failures.

Anyway, one of the big things that it seems to enhance is carelessness. I spill things on myself a lot, often even when I think I am being careful. I put things down convinced I will remember where they are, and of course I don't. Trying to find my glasses is a regular ritual at my house. I have regular habits that I have taught myself for the regular things, and that usually helps there, but anything new or that doesn't occur on a regular basis could get caught up in the whirlwind.

Again, I really try not to make excuses for forgetting these things, and I usually feel pretty bad when my forgetfulness affects other people negatively. I am not asking anyone to just sweep it under the rug. I promise, it isn't personal, it isn't that I don't care about YOU, i would forget this thing even if you weren't there. Again, not an excuse, I want to get better at it. I want to be able to explain it, but it is hard because I don't know how it is for others.

I suppose one way of explaining it is that my brain moves faster than my mind a lot of the time. Unless I have built in the habit of stopping to make myself think, the brain just kind of runs. All the time. If I am conscious, there really is never a break.

it's sort of like this:

Brain: Open door, set down keys, take off coat, set down bag, get something to eat.
Mind: WAIT! you didn't put your keys on the hook, go back.
Brain: ARG, I hate you, Fine, back to the hook, keys, EATING NOW.
Mind: OK, calm down. Hey, we just used the last paper towel, we should go change those.
Brain: can't talk, eating.
Mind: Seriously? you eat and talk all the time, why is now different? just go downstairs and get a roll of paper towels.
Brain: I want to change first. *starts moving toward the bedroom.
Mind: No, don't. We will forget! You'll get all caught up in something and I'll be too busy trying to keep up with you and it won't get done. DO IT NOW!
Brain: can't talk, changing.
Mind: Put on the dingy pants, we need to go mow the yard.
Brain: Right, bad pants. Lawn, get music.
Mind: Dude, put on a shirt.
Brain: Right, dingy shirt.
Mind: Hey, you figured that out on your own. Sweet. Is our MP3 player charged, Yes? good. Ok, put on shoes.
Brain: Shoes.
Mind: I feel like we are forgetting something.
Brain: Can't talk, shoes.

That's sort of what it's like.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sensitive Geek Man: Poetry Day ~ Joel's TV

About 10 years ago now, I went with some friends of mind to the house of a young man by the name of Joel. We went to watch some Epic movie.  I want to say it was the first LOTR, but I'm not sure.
Anyway, we walk into his house and do the normal hello thing, shook hands, met his wife. It was a normal, recent college grad, house in the Chicago suburbs: not too big but nice. It was well put together, but nothing really stood out. It was simple, but tidy.
Then we went into the basement to watch the movie.

And there it was. The single largest TV I had ever seen. This is at the beginning of the larger, flatter TV craze, and this TV was NOT a flat screen TV.  It took up one entire wall of his basement. It was seriously immense.

So immense, that the next day I quickly jotted down a silly little poem about it's largess. It isn't a complicated or deep poem, it is just meant to be fun.  I hope you like it.

Joels TV

Joels TV
Joels TV
I could hide in joels TV
with several others there with me
while I stretch out in joels TV

Joels TV
Joels TV
Clouds my soul in deep envy
From orbit I still could see
The pixel count of Joels TV

Joels TV
Joels TV
Larger than a redwood tree
Come and scale its screen with me
And see the sights from Joels TV

Joels TV
Joels TV
Wonder what sights we shall see
And what far off Kingdoms that there be
From the top of Joels TV

Joels TV
Glorious be
The vast expanse laid before me
Wider than the deepest sea
Is the scope of Joels TV

Joels TV
corrupted me
and Sent me on a shopping spree
to try and match the travesty
of the price of Joels tv
Joels Tv
Joels TV
Larger than mine eye can see
The picture it conjures up for me
And displays for all to see

Joels tv
joels tv
with furlongs measered it should be
and not by inches stupidly
as is done with mortal TV

Joels TV
Ruined me
For any lesser teleV
Could never offer the shockingly
Deep delight of Joels TV

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN: There is no crying in Baseball

I am not a 'Sports' person.

Growing up as a boy, this causes some sociological issues. A big way that boys hang out or play and get to know each other is through sports. If you are a boy that doesn't like sports, then you have a significant handicap in making other boy friends.

It isn't like I didn't try. I was in soccer as a kid, but I was the kid who just stood in the middle of the field staring at the sky or a tree or kicking an imaginary ball rather than the real one. Needless to say I didn't excel.
I also kept trying to play with my friends. I shot hoops, I hit baseballs, I tried to catch footballs, nothing really clicked. The friends of mine who were kind allowed me to be horrible but still play without mocking, but I never enjoyed it.
It wasn't that there aren't sports that I like. I like climbing, I like downhill skiing, but the issue is that you don't really do those together. You only need one other person to climb, and you don't need anyone to ski. So those sorts of activities aren't good at bonding and team building.

What I excelled at was video games, but this was at the beginning of video games, so it wasn't culturally accepted to sit around and play video games all day. I also was good at 'make believe' games, but my male friends grew out of that faster than I did. Especially seeing as I still haven't.

Finally, in college things started to coalesce. Not that I got better at sports, just that it became easier to find people who liked the things I like. Also, as I have gotten older, I have started to find things to like in sporting events. It will never be my thing, but relationships are partly about compromising so everyone can benefit.
So i watch the Super Bowl, and even enjoy the game, although I am really there to talk, eat, and watch the commercials.
I go to the (very) occasional basketball game, and (again) enjoy the game, but am really there to talk, eat, and watch the spectacle that happens when the team isn't playing.

But I will never get the appeal of baseball.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Renewing Mind: Sublime

I don't think there has been a day that has gone by since I got married that I haven't been reminded how ridiculously selfish I am. If there has been a day, then it was probably my selfishness that has kept me from noticing.

And when I say ridiculously selfish I mean both that my selfishness is ridiculous in size and scope.

For example: the other day I got upset with my wife because she wanted me to do things around the house that legitimately needed to be done when I wanted to be playing games on Facebook.

Yes, I'm serious.

Luckily, I realized at the time that I was being selfish and went and did what she asked, but I am sure I didn't treat her quite as well as i should have since there was still this twisted little voice reminding me that I could be relaxing.

Now, obviously I had been self-absorbed for my whole life before I got married, and i was somewhat aware of it when I was single; however, there is nothing like living with someone else everyday whom you love and want to treat well to really put a microscope to one's selfishness. Once you have kids, it gets even more efficient.

Luckily, I think it is having an effect on more than just my married/paternal life.

Recently, I have been reading the biblical book of Job. Toward the end of the book, God starts responding to Job's early complaining. It is one of my favorite parts of the Bible, because it is the only place I can think of where God uses sarcasm. It's kind of awesome.
Anyway, it really puts a spotlight on how huge and amazing God is. I think that, as a Christian, I acknowledge God's power and sovereignty, but it gets watered down in my head because I spend so much time on his forgiveness and holiness. I focus on God's perfection and how offensive my sin is and how gracious His act on the cross is to forgive my sin.

What I constantly forget is that the being that suffered for my sin is also the most sublimely powerful entity in existence. That He had to take on human form at all is such a grave insult to His immensity, such a loving condescension extended to us, that we should really never be off our faces in the dirt in thanksgiving and supplication.
Something I thought about the other day: if every living being in all creation, if every planet and star and black hole throughout existence, if ever atom and tiny fraction of energy in all the universes that may or may not exist, and if every demon and angel all together marshaled their power simultaneously and in an concert lashed out in rebellion and destructive force against The One True God, we couldn't produce enough might to even be a challenge to Him. He could wipe us away without even lifting a finger. A bare breath and we would all be obliterated.

So, when I constantly pray about my own piddly issues, I am being supremely selfish. It isn't that I shouldn't bring my concerns to God. He wants me to in His continuing act of supreme selflessness. The issue is not that I come to Him with my issues, it is that I give my own concerns so much weight while neglecting what He may want for me and for those around me. That I pray first for myself, then for others, and then for God's will is the zenith of arrogance, with the possible exception of those who do not acknowledge God at all.

This is what I want my children to know: the best thing you can do in your life is pay as little attention to yourself as possible. Pay attention to God first, chase His will, the rest will work out.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN: Daddy's girl.

We are currently in the process of moving our daughter out of a crib and into a twin bed. I am both excited and saddened.

There is a lot of joy that comes in watching her get bigger, start to understand things, interact more ably. It's exciting to think that we are starting to discover the kind of person she is, slowly but surely.

However, I am a little melancholy about her eventual transition out of babyness. It's nice to be able to pick her up and hold her and have her burrow her head into my shoulder. It's amazing how she hasn't learned to be self-conscious or embarrassed by things, so so much of her interactions are so open and hilarious. I love how easily she laughs now and how excited she gets about things that I take for granted. Mostly, I don't want her to lose the excitement of seeing me. When she gets up from bed, or a nap, or when i come home from work she's so happy. It is the best part of my day.

I just think about how much of a punk I and my sister were once we got into the older years. I know that my daughter has a way to go, but time moves so much faster now. She will be 5 tomorrow, and 13 next week; the week after she'll be 16 and want the car. In a month, she'll be 18 and maybe going to college, and shortly after that she'll graduate. In 2 months, she'll get married and then she will not belong to me at all.

It's such a short time that she'll want to climb into my lap and I'll read her a book. How much longer will she want to be picked up or climb all over me? When will she stop coming to me when she's hurt, or tired and wants to sleep against my chest?

And in the literal next few says, she will be in a real bed.
I am really excited to see her grow up and become more and more of a person.
I'm just selfishly not excited to watch her need less and less of me.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sensitive Geek MAN: If I stopped quoting movies, I'd lose half my conversation ability.

It is kind of amazing/scary how much of an impact media has had on my development.

I don't mean that I have somehow been shaped morally or ethically by media; although I think that can happen if people aren't careful. I was lucky enough to have parents who made sure that I got that training from more appropriate sources.

But media has shaped 2 things rather significantly.

I have a quote from a TV show or movie for just about every situation. I know a lot of people who suffer from this malady. I tend to believe that I am a bit more extreme, or maybe I'm just more vocal about it.
I have things I say on a fairly regular basis that I know almost no one has any idea it is a movie quote. For the most part, this sort of behavior is not a bother. Our current culture bonds through the sharing of certain media, especially men. It may be the first time I have ever met you, but if we liked the same cartoons growing up, we may just be friends for life.
The one time that this behavior did bother me was when I was talking to a friend of my and had a very rare moment of insight and said it in a fairly witty an totally original manner. My friend looked at me for a moment and said "What movie is that from?"

I have also, unfortunately, gained some expectations from media.
I grew up expecting that the good guy always wins.
I expected that if I believed in my dreams they would all work out somehow.
I expected my wife and I to have a easy, whirlwind romance.
I expected to be a superhero.

Obviously none of those things is strictly true.
I will never be an actual superhero, but I can work to help others and maybe be a hero to a few.
I love my wife, and while our marriage is hard work, it has helped me become a better person in a way that I do not believe an easy romance would have.
I have learned that my dreams were simultaneously too self-centered and too pedantic. I have a previous post about that.
While the good guy may not always win from day to day, I do believe that ultimately Good will win.

Its the waiting that's the hardest part.