Archives For About Life

Things I have learned through my sixty odd years of life..

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“In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down his leg, a sword in his hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” – Mark Driscoll

Being that I am now a big fan of streaming video I get advertisements such as the picture above on a regular basis. When I first looked at the picture the resemblance between the person in the picture and the traditional western depiction of Jesus slammed me. Then I thought of the quote I used earlier from Mark Driscoll (also above).

Here is a little bit of what Wikipedia says about Mr. Driscoll and his congregation.

Mark A. Driscoll (born October 11, 1970) is an evangelical Christian pastor and author, and current preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church, a megachurch in Seattle, Washington. In 1996, Driscoll co-founded Mars Hill Church, which as of 2014 has grown to 14,000 members in five states and fifteen locations…

On March 29, 2014, four former Mars Hill elders including Kyle Firstenberg, Dave Kraft, and co-founder Lief Moi created a blog titled “Repentant Pastor” and posted online “confessions and apologies” related to their leadership roles in Mars Hill. In a joint statement, they wrote, “we recognize and confess that Mars Hill has hurt many people within the Mars Hill community, as well as those outside the community….” Salon summarized the statements, writing that the former leaders emphasized their failures to “rein Driscoll in” and their complicity with Driscoll’s “autocratic” management style. Firstenberg wrote that while the church appeared to flourish, employees lived in constant stress, and “success was to be attained regardless of human and moral cost.” Lief Moi described his own behavior at Mars Hill as “driven by narcissism and anti-social tendencies.”

SOURCE: Mark Driscoll pastor – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

It seems that Mr. Driscoll is in trouble with the leaders of his church for some crude things he has been saying and doing.  To me it appears that he is simply a case of a guy with too much testosterone even for an American which is a lot.

2014-08-11_08-25-37One of the surest ways to get smarter is to surround yourself with those who are more intelligent than you and to insist on regularly stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone. If you’re just too smart for your current gig, that’s just not going to happen

SOURCE: 3 Signs You’re Too Smart for Your Job – Yahoo Small Business Advisor.

Another way of saying the above is that if you are not stimulated by what you do for a living then you should be looking elsewhere. But of course in our current economy where so many people are underemployed being too smart for the job is too often the case.  I hope the lessons like this article show is being taught to our young people in high school.  But stretching your comfort zone is something that all of us should do. It shouldn’t be limited by age.

For those of you too lazy to click on the source I am going to give the three reasons here (or maybe I am too lazy to give you my own words ;) )

1. Problem, what problem?

Doing the same thing over and over again in the exact same way never taught anyone anything. If your co-workers are interested only in repeatedly treading the same well worn paths, then it’s unlikely you’ll start expanding your skills anytime soon, according to Ryan. “Your co-workers may be the nicest people on earth, but if they don’t understand what you’re talking about when you lay out frame-shifting ideas or if they can’t hold a conversation about anything except the way they’ve always done things, you’re in the wrong place,” she writes.

2. No one is mentor material.

It bears repeating: Hanging out with smart folks makes you smarter. If you look around and don’t see anyone you really want to learn from at your current place of employment, that’s a huge red flag. Ask yourself: “Whom do I spar with? Who stimulates me mentally at work? Whom do I look up to and learn from?” If the answer is, “No one,” it’s time to start plotting your escape, Ryan suggests.

3. No vision at the top.

It’s hard to progress if you have no idea what you’re working toward, and, unless you’re very far advanced in your career, that vision for your team, department, or company should come from the top. If instead you’re getting radio silence about where the organization is headed, then the scope for meaningful contribution is severely limited. “You can’t grow your flame working for someone who has no idea what a vision is or where to get one. You have to learn from your boss,” warns Ryan.

Just a few final thoughts here. Henry Ford’s assembly line created mass production but it also created a couple of generations of human robots. I was stuck in that mode for a few summers during college and the work was simply stifling to me. I was glad to leave it behind. The three problems above should also apply to our personal lives outside the workplace. If we followed them they would make us all better and more productive citizens.

2014-08-24_13-14-19The white majority in the U.S. will be outnumbered by Americans of other races by 2042, eight years sooner than previously projected by the Census Bureau.

SOURCE: U.S. White Population Will Be Minority by 2042, Government Says – Bloomberg.

The year 2042 strikes abject fear into some of us. Particularly those who are associated with groups with three letters in the title. That is the year that people of color will outnumber whites in the United States. Why is it that so many are so afraid of being a minority?

For twenty-five years now I have been in a pretty small minority. Only about 1% of the U.S. population is deaf and I am one of them. I go through months at a time without ever seeing another deaf person but I live with the consequences of being deaf every single day. Before I became a member of this somewhat exclusive minority I to had an abject fear of it. But it turns out that being a minority is not as bad as I imagined. It is not great but not totally bad either.

So, why do so many fear going from 51% to 49%? What is it about that number that get to us? Of course a big part of that is the perceived loss of power. They would no longer be masters of our own fate. It’s nice to be the guy in control of things. To turn that over in any degree is a scary thing. What if “they” decide to do it differently than I want?

But then again most of us are in a minority now in one regard or another. Being a progressive in Indiana puts me in a distinct minority. I loathe many of the things that my governor does; he just seems to be a guy without much compassion for others, especially those much different from him.  But my life for the most part goes on despite being a minority in several different areas. Sharing power is not at bad as many imagine.

We may come to the point where no political party will have a majority status and will therefore be forced to form a coalition government made up of different minorities. But then again that is pretty much what at least the Democratic party is now. There are those Democrats who want abortion on demand and those who would like to see it go away entirely. There are those who just want government out of their lives and then there are those who think government is shirking its responsibility of doing the people’s business.

All I can say to all those out there who are in abject fear of becoming a minority is that it is not as bad as you imagine. Spreading the power around is enabling, not disabling, as a country as well as on a personal level. Try it out , you might like it.

For Too Many….

August 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

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For far too many of us the image of being religious is the above.  This picture was taken on a busy Saturday night in Times Square NYC recently. Too many look at religion as some grim-faced old man telling us that we need to quit having any fun and get ready for the wrath of God. They didn’t take this old guy seriously anymore than take most current religious establishments seriously.

In some ways religion has earned this moniker. Too many  spend too much time worrying about God’s wrath rather than focusing on his love. Too many worry about the afterlife than they do living out God’s command to be our brother’s keeper.  Too many young people are just turned off by the religion of past generations.  They think their lives here on earth are what matter. In some ways I agree with them but in other ways not.  As is typical of many things moderation is the best choice. A little of everything on your plate gives you the most fruitful life.

The guy in the image above and so many like him are doing more harm than good by showing an image of God that is primarily man-made and for the most part disgusting. If God so loved the world why would he condemn most of us to an eternal agony as this grumpy old man preaches?

2014-07-26_16-11-39This is a second post on the article from the Atlantic Magazine on the creative brain. Click here to see the article. The process of creativity has always fascinated me. Just what makes some people more creative than others? It is something they are born with or do they learn it through life’s experiences?

I don’t often state it often but my IQ has been tested to be into the top 2%. That would surprise many of my teachers who I’m sure just thought of me as lazy as I was going through school. Sometimes I just didn’t have much interest in what they were teaching. I was too busy learning other things on my own. Should a higher IQ enable me to be more creative than most? I think it should but sometimes I become very frustrated that I am just never as creative as I would like to be.

Here are some final words from the article that I can personally relate to:

Creative people tend to be very persistent, even when confronted with skepticism or rejection. Asked what it takes to be a successful scientist, one replied:

Perseverance … In order to have that freedom to find things out, you have to have perseverance … The grant doesn’t get funded, and the next day you get up, and you put the next foot in front, and you keep putting your foot in front … I still take things personally….

Do creative people simply have more ideas, and therefore differ from average people only in a quantitative way, or are they also qualitatively different? One subject, a neuroscientist and an inventor, addressed this question in an interesting way, conceptualizing the matter in terms of kites and strings:

In the R&D business, we kind of lump people into two categories: inventors and engineers. The inventor is the kite kind of person. They have a zillion ideas and they come up with great first prototypes. But generally an inventor … is not a tidy person. He sees the big picture and … [is] constantly lashing something together that doesn’t really work. And then the engineers are the strings, the craftsmen [who pick out a good idea] and make it really practical. So, one is about a good idea, the other is about … making it practical.

Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill. And some people, like John Nash, are both.

 Sticking to an idea even if it may not be popular is something that I often do.  I call myself a contrarian and that means that I often look at what people are doing and ask myself if the alternative might be better? I am also a pragmatist so I stubbornly look for what works the best instead of just settling for “that is the way it has always been done”. In some ways I think that is why I consider this blog as somewhat unique.

Being that I spent my thirty occupational years as an engineer I can thoroughly understand the difference between and engineer and an inventor. But I kind of thing it is a melding of the two that makes for success in that field.

Are You Brave Enough???

August 17, 2014

Instead of helping the poor, feeding the hungry, tending to the sick, sheltering the homeless, fighting injustice, speaking for the voiceless, sacrificially giving, and wholeheartedly loving our neighbors and enemies, churches have become co-opted by secular values and empty content.

Emulating Christ is not for the faint of heart, and following his commands will probably mean becoming a church that embraces conflict, discomfort, work, pain, suffering, and truth. This is the messiness of Christianity — following God through the Pilgrim’s Progress of life, forsaking the riches of this world for the treasure of a Divine relationship. Are we brave enough to embrace this?

SOURCE:  Have Churches Become Too Shallow? | Stephen Mattson.

I make no pretenses about my admiration for Red Letter Christians blogger Stephen Mattson. He inspires me to ramp up my following of Jesus Christ and to point out to others where they can do the same. He has the words that I often lack to fully express my feelings about my spirituality. The words above are about how some churches have become too shallow in their practices. They make church more like a country club than a place to help us in our spiritual lives.

Of course all churches and all Christians including me to one degree or another have been co-opted by secular values. Just placing our country’s flag behind the altar is a beginning stage. We need to remember that Jesus was not an American but a middle eastern Jew. He doesn’t value an American over other people in the world. We need to understand that to be a follower of Jesus we need to be a citizen of the world and all the people living in it.

The one thing that many of the bloggers over at RedLetterChristians see churches shying away from is conflict. They want everyone to love them so they play down the hard message of Jesus in favor of a supposedly blessed life. It takes guts to walk in Jesus’ sandals. He did things that made many first century citizens very uncomfortable. He took head on the religious establishment of his day to try to lovingly show them a better path. We need to do the same thing today not out of a sense of superiority but of one of servitude. Are we brave enough to embrace this?

Autodidacticism….

August 15, 2014

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They teach themselves from an early age, have many deep interests, rather than just one. And they are very persistent, even in the face of rejection….

One interesting thing that’s emerged is that so many of these highly creative people are autodidacts. They are people who teach themselves. That makes them almost misfits in the educational system that they get put into. It would be nice if educators were aware of the existence of autodidacts and the need to give them slightly different education experiences, to nurture them.

SOURCE: Connecting strength and vulnerability of the creative brain.

The source quote above came from a recent PBS Newshour segment on the link between genius and what we call mental illness. I have downloaded the original article and will likely do some additional post on related areas of it in the near future but for now I want to talk about one aspect of this article which is autodidacticism.  It was only a few years ago that I discovered the term “Autodidacticism”. Here is how Wikipedia describes it:

Autodidacticism or self-education is self-directed learning that is related to but different from informal learning. In a sense, autodidacticism is “learning on your own” or “by yourself”, and an autodidact is a self-teacher. Autodidacticism is a contemplative, absorptive procession.

Some autodidacts spend a great deal of time reviewing the resources of libraries and educational websites. One may become an autodidact at nearly any point in one’s life.  Many notable contributions have been made by autodidacts.

I was surprised to learn that this is actually a defined process because it fits me to a “T” even in my early years but especially after I became deaf at the age of forty. Except in college where I didn’t have the physical hours to do it, I have always been off studying something on my own.

You could say that autodidactisism is just a fancy word for “self taught “but I think it goes beyond that concept mainly in its intensity.  Some of the more famous examples of autodidacts in history are Leonardo da Vinci and Abraham Lincoln but there are thousands of other accomplished creative people who fit that label.

In my earliest years I spent hours reading books by various American authors particularly John Steinbeck, Jack London, and other of that genre. I often read before I did my homework as the latter just bored me. I think I gleaned my leftist tendencies during that period of my life and just didn’t realize it until much later in life.

I have always been a self-study even before I was deaf but especially after. Communication in classroom type activities just took too much energy that I thought was better spent just doing the learning myself. After many many hours of studying and practice I became recognized as the guy who really understood software development. I taught myself to program in several different languages and made up tools to help me in my work that ended up on many others desktops. It was not until my work got the attention of a passing vice-president in the very large corporation I worked that I officially made the switch from circuit design to software tools. It was where I actually belonged in the first place.

Being an autodidact is just who I am,  even before I know it….

Kids and Restaurants…..

August 11, 2014

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Is the message on this sign outside Old Fisherman’s Grotto, a Monterey, California restaurant, clear enough for you? ….

”Cue the controversy.

Since the local news covered the policy on Tuesday, it’s made headlines, prompted debate on social media, and produced a slew of new mostly negative reviews on Yelp. Most take aim at owner Chris Sake, with comments including “Good luck catering only to couples and groups of childless hipsters,” “Don’t go here unless you want to support Mr. Scrooge,” and “The sign is really low-class. Shame on you people.” Calls and emails to Sake and Old Fisherman’s Grotto were not returned.

A few were positive: “KUDOS to this place!! Finally a place where we can eat in peace,” and “More restaurants need to follow their lead on the children policy.”

SOURCE: Should Crying Babies Be Forbidden at Restaurants?.

A “No Kids” restaurant is an interesting idea. Now that I am deaf all the crying and gibbering doesn’t bother me but I only have to look at the faces of many other guests to know that I am pretty much alone with that immunity. It is only when the kids whose parents seem to have no control over them bump in to my table and as a result I get something spilled on me (yes, it has actually happened) that I am now annoyed. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to face that annoyance while spending hard-earned dollars eating out?

But actually I put the fault of all of this on the parents more than the kids.  Let’s face it kids will be kids and that is how it should be. But they must be taught that like they will learn later in life their freedom to run and scream has some restrictions. Not being a parent I’m sure I don’t realize just how hard that lesson is to teach a kid. For some reason when we lived for four years in New Jersey this problem was significantly less severe.  Don’t know why?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that families with uncontrollable kids don’t have a right to eat out. What I am saying is that those of us who don’t have or have already completed that task of raising kids have a right to have a peaceful meal out once in a while. Now that most restaurants are smoke free maybe set aside a “no kids” section of their establishments.

Yes, ministry can be brutal. One of the most sobering statistics I found in my research is that for every twenty pastors who enter the ministry only one will retire from ministry.

I had no idea how many pastors struggled with depression and frustration regarding their ministry roles. You write that 80 percent of pastors (and 84 percent of their spouses) are discouraged in their ministry roles, that 40 percent say they have seriously considered leaving the pastorate in the past three months, and that 70 percent say they don’t have a single close friend. Those are some really astounding and sobering numbers. And yet, this reality is so rarely talked about—in church, at conferences, in books. Why do you think that is, and why is it important that we change that? Why must we talk about failure, (or the sense of failure), among ministers?

SOURCE:  Pastors and the “F-Word”: A Conversation with J.R. Briggs.

I think there are a lot of pastors out there that would love to tell their parishioners the truth but are afraid of the consequences.  Many churches and denominations directly hire and pay their pastors. For the most part they expect the pastor to preach what they currently believe to be truth.  They aren’t looking for someone to come in and teach them a “new truth”.

The more I studied theology in the past twenty years the more I realized that there are vast differences between one Christian denomination and another. And within those denominations are churches that are even more scattered across the theological landscape.  Getting back to the topic of pastors, they risk their jobs by studying outside their groups theology. If they say the wrong things they may very well be shown the door.

When I was a member of a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church I became a pretty close friend of the pastor. Being that I did not restrict my studies to only Lutheran practices I read very widely. One of the books that deeply influenced me was Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution. This book spent a lot of time looking at the words of Jesus and his messages to us. I was so impressed by the book to buy a copy for the pastor. I gave it to him and was anxiously awaiting his thoughts. A couple of weeks later I asked him about the book and he made a snide comment about the author and would not go into further explanation. After a while it became obvious to me that he did not bother to read more than a short snippet. I simply couldn’t understand how he couldn’t have been influenced by the messages in the book.

What I learned from this encounter is that many clergy simply will not go outside their hierarchy when it come to their studies. They simply will not read things that might disagree with their current practices. I guess the reason for that is because they fear for their jobs.  It is certainly depressing to see the statistics above. Pastors should be free to give us a dose of their wisdom without fear for their jobs.

This is a sad part of current day Christianity…

I want to bring over a slightly edited archive post from one of my other blogs at RedLetterLiving.net for this Sunday’s post. It is from March 13.
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I’m not sure who brought up the concept but it is about how churches are actually more like clubhouses than anything else. They are buildings that are built almost exclusively for their members comfort. Yes that comfort does bring in some to hear the message but that seems to be very secondary at best.

I had a recent round of comments on this topic and it stirred up some heated words. It seems that calling a church a country club strikes the nerve of many Christians.  I think the ounce of truth in it is the reason.  Everyone wants to think that their church is somehow different from the others. They want to think that  what they give in weekly donations is for the greater good of God. But, facts simply don’t bear that belief out.  The majority of what they give stays within the church’s hierarchy.

When I was giving regularly to the small church I once belonged to I never deemed that the money I gave actually went to God’s work here or earth.  Being a regular member on the church board I realized that 99+% of what I gave ended up paying the mortgage, utilities and the pastor’s salary.  Did I feel guilty about that? No, not really. I know that this small church was struggling, and still struggles after almost ten years, to keep the doors open.  There is nothing wrong with needing a clubhouse.

But what is wrong is when we fail to recognize the fact that we are really not doing much in the community besides holding down a property.  We try to rationalize that giving a few families a turkey and canned goods during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays somehow meets our community obligations.  Being a church is supposed to be about showing God’s blessing throughout our communities. It is supposed to be about others and not ourselves.  When we finally acknowledge that fact and diligently plan on making  community support happen is when we turn the corner from clubhouse to church.  Sadly too many small churches fail to ever reach that point in their congregation’s life.

I am often accused of painting with too broad a brush in these types of posts so I want to  recognize that there are many churches out there that are very much valuable contributors to their communities. They run soup kitchens and food banks in the areas.  They open their doors on cold and windy nights for those who are homeless. In other words they act like they are followers of Jesus Christ. I celebrate every one of those churches.  But at the same time even those churches must be constantly tracking their allocations of funds.  It is impossible to give too much to your community instead of yourself.

Everyone needs a clubhouse that you can go to weekly. Where everyone know your name as the old Cheers TV show used to say. That is a valuable part of Christian fellowship but we must constantly remind ourselves that is supposed to be very much secondary to being our brother’s keeper and helping God’s kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven.