Sunday, December 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the day my father was born, otherwise known as his 60th birthday. That’s 60% of the way to 100. If his age were a test score he would still have an F. Only 10 more years to a D-. Since he often remarks on my lack of blog postings and how much he enjoys the writings of his children, I figured the perfect gift for such an occasion would be a blog post dedicated to him.

I learned a lot of things from my dad: fishing, canoeing, bowling, song leading, basketball, baseball, English, history to name a few. If I were to speculate on one thing he would be most proud to have passed on it would be my proper use of the subjunctive mood in my writing.

I remember my sophomore basketball season when he travelled to every one of my away games. Some of my best memories are of the canoe trips along the Minnesota/Canadian border where we fished, hiked, swam, bathed in waterfalls, drank bug juice, watched for planes dipping their wings signaling it was OK to build a fire.

Some things I most certainly did not pick up from my dad are his love of westerns, musicals, and deviled eggs.

Growing up, most teenagers think their parents will never understand them and the parents feel the same way. Having become a father myself, I have a much greater appreciation for the time, effort, and enormous sacrifices that go into being a parent. I also better understand the personal inadequacies and insecurities that challenge both fatherhood and manhood. Sometimes it’s all a parent can do to hope that their kids grow up to not be a serial killer or thief much less a well adjusted, productive member of society. Somehow my dad managed to not screw up 4 times over resulting in 4 Christian families. May we all be so lucky and blessed.

Finally, I have no idea how many of my diapers my dad changed, but my hope and desperate prayer is that in the next 60 years of his life I never have to change one of his.

Happy birthday, Dad! Here’s to the next 60.

Friday, June 27, 2008

He Paid a Debt

"Speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent". This oft used motto is a baseline for doctrine and practices in churches of Christ and came out of the Restoration Movement in the 1800s. And yet on the subject of money, we are often very silent where the Bible speaks very plainly. Money is one of the top subjects in scripture. There's a ton of financial advice in Proverbs and Jesus spoke of it often. In church we rarely speak about anything other than the giving aspect of money. And the times we talk about being a good steward and giving unto Caesar are in the context of giving (because the giving is never enough). Here's a long list of scriptures that speak about money and finances.

One area where the Bible plainly speaks is on the subject of debt. The Bible never says that debt is sinful, but it strongly condemns the use of debt as a bad way to do business. Depending on the translation, words like "foolish", "stupid", "lacking in sense", and "slave" are used to describe debt, the use of debt, and the relationships it creates.

Here are a few of the scriptures on debt:

Proverbs 22:7
"The rich rule over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender."
Proverbs 22:26-27
"Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety for debts; if you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take away your bed from under you?"
Proverbs 17:18
"It's stupid to guarantee someone else's loan."
Proverbs 11:15
"He who is surety for a stranger will suffer for it, but one who hates being surety is secure."
And finally there's even advice on how to get out of debt:
Proverbs 6:1-5
"My son, if you have become surety for your friend, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you are snared by the words of your own mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; For you have come into the hand of your friend; Go and humble yourself; plead with your friend. Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird for the hand of the fowler."

Notice that it never says that going into debt is a sin. It just says it is foolish and will take your very bed from under you.

We have churches going deeply into debt for new facilities, pastors encouraging people to use their credit cards to pay their offering, churches asking members to personally sign for the church's debt, and Christians everyone living the good life on credit cards, HELOCs, and car fleeces.

Jesus came not just to pay our debt for the redemption of our souls, he came to show us the best way to live. We're more than willing to condemn others for drinking or smoking or carousing or missing church services, but when it comes to finances we rarely insert ourselves into our brothers' and sisters' lives. The weight of debt can be as burdensome as addictions and guilt of sin. It can destroy marriages and wreak havoc in every area of our lives.

What a wonderful opportunity for outreach and showing God's love and His purpose for our lives. If we teach our children, neighbors, and fellow Christians God's way of handling what he has given us then we spread not only his love, but a great deal of peace to a world greatly in need of both.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Above all, love each other deeply

Tonight in Bible class we were talking about 1 Peter 4:1-11. We talked about the suffering of Christ and suffering for the faith. Hard times can make us stronger or break us down. Here Peter is warning his fellow Christians of what to do when the hard times come. He first points to Christ as our example. Then he goes on to give some pratical advice of fighting the dark times:
7The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
He continues with other advice such as practicing hospitality, teaching and serving. But he echoes the idea that Jesus tried to teach us. Loving God and Loving each other is the most important thing "because love covers over a multitude of sins". The covering of sins certainly refers to Christ's love in his sacrifice that brings us redemption. But in this situation, he's referring to our interactions as a body. The MOST important thing we can do to fight the hard times that the world throws at us is to love each because all the petty arguments, offenses, and differences will be abated by love. The covering power of the love is over our sins towards our fellow Christians. They criticize us, reprimand us, believe different from us, worship different than us, and raise their children different than us. How dare they be so different from us. But all my attempts to straighten them out and set them on the right path are just clanging symbols (like the kids banging on the pots in the kitchen) if I have not love.

When they do this things, believe these things, teach these things what am I to do? Am I not to correct them? We throw around the terms conservative, progressive, liberal, anti-this, and non-that. Whatever the labels, whatever the positions, whatever the doctrines, love must bind us all together. Whether I think you're wrong and don't choose to worship as you do or you think I'm wrong and don't choose to attend my gospel meeting, we must remember the words of our Lord and his servant Peter that love must be practiced above all.

I don't have to condone your actions or accept them for myself and I can certainly discuss with you where I think you may be in need of guidance. But I must not hold a grudge, spread gossip (true or not), publish nasty letters on my blog, or write you up in a Christian publication.

If my salvation is based on doing and believing the correct things throughout my life then I'm hosed. If my salvation is based on getting everyone around me to do and believe the correct things in their own lives then I'm equally hosed. I can't do it on my own and neither can you. But together when the dark times come (such as when some big man in a black helmet tries to extinguish your light from the galaxy) we can stand up under the suffering that the world throws at us. We can use our gifts "To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."

The thoughts in this article have been stewing around for a bit and our class tonight finally got me going on the track to write it all down. Some of the things rattling around in my brain are from a recent story involving the school where my mother work and my youngest 2 siblings graduated and the churches local to the area. I won't go into the story, but there are some blog entries, national Christian articles, and my brother's blog that refer to the situation. These things always make me sad. The congregation here where we attend has gone through a similar situation with lingering resentment (or fear of resentment) from some people.

Let us pray that we can love and be loved and that we will forgive others as we wish to be forgiven.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Am I Weird?

I'm sure my siblings will immediately answer "Yes" to this but hear me out before making any final judgements.

For Father's Day we had budgeted $50 for gifts and $50 for eating out. Yesterday I told Kathryne that what I wanted was to take the $100 and put it on our debt snowball. We're so close to paying off the current credit card and I want it GONE. At first she wasn't happy about this, but Sean liked the idea and eventually she agreed to it. Still she called me this morning on the way to work to confirm that I REALLY wanted to do it.

We plan on being out of debt 1 year from now and we really enjoyed meeting Dave Ramsey last week during a break in his radio show.Our 3rd FPU class starts in September and we're really excited about how we've been able to help those in our 1st 2 classes (by helping them help themselves).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kid Stuff

Last week we watched both National Treasure movies with the kids. They really liked all the historical folklore (mixed in w/ real history). They've been looking at the 1 dollar bill and examining it's features and we've looked up the Latin phrases for their meanings. We saw the first one earlier in the week and at the end of the second one this weekend Joshua came to a vivid realization. He heard one of the character mention Gates's name and he shouted excitedly "That's Gates, the same one from the National Treasure movie." This was at the end when they were in the sunken city. He'd gone the whole movie w/out realizing that it was the sequel with the same people.

And today he is on the floor w/ the block from the Jenga game making a hidden temple and playing National Treasure. He's already found the treasure which consisted of a lego droid, lego helmet, and a lightsaber.

Now i think the temple is collapsing.

A couple weeks ago, Sean and Joshua combined the board games Settlers of Catan, Cities and Knights, and Risk into one mega-game. I called home and Sean said they were playing this game and i thought it was some new computer game they had downloaded. But they had combined all the games and made up new rules (Sean did the rule making apparently) and had epic battles.

A couple weeks later now the game is finally getting put away as we prepare for our trip to Columbia, TN.

Sean's finishing up this week in third grade. It's pretty much just parties for the remaining days.

And i've been home sick this week (but i'm not a kid so i won't write about that).

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Oh noes, my shadoes

Apparently the groundhog saw his shadow today. For some reason that means 6 more weeks of winter. Now in past years, that might upset me a bit, but given the winter we've had I'm content to 6 more weeks of 60-70s and sunny weather.

The worst we've had so far is like Seattle in the fall. That lasted for 2 weeks then it got sunny again.

Interesting thought. The popular culture still clings to the idea that a groundhog seeing it's shadow or not is an omen of the future weather, yet many refuse to acknowledge that anything exists that science cannot explain when it comes to God the creator.

Friday, January 25, 2008

"We're from the government"

"and we're here to help..."

"ourselves to your money, freedom, and responsibility."

Here's an interesting chart come like to use to bash Bush:

To summarize, when Bush took office, everything was great with the economy. Now after 7 years, things are horrible.

Good thing that things like world events and general economic trends have no effect on the economy. Since it's a single person responsible for all good and all bad, it's easy to fix. This means I don't have to work as hard cause someone else will take care of me. Pretty soon I hope to just stay home and play World of Warcraft all day.

John Edwards will make sure I have health care, Hillary will raise my children, and Obama will come and "change" me.

To be "fair and balanced"...

Romney will provide my underwear, Huckabee will attend to my spiritual needs, McCain will make sure I don't talk about politics before an election, and Rudy will keep me safe

I just need someone to feed me and I'm set.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Can't wait till 16

Sean had a bit of a driving lesson today. One of our friends from church invited us out to ride in what can best be described as a mini-jeep. He took us around the trails on his farm and then I got to try my hand at it too. But the highlight for me was when Sean got behind the wheel.

Now we just have to teach him to parallel park.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What would you do with $1,600?

I'm trying to remember what I did the last time grandpa government sent me a birthday check (aka rebate)* So I'm pretty sure I spent it on something that was either eaten or quickly obsolete or broken. Back at the turn of the century, the tax cuts included a one-time tax rebate of $300 (maybe $600 for us as a couple) the goal being for us to spend it along with some more of our money to stimulate the economy. And now again there are plans being made for rebates on the order of $800/1600 that we will be encouraged to spend on new TVs, game consoles, vacations and such.

Now I have absolutely no problem with the government sending me back the money that I send them throughout the year, but unfortunately this time I won't be doing my patriotic duty to provide short term stimulus to the nation' economy. Instead I'll be able to shave about 1.5 months off my debt snowball thus securing my long term future while deferring short term pleasure. I feel so unpatriotic. And yet I hope that people everywhere will take this opportunity to save their money or pay off debt. Now that would be a big help to the economy since much of the current problems are with people who have too much debt and really high interest rates both with their mortgages and consumer debt. I guess I will be stimulating Chase a little as I speed up my payments to them, but I'm not sure that's what Bernanke has in mind.

Now the question I have is since I moved this past year after tax time how will grandpa know where to send the check? I want my money ASAP. I'll have to check into that.

What have you already spent your tax rebate one?

*Other than the normal tax return.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why do Christians like Rules?

I just heard this quote from Josh McDowell while listening to Focus on the Family:
Rules without Relationship leads to Rebellion

That's great. I have to remember that both as a Christian and especially as a parent. It's not "Spare the rod, spoil the child". That's a trite saying we use to justify our discipline methods. The actual verse is
He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24)
Have to remember that too.

Gracious Receiving

"It is more blessed to give than to receive" provides us with the words of our Lord (via Paul, Acts 20:35). We always use these words to encourage people to give, whether to the church or the poor or to our friends (especially at Christmas time). We teach our kids to not be selfish an to share their toys with their friends.

But how often do have trouble accepting gifts from others. Whether it's letting someone buy us lunch or pay for a coffee or accepting a large new 50" HDTV that someone wants to buy for you (hint, hint). And that's the very attitude we have to avoid. Manipulating people into giving and then using the excuse that you're helping them be more blessed is not what Paul had in mind in when he wrote to the Philippians (4:17-18):
"Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God."
He graciously accepted their gifts even though he didn't need it in order to allow them the joy of giving. God wants us to give so that we become more like him. C.S. Lewis wrote that prayer doesn't change God, it changes us. In the same way, the purpose of our giving is not soley to help the recipient, but to also change us into God's image the way he intends us to be. Christ left all of heaven and came here and gave 33 years of his life all for us. His whole ministry was a gift. He is a giver and being a Christian means being transformed into his likeness.

We teach gracious giving, but we should not deny others the joy they will receive when they give to us. Just say "Thank you" and then pass it on. If you pay them back, then it was not a gift. If you pay it forward, you make the world a better place and at the two of you have been able to experience the joy of giving.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Optimizing My Life

As a software developer, I spend a good deal of time thinking about and working on optimizing things to work faster or smaller whether it's processing cycles or memory footprint or file size. My current optimization effort is being put towards my morning and evening commutes. This involves traveling several different routes at different times, listening to the radio reports for major traffic problems, and discussing with co-workers the various routes that are available. After just over a week of testing, the current optimal route seems to be getting on I-35 North as soon as possible and exiting to highway West 290/71 then to 360 which leads to the office. I tried a lot of the back roads but with the school traffic plus work traffic, they are very congested. Unless 35 is at a standstill, it will usually be a faster and more stable commute. 290 traffic seems to flow pretty well because it is 4+ lanes and an easy exit onto 360. Once on 360 there are about 3 lights to go through, but they haven't been too bad so far.

I find myself optimizing other little areas of my life. For instance, at breakfast, I won't pour my glass of milk before warming up my hot pockets in the microwave. I'll do that while they are heating. That way I'm not standing around waiting for 1 minute 45 seconds. By using the down time in one activity to complete another, I've saved about 15-20 seconds of my life. I also like to optimize my entertainment. I will often watch TV and play on the computer at the same time. That way I double my entertainment value for the amount of time I have. Granted I don't get to concentrate on either one as much, but overall it works out.

No real point to this post. Just something I was thinking about. Do you try to optimize your life? If so, how?

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Office (Reprise)

The trip in this morning was a bit longer than I’d hoped but at 40 minutes it wasn’t a bad drive. I got to listen to the Focus on the Family broadcast which took up most of the trip. It starts at 7:30 so I’ll try to make that my window of drive time so I get commercial free family goodness for most of the trip. The other 10 minutes I can listen to news or other random dribble on the radio. Finding something interesting on the way home may be more challenging. I ended up taking a slightly different route than I originally intended but it turned out to be just fine and perhaps slightly better.

I’m not off to a good start. I ran off this morning and forgot my lunch so I’ll have to find some place to eat around here.

The chair is really comfortable and there’s that new office smell in the air. Various amenities are still being acquired. The fridge is not here though they did take soda orders. The printer/scanner/fax is borked and a replacement is on the way. Some routers and other computery equipment are still in transit or needing to be ordered. But all in all it’s a nice office and should make for a good working experience.

I also forgot to bring in the camera to take pictures of the move in but I’ll try to remember tomorrow.

Time to get to work.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Office

I'm really hoping my upcoming experiences don't end up like the TV show this post is named after (I'm sure they won't). Tomorrow starts a new era in my employment with my current company. On January 29th of last year I started working with PFI out of my house in Bremerton, Washington. In June, we moved down to Kyle, Texas (south of Austin) and I remained working out of the house. Tomorrow will be my first day in the new Austin branch office. I make this transition with mixed emotions. It has certainly been a blessing to be able to work from home and make the move down here while we waited to sell our house. It's also let me spend a lot more time with the family and have a very flexible schedule. Kathryne could run out on errands as needed without having to worry about whether to get someone to watch Sean or Joshua. Also the lack of commute has been very nice. On the other hand, the productivity of working from home without a dedicated office space has been a challenge to say the least. Also the teamworks aspects are harder to work out.

The thing I am looking forward to the least is the commute. Till now, I've never had a regular commute longer than 15 minutes. Now I'll be lucky if I can keep the drive to 30 minutes. Traffic shouldn't be a huge problem till the last few miles of the trip. Most of it is on the smaller county roads, but the last couple stretches have larger interchanges which can back up very easily. Here's a map of the route I plan on taking in the morning.

View Larger Map

I'll try to take some pictures of the office and post them later. It's a nice building in a nice part of town. There's a high school nearby (which should make for nice game night traffic).

The biggest downsides are
  • I'll have to shower everyday
  • I'll have to shave more than once every 2 weeks
  • I won't be able to work in my pajamas (likely, haven't checked for sure)
Hopefully they'll stock the fridge with Diet Dr. Pepper and other sodas.
I'm still hoping to be able to work from home on occasion.