Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Father > Hero

I finished reading Rocket Boys this morning. While he never got to meet his hero, Wernher von Braun, his hero at one point had been by his exhibit at the national science fair and had picked up and appreciated his rocket parts.

Hickam realized that the person most important to him at his last amateur rocket launch was his father. He never got the fatherly encouragement he wanted, but then decided to give encouragement to his father instead. I found it to be a very powerful ending.

Monday, September 17, 2018

iOS 12 Out

iOS 12 is out today.

I downloaded it. Things I noticed:

  • Bedtime can now also trigger DND.
  • DND has a separate setting to be invoked by Bedtime that is not in sync with Bedtime's setting.
  • Measure looks like fun.
  • Screen time looks useful, though it will take some time to tell. It doesn't look like it tells me when I use my phone or apps, only how much.
  • Screen time has a today widget. It's on my default, and I'll probably leave it that way.
  • Cursor functionality looks useful, though is not active in all apps.
  • Voice memos has some new editing features, though my first pass in trimming a clip was not successful.
Things that didn't change:
  • Bedtime still confuses me. I'm not sure if I can get it to track bedtime without also waking me up in the morning.
  • Auto-shutoff still has nothing in between staying on for 5 minutes and staying on forever.
I've been wondering when Wall Street is going to notice that Apple is offering everyone on the previously latest devices a free upgrade. There's no upgrade supercycle this time around. Then again, apparently it was already dead.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

“What do you want to do?”

I've been enjoying reading Rocket Boys lately. Homer Hickam was a fish out of water shooting off rockets in a coal mining town. As he was growing up, and with input from his father, deviating from the town norm of coal mining was not without its moments of insecurity. The part where I left off today ended with him having won multiple science fairs and having been recognized at school his senior year. His day ended with him finally realizing his path was clear. He now was sure of who he was and what he was to do.

I was having breakfast with someone a while back who asked me, “What do you want to do?” Having virtually no experience with this person, and them knowing little of mine, that made this question easier than it usually is for me.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Greatest Difficulty for the Rich

Jeff Bezos was in town recently.

This prompted “a supremely well-attended dinner marking The Economic Club of Washington, D.C.’s 32nd anniversary.” This has the Washington Business Journal gushing about how “Never had so many business leaders packed into the massive ballroom at the Washington Hilton” with “about 1,400 business leaders, politicians and local celebrities and 130 credentialed members of the media.” The event “was so large it required multiple levels of the Washington Hilton to fit it. A pre-event reception was so packed that organizers held a smaller, but equally packed, separate reception for sponsors and the biggest VIPs in a crowd of VIPs.” The praise for the crowd continued from there.

Some people make their money just studying people who have lots of money and assets. There's no shortage of articles on things rich people do, have in common, etc.

I don't remember the exact headline or title now, but I once saw something on Business Insider, if I remember correctly, that identified the most fundamental common thing among people of means or wealth.

They had all hit bottom at some point, and then they had all decided not to be at the bottom anymore. They put their hunger or desire to use, and became extremely self-reliant. Of course, they need to hire a lot of people along the way, but there is a transforming fundamental drive to succeed that is what truly sets them on a different trajectory than the rest of us.

With that understanding, and even with all their riches and assets, there is still something that is extremely hard for them to do.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Diversion or Delving Deeper?

I was reading in John 4 the other day, and a couple things really struck me from the comments of the woman. This is the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.

She refers to “our father” in verse 12, and “our fathers” in verse 20. “Our” is in both the father of the Jews and the father of the Samaritans—they both had the same father.

This may be a passing comment, but it also makes the point there's no real difference for the Jews to consider Samaritans as different or as other from them as they did.

When Jesus told the woman to call her husband, I had always read her response as being one of changing the subject. However, as I look at this again in the context of her “our” references, instead of this being a change of subject, it seems like it instead may be an attempt to uncover and address an underlying issue and barrier that she and her people have been facing—one that had been used to consider Samaritans as different or other.

She may have seen this time with a prophet as an opportunity to ask a lingering question. After all, she had been looking for Him (4:25-26).

Before we judge people, it's a good idea to listen to people fully, even if something seems like a diversion. Their comments are in context for them and may not be a diversion at all. It may simply be hidden to us that the person is more on topic than ever.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


I once asked my friend Michael Schwartz to define freedom. He had one ready. “Freedom is the power to do right.” And with his typical confidence he added, “You won't find a better definition than that.”

Asked how he came up with that, his explanation started with a couple questions. (1) Is God free? Yes. (2) Does God do anything but right? No. Therefore freedom is the power to do right. It sounded reasonable, and I also wanted something based more directly on Scripture.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

It was a crisp fall morning in Washington, D.C. I love those kind of refreshing days. One time a cousin of mine who grew up in Chicago told me she thought the perfect day starts around 70° and gets up to around 90°. Having grown up in Florida, I think the perfect day starts around 50° and gets up to around 70°. That Tuesday started like one of those days.

I was working three blocks north of the White House at the time. The first indication we got that something unusual was afoot was an office-wide email about 8:45 a.m. informing us a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. It sounded unusual, like an accident, but having had an incident there eight years before, it didn't seem like much more than something that would be an item on the evening news.

About 20 minutes later, another office-wide email went around saying another plane had hit the other tower. At that moment, I instantly knew we were no longer talking about an accident. Since one plane had already hit one tower, live cameras were trained on the scene and picked up the full scale of the second collision. It was clear these were not small planes, but full-size commercial jetliners.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Sunday, September 9, 2018

11 Things you can do with a Bible

The Bible is the Word of God. There are a lot of good things you can do with it.

1. Read the Word. See for yourself what's in it by reading it.

2. Own the Word. Have your own copy. It's one thing to be able to read it online, but there's value in having your own copy that does not limit what you can see to the size of your screen or window. Underline it. Highlight it. It's yours.

3. Study the Word. If there are things that are hard to understand, keep reading, dig into it, look up original words, and overall don't give up. Ask God for help and wisdom in understanding it.

4. Pray the Word. Ever feel like you don't know how to pray? Ever not sure what the will of God is? His Word is consistent with His will, and we can pray His words back to Him. We can personalize them to our own situations as well.

5. Hide the Word. Hide it in your heart; memorize it. Do this in large chunks, too—at least chapters at a time. You never know what theology or encouragement you might find in the opening or closing of a letter.

6. Share the Word. Tell someone about what you've found in it. Introduce them to your friend Jesus. What have you learned? Who do you look forward to meeting someday? What does the Bible say about your situation right now, or things you see happening around you?

7. Share the Gospel. Learn the passages that explain the Good News to people and share it with them. Put tabs on pages to make them easy to find.

8. Teach the Word. New believers and young people especially need people who can show them what's in the Word, what does it mean, how does it fit together, what's next, etc.

9. Live the Word. Don't just apply it to your life, but apply your life to the Word. Seek to see what the Bible possibly says about every area of your life.

10. Give the Word. Buy extra copies to give away to people. The Gideons do this a lot. ChristianBook.com has sales now and then.

11. Translate the Word. While there are only around 200 countries in the world, there are about 6,000 active languages. Most of these do not have a copy of the Word of God.

What other good things can you do with the Word of God?

Friday, September 7, 2018

How to search Walmart.com efficiently

When I search on a shopping Web site, I usually don't find the vendor's sort by “relevance” to be all that helpful. I mainly want what I'm search for at the best quality for the lowest price.

If you know how to parse a URL, there's an easy way to do this. Here's an example for Chrome.

Go to search engine settings:
Then add a “Walmart.com” search engine, pick a shortcut (I use “wm”), and then put this in as the URL:
Then in your address bar type “wm”, a space, and your search.

It will now search Walmart.com for your product sorting by lowest price first, and only showing products rated with at least 4 stars.

I've been pleasantly surprised more than once to find actually relevant results on my first try by using this search method/url.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Future of Money

There were several high-profile hearings in Congress yesterday. One that got less attention, but that may be of more consequence than others is one entitled “The Future of Money: Coins and Banknotes.”

Things I found most interesting:

Going cashless is not seen as wise or viable for society and other countries.

Up to two thirds of the value of U.S. currency is held overseas. With a total value of $1.7 trillion, that could be up to $1.13 trillion in U.S. currency not in the U.S.

Due to the success of thwarting counterfeit $100 notes, the timetable for upgrading the $50 note has been accelerated because it has become an increased target.

A penny now costs more than twice what it is worth.

In 10 years the number of people purchasing collector coins has dropped from 1.2 million to 500,000. That number could go back up next year with the coin program for the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


First a disciple of John, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Andrew was an explorer, eager to hear the Word of the Lord wherever he might hear it. When John pointed his disciples to Jesus, Andrew upgraded his mission.

Jesus greets Andrew and his friend with a question, His very first question recorded in the Scriptures: “What do you want?” It’s a great question and one Jesus asked people often.

Andrew had the first answer: he wanted to be where Jesus was.

Andrew quickly recruited his brother, who became one of the better-known of all the apostles.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Killer Robots

In taking a glance at the headlines ending a long weekend, one caught my attention about the US and Russia blocking a ban by killer robots.

The rest of the story is that the US and Russia were also joined by Israel, South Korea, and Australia in opposing a treaty toward this end at the UN.

The outrage machine is kicking into high gear implying anyone not in favor of more entangling alliances, even without a clear definition of a killer robot, must insanely be in favor killer robots.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Think like a Futurist

Early last year Ari Wallach wrote a short piece on “How to think like a futurist.” He lists three ways:
  1. Transgenerational thinking. Think beyond yourself.
  2. Futures thinking. As in plural. There's more than one way to think about the future.
  3. Telos thinking. What is the ultimate purpose?
I've been numbering my days for more than 4,000 days now—since the beginning of 2006. This is based on Psalm 90:12 that draws a specific connection between wisdom and time. One thing I've noticed is how few references to wisdom one can find in the Bible that do not have a reference to time nearby.

Therefore, there's a lot to agree with in thinking like a futurist, and there is wisdom to be found in considering the times in which we live and the times into which we are headed.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Labor Day Sunday

After graduating from college and settling into the workplace, I think every 20-something at some point faces the disappointing reality that work does not live up to everything for which they had prepared.

There are various ways of dealing with this disappointment, and as people discover a little free time in their lives, they do things like read books to affordably continue their personal development. Oftentimes this means there comes a book that answers a lot of their questions or addresses their frustrations.

For me, this book was Joy at Work by Dennis Bakke. One of the first things he talks about in their is the purpose of business. It's not just to make money, but to provide a useful service to society.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Recruiting = Ministry

Any ministry leader knows that recruiting for various roles and needs in a ministry is continual.

Recruiting for a ministry can itself can be a ministry to people. Sometimes people volunteer to help because it will be good for their own social needs. I think this is completely legitimate. Just think of the number of times people tell of how they get more by serving themselves than they feel they give.

Patience, answering questions, listening to people's stories, and ensuring flexibility for people new to a ministry are all themselves eternally valuable for the recruiter and recruitee.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Law of the Harvest

We sow, and then we reap.
  • We reap the same thing as what we sow.
  • We reap more of what we sow.
  • We reap later than when we sow.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:7-8).

“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors” (John 4:35-38).

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Day Scores

Sleep is good for staying healthy. For some of us, a simple count of how many hours of sleep we've had per night or per week does not provide sufficient context to make that number meaningful. For someone who has worked in technology, sometimes it's easier to make things more complicated in order to make them simpler.

I've heard recommendations of getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night. As sleep tends to come in 90-minute cycles, another recommendation I've heard is that we need 35 of those cycles each week whenever we can get them. (That works out to on average 7.5 hours of sleep per night.)

Let's assume an average of 8 hours of sleep per day is a good goal. That means a goal for waking hours is no more than 16 per day. For me, I find I feel best if I can keep that number to 15. (There are 15 hours in a day; the rest are for sleeping!)

A few years back I realized it would be fairly simple to create a formula that would compare waking hours to sleeping hours in a way that gives me a number that looks like a day counter.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Wins Today

I built a tool for an organization to use in order to better understand, manage, and make use of its resources. One person who would use it is now viewing his 20-year career as before and after having this tool. He's planning to retire in a year. When I had told him about it, he had no idea how it would be useful; now that he can see for himself what I saw in my head, he wonders how he ever lived without it. Life is much easier when you create the environment before trying to fill it.

Another family (with 10 kids!) signed up for Awana today. We're approaching 50 clubbers to start the year. And it sounds like we have someone very interested in taking the lead on Awana Grand Prix, too.

I sent our Awana directors access to our online recordkeeping system, and both of our new ones thought it was pretty cool to be able to keep track of their clubbers' progress that way.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Add Tool = Increase Motivation

If ever you're not motivated to do something you should do, perhaps purchasing a tool to help you accomplish that job would increase your motivation.

For me, it was washing dishes. Buying a long-handle dish brush helped a lot. Now not every time I go to wash dishes to I have to scrub everything by hand.

For a friend of mine, it was a table-mover. Carrying a lot of tables around can get old, but if you can prop one up on a wheel and roll it around, the job can be much less burdensome.

I was speaking with the resident manager at my building once after I had moved around a lot of furniture, and she said she thought everything should be on wheels. I don't think going quite that far is necessary, but I just noticed there's a thing called furniture sliders that get somewhat close to that objective.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Awana Clubs start soon

Today was our annual Awana Clubs leader meeting. By way of background, I'm the ministry leader for our club.

One of our directors told me he was encouraged to see significantly more people here than last year. Amen to that! We are also looking at an opportunity to significantly grow the club with a sister congregation and their children and families.

Things are in good shape, and I'm encouraged. Please pray for our club for the Lord to do much through His Word and us with these young people and their families, in Jesus' name.

Friday, August 24, 2018

“Are you religious?”

Several weeks ago I shared a meal with someone who afterwards asked me, “Are you religious?” It's rare for someone to ask me that question.

I'm sure to some that would mean this person obviously doesn't know me.

I am a believer in Jesus Christ and the good news of His coming for us. Does that make me religious?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Vertical vs. Horizontal Rights

A friend of mine had a propensity to shut anyone down who would make a claim on their rights. If they asked, “What about my rights?” his response was, “You have no rights.”

On the one hand, he was making a valid point. Man is sinful, and he has no standing, or rights, before God—vertical rights. That's why we need the Gospel.

On the other hand, man does and should have rights before his fellow man, fellow sinners—horizontal rights.

Even though we are sinful, God gave us rights.

I love Romans 14:4. Paul wrote:
Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

How Tyrants Lie

The first thing to know about tyrants is they try not to sound like tyrants. They may genuinely not realize they are tyrants. The first clue is that they think of themselves as good. They're not. No one is. The second clue is they think they can use the power of government for good. This is dangerous. Be wary of anyone who doesn't think they need a Savior, and thinks they can be your savior if you give them power. If those two pieces are in place, watch out. Here's how.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Importance of the Individual

Church leaders have attacked a focus on the individual before, even from the Lord's prayer, and now it's coming from Albert Mohler, president of a conservative seminary. I have appreciated his worldview analysis on various issues, and on this I disagree, and I can show from Scripture why.

His premise starts with the Lord's prayer and emphasizing the first person plural pronouns used: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

His conclusion: “One of the besetting sins of evangelicalism is our obsession with individualism.”

There are several problems with extrapolating from the Lord's prayer a general anti-individual conclusion. One is better informed by taking a look at the broader context in both account's of the Lord's prayer and Scripture in general.

Monday, August 20, 2018

What is a right?

The United States of America was founded on the premise that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We have rights, and they come from God, our Creator.

How do we know that?

I've often heard conservatives claim that “our rights come from God,” and I've never voluntarily heard an accompanying explanation of that premise. This is important because many Americans no longer “hold these truths to be self-evident.”

I was once at an FRC event featuring Hadley Arkes, and he made a similar statement about the origin of our rights. Afterwards I was able to ask him how we know that. He had a clear explanation.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Reader's Theater Bible

Recently I saw a good deal on a leather-bound Bible of The Voice, a translation I've found intriguing for some time. Today I used that Bible to carry to church instead of a smaller NKJV or ESV translation I've often used.

I have to say, it literally reminded me of going to church as a kid. It must have been that long since I've used a full-size Bible like that on a Sunday morning. I've got a few other leather-bound Bibles at home (KJV, NKJV, NASB) that have percolated to the surface this summer of translations and notes to read next.

In ordering that new translation recently, ChristianBook.com also had a paperback version of it for $0.99. I added one of those as well. Other than a title page in the front and an ad on the last page, it's literally all Bible text with some notes along the way.

If you've ever seen reader's theater before, this is like the entire Bible turned into a reader's theater script. I think it would be useful to have at least four or five copies on hand so that if ever one wanted to be able to easily turn parts of the Bible into a mini drama, they would already have scripts on hand ready to go.

Friday, August 17, 2018

“And Should Communism Be Victorious?”

Professor Emil Brunner of Zurich, Switzerland, along with Karl Barth and Reinhold Niebuhr, were theological liberals in the Protestant ecumenical movement. The final chapter in Apostles of Deceit includes text from an article by Professor Brunner published in the Neue Zurcher Zeitung newspaper of Zurich for Sunday, May 28, 1961. (Emphasis and links added.)
But above all, the Communist strategists undertake to split and make of no effect what Christian and humanitarian strengths are still in existence in Europe. Most alarming is the success they have gained in World Protestantism. The World Council of Churches accepted as their password, “Anti-Communism is the line of attack of the Roman Catholic Church and must inevitably lead to war!” The opinion became widespread that anti-Communism is a sterile position unworthy of a Christian; that one has to “remain in Communication with Communism.” Moscow's peace propaganda was accepted inasmuch as the church has to, of course, be “for peace.”

With great passion it accepted and made its own the “fear” of the atom catastrophe, which Moscow propaganda is constantly spreading. This was done by falling for the Communist trick of equating nuclear armament with willingness to wage an atomic war and making the West responsible for it. All this without noticing how Moscow alternatively wavered between threats of rockets and Russian superiority in atomic weapons, and the waving of the palm of peace. All of this while ignoring the fact that that segment of Europe which is still part of the free world owes its very existence, above all else, to this very nuclear armament of the West which had never been put into action.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Productivity tools for each project size range

Not all To Do list apps or tools are created equal. Not all projects are either for that matter.

I find I have three tiers of sizes for projects I try to accomplish: small, medium, and large.

Small projects are those that can be done in one sitting, and usually I can aim for getting them done in a specific day. Often they're anything from a momentary do-it-quickly project or item up to a few hours. Many of these come up on a repeat basis.

Reminders for iOS is intended to be a tool for this kind of project, but it has not worked for me for several reasons. For repeating items, it was not fast and it was not reliable. I found I could not count on it to regenerate completed repeating items as I had specified especially on a timely basis. Badge notifications for only past due items also seemed a bit backwards. I still use the app for a shopping list, but that's about it.

For small recurring projects, I have found Swipes to be the most useful for small and frequently recurring daily tasks. Their ingenious innovation is that by definition every item entered in the app has a due date this took a little adjustment at first, but it's quite powerful in terms of mentally engaging in a specific timeline for completing everything. Badge notifications are for things to be done now. In terms of its swipe actions on items for snoozing or completion, when I first started using it I would have reversed what the right and left motions do, but it's familiar and natural now.

I can't put a timeline on every project, though, so on to other tools.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Flight of Richard Russell

Richard Russell's last day was a culmination of unmet desires.

The aviation world is the hub of activity at the pinnacle of society. Russell lived near the bottom of that culture. He was not a pilot. He was not a mechanic. He was a baggage handler. At 29 years old, to be useful for nothing more than manual labor in a high-end economy is not an encouraging place to be.

He mentioned the minimum wage. Just this year Seattle's minimum wage went up to $15 per hour. The higher the minimum wage goes, the closer everyone is to what society calls the bottom. The further down the income range one is, the more acutely this denigration is felt.

He had played some video games, and given his ability to get a real airliner off the ground and “do a couple maneuvers” in the air, he may have also had practice with flight simulator software. His mentions of regurgitation and being light-headed show there is more to real flying than he expected.

He told flight controllers, “I hope this doesn't ruin your day” and he was glad they were working to make sure he wasn't “screwing up everyone else's day on account of me.”

A good day is when everyone comes out alive, and Richard did not, so Friday was not a good day for the flight controllers. The travel plans of many others were disrupted, but their day did not end as badly as Richard's.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Is Taxation Theft?

Underlying this question is one of legitimacy. Is taxation legitimate? Is government legitimate?

First, I would ask, “What does the Word of God have to say about that question?” The classic go-to passage in the New Testament on government and law is Romans 13. It specifically mentions taxes twice: “because of this you also pay taxes” (13:6) and “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due” (13:7). Jesus also condoned paying taxes. Combine this with theft being prohibited, and one can reasonably conclude, no, not all taxes are theft.

A question remains: Could some taxation be theft? If government acts beyond purposes described for any government in Scripture, could taxes to fund those activities be theft?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Technology & Gratitude

Yesterday a friend mentioned how he often uses Siri, and he's inclined to say “Thank you” afterwards, but then wonders, What's the point in saying “Thank you” to an algorithm? Is it possible technology can make us ungrateful?

I think that's very much a thing. There's a strong ethos in the technology world that if technology can do something, then technology should do something. The language of should is not the language of thanks.

Ethical questions have centered on whether or not the end justifies the means. Technology flips this on its head leaving us to ask if the means justify the end. Just because technology can do something (the means) does that mean it should (the end)?

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Rainy Reflections

I find rainy days to be the most useful for reflecting. I first thank God, in Jesus' name, for shelter and windows whereby rain can be more enjoyable than a nuisance.

Interestingly it was sunny earlier this afternoon. While I was working in a bright sunny office, a couple alerts popped up on my phone about my area being under a severe storm watch for the next 24 hours, and a flood watch for the next 9 hours. The contrast was striking. I looked up the weather radar for the area, and sure enough, stormy weather was not far away and was getting closer.

As I was walking to my car, I got to thinking about how God gives us warnings like that, too. To us, everything may look fine, but despite appearances, not far away danger is lurking.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Patriotism vs. Nationalism

I grew up in a patriotic home. We loved our country. With grandparents who had fought in World War II, the greatest generation taught our parents respect for the flag and “the republic for which it stands.” They in turn passed that on to us.

This disposition toward country flourished in a church that was in no way exclusive to the U. S. of A., but had both domestic and foreign missions efforts. That thriving church that founded Awana was also instrumental in founding and recruiting for New Tribes Mission, now Ethnos360, an organization dedicated to doing as Jesus said, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19), and “you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

There is nothing about the love of Jesus that is exclusive to one country. Neither does loving one's country mean that one cannot also love other people in other countries. One can both be grateful for what God has given in the land of one's birth or adopted country, and also see all people in every land and nation as created in the image of God and needing to hear the Good News of Jesus.

One other note on patriotism: While God has created all men equal, not all governments are equal. Some governments recognize the inherent desire for freedom in the spirit of man, and others do not. The 20th Century saw a great contrast between a flourishing nation built on and expanding on principles of freedom, and other nations under the oppressive and encroaching regimes of communism around the world. The contrast was stark and clear, and to love this country was to be grateful to be alive and free.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Social Media Reading

Reading online and reading a book are fundamentally different experiences. The words may be from the same language and even on the same topic, but the user experience is different in both purpose and result.

A social media feed is built to be a stream of content with no end—keep users on the site as long as possible. The underlying purpose of reading on social media is driven by fear of missing out. It's a strategy tilted more in favor of the company than the reader.

A physical book, on the other hand, has a clearly-defined end. There's no fear I'll miss what it has to say as I know I will reach everything eventually if I keep reading.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018


I like words. I like being precise with words, too.

Sometimes people have accused me of parsing too finely to the point where a clarification I think is important is reduced to “semantics.” I don't like that word, especially when it's used that way.

Here's the way I see it. If a difference in language represents a difference in meaning, then the language difference is more than just a semantic difference, but is a meaningful important difference. If the meaning doesn't change at all, then sure, it's just semantics. A couple examples:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Reverence for the Word

I had a good conversation with a friend today who is working on a book. One of the themes we touched on is one we've covered often: How the Word of God applies to all areas of life, or as I prefer to put it, We can apply our whole life and every area of it to God's Word.

We were discussing how many people don't believe this these days, and we weren't just talking about non-believers either. Even among Bible-believing professing Christians who adhere to doctrines like the inspiration of Scripture, there is not always an embrace of the idea that the Bible is practical for all things. All things should be in subjection to God's Word. Nothing exists without God's Word. God is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3).

As we were talking, I wondered if Christians don't completely believe the Bible does apply to all things because they're not sure it can apply to all things. One more step back from that: Do Christians fail to believe the Bible can apply to everything because they lack reverence for the Word of God?

Monday, August 6, 2018

Landfills also recycle

After having made several trips to the Fairfax County Landfill, I can tell you that there's more to trash management than putting waste in a pile, ventilating it to the surface, and covering it with dirt and grass.

Public Works turns wood into electricity. (After all, it is located on Furnace Road.)

There is no charge for dropping off metal because that gets recycled. That may also be why waste pickup companies don't allow appliances in dumpsters.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Being content with progress

After too many late nights and super-late nights over the past couple weeks, it's time for a super-early night.

I don't have to accomplish everything that needs to get done. Taking one or two significant steps toward where things need to be is progress.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Is the press the enemy of the people?

Q I just wanted to follow up on Sara’s question from NPR. She asked you about Ivanka Trump’s statement that the press is not the enemy of the people. And she asked you whether or not the press is the enemy of the people.

You read off a laundry list of your concerns about the press, and things that you feel like are misreported, but you did not say that the press is not the enemy of the people. And I think it would be a good thing if you were to say, right here, at this briefing, that the press, the people who are gathered in this room right now, doing their jobs every day, asking questions of officials like the ones you brought forward earlier, are not the enemy of the people. I think we deserve that.

SANDERS: If the President has made his position known, I also think it’s ironic —

Q Would you mind telling us, Sarah, if you don’t —

SANDERS: I’m trying to answer your question. I politely waited, and I even called on you despite the fact that you interrupted me while calling on your colleague.

Q Well, you attacked our news organization —

SANDERS: I said it’s ironic —

Q — which is why I interrupted.

SANDERS: I’m trying —

Q But if you finish, if you would not mind letting me have a follow-up, that would be fine.

SANDERS: It’s ironic, Jim, that not only you and the media attack the President for his rhetoric when they frequently lower the level of conversation in this country. Repeatedly — repeatedly — the media resorts to personal attacks without any content other than to incite anger.

The media has attacked me personally on a number of occasions, including your own network; said I should be harassed as a life sentence; that I should be choked. ICE officials are not welcome in their place of worship, and personal information is shared on the Internet. When I was hosted by the Correspondents’ Association, of which almost all of you are members of, you brought a comedian up to attack my appearance and called me a traitor to my own gender.

Q We didn’t try to do that, Sarah.

SANDERS: In fact, as I know — as far as I know, I’m the first Press Secretary in the history of the United States that’s required Secret Service protection.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

For how much would you sell your dietary habit information?

Credit card offers in the mail can be more interesting than they first appear. They tell you want financial institutions want.

Yesterday I pulled one out of my mailbox that offered three tiers of “Cash Back.”

3% Cash Back on Dining.
2% Cash Back at Grocery Stores.
1% Cash Back on other eligible purchases.

In other words, they really want to know what I eat, especially when it might not be completely healthy by someone else's standard. Why might that be?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

If you're thinking of getting in touch with someone, do it while you still can

Today I received the sad and tragic news that the second cousin of mine that I recently mentioned visiting years ago has passed away. He was in his 40's. Though a hiker with a lot of experience, he fell off a log and drowned in rapids flowing underneath.

In going through some old family papers recently, I realized that he had sent me a special gift of Mars Hill Audio years ago. He was a thinker, and he wanted to love the Lord with all his mind.

I will miss him. I had been thinking of getting in touch with him recently. I should have sooner. Now I can't.

This is not the end of the story. We have hope that we will see him again. Even better will be seeing the Lord.

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Awana Prime Day

July 31 is the new July 17. Today was like Amazon Prime Day for Awana. For anyone who registered for the year early for the free shipping coupon code, today is the last day it's of any use. The Web site was slow, like teachers putting in grades on the last day of the quarter, or like cars waiting in line at the cheapest gas station. That's where all my energy has been going since the repainting project has finished. Time to sleep a little. My emails-to-handle count is much lower now, too.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Deadline = Extreme Focus

Sometimes I go right from one extreme focus to the other.

Usually an extreme focus is caused a deadline on a big project. 

This month I've had several big deadlines, first at home and now for church things. 

Hopefully in August I'll have fewer extremely short posts.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

“Why do you stand gazing up into heaven?”

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)
I had always read this as the angels coming to stir up a sense of urgency about the Great Commission. “Why do you stand…” Recently I went back to look deeper into this text for what kind of direction they gave toward that end. I didn't find that. I found a far more loving message instead.

Friday, July 27, 2018

10 Traits of True Leaders

In cleaning things out recently I came across an a June 2013 issue of Inc magazine. On the cover is the headline “7 Traits of True Leaders.”

I got to thinking, without even opening the magazine to see what those things were, spiritually speaking, according to the Word of God, what would 7 traits of true leaders be? I ended up with 10.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Glorifying God in Furniture Arrangements

One of the most important things in cleaning and cleaning out is a willingness to throw things away. Hopefully this is easier when things are useless from now until forever anyway, but it still takes the will, sometimes a tool, and the exercising of that will to actually dispose of things.

I've been amazed how even getting rid of just a few things like old tax returns and work paperwork can make a huge difference in terms of opening up space. I'm probably still saving too much, but it's significantly—though not too significantly—less than it was before.

There have been several times where I have asked the Lord for wisdom in terms of furniture arrangement for things remaining, and I'm happy to report He has delivered. I now have one of the best layouts I've had in years. A friend of mine recently visited to check, and he was impressed. I give God the glory. It's much more open than I've ever had it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Self-Flying Cars

What happens when a Congressional committee chairman takes a walk on the National Mall and sees a kid playing with a cool toy? House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith had just such an experience and told the story yesterday.
Several weeks ago, I was walking on the Mall and noticed a boy operating a remote-control flying car—the first one I’ve ever seen. I immediately sent off for one and flew it recently with a young friend. It exceeded my expectations. In fact, I liked it so much that I ordered one for each of our witnesses today and for all the Members who attend this hearing.

I’ve been keeping articles about flying cars since I was in elementary school. … Just this week there was an article about flying cars in the Economist that also mentioned James Bond, so it covered two personal interests!
I've long thought flying cars were impractical as flying is exponentially more complicated than driving. My faulty assumption was flying cars would need a human driver.

The hearing yesterday points out that the concept of flying cars is completely different now with the advent of autonomous vehicle technology.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


I recently told a friend of mine that one reason he and I get along so well is because neither one of us has any idea what free time is. Active minds make for a full schedule.

Sometimes a mind can take lead one to take on too much, and the schedule gets overflowing. This month for me has been one of cleaning house, both physically and electronically.

Buying a shredder to dispose of old papers, and buying containers to hold and sort other things has been helpful for the physical clean-out.

Consolidating email and Google accounts has been helpful for the electronic clean-out.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Paid Family Leave

Paid family leave is not an issue or idea that naturally comes to conservatives.

In one sense, it's a form of paying people not to work. In another, it's a matter of paying people to remain available for work and later resume a normal employee role.

Shifting an employment relationship that doesn't already include this to later including it raises several questions. Is this another unfunded mandate on the employer? Is this a new tax-and-spend benefit from the government? The money would have to come from somewhere.

I would prefer less of a role for both government and employer in people's lives. Government should stick to punishing those who do evil and praising those who do good. Employers would do well to simply pay people out of the value they provide.

That understood, as long as this issue has traction, it's worth listening to what people are saying and what those with power are considering.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

“Lord willing”

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
Any time I use the future tense, I try to add “Lord willing” to that statement. This is true of things both big and small. Sometimes it's with fellow believers, and sometimes it's not.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Why Learn

Students ask, “Why do I need to learn this when I can just Google it?”

I see two flaws with that kind of thinking.

1. If you don't learn anything, how do you even know there's something you can Google?

2. Google and other search engines can only display information and point us to information sources that are available online. There are still wide and deep categories of knowledge that have existed well outside and before the Internet that have not made their way online yet.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

“A very dangerous word”

I had an interesting conversation with a Hindu today. It included a Stephen Colbert reference. We got to talking about Jesus.

Two ideas from him stand out from that conversation this afternoon.

1. I asked him about the caste system, and he said the caste system is not part of Hinduism. That came from the British and colonialism.

2. He said, “‘Belief’ is a very dangerous word.” It means you don't know, and you're trusting someone else.

“Belief” is certainly a powerful word.

Simon Peter told Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Words of eternal life include, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you will be saved.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Daylight Light Bulbs

Have you ever tried daylight bulbs before? They're the brightest available.

I was once able to transform the hallways in a building by brightening them up with daylight bulbs. For some reason I never thought of doing this in my home until now. They're making huge difference.
  • It's much brighter.
  • They're getting me to clean more. 
  • I bought a couple new lamps to take full advantage of the clearness of the color. 
  • Brighter lighting opens up new options in terms of furniture arrangement.

Maybe they could change your life, too.

The light of the Son in a person's life can make a similar difference.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Shadow of Turning

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

I had cleared an lit an area where some painters would be repainting today. They actually found it to be too much light because it makes it harder to see the imperfections.

Perhaps that's a hint at what the “shadow of turning” means. When something is not as well lit, the shadows make it easier to see the imperfections. That may be especially true when there's movement (turning).

It's good to know God has no imperfections. Not only does light not cast a shadow on him, but He is “the Father of lights.” He is the Source of all light sources.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Family History-Keeping

When a family member is faithful to write almost monthly, certainly multiple times a season every year for years on end, that provides a significant amount of material for keeping a history of the family.

Perhaps this is unique to the closeness of the relationship and the geographical distance between those family members.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

$0.99 x 15+

In case you have not noticed the value of shoebox-sized plastic containers, they're quite handy. I've been using them for kitchen things, cleaning supplies, memorabilia, etc.

In going through a lot of old cards I had saved, I've noticed anew how much my parents love me and how much I'm on their minds. They are a huge blessing in my life.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Day 13

Little blog posts that give a progress report for the day were not my idea of writing each day, but this month has gotten busy.

Today was a combination of (a) apartment cleaning and item organizing in preparation for a couple painting days coming this month, and (b) updating a script to further streamline some work and provide additional options useful for and requested by people.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


40 years ago today my family left the United States for Venezuela to reach tribal people with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

My parents had been commissioned to spend their careers among those people learning their language and culture, showing the people that Jesus died for their people, too, and ultimately plant churches among the people that would in turn reach more people in Venezuela with that same Gospel message.

The preparation phase of that plan on the field never finished. It was interrupted with the death of my father very suddenly overnight May 4, 1979. My great-uncle, Dave Breese, preached his funeral. Another great-uncle, Bob Christensen, shared the following tribute.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Original Monday

Have you noticed in the creation account nothing was called “good” on the second day?

He did name something that day, but maybe that's because His accomplishments that day were not well defined. Maybe that's characteristic of when we're creating a space for things.

Whatever the reason, today feels similarly lacking in specific accomplishment. I reached Inbox Zero on one email account, and I need to do the same on another before today is done.

Nonetheless, this writing commitment was made to be kept.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Diet & Weight

When it comes to personal weight, there are three options: gaining, maintaining, and losing.

If you're young or an athelete, you may want to gain weight. The rest of us either want to lose weight or gain no more than we already have.

Some people think of eating healthy as being a way to lose weight. I don't. When I hear talk of eating healthy, to me that means maintaining weight.

It's certainly better than stress-eating which is a way to gain weight.

Losing weight is fundamentally about eating less. Why? Because you have to force your body to consume what it has already stored—the excess weight.

The fastest way to do that is to stop eating. It works, I promise.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Caves in the Scriptures

As the world awaits more news from the rescue efforts for the soccer team in Thailand, I think of caves mentioned in the Scriptures.

“Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD; Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130)

“I cried out to You, O LORD: I said, You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142)

Many of us are doing just that on behalf of those trapped, and those helping them escape.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Saturday Surround

My grandfather had my grandparents' home wired for sound in every room—even the pantry. It was surround sound for productive people.

I understand why. When you're listening to something, be it music or spoken word, it's nice to have continuity as you move around.

I've always lived in shared housing of some kind, so there's been neither much freedom nor need to have everything wired up like that, but it's still desirable at times.

These days you can get a similar effect without all the wires. Enter Bluetooth technology. The nice thing about having Bluetooth devices connected to the same player, is it's pretty easy to switch the output destination if you're going to be in another room for a while.

A while back I got a Bluetooth receiver to enable merging use of new technology with old technology.  (Bluetooth receivers have already gotten less expensive.) More recently I thought I'd try out having a JAM Thrill portable speaker.

Today, I was playing some epic music, and the sound went from filling a room to making my little portable speaker visibly bounce on the shelf. Fun stuff.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Itty Bitty Sites

I've been a fan of maximizing what one can do with a URL for a long time.
  • Sometimes one can get more out of another site than its original developers thought possible or fully used. 
  • On a simpler level and more common basis, I rarely visit a site so that I can do a search; instead I just use a search shortcut and do my search right from the address bar.
Well this week, Nicholas Jitkoff has taken Web development to another level. He's made a way to build an entire Web page out of nothing more than a URL!

Thursday, July 5, 2018


Today is the 20th anniversary of my first conversation with a hitchhiker.

Lately I've been reading Rocket Boys which describes a time in the mid-20th Century when thumbing a ride around town (or across the country) was a common mode of transportation. Perhaps this early innocence was due in part to the automobile not having been around all that long before then. By the late 20th Century, not only was hitchhiking uncommon, it was considered largely unsafe.

During the summer of 1998, I was doing an internship in Seattle which is at the opposite end of the country from my family and where I grew up in Florida. I still remember arriving that May in a city where I knew no one, and when I closed the door at the place I had arranged to stay, for the first time ever, I had a real feeling of “What have I just done?” That summer is a story for another time, but this post is about my trip to see family I tracked down and visited over the 4th of July weekend that year.

I had some cousins who lived in Yakima, Washington, and I arranged to come visit them and their family for the long weekend. I didn't have a car out there, so I took a Greyhound bus east for the two-hour trip to Yakima. The transition in terrain one sees over that span is worth describing.

For being as far northwest as it is, Seattle does not get particularly cold like other states directly to its east. Part of that is because of the warm water moisture coming in from the Pacific. The Puget Sound area has the Pacific to its west and the Cascade Mountains to its east. The Cascades block moisture from heading east, so that makes for a lot of rain with nowhere to go but down most of the year in Seattle—hence the proliferation of coffee shops and literacy. Demand for power-washing business is abundant.

The roads, however, make it further east than the moisture. I had been told there is a line along the Cascade Range that has trees on one side and desert on the other. That was close. There are actually two lines out there. As we drove up the mountains into the fog/clouds, there was one peak we went over that distinctly marked a transition between the area being full of trees and then trees becoming rather sparse. As we went on further, we crested another peak past which tree coverage virtually disappeared for our descent into the Yakima Valley.

I connected up with my second cousin and met his wife and kids. For the 4th, a couple of his siblings also came to visit, one from Boise (pronounced with an 's,' not a 'z.'). It was neat to see relatives now older that I had known from summer family reunions years earlier. Sunday we went to church. They had a really neat pastor who really enjoyed meeting new people and getting to know them. I think his name was Marc Peterson.

Later that day I took the bus back west. That's when things got interesting.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Gospel Tracts

One of the defining characteristics of an evangelical Christian is that they believe in following the Great Commission by spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Practically for us, this includes wherever our Jerusalem is (our local area), Samaria (its larger region), and the uttermost parts of the earth.

There are varying methods of “making disciples,” but that starts with someone becoming born again and having eternal life (John 3). Peter once pointed out that it was from Jesus that they received “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Eternal life comes from words.

These are not just any words, but words specifically from God Himself—words Jesus spoke; words today we find inspired to be included in the Scriptures like, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31), and “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

Communicating these words of eternal life to others is our mission.

Words are communicated to people in many ways. With the proliferation of technology methods are more abundant, portable, and disposable than ever. I don't intend to discuss every available method here in this post, except one—an old one.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Rhetorical Gray

For some of us, it's very easy to be black-and-white about things. Binary is our native language.

The classic example of this is: You're either pregnant or you're not.

The most important example of this is eternal salvation. Are you saved?

Not everyone, though, sees the world in such stark contrasts. There is often room for shades of gray to be discerned. To use the extreme example, one could ask, "How is your pregnancy going?"

There's one rhetorical tool I've found that helps tremendously in making the leap from black-and-white thinking to considering shades of gray.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Conversation Topic Options

In India, a common introductory question is, “How much do you make?”

Americans tend to be shocked by this. We shouldn't be. We almost do the same thing.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Creation Patterns

Have you noticed patterns in the six days of creation?

One of them is a pattern of two sets of three days.
  • In the first three days, God forms various environments of increasing granularity.
  • In the second three days, God goes back and fills those environments.
For instance:
  • The birds and fish (Day 5), live in the sky and the water (Day 2).
  • Land animals & man (Day 6), live on dry land, eat plants (Day 3).

The idea of environments first and then filling them is practical and useful in every area of life. First establish the purpose, principles, and parameters. Then operate within that framework.

Many problems can also be traced to getting these things out of sequence. If you have frustrations in life, check to see if there's something trying to fill or inhabit an environment that has not first been clearly established and named.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

1,000 Days of Writing

Today I am 15,000 days old.

I've had it in mind this month to take on 1,000 days straight of writing.

I'm not one to take on small things first. I find it easier to jump in big.

In third grade, when I was supposed to come up with a project, I decided my topic was “computers,” and against the wise advice of my teacher and parents, I steadfastly refused to narrow my topic any further than that.

The first book of the Bible I decided to memorize is not the shortest, but is in fact the longest of Paul's letters in the New Testament.

1,000 days from now is Friday, March 26, 2021. Lord willing we'll have another presidential inauguration by then. I have no idea what this will look like over that time, much less all the world holds or all my life holds between now and then. Maybe that's what makes it exciting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Justice Kennedy: To Swing or Not To Swing

It seems the reviews on Justice Kennedy are mixed.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Excerpt on The T'ang Dynasty

At the funeral of Tai-tsung his successor, Kao-tsung, saw Wu, one of his father's concubines, who pleased him so much that, contrary to law, he took her into his own harem. Raised to the rank of empress and left mother of an infant son, she swayed the sceptre after Kao-tsung's death for twenty-one years. Beginning as regent she made herself absolute.

A system of civil service examinations which had sprung up with the revival of learning under the Hans was now brought to maturity. For good or for evil it has dominated the mind of the Empire for twelve centuries. Now, however, the leaders of thought have begun to suspect that it is out of date. The new education requires new tests; but what is to hinder their incorporation in the old system? To abolish it would be fraught with danger, and to modify it is a delicate task for the government of the present day.

That the scholar should hold himself in readiness to serve the state no less than the soldier was an acknowledged principle. It was reserved for the statesmen of T'ang to make it the mainspring of the government. To them belongs the honour of constructing a system which would stimulate literary culture and skim the cream of the national talent for the use of the state. It had the further merit of occupying the minds of ambitious youth with studies of absorbing interest, thus diverting them from the dangerous path of political conspiracy.

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