Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Music Mission

To get myself into a music learning mode last night I pulled out some music I had on my shelf. One was a hymnbook, Tabernacle Hymns Number Three. This was an encouraging time.

I recognized several of the names of lyric writers and music composers. I was impressed with the number of high-caliber names among the lyric writers like Lance B. Latham and William R. Newell. I don't come across many Bible teachers writing songs today. Perhaps this was a feature of the times. Before everyone had a screen, homes often had pianos.

One particular song caught my attention. “What Will You Do With Jesus?”
Jesus is standing in Pilate's hall
Friendless, forsaken, betrayed by all:
Hearken! what meaneth the sudden call!
What will you do with Jesus?

What will you do with Jesus?
Neutral you cannot be;
Some day your heart will be asking,
“What will He do with me?”

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Regulation

Sometimes The Washington Post likes regulation (and doesn't like them being rolled back).

Other times The Washington Post doesn't like regulation (viewing it as industry protecting its interests).

Maybe it just depends on the agenda at the time or the issue.

What I found most striking about the latter is the concluding statement:
“Any new technology requires regulation and legislation.”
Really? Why is that?

Legislation is for the purpose of creating law, and laws are for the purpose of punishing evil. Does technology inherently contain or encourage evil that must be punished?

Regulation is for the purpose of transferring power from the legislative branch to the executive branch. How does technology require that? If that's because technology development moves faster than the legislative process, then this transfer of power also escalates the risk of accelerating power accumulation beyond the people's ability to control it.

Either way, I'm not seeing inherent justification for regulation or legislation just because a new technology is brought to market.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Limits

Some days seem sufficiently full of indicators that it's best to not push things too far, and instead know when I've hit my limits and call it a day.

Today is one of those days, especially after it was more draining than it was expected to be.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Free Time

For some of us, certain questions are more difficult than they are for others. For me one of those is, “What do you do with your free time?” I've been asked this before, and I find it foreign to my normal thinking. Free time is something to be filled, and my backlog of activities is usually long and seldom thoroughly tapped.

A friend of mine and I observed recently that one of the reasons he and I get along so well is because neither one of us really has any idea what free time is.

Friday, October 26, 2018

News of Interest

Scientists discover oldest intact shipwreck in Black Sea
They found a Greek trading vessel whose design had previously been seen only on ancient pottery. The group says the vessel has been carbon dated to more than 2,400 years ago. Farr said the trading vessel has remained in good condition because the water is anoxic, meaning it's free of oxygen.

China opens world’s longest sea bridge and tunnel to connect Hong Kong and Macau to the mainland
The 34.2-mile bridge and tunnel that have been almost a decade in the making for the first time connect the semi-autonomous cities of Hong Kong and Macau to the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai by road. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge spans the mouth of the Pearl River and significantly cuts the commuting time between the three cities. The previously four-hour drive between Zhuhai and Hong Kong will now take 45 minutes. One section of the crossing dives underwater into a 4.2 mile tunnel that creates a channel above for large cargo ship containers to pass through.

Hubble Telescope’s Broken Gyroscope Seemingly Fixed After Engineers Try Turning It Off and On Again

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Thanksgiving Travel

Thanskgiving is four weeks from today!

I searched for flights from Washington to Orlando today to compare travel prices during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I was surprised to find Thanksgiving travel to be significantly more affordable than Christmas travel. (Others have already figured this out.) It also helped to be willing to delay my return until the Wednesday after Thanksgiving.

I have opted for a Wednesday-to-Wednesday trip. Turns out there's a greater likelihood of seeing extended family during November than December this year anyway.

It also appeared that crossing the less-than-four-weeks-away threshold brought a jump in price today, even as I was searching. I've accordingly made a note on my calendar to send me a reminder in subsequent years for five weeks prior to Thanksgiving to check prices on travel. (Even that may be late, but I've also heard it's possible to be too early in booking flights.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Virtue

Taking inspiration from a lecture by David Brooks, in Leaders: Myth and Reality, Gen. Stan McChrystal wrote a book modeled in structure on Plutarch's Leaders. I found it interesting that he specifically noted he and his fellow authors were specifically not intending to study whether or not the leaders were virtuous.

He wrote, “We offer accounts of those who have led and, importantly, also their context and surroundings, with the hope that these stories will help frame a deeper understanding of what it means to lead and what we mean by leadership. Where Plutarch asked, ‘What sort of man was he?’ we start by asking, ‘What sort of leader was she?’”

As he had just explained, Plutarch “was focused on matters of personal character … to study virtue so that it could be imitated.” Instead, McChrystal claims “Leadership is itself neither good nor evil.”

It seems a sign of the times that virtue is not only no longer our priority, but has specifically been rendered secondary. I also wonder if leadership is truly that agnostic in terms of good or evil.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Not by Sight

William Wilberforce on the character of Christians:

“First then, it is the comprehensive compendium of the character of true Christians, that ‘they are walking by faith, and not by sight.’ By this description is meant, not merely that they so firmly believe in the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, as to be influenced by that persuasion to adhere in the main to the path of duty, though tempted to forsake it by present interest, and present gratification; but farther, that the great truths revealed in Scripture concerning the unseen world, are the ideas for the most part uppermost in their thoughts, and about which habitually their hearts are most interested.”

Wilberforce, William. A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity. (pp. 126-127). Kindle Edition. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Administration vs. Productivity

In Deep Work, Cal Newport cites an interview in which Richard Feynman explained an anti-administration productivity strategy.
To do real good physics work, you do need absolute solid lengths of time… it needs a lot of concentration… if you have a job administrating anything, you don’t have the time. So I have invented another myth for myself: that I’m irresponsible. I’m actively irresponsible. I tell everyone I don’t do anything. If anyone asks me to be on a committee for admissions, “no,” I tell them: I’m irresponsible.
Feynman was adamant in avoiding administrative duties because he knew they would only decrease his ability to do the one thing that mattered most in his professional life: “to do real good physics work” (pp. 61-62).
The name Richard Feynman always catches my attention. I enjoyed his book, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. In one essay therein he described how his father was very vivid in his descriptions of things when reading to him as a kid. If he was talking about the size of a dinosaur, he told him while standing on ground floor level, he could poke his head into a second-floor window of their house. As a scientist he also was continually unsure of things, and did not embrace faith for that reason. He was on the team investigating the Challenger explosion incident. Interesting guy.

His comments cited here set up an extremely clear distinction between work and busywork. While I can do administration, it's more of necessity and as a means to an end. I see the value of deep concentrated work. For me, it's more just a question of economics right now.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Am I Called?

Dave Harvey wrote a book called Am I Called? for those considering if they should go into ministry or not. Matt Chandler summarizes:
Chapter after chapter, Dave does a phenomenal job of outlining what needs to be considered for all of us, regardless of life position or background, to answer the question: Am I called? The book’s first section sums up what the call is and how that call comes to us. The second section is filled with questions, most of which you must continue to ask even after you enter pastoral ministry (Kindle Locations 121-124).

  • Are you godly?
  • How's your home?
  • Can you preach?
  • Can you shepherd?
  • Do you love the lost?
  • Who agrees?

Friday, October 19, 2018

News of Interest

New experiment: I'm going to collect news I find interesting each week here.

I went looking for a good weekly news summary last Saturday and didn't find one. Everyone wants to be daily in my inbox. I just want weekly. I've wanted weekly for a lot of things. Enough explanation, on to the headlines.

Another NASA space telescope just went into safe mode
The Chandra X-ray Observatory joins Hubble in going into protective mode to deal with a system complication.
Related: We're still years away from the Webb Telescope launch in March 2021.

Purging long-forgotten online accounts: Worth the trouble?
Perhaps a better approach is to focus on the most sensitive accounts. It might not matter than a news site still has your log in, if you never gave it a credit card or other personal details (of course, if you reused your bank password you might be at risk). Rich Mogull, CEO of data security firm Securosis, said people should think about what information they had provided to services they no longer use and whether that information could be damaging should private posts and messages inadvertently become public. Dating sites, in particular, can be a trove of potentially damaging information. Once you’re in a relationship, delete those accounts.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Borrowing ebooks

I had downloaded Libby before, but never really used it. It did not survive a previous round of app purging from my phone. However, after a mention from a friend yesterday, I downloaded it again, re-entered my (rarely used) library card number, and this time I downloaded a couple books to my Kindle: Hidden Figures and Deep Work.

I'm not entirely sure the practice of borrowing books when there's nothing being physically transferred entirely makes sense, and I'm not going to complain about being able to read full books without paying for a copy either.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Six Words

A few years back I heard about the Six Words initiative by Smith Magazine. I didn't read about it directly, and it seems I may have misunderstood the plan. Apparently they wanted six-word sentences to encapsulate a memoir. I used it more as an exercise to find six words as categories into which I could put everything else.

The number six also reminded me of the six days of Creation, so I also tried to organize them in an environment and filling pattern.

1. Word — As we sing in Awana Clubs, build your life on the word of God. This includes reading the word, memorizing it, studying it, etc.

2. Lead — As we learned in Summit, leaders are readers. This is mostly about leadership preparation, specifically reading books.

3. Form — This is the category for work. “If a man doesn't work, he doesn't eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). “Develop your business first before building your house” (Proverbs 24:27). Work and making a living are essential to being able to do everything else, so I borrowed the word from the creation pattern observation. However, it's subordinate to living a life to honor God, so that's why it's not first.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Age of Data

Sometimes one can check the news, not for the latest happenings, but for a sense of where we are as a culture.

I came across a headline that seems ripe for subjection to mockery by The Onion. (In fact, that prompted a visit to The Onion that featured a rather inspired work of satire. Reader discretion advised if perusing other headlines on that site.)

The headline was this: “What is a smart display and do you need one?

Get this: It's an amazing new internet-connected device, and it actually has a screen!

Wait, don't we have those already? Yes, but this screen doesn't do much. It just displays current status for things like the weather or your music playing. Dumb is the new smart. (I'm not saying it has no place; I'm just noting the irony.)

One of the samples shows a screen saying, “A light is on.” One the one hand, this sounds like it should be obvious enough, so why do we need another screen for that?

On the other hand, knowledge of your light being on is no longer limited to you. The Internet of things may redefine the internet and make it synonymous with your information being known beyond you.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Unity

There are two kinds of unity. Godly unity is good. Godless unity is bad.

At both the beginning and end of the Bible there are instances in which unity is considered by God to be a profoundly bad thing.

In Genesis 11, the people were united at the tower of Babel. They weren't uniting around God, but were in fact trying to make a name for themselves without him. In order to disrupt their plan, God confused their languages, and we still have 6,000 languages in the world today to remind us not to use unity as a form of rebellion.

In Revelation 13, we can read about how the world will unify around the beast and his mark to the point where people will not be able to buy or sell unless they participate in this one-world government system.

Mankind trying to be unified without God is bad. This why Christians rightly tend to oppose international government organizations like the UN and other entangling alliances.

Unity with God is good.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Junior Theologians

From a message I sent to Awana leaders today:

Today would have been my great-uncle Dave Breese's 92nd birthday. He was a longtime friend of Awana back in its early days. Then it was the Awana Youth Association. He wrote the introduction or forward to one of its history books. When he passed away 16 years ago, they asked that any gifts in his memory be given to Awana. I called my aunt Carol, his widow, this afternoon and she thanked me for remembering his birthday. She once described Awana as “raising up little theologians.” That's exactly right.

Awana leaders are raising up young theologians. If that sounds like an overstatement, believe me, it's not. Compared to the spiritual darkness and desert in which we live right around us, we are raising up a Gideon's army of people who know the truth and are storing it up in their hearts.

Friday, October 12, 2018

October 1992

26 years ago today my biological paternal grandfather passed away. I was 15. That was the most difficult time I've had with grief. I had been fine all the way through the funeral up until they closed the casket in front of us all, and then I lost it. Only as of 5 years ago have all my remaining grandparents passed away, but there was something unique about that time which I still remember.

My great-uncle Dave Breese was always the family speaker at life events on that side of the family. He preached the message at my biological father's funeral in 1979. He officiated my cousin's wedding. He preached at the passing of his brother-in-law, my grandfather, in 1992. I don't remember his message, but I remember something he said afterwards at the reception: “There's no better time to preach the Gospel than at a funeral.

I agree with that because when are people more ready to think about what happens after death than when they are faced with death?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Value of Uncertainty

We tend not to be fans of uncertainty in our personal lives. Uncertainty can be very valuable in public life.

Uncertainty spurs on more competition and brings prices down. Whether it's prices at fast food restaurants or prices of oil on world markets, uncertainty makes prices lower and saves people money. Sarah Palin was ridiculed for saying “Drill, baby, drill,” yet even if one only looks at the potential for that to create uncertainty, uncertainty on the cost side of the ledger is a good thing.

Uncertainty reduces crime. Let's say a criminal has a choice between three counties.

In county A no one is allowed to have a gun.
In county B people may or may not have a gun.
In county C people are required to have a gun in the home.

Who would disagree that in County C the risk of crime would be lower and in County A the risk of crime would be higher?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Courage in Culture

In his book Take Heart, Matt Chandler suggests Christians have four possible responses to a cultural moment he calls “the age of unbelief.”
  1. Converting Culture
  2. Condemning Culture
  3. Consuming Culture
  4. Courage in Culture
He doesn't like the first three. It's in the first approach of converting the culture that I take particular interest. About that option he wrote, “In this mindset, what matters most is that our nation’s culture reflects biblical principles and values.” With that I agree. The question is how does that happen?

I think this comes by a move of God, people seeking him, teaching His Word, and people seeking to apply Scripture to every area of their public, organizational, and private lives.

Though a pastor in Texas, Chandler instead sees this option mostly through the lens of politics.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Christians in Politics

The New York Times recently published an essay by Tim Keller about Christians and partisan politics. Keller opens with a question, “What should the role of Christians in politics be?” He quickly answers his own question by writing, “Christians should be involved politically as a way of loving our neighbors.” He concludes claiming loving our neighbors through political processes is an inevitable requirement.

Politics is all about how we control the government, or as the Bible calls it, the sword (Romans 13:1-7). Government by its very nature creates a duty to obey. Love by its very nature is about things not done out of duty. There are inherent, built-in problems with the idea that the government can be used to force people to love one another.

Keller claims “most political positions are not matters of biblical command” and “The Bible does not give exact answers to these questions” about how to approach government. The Bible gives more than Keller indicates. In 1 Peter 2:14 and Romans 13:3-4 the Bible describes God’s intended purposes for government for every time, place and culture: punish those who do evil, and praise those who do good. The Bible has a lot to say about what is good and what is evil, even in the context of civil law. Oppression is evil, but being poor or being rich is not.

The question for us today is how far do we go in terms of punishing what God calls evil with the punishments God prescribes? The Pharisees confronted Jesus with applying the law to evil, and Jesus introduced them anew to mercy. We are to both seek justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8). Seek justice for the oppressed and mercy (injustice) for the perpetrators who turn away from evil. There is, however, no justice or mercy if there is no law to punish evil in place.

Monday, October 8, 2018

100 Days

I'm 10% of the way toward my goal of 1,000 days of writing.

Specifically this means a new item is posted on this blog each day. It may have been written earlier, but the daily nature is maintained.

At first I posted a lot of the low-hanging fruit—topics that had been on my mind, but had never really put into writing.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Sleep Cycles

I recently did an addendum on my daily calculations to figure out how many sleep cycles I need. While the average person needs 5, it looks like I need almost 6. Short of getting 42 each week, I'm not going to be doing well for long.

With this having been a busy week starting a week ago today and last weekend, I'm ready to call it a day. I'm either getting old fast, or I'm just on an early schedule when I'm yawning away well before 9 p.m. Tomorrow is also a full day, and I may cut that evening event short, too.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Honor Your Father

For a couple days now I've been working on a response to a published piece sent to me. I'm much closer to finishing it, but it still needs some finishing.

However, today is slipping away, and I still need to call my dad for his birthday, so today's writing shall be abbreviated. Hopefully I finish this other item soon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Adoption Anniversary

35 years ago today I got a new father. I'm not talking about my heavenly Father. I already had a father who had gone to heaven. A year before, my mom had remarried. In 1983 the laws of Florida were such that parents were not allowed to adopt stepchildren until after a year of marriage.

On October 3, 1983, John Hamilton McGhee adopted Timothy Thomas Christensen as his son. It was a separate legal procedure to legally change my name to Timothy Thomas Christensen McGhee.

Whenever Dad told others about adopting me, he often expressed his emphatic wonder that “They changed the birth certificate.” That's true. They did. I thought I had my original birth certificate for some time. When I've looked for it in recent years, I've only found the one that's still the legal record of my birth.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Data vs. Evidence

Data is a factual point.

Evidence is data with an interpretation.

Example:

Data: The jar has two cookies in it.

Evidence: The jar has two cookies in it, after there were five in it. Dad interprets his instructions to wait until after dinner as having been disobeyed.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Golden Quarter

From back in my retail days many moons ago, I remember that October through December is known as the Golden Quarter.

If you work full-time in retail, then the rule is no time off during these months. Being the industrious worker I was raised to be, I took this literally, and did not see any better option job-wise.

If you don't live near your family, then this is a problem for the holidays, the season of high expectations. Black Friday work requirements mean it's impossible to travel out of town for Thanksgiving while still reporting to work by 5 AM the next day. Calling in sick on Black Friday was tantamount to calling in fired. The same was true for the days leading up to Christmas.

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