Book of Cool and Practice

This entry won't win any awards, but it might point you to a cool gift. No hints. Check out the Book of Cool. It is an instructional DVD set for many things that most guys would say is really cool.

I must confess that I think it looks pretty cool I'd like to be able to do all of those tricks. I am afraid, though, that just knowing how to do them is only a small part of doing them. If they are like most things worth doing they involve skill. This means you have to practice.

I am reading Steve Pavlina's blog pretty regularly now-a-days, and he has an interesting idea about how to acquire new skills. He uses the analogy of progressive weight training. It is really a great analogy. Maybe it woud apply to the skills one could acquire from the Book of Cool.

In the arena of the faith, it reminds me of the testimony of Steve Childers an RTS professor. He had a guy disciple him from being an atheist to being a church-planter and seminary professor. The guy had a very definite path of discipleship. At various points he had Steve read particular books, speak in particular venues, witness to particular types of people. Each step depend Dr. Childers understanding of the faith, himself, and others. After working that out they guy moved him to the next level until he was ready to replicate the experience with another young believer.

I thought this was a very interesting idea. It also makes me think of Dallas Willard's idea of spiritual disciplines. They are not an end in themselves, but they are to prepare you for situations in which you will need the skills and character you have developed. John Ortberg, commenting on this, compared it to athletics. You don't expect o be able to pitch a perfect game with no practice. Spiritual disciplines are like practice for a godly life, but they are not the godly life itself. They help you best love others and give glory to God in the best way when the time comes.

Well, off to bed. Enough rambling for now.

Courtney and Conversation

There are very few things in this world I love more than a good conversation. I suppose, then, it is no surprise that my wife and I were conversation partners before we were anything romantic. In fact, it is to her that I owe much of my conversation skill. Hopefully, she will be happy to take credit for that.

It is her reluctance to speak on so many pseudo-dates (its a long story) that forced me to lead a conversation. Our early relationship was dominated by conversations about TV, movies, school, and politics. As our relationship grew romantically, I had to work hard at conversation and conflict.

I had grown up in a relatively conflict-free environment. For the most part, I was shielded from conflict between my parents, and I, as a very compliant child, found it easy to relate to my understanding parents. Courtney, however, knew much more of conflict. Although, that does not mean she dealt well with it. Conflict caused her to close up. I did not like conflict, so I sought to resolve it. This meant that I had to pry her heart open with words. I will admit that my work caused some damage. But, I think, in the end, more healing has been accomplished.

The second way Courtney has greatly contributed to my conversation skill is in the breadth and depth of my conversational range. She basically introduced me to culture. She, and some under-appreciated English professors at UMHB and Temple College help me understand literature, music, and film. Thanks to C.S. Lewis and other Christian apologists my mind and faith were beginning to integrate. Courtney helped me do this with respect to aesthetics. I have learned so much from her, and she has opened my eyes to beauty that I would never had known. There are few things more exhilarating about which to converse than beauty. This idea of beauty has worked its way into other areas of my thinking as well. In the end, it is the awesome beauty of Christ that we are all yearning to behold.

Finally, Courtney has been one of the main instruments of God's sanctifying work in my life. So many times, she has shown me my true colors. At the sight of which I could only repent. She is an honest, and usually trustworthy knife with which God cuts away at the billowing celluloid of my pride. There is nothing better in conversation than to be thruly humble. I pray that God will eventually accomplish his work in this area.

I can't help but mention one more thing. Courtney has birthed to me 3 absolutely wonderful boys. I could go on for days talking about them. Through them, God is constantly providing deeper insight into my nature and his own.

Husbands out there, "Love your wives." Talk to them. Trust God and open yourselves to them. Don't be afraid. Your dignity comes for Christ not your wife. Love her, do not need her. If trust God and speak, he will not fail to surprise you in how he can take care of what you need. The courage you gain by talking to your wife will give you the courage to be a man in many other areas of your life.

Poker at Work

Since it has been crunch time at PDI, I have been thinking a lot about project management. I have been thinking about good management and bad management. One practice I have seen makes me think of the quintessential aspect of poker: bluffing.

Now it is a known fact that people are lazy and will not work if they are not under pressure. So, constant pressure is necessary for top performance. If developers are not under pressure, they will play on their computers and talk about geek stuff without actually developing any real product because developers are undisciplined and do not care about the company's financial condition. Long-term vision is not their strong point, so aggressive deadlines are necessary. It doesn't matter if the deadlines are not reached. Project slippage only further motivates programmers because many of them have an overdeveloped sense of guilt and loyalty. You can channel that by stressing the importance of the deadlines and feature set to the company. When the project slips, they will only work harder. Many times developers can accomplish months of work in a week or two if those weeks are beyond a deadline. This is the appropriate way to motivate a developer.

Management knows nothing about software development. First of all, they give us a list of features and a deadline. We are told to make it work. No one even really asks how long it might actually take to do what is described. The specs are vague in the best cases and incorrect in the worst. The truth is, management does not know what they want, and nobody knows how long it will take. In the end, what gets done will get done. We will end up working our butts off at the end. The stories about all-nighters from this project will just be worked into programmer-lore. Management can't sell incomplete software so we will slip a few weeks. Management won't get all the features it makes up as we go along. Odds are, I'll be writing programs 1, 5, 10 years from now no matter how a single project goes.

This is the state of many teams. Is ours this bad? None of these statements are quotes, but some of them could be. I have heard things like this from both sides.

Dun. Dun. Duh...Death

In my own reflection, I have tried to think about how I live my life for seen things instead of unseen things. Yesterday, I sensed a slight pain in my chest and arm and hyopchrondiaclly thought it was "chest pains." I think it was because I had heard that morning that prolonged sleep-deprivation increased risk of heart attack, and you can tell by my post times, that I often deprive myself of sleep.

I began to think of my own death. Ironically, today I attended a seminar about estate planning. I have been thinking about what would happen to my family in the event of my death. It makes me very sad. I think I hurt the most for Courtney and the boys and how they would miss me. I know that once I crossed that bridge, I won't care all that much, but they would be here enduring more suffering than I can really conceive.

This all made me think of the saying that we should live as if we were going to die tomorrow. Jonathan Edwards had as one of his Resolutions to "think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death." While I suppose you must plan for the future as the ants in Proverbs 30:25, I can't help but think about the way Christ lived. He was so deliberate about his life, and yet he seems to have perfect peace in every moment. He lives with his death in mind. He knows who he is. He knows his father loves him.

This makes me think of a question I was asked by a seminary professor. "What would you do if you knew you had no chance of failing?" In a sense, this is the life we live. All God wants us to do is to love him and run full speed after what he has put in our hearts. As we get older, and life becomes more complicated, we get weighed down hedging our bets against this and that trying to make the world a safe and pleasant place to live for us and our family. This hedging becomes our life.

It is often in the face of our mortality in an illness or the death of a loved one that we realize that all this hedging is not really living. We wake up to the fact that we have been dead living for the seen things of the world instead of the unseen things of God.

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Seen vs. Unseen

"For this slight momenary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Cor 4:17-18

This was a scripture in our small group bible study this week. It prompted some good discussion, and I have not stopped thinking about it. I don't think Paul's point here is to urge his readers to live for unseen things. He does that elsewhere. By this point in 2 Corinthians, it is an assumption that the Christian is looking to unseen things.

Here Paul argues that he is able to overcome his current suffering for Christ by looking to eternal things rather than transient things. Similar principles may apply to general suffering if we can understand it in light of the seen/unseen dichotomy. However, sometimes it is our focus on transient things that causes us suffering. This is particularly true of psycological suffering such as stress or anxiety. We worry about the opinions of others. We stress about the level of education our children are receiving when they will almost certainly be in the top 10 percent. According to Matthew 6:25-34 even our fear about where our next meal will come from is misplaced. And these are probably the most important things that take our energy. Paul, however, is suffering because of the rejection of the Gospel. His suffering is both psychological and physical, but he can overcome because he looks to unseen realities for his true identity and comfort. He knows God is his father, and he trusts that whatever happens, it is the result of God's care for him.

This prompted me to wonder about what makes me think I suffer, what I spend my money on, and what I spend my time doing. Could someone look at my life and say, "He is living for unseen things?" I am not sure. I think this may be the true mark of the Christian. It will look different at different times and in different people's lives, but I think it is the difference. Do I live out of fear an anxiety that comes from living for transient things or out of the confidence that comes from living for eternal things?

In my discussion with my small group, I said that maybe we should pray for opportunities to suffer as Paul did. Thankfully, some of them pulled me back from my asceticism. Instead, we should pray that the Holy Spirit will not leave us alone living for seen things. As we are driven to live for unseen things we will inevitably suffer because we will be running contrary to the world.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. John 15:18

Big Rock Candy Mountain

Recently I was listening to the soundtrack of O, Brother, Where art Thou? and heard a very interesting song. The song is entitled The Big Rock Candy Mountain. Basically, it is a hobo ballad about a hobo paradise originally recorded in the 1930's.

It mentions a lake of whisky, streams of alcohol, cigarette trees, jails of tin, policemen with wooden legs, and various other questionable attributes of paradise. It really shocked me to find out that it was written in the '30s.

Even though I reject the typical conservative idea that things have been getting worse since the founding fathers, I am still surprised to find a song like this. About the only vice it doesn't mention is illicit sex. And, supposedly the original version was about luring boys to become hobos only to be abused. It reminds me of Pinocchio, another surprisingly dark piece.

I think we are deceived about the decay of the world because we forget two things. We forget that sin entered the world in Adam and that it has been bad for a very, very long time. This basic sinfulness is always present in every culture no matter how nice it appears on the outside. Secondly, we get wrapped up in our own time and place and forget that God is doing something much bigger than our country and our lifetime.

These confusions are further complicated by the prevalence dispensational premillenialism which teaches that the world will get worse and worse until Armageddon. I believe that it is a misunderstanding of scripture and has been detrimental to the spiritual life of the church. Its rise at the same time as the fundamentalist-modernist controversy served to turn the church inward. This exacerbated the average church-gowers myopic vision of the world.

Only in the past couple of decades is the church emerging. Even still, there are decades of ingrowth to overcome and a lot of bad attitudes toward the church from without. It would do us good to concentrate on the ingrowth first. Unfortunately, many of those that are ingrown are leaders. Only God's spirit to turning the church back to the Gospel and away from its various forms of legalism will save true Christianity in America.

Psuedo-christian legalism is as bad if not worse than pagan hedonism. At a worldly level pseudo-christian religion, it is better, but spiritually, it is worse. It is the religion of the Pharisees, which Christ rejected 2 millennia ago.

Being a "Nice Guy" and Nicomachean Ethics

A friend of mine has a shirt about "LABS", that is Like A Brother Syndrome. He says that I have it. I have certainly never had that bad boy appeal. I have always been a "nice guy". For better or worse, I have learned to be extremely diplomatic. In contrast, however, God is freeing me more and more to not just be a nice guy. I can actually voice my opinion and join the argument.

What does God have to do with this? I used to think that I had to be a nice guy in order to be a Christian. I am probably still hypersensitive to being considerate to other's feelings, but am able with at least some people to be down-right obnoxious. Courtney praises God for it.

Sometime when I was a Senior in high school my personality underwent a big change. I don't know if that is when God really saved me or what, but things really changed. I really became my own man. However, it has taken close to 10 years for that change to work itself out to the surface.

I do occasionally leave a discussion wishing I had said what I was thinking, but now I am probably in danger of saying too much instead of too little. Some might still say I am too reserved, but am working toward the Golden Mean.

This is a concept in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics where he claims that there is a sweet spot for every virtue. For my example there might be the poles of "obnoxious" and "wall-flower". The Golden Mean might be "forthright". Anyway, Aristotle's idea is that whichever side of forthrightness you are on, you should act in accordance with the principle opposite the side you are on.

His idea is that habits produce character and that habits are only produced by action. In my situation, this means that when I am unsure of whether or not I should speak up, I should just do it. Odds are I would err on the side of caution, so I should just go the other way. Aristotle, unfortunately, did not know God's grace. However, God's grace frees us to abandon our sinful patterns because we are free to worship Christ. We are not dominated by the legalistic taskmasters we so slavishly serve without him.

Christ frees us because we see that we are sinful in almost every action. We are constantly depending on his grace. Being afraid to sin or holding back because we might sin just shows how much we are deceived about our current condition. The worst thing I can do is to refuse to act out of fear. This is unbelief out of pride and arrogance. In a sense, this is the only sin. God wants us to make the leap of faith. He wants us to step out on his grace. He wants us to jump up and down on his grace and prove that it will not falter. Then he wants to us to go where he tells us and not look back.

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Courtney's (blog's) New Look

Courtey put a new theme on her site. Check it out. It looks pretty cool. The header image is from one of my favorite pictures. You can see the whole thing here.

Ain't she gorgeous. I can only take credit for the shot and the cropping on the header image. :-( But on the upside, I get to enjoy her beauty every day.!

Pax's First Haircut

Pax's First Haircut

Originally uploaded by bheathr.

Tonight I gave Pax his first haircut. It is probably pretty unusual to get your first haircut at 2 months, but he has quite a mop.

In typical Robinson fashion, it was completely spur of the moment. Following our normal stupid pattern, we decided to give him a haircut right in the middle of the boys' bath at 8:00, their bedtime.

We ended up finishing at 8:40 or so after cleaning up, as best we could, the mixture of hair and water on the floor. It would have been so much easier if we had just waited until we put the older two to bed, but, no, we had to do it right then.

Both Courtney and I have a problem with patience and discipline. We get an idea in our head and can't just finish what we are doing and move on.

I haven't quite figured out our idol(s) with respect to this problem. Please let me know if you have any ideas.

I don't care enough to love you

You can only truly love someone when you have extricated all necessity from the relationship. You can't really love someone that you need because it is not free. Freedom is often linked to love in that you must have a free choice in order for love to be free. However, I would say that even if we were theoretically free, we still need God so much our love could not be free. Instead it is in bondage to necessity.

Christ, however, freed us to love him the way he loves us. When he freely died for me, he freed me to freely give love to him. Before I ever wanted anything from God, he died to give me everything I needed. Now, I need nothing. I have been given everything. I am a son of the Most High God. What could I need? I have a right to everything that is Christ's as a heir to God. Now I can love God because he is just beyond wonderful. I can enjoy him, his character, his word, his creation as it was intended, as a gift.

A friend recently emailed me the words from a Casting Crowns song that said, "How refreshing to know you don't need me; How amazing to find that you want me!" They understand the true nature of love. Real love is the desire and enjoyment of another that you do not need.

How do we "need" people? We need people when we seek their approval over God's. We need people when we use them to improve our status. We need people when we use them to manipulate them to do our bidding and make our lives easier.

I would also argue that true love is not "a decision" anymore than it is an emotion. True love always involves the emotions, but much of the time, especially at the beginning, it takes a conscious effort. It is contrary to scripture to say that God loves us with no emotion. Song of Solomon and the Minor prophets show that God's love is full of emotion. However, It took the most extreme act of service on earth for God to demonstrate his love. Sometimes it is difficult for us to love people because they run over our idols: it is difficult because we need them to not offend us. True love is a genuine affection for someone because of the beauty that God has put in them as his image. We let their offenses between them and God and love what is there to love. There is something in everyone.

How can we do this? If we direct our worship toward God, and not idols, we really will need nothing. Why would we do this? We see our father doing it, and we admire him. We want to be like him because he is so cool.

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