You are hereBehind the Mask

Behind the Mask


Where Have You Been

So this is my obligatory why haven't you blogged in so long. I don't really have to to explain it all, but I felt like I had to clear the air.

There have been some pretty big changes in my life in the last few months. One involves my profession. I am now working full time on Edenic Confluence, LLC (EC). EC is a startup a friend and I have…well…started. We started about a year and a half ago.

We are now re-arranging our vocational lives to make more room. We hope to release something in the next month or so. We're excited, but it is a LOT of work, and I just don't have time to reflect that much on it right now. I do want to share some tech tips, though so others can be helped as I have.

I really think Open Source is a great "love your neighbor as yourself" activity. So, you will probably start seeing some entries about technology again. Be prepared for Web GIS, PostgreSQL, Python, Django, Javascript, and CSS. If you're here for theology and philosophical reflection (like anyone is really reading this), you'll have to wait.

Big Deal

I remember the first high school football game I attened after going to college. I kept thinking, "I really used to think this was all a big deal." It is strange how in one context a person, object, or activity can seem so important, and yet in another context seem so worthless.

Lately I have been challenged by the words of Jesus and James:

Mark 9:37 - Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.

Matt 25:34-36 - ...When did we see you sick or in prison...Depart from me you cursed...

James 1:22 - Be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deceiving yourselves

James 1:27 - Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

These passages and more make me question what I put value on now. God has given us this instruction for a reason. He cares about us, and he cares about his kingdom. I suppose the questions we have to ask ourselves are, "Do we trust him? " and "Do we care about his kingdom?"

I hate to admit it, but largely my answer has to be "no". There are so many other things that I put my time and energy into before I put it into kingdom work. From entertainment to education to work to family, my mind and time schedule is often too full to look out for widows or orphans. I don#039t even have to to look for them. I know where prisoners are, who Christ specifically told us to visit, and yet I have never set foot in a jail. Instead I go shopping or out to eat or to a movie.

We might think that pouring ourselves into these activities is merely wasting time. Instead, we are setting ourselves up for a great fall. We will do more than just say, "I used to think this was a big deal." We will say, "Lamb of God have mercy on us."

Out of touch

Blue Denim Jumper Mafia is a term used by The Discoshaman. If you don't know what I am talking about, either you aren't a Christian, you don't live in America, or you're one of them. Sorry.

Well, my place of business and CEO's conscience was hit by a bombshell from this squeaky wheel. PDI has a summer picnic every year. For the past 2 years, they have produced a shirt for the kids calling them "Jr. Teammates." Teammate is a parent company thing: don''t ask. Anyway, they sent out the design for this year and asked for orders.

I thought it was very cool. We picked our colors and ordered our 2 (oops should have been 3). Picking colors is a company thing: don't ask. I was proud of our normally conservative CEO for going with such a cool design.

Then, we all got an email that there was a problem with the ordering and that we were to stay tuned. Then we got an email from our CEO saying that he feared that some parents might object to the "gaming" theme. The company logo is in the PS2 font, and there is a controller and directional pad. Last I remember he "gaming" industry referred to games played in Las Vegas not on your TV in your living room. Anyway, he was asking if he was off track.

Then we received a clarifying email triggered by a reply to him objecting to the design. The reply to him voiced some concern about a mom letting her seven year-old wear it. The only problem was that she was referring the ad and not the shirt design which required you to follow a link. She said she couldn't see it very well, but she wouldn't let her seven year-old wear it.

First of all, the email was clear. Why is it that reactionary people have trouble reading? There was a link to the shirt and a picture of a PS2 ad. It was not ambiguous. Secondly, why would we have a shirt that said PS2? Finally, if you can't see the design, how do you know if you object?

At this my group broke for a conversation. I wouldn't call my group the most conservative group in the company, so maybe we were not representative, but I think they were more offended by the fact that someone would think this than by the original design. They thought it was pretty ridiculous, and I must say that I agreed when them. My four and three year-olds play Xbox with me. Now we regulate it and only play age-appropriate games, but I as a hard-core Christian have nothing particular about kids "gaming."

In fact, I think this may show why there is a culture war and why Christians are so poor at reaching the lost. I am not saying you have to be a fan of Grand Theft Auto or even Halo, but come on. I found it highly ironic that someone is offended by the "gaming" theme in a company that gets most of its money from customers whose primary products are fossil fuel, cigarettes, lottery tickets, and beer. Could there be a more offensive industry? I really just wish that Christians would just shut up about small things. There are just too many big things out there.

Now that you have heard the controversy. Here is the shirt.

To make matter's worse, now there is an alternative shirt. This way we can split up into two groups at the picnic and gossip about each other. I am hoping my boys pick one of each, or maybe we should get the non-gaming one for our 4 month-old since we think that is too young to start gaming.

Oxymoron: Christian Conservativsm

Conservativsm is this: do nothing different that is not guaranteed to produce the same or better results immediately. While conservatives are theoretically open to change, when comes to pulling the trigger, they are not. I have been frustrated recently at my job with this kind of conservatism. Today I was thinking about something I hold very dear. I contemplated the prospect of losing it. I soon realized my hypocrisy. I have been living much of my life according to the conservatism that so irritates me at work.

As is often the case, I am in a quandary about my vocation. This has been a struggle for me many years. I began to think also about my fear with regard to alienating people by giving a witness to the majesty and greatness of Christ. Both of these areas reveal my own conservatism with respect to my biggest idol: my reputation. A good reputation is a very valuable thing. Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold." Scripture commends us to take care for our reputation; however, when this one virtue begins to wield a magnetic force that arranges all of life, it is an idol. When one begins to compromise to secure one's reputation or begins to suffer anxiety over the loss of one's good name, it is an idol. When one begins to live conservatively with respect to losing one's reputation, it is an idol.

Justification by reputation is not worth those martyred in the decades following the Reformation. Justification by good name is not worth the blood of Christ. Christ purchased my adoption with his blood. My good name adds nothing. If one can live according to Christ's law of love and maintain a good name, glory be to God. Ultimately, there is a name which no-one knows but God. This name is recorded in the Lamb's Book of Life. I have neither need nor ability to protect this name, but if I live according to man's opinion of me, my name is of no real use to me.

Ultimately most conservatisms are incompatible with Christianity. More often, I suspect, it is our demanding idolatries that force us into conservatism. We know that they are unforgiving and will exact payment for every mistake.

I would scold my children for worrying for their safety when I am with them. Within Christ's law of love we have nothing to lose. Why do we act like foolish children? We should be living with nothing to lose, like men and women given a second chance, born again.

What do you think about me?

Have you every wondered what people think of you? If you are as egocentric as I am you have probably thought about it many times. Well, I found out just a little this past Friday.

Sitting at the table were me, my wife, the bubbly female hostess, the ironically uptight yet laid-back male host, and Russell. Russell's a "single-again" father of three that inhales oxygen and exhales NFL trivia and stats. Guys like him work for TV networks and supply Troy Aikemen with facts like "The Colts haven't lost a game when they have had first possession and led by over 14 points midway through the third quarter when the opposing team's mascot is a bird." I'd have to say that Russell is one of my favorite people. He is one of the least pretentious people I know. He always has a good time, and he is a rapidly maturing Christian man. If anyone knows a great single gal, he'd love a referral.

Well, Russell offered an impression of our host as he got up to answer the door. It was a very accurate portrayal of our hosts mild disgust with having to exert the effort to go to the door because Russell had knocked instead of just announcing his presence. After our laughter cleared, my wonderful wife asked Russell to "do Heath" to which the female host agreed.

Reluctantly, Russell looked to me for approval, and then gave a slight gesture with his arms and rose uncomfortably in his seat while making a pained smile. The ensuing laughter told me that this must have been a face and gesture I make often.

Now seeing yourself in a short impression is one thing, but to have that impression interpreted is quite another. The comedic act was alluded to later with a larger crowd and an encore was demanded. With my permission, Russell did the move again, but this time offered an interpretation. "Its like he's saying, 'How do I say this without making you feel stupid?"

Ouch, comedy can be a great vehicle for conviction. As hard as a try to suppress my intellectual pride, still, it leaks out through my body language. While I rarely think that people are stupid when I feel the need to correct or argue my point, I do perceive that I am going to come off as making them feel stupid, and I am often very careful to word my comment so as not to impute ignorance or stupidity. Nevertheless, I must fail. How do I avoid this? My guess is that it is somehow rooted in some pride that I have.

No doubt it is the pride that comes from performing, ironically, for a self-constructed god. I suppose the answer to my problem is to stop worshiping intelligence, insight, and wisdom and start worshiping the giver of intelligence, insight, and wisdom.

Me, opinionated?

Some time ago I was having dinner with a friend from work. He asked me if I had an opinion about a situation. I said that I did. I also said that if he asked, I would probably always have an opinion.

I live me life pretty much constantly judging and evaluating. While I may sinfully do this at times, much of the time, I am just trying to learn what is good and right about a given subject. I almost always have an answer that I am working form. I try not to be too attached to my view especially if it is one that is relatively new or out-of-step with my community.

In addition, I am always looking for my opinion to be reformed by scripture, the facts, experience, history, teachers, etc. I wouldn't want to be a fool who arbitrarily picks a position and arrogantly refuses to change. However, I don't want to be the aimless fool living the unexamined life.

I picture my kids someday quoting one of their dad's favorite proverbs as they are arguing for their point. "If I didn't think I was right, I would change my mind."

All this to say, please, comment. I love a good discussion.

What's SOL mean?

I was sitting at a table with one of our VPs and a couple of consultants when one consultant said, regarding a customer's situation, "Then they're SOL."

Now, I was raised in a some what sheltered environment, but at 30 I've heard just about everything. Considering some of the movies I watch, I think I have seen and heard just about everything, but apparently "SOL" has somehow slipped through the cracks.

So, I asked, "What's SOL mean?" There was an awkward silence, and everyone looked at each other as if to say, "No, you first." I don't know if the hesitation was because of the corporate setting or because no one wanted to offend my virgin ears. As the highest ranking officer, the VP explained that it meant they our out of luck and said that this was the difference between state schools and Baylor.

I couldn't believe it. Once again, I accidently reinforced my image as the nice guy who probably doesn't even know how to sin. It is almost as if people like to think of me that way. Is it possible for people to see me as a real human being who like them is desperate for the grace that only comes through Christ.

There are definitely times when I wish I had the radical-change testimony, but I am thankful that God has saved me from some of the consequences of sin that I did not commit merely because of my sheltered upbringing and often self-righteous obedience. For this I am all the more in need of God's grace.

Spring 2006 Blog-a-thon

Having just read the beginning of a series on self-discipline at stevepavlina.com, I have resolved to embark upon a 26-day blog-a-thon. I have at least 40 ideas for entries lying around. This doesn't even count the movies I haven't entered. I am guessing in the next 26 days I will run into a few more ideas.

Mark Miller recently mentioned the phenomenon where you have such a backlog on which to blog that you write nothing at all. I too have expereinced this. Courtney and my mom have mentioned that this violates my "if it's worth doing well, it's worth doing poorly," proverb.

Now that this is out, I'll start on my first post.

Walking the missional tightrope

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom 12:12)

I became all things to all people. (1 Cor 9:22)

I listened to an interesting lecture by Piper on Athanasius. One of his big points is that the principles from these two passages must not be viewed as sequential but as equal and ongoing.

On one hand we must be missional in that we must be able to communicate our faith in terms that others can understand. On the other hand, the God described in scripture is so far beyond a culture's pre-existing categories we must not be afraid to, and indeed must be committed to, showing the truth in scripture in such a way that it overloads the circuits of the culture.

It often seems that we are at war with each other along these lines. Both are taught in scripture. We must do both.

Christmas For Families Servant

Late, the night before Christmas Eve, we got a message from a strange voice asking about Santa Pal. She said that one of her children did not receive her gifts. I was suspicious, but Courtney called and left a message. Early Christmas Eve, the lady called back. Courtney asked if she meant the PDI Christmas for Families (CFF) program.