Friday, April 28, 2006

Task-Oriented Myopia

I find my own perception of things to be so skewed on the immediate sometimes. As a baseball fan I try to take the long view of things. But sometimes it's hard. Last night the Indians just pounded the Red Sox 15-3. Ben Broussard had 2 HR and 8 RBI, including a grand slam. I remember how hot they were the first week of the season as well. It seemed like they were ready to go 161-1 after losing the first game. Then they hit a slide and started playing poorly. Then it seemed like the middle relief would never get anyone out. But they just had two good games against the Red Sox and it feels like they'll just keep scoring whenever they need to.

As anyone who ever followed a baseball team knows, it's a long season. They play for 6 months and grind it out over 162 games. By the end you have a pretty good sense for who the best teams really are.

I've often thought of my walk with the Lord like this. When things are going well it doesn't seem too tough to make the right choice. Then when it seems like the world is coming down on me I am often strongly tempted to take the easy, but more destructive way out. I often think of my choices like coming to a fork in a path. Both choices seem to go the way I think I need to go. One seems to have a fairly steep incline to start with, but the other seems to have a gentle decline. But if we take the one with the decline we soon find ourselves in a mass of thistles and brambles. Then we realize that we needed to have that climb to get where we need to go. Only now the climb is much harder.

I guess this is what being a slacker is about sometimes. We tend to look for the instant gratification instead of looking at the long view. I have blisters on my left fingertips because I took too much time off from playing my guitar. More and more I realize that this needs to be one more thing I add to my routine along with exercise and everything else I do. I realize that I have so little discipline that I need to add things to my routine if they're ever going to get done.

Running on Empty

It's strange to go without food for so long and yet feel so good physically. I'm on day 6 of this 20 day adventure and yet I feel physically great. I slept less than 7 hours last night, but don't feel sleepy. I have a sort of giddiness that comes from keeping up a perpetual sugar high.

So why do I want to eat? Why was it so hard to smell the grilled egg sandwiches and hash browns that some of my coworkers enjoyed? Part of it is just how I think we're wired. As much as I like sweets, I am getting tired of smoothies and juice all the time and something savory sounds really tempting. I would love to tear into a McDonald's sausage biscuit with egg, for example.

More and more I'm being convicted of my love of food. I don't think there's anything wrong with enjoying food. We should enjoy it just like how we should enjoy looking at sunsets, smelling roses, or listening to good music. But this fast shows me how I don't need food as much as I want it. My weightlifting went well this morning. Jogging yesterday went well. There is a hunger inside, but I think it's a spiritual one more than a physical one. What a ride!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fasting Fast

Amanda and I are on day 5 of a 20 day juice fast. Technically, it's only a 16 day juice fast as the first two and last two days are transition days where you eat fruit and salads. I did this last spring and am doing it this time to support Amanda. But it's harder this time because I know what I'm getting into.

I keep getting into a day counting mentality. For example, today we're at the 25% mark. That's kind of discouraging because I'd still love to tear into a big double bacon cheeseburger with mushrooms and cheddar. The good news is that my body and mind feel great. I have a wonderful clarity, though perhaps a bit of goofiness. Sort of like when you're overtired but being kept awake on Coke.

Fasting is supposed to be a wonderful spiritual exercise. I'm not going to make it through this time unless it becomes one. I'm still so focused on my belly that I'm not focusing on Christ, which is the problem. I need to get outside of myself, but I don't spend the time in the Word or in prayer to do so.

I find it particularly ironic how I mentor so many men in this course and give them advice that I'm not taking. Perhaps the one thing I need to eat now is my own dog food.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Holy Hunger

For better or worse, I read articles like this when I'm supposed to be working. I have this constant, nagging sense like I should spend more time with my Bible. I don't think this is out of a sense of legalism or trying to curry favor with God. It's that I know I'm cheating myself when I don't spend time with it. It's similar to the feeling I have as I work from home and know that my guitar is waiting for me behind my right shoulder.

What strikes me about that article is how we are to let Scripture interpret itself. Generally speaking, a difficult passage will often have a clearer one that helps to explain it. Of course, we need to trust the people who wrote the cross-references!

I also have learned that there is so much meaning to the names of the Old Testament. For example, when Ruth and Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem it just made sense since Bethlehem means "city of bread". And then to think that Bread of Life came from there. I don't think it's a coincidence!

So on one hand I have this nagging sense of wanting to get more out of my Bible. On the other I'm glad that it's not a desperate feeling to make my car nicer or obtain some other material thing. One thing I'm sure of is that my flesh will keep me from doing this if it can. Got to stay on that narrow path.


Marriage is all about compromise and adjustment. When you're dating and engaged you see your differences as things that will complement each other. When you're married they are things that can often turn into frustrations. Amanda often gets frustrated that I operate linearly and if something slows down a project for me I will often stop. She, on the other hand, tends to take more of a shotgun approach to getting things done. This means that she will often have several things almost done and then in one big whoosh will get them all done.

We have a tea coming up at church this Saturday and Amanda got the job of organizing the table hostesses. This requires significant planning and stress since, as a rule, people are flaky. Amanda will host a table and since we have so much tea stuff she will also provide china for anyone who needs it.

I set my alarm late this morning because I gave blood yesterday. It went off at 5:15 and I started to get out of bed around 5:30. It turns out that Amanda was wide-awake and had been since 3:00 AM. When I went downstairs I discovered that she had spent the night polishing silver, washing china, and doing laundry in anticipation of this tea.

I really admire this about her. When I get insomnia I tend to toss and turn. I often have long nights of the soul. My insomnia usually stems from me doing something stupid or having something weighty on my mind. When I'm really thinking I'll grab my Bible, go down to the living room, and pray through some Scripture. This seems to help. My problem is that I figure that if I get up I'll end up just staying up all night playing video games or something.

Anyhow, I think it's commendable to use that time for something useful. It sure beats wrestling with my own soul, as I tend to do so much.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Letting Go

Like any red-blooded American, I can identify scars from my parents. I think if we're honest we can all find ways that our parents affected us in good ways and bad. I remember a youth pastor once telling me, "You know, I wonder if kids wouldn't be so screwed up if they didn't have parents." (he said this referring to his own son) But now that I'm a parent I understand more of their side of this. I think they did the best they were capable of doing. The good news is that I can let this go because of Christ.

But as I think about my past, one thing I'm sure of is that I was always loved. I was a pretty good kid and didn't do too many stupid things. I had my pyro phase like most boys do. I wasn't very respectful and loving toward my mom. But I never did some of the spectacularlly stupid things that many kids do.

I still feel their love even as I've made some choices in my adult life that I'm sure they didn't particularly like. I know my mom wasn't happy when my first job was in Florida. And I know that she was really unhappy when I got married and moved to California. She wasn't even happy when we moved to the Raleigh area, even though we're now only a 10 hour drive away.

My dad isn't real vocal about his feelings, but I'm sure he wasn't very happy about some of of this either. Yet he was always supportive. And with both he and mom I'm sure that they love me.

What this tells me is that I've got to be ready for Lily to make some choices with which I disagree. She already does now, but those are small things that a 2 1/2 year-old does. What happens when she starts making big life decisions like choosing a career, a place to live, or a spouse? What happens if I don't like those decisions?

I realize that I can't control her life. My goal is to give her such a hunger for God's Word that she has a biblical worldview. I don't want to stifle her with religion, but I want for her to be someone I can trust. I may not agree with what she does, but I know that if she trusts Jesus then I can trust her. We all make mistakes. I've made some and God took care of me anyway. He loves me despite my sins and I know that my parents love me too. Loving the person when you dislike the actions seems incredibly contrary to my nature. But I know that it's something I'll need to do at some point. I'll train her up in the way she should go and trust God to take care of Lily.

That seems much harder than trusting Him with my life...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

4:00 PM Accomplishments

I spent the better part of two days trying to figure out how to do something with Microsoft's new scripting technology. I finally figured it out, which I feel pretty good about. The funny thing is that I did this right around 4:00 PM. So now what? Do I take this knowledge and plow ahead on the task that started me on this hunt for knowledge or do I just call it a day?

My instinct is to call it a day. I think I'll start looking at what I need to do next, but I hate starting something near the end of the day. And I guess this is what separates me from the hard-chargers.

Life is Good

With all of the morose musings I post so often, I thought it might be nice to recognize how wonderful life can be sometimes. It is a crisp 45 degrees outside, but with the window open here in the basement I get a little chilliness that reminds me of mornings in El Sobrante. I also can smell that wonderful spring smell. It's supposed to be around 70 today.

Amanda started a new exercise program where I am waking her at 6:00 AM for her to start walking. She seems to be embracing the idea of a routine for doing this and recognizes that by 6:30 to 7:30 AM when Lily wakes it will already start getting too warm for walking in the summer. Plus it's unpredictable and that doesn't fit in with the small group she leads or MOPS. We enjoyed breakfast together as a family today. I've got a pot of decaf going upstairs and am really enjoying that too.

On top of all this, I get to work from home today. I have some reading I want to do as well as some experimenting with Monad scripting.

So, as long as nothing major breaks at the office and I don't do anything stupid, today is shaping up to be a splendid day. The pessimist in me tells me not to jinx it. As a Christian I know that this is when Satan likes to attack. I want to enjoy today in a God-glorifying way.

Now to determine why Lily keeps calling for me...

Monday, April 17, 2006

He is Risen!

I've had an Easter blog on my mind for a while, but haven't taken the time to write it. I'm learning to love Easter more and more each year. Christmas gets so much publicity, but Easter is what it's really all about. Any religion can celebrate its founder's birth, but only Christians can celebrate its founder's resurrection.

There are so many out there who cling to this idea that God is in the middle of a circle and there are many spokes that get us there. But if that were true then God must be the worst child abuser in history for what He put Christ through. And if Jesus was not the Son of God then He has to have been a lunatic or a liar. He can't just be a nice man who taught peace and love.

The thought that kept coming back to me all weekend was how blessed we are to know how the story ends up. I think of Peter as he fled from Jesus in the garden and then couldn't stand up to a servant girl. How low he must have been through Saturday! They still didn't really understand what happened there on the cross. They must have just been lost and wondering what would happen next. And then there was the empty grave!

Do we really get it? I don't think I really do and won't until I go home to the Lord. But I do want to understand it more and more all the time. By "it" I mean just what happened on that cross and just how much Jesus loves me. I couldn't imagine seeing my daughter catch a cold for someone else's sake much less have her die for the sins of the world.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Automotive Theology

I find myself sometimes fascinated by the stuff we use to show what we think of things. It's not hard to find someone who wears a shirt displaying the logo of his favorite team. I do that too. Cars seem to be particularly open to personalization. Many people like to preach their beliefs from the stickers on their cars. I still haven't quite figured out what the naked lady mudflaps on trucks are supposed to be about though.

Here in the buckle of the Bible Belt it's not hard to find a fish on lots of people's cars. Presumably, this means that the driver is proud to be a Christian. Great! A few years back there was a counter to the fish in the form of a fish with feet that read "Darwin" in the middle. This was kind of funny if you don't get too easily offended. Then the Christians decided to strike back with a fish that reads "Truth" swallowing up the Darwin fish.

I have a pastor that preaches very well on this. What are we saying when we have this kind of thing on our cars? If we believe the gospel then we know we're right. Why do we need to brag about it? Is someone with a Darwin fish going to look at this truth fish and think, "Hmmm, I never considered that his fish is bigger than my fish. Maybe I should give Jesus a chance." Of course not. Instead, it's going to be another example of how arrogant and judgemental Christians seem to be.

I've also heard it said that you've got to be careful about wearing your faith on your car, especially if you ever make a mistake while driving. I like to think of myself as a fairly courteous driver, but I make mistakes. I also have times when I'm in a hurry. There's no way to say, "My 2 1/2 year old has to go potty", so people just think I'm driving like a jerk. Putting a fish on my car probably won't help to advance the gospel.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Escaping Reality

I am often amazed at my abilities to ignore the truth. Obviously we all must have some capacity for escaping reality since it would often be too overwhelming to take in the truth about ourselves. Christians seem particularly good at this.

For example, there are many churches who will go to great lengths to preach about the evils of Harry Potter. Yet some of these churches also gave out tickets so people could see The Chronicles of Narnia. I'm all for exposing people to Narnia since it is a very clear exposition of the gospel, but I don't see what the difference is in the magic of Narnia compared to the magic of Harry Potter.

Similarly, I think of how many churches would have no problem in speaking out on the evils of drunkenness. And if they had an openly homosexual couple in their congregations there would be outrage. Yet no one is outraged about gossip. Or how about gluttony? Laziness? What about pride?

Again, it's so easy to think of what I'm not. But what I am is a sinner who desperately needs grace. That's something for which I thank God every day. My fickle flesh wanders so easily that I know I need to remind myself of the pentrating truth of the gospel daily.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Where are You Reading This?

I just got this in an email from my dad. I think it fits in quite well with some of my other stuff:

Prison and Work!

Just in case you ever got the two mixed up. This should make things a bit clearer.

IN PRISON.. You spend the majority of your time in an 8X10 cell.
AT WORK... you spend the majority of your time in a 6X8 cubicle.

IN get three meals a day.
AT only get a break for one meal and you pay for it.

IN get time off for good behavior.
AT get more work for good behavior.

IN PRISON...the guard locks and unlocks all the doors for you.
AT must carry around a security card and open all the doors for yourself.

IN can watch TV and play games.
AT get fired for watching TV and playing games.

IN get your own toilet.
AT have to share with some idiot who pees on the seat.

IN PRISON...they allow your family and friends to visit.
AT can't even speak to your family.

IN PRISON...the taxpayers pay all expenses with no work required.
AT WORK... you get to pay all the expenses to go to work and then they deduct taxes from your salary to pay for prisoners.

IN spend most of your life inside bars wanting to get out..
AT spend most of your time wanting to get out and go inside bars

IN must deal with sadistic wardens.
AT WORK...they are called managers.

Have a Great Day at WORK!!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sympathetic Tension

I think one of the biggest determinations of workplace satisfaction is the people with whom you work. Fortunately, I like my team within my team. But I still hear all the stuff happening around me. Today there was a crisis with some application and I had to listen to someone who I don't think has ever taken a deep breath in his life. He even laughs from his chest. Listening to him makes my chest tighten up.

I need to remember that what we do is very important to most of the people around me. I like to see problems get solved. I like to close tickets. I like closure as much as the next guy. But I also don't see this as brain surgery.

The worst thing is that it took all the fun out of lunch. I looked forward to my normal quiet lunch at my desk so I could do my Bible study. Instead I had lunch on the patio and then went out to Cook Out for a milkshake. You've got to make the best out of a bad situation, I say.

The bigger question is to ask why this bothers me so much. Why do I care if someone else is miserable? Why does it make me get tight to listen to someone who, when told to relax, says with a shout, "I AM RELAXED! WHY DOES EVERYONE KEEP TELLING ME TO RELAX?"

Makes me wonder where my blind spots are too...

Psalm 139:23-24

23Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Extending Grace

I'm exhausted today because we had a rough night at the Chamberlain household. It felt like our whole house was under attack. I'm not one to look for Satan behind every bush, but I can't think of a better explanation for it. Today I'm feeling much better. It's amazing what morning can bring.

I heard a great teaching on the radio this morning. It was one of those quick 60 second teachings that they play on KLOVE. It was on the parable about the man who owed his boss 10000 talents and, when told to pay up, begged his way out of the debt. As you might imagine, he was quite happy about that since 10000 talents was a lot of money. I've read that a single talent is a year's wages for a laborer. A talent weighs 66 pounds.

How did he respond to this? He went and found someone that owed him only 100 denari and demanded repayment. When his debtor couldn't repay the loan he attacked the man and had him thrown in jail. I think it's important to understand that a denari is about a day's wages. So while this was not an insignificant sum, it was nothing compared to what he was forgiven.

Oh how often I am like this man! I have been forgiven of the most incredible debt possible by the blood of Christ, and yet I so often cannot forgive those who slight me. Maybe it's "that guy" who doesn't turn off his cell phone in a movie or "that guy" who decides that he's not going to merge when everyone else did a mile ago and has to slow down traffic to force his way in at the very end. Maybe it's my wife who doesn't unload the dishwasher when I think she should. As I write these and compare it to the grace God extended to me through the blood of Christ I am just amazed at my selfishness sometimes.

Instead, I need to remember this from Luke 7:

41"A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?" 43Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly." 44Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven--for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." 48And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49Then those who were at table with him began to say among[h] themselves, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?" 50And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Set Apart

I've been giving some thought lately as to what it means to be holy. You don't have to read too far in the Bible to see that God takes holiness very seriously. We see this in both the Old and New Testaments. For example, 1 Peter 2:6 tells us:

Since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

That seems pretty impossible at first, especially when we take the conventional idea of what we consider "holy". I think of things like the "Holy Bible" or "holy water", and songs like "God of Wonders" with lines in it like, "You are holy, holy." We tend to think of holy as being something perfect and godly.

That is certainly true, but what it really means is "set apart". My daily reading has me in the book of Joshua right now and that gives us a very clear picture of how God wants His people to be set apart. Most people know that Joshua won the battle at Jericho with the marching and the trumpets. Many people know about the family of Rahab the prostitute that was spared because she helped the Hebrew spies. But how many consider this passage:

Joshua 6:21 -- Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.

Wow. I've read this several times, but as I write this I can see the photo of my daughter on my computer's desktop. To think that God would command my Lily to destruction if I were a regular guy in Jericho is tough to take. Yet God commanded this. Why would He do such a thing? Why would such a loving God do this?

God takes His holiness very seriously. The temple had an area called the "Holy of Holies". The High Priest only entered once a year to atone for the sins of the people. The other priests tied a rope around this guy's ankle so that they could pull him back out if he died from offering a sacrifice in an unworthy manner. Again, it's clear that God takes holiness very seriously.

How does that affect me? It tells me that I need to be different from the world. I don't want to "go with the flow". But I also need to physically be near those who need to hear the gospel and present it in a relevant way. But then I consider this from Luke 18:

9He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

It's so easy for me to be the Pharisee. I need to remember that, although I do some of this holiness stuff pretty well, I'm still a sinner who needs grace. I marvel at yet another one of God's paradoxical commands that are impossible to fulfill on my own power, but possible by His grace.