Thursday, August 21, 2014

One Christian Point

I have a lot of discussions about religion with a lot of different people, some Christian (as I am) and some not.

Both Catholic and Protestant Christian Bibles teach that Jesus Christ is the only path to God the Father. Though I believe that, I will never pressure someone to believe as I believe - belief is an intensely personal choice. The Bible also says that if you truly seek you will find, and I stand on that one.

In recent posts I raise questions that seem to dismay people:

Can Salvation, once accepted, be lost? (I don't know, and all arguments, for either side, seem circular to me.)

Why would a benevolent God allow such suffering? (I don't know. I think this world is under the control of Satan, though, and that the non-suffering is God's grace to us.)

Which do you believe: Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib or Post-Trib Rapture? (I don't know. I tend to lean toward No Rapture, but that is an upcoming book, so I'll leave it at that.)

What is the nature of God? (Most people would say God is Love, but that's not it. God is Holy.)

Is the Bible true? (Yes, absolutely, and if you pick and choose from the Bible what you want to be true, you're writing your own book, and Jesus took a dim view of that [jots and tittles sort of thing]. But some of the Bible is allegorical and some not, and I don't always know which is which.)

The theme in all my discussions is "I don't know."

HOWEVER, there is one point I cannot compromise as a Christian, and it really isn't about religion. It's about a relationship, and it is the key and cornerstone of Christianity. We can disagree on all else and I don't mind.

That one point is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

All other things I will discuss and debate. Not this point.

There is no other focus for a Christian. Fighting about everything else is simply a way to obfuscate the simple truth that Jesus Christ died for our sins, that every time I do something evil in this world I cause Jesus more pain as he suffered and died on the cross.

I used to avoid doing wrong because I didn't want to be punished.

Now I don't want to do wrong because He took the punishment.

Jesus the Christ suffered for my sins willingly. He did it for me. He did it for everyone, whether you believe or not.


I believe it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Some confusing words

Gutenberg press woodcut
from Wikipedia
A friend of mine was sweet enough to proofread part of my upcoming book, tentatively titled Zombie Apocalypse, Vampire Raiders of Las Vegas. Don't worry, I'm sure that won't be the final title (almost sure).

She had some issues with words I used and I had to do some investigation. I thought I'd share.

BLONDE vs BLOND
BLOND is an adjective describing something, man or woman. BLONDE is a noun meaning a female with fair hair (and not a male with fair hair). "The blonde picked a blond puppy from the litter."

FURTHER vs FARTHER
FURTHER is a conceptual distance. FARTHER is a physical one. That usually works, but when in doubt you're safe using further. "As he went farther into the jungle his mind retreated further from reality."

AVERSE vs ADVERSE
My eldest son asked me a question about where I wrote the word averse - that maybe it should have been adverse. ADVERSE is something harmful and AVERSE is a strong feeling of dislike. "I am averse to adverse effects of drugs."

AFFECT vs EFFECT
Affect is a verb and Effect is a noun. That doesn't help? If the word denotes influence or action, use AFFECT. If it is a result, use EFFECT. "The rain affected Tom's mood, but had no effect on Lucy."

COMPLIMENT vs COMPLEMENT
You COMPLIMENT someone when you say something nice to them, so it is an admiring remark. When things COMPLEMENT each other, they go well together.

ITS vs IT'S
Please, oh please get this one right. If you can replace the word with "it is" then the correct form is IT'S. If the meaning of your word is possessive, use ITS. I don't even have a clever sentence for this one (though I was going to use "If it's possessive, use 'its'.")

YOUR vs YOU'RE
Along the same lines, YOUR is possessive. YOU'RE is a contraction for YOU ARE. If YOU'RE sure it's possessive, use YOUR. (See how I tossed the IT'S in there, too? You can COMPLIMENT me in the comments.)

There are a lot of confusing English words. These simply touch the surface. For hundreds more, try The Grammar Monster's section for confusing words. I also like Grammar Girl (she's pretty famous and has a lot more than simply confusing words).

A few years ago I did a post on why English was hard, and these should have been among those confusing words. And they should not be confused with the other confusing word category - contronyms! I'll leave that for another post.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Opinel by Charlie

I have followed Charlie Sorrel and his articles for years. Before Cult of Mac, Charlie wrote for Wired. He's witty, insightful, and slightly irreverent. He has one of the keenest minds for reviewing things that I've ever followed - and that not only includes the software he reviews, but the hardware.

A few months ago Charlie reviewed knives.

He doesn't usually do that. Reviews written by Charlie almost always have something to do with computers or cycling. This one didn't. This was just about some of the best knives ever made - Opinel knives.

Now, to be frank (hi Frank!), I am a nut for knives. I have to keep myself from buying one almost every time I go to a store. I don't know what it is, but knives attract me. I even have a book on making knives and fully intend to do so in the next few years after I retire. So an article on knives? By Charlie? Oh, yeah.

I can't describe the knives better than Charlie can. Here's his article from May.

This one is beautiful
I pondered and dithered. I reined myself in and didn't buy the complete set of Opinel knives, blade sizes from No2 to the large No12.

I did buy the No6 and the boxed No8. I considered the Brazilian Rosewood handled No6 knife, but they were sold out. If they come back I might get one.


I received my two knives in the mail two days after I ordered them. So far I have only used the No6, but it is a beautiful knife, and extremely sharp, slicing through tomatoes liked they are warm butter (yeah, that's a cliche, but it's the only thing I can think of).

The little ring that locks the blade (closed or open) is very tight. I have a hard time moving it right now, but that will change with use.

So far I think these are my favorite knives, with the exception of my Swiss Army knife, which goes everywhere with me.

If you like knives, I'd recommend you take a look at the Opinel knives.

I think Charlie is right - they might be the best knives made in the world.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Movie Reviews

The 100-Foot Journey
I liked it. When movies show scenery of France my heart almost stops, as if a great hand wraps around it and tugs it from my chest. (If I believed in reincarnation, I'd think I came from France.) The cinematography of this movie had that hand squeezing my heart - there was so much beauty that I think I actually gasped a few times (but I won't admit it if I did).

The plot is good, though I won't say it is superb. I will say the acting was superb. The story fleshed each character out, but the actors brought them to life perfectly. I won't even pick out a favorite actor/actress (but I will say I have a hard time believing that Dame Helen Mirren is English and not French now!).

Oh, and there was food. I do love food.

I owed Darling a movie that wasn't all explosions and superheroes.

For once, I chose wisely. I can give it an easy eight of ten stars. (I don't buy these kind of movies, but if I did, this would be one I'd buy - if only for the cinematography!)


Guardians of the Galaxy
Green is good
I had high hopes for this movie, and the hype that surrounded it only made me expect more.

I was disappointed, and I wish I could point at one or two specific things that made me think less of the movie, but I can't. (SPOILER: Perhaps the Howard the Duck thing … I don't know.)

If I'd been expecting a little less I would have been fine, I think. GotG was certainly non-stop action from start to finish. The plot was good, not great. The dialog was funny, though I think a lot of the humor was borderline potty-humor (which still makes me laugh, so it counts). The characters meshed well, and I'll go see Zoe Saldana in anything now, regardless of what color they make her. She is a great actress, too.
Blue is good

I did like it. I think I expected too much. Well, they are making a sequel, so I can look forward to that one, too.

I can only give it a seven of ten stars, and I wouldn't buy it for my collection, even though it is the right genre. I would watch it again, though.



Lucy
I'm so confused.

I think I liked it. I'm not sure.

What exactly happened? Why was I watching an antelope?

I loved watching Scarlett Johansson kick butt and prove she can act. Really. Contrast her character from the first part of the film to the end. She can act.

I'm still confused.

I can only give it five out of ten stars and I don't even want to watch it again. Well, maybe I do.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bold Leadership



At New Hope, Pastor Chris titled today's message "The Call to Bold Leadership."
The principle point of the message was that God is calling us to bold leadership (see what I did there?). The next natural question is "what defines bold leadership?"

1. Bold leaders are "idiots" that have been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.

The original Greek word for ordinary men is "idiotes" from which we get our English word for idiot. What a sad commentary on the evolution of language, but I digress from the point. The key point to note is that these ordinary men had been with Jesus.

We've heard it dozens of times in hundreds of sermons: God doesn't call the prepared; He prepares the called. We've all been called.

2. Bold leaders stand up.
Acts 1:15
And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), ...

Capture the setting to understand this passage, though. Jesus used to stand before his gathered followers and teach them, but the Lord Jesus is now ascended after his crucifixion and resurrection. They sit looking at each other, wondering who will help them now, who will be able to step up and lead this rag-tag band of bereft followers. Peter stepped up. Peter stood.

3. Bold leaders believe God will move.
Acts 3:1-8
Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God.

Peter reached out and took the hand of the beggar, lifting him to his feet in the name of Jesus and the beggar danced into the temple courts. Peter didn't doubt, which, in my mind, is also a gift from God.

Pastor Chris also referenced James 1:6 - But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.

I struggle with this a bit, mostly because Pastors and well-meaning Christians beat me over the head with it when my prayers aren't answered. Apparently I don't believe hard enough. I consider the topic of believing enough one of the Great Mysteries of the Church and is the topic of a very long post all by itself. It's been in work for months, so I'll leave it at that, except...

I never thought of it this way: we must believe, and I do - I believe that God Almighty is just and holy and does all things according to His own will. So I do pray believing, I do ask believing - but not necessarily believing that God will give me what I'm praying and asking for. I just believe in God. That's the best I can do.

4. Bold leaders are unstoppable.
Acts 5:38-39
And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

I only have a wish that people world-wide would take the advice that Gamaliel offers - if it is of God it cannot be stopped, but if of men, it will fail.

We all believe in freedom of religion - it's an inherent right in the United States. It goes both ways though. We cannot impinge upon another's right to believe. That "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" thing.

Incite others to jealousy with the way you live. Have them ask what makes you different.

Perhaps the best way to do that is to be a bold leader: walk with Jesus, stand up, believe God will move and be unstoppable. It isn't easy.

It is bold leadership.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

EMAIL IS DEAD


I used to love email. That was back in the 1980s, of course, when it simplified necessary communications, usually in a work setting. Personal email addresses? Only the elite geeks had those.

Next came a period where email exploded across the virtual landscape. Getting a personal email address was simple. Sending a note to Aunt Ida was easy - except she never seemed to receive it, so I finally resorted to snail mail…the one with envelopes and stamps.

* Yeah, I don't know if that's a good use of the word,
but it's an appropriate visual.
Now we're in an era where email is a virtual sharknado* of crap from unknown people. I mark most of mine as SPAM. I have elaborate folder systems and rules to capture emails I care about.

EMAIL IS DEAD. This is the Era of TEXTING. I have to send a text to let people know I sent them email.

FACEBOOK replaced email, too. There's some sort of Facebook messaging that I have to ignore.

When email first came out there were rules! Most people ignored them, which made them more important. The rules for email still apply, if you're interested.

1. USE A MEANINGFUL TITLE. "Hi" is not meaningful. "Concerning your stupid blog post" would be.

2. BE BRIEF. This is why TEXT now replaces email. Digital natives know how to be brief. U2? GR8. My inbox is full of rambling soliloquies on topics of no interest to me. I delete them.

3. BE SPECIFIC. And for goodness sake, if you're going to quote statistics, give me a link.

4. BE HELPFUL. If you're not trying to help me, why am I getting an email from you?

5. BE UPFRONT. IF you can't be brief, then at least give me a summary in the first sentence or two. Then when I delete it I'll feel like I accomplished something.

6. BE DISCREET. Limit the use of "Cc" and "reply to all" distributions. PLEASE. That "reply to all" thing still seems to baffle my coworkers. And they're rocket scientists. No kidding.

7. BE A FINISHER. If you need an action from me, better let me know clearly and in the first few words. Don't assume non-response is compliance. It probably means I deleted you.

Yeah, those are good rules, but Email taught me some simpler concepts.

·         You never regret an e-mail you didn't send. I've regretted lots that I did send though.
·         E-mail has no inherent emotion. It might sound funny in your head when you write it, but funny doesn't translate well on paper.
·         Don't send e-mail to people you don't know. That's what blogs are for.

Feel free to email me with your thoughts on this post!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Reacting to Adversity - an example


This is a religious story, a story tragedy and of personal choices. How would you react? Ignite your imagination for a second. Let's take a trip down a rabbit hole and see if terror lurks there.

Imagine you're a teenage boy, probably about fifteen or sixteen - just coming into your prime. Your family is well-off, so you've never had any money worries. You move in the upper elite of the social circles of your society and have three excellent cousins you spend time with. On top of that, you're intelligent and handsome. Every morning when you look in the mirror you think how wonderful life is. And it is.

Then tragedy strikes. A powerful enemy attacks.

Your parents are killed in front of you.

You are taken captive and force-marched three hundred miles to a new city.

Because you are handsome and seem intelligent, you are not killed. You are castrated and become a slave in the enemy's household. (Every guy reading this just crossed his legs…)

They take your name from you and give you a different one.

The enemy just robbed you of your entire future.

There is some consolation. Three of your cousins are in exactly the same boat, along with a number of others you don't know quite as well. So you aren't alone in your misery.

How do you react? Do you curse God? Point out all the terrible things that just happened to you and ask how a God who loves you could do such things?

I might. Just making me a eunuch might be enough to push me over the edge, at least for a while.

You've already guessed this isn't fiction, but the beginning (not the end!) of the biography of one of the great prophets of the Old Testament.

Daniel.

The man we remember as Daniel of the Lion's Den (a significant story). Whose cousins were put into a fiery furnace and walked out unscathed, not even smelling of smoke. This is the same Daniel angels referred to as "beloved of God" twice, once in 10:11 and once in 10:19.

Daniel has some of the most powerful prophecies of End Times in the entire Bible. I guess I never thought about his circumstances until I started watching a Preacher last night.

I never realized his parents were probably killed in front of him. I didn't realize he was castrated, and a eunuch. Yeah, that's standard practice for the Babylonian conquerors. Yet Daniel did not despair, but held fast to his faith in his God. C'mon - those are tough times to deal with.

Is it too much to ask that I do the same?

How about you?


Side note: For those that say Daniel was homosexual - just because he was castrated does not make him homosexual. It is true the OT does not mention a family for Daniel. For those who say he was a male companion for the king - I find that one hard to fathom, or the king would have known of him as he searched for someone to interpret his dreams. Still, I'm not going to argue the point - I have my own opinion on the matter.