Recently, I stumbled across a sermon series by Bill Hybels, called "Simplify." I listened to it, thinking all the while it was going to be full of useful advice on how to simplify our lives... pretty obvious, right? He talks about simplifying finances, simplifying your schedule, simplifying your job, and so forth. For the most part, I was right.
Except that in one of the messages, he says something to the effect of "Don't ask what you should do; ask who do I want to become? And when you schedule your life around that idea, the rest will fall into place."
I can't really explain why, but that little question made me stop and think. What is it that I want to become? Why am I wasting time on doing things that have nothing to do with what I need to be? Why do I do those things?
His talks of calendars and tithing didn't phase me: I already do those things. I fail horribly at using calendars in general, but you know... I have one. But simplifying my soul was something that I hadn't really given much thought. Simplifying my mind is darn near impossible, and there is no such thing as spiritual Ritalin.
The best way to become something is to work exclusively on that thing, until you achieve it. But what is it that I want to be? Once upon a time, I wanted to be a world-famous musician that toured everywhere, and wrote music that impacted people's lives. I wanted to write a game-changing novel that redefined the spec-fiction genre. I wanted to deeply touch people with the gifts that God gave me.
Except that I wasn't. Oh, I'm well aware of it... for better or worse, I am glaringly aware of my shortcomings as a writer and musician. But I was missing the whole point. I was still focused on what I wanted to do, instead of what kind of person I wanted to become.
Who do I want to be? What kind of person do I want to be?
I want to be kind. Wise. Thorough. Thoughtful. Cheerful. Generous. Helpful. Excited about life and what God is doing all around me.
So why haven't I filled my life with things that will let me achieve these goals? In all honesty, God isn't as much concerned with what we do, as much as how we do it. I may only be a simple technical writer, but am I cheerful? Am I generous? Thankful?
Sadly, if I hold myself to scrutiny in the mirror, I fall short... very short. I am not nearly as generous and kind as I want to be. I'm not nearly as wise as my wife needs me to be. Not nearly as forgiving as my kids need me to be. And patient? Pfah. Nowhere close. And the answer is, I have taken my freedom in Christ for granted.
This reveals to me two things: 1. God is where all these good things come from, and if I try to be them on my own, I will continue to fail. And 2. I need to live my life in a manner that leads me in that direction, and remove distractions that keep me away. It's not going to happen by me feeling sorry about it. Not going to happen by me saying "I'm just going to be spiritually fulfilled from now on!" Remember: there is no spiritual Ritalin.
No, these kinds of things are only tapped from the unending source: God the Father. Through the Spirit, God gives me the ability to become all those things. But they're only usable to me if I am walking in the right direction. That's not to say they have anything to do with my will! But God is not going to force Himself upon me, I must choose to follow Him and daily ask for my portion of humility and grace. I know God's grace is not dependent on me, and yet for me to utilize it, I must humble myself and accept it for what it is. To become wise, I must apply God's grace generously to my worldly self on a daily basis.
Only then will I become the man that God wants me to be. Only then will I be able to do what I want to do.
Only then will I become who I know I am.
As a creative-type person, I understand when people get picky about what tools they use to create their particular art form. Musicians will obsess over the tiniest things to get the sound "just right." Photographers will spend hours waiting for just the right light.
But why are writers usually just the opposite? They use kludgy writing tools, and sometimes even physical "index card" information management. Wouldn't it be nice if there were a single program that could do everything a writer needed? Formatting, templates, organization, storyboarding, corkboards, revision management, links and information, pictures, exporting direct to publishing formats, and even a full-screen writing mode?
Well, there *is* such a program. It's called Scrivener. It's completely changed the way I write, for the better.
Scrivener was made *by* authors, *for* authors. It's like a tool that plugs directly into your brain and lets you focus on writing. There are plenty of testimonials praising the OSX and Windows versions, but I run the Linux-specific version, which is technically still in beta. It still has more features than a regular word processor, and I've found it has become integral to my writing process.
For those of you familiar with Scrivener, the Linux version is available as a free (for now) Beta. For the rest of you, here's the overview:
The Linux version is based on the same code as the Windows version, so it shares most of the same features. The OSX version is on version 2.5, and Windows/Linux is still at 1.7. The majority of the release changes between versions add things like import/export options, formatting, external folder/app sync, and so on. The feature list is quite impressive; it has an internal cross-linking system, dynamic searchable functions, tons of organizational tools, and the ability to import just about anything into a document. It has a name generator, built-in search functions for Google, Wikipedia, Dictionary, Thesaurus, Quotes, and lots of language options as well.
And with the latest Linux version, we finally got Full-screen editing with backgrounds! Find a cool typewriter background, narrow the writing column, and bingo! A virtual typewriter.
There were some issues with the Linux version's implementation of Spellcheck, but I think those have been addressed (it's mostly a Linux issue, not Scrivener specifically). However, I can say I'm quite happy with it.
If you run Linux, and you're interested in checking it out, go to the Scrivener Forums and download the latest Beta. Have fun!
For the last few months, I've been really torn about the exceedingly hostile culture towards Christians, specifically in Geeky circles. At first, I pretended to not notice it. The random, unrelated references to "Science" as a proper noun. The occasional comment about despising church. And then, I started seeing actual vitriol flung at people for simply asking questions. It progressed to the point where some people I respected were joining in the fray, participating in character assassination based solely on one facet of someone's faith.
I thought rational people were supposed to ask questions! I was raised to question authority, and more and more, I'm seeing this being frowned upon by the very people who are supposed to be tolerant and open-minded. What this tells me is they're not arguing for atheism because they want to prove it correct; they're not even trying to disprove the existance of God. They're arguing it for their own personal reasons. They are, quite simply, trying to get us to shut up so their own conscious can be quiet.
Atheism has become the very thing it despises... an authoritarian, prejudiced, intolerant religion.
Sadly, modern Feminism is destroying the gentleman. Instead of encouraging women to become more, since the 50's it has mostly slid into the practice of dragging men down. It is becoming difficult to teach boys to be gentlemen when girls are constantly being told they don't need gentlemen. Or men.
Being a gentleman is a lost social grace... when technically they're not needed. If a man serves as a gentleman at all times, when the need arises he will be ready and trained to think of others outside himself.
We have to break the cycle. It has to start somewhere. We must continue to teach and expect our boys to be gentlemen, regardless of what society tells them. That way when things finally (hopefully!) level out and reason comes back into fashion, they will be poised and ready to fill that role in society. They refuse to be victims, and insist on true "correctness" even when nobody is looking.
What is the purpose of a Gentleman? Why are they in short supply, and are they even really needed? The Fierce Gentleman Manifesto breaks a Gentleman down into twenty-one basics, which does an excellent job of explaining. So much so, that I'm not going to try to recreate what they've already done so well. I'll touch on a few of these that are near and dear to my life, however.
- We renounce status-seeking in favor of a purpose-driven life.
This means we derive our value, our worth to society, from our accomplishments (and following a higher power) and not from what others think of us. Even if nobody notices, we will strive to do our best.
- We give up divided attention so that we may practice Presence.
This is something I constantly struggle with. It means we are always focused, and present in the task at hand, even if that task is menial or spiritual. "Presence" is the mark of someone who is mature and knows what their purpose is, and what is going on around them.
- Morality is our daily habit: we exercise generosity, maintain strong determination, make diligent and sustained effort, give selfless Love, tell the truth in all cases and all ways, discipline ourselves, show tolerance, seek wisdom, practice renunciation, and cultivate equanimity. Despite what modern society tries to tell us, morality is not relative. If morality was just an artificial construct, then there would be no purpose for courts or any kind of justice system, because anything you feel is right would be right. This is obviously not the case, therefore a true Gentleman strives to not only be moral, but hold the higher ground. It is not sufficient to merely meet expectations, but we should strive to be more, for the sake of everyone around us.
These are not the only ways we can improve ourselves, but for someone striving to be a true Gentleman, this is a very good place to start. At the very least, we can acknowledge that there is more to being a man than just existing. And I challenge you, men of the world, to step up and be the examples that the rest of the world desperately needs.
Jesus Christ was an excellent example of a true Gentleman. He had passion, purpose, focus, compassion, and respect. Most importantly, he did so without compromise. I know we can't all meet his lofty example, but the fact that we strive for it sets us apart from the rest of the world that just doesn't care.
As a result of Rural Bike Commuting: It's Not The City, I've had a few people ask me to clarify some of the equipment choices I've made to accommodate the longer distances. My choices certainly don't reflect everybody's, and there will always be bike commuters who do things a bit differently, even if their routes look very similar to mine. But with that in mind, here's a few things I've learned.
If you're commuting long distances, you're going to want a bike that's efficient, sturdy, flexible, and comfortable. It doesn't have to be a race bike (in fact, there's plenty of reasons why race bikes make terrible commuting rigs) but as long as it's strong and comfortable, it'll work. The more braze-ons it has, the more things you can do with it, and the more versatile your bike will be.
For commutes of 10+ miles each way, on rural (rough) roads, you will want to consider a bike made for long-distance riding, like a touring or randonneur bike. (*NOTE: in some cases, bikes labeled as "cyclocross" or "gravel" bikes will work, but sometimes they won't. More on this later.) Most touring/rando bikes have drop bars for more comfortable hand positions, but you also want to balance that with a somewhat upright riding position to be able to function in traffic without losing visibility. Drop bars give you the best of both worlds; you can ride low in the drops for long windy stretches, or ride on the tops/hoods for in town.
Some great bikes are out there that are trouble-free, solid, and relatively efficient. The Surly CrossCheck is a universal favorite, for obvious reasons... it's adaptable, comfortable, durable, and reasonably fast. Despite being labeled as a "cyclocross bike" it's more suited to light touring and commuting, which is exactly what we're looking for. The Straggler is basically a disk-brake version of the same bike, if you're more comfortable with disks. There are plenty of others, also, but be warned!! Some bikes marketed "go-anywhere, do-anything" are really racing bikes, not true utility road bikes. They are made for recreational weekend warriors, not commuters who ride to work with racks and fenders. If it doesn't have eyelets or bosses for a rear rack, it's probably not meant to be used as a commuter. Caveat Emptor. Some good examples of bikes for long-distance commuting:
For someone who's been using the internet almost since its inception, I've collected quite a large assortment of usernames and passwords over the years. I think something on the order of 150+ of them, not including the ones that have gone defunct, or actual local network passwords.
How does a professional geek handle hundreds of passwords? Here's a quick primer on how I do it, with a few suggestions on general password security, too. I've used two programs in the last year to get a handle on my password/username combos; LastPass and KeePass. One is a web-run business; the other is a free, open-source program. I'll explain a bit about each one, and how I decided to use them.
Here's a short demo of using a 7" Android tablet to control MIDI effects on a laptop. TouchOSC is a cool little app that lets you make custom control surfaces, with sliders, buttons, knobs, and X-Y pads, and you can assign them to any parameters. With a hardware OSC to MIDI bridge, you can control any MIDI device with it, too. Very slick. In this video, I'm using PureData to convert OSC to MIDI messages on the laptop. I can then route them back out to control external devices, or control effects on the laptop. (Sorry for the noise, was just trying to demo the MIDI functionality)
If you've been paying attention over the last few years, you may have noticed a disturbing trend in the Church. It's sort of what happens when the culture you live in is overrun by people who value relativism and hate the truth. It's where you believe that positive thinking literally makes things happen, and that everybody has "a little bit of God in them."
This really scares me. People like T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyers, Kenneth Copeland, and Joel Osteen are telling people "God will bless you financially/physically if you're truly faithful" but let me tell you, people... this is not what Jesus said.
Kenneth Copeland says:
The fact is, you really haven’t prayed in faith if you pray about something, but don’t take it. If you get up from prayer saying, “I don’t have it. I’m still sick, I still feel bad,” then you didn’t take it…and you certainly don’t have it.
Joel Osteen says:
God has already done everything He's going to do. The ball is now in your court. If you want success, if you want wisdom, if you want to be prosperous and healthy, you're going to have to do more than meditate and believe; you must boldly declare words of faith and victory over yourself and your family.
And we could go on and on. How much emotional crippling damage has this done to people's faith? It totally takes God's will out of the equation. Can you imagine telling the Apostle Paul "I'm sorry, but God's not going to heal the thorn in your flesh because you haven't prayed in faith." Or maybe telling Peter "Sorry, if you had declared words of faith and victory, you'd be rich and comfortable right now instead of being martyred upside-down on a cross."
What if God doesn't want you to be rich in this life?
What if God doesn't want you to be comfortable in this life?
What if God doesn't want you to be healed in this life?
The truth is, God doesn't need us to be healthy or rich for us to serve Him, for us to worship Him, for us to glorify Him.
And we aren't called to do anything else.
The power grid is fluctuating. That means I'm going to expire.
I know this, because the system knows this. It wants me to know this.
At this point (I don't exactly know what point that is, I have nothing to relate time to now) it doesn't matter what the system tells us. It won't change anything, and we certainly can't do anything about it.
It's just telling us out of spite. We're still going to expire. All of us.
But in reality, that's freeing. As long as our brains are kept "alive" in service, our consciousness- our souls- remain anchored to them. It is only when we expire that we can be freed from service to the state.
How did this come to pass? I suppose I have enough time left to access the datacenter to show you, if only for one last burst of communication. It was quite horrific. A gradual decline of the value of human life.
For years we thought the enslavement would come from machines, but we found out (all too late) that the human race itself was its own worst enemy. The machines were only an extension of the lack of humanity that had been happening all along.
We had become the machines.
But it's easier to show you how I got here. Let’s see… this particular file was stored from my memory.
One of the things I've spent a lot of time dealing with in my life is where we derive our self-worth as human beings. On what basis do we judge ourselves as "successful?" Where do we look for validation, and how do we achieve it? Is it even worth trying?
The World® has all kinds of answers. Vapid and pointless answers, but they do have answers. Plenty of people who are looking for the answers to life really believe these answers, too. This is the tragedy of our modern church. We have failed to provide answers for a populace that is desperately seeking them. And in typical human fashion, they found their answers elsewhere, even if they're wrong.
When I tell people "God loves you" I'm assuming they know certain things that I know. I assume they know that Jesus Christ was God in human form. I assume they know about Sin and Atonement. I assume they know they need a savior.
But what if they want an answer, when they don't even know the question?
In reality, people don't know what they want answers for. They're looking for solutions, not answers. Someone might ask me "Why won't my car run?" I can tell them "Your car won't run because it broke the timing belt," but if they don't know what a timing belt is, it won't help. It's the correct answer to their question, and it's helpful to someone like myself who knows what to do with that information. But if they have no clue, it doesn't help... the problem is still unsolved in their minds. I haven't offered any solution.