Category Archives: Faith

By @ 01/12/15 in Business, Faith, Software

We’re already in the second week of 2015. Only fifty more to go! Before we get too far along, I wanted to share some reflections on 2014 goals. As before, our family has been using a Trello board to track and update our goals. I highly recommend the process of goal setting and achieving. In large part because, according to the Enneagram, I’m an Achiever (learned that in 2014). It just makes sense to me.

If you’ve never done goal-setting before and want to, then message me. I’d be happy to brainstorm with you and get you setup.

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By @ 01/27/14 in Faith

This Sunday I heard an excellent sermon on Jesus’ teaching about money in the Sermon on the Mount. But in the course of the service, I also heard a number of lies about money. I didn’t hear these in the sermon exactly but I did hear them Sunday morning. My experience of both God and money has been demonstrably significant in my life so it was hard not to interject at some of the lies that were shared. Two, in particular stand out.

“If we have any money, then it was given to us by God.” False. It’s hard for me to fathom how anyone could believe this. I suppose if we consider money a good gift and God to be the giver of good gifts then we’d have to say money comes from God. But money in itself has no moral value whatsoever. And fundamentally, if we have any money then it was either given to us by someone else or taken for ourselves. The source of our money is rarely so inexplicable as to be worth attributing to God. Maybe if we counted our job as a gift from God then by extension the paycheck is also but this is stretching it. Money is at best like a hammer and at worst like a drug. God does not trade in currencies.

“All of my money, is God’s money.” False. I’m not sure I know what people mean by this. It seems similar to saying, all of my stuff is God’s stuff. But this is just silly and ignores the whole idea of stewardship. Is it God’s Xbox or God’s wedding ring? It’s not useful to say that God owns those things and it’s not true. One of God’s greatest risks in creation was letting us own things ourselves. In that way, God steps into a position of vulnerability and intimacy with us, hoping that we will care for the things he cares about. The danger of describing it as God’s money is that we eschew our own responsibility and authority over it.

Money is characteristically relational. It’s meaningless without someone or something with which to exchange it. Let us be thoughtful, when we describe God and money, not to lessen this key characteristic.



By @ 12/31/13 in Business, Faith, Software

Tomorrow will be the day for New Year’s resolutions. But today I thought I’d reflect on the goals I achieved in 2013, or at least my progress toward them. All in all it was an extremely productive and daring year.

  1. Get healthy: December over December, I’ve lost 16 pounds. In 2012, I weighed in at the doctor’s office at 161. I normally think of myself as 150 so 11 pounds seemed like more than small fluctuations. I resolved in 2013 to exercise, eat less sugar, eat more salad, and get my weight down to 140 pounds. For the first four months, all I did was change my diet: I stopped eating dessert and drinking beer every night; I bought the Trader Joe’s ready-made salads which make a great lunch; and I continued eating oatmeal with fresh fruit for breakfast. Beyond that, I didn’t have any rules or guidelines. I sometimes noticed myself binging on weekends but I don’t think it got too bad. In April, I got a bicycle trainer that let me ride indoors. That thing is great. I’ve gone from an average of 12 mph over 15 minutes to 21 mph over 20 minutes. And I reached a high average of 24 mph. That’s twice what I started at! I didn’t reach my goal weight of 140 so I’m going to press on in 2014 to lose another 5-10 pounds.
  2. Floss every night: I did it! I even like it sometimes now. My gums don’t bleed as they did when I started and I guess my teeth are healthier. I’m kind of bummed to need to continue this but I guess that’s part of being responsible for myself.
  3. Visit Japan: Shannon and I did it! What a great country to visit. I am fascinated by Japanese culture and particularly enjoy their hospitality and food. Our best photos from the trip are on Facebook. I wrote a little about the language barrier too.
  4. Square accounts: From 2012 taxes to loans from parents, second mortgages and major home improvements, this was a year of paying off debts. I’m proud to say we’re down to a mortgage and HELOC now and we’ve made a big dent in the HELOC. In 2014, I’m hoping to pay off the HELOC in full.
  5. Resign Microsoft, start Sole Proprietorship: I did it! Yikes! It still quickens my pulse to think that I’m “flying solo” now. Read about moving on from Microsoft and officially starting my own software business.
  6. Buy and care for a happy dog! I did it! Her name is Tesla and she is a beautiful golden retriever.
  7. Volunteer: I’m volunteering weekly in three places now: tutoring AP Calc students at Shannon’s High School, leading a programming club, and being a River Community Church Youth Leader. I didn’t expect to start any of these things specifically in 2013. I just knew I wanted to start volunteering. The experience has been a wonderful way to “give back” and share the things I’m passionate about.
  8. Publish Python modules: I did it! Two of them! I chose two projects that were small and would let me get a feel for Github, PyPI, and Read the Docs. Learn more about the tribool data type and Python runstats module.

2013 was an incredible year for me. I hope it was great for you too. Here’s to an even greater 2014!



By @ 12/02/13 in Faith

I’m often fooled in thinking that simple looking things should be easy to duplicate. Whether its a discipline, or a thing, or a system, the simpler it looks, the easier I expect it to be. Instead these properties seem to be orthogonal. Some simple things really are easy but I think just as many are hard. Perhaps a few examples will help.

I’ve met more than one young software developer who thinks he could duplicate Facebook in a fortnight. Once you’ve learned a little about creating websites, how hard could it be? It’s mostly just text and picture posts, right? It’s just a  front-end to a database of relationships and properties of entities. That’s what you learn in undergrad. But all these ignore the enormous problem that scale creates technologically.

Likewise with the iPhone. The device is incredibly easy to use. But Apple goes to incredible lengths to produce that effect. Anyone working with hardware, software, and humans knows how challenging it can be to get all three working in apparent harmony.

Want to give up smoking or any habit? Go cold-turkey. What could be simpler, right? And that’s easy, right? Wrong.

Imagine climbing a mountain. Do you go straight up or make switch-backs? The direct and simple approach is the hardest.

Likewise with code and refactoring. Most refactoring works to simplify the code. But why didn’t we write it simply when we started? Because simple and correct code is hard to write.

Perhaps most importantly, I think a lot of what Jesus taught exemplifies the simple vs. easy distinction. The more I study his life and teachings, the simpler I think his commands get: love your enemies, give to the poor, etc. These platitudes are simple but far from easy.

Watch yourself. Don’t be deceived in the distinction between simple and easy.



By @ 10/28/13 in Faith, Parables

Just a few miscellaneous thoughts this Monday.

 

Exercise is the celebration of health.

~ Grant Jenks

 

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

~ Proverbs 11:24

 

Anxiety can leave us in a kind of functional atheism.

~ Brad Wong

 

Any of these provoke your thoughts as they do mine?



By @ 09/03/13 in Faith, Parables

I thought this hymn was fantastic this morning. Speak it aloud if you can. As spoken word, it is powerful.

We meet you, O Christ, in many a guise;
your image we see in simple and wise.
You live in a palace, exist in a shack;
we see you, the gardener, a tree on your back.

In millions alive, away and abroad;
involved in our life, you live down the road.
Imprisoned in systems, you long to be free;
we see you, Lord Jesus, still bearing your tree.

We hear you, O man, in agony cry;
for freedom you march, in riots you die.
Your face in the papers we read and we see.
The tree must be planted by human decree.

You choose to be made at one with the earth;
the dark of the grave prepares for your birth.
Your death is your rising, creative your word;
the tree springs to life and our hope is restored.

Two weekends ago, I was at Riverfest, an all-church retreat for The River Church Community in San Jose. Our speaker for the weekend was Dave Schmelzer. In his talks, Dave shared about two story archetypes. The first is known as the “Harvest Story.” It’s told in the hymn above. At its start it was about how crops would die in the winter and be reborn again in spring for harvest in summer. In a Christian context, Jesus embodies the harvest. His life is cut down by death but his resurrection means salvation is available for all. The second is called the “Reluctant Hero.” The best modern example is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In Dave’s mind, we who follow Jesus are the reluctant heroes. The invitation of Christ to bear his cross and join in his long-suffering is the hero’s journey. The highest goal then along the journey is to be glad and joyful.

In reflection after Dave’s talks I have been looking to be more joyful. I smile as I type that because I’m not sure it’s possible and feel kind of goofy saying so. But there you have it, let’s be joyful.



By @ 08/15/13 in Faith, Parables

Just some quick thoughts:

  1. I thought the most profound statement the book made was the description of Meg after the family escapes from IT without Charles. In the story, “IT” represents a kind of evil, possessive force. The hubris of the young son, Charles, gets him caught in IT’s power. Shortly after, the family escapes and Meg is furious and scared that they’ve left Charles behind. L’Engle writes that in her fear and anger, Meg is as much controlled by IT as Charles. Though she is not in the presence of evil, her abilities are crippled by an extension of her memory.
  2. At the end of the book, there’s some discussion of God’s sovereignty. L’Engle uses the analogy of the sonnet to describe our life’s freedom within restrictions. A sonnet requires a very strict form, specific rhyming rules, and a limited length. But the poet is still allowed to express anything they like within these rules. So likewise our lives have rules but our freedom of expression is great.
  3. Meg’s character is constantly vacillating between very happy and very sad emotions. I got a little tired riding the roller coaster of her emotions through the book. Shannon says this is just an accurate depiction of a teenage girl’s feelings. Yikes. Now I remember those teenage years. It’s exhausting just to read it in a work of fiction.

Though you’ll find it in the juvenile section of your library, it’s worth a read at any age.



By @ 05/06/13 in Faith

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me;
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me;
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me;
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me;
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.



By @ 01/26/12 in Faith

Last weekend I went to a retreat that joined several service corps groups together: Jesuit Volunteers, Christian Appalachian Project Volunteers, Mission Year Volunteers, etc. One of the topics that came up was hunger and I saw a quote  attributed to Ghandi that went like this: To a man who is hungry, food is God. Now, a couple Google searches later, I understand that Ghandi meant this in terms of a hierarchy of needs. When bringing a message about God (e.g. preaching the gospel) the matter is moot to a man who is hungry. Unless you provide for his most basic needs, teaching about God is missing the point (I find this particularly relevant to my faith with frequent claims that “God is Love.” If that is so, we may need to show our love with food and water before we ever share our motivation by God.)

I understand the priority of needs (like food) over theology. Jesus may have disagreed but for all practical purposes, I don’t mind meeting needs before sharing faith. And if faith sharing doesn’t happen because those whose needs are met walk away, then so be it (also something that happened to Jesus).

Rather than read it as Ghandi meant, I first thought of his statement as a generality meaning: our God is the thing we lack. I think there are many examples of this practice. We tend to spiritualize those things over which we have the least control or for which we are the most desperate. Ever seen someone whisper to dice at a craps table? Ever heard of a rain dance? For some, including myself, it’s easy to think we don’t have what we want for a mystical reason.

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By @ 09/21/11 in Faith

My wife and I attend Mount Zion Baptist Church in Seattle, WA. As a predominantly African-American church, the first few months were a sometimes foreign cultural experience. One thing we quickly grew enamored with was the gospel music. Not just the kind you hear on the radio, but also “Negro Spirituals” (yes, that’s the politically correct term). These songs are captured as hymns in the African American Heritage Hymnal. Last Sunday we sang “Because of Who You Are” which lies somewhere between modern and antique.

Because of who You are I give You glory.
Because of who You are I give You praise.
Because of who You are,
I will lift my voice and say,
Lord, I worship You because of who You are.
Lord, I worship You because of who You are.

Jehovah Jirah, my provider,
Jehovah Nissi, Lord You reign in victory,
Jehovah Shalom, You’re my prince of peace,
And, I worship You because of who You are.
Lord, I worship You because of who You are.

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