Tag Archives: Computers

I’m Content

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6 WEB)

No matter what people may think, I’m content with my life, my family, my work and my faith; so, stop telling me I need something more. I was thinking about this while lying awake in bed one morning. When I look at things in my life and consider what I’ve done, where I’ve been and what I’ve acquired (physical stuff, experiences, etc.), I’m content. Unfortunately, sometimes, when my frustration over things around me percolates to the top of my patience, I might present a temporary persona that doesn’t portray a contented soul. But that’s another subject.

One of the first things I thought about was my wonderful wife quietly asleep beside me. It’s the precise planning of God that brought us together at the right place and time to embark on an amazing busy, full and fantastic life. Two-thirds of our lives we’ve been together and I’m looking forward with anticipation to undertaking together the next 40 plus years of life and adventure God has planned. Like most married men I know; I often wonder how my love tolerated me all these years. But I’m content knowing God was gracious to me and gives her lots of patience.

We’ve lived through raising four children, watching them leave the nest and start a life of their own with their own families. I like my children’s spouses. I love them all and I believe they like me. Our children are doing well in a variety of jobs. We’ve got service managers, restaurant managers, teachers and soldiers carrying on the family line. I’m proud of them all. They’ve had their problems, we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but as family we work through things. Thanks to them I have a number of grandchildren that I love dearly. I think they love me as well. I know why God gives us grandchildren. It’s to insure we still have that delightful spark of innocence to encourage us in life. They have good and bad days, they’re little children and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m content with my family.

I’ve spent the majority of my life serving and working with the same organization in various places around the globe. I’d like to say everything was rosy and delightful all these years but the truth is there were hard times along with good times. Still, I’m content with what God has been able to accomplish through my work around the globe. More than once I felt ill-equipped for the job. It was then I watched as God stepped in to show His grace and let me know that I can do all things through Him. I can’t say I never had doubts about what I was doing. They would raise their ugly heads now and then until I reset my vision on the one who gives me strength. I can say I never had doubts about God’s calling me to this life. I’m content in my work and ministry.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned to God and asked, “Why?” Sometimes I found the answer. Some questions remain unanswered. I’ve railed at God in my frustration and anger and praised and worshipped Him at all times. Yes, even when I was furious I still worshipped God. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, some things I still don’t understand, but I trust in God in all things. I’m comforted understanding that I can come to God with praise, anger, questions and the small issues of daily life and He listens. He shows me grace, especially in my stupid times. He loves me always, even in my disobedient times. I’m content with my faith in God.

In all this I find myself wondering why I would consider not being content. I can stop and think and realize that this is a great life God has provided and like the verse above I have great gain. Sometimes people think I’m discontent because I’m frustrated with things or get angry over an encounter with massive stupidity. So I wonder if we’re not confusing contentment with emotionless living. Are they the same? I don’t think so. God gave us emotions to help us deal with life on this spinning rock. We can let them get out of hand but to dismiss them as ungodly just doesn’t ring true for me. There are some things, regardless of my godliness or contentment, which I suspect will always increase my blood pressure.

There are inconsistencies in the behavior and reliability of computers, an area I’ve worked with for over thirty years that make me want to test the aerodynamic characteristics of the device from any open window (which I have done). There are vehicle drivers who apparently didn’t attend driving school, forgot all they learned or had incompetent teachers. Some folks standing in line for ten minutes or more to pay for items wait until they reach the counter to fish through their fifty gallon purse looking for their credit card. Sometimes I just sigh and roll my eyes. Other times, for whatever reasons, I just get frustrated or angry.

Then there’s the modern church. As a faithful member of the congregation we’re never doing enough “for God.” We hear preaching about contentment and at the same time a message of “do more” which creates discontent because we’re not doing enough, in the eyes of the local church, to justify our claiming to be faithful believers. Rubbish! I’m concentrating on my walk in this world as a faithful follower of Christ. Just walking faithful with God through normal tivities of life is doing something “for God.” Where that intersects with a church ministry, such as being a full time missionary, I’m glad to go as God leads. I don’t doubt some future heavenly residents might need a little fire under their backside to get them moving but who lights the fire, God or man? Without getting into a pet peeve let me say I’m content with the ministries where God has place me and I’m not looking for more. If He gives more I’ll undertake it. Otherwise I’ll be content with the here and now.

That’s probably where contentment lies. It lies in knowing you are where God wants you to be. It’s understanding the abilities God has given for the particular task and being content that God knows what He’s doing. Does it remove all emotion so we can be like good southerners and just say, “Bless their heart” when they do something ridiculous. At times it might. At other times life boils to the top and we are reminded we are humans, designed with emotions, by a God with emotions, to live in an emotional world. I’m content to live here, with all my foibles, until He takes me to that perfect mansion. Are you content?

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Dictionary Death

However in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in another language. (1 Corinthians 14:19 WEB)

Hw r u 2dy? Im jst fn. 2dy the wrld hs cndnsd lnguge 2 abrv wds wth fw n2rsprd vwls. Lke rdng nglsh cmpsd by nnpntd hbrw athrs. amzgly mst cn rd ths wth lttl effrt. Lts tlk abt ths mgrtn frm cmplt lngge 2 crptc cmmnctn.

In my life, I’ve been heavily involved in electronics and communications media. From suitcase powered radios to rotary operator assisted car phones which filled the trunk with electronics and tubes to cell phones that fit into the palm of my hand to smart phones, suitcase computers, laptops, notebooks and tablets. In each case one of the objectives of the device was to carry information from one place to another. In most cases, it was to allow two or more people the ethereal ability to communicate across long distances without physical connections.

As we moved from verbal loquaciousness to SMS the bandwidth allowed to communicate our message was reduced from limitless expressions of proper grammar and vocabulary to 240 characters or less. What might be expressed, discussed and clarified in several minutes of verbal banter has been redacted to basic simplistic monosyllabic abbreviated gobbledygook. I used to carefully consult a dictionary while composing even a simple letter to insure my spelling, word choices, and grammar were succinctly carrying the precise entirety of my message to the recipient. It was a combination of both form and content which carried a clear thought or concept.

For centuries mankind carefully crafted its many languages to insure one person understood what the other person was communicating. In some cultures, the dogged inflexibility of the language and its resident grammar police have stifled the etymological progression necessary to encompass the radical changes in modern life brought about by modern technological developments. In other cultures, the adaptability of the language, inclusion of any workable word from any background for clarity, made the language highly flexible in a cross cultural interaction. Thus, some languages are preferred over others for international encounters and business.

Then along comes the modern, highly technological generation, not well versed in their own language much less any other, who thrive around the convenience of instant messaging. To accommodate this new limited bandwidth, they develop their own micro language distilled from the few roots of the mother tongue they remember and peppered with regional dialectical expressions. To the generation which preceded them it seems disrespectful to the nuances of their historical language. To the generation following them it’s a stepping stone to further distill an expansive and often cumbersome language into even smaller packages.

What can be done? Not much of anything. This sort of dictionary death has developed around the world from generation to generation. As a missionary, I’ve dealt with language barriers over and over. Sometimes I’ve been successful in discerning the Rosetta stone aspects of different tongues to communicate on a fundamental level. Other times . . . not so much. Some think we’re moving toward a global tongue. Some think social media has provided a platform for language to morph into an abbreviated conglomeration of multiple cultural languages and dialects understood at least at a fundamental level by all.

I’m not a linguist and apparently neither was the apostle Paul. I agree with his assessment of tongues and languages. It’s better to find those fundamental few words which express God’s love and the propitiation for our salvation than to expound fluently filling tome after tome. Which dictionary can we consult to share God’s grace today?

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The Pirates who do I.T.

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14 KJV)

I once played a pirate in a couple children’s musicals. I was a friendly Christian pirate whose goal was to help people, not rob them. My patch would mysteriously move from eye to eye between scenes during the performance. Even a pirate needs a little fun.

Patch considers lifeRecently I was sitting at my desk, in my cubical, in my corner of the office working on a project. At some point I experienced binary bifurcation of purpose (aka the computer didn’t do what I thought it should) and so I let out an “argh.” I wasn’t wearing a patch but my colleague in the next cubical asked, “Is this talk like a pirate day?”

In truth, it was close! There is an official talk like a pirate day in September. I was a few days early. Then I started listening to others expressing their reactions to computer disobedience and discovered pirate talk from different corners of the I.T. department all day. I think every computer geek has uttered some form of pirate talk, intentionally or unintentionally, more than once in their career.

Even the casual computer user understands when there’s a wayward program, unexpected patch, or other signs of a computer’s resistant to the operator’s insistence that a particular function should be performed. I don’t want to list all the possible permutations of pirate speak here for fear of offending some sensitive analog lover who’s never ventured into the exciting waters of computer technology.

The idea came to me to make a sign for our department. Every department these days has a sign which proudly displays the name of the department and their statement of purpose to help rescue the world through their diligent and heart felt work. I think a sign like “Computer Department” or “I.T. Department” would be just too plain. It wouldn’t be expressive enough for the deep running emotions of electronic ministry. So, I figured it should read something like this:

I.T. Department
We are the pirates who do I.T.
Bring us your recalcitrant, wayward, computer and we’ll teach it what for.

We could all get eye patches and expand our pirate vocabulary to include some technical derivations beyond the demonstrative argh. Instead of “blast it all” we could say, “binary it all.” We couldn’t threaten users with “walking the plank” but with “disk disconnection.” It wouldn’t be “waterway congestion” but “Ethernet excess.” I’m sure there are plenty of particularly pointed platitudes which could be included in this theoretical thesaurus of pirate speak.

But, ours is not to develop an alternate alliterative language but to keep the forecastles and gunwales of the computer ships running properly so that the sweet message of the Gospel of Christ can smoothly sail the electronic oceans of the world. We have a goal on the horizon and no copious pirate platitudes will dissuade us from the destination. Unfurl the mizzenmast, pull up the anchors, shout out orders to one-eyed Jack, and shipshape Sam and turn her into the wind. We’ve got to get this ship in shape for the rough waters ahead. The enemy has many schemes and frustrating our intentions, even electronic ones, is one of the tools in his arsenal.

If another language helps, go for it!

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I’d Like to Exchange That

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)

Exchange: to give and receive reciprocally, to replace one item with something better.  When I was growing up I remember my mother exchanging ill-fitting garments for the proper fit at the local department store. This adventure, led by my fearless mother, usually occurred after Christmas or a birthday. I always wanted to trade in those extra skivvies, and scarfs, for some toy or game. But, I was taught to exchange it for the same item with a better fit.

The last couple of weeks I’ve been working on exchanging an Exchange for an Exchange. That’s not a typo. Exchange, with a capital “E,” is a mail and information exchange system which we use in our ministry. Without getting into a debate over which software is best, I’d like to say I like Exchange. It does what we need done quite well. For the user, it’s rather straightforward and effective. From the administrator’s point of view, it’s great when it works, and a nightmare when it doesn’t.

Most of the time things go well. But, after several years it was time for an upgrade to the latest and greatest version. The new features and stability would improve our operation. The trick is to migrate from 2003 to 2010, a seven-year change of software, with little or no impact on the users.  We’re not an enormous ministry with thousands of mailboxes but we have a good number of folks to keep happy.

The project also needed to be coordinated between continents so both servers were at the same level. With the assistance of my counterpart in the US we went to work. Step by step we exchanged one version for another and cautiously moved services from one computer to another. I exchanged my Exchange in Europe while my US colleague exchanged his Exchange in the USA. It takes time to set things up, test them out, and then move the data.

20161005_171232916_iosIt’s when we move the data that things get touchy. During the transition process a user has no access to their data. After the transition, most users are automatically directed to the new server while a few need a helping hand to change their settings. Most of the transition was done in the middle of the night, when I should’ve been sleeping, but some moves required daytime activation.

I had a touch of trepidation as we proceeded. The last thing I wanted was 100 plus people ringing my phone or Skyping me that something was wrong. With careful planning, step by step procedures, and tests along the way, things went quite well. There were a few quirks with the Public Folder migration. Occasionally a recalcitrant account or program setting reared its ugly head. But overall things went well. In the aftermath, it took time to iron out the last wrinkles which were sure to crop up as the system assumed regular service.

It appeared the newly exchanged Exchange was a better fit for our ministry and proved a good exchange. Now we can exchange email with the world seamlessly as well as several other nice features. I’ve exchanged my work on one Exchange server for a new set of tools on a new Exchange server.  Overall, it’s an excellent exchange.

I’m reminded of Paul’s words about exchanging one life for another, one law for another. We’ve been given a spirit of life which frees us from the spirit of sin and death. Just as the exchanged skivvies from Christmas fit better, the newly exchanged Exchange server fits our ministry better.

Now that I’ve exchanged Exchange for Exchange I need to learn the new tools and make use of them to be more effective in my ministry. In the same way, I need to concentrate on living in the spirit of life to be more faithful in my walk with God. I need to exchange my old habits for new.

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Bragging Rights

But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety towards their own family, and to repay their parents, for this is acceptable in the sight of God. (1 Timothy 5:4 WEB)

 

My work with computers has definitely impacted my life. Learning command lines, file formats, software and hardware were just the tip of the iceberg. Discovering things like bugs, crashes and the innate ability of a machine to make one rip roaring mad came with time. There’s a human quality in a computer. They usually do what you tell them but sometimes they take on a mind of their own. This reminds me of raising children.

 

Computers provided a number of excuses to fly to the USA for meetings, training and development. On these trips I often took an extra day or two to visit my mother in Tennessee. One summer other members of my family arrived at the same time. My brother and his wife were visiting from Asia. My other brother and his son were visiting from California. It was a mini family reunion. The only ones missing were my wife and children. They were back on Guam and missing all the family fun.

 

My brothers and I may be older and gray but we’re still boys. To demonstrate our maturity we’d sit about the living room and talk about life, love, and the meaning of the universe. We had all the answers, just ask us. Eventually the conversation would escalate to a competition.

 

I remember John stating, while changing the subject completely and starting the challenge, “I can bench press 200 pounds.” He glanced from chair to chair waiting for the rebuttal.

 

“Yeah, well I can build a notebook computer from tin foil and old plastic toys,” responded Steve calling on his technical background.

 

“Oh yeah,” countered John moving to the edge of his seat. “I can build a beam antenna from tinker toys and erector set parts.”

 

This banter continued back and forth for several minutes as I silently considered my entry into the fray. This was no simple battle of words. This was a life and death struggle for filial superiority. As my mind worked through a series of exaggerated boasts I considered how to end this verbal banter with a crushing blow.

 

I cleared my throat. My brothers paused and looked my direction. Here sat their little brother. Here was the poetry reading, music playing, baby of the family attempting to enter the holy ground of verbal one-up-pence. I paused, in a polite southern manner, made eye contact and launched my attack.

 

“I maintain thirty computers, two servers, two networks,” so far they were not impressed. “Living on a tropical island I can go to the beach any day of the year,” a slight nod of their heads but the barricades of pride weren’t breached. “And . . . I have four children, and . . . I am taller than either of you!” I turned to look toward our Mom, Grandmother, and proud ancestor of my brood.

 

No response, just a look in their eyes conceding to my taller stature and larger family. The victory was complete. Single handedly I conquered their claims with statements only a mother could appreciate. Since it was Mom’s house that was the winning blow. Four grandchildren, what more could she want.

 

In truth, there was another grandchild to grace our family in the years ahead. However, at that time I was at the head of the pack. The battle won even if only temporary, the victory assured for the moment, it was time to move on to more important things, food!

 

Mom’s house was small and the kitchen was the favorite meeting place. My Filipina sister in law made great lumpia my favorite Asian delicacy. To sit, eat and discuss family life is one of the great pleasures of being in a parent’s home.

 

Fixing faucets, shutters, and trimming trees are a delight when we have the chance to be home and helpful to Mom once more. Since we’re spread across the globe this doesn’t happen often but we enjoy every chance to get together, boast, share and laugh with one another and see who gets the upper hand.

 

I’m reminded of the banquet table set in Heaven. Think about it. An eternal chance to sit, laugh, share, boast, (well maybe not in Heaven), and fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

We can make our claims and our accomplishments in the world known and then smile as we counter each other’s claims. Then, from his seat at the table, the Lord will clear his throat. We’ll all turn to watch and wait. After a short pause, a good southern tradition, he’ll make one statement.

“I gave my life as your ransom, for you.”

We’ll remain silent.

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Spirit Led

You didn’t choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16 WEB)

As I grow older I see more and more change. I have the sneaking suspicion I was less observant as a young man. Still, while growing up my Father was excellent at teaching me to observe things. Not just big things that you can’t miss but the small, almost insignificant, changes.

Teaching me this was very important for working in a technical field. When it comes to troubleshooting problems, accuracy involves noticing small changes and then discovering why. There is a mystical gift for good troubleshooting. My father taught me how to use the gift.

Over the years I worked with many engineers and technicians. Some were excellent at noticing the small things. Hearing the slight change in pitch from a blower, catching a scent of ozone from some failed part or noticing the tell tale wisp of smoke escaping a component were second nature. Others couldn’t find the problem when the transmitter was in flames before their eyes.

Following the Holy Spirit’s lead is much like troubleshooting. Sometimes the direction is obvious. At other times it’s noticing the small changes in life, family, work, prayer time, and studying God’s word that tweak our heart to change. We each have a gift to recognize this prompting. Responding to God’s call for change is important in our Christian walk.

Calling us to the mission field was a major undertaking for God. I am rather thick headed at times and can easily choose to ignore the signs and wonders which are so obvious. Still, once we were called, we knew it and responded to that call.

A calling it is. I emphasize the calling because it was not the choice I, nor Beth, would have made. As a matter of fact mission work was far from our thoughts and not part of our plan as a newlywed couple. And yet God prepared the way during my schooling and through the friends Beth established in Wilmore.

Reading missionary biographies, being introduced to furloughing missionaries, and being burdened for the lost were just some of the methods God used to put our feet on the right path. Because God did the calling, because God did the directing, because it was God’s direction and not ours we see things with a different perspective than some.

Granted, there are many missionaries who understand what is involved in being called by God. Others, including some missionaries on the field and some full time Christian workers, don’t appear to have a clue. It appears illogical, from a human standpoint, to work outside our training.

When our work is a calling we can either obey or run. This is like Jonah and the whale. If we choose to run, there is no place we can escape God’s hand or voice. If we obey, we may not immediately know the results but can trust God to accomplish his purposes.

Hearing requires listening, obedience requires following. The problems for us can begin when God’s calling is not to do what we feel we are trained or prepared to do! We use logic to try and avoid or ignore God’s call in our lives. “Surely the Lord will want me to use my training and education to serve him,” we say when God’s leading doesn’t fit in our earthly plans.

According to Beth’s training and education she is a physical therapist. According to my education and training I am a theologian and an engineer. When we arrived on Guam they didn’t need a physical therapist or a theologian. They needed a secretary and a ditch digger. While this was not our training, God used these jobs to teach us to trust in Him. It was not a question of using our skills. It was a question of obedience to God’s calling.

Through the years we haven’t always been so willing to follow when called to work outside our skills and training. Still, God used us in areas we never expected. In each case God provided the skills, understanding, and abilities to accomplish his task.

As I listen to people clamor about their rights, their need to use their training and skills, I am concerned. The concept of a calling appears to have faded. I think many of God’s prophets were working outside of their training and abilities. They were willing, sometimes through divine encouragement, to obey God’s calling regardless of the task ahead. What are we willing to do?

Are we guided by the Spirit or are we guiding the Spirit? Cleaning toilets, mopping floors, digging ditches for water pipes are not the normal activities for theologians, technicians or physical therapists. But God can and will work through us in these, and other areas outside our expertise, when we are willing to heed the calling and obey. I pray the Lord will remind me of this next time I kick against the calling because of my own selfish desires. I pray He’ll remind me and I’ll listen and obey.

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Flying First Class

like the dew of Hermon, that comes down on the hills of Zion: for there Yahweh gives the blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalms 133:3 WEB)

For years we lived in the Pacific and travel always involved a lot of airline miles. After a couple years of bouncing back and forth between the US and Guam I had a large number of unused miles saved in my airline account. For years I felt the airline miles packages were a scam, until I had a massive number waiting to be used.

One spring I was again scheduled to travel from Guam to North Carolina and back. I must admit, I’m not a lover of airline travel. The seats are too small with the headrests constantly pressing against my shoulders and providing no rest. Sitting in the shape of a pretzel for twenty hours is not my idea of fun.

With the trip pending I pulled out my air miles report and made some calculations. If I pooled my miles with the other family miles I could fly first class! I’m not talking the mediocre business class but right up front, glass dishes and all, first class.

I went to the airline office, handed them the tickets and they upgraded my cattle car, shoe horn seats for the luxury of first class. I wasn’t sure what to expect but figured it had to be better than riding in the back mooing for dinner.

The travel date arrived and I boarded the plane, ahead of everyone else! The flight attendant’s manners were spectacular, pleasant and helpful. I didn’t have to wait for takeoff to enjoy a refreshing drink or a snack. They were just waiting for me to climb aboard and indulge.

To compare the seats in first class with economy would be difficult. Cattle car contains benches with arm rests to separate the stalls. First class has cushions, foot rests, headrests (which actually reach your head) and sufficient lateral space to wiggle until you are comfortable. Thirsty? Drinks are available any time during the flight. Hungry? You have a choice of several meals served with real dishes and glass glasses.

I landed in Japan and was personally greeted by the sunny smile of an airline worker. Apparently I was the only one in First Class and the others were subject to the lesser honor of business class. Nobody greeted the business class passengers. They were on their own.

I was escorted around the crowds, through special walkways to a waiting area just for first class. There was more room for the dozen or so first class passengers than the hundreds of cattle rustling against one another two flights up. Food and drink were available and part of the package. No announcements were necessary. When it was time to board, ahead of everyone else of course, the staff tapped lightly on my shoulder and escorted me to the plane.

This treatment continued for most of the four flights to North Carolina and back. When the domestic planes were too small for a real first class cabin the service was reduced to drinks, food and smaller seats. At least I could still board and exit ahead of the stampede.

I have never again flown first class. The strange thing about upgrading was you got extra mileage flying first class. Thus I recovered my mileage in the one trip plus some.

Later I used the mileage to move up to business class and gave up unused mileage when I left the Pacific and participating airlines. One year Beth and I took Ellice to visit Thailand using mileage. It was our high school graduation gift to her, a once in a lifetime treat.

Computers put me on more air flights than I imagined. There were chances to see my brothers and visit my mother while in the USA. In the midst of their frustration computers provided little gems of enjoyment and benefit. Attending training and global IT meetings in the US racked up plenty of mileage.

When the Lord puts us in a ministry we didn’t expect we sometimes wonder what He is doing. There are frustrations which threaten what sanity we have left. Then He reminds us it is His work and not ours. He is in control and knows what we can and cannot do. When we are faithful to press forward God reminds us again with little gems of enjoyment and benefit.

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