Tag Archives: IT

The Massive Meatball Massacre of 2015

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow let’s go into this city, and spend a year there, trade, and make a profit.” Whereas you don’t know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? For you are a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. (James 4:13-14 WEB)

I like Christmas parties. They usually are festive, fun and have lots of tasty food available. When it comes to departmental work holiday celebrations it’s one of those chances to see a colleague’s family and enjoy some fellowship not related to a work project. The IT department often held an evening of celebration with food, fun and an expression of thanks from our supervisor. Many times, the gathering was in the supervisor’s home.

It’s an interesting prospect when spending time in your boss’s home. You get a glimpse of their private life. You learn something of the things they enjoy not related to the ministry. Looking at family pictures, on the wall or in frames, can be fun and at times the source of some interesting stories. Checking out their books gives insights into their penchant for fiction or nonfiction and in the case of ministry their favorite theologians and preachers. Then there is the quick perusal of the music library, assuming they still have CDs or records and haven’t gone entirely digital, these things tell you a lot about your hosts and what decade impacted them the most.

2005_11_Thanksgiving_136A few years ago, we attended the IT Department Christmas Party at our boss’s home. It was a wonderful time. We laughed, we ate, we were entertained by one another. The children present provided an additional layer of fun and excitement as we chatted or played with available toys. Our boss read his annual poem about each one of the department and their unique skills expressed in a unique and humorous way. When the evening was winding down Beth and I packed the car.

We brought meatballs to the party in a crock pot. This made things easy to heat up for the evening. There weren’t many left in the pot by the time we departed. I carefully placed the cock pot in the trunk surrounded by a few items. It was almost empty so the center of gravity was low on the device. Things looked good, we were bundled in our winter coats and headed out of the neighborhood.

Pulling out onto the main road can sometimes be tricky. There is a lot of traffic even at night in December. After waiting and appropriate amount of time for the stream of cars to whisk by I saw my chance and pulled across the road turning left toward home. Perhaps I accelerated a little faster than I anticipated. As we completed the arc to enter the lane we heard a tell-tale thump from the rear of the car. Oh no! At the first chance, I pulled into a side road on the right and stopped the car.

Cautiously I moved to the back of the car and opened the trunk lid. I couldn’t see a thing. Of course not! It was dark outside and there’s no light in the trunk. I pulled out my cell phone and clicked on the flashlight. That’s when I saw the carnage. There were meatballs everywhere covered in the requisite red sauce. The remnants of unconsumed sauce were oozing out of the pot across the trunk. Some meatballs were intact, having rolled clear of the pot, while others apparently were trapped with other trunk objects and smashed or sliced into meatball oblivion. It was not a pretty site. I up righted the pot and corralled the wayward contents as best I could back to its still hot embrace. It would be a long time, with lots of cleaning, before the trunk would be restored to a non-Italian food condition.

As Christians, we sometimes put things away carefully hoping they’ll make the trip through the rest of our life. But then there’s an unexpected turn in life and things start rattling around and making a mess. We corral the pieces we can reach in a futile attempt to put them back where we had them. They never seem to fit back in their original packing.

I’m glad God doesn’t have this problem. He knows where everything fits and how to keep it in place in our life. If I can remember he’s the one in control, then I can put all the pieces in his hand. Once he has packed them where they belong, they stay put. I think that is a better way.


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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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The Reality of the Routine

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV)

I was a missionary living outside my homeland for many years. I was there because I knew God called me to use the skills He provided to bring His word of salvation to the world. It was that simple. What wasn’t simple was filtering through the mental pictures and ideas people have about missionary life.

While missionary work began with the Apostles, who left their homes to share the Gospel in foreign lands, the modern Protestant missionary movement is relatively young. In the last hundred years, the publications of the lives of modern missionaries have fascinated, encourage, called and otherwise thrilled the church. From this many have built up the idea that “true” missionaries are pounding through sweaty jungles, Bibles in hand, pith helmet donning their furrowed brow, wagging their fingers at the heathen while pleading for them to accept the grace of God. I love these books and have read many. However, these only described the lives of a handful of faithful servants. What about the rest?

I’m one of the rest. I’ve had some interesting adventures for sure, but for the most part, my life was and is routine. I should clarify that by saying my ministry life is, for the most part, very routine. What makes it routine you ask? Let me describe most of what I’ve done and currently do.

Visiting transmitting site in FranceFor years, I’ve work in the technical side of things. I was a radio engineer when I joined this ministry and have worked with transmitters, antennas, studios, and a host of other electronic stuff throughout the years. At one point I was given a computer. I figured out how it worked. I learned how to program it. Now I administer computers systems, networks and all that modern high-tech stuff.  Most of my days are spent tweaking, upgrading, installing and keeping our network secure, up and running.

Don’t get me wrong, this is very important for the ministry. Without a stable and efficient computer network our ministry would grind to a halt. All our ministry programs go through the computer network to reach someone’s home with the Gospel message. What was once a nice tool for tracking spare parts inventory has become the corner stone of our ministry. If it is laid out and working correct God’s message reaches people. If it is askew, things go wrong. I try to keep things from going askew.

This is the routine. No pith helmet, although I once saw one with a solar fan on the front which looked great while living in the tropics. No slogging through mosquito infested jungles to find half-naked heathens in need of redemption. Most days I do my work from a desk using a keyboard, mouse and lots of thinking. Even work for offices in other countries is routinely done from my little office.

Am I reaching the world with the Gospel message? For sure! But the tools and methods have changed over the years. The underlying work to keep things going constantly changes. Even the missionary trudging through the jungle needed time spent on the basic needs of life. In the same way, I’m providing the tools and roadway (technological of course) for the same message to reach places closed to the missionary in a pith helmet.

Am I a missionary? Without doubt I’ve departed my homeland, been separated from family, friends, grandchildren and my mother tongue. I’ve lived solely on the grace and provision of God through His people. I have been “sent” by God to live elsewhere to accomplish His purposes.  But, the day to day work I do is . . . to put it bluntly . . . routine.

The father of our mission’s founder wrote a great pamphlet entitled, “The Glory of the Grey.” I love that thought. That’s right where I work and live. Unfortunately, many people, including churches, don’t understand this concept. Unless a “missionary” is establishing churches, or running evangelistic crusades, or hacking back the palm trees with their machete, they are not real missionaries. Sorry folks, perhaps a little change of perspective is necessary.

Is the church secretary not doing ministry because she isn’t preaching, just typing sermon notes and keeping the church updated? Is the janitor not doing ministry because he isn’t leading the youth group, just keeping the building fit for meetings and worship? Is the business man who attends your church faithfully not doing ministry because he doesn’t head the elder board, just supporting the church and demonstrating Christ in his business? Is the missionary not a missionary because he isn’t standing in a pulpit or preaching on a street corner, just keeping the message flowing and the ministry connected? These are all rhetorical questions in case you didn’t catch that. The answer to these should be no.

The reality of life is that most of life is routine, including the work done by missionaries. Once we accept this, and stop thinking everyone needs some new adventure, like the latest and greatest TV show or movie, then life becomes easier. Once Christians discover God wants us to minister by reflecting his Grace in our day to day activities, walking faithfully becomes easier. We can breathe a sigh of relief. If Christians would live their lives rejoicing in this truth it would be a great witness to the world.  Once we discover this for ourselves we can recognize it in others, the secretary, the businessman, the janitor or the missionary.


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