Tag Archives: Programming

Digital Selection

Sometimes I feel young at heart even though I’m getting older. When it comes to modern technology I usually feel ancient. Although working with modern computer systems and knowing more about the systems than most people I meet I’m still like a dinosaur when it comes to using these devices in the modern social media inundated digital age. I’m into Facebook (to keep tabs on my children and grandchildren), email (a dinosaur), texting (formerly SMS), cloud storage, and a host of modern technological marvels which attempt to improve my life. I think I’ve got it figured out until I start interacting with the next generation’s immersive lifestyle of technology.

My wife coined a great phrase, “Digital Selection.” It started when some young upstart commented that finding such and such on the ministry’s home page was simple and intuitive. It was then we decided their definition of simple and intuitive was different than ours. I figured with my extensive background in computers, web page design, and the like, I could find what we were looking for. No success. I’ve become a victim of Digital Selection.

What is Digital Selection you might ask? It isn’t using a search engine to find the cheapest price for a new tablet or notebook or to decide the proper resolution for your new high definition television. It’s when the ability to easily wade through modern technology to the desired destination is hampered by an aging understanding of how things work in the digital world. We’ve been Digitally Selected to be out of touch with the younger generation. Beth says, “They’re going to put us on an iceberg and float us out to sea.”

Originally electronics and computers were purely logical. That I can understand. Unfortunately, with the proliferation of social media infecting the mental growth and processes of the next generation what used to follow rules has been reprogrammed to follow the circuitous pathway of the younger mind in a media saturated generation. Pure computer logic has given way to what can appear as random chaos similar to a planned life-giving way to going with the flow. In my mind, the algorithm of the program isn’t easily discovered, almost like the perfect security cypher.

For those raised in such an environment it makes perfect sense. All the pieces fit together smoothly in their concept of the digital age. Unfortunately, it leaves the older generation confused trying to put the square pegs into the round holes. Sometimes we just don’t see the connection. We are therefore Digital Selected to be relegated to the outer circle of fellowship and communication. While I poke fun at this the centuries have demonstrated the division of one generation from another almost proportionally related to the advancement in technology.

When I was young the use of electric guitars, electronic pianos and electronic organs started insinuating themselves into the fabric of modern rock and roll music as well as creeping into bastion of the classic orchestra and even, gasp, into church music. This confused parents who were familiar with the smooth tones of classical wind and string instruments, pianos and pipe organs. It was a new sound and while some parents embraced the changes many of their generation relegated it to the deepest depths of degradation and evil. There’s was an error of Electronic Selection threatening to drive a wedge between two generations.

Other things have separated the ages. Changes in cultural beliefs and activities, the redirection of skills from rural to urban work spaces, and any technological advancement from the steam engine to the multicore processor have created segments of selection. Often the selective nature of these advances isn’t perceived as a change by the generation in which they develop but as the norm. The concept that the older generation might not comprehend this shift doesn’t seem to motivate the new generation to understand the change and work towards an effective stitching together of the two worlds. So, it falls on the ousted to decipher the recent technology and introduce it to their lives in a way which will once again connect them with the new generation.

Things move forward. I’m sure there is more ahead of me to learn than I dealt with in the past. I just hope I have the where-with-all to comprehend and make use of the advances which become so ingrained in our lives. I don’t want to be Digitally Selected forever. In the church, we must be careful not to Digitally Select (exclude) those interested in helping because we have some new high-tech sign up site which appeals to the young and confounds the less young.

As a Christian, I’m glad God doesn’t use a Digital Selection scale for eternity. I’m looking forward to simplifying things and reducing my digital footprint. I figure if I’m in the presence of God I don’t think there’s a need for a Facebook status for Him to know what I’m doing. But for now, . . . I guess this is the season of the tablet, phablet, smartphone, social media and whatchamacallit and I better keep up with my skills to avoid Digital Selection.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 WEB)

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High Tech Invasion

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:10 WEB)
During deputation we were thrilled to use some high tech tools. A carousel projector for slides, a cassette player for audio, and foam boards for pictures about the ministry were regular parts of sharing the ministry. We were at the cutting edge of missionary presentations . . . at least for the 1980s.
Arriving on the mission field I used our portable typewriter to maintain communications with family, friends, and supporters in the USA. Postal mail was slow but it worked great. Evenings were regularly set aside and I would take over the dining room table. I’d place the typewriter on the table surrounded by paper, envelopes and a list of addresses. Photos were reduced to verbal descriptions as we shared our ministry. Purchasing multiple prints was too expensive.
There is a great feeling of achievement writing a letter by hand and sharing our thoughts and God’s work with others. The handwriting portion didn’t work well for me. My handwriting is awful. Occasionally I write a note to myself which I puzzle over for days to remember what it says. I kept a journal at times and find it difficult to read as I go back through the pages. The typewriter was my salvation, on the human writing a letter level, not the spiritual level.
Typewriters, unfortunately, soon became yesterday’s technology in the USA and even on the mission field. In the early 1980s the personal computer began its invasion of the office and eventually the home. Our first computer was sent as a gift from a supporter in the USA. The Heathkit H- 89 was a monster by today’s standards and a marvel in its day. With 16 Megabytes of memory, 90 kilobyte hard sectored single-sided floppies and a built in monitor it was a self-contained miracle. If there was a hardware problem I could find the individual chip and replace it.
After receiving this modern device I wrote a letter to our friend in thanks. Several months later he sent a letter asking if it was received. I replied again the computer was received and living well on my desk at home. A year later my original letter was received in their home. This was a clear sign from God something was changing our method of communication. On the other hand, it might be a clear sign from the post office that letters do occasionally get lost.
Curiosity about computers took over and I delved into the inner workings of the hardware, software and anywhere I could work on the computer. I wrote inventory software, worked with electronically generated operational manuals (previously a laborious job to keep up to date) and developed an excellent word processor for the Atari computer, written in machine language, which eventually entered our home. In short I soon became the most knowledgeable computer user on Guam. At least, in our staff.
Knowledge can be a dangerous thing. With limited personnel when you become an expert in one area you become the expert for the field. Within a couple of years I was suddenly the person to call for computer problems in the mission and the missionary homes. This time saving device began to eat up the extra time I thought I had.
Learning to use the computer was a great benefit to our family. Prayer letters were more colorful with better spelling. Photos eventually made their way into regular letters. We developed a family website. Email replaced many letters and brought the world, family and friends to my keyboard in seconds instead of weeks.
In the years that followed I became immersed in computer technology. Becoming a System Administrator and software programmer my computer skills expanded beyond our field on Guam to include other Asian offices and the home office in the USA. Special training at IBM headquarters put me in a position to help the mission deploy a new set of computing tools worldwide. (AIX Unix for those interested.)
This time saving device now consumed all my time and ministry within the mission and often at our local church and the homes of friends and acquaintances. One day I received a call from the US Customs office on Guam. They had a computer problem and were looking for an answer. When I asked whether I could see the computer to determine the problem I was informed it was classified. They wanted an answer by some miracle of intuition. I declined their call and have been declining other intuitive requests for assistance ever since.
Computers are a way of life now and I recommend every missionary have a computer with email access. There are aspects of the device which are beneficial to the ministry and aspects which are detrimental. At times its demands control us and other times we control it.
The many trees killed thanks to cheap printers can’t be good for the world. Our own nerves are often put on edge as we try to keep pace with the faster and faster computing power of the machine God allowed us to create. Once we took our time to write a letter, consider our words, and communicate with each other. Now we type quickly, hit the spell check button, and whisk our immediate thoughts around the world.
So many areas of life are like a computer. Given carefully attention they can be helpful and beneficial to our walk with God. Time in reading, music, fellowship and church are great for building our understanding of God’s work as it applies to our lives. Too much time reading, in music, in fellowship and even at church can have the inverse effect. There are extremes and excesses which can move a good activity into a harmful arena of life.
We must be careful, listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and approach the tools and ministries of life with wisdom and careful moderation. As I sit in front of the computer, writing these memories, I too need to “be still” and know that He is God!

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A Rose By Any Other Name

His name endures forever. His name continues as long as the sun. Men shall be blessed by him. All nations will call him blessed. (Psalms 72:17 WEB)

William Shakespeare was a brilliant wordsmith. If we accept all his credited writings as demonstration of his abilities, then his command of the English language was beyond compare. Fortunately for William he was working in his native tongue writing to reach people in his native land.

In radio ministry we often take programs from one language, translate them to another language and send them thousands of miles through the air. God works miracles in people’s lives through these programs. Souls are saved. Believers are encouraged, believers edified and churches receive resources for ministry. Pastors are trained as programs come into their home with personal relevant instructions.

I never translate the programs myself. I only hear about the difficulties some of our program producers have while tuning the sermons to fit a culture different from the original speaker. Program lengths must be modified to provide culturally sensitive and culturally relevant examples, understood by the listener, or explanations to further illuminate a biblical point. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

Many times our listeners search for English programs. In their desire to know God better, curiosity about the Gospel, or enjoyment of the music, they tune in and listen to English as their second, or third, or fourth language. Personally, I have difficulty understanding my native tongue much less a second, third or fourth language. As careful as the producers are there is always room for misinterpretation, or, just hearing it wrong.

Some of my favorite snippets of humor come from non-English listeners writing in English. Although we communicate with one another it’s evident English is not their native tongue. We have received letters addressed to programs such as “Throw the Bible” (Through the Bible), “Dropping Your God” (Dropping your Guard), and the “Wrestling Hour” (Wesleyan Hour). One gentleman sent us a question. He wanted to know “how to go through Chuck’s window to get inside for living” (Insight for Living by Chuck Swindoll). Another listener wrote to say he was “rolling around with the radio one day when he found our program.” Just picture him. . . on the floor, radio in hand, rolling back and forth while searching for a program.

Reading God’s word is sometimes like these misinterpretations of program names. Our minds and eyes read passages but our conscious translates it to something totally different from the written word. It takes careful study, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and sometimes the clear direction of a brother in Christ to straighten out our understanding. As I read or hear a listener’s response I chuckle over the minor but entertaining language difficulties, then, I consider what I read in my morning devotions to see if I clearly heard the Word of God.

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