Homeschool Domination, or, I'm Not As Socially Awkward As I Thought

I like this infographic. It speaks to me.

Homeschool Domination Infographic by College At Home
Homeschool Domination, or, I'm Not As Socially Awkward As I Thought

Sacrifice For The Good Of Mankind!, or, Paper Is Easy, Brains Are Better

I’ve decided to give up two personal conveniences for the good of others and the betterment of myself. Both of these conveniences have to do with my public work during Sunday gatherings at church.

I’m giving up capo’d chord charts.

When I lead music from the guitar, I often use a capo. It allows a guitar player to use the most appropriate and best sounding voicings (or chord shapes) in the best keys for congregational singing. There are several problems with this though. First, no one else in the band plays with a capo. My chord sheets says “G” but everyone else’s says “B.” That makes it more challenging for me to communicate. I have to transpose as I speak to my team, which, for some reason, doesn’t always work right. Secondly, I have on more than one occasion placed my capo on the wrong fret of my guitar. I then played all the right chord shapes in the wrong key. Again, the rest of the band doesn’t have this and consequently has no idea where I am and cannot play with me. As a solution, I have decided to just memorize the shapes in each capo’d position and play with charts that are labeled for the absolute key.

What this allows me to do is both communicate with the band easily (because we are reading the same chart) and increase my ability to play the correct chords wherever I am capo’d without having to rely on the transposed chart. They can understand me, I become a better player.

I’m giving up sermon notes. 

I am taking a preaching class this semester and in one of the textbooks the author strongly encourages his readers to get rid of sermon notes. He does not advocate memorizing the sermon, but simply memorizing the outline. I usually preach with an outline about a page and a half long. I was given the opportunity to open up Kroc Church’s study of the book of Galatians and got to preach for the last two weeks through chapter 1. I did not use notes either time. It was a lot of fun.

This practice has done two things for we so far. First, it allows me to keep better eye contact with the congregation while I am preaching. I have noticed an immediate difference in my ability to read the congregation. Secondly, it forces me to write a simple outline. If I’m going to memorize it, it can’t be 8 points with 3 subpoints each. It has to be simple. Hopefully a simple outline is easier to communicate to the congregation.

So there you have it. Two ways I’m trying to become better at what I do. Hopefully these steps won’t come back to bite me one day in a horrible wrong key/forgotten outline mishap. Perish the thought.

Sacrifice For The Good Of Mankind!, or, Paper Is Easy, Brains Are Better

My Faith Is Not Important Enough To Concern You With, or, True > Happy

The Oatmeal recently published a comic called “How To Suck At Your Religion.” (warning, offensive language) There are a lot of things that I would take issue with in it and several points that he makes that I would agree with. There are a lot of caricatures of religious ideas, particularly Christian ones, that are unfair critiques. I have one big issue with his conclusion though, and it’s an issue that I find increasingly common. He says,

Does your religion inspire you to help people? Does it make you happier? Does it help you cope with the fact that you are a bag of meat sitting on a rock in outer space and that some day you will die and you are completely powerless, helpless and insignificant in the wake of this beautiful cosmic ****storm we call existence? Does it help with that? Yes? Excellent! Carry on with your religion!*

*Just keep it too your ******** self.

I think that’s totally lame. What I take from that paragraph is that religious/faith based/metaphysical/philosophical aspects of my worldview are only as good as they make me feel and help me to cope. If they do that, then they are great (but not worth sharing). If they don’t, then they aren’t. On top of that, they are completely subjective (see his comparison to a child’s favorite color).

Now, I understand that he holds that view. From following his work, I would guess he’s at least somewhat of a secularist/naturalist/materialist. My problem is that the view that my religious beliefs are just subjective preference, like my favorite ice cream, is incredibly hard for me to find valuable.

I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is who the Bible says that he is. I believe He is the Son of God and that after being brutally murdered in the early 1st century AD he physically rose from the dead 3 days later. There is good, historical, forensic science based evidence for this. I also believe that I have encountered Him, alive, not physically, but spiritually. He has changed my life. If I didn’t believe in this objective reality, I wouldn’t be a Christian. I would stop being a Christian. I’m a Christian because I know with reasonable certainty what happened in the past and I know what I have experienced.

No one else has to believe that, but it seems that the Oatmeal’s position is just a polite way of saying “you go ahead and be crazy, just don’t bother me with it.” If not arrogant, that’s just poorly thought out as far as an argument goes. Anyone that boils faith claims down to subjective self-help maxims isn’t taking faith seriously. Either you don’t think your worldview is faith based (it is) or you don’t care enough about reality outside of your daily rhythms and routines to formulate a coherent philosophy of life (you should).

Religious claims are a big deal. They are a big deal for the Christian, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Atheist/Agnostic and every other adherent of every other belief system in the world. Refute them, argue for the superiority of yours, demonstrate how your worldview best represents reality, but don’t dismiss them. That’s not reasonable.

Now I know the Oatmeal is a cartoonist, and his medium is limited. If I had to guess I would guess that I would thoroughly enjoy a cup of coffee with him. But this cartoon represents an idea that is pervasive among the non-religious and the mildly-religious: what you believe doesn’t really matter as long as it makes you happy and you don’t “bother” anyone else with it.

What you believe about the world really does matter. What matters most about it is whether or not its true. Believe what you believe because its true, not because it makes you happy. Take the time and do the work to figure out what’s true. Just don’t kill people. He got that part right.


My Faith Is Not Important Enough To Concern You With, or, True > Happy

Books That Sound Like Fun But Aren't, or, Jack and Annie Are Doomed

Today my daughter bought her first kindle books. She got a kindle for her birthday and she has been reading a few things that were on Jo’s kindle and could be transferred. Today though, she bought books. 3 books. What books? Let me tell you.

  1. The Gingerbread House (Volume 1) by Carin Gerhardsen. “In a short space of time, several bestial murders occur in central Stockholm. When criminal investigator Conny Sjöberg and the Hammarby police begin to suspect that there’s a link between the murders, Sjöberg goes completely cold. There is a killer out there whose motives are very personal, and who will not be deterred. The Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen is the first in the Hammarby series, thrillers with taut, suspenseful plots and unexpected twists and turns. This haunting novel explores schoolyard bullying among young children and the effect it has on them when people look the other way. Many of the scenes in this book are self-experienced and based on Gerhardsen’s own childhood. Urban settings and strong portraits of authentic characters are crafted in depth and detail, insuring the books will linger in the reader’s mind long after the finish. The Gingerbread House is written in the same tradition as the Sjöwall / Wahlöö crime novels, and has been described as a book version of the tv series The Wire. It is not only published by the same publisher as Stieg Larsson’s The Millennium Trilogy, but by the same editorial team.”
    Lawrence Krauss’s provocative answers to these and other timeless questions in a wildly popular lecture now on YouTube have attracted almost a million viewers. The last of these questions in particular has been at the center of religious and philosophical debates about the existence of God, and it’s the supposed counterargument to anyone who questions the need for God. As Krauss argues, scientists have, however, historically focused on other, more pressing issues—such as figuring out how the universe actually functions, which can ultimately help us to improve the quality of our lives.
  3. Magic Tree House #1: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne “Jack and Annie’s very first fantasy adventure in the bestselling middle-grade series—the Magic Tree House!Where did the tree house come from?

    Before Jack and Annie can find out, the mysterious tree house whisks them to the prehistoric past. Now they have to figure out how to get home. Can they do it before dark . . . or will they become a dinosaur’s dinner?”

Unfortunately we can’t undo the purchase of the first two books, but we did remove them from her kindle and will make sure to keep track of her a little better while she reads.

Books That Sound Like Fun But Aren't, or, Jack and Annie Are Doomed

Statistics, or, You're Pregnant? I'll Count You Twice

I grew up in a non-denominational hippie church. Actually, it was a church plant that came out of a hippie non-denomination. What is a non-denomination? That’s for another post. Anyway, my pastor’s mantra was “teach the Bible.” He was good at it too. He still is. I learned a ton and my faith was really formed through the years I spent there. Because of its ties to the hippie non-denomination though, record keeping, and specifically statistics were never really a big deal. In fact, I walked away with the perspective (whether it was taught or not) that focusing on “nickels and noses” was a bad practice to be in. I’ve come to realize that it definitely can be, but how many people you have and what they do with their money can also be a valuable metric for evaluating the health of a church.

Then we have The Salvation Army. 124 countries (last time I checked), 4 US territories, 10 western divisions, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Statistics are important. Why? Because if you work at territorial headquarters in Long Beach, California and I work at the Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, there is no reliable way for you to judge how well I am stewarding the Army’s resources in my local context without some kind of standardized measurement system that we both understand and agree on. Sure, the leaders at the territorial and divisional levels come check on us from time to time, but it’s hard to get a good picture of what’s going on from a visit.

So statistics. I find statistics challenging in two ways. Funny thing is, one way is due to my humility and the other way is due to my pride. First off, I find it hard to quantify the work we do. Not because we don’t do quantifiable work, but because we do it all the time. For instance, one of the general categories of statistic that the territory wants is “people assisted.” Well, we do that all day long, every day. The couple hundred of us that work at the Kroc Center are all about assisting people. It’s who we are and it’s the culture we have created. That makes it hard to quantify.

Lest I come across too holy and benign though, the second reason I have trouble with stats is that I want to look good. I am always tempted to find ways to make numbers appear greater than they are. Mr. Jones says he really liked the sermon on Sunday? What he probably meant was that he repented from his sins and decided to follow Jesus. A new salvation! That’s a stat.

In all honesty though, I’ve never done that. But I’ve thought about it. The sick, twisted, Jesus-is-killing-day-by-day part of me that is my flesh has thought about manipulating stories of the saving work of Christ for personal and organizational pride. I would be surprised if I couldn’t find others like me.

So when it is time to report stats, I try and ask myself two things:

  1. What are all the things we did? Who are all the people we served?
  2. Did we really do all those things? Did we really serve all those people?

Hopefully, by asking myself those questions, the statistics I keep are an accurate representation of the ministry that goes on at our corps and in our Kroc Center. I think we lean more towards the “I forget all the things that we do and our stats are a poor reflection of our ministry because we leave stuff out” rather than the “I inflate the ministry we do in order to look good,” but this year I want to redouble my effort to collect accurate stats. Not so we can feel good about ourselves, but so that brothers and sisters around the country can rejoice with us in the work that God is doing in Coeur d’Alene.

Statistics, or, You're Pregnant? I'll Count You Twice

This Is For Jamie B., or, I'm Running On A Double Pay For Lifeguards Platform

The Kroc Center is hiring a new business director. Our current business director is moving on to become an officer in The Salvation Army. (Congrats Elaine!)

The whole process is very formal and business-like, but I have been told that there are several candidates (all current employees in other positions) and that interviews with a crack team of interviewing professionals and directors will be held next week. That’s great. The office is all abuzz with who the candidates are and other miscellaneous gossip.

It got me thinking though, what if upper level positions at work were elected instead of appointed? What if the candidates for business director had to campaign, and the rest of the staff got to vote? A friend mentioned that this idea should be a blog post, so, the following list contains several possible circumstances that would occur:

  1. There are more employees in the Aquatics department than any other. They are a powerful voting block, yet most high level candidates are likely completely out of touch with the average lifeguard and their needs. I assume this is a perfect storm for pandering and hollow promises designed to get the votes of lifeguards.
  2. The marketing department is one of the smallest in the building, but the one who wins the favor of the marketing department automatically gets great signage. The marketing director also has veto power on anything that gets hung up throughout the building. I’m not sure she has power in the break room, but she could definitely prevent candidates that she didn’t support from having signage throughout the rest of the building.
  3. Our audio/video team, much like the marketing department controls much in the way of media. A candidate backed by both constituencies puts forward a powerful campaign.
  4. Politicians are all about kissing babies. That makes the Child Watch Department a good asset and worth pleasing.
  5. I work for the ministry department. We are about 20 strong, but we have easy access to 80 volunteers. For this reason, ministry is a heavy hitter. We are also arguably the most fun department. For an exercise that’s likely to degenerate into a High School popularity contest, fun is a huge benefit for your campaign.
  6. One positive effect of this would be the necessity to let the lower echelons into some of the more important policy decisions in our somewhat large organization. While it’s not reasonable to have everyone making important decisions, it would be necessary for candidates to explain business processes and policy decisions to their constituencies if they wanted to continue in their offices over time. I think this would be a good thing.

So, there it is. Likely outcomes from switching to a democratic hiring system. I’m guessing it’s too ahead of its time to be taken seriously. Oh well.

This Is For Jamie B., or, I'm Running On A Double Pay For Lifeguards Platform

Happy Birthday Charis, or, 2 For 1 Sale on Cake

Six years ago, around this time (actually it was quite a bit earlier in the morning) I was waking up after sleeping on a barely sleepable hospital window seat, with a daughter. She was laying in something not unlike half an aquarium, with a blanket on the bottom, next to the real bed that my wife was sleeping in. After some business with the hospital, we go to take her home.

Charis' Birthday Cake
This is Charis’ cake. It had strawberries and unspeakable joy inside.

Charis turned 6 yesterday. We had a fun little party. There was amazing cake. It both looked and tasted amazing thanks to my wife’s friend Jeanna, who bakes cakes for a living. It was bluish outer space colored, with an edible space shuttle and variously sized cake pops representing the planets on sticks on the top. The cake pops were so realistic that when Charis corrected me for saying that she had eaten Earth when she had really eaten Neptune, I had to concede. Earth had green continents on it, while Neptune was just blue and cloudy.

Charis’ grandparents and great-grandmother came over for dinner. I BBQ’d shish kabobs. They were nice. Then there were presents. She got a kindle, a sweet new doll, and a set of 7 harmonicas in a carrying case. Jo and I bought her the harmonicas because she has one in the key of C, but when I am playing the piano or guitar in a different key, it sounds awful. Her playing is actually pretty good, but if the song isn’t in C, it doesn’t work. Now she has a harmonica for every common key. That’s the kind of thing that makes us good parents.

Joanna spent the night before Charis’ birthday at the hospital. Her sister was in labor. As it turns out, Charis’ best” present is that now her new cousin Evie will share a birthday with her. I’m giving that two years before she decides it was a lame gift. Of course, it will take Evie a couple extra years to realize that sharing a birthday with her close cousin is also almost as bad as being born on Christmas, but she will figure it out eventually. Fortunately, all us parents will be able to save money on cake.

Happy Birthday Charis, or, 2 For 1 Sale on Cake