Tuesday, October 31, 2006

State of the Onion - Clapping

OK, so things are different now... As I look back on past blog entries and think back on how I used to think and feel things just feel different, look different...ARE...different.

Different ME, same God.

I have come a long way and thank God for that. I have held on to his hand as he has guided me through landmines and fields full of sunflowers. Over the course of just a couple of years time (actually less) I have taken some gigantic steps in how I view a lot of things, I just want to talk about one of them today...actually just one part of one of them.

I love worshipping at our new Church, as I have mentioned before, I never look at my watch, I often get goosebumps, I usually walk out hoarse and I almost always feel better afterward than I did before. Some of the things I have had to "get used to" are (in no particular order):

  • A full band...actually much easier to do than I thought.
  • Crazy lights...still warming up to those, but no harm no foul.
  • Being distracted by people near my jumping up and down from excitement...that's one of those things that sometimes bothers me and sometimes does not.
  • Trying to figure out the fine line between "performance" and worship...it is a fine line and it's one of those things I'm still working on. It has a lot to do with the heart and since there is no "heart indicator light" on people it can be difficult to know where they are coming from (other times it's really easy - both ways).

However, there is one little thing...and let me make this clear, it is a little thing...that I don't think I'm going to get over for awhile...if ever.

The need people feel to "applaude" after every song. To me, it's almost like, "hey we did a great job with that song, let's give ourselves a hand!". The other thing I hear is "let's give God a hand!"

Let's deal with each of these one at a time, because, although I think they are closely related, they are not entirely the same. The thing where we interrupt a great worshipful moment by automatically applauding is just not doing it for me. I guess I just don't get it, if we go to great lengths to make sure everyone understands that our worship time is not "entertainment time" (although it CAN be fun!) why do we resort to clapping between each song as though it was performed beautifully? I mean we just got through telling God that he is an awesome God, that we love him, that he is everything to us and we said it through a beautiful song (the way he asked us to) and now we have to clap? I just don't get it. Can't the song just stand on it's own? For me, the clapping cheapens it.

The other thing about "let's give God a hand...", well I honestly, can't say there's anything wrong with that. It's just another way to praise God...it still feels a bit weird. I seems to me that newer Christians and visitors may not see the difference between the two since we seem to clap between all the songs, the part where the worship leader says "let's give God a hand..." gets lost in the shuffle. However, out of the two, this one has some "teeth"...

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.
How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!
Psalms 47:1,2

The thing that's hard for me is to stand there NOT clapping while everyone else does... That's MY problem...not theirs.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Another Lesson Learned part 2145b

I told my mother-in-law last night as I was walking away to head home, that "I want to learn something new on the day I die". All I mean by that is that I don't ever want to stop learning...continuous improvement. There is always something I can learn from someone, and if I stop and listen...really listen I can hear those things from all sorts of places.

Lesson 2145b:

"I have the ablilty to change my own mood...even when I am really mad, or really depressed."

Most of my life, I have relied on others to help my mood. As a human, it's not only reasonable that this would happen but sometimes necessary and other times good...other times bad. However, even when someone is really frustrating me I CAN CHOOSE to cast it off and focus on important things...even when my raging emotions are screaming NO!!! We want to be mad, we want that person to understand the pressure they are exerting, we want to be heard, we want justice! (OK, that's a bit extreme) But, you get the point.

I am learning a way to combat these emotions, it's primitive...it feels like I'm throwing rocks and sticks at them, but it's effective. Not unlike an outnumbered army that has one superior weapon...determination. We are going to win or we are going to die trying! When the larger foe gets lulled into a sense that they can win at will (because the ALWAYS have) then they have given the person on the other side of the battlefield a deadly weapon.

For me, it just means that I have to continually tell myself that I WILL act and feel the way that I want to...not the way that my raging hormones and my mouth want to. It takes persistence and more than one "battle", but it's possible and with God's help I can do it.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:3-6

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Phillippians 4:13

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Web Purism I

For those few of you that read this blog on any regular basis, I am about to tackle a subject that you probably won't care about. However, for me it's reached critical mass.

You may or may not know that I am, by trade, a web developer. My "specialty" is web applications; web sites that do things (not just look pretty). I have been working in IT since the mid 80's and building websites since about '94 or '95 when I built my first website using straight HTML and no web design software (just good 'ol notepad) for a Church. Since then I have done some really cool stuff that's displayed on a web browser. I really enjoy it, it is a great release of creativity and also pays the bills.

Over the course of the last 10 years, a lot has changed in how I work, what I use and what I can do. However, I want to address an ugly trend in the web world that is driving me crazy.

Back in the late 90's Microsoft won the browser wars by crushing Netscape like a bug. You may not like that it happened, but happen it did. You may think that Microsoft used it's leverage as the provider of the most popular Operating System on the planet to get this done, but it still happened. That is history.

I believe this was (is) a good thing. It "standardized" the world of web development and site display for quite a while. I have worked for a number of companies in the last 10 years and ALL of them mandate that not only their Intranet "browsers" (the employees, not the software) use Internet Explorer, but that any clients that want to use their mission critical applications use it also. No support for other browsers...period. If you call our support desk and we find out you are using another browser we just tell you to open the browser that came with your computer. In fact, they have all mandated that our clients use a minimum VERSION of IE (usually 5.5 or above).

Why would we do this? The reason is pretty simple. It's obvious and correct.

It costs too much to do otherwise.

Lately, I have read some really unrealistic people spout off on message boards that are telling newbie developers that they need to be developing their websites and web apps against FireFox or some other newer browser and when they are done go back and "kludge" it to work with IE. This is really ridiculous...actually ignorant. It comes from a "purist" attitude. The feeling among a small group of developers is that Mozilla-type browsers like FireFox are HTML standard compliant.

The truth is they are not...and even if they were...so what! The last time I checked, about 80%-90% of all hits on the web come from some version of IE. What purists don't think about are numbers...specifically numbers with $ signs in front of them. What they want you as business people that need websites and web developers is to pay a lot more to make sure that you can get to the roughly %15 of people out there that have installed one of these newer browsers on their computers.

What a joke! If I went to the business units that I work for and told them I wanted to do that they would laugh at me and I would lose credibility. Yes, cross-browser compatibility may be neat, but IT IS NOT NECESSARY. Every Windows computer that hits your site STILL HAS Internet Explorer INSTALLED ON IT. If it doesn't work with "Joe-Bob's Browser", then all they have to do is click Start, Internet Explorer and they are good to go. As has been complained ad-infinitim, short of hosing your whole computer, you can't get rid of IE on a Windows computer.

Purists, don't think about businesses needing to make a profit, they just want to show the rest of the world that they can get it perfectly right (in their eyes). In my eyes, right is a very subjective state that is based mostly on whether or not my client is happy and feels that they got a good value for the money they paid.

Just as a parting shot, I asked a recent client (who at first was trying to check out a website I was working on for them with some really weird Mozilla-based browser that I had never heard of) WHY she was using this browser...what was so special about it that she needed (expecting her to tell me some feature that it had that IE did not) and her answer was "because it's different". When I asked her to use IE, she said.."OK..." No problem. Since she really didn't care either way it didn't matter...to her. Of course, she isn't a web-developer purist.

Purists...wake up, get a big bottle of Mountain Dew and loose the attitude...think about your clients...they deserve at least that.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What? Me Worry?

Isn't that what Alfred E. Neuman used to say? If I'm remembering right, Alfred is the goofy looking poster boy for Mad Magazine. As a boy, I used to ride my bike about 3 blocks down to the drug store across the street from McDonald's on Eureka Road (ah... another very remote hint on who I really am) to get the latest Mad Magazine each month.

This morning our preacher spoke about worry. He asked everyone to raise their hands if they worried...almost all hands went up. No embarassment here...doesn't everyone worry about something?

I am over 40 years old, and today I found out that worry is a sin! I never looked at it that way, but it's very clear.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink;
or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food,
and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do
not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a
single hour to his life? Matthew 6:25-27

Christ spells it out plainly...don't worry. It turns out that the opposite of worry is faith, if we believe that God will fulfill his promises then worrying is like saying "I don't believe that you are going to take care of me like you said you would". When I worry, I'm sinning! Wow, I never thought of it that way...

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What
shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly
Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his
righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:31-33

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sun Dreams

At what point in life do you wise up and give up on those crazy dreams you had when you were young and thought you could do anything? Life beats down on you like the sun in the desert. It's beautiful and bright and full of life...over time it saps the energy right out of you. That same light that used to fuel your dreams now sucks the life right out of your body and burns your skin. You look for shelter...those that can find sufficient shelter can handle the the sun over the years, those that cannot find adequate shelter just burn and their strength fades as the sun beats down.

When do you stop looking for the oasis? When do you stop longing for it and let the sun take the last of your strength from you?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Joseph's Immaturity

We've all heard the story of Joseph and his "coat of many colors". Joseph was the youngest son of Jacob and his favorite, the first child from his favorite wife Rachel who died while bearing his brother Benjamin. Joseph was Jacob's favorite son and it was certainly no secret around the family...his brothers hated him because he was the favorite. He seemed to get all the breaks and Jacob didn't hide his special love for Joseph.

Often Jacob would send young (17) Joseph out to the fields to tell his brothers something or to check up on them. One day the brothers rose up against him and were going to kill him, but didn't (at the direction of Rueben, the oldest, who was probably just trying to gain pleasure before his father). Joseph ends up being sold as a slave and separated from his family for many years, thought dead.

I used to think that Joseph was the complete victim of circumstances beyond his control here, I mean I know that God had a plan for him and that all of the things that happened were part of that plan. However, I think about a typical young "squirt" that has realized that he has potential and that has been given some power over others around him that are older and wiser. Joseph probably that he was "all that", I mean why wouldn't he? Jacob was feeding it to him on a silver platter. It seemed as though Jacob had great things planned for his favorite son, but had not thought to tell anyone else about it. So, when Joseph takes his father-inspired gusto and tells his older, wiser, stronger brothers how it's going to be he was in for some trouble. Yes, in a way, he was setup (be it by accident or by Jacob's unwillingness to ease back on his favoritism) , but he should have seen it coming.

Why didn't Joseph feel funny about telling his brothers how things were going to be or checking up on them? I think...maybe he was a bit star-struck in his youth...weren't we all?

In the end, Joseph ended up becoming a great man and I feel certain that part of the reason is that he had to because of the situation he found himself in. The other reason is that God was with him.

"...the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did." Genesis 39:23

Sunday, October 08, 2006

George of the Jungle

Do you remember "George of the Jungle"? He was a cartoon character that reminded you of a cross between Goofy and Tarzan. He lived in the jungle and swung from tree to tree. There was a really cool song that went along with it...

"George, George, George of the Jungle strong as he can be!
George, George, George of the Jungle WATCH OUT FOR THAT TREE!!!"

The he would run directly into a tree and it was really funny... So funny that they made a movie about it.

The REAL tarzan could swing easily from tree to tree. Each tree would give him the support he needed to continue his momentum long enough until...at the last moment...he would grab a vine from the next tree, which would be just enough to get him to the next, and the next and so on. Floating just under the canopy of the jungle and above any perils below. The next branch, or vine, or limb would not be enough on their own to get him to his destination and to support his weight indefinitely, but it was sufficient for his needs. It kept his momentum and sent him on his way. The vine had no way of knowing where Tarzan was heading or when it would be called upon to lend it's temporary support, but it just happened.

Life is like the trees in Tarzan's (and George's) jungle. Sometimes, the people that we have contact through our day can be the vines that we grab to get through the day. It's simple, really...

  • A smile here
  • A hug there.
  • A pat on the back.
  • A handshake and a look in the eye.
  • Just a look across a crowded room that says...hey, I noticed you!

That's one of the best things about Sundays for me. It's difficult (but possible) to evade the vines that swing your way, but if you just reach out your hand they come right to you. First, just one, then the next...then you start to pick up speed and the next branch is in front of you before you know it, then they just keep coming one at a time. Each person has little (or no) knowledge of the support they are providing and that they are participating in your journey, but it happens all the same. All you have to do is keep you eyes open. Then you are moving at a high rate of speed...the momentum is hard to stop on Monday...

The vines and branches are there, all you have to do is open your eyes...just "watch of for that tree!".

"...Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:7-18