Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Optimizing performance

So I'm watching my computer update Adobe Reader.... You know, watching the indicator show the progress of the various stages of the installation.... And one of the stages is called 'Optimizing Performance'.
What a concept! That we could plug into something that would analyze our inner processes and figure out how to make them work at their peak efficiency. Tweaking here, adjusting there, removing, rearranging, fine tuning. Getting rid of the old, cumbersome ways of doing things and updating with new, streamlined efficiencies.
Even like the defrag process--taking the bits and pieces of information and operation, and filing them all in the same place so they flow together more smoothly.
As a follower of Christ, I can see how God intends this whole principle of 'optimizing performance' to be a regularly scheduled maintenance procedure--like every day.
Coming before Him, laying it all out, letting Him tweak, adjust, remove, remove and replace. Allowing Him to weave the various threads of past teaching and experience into a perfectly formed operating system (pardon the mixed metaphors).
So, let it happen today.
Every day.
Schedule it in.
If it is useful for computers, it is definitely useful for humans.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Circles

Interesting geometric figure, the circle. Quite easy to define:
'a closed plane curve consisting of all points at a given distance from a point within it called the center.' (www.dictionary.com) In other words, a circle is an infinite succession of dots, all on the same plane, all the same distance (the radius) from the center.
But this isn't about geometry.
Circles can enclose or exclude. You can make the radius large enough to include something, or small enough to exclude it.
Your circle of friends can include me, or not. It depends on how your draw the circle.
You can choose to be picky regarding age, culture, color or social standing. You can even use criteria like favorite hockey team, pizza or style of music to determine if someone is in or out.
Sometimes the size of the circle is a response to someone else's criteria. They don't call you a friend, so you exclude them as well.
Or, you can choose to be bigger than them. They draw a circle that counts you out, but you draw a larger circle that draws them in.

Outwitted

"He drew a circle that shut me out--
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!"

Edwin Markham

Circles

"He drew a circle that shut me out
He was afraid of what life was all about.
Whenever I saw him he'd be there inside him
Locking his heart in a place to hide it.
But oh love and I knew just where to begin.
Yes love and I started a circle within
Oh love and I.
We drew a circle, a beautiful circle,
A wonderful circle that took him in."
Captain And Tennille

We really don't need more walls, walls that separate and divide.
Some of our small circles and high walls have been many years in the making. We learn a lot as we are growing up. Racial and socio-economic classes are ingrained at an early age.
"They aren't like us, we don't associate with people like them."
It's not only cultural or financial issues that can divide us. As terrible as it may seem, even religious and denominational lines can be drawn to separate. Things that don't seem to bother God at all, but sure stir up a hornet's nest among His kids. Do you use wine or grape juice for communion? How and when do you baptize people? What version of the Bible do you use?
Sure, we have our reasons for doing things the way we do, BUT IS IT REALLY WORTH MAKING ENEMIES OVER???
What does Jesus say?
"The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind" John 17:21, The Message
"This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples--when they see the love you have for each other." John 13:35 The Message
Draw big circles.
Break down the dividing walls.

Break Dividing Walls

"There is a place of commanded blessing
Where brethren in unity dwell
A place where anointing oil is flowing
Where we live as one

You have called us to be a body
You have called us as friends
Joined together in the bond of the Spirit
Unto the end

Father we join with the prayer of Jesus
As you are so let us be one
Joined together in unity and purpose
All for the love Your Son

We will break dividing walls
We will break dividing walls
We will break dividing walls
In the name of your Son
We will break dividing walls
We will break dividing walls
And we will be one"

Words and Music: David Ruis
©1994 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dreams

I met a young man from the Netherlands a few weeks back at a YWAM conference in Vancouver. He was spending a few months with YWAM Calgary, and then joining with an outreach to India. I've been reading his blog with interest (and the help of a translation program!). He is encountering some of the darkest and poorest places on earth, and writes about Calcutta: "Another thing that has touched me very much is that most children do not dream."
Perceptive, moving, and a challenge to me.
First of all, for the sadness that statement depicts for the kids of that vast country. No dreams? No hope, no future, no joy. They all go together, or it all disintegrates. How sad for that nation, for its leaders, for its parents. Nothing for their children to live for, nothing to look forward to. It's bad enough that they struggle with extreme poverty, sickness, non-existent living conditions. But to not have even a glimmer of hope for things to get better--that has to be the ultimate kick in the teeth.
Now to bring a similar thought closer to home. Of course, our nation is pretty well off as far as food, clothing, and shelter goes. Not too many kids go to bed hungry at night. Most are at least warm and dressed, even if not in the latest styles.
But do kids have dreams? Do teenagers look forward to a bright future? A challenging but attainable career? A happy home, spouse and 2.4 kids? A world at peace, an environment that glows with health, a place to grow old?
I'm afraid many kids here in Canada don't dream either. The threat of global warming, wars and rumors of wars, skyrocketing prices, and uncertainties everywhere make kids much more cynical than I was at their age. Do they dream? Or is it closer to a nightmare?
A new young friend lent me a documentary on metal music. I'm not sure I really understand what sends people into the various communities they find themselves in (metal, punk, goth, emo, gangster, etc.), but I'm sure part of it is that they don't want to follow the route their parents have gone. Their parents probably are trying to live the dream of job, success, money, happiness, and all the rest, but the kids aren't buying it. Not for a minute. And if we had our eyes open to the futility of our generation, we wouldn't blame them. Can't afford the house, gas for the car, or food on the table. Who knows if that college education will get me a job better than flipping burgers.
OK, so it seems pretty dismal. Sorry about that, but that's kind of the way it really is.
Except for dreams.
Praise God for the ability to dream. Especially His dreams.
Hope for the future? You bet!
Life worth living? You better believe it!
Why?
Because God is actually still in control.
He still has a handle on His creation. With His help, we will keep from destroying this old mud ball.
With His help, we won't kill each other off.
With His wisdom we'll figure out better ways to power the machines we inevitably think we need.
Housing may continue through the roof, but He looks after the sparrows, and He'll look after us.
I think the most encouraging part about God dreams is that they go far beyond whatever you can see, or even imagine. And because the dreams originate with Him, there is every reason to believe that they will come to pass.
It's certainly a different mindset than we are used to. You have to look past the darkness, the destruction, the depressing news stories. It's not the ostrich with his head in the sand, ignoring the truth. No, it's seeing the rainbow instead of the rain, even while it is still raining. It's remembering that you miraculously found a place to live within your means when you had almost given up; so God is totally able to come through again. It's knowing that God has called you to pursue a job in a certain field, and He will enable you to succeed in it.
Dream
Dream big
Dream God dreams.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Time to hit the high seas

Have you ever thought about what it must have been like for the early European explorers looking for another route to India?
Guys like Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky set sail in a totally uncharted direction.

They really didn't know if they would find what they were looking for, or even find anything at all.
The prevailing wisdom was that you would fall off the edge of the world.
But they had to see for themselves.
Even if they died in the attempt.
Or found something, but weren't able to return home to tell everyone about it.
They had two choices: Safety, or adventure. The boring known, or the potentially dangerous unknown. The finite, or possible infinite wonder.

Like a quote I was recently reminded of (Thanks Christine!):
"When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for." Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs
All of us are in the same boat (pardon the pun). We don't know where our lives could take us. We can stay in a place of safety, or hit the high seas and find adventure.
Care to hold hands with me as we pull anchor, set the sails, and leave the harbor?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Letting the juices flow

So what is it that triggers creativity?
Can the artist just step into her studio at 9 a.m. and immediately begin to paint the masterpiece of the century?
How about the composer? When he sits at the piano, do the heavenly melodies and mysterious harmonies just flow automatically?
Or the author? Does the most intricate plot invent itself, or the perfect word spring to mind unbidden?

I doubt it.
2% inspiration, 98% perspiration, they say.
But that seems to leave out the supernatural spark that wakens you at 2 a.m., or the perfect chord progression that just won't stop playing on repeat in your mind.
Back to the first question: What is it that triggers such supernatural events?
Let's examine a bit of theology.
1. God is Creator.
2. We are made in His image.
Therefore, 3. We have a creative bent, by His design. All of us.
Do you always feel wonderfully creative? Or is the menu sometimes K. D. because you can't think of anything more exciting?
Do we have any part in being struck by the muse?
I dare say we do, although I probably haven't intentionally tried to think about it before.
For one thing, I bet it doesn't hurt a guy like Michelangelo to visit an art gallery. Or a gal like Elizabeth Barrett Browning to sit down with a book of poetry. Immersing yourself in the beauty of others is bound to stir up your own ability to make beauty. Musicians learn the works of the old masters. Actors study Shakespeare.

But I think it goes farther than that. It doesn't have to be in your particular area of artistry. I expect Mozart could have been inspired by the painting of his contemporaries as much as the music of his peers. The beauty of a sunset can inspire a poet or composer as much as a painter.
It is all beauty. It all comes from the source of all beauty. It all is a response to being confronted with creation.
So, listen to creative music. Don't be satisfied with derivative stuff, remakes of tired old tunes. Don't be scared of styles you haven't heard before.
Dare to be exposed to edgy artwork. Not the cookie-cutter fluff, but stuff that is really out there.
Look for authors who challenge your senses, who force you to find a dictionary now and then, who invent new plots and turns of phrase, who challenge your pre-conceptions.
See things with new eyes. New ears. New taste buds.
Visit the Creator in His workshop.
Check out what others have created while hanging out with Him. Plan on being surprised. Inspired. Maybe even changed.
This all came as I was listening to some edgy, creative, inspired, prophetic worship. I began to realize that not only was I being drawn into the presence of God, but His Spirit was beginning to motivate and inform my spirit. The Creator was provoking the created to create. Try it sometime!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

It's easier...

"It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." (Ancient Chinese proverb). But it sure seems easier to curse the darkness.
It's easy to complain that everyone is so self-centered and uncaring.
And it seems harder to be other-centered and compassionate.
It's easy:
--to see people in need and say the government should be doing something about that.
--to see a drug problem and say the police need to crack down on it.
--to hear about someone in the hospital, and tell the pastor he should go visit them.
It's pretty easy to notice a problem and figure out who should do something.
It's harder to see how I can do something useful.

Harder, but not at all impossible.
If you're honestly looking for a way you can help, you will find a way.
It really isn't very hard:
--to donate some cash or non-perishable items to a food drive.
--to donate some new or gently used clothing.
--to stop and chat with the fellow on the street trying to make a couple bucks, and encouraging him.
--to have a coffee with the friend who needs to talk.
There's something you can do.
Really.
You have a God-given gift (or two or ten).
There's something that you can do that helps give your life purpose and meaning. That you can do from your heart. That doesn't have to be forced. That doesn't look fake.
Figure out who you are, and let it happen.
It's not hard to be yourself.
It's probably harder to continually deal with the conviction if you aren't doing something.
Go ahead.
I give you permission to be who God made you.
It will be easier.
 

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