Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lent Devotion Version 2

subURBAN by ~sid3kick I mentioned earlier about a Lenten devotion I needed to write for this Lent. This goes into a book where a bunch of us write devotions to be printed and shared with friends, family or whomever.

When I wrote the first draft it was because I couldn’t find a final thought or cohesive item to help grow. When I sent it to my friend Alex fro review, he said it was good, but it wasn’t specifically “Tom”. He said it looked like something that would be in a published devotion book, which was good, but could be better.

So I ended up going back to the topic that had been rattling in my mind for two months. The problem is that it’s incredibly challenging, and I didn’t really have an answer. But, here’s what I finally came up with.

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How do I live as a Christian in a suburban world?

I have a house with four bedrooms, an office, family room, dining room and living room (can someone tell me why I need both a family room and a living room). If I get kicked out of the bedroom I’ll never sleep on a sofa, instead I’ll get the guest room with its own bathroom.

How is it okay that I live in such a large house with so much unused space when I also truly love God?

Jeremiah doesn’t say that it’s bad to have the palace, so long as you don’t take advantage of others to get it. But, aren’t I taking advantage of others to live this life?

A few years ago a teen in youth group wrote a paper on the atrocities in China’s sweatshops and she wondered how anything like that could happen today. I’ve been walking around stores to see what I can buy that isn’t made in China. The answer? Almost nothing.

Now, I have no idea what the working conditions were for my shirt, but it is so cheap the workers can’t be getting paid very much.

Maybe we’re not all called to give up everything to follow him, though the psalmist makes pretty clear that even if we look like idiots, if it’s for Him it will further God’s work. Maybe I’m not ready to give up this life and home that I’ve made for myself. Though Jeremiah points out that our fathers got along just fine with less.

Every day I struggle to balance this consumerist mentality with my Christianity. Is it okay for me to take another Christian to lunch at $15 per person and talk about God’s will for us? Is it okay to have conversations over $4 cups of coffee?

I wish I had an answer, but maybe I already know it.

Peace,
+Tom

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lent Devotion Version 1

Over Lent some people in our church write a devotion for each day to be put into a printed booklet that we try to share with everyone, both people in and out of the church. There’s the hope that the people will read the devotion each day, since it aligns with the reading of the day. We are kept to 300 words or less, so about half a page.

Every year I offer to write a devotion since I really enjoy it, and every year I keep it foremost on my mind and have a hard time finding a final focus until I get the writing in late. This year was no different. I’d originally read the readings and subsequently thought daily about what it means to be a capitalist, and a consumer, and a Christian.

Then the deadline came and passed, and I still didn’t think I had a good insight. I finally wrote this first draft, which had almost nothing to do with my original thought, but did apply to the reading, and it could have applies to almost any readings.

This is a prayer that was one of the few times I know God spoke through me while I prayed with someone else. The visuals are vivid and specific for me, very focused in my interest in Science Fiction. But it speaks well to me whenever I’m feeling directionless, overwhelmed, or happy. No matter what I’m feeling.

I have that one here. Tomorrow I’ll get to the final version.

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Dear God,

You know every single moment of my life. You’ve known them before I was even a sparkle in my great grandfather’s great grandfather’s eye.

From before you made Adam in Eden you had a plan for my life. You figured out how you wanted me to live so that you could be known to the whole world. You planned out specific ways so that I can be an example for you.

At the exact same moment you knew that I would fail miserably. You saw that I would put other people and other things before you. You saw the times where I would live so far away from you that I barely considered you’re existence. You saw the many, many times that I would hurt someone, and deviate far away from your plan.

You gave me the gift of free will to decide how to live this life you’ve given me in whatever way I wanted. You have always helped to show me the right path that I should follow, and I know how many tears you’ve shed when I left that path. But you never give up.

While I’ve deviated from your plan, you’ve guided my course. You change the details of your grand plan to accommodate my missteps. You take all of my actions and use them to bring peace to the world. You laugh in utter joy when I work for you. No matter what I do for the rest of my life, you already know about it, and you still love me.

Lord, help me to love all of your children the same way you love me. Help me to look past any failings to recognize the jewel you see in each of us.

Thank you for this gift that is my life.

Peace,
+Tom

Friday, January 23, 2009

Obsolescence

Cassette Tape by ~barkerbaggies I was looking to copy a cassette tape from my stereo to my computer, since this particular album Paranoimia by The Art of Noise is only available on tape, and I couldn’t find my old copy. 

Turns out it was actually in the radio I have… which I discovered after trying to put the copy I just bought from Amazon for $4 into the player… Chalk that up to another Tomism I guess.

The radio I had is mangling the audio from the tape for some reason. So I went to e-mail my friend Mason to see if he has another tape player and ran into a minor problem… I forgot how to spell cassette. Was it casett, casset or cassett? None of them seemed right. I actually ended up browsing the Net before Erin came in and informed me.

This got me back to thinking about just how quickly something becomes so useless we forget how to spell it correctly.

I was also thinking about this because of a recent announcement by Pioneer that they would stop making Laser Disc players, essentially writing the format off to the junk yard. Do you even know what Laser Discs are? They’re the record sized, metallic discs that look a lot like CD’s except they’re huge. These were the highest quality standard you could get for watching movies, but it never really took off.

I was thinking about how this applies to everything we buy today. The iPod I just got will be thought of as a brick in ten years. The DVD player I have, or even the Blu-Ray I think about, will be formats that are dying away in place of something far, far more convenient.

I’ve been reading a lot about the Singularity, a term coined by Vernor Vinge. This is an event that’s been written about for almost twenty years now. It’s the event when computers become more powerful than the human brain, and they are also smarter, in essence able to act human. I’ve read a few books about this, both fiction and non, and it’s just impossible to know what the world will be like when computers are able to improve themselves, but everyone agrees that our lives will be completely different from the way they are now.

Truly, when it comes down to it, all of the technology we see in Star Trek (even the Next Generation) will look like antiques when the Singularity occurs.

Now for the really interesting part. This is going to happen by 2050, and probably by 2015. At that point human beings may very well be the things which are obsolete. Do any of the things we have matter, when we ourselves have been passed by?

Why do we live so much of our lives surrounded by things that are out of date within a year? Why is it so hard to get rid of it all and spend more time recognizing the beauty that is our world, and the people in it?

Peace,
+Tom

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Contagious Happiness

Be Happy by *inObrAS I’ve been listening to the Scientific American 60 Second Science podcast. I’ve found a bunch of fascinating things, but one that struck me today was about happiness.

Apparently Happiness is Contagious. Here’s the interesting part:

Researchers looked at twenty years' worth of data on more than 5,000 individuals and found that when any one person was happy, their friends became more likely to share that joy. Benefits spread out to three degrees of separation, meaning a better chance at happiness for not only their friends' friends, but also their friends' friends' friends.

Apparently it works only when you’re physically close to the person. So my having 300 Facebook friends doesn’t seem to help.

It made me think though about just how happy I am. I like to think I am often upbeat and spreading happiness, even when people may not really want bubbly.

People do lighten up when they’re around happy people. Even when a naturally happy person is subdued and serious, knowing about the underlying happiness and optimism can lighten our day.

So, beyond surrounding yourself with happy people, what will it take for you to be the happy one? What specific steps can you take to be the person who creates other happy people even three degrees removed?

Peace,
+Tom

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why I Need to Be President

On this historic day, when our world will no longer be the same, I’m watching the inauguration and noticing a couple of reasons that I absolutely have to be president.

  • So I can ride on helicopters
  • I will leave the inauguration as outgoing president on horseback, just because I can
  • So I can forget what office I’m accepting, just like Obama almost did
  • So my kids can take my picture
  • So I can gossip with the outgoing president with billions watching, and no one will know what I said
  • So I can make millions after I leave office just for talking
  • To be able to see my face blown up on huge posters and that people carry around
  • So that I can sign presidential orders in one second or less with my super fast signature
  • To be able to say, I want carrots, sardines and ranch dressing at 9 p.m. and someone gets it for me
  • To be able to look in the mirror and call myself Mr. President for the rest of my life

So, will you vote for me at the next election?

Peace,
+Tom

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tomisms

Okay, so this is a post entirely about me. Don’t worry, I’ll have some useful content soon, I promise. But I was talking to my friend Rob last week about some friends that started doing something new “a few months ago.” Rob’s response was that it was at least last August. My reply? Yeah, that’s a few moths ago, right?

I related that story to Erin and she pointed out that you could almost list out certain things that I do which are slightly off from other people. Now, there are tons and tons of ways that I think differently from other people. Personally, I love that.

It keeps me unique. At times though it also seems pretty darned funny. I figure that if people need to laugh at someone, it may  be at my expense instead of some unsuspecting, and undeserving person.

so, here are a few Tomisms specifically regarding how I see time.

  • A few years ago: Any time between last year and thirty years ago
  • Last year: Last year
  • A few months ago: Any time between two months and a year ago
  • A couple months ago: Any time between last month and six months ago
  • Last month: Any time between two weeks ago and two months ago
  • Last week: Any time between yesterday and a few months ago
  • A few days Ago: any time between yesterday and three weeks ago
  • Yesterday: Any time between yesterday and last week
  • Now: Any time between right now and an hour from now

I’m sure I’m not the only one to do stuff like this. Who else out there has some “isms”?

Peace,
+Tom

I Have a Dream Video

I can’t exactly explain why it is, but MLK day is probably one of the most moving holidays for me. I expect it’s because ht the focus made during Black History Month, watching Roots on public TV growing up, and growing up in a predominantly African American environment.

I stumbled upon this video on YouTube. The message is great, but I really love the creativity, and simplicity, involved in putting this video together.

Sometimes I wonder if I could just get a video camera and some free time to become a creative videographer/photographer.

Peace,
+Tom

Monday, January 12, 2009

Learning: 1 Creativity: 0

Creativity by `CrisVector Friday at Rachel’s preschool, Kindercare, is Show and Share day. Last Friday Rachel wanted to bring a paint brush pen for show and share that she got in a goodie bag from a birthday party of a friend of hers. This brush pen is probably the best gift she’s gotten lately, she’s addicted to it.

Anyway, she said she was going to bring it in and tell people she would paint a dinosaur with it.

Now, this sounded a little weird, but I figured it was her explaining everything she’d do. They’re talking about dinosaurs in school, so it makes sense that she’d make the connection and draw a dinosaur.

Friday, when I picked her up from school, she told me that she wasn’t allowed to show her pen for show and share.

I was stunned. It turns out that because they are talking about dinosaurs, they’re only allowed to bring dinosaur things to show and share.

Now, Erin and I are a bit ticked that we weren’t informed of this. Thankfully Rachel doesn’t seem that upset, but I was sure irked. Apparently this week is dinosaurs…. or opposites, take our pick.

As I began to leave, fuming (I swear I will be a million times more upset than Rachel whenever she’s sad or been wronged), I remembered back to Rachel’s original statement that she was going to use the pen to draw a dinosaur.

Obviously she knew show and share had to be dinosaur related, and she figured out a way to make the pen related to that topic. I am still impressed and in love with Rachel’s ability to think outside the box and come up with creative, practical solutions to problems. Well, I love the solutions except when she’s avoiding whatever I want her to do, which only makes sense.

When I asked her teacher, who we really respect, about it, including the plan to draw dinosaurs with it, her answer was to simply say “it’s not dinosaurs.”

I guess we know now.

Thank goodness we still keep a house that thrives on creativity, thinking things through and finding unique solutions to everything. If you want some fun times try telling Rachel something’s not possible, she’ll come up with a million creative ways that it can be done.

Peace,
+Tom

Monday, January 5, 2009

Star Wars Fans

I definitely call myself a Star Trek fan. I read this comic and immediately knew that the two of them were talking about in the first frame.

When I was recovering from surgery last year I watched all of the Star Wars movies in order. It was a lot of fun. But, honestly, I still prefer the incredible depth I got from all of the Star Trek shows, from The Original Series (TOS) through Enterprise. It took a while, but I even came to love Deep Space 9, though I still prefer the idea of exploring the universe and finding new ways of seeing the world.

Working Daze Archer-Picard 2009-01-05

I hadn’t really thought about it much, but there definitely are different types of people. In a lot of cases those who love Star Wars don’t seem to really understand or completely love Star Trek. They always see it as “Star Wars Lite.” The Star Trek Fans are pretty similar as well, we appreciate Star Wars, and think it’s a great story, but if we would gladly re-watch Star Trek episodes again and again.

So, what are you? Star Wars or Star Trek?

Oh, and in case you were wondering… Picard.

Peace,
+Tom