Monday, March 29, 2010

Infinite Loops

As a former programmer and continual geek, I tend to think in processes and if/then statements. If potential member x visits our church, then x will want to serve in position A. If potential member Y visits our church, then neighbors q, t, and z will visit as well eventually ending in a 10% increase in membership. Annoying huh?

Its just who I am. I can't change it so I must learn to use it for good. One such process that has always fascinated me is the infinite loop. Usually programmers don't realize they've put these in until they crash the entire system or cannot get their new code to complete. An infinite loop is basically a sequence of instructions in a computer program which loops endlessly, either due to the loop having no terminating condition, having one that can never be met, or one that causes the loop to start over.

A simple example of this is

int x = 0;
while (x < 10)
x = x - 1;

In this case X will ALWAYS be less than 10 so the process will continue looping forever.

I have discovered that the church is a place of infinite loops as well. Some good some bad. Here are a few of those examples:

1) The "We've always done it that way" Loop - This is the tradition with no purpose loop. At some point someone did something and someone else thought it was good and therefore it became tradition. Traditions can be good. Spending time together at Christmas is a great tradition and one that I'm not likely to break. But tradition with no purpose can get out of control and really hard to break. I served at a church once that had a Bible on the Altar that was too large for the table. On days when we served communion it was very difficult to place the elements on the altar. When I suggested that we substitute one of the smaller, "historical church Bibles" that were on display in the hallway, I was dismissed with a "we've always had that one" remark. Side note - the church was 150 years old and the Bible was only 40 years old but I digress. This really didn't bother me too much until one day I was flipping through said Bible to find a scripture passage and noticed that there were many pages missing from this Bible - 3.5 books of the Bible to be exact. And thus the example of the infinite loop that needs some de-bugging.

2) The "We've got to help them" Loop - Helping others should never be a loop without an escape condition. The purpose of helping others is to get them back on their feet so that they can be the people God created them to be. If we help them to relieve the situation but don't help the cause, we are creating an infinite loop where a person could possibly become dependent on our "help." If you want to really see this in action, volunteer to answer your church's phone for one day. Its amazing how many calls you'll get from people needing bills paid or food handouts. Its sad really that there are so many people who need help and have no one else to call. Please understand I'm all for helping people. But there are ways to help others in the short term and ways to help them long-term. The key is to find out how to balance both.

3) The Infinite God Loop - This is the good loop. The one you want to be a part of. The one that never ends and will keep on going, and going, and going. I like that my beliefs are part of a "kingdom that has no end." And when I'm part of a process that focuses on this infinite loop of love, I can feel, experience, and see that Kingdom now. Don't try to hack into this one - there are too many firewalls. Your name is your username and your password is belief. That is all you need.

Sorry for the bad puns but like I said - I am who I am and I'm learning to deal with it!

Until Everyone Hears,

Monday, March 22, 2010

What Mess?

I'm the messiest neat freak that you'll ever find. I love to clean and organize and sort. My problem is that I don't like to maintain the cleanliness. I like to wait until it is a big mess again and then attack with a German Blitz method. I literally have a hard time stopping once I get started. Which is probably why I take so long to do it again.

Unfortunately I use this method in other areas of my life as well. In my Bible studies I tend to cram it all in once per week instead of reading the recommended amount per day. I'd rather exercise for an hour three times per week than thirty minutes every day. I cook three to four meals on Monday and skip cooking the rest of the week.

These aren't necessarily bad things. At least I'm getting them done right? And I have found that I'm more adaptable than others because I'm used to cramming things in and can adjust when things don't go as scheduled.

Here are a few tips I've found that have helped me get back into routine after I clean up London (see Blitz reference above):

1) Break it down into small tasks. Instead of cleaning "the kitchen" I'll just decide to clean "the sink". That way I feel less pressure to continue after said sink is sparkling.

2) Take a Sabbath. I make sure I plan ahead for my down time so that I don't feel guilty just being a couch potato after I vacuum and Febreeze said couch.

3) Have a support person/group. For both my Bible study and exercise plans, I have accountability groups to keep me going. Sure I may still cram things in at the last minute but I'm getting them done and aiming for more consistency. As for cleaning, see above cartoon if you think getting the spouse to help me clean is possible. Oh he is great at helping but he has his own schedule and I just take his help whenever I can get it. On the other hand I've really gotten used to using, um teaching, the kids the importance of keeping their areas clean. My nagging, I mean inspiring them to clean their living space will go a long way in the future.

So there you have it. I hope that helps you with your spiritual and non-spiritual disciplines. Feel free to add any others that you find helpful.

Until Everyone Hears,

Monday, March 15, 2010

It's Like I've Done This Before

A few weeks ago a friend of mine came to hear me preach for the first time. I'm not sure what he expected. I've been doing this for over 10 years now but I don't preach every Sunday. Furthermore, this person is Catholic and my preaching style is very different from many of the priests that I've heard before.

When I was done, I went over to him to make him feel welcome and thank him for coming. He said that he enjoyed it and told me, "You've done this before huh?". I always enjoy someone telling me I did a good job but this one really made my day. Many years ago his statement wouldn't have held much water. I was just getting started and learning what my style is. I'm just now getting into a groove with how to speak about things deeply spiritual and make them deeply personal.

But its not just with my preaching that I'm noticing a difference. It is all aspects of my ministry. Perhaps I'm just getting older but I'm able to really enjoy all aspects of ministry without getting tied down in the learning curve of how to do things.

I've learned several things that have helped me get to this point:

1) Learn by doing: The more you do something, the more your experience shows

2) Take good notes: If you don't do something on a regular basis, take good notes so that the next time it comes around you won't have to reinvent the wheel. I find this particularly helpful on mission trips and retreats. I have packing lists for both and it makes it much easier to remember that you'll need work gloves on a mission trip and pepto bismol during Confirmation retreat - where teenagers eat in abundance and the adults try to copy them.

3) Teach others how: This is the most often forgotten piece of the puzzle. Teaching others helps me to reinforce the ideas I already know; it gives me a fresh and creative perspective from someone else; and it ensures that when I'm unable to do this task in the future - someone else will.

So get out there and try something you've never done before and before long you'll be saying, "It's like I've done this before."

Until Everyone Hears,

I out-punted my coverage

What does faith do for me?

God is more than I deserve.

PUNT TEAM: Punting the football is one method in attempting to win the field position battle. It is important for your punt coverage teams to know how to block properly, to first allow the punt to happen, and then to cover the punt keeping the return player pinned as deep at their end of the field as possible. Players selected to this important phase of the game need to be able to block, run, be aggressive, have great desire, and demonstrate the ability to tackle.

I had to have my husband explain this football concept the other day. You'd think that after knowing him for 20 years and surviving 19 football seasons with him, I'd have this down. But I'm not wise to the ways of sports terminology. Once he explained it to me, it was exactly what I thought it was. Out punting your coverage in football is a bad thing because the other team can move the ball more. My confusion came when I thought about the other way he used the phrase.

More often than not he'll look at a couple where the man is an average joe and the female is "smokin' hot" and he'll say, "That dude out punted his coverage." This confused me because in football you don't want to out punt your coverage but in a dating scenario its obviously a good thing. I was about to ask him if anyone had ever told him that he'd out-punted his coverage but then decided I really didn't want to know.

It was then that I realized that in my relationship with God I had totally out-punted my coverage. I'm just an average joellen but God is way more than I can handle. But as I said before this is a good thing. I don't need to be in control here. I just need to enjoy the benefits. Here are a few I've experienced this week:

  1. When playing the game, its not always a blow out. Sometimes the other team scores. Sometimes I get tackled. But in the end God wins. I just need to enjoy the excitement of the game.
  2. Having more fans cheering for your team is more fun than cheering alone. It is so much more exciting to cheer on your team with a group of people and definitely more thrilling in person. I could stay home and cheer for God while watching the TV but there's more energy when I'm with others at church.
  3. There's always more to learn. As I said, I've been watching football with my husband for 19 years and finally got this analogy. I can always learn more about God and I can always learn more about football. Evil still baffles me but then again so does the onside kick.

Enjoy playing and may you out-punt your coverage in every good way today.

Until Everyone Hears,

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ode to Dr. Suess

On the second of March, in the cold of the snow
I forgot a great birthday of a man that I know.
He taught me to read with a magical flair
And soon I was rhyming fun words without care.

I'd talk about fluegel horns, yaks and roast beast
And other things I didn't understand in the least.
I'd look at the pictures and sometimes I'd reach
To think that I indeed was the best Sneetch on the beach.

The more that I read, the more that I'd know
The more that I read, my brain started to grow
And now that I'm older I'm likely to find
That the books from my past aren't all left behind.

I share them with John R, Shane R, and Dori
I relish their laughter like my old days of glory.
I tell them of Who-ville, Sally, and Dave.
Of Dave #17 they really do rave.

And just when I think things are getting too scary
Like the empty pants and the Clark that is hairy
We turn the page to see kangaroo collars
Then keep our eyes open on how to make dollars.

So to you, Dr. Suess I declare inspiration
For help to fuel my creative reputation
And for giving me something beautiful to see
And letting me share it with Thing 1, 2, and three.

Until Everyone Hears,
God Bless Theodore Geisel AKA Dr. Suess (from one Dr to another)

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