August 28, 2007

The Bigger Picture (Part IV)

Have you ever had to think through a particular subject and discovered that you're equally attracted to two points of view? Honestly, it's the most frustrating thing! I've been reading on the subject of violence and pacifism lately, and two works of writing have stuck out of the rest: Shane Claiborne's "Irresistable Revolution" and Patrick Meade's series at Tentpegs.

I honestly am not sure if the two of them are diametrically opposed or not (translation: are they really opposite in thinking?), but, whatever the case, each time I read Shane, I find myself thinking "yeah, that's it!" But then I read Patrick, and I think "yeah, that's it too!" I think I'm proving my own point: the truth is never simple. Ever.

Like with violence; Shane talks about what he calls the "myth of redemptive violence," but Patrick thinks that there are times when we are called by Jesus to forcibly defend others. So which is it? Shane talks about military guys working to get out of the military because the military does things against their beliefs, and Patrick has a son in the military of whom he is very proud. Shane says that pacifism means finding a third way around violence that still stands up for others, and Patrick notes that when the UK and Australia banned private citizens from owning weapons, the rate of violent crime quadroupled (and continues to escalate). They're both right, so what do you do with that?

I want to know if Christians should be allowed to play violent sports like hockey or footy. That's a valid question, right?

Or take Jesus. You can point to scripture and say stuff like "see, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life! It's so simple!" and yet I look back at it and wonder, is it really? I mean, what do those even mean? What is the way? What does it mean that Jesus IS the truth? Whose life?

So many questions. Only ninety years (or less) to figure it out. *sigh*

Care to be confused?

(to be continued)

August 24, 2007

"And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor ..."

Ok. So I've studied psychology a bit. Al Quaeda is becoming a nuisence, and nobody seems to know what to do. But I do. Here's what we do:

We pay al quaeda to terrorize.

No? Try this on for size. This experiment has been replicated over and over again in multiple cultures: A bunch of bullies are consistently throwing stuff at a guy's shop. He has tried everything to discourage them, but it only seems to strengthen their resolve, and amuses them endlessly. So one day, he comes up with the idea to pay them to throw stuff at his shop. They're happy, thinking that their luck has never been better. But then a few weeks later, he cuts their pay. They don't like it much, but they keep throwing stuff. A few weeks later he cuts it again. Then again every couple weeks until one day, he stops paying them at all. And suddenly they go away, citing better things to do.

Reverse psychology, I guess. But it works.

What do you think?

August 21, 2007


If this doesn't say it, I don't know what does ... it moved me, let's just put it that way.

And Patrick continues his series on pacifism:
Part 4
Part 5

August 17, 2007


Just posting a few random happenings in the world of Chris.

The lappy got a heart transplant yesterday. My sound card was acting funky (I had to push my headphone jack to get the speakers to work, but headphones worked fine ... so weird), so Dell sent a guy out to replace not only the speakers, but the entire motherboard as well, and I didn't pay a cent. Thanks Dell! And to the tech, thanks for your patience with my laundry list of questions, and congrats! He gets married tomorrow.

We had a visitor at Coldstone yesterday. I found this (not so) little guy chillin' on the front door. When I flicked him off, he flew up, flew back at me, bounced off my shirt, and then landed back on the windows of the store. So I just left him there, where he remained the better part of the day. Who knew. He was pretty cool though.

An amusing sign we saw at the repair shop where our car got its oil changed recently.

Patrick over at Tentpegs has started a fantastic series on pacifism. It's an amazing read.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I've been playing this game, recommended by Rob, and I must say, it's ... well, fantastic. I don't get to play very often, so I'm not very far yet, but what I have played has been excellent. Best seven bucks I ever spent on a computer game. It's called "Psychonauts", and it's about this summer camp for psychic warriors. Relax, it's not really a war game. It's set in the future after an asteroid filled with "psitanium" hits out in the desert. The locals start going crazy, so a guy starts a psych ward to deal with it. Eventually, there are more people in the psych ward than in the town, so the government shuts down the town and pulls everybody out. Then founds a research lab which ends up turning into a summer camp to train kids with newfound psychic powers. But during Raz's time at the camp, everyone (but Raz) mysteriously loses their brains, and it's up to him to retrieve them. It's utterly rediculous, and I love it for that. It very obviously does not take itself seriously, like when Raz (your character) talks to squirrels, or when he tells the seagulls they smell like garbage.

The best part is that, because most of the game is spent inside people's minds, the possibilities are endless. For example, one level is spent running around on a cube inside a James Bond-ish guy's head. Every face is up; so you have to re-orient yourself every time you cross a corner. It's so totally different from other games that follow all the rules that I can't not but enjoy it.

Last, but not least, I finally got my eyes checked. It turns out that my prescription had changed, but this is my favorite part of it: I enjoyed my doctor's visit. Enjoyed! Like, I liked it! Part of it is, I think, that I didn't have to have my eyes dialated. Instead, I used the optos, a retinal scanner that takes a digital picture of the inside of the eyes. Then, Dr. Stratton put the image up on her 20" screen and showed me my eyes, how healthy they were and which parts were which. (click to enlarge)

Oh. And a video. It's horribly irreverent, but it makes me laugh. I guess it's a good thing that God has a sense of humor too. Enjoy.

August 15, 2007

The Bigger Picture (Part III)

As I've been thinking about this little series, I originally intended to take the last post and move into a topic about the Creation Museum that's received so little attention in the news lately. Yes, so little, which tells you how easily it has been dismissed by the mainstream media and those of its audience that it purported to target. But instead I've found God leading me in a new direction, asking a new question that I think is really important to the bigger picture for all of us, and thought I'd share a few of the things that I'm learning.

* * *

How is one's faith to take hold at work?

I think, when discussing the bigger picture of scripture, that this is an intimate part of the conversation. Let's face it, where could scripture be more relevant than one's everyday life, at work or at school or at home?

I bring this up because it's a question that has plagued me in recent months, as one by one (and over and over again) I experience stressful situations at both offices. At ColdStone, we've had two managers fired and one resign within four months. I was offered the job, but because I'm in school I don't have time for it. I still got the job, but "temporarily" until they can find another manager ... which is now looking not to happen. It's been a good deal as far as money goes, but I've had a lot to worry about, from scheduling (which can be a nightmare with high school kids) to hiring (my first time being on the interviewer side of things). At EyeCare Assoc, two of the three doctors are joining another, bigger practice and are moving out. This left us with a dilemma, because not only did the staff have to decide who to go with, but also there are issues to be worked out with scheduling, with the office (who gets the common phone number that patients call?), with logistics (they're taking the computers, when do we install a new server?), and of course, with relationships (how do you part ways in a dignified and honorable way?).

It's been quite a ride this summer, from being given very few hours, to now, finding myself overwhelmed with the possibilities and job offers. Some seasons are scarce, others are overly abundant. Both can be stressful.

Scripture has a lot to say about daily life. The Hebrew people well understood that God is interested in how we conduct our daily affairs, and that he wishes to be a part of it, intimately. If you read the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, you'd discover that in and amongst the various prescriptions for sabbath rituals, there are dietary laws, how to conduct one's self with foreigners, how to handle business relationships, and even instructions for how to behave on a menstrual cycle.

God is concerned with daily life.

And so I find myself asking what God wishes me to do in these various situations. Both places purport to offer the very best of their particular field, though their fields are ages apart. On the one hand, I'm a good fit - I was raised to do my very best, no matter what the job. On the other, I find myself asking just how much abuse I can take before I start going mental.

To be an honorable employee without letting your superiors push you around is a hard balance to strike, especially when you also have a family to worry about and school. When I say "push around," I'm not referring to the Optometrist's office; it's mostly Coldstone, and only then because of the current financial situation. The business is such that they need to get the most out of people for the least amount of pay - that's the way capitalism works, especially when the store doesn't make enough to support itself yet. When they offered me the manager job, I turned it down because I can't afford 75 hours a week, despite the appeal of a salaried position. I have other priorities that are more important - seeing my family, first and foremost, something that would never happen if I were to have taken that job.

And the weird part is that they gave me a raise and decided to try something new. It surprised me at first, because I'm the sort that usually gives in to pressure from authority; I obey perceived authority really well. But for some reason, this time I didn't. It turns out that our store can manage without a full-on "manager" just as well if not better than we have in the past. I take care of writing a schedule for people, and act as a go-to person, and the staff works hard together. In some regards, I think we work better as a team now that we don't have a manager; everybody takes responsibility for the store's function, rather than just one person. And it wouldn't have happend if I'd have said yes.

And this brings me to the role of a follower of Jesus in the workplace: the redemption of that workplace. Every workplace is flawed, in one way or another; as those who have chosen to follow the teachings of Jesus, we are called to be redeemers, peacemakers in the workplace, indeed, in every aspect of our lives. We are to be of such character - imitators of Christ - that we naturally try to better the world around us. Sometimes this looks funny (think of some of the times Jesus got into arguments with the dominant religious groups), but all in all, we are to make this world better. We are to redeem it, to help it grow, and in doing so, we grow ourselves.

It's impressed me how Dr. Stratton is handling the change at her office; with the McMillins leaving for another optical office, she's not looking at this as a time of mourning, but as a time of growth. This is a chance to become a better office, to improve on our efficiency, to try new things, to expand, to become better neighbors with our partner opticians nextdoor. To grow, to allow ourselves to be redeemed. Change can do that; it can either tear you down or make you stronger, and Dr. Stratton is letting it make her stronger. I admire that.

(to be continued)

August 14, 2007

I Never Much Liked Hoola Hoops ...

You Are From Saturn

You're steady, organizes, and determined to achieve your dreams.
You tend to play it conservative, going by the rules (at least the practical ones).
You'll likely reach the top. And when you do, you'll be honorable and responsible.
Focus on happiness. Don't let your goals distract you from fun!
Don't be too set in your ways, and you'll be more of a success than you ever dreamed of.

August 5, 2007

Fatherhood: Being in Denial

Being a father pretty much means that you spend a lot of your life in denial. When your baby girl spends another evening screaming (until she gets fed, then she only whimpers a little while), your mind gets all twisted funny and you say "she's beautiful" when strangers ask you how she is. Screaming baby is probably the worst sound ever, and that includes things like nails on chalkboard, John Phillips Sousa, squealing tires, or the words "it'll probably be fine."

I never realized this until I became a father myself, but it really makes a lot of other things come into perspective, like how after several years suddenly you say "hey, let's do it again!" I can't imagine having another child right now, Rori is pretty much the hardest thing we've ever done. But I imagine after a few years, I'll conveniently forget sleepless nights (I'm not complaining, they're worse for my poor wife), red-eye days, and the sound of a screaming infant. I'll say "you know, this was the best thing we ever did, let's do it again!" and we will. I've heard parents say it's not as bad the second time, but I'm not sure that I believe them; they must've gone through the denial process as well, since they have more than one child, so they can't really be trusted.

People with four or five kids ... or seven ... are really off their rocker. I don't know what they were thinking.

But there are other parts of being in denial. For one, I suddenly started wondering about every word that came out of my mouth. Liz spends all her time with Rori, which means that she gets ALL the screaming, which inevitably leads to new vocabulary words that neither of us intended. Me, I went the other way, worrying that the smallest mishandle could turn my child into a psycho-killer or some kind of freak, like a circus clown or a laywer or something. You never can be too careful; I don't want to scar her for life, that costs money later on for shrinks and drugs that just aren't that healthy.

Another part is that I stopped buying stuff. Ok, not true - I stopped buying stuff for ME. Who knew there could be so much crap for a baby? There's the stroller, the crib, the little seat thingummy which is neither a stroller nor a crib (papazan?), there's the high-chair, there's the special tub, the diaper genie, there's the porto-crib, the hundreds of batteries of various (and uncommon) sizes, and of course, the piles and piles of diapers. Now, we were really fortunate to have fantastic family and friends that helped us a lot with most of this stuff (ex: we have yet to buy our own diapers), but at the same time, I don't make a ton to supplement. Coldstone and the Optometrist's offices pay decent, but only in the last month or so. So when I discovered that we had to travel, I wondered how I could get there fastest without using up too much gas. Is it more efficient to fill up at half-a-tank or at empty? Which is the best place to get gas? Can we pack more food and just forego restaurants? Do we have to take breaks every hour for Rori or can Liz sit in the back and feed her a bottle of the free formula we got from the hospital?

Yeah. I know.

The hardest part is being in denial about my time. There are a lot of things I like to do; I like to write, to read, to play my guitar, to listen to music, to talk to friends online, to peruse various websites, to do dinner out, to go to movies ... and most of them I haven't done in a while. For Liz it's worse, she can't even get basic house chores done without the baby squealing about being put down (and apparently the fancy baby bjorn gizmo isn't good enough, Rori hates it so far). But I still feel a twinge about the stuff I have to give up. I miss having hours to write about whatever. I miss being able to talk about nothing with my friends for hours online (sharing dumb websites with pictures of cats). I miss being able to just go to a movie or dinner with Liz. These days I get to snatch a few minutes each day at work to add a few more sentences to a post or to edit a picture. I miss having free time.

And yet here I am. It's not like I have a huge choice in the matter at this point, but I still think I'd prefer to give up this stuff rather than send her back. I love my daughter. I didn't believe it'd happen, but there really is something remarkable about having your own child. I'm not really into kids much; I like adults, they can hold intelligent conversations with you. But put Rori in my arms and I turn into a blathering idiot who exaddurates his smiles and coos in the most bizzare fashion. I've learned the baby bounce, which consists of making up a dance while simultaneously patting her back and bouncing my arms. It doesn't always work, so then I have to make up something else (Liz has gotten really good at this).

Maybe being in denial isn't such a bad thing. Scripture says that God is such a father as well; is it that he built us with these tendencies? Did God make us guys to be fathers willing to lay down all that's important to us so that our daughters and sons could grow up to be the best they can? I think so. I'm still in the brooding stage - it's never going to be an easy thing to be in denial - but I hope that eventually this will be second nature for me. I hope that I can do as good a job as my father did; I learned so much about giving up for my daughter from him. I remember wondering why it was that when we went out to the store, why it was that even though my sister and I got stuff, and sometimes even my Mom, Dad never did. Dad loves sailing, but for my mother and sister he invested to buy a pair of horses (and not a boat). I learned about that part of God from Dad. I hope and pray that, like Dad did for us, I can tell my daughter that she gets what's best for her even when it means I have to give up what I thought I wanted.