23 August 2007

iMac

iMacAs some of you know, I am a Geek. I own my own computer consulting business and last night was a special treat. One of my clients asked me to accompany her to purchase a new computer. And not just any computer. A brand-spanking new iMac. In case you don't know, the iMac is made by Apple Inc. It is a all-in-one design that is beautiful as well as practical. It comes in either a 20" or 24" model. My client opted for the 20" model (after much discussion). Here are the other hardware specs:

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo

  • 1GB memory

  • 320GB SATA hard drive

  • 8x double-layer SuperDrive

  • ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB memory

  • AirPort Extreme (802.11n wifi)

  • Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR

  • Apple Keyboard

  • Apple Remote

  • Mighty Mouse


Each model comes with an iSight camera (for video chat), SuperDrive (DVD burner), Mac OS X (of course), and iLife (Apple's multimedia suite), just to mention a few. She also purchased an Airport Extreme wireless base station.


As noted, the new iMac comes with the new 802.11n wireless technology. This is new technology provides up to five times the performance and up to twice the range compared to the earlier 802.11g standard.

Last night, I set up the new iMac and configured it. Next, I installed the Airport Extreme base station and installed the software. Once the iMac rebooted (which took all of 20 seconds, max), I launched the wifi config tool and set up the base station wirelessly. Yep, you read that right. In the past, when setting up a wireless router (beit Linksys or Dell or whomever) I would always have to set it up through a Cat5 ethernet cable first. Not so with the iMac! The iMac saw the base station and I set it up and then connected to it. The other cool part? Her existing WindowsXP computer was plugged into the base station via ethernet cable and I could see iMac. I copied her 'My Pictures' folder to the iMac.

Front RowWhile we were doing that, I testing Front Row. This is a really cool app that allows your Mac to become a virtual entertainment hub. With the use of the Apple Remote, you can select between iTunes, iPhoto, Videos, or DVDs. The menu becomes full screen when you select the Menu button on the remote. We put in a DVD in the slot loading Optical Drive and then selected DVD from the menu. It loaded the DVD and we were given some different options but I just select Play. Soon we were watching the trailer for 'The Nativity' (which sounded wonderful on her Bose 2.1 speakers).

I have more work to do over there today, but all-in-all, both me and my client, are excited about her new adventure.

Peace be with you.

+ OD

21 August 2007

Proper 16 + Tuesday

A reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians by Clement, Bishop of Rome [c. 100]

Beloved, see what a marvelous thing love is, its perfection is beyond our expression.  Who can truly love save those to whom God grants it?  We ought to beg and beseech him in his mercy that our love may be genuine, unmarred by any too human inclination.  From Adam down to the present time all generations have passed away; but those who were perfected in love by God’s grace have a place among the saints who will be revealed when the kingdom of Christ comes to us.  As it is written: ‘Enter your chambers for a little while, until my wrath and anger pass away; and I shall remember a good day and raise you from your graves.’  We are blessed, beloved, if we fulfill the commands of the Lord in harmonious, loving union, so that through love our sins may be forgiven.  For it is written: ‘Blessed are those whose transgression are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one to whom the Lord imputes not iniquity, and in whose mouth there is no deceit.’  This is the blessing that has been given to those who have been chosen by God through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever.

We should pry then that we may be granted forgiveness for our sins and for whatever we may have done when led astray by our adversary’s servants.  And as for those who were the leaders of the schism and the sedition, they too should look to the common hope.  For those who live in pious fear and in love are willing to endure torment rather than have their neighbor suffer; and they more willingly suffer their own condemnation than the loss of that harmony that has been so nobly and righteously handed down to us.  For it is better to confess one’s sins that to harden one’s heart.

Who then among you is generous, who is compassionate, who is filled with love?  You should speak out as follows: If I have been the cause of sedition, conflict, and schisms, then I shall depart; I shall go away wherever you wish, and I shall do what the community wants, if only the flock of Christ live in peace with the presbyters who are set over them.  Whoever acts thus would win great glory in Christ, and would be received everywhere, ‘for the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.’  Thus have they acted in the past and will continue to act in the future who live without regret as citizens in the city of God.

--------

Peace be with you.

+ OD

13 August 2007

The Heart of a Daughter

The heart of a daughter is a precious and fragile thing. And yet, it is the most resilient Juggernaut of all hearts. I see in the brokenness of my daughter's heart, my heart. It is my belief that every Father's heart grows with the breaking of his daughter's heart. Not that it doesn't grow at other times, but when a daughter's heart is breaking and broken, the swell of love and compassion is unspeakable. It almost becomes a mother's heart. Almost.

The Father's heart is a strange thing. At times, it must be 'tough' at the expense of being compassionate. But even in that toughness, the compassion runs through. In the quiet moments, the compassion demands to be heard. The toughness runs like a scared child and the compassion, with groans that cannot be understood, comes rushing forward. It is almost like birth pangs. Almost.

It's times like these I question. I question God and Love and all that makes me a Christian. Not to the point of losing my faith. No. It is that faith that sustains me through these times and out the other side. I am mature enough to know that it is because of times like these that a person truly grows. That 'what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.' But my daughter...my precious only child... doesn't understand that. She can't. She is in the worst pain of her young life. And I haven't the heart to tell her again that it will only happen again. And again. And, perhaps, again.

But, this is like being in shark infested waters. This is where I realize that I am not yet what I need to be. I don't have the words for either my daughter or my wife. Both are in pain and grieving. I can only think of my Mother and how she would have handled it. I'm certain she would have been just like me...in uncharted territory. We know that this is hard. The heart is a strange and wonderful thing. It breaks but is not irreparable. It shatters but is still whole. Almost.

I wish I had the answers for my daughter. But, only in a selfish way. I am glad that I don't have the answers. I am hopeful, that is, full of hope, that through this, she will see Jesus more clearly. I don't know how. But I know she will.

Please pray for us as we go through this and out the other side.

Peace be with you.

+ OD

10 August 2007

How Far We've Come!

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Luke 12.22-34.



Have you ever noticed how far we have come from a biblical worldview? Today, we have a lot of talk, from Christian and secular sources, that such-and-such is a 'natural instinct'. For the Christian, this means that God is the author of so-called 'natural instinct'. To the other person, this means that this is just the way things are. Either way, it seems to indicate that God is no longer involved with creation. That God is somehow removed from creation. This is Deism. That is, 'god' is a remote landlord. This is not the view of the Bible. Notice again what Jesus said,
'Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! ...Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,...And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers...he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?'

Jesus says that it is God who does those things! God is the one who is actually taking care of the birds and the flowers! Any other type of response in the mouths of Christians is, well, unchristian. This is the way things truly are; not the way they are perceived by the 'natural' person. St Paul said, 'Those who are unspiritual (or 'natural') do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are discerned spiritually' (1Cor. 2.14). In other words, you would expect to hear things are 'natural instinct' from the 'unspiritual' person. But may it never be from the mouths of Christians! Perhaps I'm naive. But to me, the naive person is the one who does not recognize the Creator's handiwork and give homage to the Creator. 'Things are not that simple. We have discovered that things are more complex than simple faith will allow.' I think it is the other way around. Things are that simple but when we remove any acknowledgment of God from the conversation, then things become complex.

Jesus said our faith must mimic that of a child. For children, things really are that simple. The birds are fed because God feeds them. The flowers are beautiful because God made them that way.
Eternal God, Creator of all that is seen and unseen, grant us eyes to see your hand, your Spirit, in all things; give us the words of praise to acknowledge your glory; grant unto us, O Sovereign LORD, the faith of a child. We humbly ask this through the world's rightful King, your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.

Peace be with you.

+ OD

09 August 2007

Random Thoughts Pieced Together?

While preparing for the Men's Bible Study at St John's, I had an illumination that I want to share with you.  In reading the Gospel lesson, I read this verse:
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.  Luke 12.31.

What does Jesus mean by the 'Kingdom (or rule) of God'?  The context seems to tell what it's not.  It is not food or drink or clothing or shelter or other material 'comforts' in this life.  Jesus said that those things 'dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world' but we shouldn't be concerned about them.  Instead, we are to 'seek the Kingdom of God'.  Why do you suppose it is that we can't find a chapter and verse telling us exactly what that phrase means?  What we find, like in this passage, is what the Kingdom of God is not.  Perhaps that is part of the point.  Perhaps we have to continually seek God to determine what that means in our lives.  And when we see things that the Kingdom of God is not, we know better how to ask.  And this led me to the next random thought.
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

James 4.1-3.



Back in my Charismatic days, this was one of the passages we used to refer to the 'name it and claim it' lifestyle.  That is, if you want a new car, you should ask and you should be specific about what you want. But, I don't think that is what is going on here.  I don't think James is telling to seek material things at all.  I think James is telling us to seek the Kingdom of God.  When we pray, are we praying for God to show us how to implement the Kingdom in our world?  Or are we asking God to give us material things?  I think James is trying to correct a materialism that was creeping in the community.  Those other people have 'things' because they are seeking the Kingdom of God!  And if we are looking at the way God is providing for them, and are getting jealous or greedy, then our motives are all wrong.  We are not seeking the Kingdom of God.  We are seeking 'what will give [us] pleasure'.

So the question comes down to this?  It is the same question Jesus asked the disciples.  He is asking us the same question today: Why do we have so little faith?  Why is our trust in God so small?  As Jesus says in the context of the question, God takes care of all of creation, it never plants nor reaps nor shops for clothes or sews fabrics and yet all the needs of creation is met by God.  I suppose my answer is that of the disciples on many different occasions:

Lord, increase my faith.

Peace be with you.

+ OD

07 August 2007

Perspective

Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.

Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Mark 8.22-33.



This was the Gospel reading for this morning.  It reminds me of a discussion I had recently with a friend of mine regarding the doctrines of predestination and 'free will'.  There could be a bunch of passages sited on both sides of this debate.  But to me, it all boils down to both sides just seeing one point of view.  Or, perhaps, placing a stronger emphasis on one over the other.  That debate alone is a prime example of the 'modern' dilemma.  We tend to see things from an 'either/or' perspective.  We see this in the debate itself, 'Predestination versus Free Will'.  It's one or the other.  It can't be both.  Or so we're told.

Jesus' statement to Peter is that Peter is out of balance.  He is seeing things 'merely' from the human perspective. It is important to see, however, that Jesus was not telling Peter to abandon his human point of view altogether.  The problem is not the view point.  The problem is that it is the only view point. Jesus is calling Peter to look at things more holistically.  Jesus is inviting Peter to add God's perspective to his own.

This passage isn't just limited to Peter.  We are in the same boat.  Time and again we tend to just see things from our perspective.  Christians are called to try and see things from other points of view.  We are to seek Christ in all persons.  This means that we must try and see things through the eyes of others.  This is relatively easy when it is our friends or people who are 'liked minded' as the saying goes.  But what about our enemies?  Do we stop and think about how things look for them?  Do we stop and ask God to give us 'eyes to see' how they may view the world around them?  This is more difficult and scary.  But, I believe it is crucial. When we stop and prayerfully ask God to help us see things from God's perspective, and the perspective of others, we are less likely to make rash decisions.  We would have to be more contemplative in our choices.  We would have to, God forbid, slow down.  This, as I have just alluded, is not something the modern person wants to do.  We want to go and go and go.  We want what we want when we want it and we want it now.  Hang what anyone else thinks.  But that is precisely why Jesus reprimanded Peter.  More times that not, we are only seeking what's supposedly best for us.

In the context of this passage is the conversation about who Jesus was.  He asked the disciples what the surrounding people were saying about him.  After giving different theories, Jesus asked them who they thought he was.  And Peter said 'You are the Messiah'.  This is crucial for understanding the last part of the last paragraph.  The titles 'Son of Man' and Messiah (or King) were synonymous in first-century Jewish culture.  And the idea of Messiah meant that Israel would finally put the pagan Romans under their heels and crush them.  But in this passage, Jesus just took that idol and shattered it at the feet of the disciples.  Now we can see why Peter reprimanded Jesus.  He was thinking of himself.  He was thinking of what was in it for him.  Oh, sure, the whole nation would get to be top dog, but he and his buddies would get all of the sweet executive jobs in the new kingdom. There was nothing wrong with the idea of kingdom.  The problem comes when the only version you have is the human version.  Jesus is saying that Peter needed to see God's version of Kingdom.  And God's version of Kingdom were the previous verses.  And this brings in another problem for Peter and us as well.

Often times when we finally see the other point of view, whether it's God's or someone else's, it is the opposite of our own.  And more times than not, we have to change the way we see things.  When we don't it is usually because we don't like where it will take us.  When we start seeing God's perspective (or someone else's) it usually means an uncomfortable time of growth.  To produce a healthy tree, there is some pruning involved.  When our perspective meets another perspective, change must occur.  That is why it is so vitally important to stop and prayerfully consider others when we make decisions.  It is not all about what we want.  For us to be like Jesus, wow... a thought just hit me.  Jesus had both perspectives.  That is, he was the human being and the Divine Being.  He saw things from both perspectives.  He is calling Peter, and us too, to be like him.  To have both perspectives.  Only then, can we actually implement God's Dream in the world around us.

Peace be with you.

+ OD

06 August 2007

Bible Translations

Over the past few days, I have had a great opportunity to talk to different people about Bible translations. The first discussion came with my Daughters return from Church Camp. She had been invited the past few years by her best friend and her boyfriend. Well, she went this year and just got back last Friday.

Anyway, she took my small New Living Translation with her (her copy is a hardback and a little bigger). When she got back she said that some people didn't like her Bible mostly because that it wasn't formal enough. Yep. You guessed it. They mostly used the King James Version. Which, once you think about it, it's kind of funny. For those of you who don't know, the KJV was produced for the Church of England, the Anglican Church, or the Episcopal Church of the United States of America. Just check out the preface sometime. The reason it's funny is this wasn't an Episcopal church camp. Well, I guess it's funny to me.

Anyway, after we talked about that (some not liking her translation) she said she would like a KJV. I told her that that was cool but that it wasn't a real good translation. She asked why.

Fast-forward to the Men's Bible Study. A couple of the men asked a similar question. We were on the subject (again!) of translations. One man is insistent that the Bible can't be trusted because of the difficulty in translation. He was a medical missionary in India and he knows the problems one has when trying to translate language. Because of this, he says that the Bible can't be trusted.

Another guy was asking about the translations that we have and which gospels should be included, bringing up the (supposed) 'gospels' of Mary, Thomas, and Judas.

My response to them was similar to my response to my Daughter.

The KJV of the Bible had a few manuscripts to work from and a handful of translators. Since then, however, we have discovered many more manuscripts and most of them date earlier than those used for the KJV. It is because of these manuscripts that a lot of the newer Bibles read the way they do. The majority of the most reliable texts may or may not have certain passages that people are familiar with. So, there will usually be a note. Something like, 'These verses are not in the earliest manuscripts'. Or, 'Some manuscripts have...' A perfect example of this is, of course, the 'Lord's Prayer'. In most modern translations the traditional 'end' will be 'missing' and in its place will be a footnote stating 'Some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'

Another thing to consider is how the text has been translated. That is, there are a couple of different ways of translating the manuscripts into any receptor language -- a 'literal' or 'word-for-word' translation and a 'dynamic' or 'thought-for-thought' translation. For the longest time I was all about the 'literal' translation. I wanted the closest English translation to the 'original' texts I could get. However, as I have gotten older, and perhaps a smidgen wiser, I find the 'dynamic' translation better. In some cases, superior. Here is the reasoning for that. Most of us use catch phrases and cultural idioms all the time. I'm sure we have heard (if not used) the phrase 'It's raining cats and dogs'. We know that we mean it is raining really hard. That a large volume of water is coming down outside. However, if we could travel two millennia in the future, that phrase would be completely lost. If someone translated that 'literally' there would have to be some way of figuring out what we were talking about. With a dynamic translation of the same phrase, they could say that it was raining very hard.

Now, I said all of that to say this. Most people I know prefer a mixture of both in Bible translations. While they may lean one way or the other, they prefer a rich mixture of both types of translation. And along that line, most people who actually study the Bible have multiple translations so they can compare them. They get a better understanding of the text when looking at the different versions.

Personally, I like the NLT for an every day reading Bible. I use it because I am familiar with more of the literal translations. I like something that will shake me up a little bit. That shocks me with what I'm reading. And that is my recommendation to others as well. We become so familiar with biblical passages that we just half read them. But when reading a version we are not familiar with, those passage come alive! It's quite shocking sometimes.

Well, that's about it...

...what?

Oh! What about the other 'gospels'? Well, this again ties into what we said about the earliest manuscripts. You see, people have the (erroneous) idea that there was no consensus about the texts of the New Testament. That a bunch of people got together and just picked some books from others because they had an agenda to bury the 'truth' and make a move in the material (read: political, financial) world. That is, the motivation was for power and greed.

The other misconception is that all of the texts under consideration were written around the same time period. However, neither of these views are completely accurate. They do contain a sliver of truth, but not much more than that.

For the most part, a church council did get together and look at the manuscripts and decided on what should be included in the New Testament. However, what they discussed and 'voted' on were books that they were already using. All of the 26 books of the New Testament were agreed upon except for the book of Revelation. There was a dispute, however, over a few other books listed in the New Testament: Philemon, Hebrews, the Letters of John (1John, 2John, 3John), 2Peter, Jude, and Revelation. However, as I said, all of them, save Revelation, were accepted. This took place in roughly 363-364 AD at the Council of Laodicea. Again, and I can't stress this enough, these were the letters that the churches were already using and had been using for a couple of centuries.

Next, the church was in an intense 'battle' against different worldviews, namely gnosticism. This view is more of a platonic worldview than that of a Jewish holistic worldview. That is, it sees the physical world (and I am using a very big broad brush here) as a prison. The 'real world' is the unseen spiritual world. This world is to be 'escaped from'. It is to be seen as 'evil'. Now, granted, there are plenty of passages in the New Testament, left to themselves, where one may get this idea. However, and this was a key point for the council, the overall story of the Bible did not line up with the worldview of gnosticism.

As for the other 'gospels' and other gnostic writings, most of these were written well after most (if not all) of the New Testament was written. Furthermore, they are mostly just sayings without any context at all. The ideas they promote are just the sort that the council would have rejected anyway. However, the idea was not one of power and greed. It was a desire to unify the various churches with a set of documents that continued on with the biblical story.

Throughout its early history, the New Testament had gone through other councils to determine if newly discovered documents should be added. In every case, the 27 books of the New Testament were reaffirmed time after time. The other works did not represent the 'true' version of Christianity but a completely different worldview and were rejected.

Peace be with you.

+ OD