Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday. I'm mumble mumble years old and delighted to be still upright and breathing and able to take nourishment.

The lovely Sis. Geek woke me with a present this morning and packed me off to work with a smile. The geeklets have presents to give me this evening. One of the congregation sent me a birthday text message as I was geting ready to step out of the door. And then when I got to Starbucks for my mid-week study, I was on the phone with Sis. Geek, standing around outside, and Angie, one of my regular baristas came out with my usual order of coffee for me. (When I went in and tried to pay for it, she wouldn't let me. Bless her little cotton socks!)

Life is good!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Set the bar too high?

So there I am at the fellowship after oldest geeklet's piano recital and I was going through the line for snacks (Mmmm ... snacks!) when I overheard just a snippit of the conversation between piano instructor's husband and some other parent.

Other parent was complaining that people (I assume he meant us evil conservatives) were alledging that President Obama was setting the bar too high. Don't know which bar.

Piano instructor's husband replied, to the effect of "well, why not set the bar high?"

I was under strict instructions to be on my best behavior (even had to take my NRA cap off at the recital), so I refrained from joining the conversation and pointing out that when President Obama even seems to know where the bar is, that he has trouble clearing it on the lowest settings!

It really sucks having a president who still needs training wheels for his leadership role.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Definition of Hell?

Some kind soul at the day job left this on my chair for me yesterday and so as the last post was quite serious, I thought a little humor would be helpful.
There have been many definitions of hell, but for the English the best definition is that it is the place where the Germans are the police, the Swedish are the comedians, the Italians are the defense force, Frenchmen dig the roads, the Belgians are the pop singers, the Spanish run the railways, the Turks cook the food, the Irish are the waiters, the Greeks run the government and the common language is Dutch.
Actually, that does sound pretty bad.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Does Evil Really Exist?

Clayton Cramer has an interesting blog entry about the reality of evil existing and that while he is an agnostic, he gave much credibility to an account of Roger L. Simon over at PJTV, who had recently met Ahmadinejad the president of Iran and who had found himself staggered by the presence of pure evil.

So, let's answer the question of does evil really exist.

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer:

As I'm absolutely sure that I have previously explained that I am a recycled atheist, I feel qualified to comment on going from not believing in spiritual things, to, very obviously, believing in them.

The reality is that most people don't think about the existence of a spirit world while living their life. This doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Those who do think about it don't get much further than getting goosebumps or feeling spooked in dark, creepy places. These sensations are real, but minor enough that they don't give them any further thought after the event.

The landscape changes when you receive the Holy Ghost. (Naturally, I mean the "real" receiving the Holy Ghost, where folks end up speaking with other tongues.) Having the spirit of God inside you conveys a whole new raft of abilities that often catch the newly filled by surprise. Suddenly, your weak perception of spirits starts getting stronger. How much stronger does it get? That seems to depend on a number things.

Some folks get very little improvement to their ability to sense spirit things, while others get very detailed ability to identify them and even visibly discern them. I started out toward the lower end of the scale after I came into the church, but with practice that increased. Then another jump in my ability to sense spirits came when I became a pastor.

That increase really caught me by surprise. Not that I wasn't able to feel the spirit of the Lord when he moved. I certainly could. I could feel the change in the spiritual atmosphere before either an altar call or when one of the gifts of the spirit was about to operate. The thing that really surprised me was the other spirits that I could now sense.

Suddenly, I could sense spirits that I had not previously felt and was plugged into the spirit in ways that I had not previously been. A few examples would be in order here.

Every pastor inherits interesting members in their congregation. The definitions of interesting vary, but while most are harmless, a few are malevolent. Bro. L. was one of these. Nice until you disagreed with him. And downright argumentative if you disagreed over his favorite subject of the "end times". And as I had had to correct his behavior a few times during the pastoral transition before the resident pastor left for his new assignment (the corrections were in private, of course) he really didn't like me. I say all of that to introduce the fact that there was no love in the situation. Once I took over the pastorate a funny thing happened. I started being able to sense when Bro. L. entered the building. For real. I was often up in the sanctuary praying before service and I could feel that an evil spirit had entered the church. A few minutes later, guess who would walk in. I discounted this the first few times, but after it happens every time I started realizing the correlation was real. After trying to work with him for six months, the board and I decided that he needed to go and ever since he left, I have not felt that particular spirit again.

As a pastor you need information to help you minister to people. Unfortunately, many people do not want to tell you the truth. (They still want quality guidance though.) A few times now, the Lord has dropped the information I needed and that they weren't telling me into my mind. This then helps me give the advice that people need to hear. Getting them to follow pastoral advice is another long blog post best saved for another day.

My final example is where I was feeling that our congregation had hit a spiritual wall and while we had good services and the congregation was being fed, we weren't reaching those outside the walls of the church. This is a troubling situation for a pastor. So I was talking to the Lord about this and some other situations and asking him what could be done about it, when he answered by dropping the information that I needed directly into my mind. He told me that the problem was that we were dealing with a spirit and the name of this spirit was "Independence".

The interesting thing about names is that people don't realize how connected we are to our name. This is doubly so in the spirit world. Not having a body, a spirit effectively is it's name. Knowing the name of the spirit allows you to directly address it, targeting it for prayers of binding and casting down. Knowing the name of the spirit that had set itself against us, I started praying against it and encouraged the church to join me in this.

I knew that it would happen, but when it did it was still a little surprising. I was awoken a little after four in the morning by a feeling that was very distinctive. I knew who, what and why even before I was fully awake. The spirit of Independence had come calling. We live in a raised ranch style house, so I walked from the bedroom down the hallway into the living room and it was just light enough to see that while I was the only physical being in the room, I wasn't alone.

I suppose that I should have been scared and nervous, but I'd had a few similar interactions before and to be honest, was really angry about losing an hour's sleep so that some upstart spirit could try to stop me and the congregation fulfilling the objectives of the lord. So, I didn't bother worrying and went straight on the attack. Maybe ten minutes later I was alone again. I'll spare you the details of spiritual warfare, except to say that it's real and doesn't involve anything looking like kung fu.

About a week later, it was back and made the mistake of waking me up early again. This time I think it took about two minutes to toss it out.

This took place about a month ago and with the spirit of Independence mostly out of the way, our congregation has been having even better services than usual and we've baptized three people in four weeks and have at least one more scheduled for next week.

And just in case you think I'm bragging on myself (I'm really not) I'll wrap up with an observation that I heard from one of our missionaries about other organization's missionaries in Africa. You see Africa is an interesting place. It's beautiful and dangerous all at the same time ... and I don't mean the lions or snakes. Have you ever wondered why Africa is called the "dark continent"? It sure isn't for a lack of sunlight; Africa is spiritually dark. The witch doctors and shamen there have demonic power at their command. They rule, each of them, in their own villages or region. Their rule is one of terror. Those who cross them generally end up dead. This includes missionaries. Well (and remember I got this from a retired African missionary) the missionaries from these other organizations seek out our missionaries and get themselves baptized in Jesus name and prayed through to receive the Holy Ghost so that they will have power to resist and overcome the evil spirits behind the witch doctors. I won't share some of the stories of what the witch doctors did because it still makes my hair stand up on end when I think about it. But there is pure evil in the world and Africa is one of the easier places to find it.

If you're still reading at this point, I hope that I've showed that evil does exist. Most people do not come into contact with it, so when they do, such as meeting the president of Iran, it shocks them to the core. Now that I move in more spirit-filled circles, it loses it's fear and now I just find it annoying. (I suspect that evil is starting to find me pretty annoying as well! :-)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Pastor's Evening

Ever wondered what a pastor does in the evenings? Wonder no more! Last night was busy enough that I thought I'd record what I did because else people may find themselves thinking that pastors just sit at home drinking tea all evening. (I wish!)

The evening started by getting home late from the day job. Ride-sharing is great for the shared gas costs, but it can be challenging from the trying to get everyone ready to leave at the same time perspective. Just before I leave, I get a call from Bro. M. asking if I can lend him some money to pay some bills. Bro. M. has a long history with this congregation and is a hard working fellow, so I cut him some slack and hit the ATM on the way to run a few other errands. I needed kerosene to burn the wet leaves on my vegetable patch that are offending my neighbor who has his youngest daughter's graduation coming up at the end of the month. And then I had to get some gas for the church lawnmower and weedwhacker.

After getting home from that, I saw the church's banker out in his back yard, so I wandered out to talk to him about the renewal of the church mortgage. (We were waiting on some documents to sign.) Hey, doesn't everyone chat with their banker in the back yard? Try it sometime, it's the only way to conduct business.

Getting in from that, I had a voicemail from Bro. K. letting me know ahead of time that he would be unable to make it for midweek service as he had work to do in nearby town that evening. Thankfully I didn't need to call him back.

At this point, I could finally check my email and make a cup of tea.

That done, I then grabbed my materials for tonight's lesson and started working on it at the kitchen table, interupted on a regular basis by the lovely Sis. Geek and the geeklets wanting either hugs or tucking up in bed. Unfortunately no one was left awake to tuck me up when I finally managed to get horizontal at about 11:30pm.

And that's just one evening.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


What Republicans need is a mutiny.

Almost too many good quotes to mention, but I will share this one:
Democrats have nothing to fear from today's Republican Party leaders. That's why Democrats have taken to targeting Rush Limbaugh and others who aren't in formal leadership positions in the GOP but who forcefully articulate a conservative vision.
It's all that good.

A Glorious Day For Daddy

Yes, I know this is Mother's Day (in the United States anyway, other countries vary greatly on their chosen day of celebration), but this my blog and I'm a daddy, so I write from my perspective.

The reason for celebration on my part is that adorable geeklet number two was baptised this morning. There is just something wonderful about being able to baptise your own children as you see them develop their own walk with the Lord.

The in-laws were over visiting for the weekend to see the baptism. I haven't seen them for a few weeks, so that was nice to have some time with them. (I know, I know, I'm unusual for liking my in-laws, but you'd like them too if you met them! :-) Grilled steak for lunch followed by Apple pie and Ice-cream and visiting over strong coffee is a great way to wrap up a visit.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

We the people

Now, you might ask yourself why on earth would a conservative fellow want to become a U.S. citizen at this time? It's a good question and the answer really is very simple.

You see, while I wholeheartedly disagree with the current administration's views and philosophies, I realise that the President of the United States (POTUS) is not the United States. The United States is very simply the sum total of "We The People". Nothing more and certainly nothing less. (Whether our current president realizes this is another conversation.)

The political structure in this country is set up to allow regions (states or congressional districts) to elect fellow citizens to represent them in discussions over matters that are important, but that they cannot easily get away from their business obligations to attend the meetings. This explains the first three words of the United States Constitution being "We the people". The United States of America are run by the people. We are a government of the people by the people. Don't believe me? Take a look at the constitution sometime, the word "We the people" are in enormous letters, as if the founding fathers wanted no one to have any excuse to forget that "We the people" are the final authority around here.

I am proud to be one of "We the people".

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I am delighted to announce ...

I am delighted to announce that after living in these fine and wonderful United States of America for fifteen years, I have now completed my journey to citizenship.

On Thursday, I attended the Oath Ceremony at the Federal Courthouse in Big City and with Sis. Geek and the geeklets watching raised my right hand and swore at, I mean to, the judge and then received my certificate of citizenship.

While I'm obviously very happy about this, it's interesting that very little felt different. The Lord had already caused me to feel at home in this country, my state and especially the town that I pastor in. So, in many ways, the citizenship thing was just the law catching up with what God had already set in place. Either way, I am delighted to be a citizen of the greatest country that exists at this time.

I took treats to work on Friday and found it very interesting that with only a very few exceptions, it was mostly others who had also sought (or are currently seeking) U.S. citizenship who came and congratulated me. Do people born here not realise the magnificent portion of good luck that they received when they became American by birth? I fear that many do not.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Range Report

I see that Tam is complaining about it being 31 degrees at the range today. Here in deepest fly-over country it was 11 degrees at nearby big city and with wind chill I think it was around 2 or perhaps a generous 3 degrees fahrenheit at my nearest outdoor range. I went and forced myself to send a hundred rounds down range at 50 yards, but after that I had to jump back in the car to defrost on my way home.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Technology Choices

There is no more opinionated subject matter among geeks than the choice of technologies used for a project. Your choice of technology is a de facto application for membership in a technology tribe.

In an ideal world there would be only the best technologies and we'd all just use that and there would be no arguments. This is not that world. So decisions must be made.

The least contentious is operating system. It still is a contentious decision, but it pales compared to programming language, framework and toolsets. As I want to create a web-hosting business, I need to select a server setup. I had heard good reports of Slicehost and have had a VPS with them for a year that I was gently tinkering with and the stability and reliability have seemed suitable for my purposes. Slicehost only offer Linux hosting, but you do get to choose which distribution you use. I selected Ubuntu as that seems to be the big dog at this time.

With the operating system out of the way the decisions get more difficult. One of my hobbies is learning and tinkering with non-mainstream programming languages. It is very tempting to use one of those for the development work. On the other hand, with the acute lack of time I have, it would be practical to select a more mainstream development environment and save time and effort and have more access to support and knowledge on the Internet.

I pondered on this for a while and decided to go with a pragmatic approach to start with. I'm going with a full LAMP stack and will be using PHP for the programming language. Going with LAMP makes many decisions for me all at the same time. LAMP means I'll be using Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. Once I escape from Corporate America, I'll be able to go back to tinkering and perhaps write some features with those niche languages.

An interesting thing abut PHP is that while it is a very pragmatic choice, after all it was developed specifically for web programming, it is also a very controversial choice with some. I have read many a blog entry blasting PHP and declaring it to be evil beyond compare and totally unsuited for "real web development". I find this funny as I find it nice to use and pretty easy to get things done when I'm using it. I like to think that on my day job I am a "real" web developer, in almost any way you may wish to define "real". While it is easy to write very bad and very unsafe code in PHP, it's just as easy to write equally bad code in Java or Python or Ruby or JavaScript or any other language that people think is better than PHP. As usual, it's the programmer not the language that determines the eventual quality of the code.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I'm Sure That I'm Not Supposed To Say This

I don't like Valentine's Day and I object to what it has become.

It's not that I have anything against romance. The lovely Sis. Geek and I have been married for twelve years and we went out for an expensive dinner last night and held hands and talked and gazed into each others eyes for an evening. Very nice and something I'd repeat in a heartbeat as I throughly enjoy getting all gushy and dopey about my beautiful wife.

So, having established that I'm not just being a meanie, what don't I like about Valentine's Day?

I don't like the fact that it has turned into another Hallmark Holiday and became an excuse to crank the emotional blackmail up to eleven. And how ever did it become all about the ladies and guys are just expected to empty their pockets and cough up flowers and presents? And where on earth did the idea come from to give everyone one and their dog a Valentine card and gift? When I was a lad, you gave a Valentine card only to your true love or the one you wanted to be your true love.

These days the guy that doesn't want to be in trouble had better buy flowers (at least a dozen red roses or you're forever branded as cheap) and jewelry (lots of sparkle or you're cheap again) and then there had better be a romantic dinner for two at some foo foo restaurant where it's impossible for a guy to order anything that he'd actually want to eat. And the lady? She's just expected to graciously accept it all.

I don't know about you, but that sounds wrong to me. Once a year you either survive or you dig yourself so far into a hole, that you'll be lucky to dig out by the following Valentine's Day.

I reject this approach and have made my feelings to this effect strongly known to the lovely Sis. Geek. There is a much better way to go about this romance thing and any lady that thinks romance involves being wined and dined once a year is selling herself, her guy and her relationship short.

What is this better way? Here's what I do. I tell the lovely Sis. Geek that I love her every day. I call her every workday when I go for my midday walk. I try to find things I can do to show her that I love her. (Doing the washing up is one of her favorite ways for me to help, with doing my own laundry a close second.) I make efforts to buy her flowers periodically, especially when I'm not in trouble. I open doors for her, including car doors. I hold her hand when we go places. I complement her when she wears something that I like her in or when she takes time to fix her hair just the way I like it. I let her choose my outfit when we go out on dates (this is a big deal for her, I'm a T-Shirt and Jeans kind of guy around the house). I go shopping with her now and then and take an interest in what she tries on. (I love taking Sis. Geek to Christopher and Banks; they have great priced, nice looking clothes and she looks great in everything she buys there.) When the geeklets were smaller, I changed more than my fair share of diapers and gave them nearly all of their baths. Every year when she goes off to the district Ladies Retreat, I take a couple of days off of work and look after the geeklets and make sure that the house is clean and tidy for when she returns.

I'm sure I'm forgetting plenty of other things that I do, but you get the picture. If there's a "special secret" to this relationship stuff, then I'd say that it would be to pour a little love out on your dearly beloved each and every day. If you do that, things will go well more often than not. You'll make mistakes now and then. Welcome to being an imperfect human-being. But when you mess up, say sorry, make plans to try not to do it again and go back to pouring on the love. Oh, and never buy flowers when you're in trouble, because then she'll wonder what you did when you buy the flowers at other times.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

So, how's that going to Work?

Isn't every every man and his dog selling websites to churches? It does seem that way. So in order to make a go of this, I need to use a couple of old-fashioned concepts, the first being relationship and the second being niche.

You see, people do business with people they like or who are like them. This should cover the relationship side of things. I will target (almost) exclusively churches and pastors within the UPCI. I am trusting that this will give an increased comfort level to churches to do business with one of their own. Hopefully a few testimonials from happy customers in this district will help as well.

I also learned long ago to not fear the niche business. When you do business in the wide-open market, you are competing with everyone (and their dog) and it's a rough market at times. You are effectively a minnow in the ocean. When you start addressing niche markets, you obviously reduce your effective audience, but you also magnify your effect and switch from minnow to shark or even a whale.

I previously worked for a company that sold consumer product repair information. Trust me, selling repair information to people who repair TVs, VCRs and other consumer electronics is a niche market, but this company was the biggest player in the niche by at least an order of magnitude. Everyone else was selling their information on the side for pocket money, while we were 100% focused on that market. It made a huge difference and we were very profitable.

So by targeting a niche (UPCI churches) within a niche (church websites) and perhaps even concentrating on only the smaller churches (like the one I pastor), I can know what they want and will work to deliver a high quality product with good service at a fair price.

As I am my typical customer I have certain amount of market analysis fairly well covered. I know that most churches do not have a resident geek. (Some are tripping over geeks in the congregation volunteering to help, but that's pretty unusual.) Of course, I am my own church geek, but pastoring takes up most of the time that I could offer to myself. In our district, we had a ministry fair last year and I was drafted to volunteer at the "Apostolic Geek" table. I talked to quite a few pastors who were interested in getting a church website, but didn't know what to do and didn't want to buy expensive packages from companies they didn't know whether they could trust.

More than just selling a church a website, I also see a need for filling the role of church geek for these smaller churches. While it would be difficult for me to be onsite at most other churches, I could at least be a technology adviser and take some of the pressure off the pastor so that they don't feel they needed to spend more time understanding technology than the scriptures.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Call Me Crazy

One of the disadvantages of being a bi-vocational pastor is that you don't really fit in at work anymore. What little career aspirations I ever had, have long since dissipated; they are gone like the morning mist when the sun rises high enough to burn it off.

Most of my chain of command don't understand my priorities and a number of them now see me as unmotivated because I'm not the first to step forward to seek extra responsibilities. I do stuff and I try to do it well, but it is viewed negatively that I want to arrive, do my assigned tasks and then go home. To this end, I suspect that should there be a need to reduce head count around here, my scalp would be near the front of the list. Please understand, I'm not feeling sorry for myself here, or asking for sympathy, I'm just being honest about my situation. And I actually work for a pretty good company, but like most corporations, they have trouble seeing past their own walls out into the real world.

So, crazy as it might seem, I am trying to get a startup business going in the evenings. Not that I have much time and not that I'm bored, but I feel the need to escape from Corporate America sooner rather than later. And even if they wanted to keep me around for years to come, the side-income would be reassuring.

So, what on earth can a busy pastor do that others might pay for? A good question and one that I have been pondering for a while.

I read (a few years ago so I don't remember where) of a principle for starting businesses. That principle was "Never move more than one step from your expertise". The example that the article used was the owner of a fish restaurant looking to expand and start a second business. The specialties of the owner were, fairly obviously, knowing about fish and running a restaurant. So options would include starting a different kind of restaurant, steak would be my vote or doing something else with fish, perhaps mail-order. Each of these options would be only one step away from the owner's core competency. On the other hand, starting a mail-order steak business would be two steps from his core, so that would be inviting trouble and it's good friend failure.

I see the logic in this principle and so I'll refrain from selling Tupperware and stay close to my core. As a geek, writing programs is the thing and especially interactive websites. As a pastor I know about pastoring and church stuff. Hmmm, so how to build off of one or both of those? Well ... drum roll please ... how about websites aimed at churches and pastors? Oh my goodness, I think I'm onto something here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Last summer I wrote about my bad singing and general lack of song leading skills. I also wrote about the technique I use to graphically describe the possible flows through the songs that we sing. I think I forgot to mention that I received quite a bit of (mostly good natured) ribbing for that.

Well today, our song leader said to me that he's gotten so used to having that notation at the bottom of each of the song sheets that when our new piano player handed him her song sheets without them, he felt completely lost!


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Did I mention that I was geeky?

So I'm a little geeky. Really, it's not a huge problem. I'm not addicted. I can stop any time I want. I can.

How geeky are we talking about here? Well, our church may be the only one in the UPCI this year to generate it's annual contribution letters with AWK and process them with LaTeX into PDFs for printing. (The lovely Sis. Geek did the statements using QuickBooks.) It all worked so well that I'm already planning on generating the whole contribution package next year with scripts.