A Quick Opinion Poll

Please feel free to add any answers I may have forgotten.

 

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Cobwebs

Cobwebs

Sorry for the cobwebs.  I haven’t been here a while.

I came back and decided to mess with the template and a bunch of other things and found a bunch of atrociously outdated information (like, for example, every single piece of contact information on the contact sheet) so I’ve done some major pruning and major editing.  Sorry for those of you who have been trying to reach me by Blackberry Messenger.  I haven’t used a Blackberry in 2+ years.  Sorry it took me so long to catch it.

You can look for me to be a lot more active in the future.  I’m not exactly sure “what” I’m going to use this site for specifically, but you can rest assured I am going to start using it.

I miss messing with WordPress.

Welcome back.

Google Search And Maps Showing The Wrong Language

<sarcasm> Oh we had fun this morning. </sarcasm>

One of our cats slept on Jillian’s laptop the other day, and ever since her Google Search and Google Maps results were showing in French.  (At least that’s what we think the connection was.)

She put up with it for a day or so, and finally today I’d had enough.  It took me a lot longer to fix than I thought it would.

I went into her Google Account thinking “Oh, her language just got changed to French, this will be easy” but when I pulled up the account settings, her language was set to English.

I checked the Windows settings.  Everything in Windows was English.

Remember Air Force One (the movie)?  Remember when they were trying to send a message to the situation room and the aide speaks up and says “No sir, phones and faxes are two separate systems of encryption?”  Yeah well, it’s kinda like that.

For some brilliant reason, Google has two language settings.  One for Search (which apparently also affects Maps) and one for everything else.

The address for the Search preferences is http://www.google.com/preferences.  (Make sure you’re logged in to your Google account!)

Note:  I find it interesting that in the pulldown menu on that page, that it shows the names of the languages in the currently selected language.  This could have been a nightmare for us if the cat had selected Chinese or Korean instead of French.  I take no responsibility for practical jokes that were inspired by this paragraph.

Spiritual Lessons From Herding Cats

When people hear how many cats we have, the response is invariably either one of shock or wonderment. I admit, sometimes it’s overwhelming, particularly when they all get hungry at once. When the breakfast bell rings it can be like The Calgary Stampede meets Survivor. And often my body is Redemption Island.

As I write this, one of the “contestants” in our screwed up little reality show — Miss Weazley — is laying at the foot of the bed. Out cold. This is normally the time that the “congregation” gathers on the bed for their daily community nap, but because I’m still here and the bed is not made, the boys have chosen to wait.

You have to understand something about Weaz. She used to be a very high strung cat. We suspect she is at least part Bombay and when she was younger, she was very aggressive with the other cats. That’s started to fade in the last year. But usually when they have their community nap, she is the lookout. She will sleep paws-down and is the first one eyes-open ready to run if something or someone interrupts their sleeping circle.

Right now she is laying on her side with her paws askew all over the place in a posture of complete and total relaxation. Why? Because she doesn’t need to be the lookout because I’m here. She feels safe. Weaz and I are very good “friends” and she trusts me. She knows that none of the — shall we say “less intellectually gifted family members” — will interrupt her sleep because they will face “Dad’s” wrath.

Most of you know that I have officially declared 2013 to be “The Year From Hell”. Just when I think it can’t get any worse, something else happens. This hasn’t been a one-off. It’s been practically every day of this year since mid January. To say it has at times eaten the joy out of my soul would be an understatement.

And yet I think of this little black cat — who has now awaken from her nap and come to watch me type on the iPad — and I find myself admiring her wisdom. I wonder if she’s been reading Proverbs on my iPad and found my bookmark of Proverbs 18:10. The name of The Lord is a fortified tower. The righteous run into it and are safe. (Before y’all accuse me me of having a God complex, remember that God gave us dominion over the animals in Genesis 1:26, a verse that PETA and Greenpeace and all those other tree huggers could afford to re-read.)

It’s easy to bitch. It’s easy to complain. I do it, I do it a lot. But when it seems the mouth of hell is opening under your feet it’s good to remember who the firm foundation is and just shut off your brain — like Weazley — and take an emotional nap. In the soothing words of one of Jamaica’s most famous sons “Everything gonna be alright.”

Music For Mackenzie

Most of you on my friends list (barring those in Thailand or Israel or other remote regions) got an invite to a concert from me today. In CASE you haven’t heard what that’s about, give me a few minutes and let tell you a little bit about May 11th.

PLEASE READ THIS. IT’S VERY IMPORTANT.

A group of people I will refer to as “Friends of Mackenzie” are raising money for him. Mackenzie (Mackie) Graham is a seven month old boy who was born blind with a condition called PFVS. To make a very long story short, we have to do this surgery in Michigan. OHIP won’t cover it. It’s not cheap. If you want the long version feel free to inbox me or call me. I’ve told the story so many times online my fingers are almost worn to the bone.  But if you want, you can watch the video here, which is a clip that CityTV aired in early March.

So on May 11th we are holding a concert and silent auction. (If you DIDN’T get the invite, the event page is at https://www.facebook.com/events/482598278472956/. Feel free to invite yourself.) Mark Masri (http://www.markmasri.com/) and The Wiebes (http://thewiebesmusic.com/) will be performing for us that night and it’s going to be spectacular.  Amber MacArthur from TechTV (http://www.ambermac.com) will be our MC that night.  Tickets will be available online THIS FRIDAY (April 5th) at http://www.regenttheatre.ca/. Tickets are $30 for the concert, or $60 for the concert with what I have amusingly labelled a “Meat And Greet” at Buster Rhino’s Southern BBQ which is within walking distance of the theatre. The $60 covers the concert, your food, and a carbonated beverage, but does not include alcoholic beverages. (By the way, we are DEEPLY indebted to Buster Rhinos for their help, support, and generosity in planning this event. Especially with the Boss being couch-ridden for the past two to three weeks. Get well soon, D! WE LOVE YOU MAN!!!) If you have any questions… inbox me. (Oh by the way, there are 554 of the $30 tickets and 50 of the $60 tickets and when they’re gone, they’re GONE. We’re not holding any tickets in reserve. So don’t wait!)

ITEM #2 on the agenda. The Silent Auction. We are STILL in need of items for the silent auction. ESPECIALLY ITEMS THAT ARE NOT SPORTS RELATED. We have enough sports memorabilia to open the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame. We want some variety. If your business or organization would like to donate something for the silent auction, in support of Mackenzie’s medical bills, please inbox me. We will be more than happy to advertise your business at the silent auction.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. This is the most important cause I’ve ever put my shoulder behind in my life. And I thank ALL of you for your support.

CityTV Coverage Of Mackie’s Story

Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin; We’ve Lost Sight Of The First Part

This post is going to upset people.  I’m warning you from the outset.  I’m taking a flamethrower to Old Religion in this post, and in fact, to some of the things I have held dear for most of my life.

Hindsight is a hideous thing.  Long before I lost my job in January my mind was beginning to analyze some of the decisions I’ve made in ministry in the last two years.  I realize nobody’s perfect and my choices were made with the best of intent.

Somebody posted a quote of Rick Warren’s a few weeks ago that hit a chord with me.

Our culture has accepted two huge lies:
The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle you must fear or hate them.
The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.
Both are nonsense.

I agree with this wholeheartedly, regardless of whether Rick Warren said it or not.

The evangelical Christian response to homosexuals (not homosexuality) in the last generation and a half has done nothing to further the cause of Christ.  I wrote that one, you can quote me on it.

I have a friend.   She will always be my friend, regardless of whatever dumb ideas she may have at any given time.  She used to be a he.  And according to a medical definition, she still is a he, but that’s subject to change anytime in the future.  Am I concerned about this?  Absolutely I am.  Am I going to take my twenty pound leather bound KJV and beat her over the head with hate and religious jargon and scare her further away from God?  How am I going to answer to God if I make that my choice?

She was a kid in one of my past youth groups.  She used to sing in the worship team and has a lot of talent.  After leaving home to go to college, she was exposed to influences that made her think.   You can rest assured that those influences didn’t say “Oh.  You’re a Christian.  We’re not going to have anything to do with you!”

I’m not afraid of her.  And I don’t hate her.  In fact, in Christian circles, she has acknowledged my wife and I as being “one of the few” who treats her like a human being.  I don’t agree with her choice to label herself the way she has.  And I’m not going to help her go down the path any further.  But if somebody doesn’t reach over the side of the boat with their arm extended, this precious soul is going to drown.

At Christmas last year, I preached my last message at my old church on a non-traditional Christmas passage.  I preached on John 3:16.  We say the Reason For The Season is Jesus.  And if that’s true, then the answer to all the questions about why Christmas happened the way it did can be found in John 3:16.  God loved the world so much… that He gave his only Son…

Just because somebody has “come out of the closet” doesn’t mean we as Christians should retreat into one and nervously sing our songs of faith and power on continuous repeat hoping it will drive the scary people away.  And just because somebody comes out of the closet doesn’t make his or her sin any more or less serious than the sin we nurture in our churches by labeling people and trying to excommunicate them from the grace they so desperately need.

The rebellion around which the homosexual lifestyle is based is focused on two things.  False power, and false love.  They march so proudly down our streets with the beautiful rainbow flags (another sermon in itself) and proclaim their crusade “against hate”.  They love everybody unconditionally.  They’ve stolen our message (not to mention the symbol of a divine covenant) and are using it against us!

It’s working.  All over the world innocent souls who God sent a Saviour for are turning by the droves.  Away from the church and it’s condemnation.  And towards a lifestyle that has embraced what we as the church have discarded in the name of holiness or any other number of completely lame excuses.  Are we called to save the saved?  So many of our churches haven’t seen a new convert in decades, and the ones who trickle through leave quickly when they find out what we’re really about.  Many churches haven’t enlarged their borders in decades.  We laud our increase or lament our decrease when really all it is are disgruntled Christians moving from church to church as pastors change.

We need to love the unlovable.  Or else they’re never going to be freed from the body of sin and death.

A Voice In The Desert

I lost my job in January.  The church was going through some financial difficulty and they just couldn’t afford to keep us.  I knew it was coming, but nothing could have prepared me for the emotional roller coaster that the last few months have been.  There have been days I’ve wanted to lay in bed all day.  There have been days I’ve sat at my desk and just stared at the monitor and cried.  It’s been almost fifty days since I’ve touched a piano and I’m losing my mind.  I need an outlet, but I don’t have one.  Sooner or later, I’m worried the bottle is going to explode.

Lately, I’ve felt that I should take this season of rest to help direct and engage fundraising for Team Mackie.  Mackie (Mackenzie) is my best friend’s son.  He was born blind in both eyes with a condition called PFVS.  I won’t tell the whole story because this blog post is about something else, but Mackie needs treatment in the States, OHIP is not going to cover it, and we need to raise somewhere between fifty and a hundred thousand dollars.  We’ve got a lotta work ahead of us, and there are days I sit in front of the computer all day and do nothing but knock on virtual doors and organize things.  My fingers have “told” the story of Mackenzie so many times, I think they could do it without the conscious help of my brain.

Needless to say… organizing an event of this magnitude has not been success after success after success.  There have been roadblocks.  There have been frustrations.  There have been times I wanted to whip a cat off a fourth storey balcony to see if they bounce.  (Don’t worry, they’re all still here.)  Coupled with the frustration and depression of losing my dream job (not to mention living in this apartment complex) — let’s just say my blood pressure has been at an all time high and leave it at that.  But this is the task I’ve chosen, I’m committed to it, and I’ll do whatever I have to.  It’s that simple.  I’m in for the long haul.

I think last night was the last straw in the string of misfortunes lately.  (And I could tell you about this “string” for a very long time.)  I had left a backup running on my computer, and my wife and I stepped out.  The files being backed up were my music collection, which is one of my most prized possessions.  It covers a little over thirty gigabytes.  Back when I had my office, I had triple-redundant backups — because I had the resources to pull it off and because this data means that much to me.  Music is my life.  We got home from stepping out and a particular cat of ours who shall not be named, had slept on my laptop keyboard the whole time we were gone.  She must have pushed a lot of keys in the course of settling down, because the source files, the destination files, and Windows itself were all corrupted.  And the only backup I had, I had deleted off the external drive to make room for the new one.  I was up fighting with the computer until about 1 am this morning, trying to get the laptop into a stable operating state.  I did not succeed.  I had to reformat the computer and — in the process — lose all the music.  I cried a lot.  I’ve been building that collection for as long as the mp3 file format has existed.  And that’s close to twenty years.  As I sat here and watched the one-touch-restore on my laptop obliterate all of my data, my gaze turned slightly to the left and then, my head tilted sideways to ponder the thought that had just entered.  My iPad is a 64 gig iPad.  It has all my music on it.  But iTunes doesn’t let you sync both ways, except to a limited extent for purchased content.  None of my content was purchased.  I scoured the web for another hour thinking somebody must have been stuck in this situation before.  And sure enough, I found a program called SharePod that — after being allowed to run for a couple of hours — recovered every last bit of lost data from my iPad.  I went to bed relieved.  All my other data was backed up or could be replaced.  I had my music back.  My heart was beating again.  It felt like the winds were starting to change.

Today was a day of running around.  We scored a major victory in the morning in planning the logistics of the concert and silent auction, and so my wife and I decided to go out for lunch.  We had other errands to run anyway, and our favourite restaurant was “on the flight path” anyway.

We had lunch.  It was tasty.  (It’s always tasty.)  And we went back to the car.  Jillian had to make a detour before she got to the car.  I went out, sat down, plugged my phone into the car charger, and dropped it into the cup holder where I usually leave it when I’m driving, and I started the car.

Much to my amazement, my locked phone began to speak.  Audibly.  In English.  Jillian was getting into the car at this point and it was on the main street of Oshawa so there was a lot of background noise.  At first I thought it was the navigation application, but as I strained to hear it, I could make out some familiar words.  I filed a couple of the phrases away mentally with the intent to do some look-up later.  But when I picked up the phone to see what application was ‘speaking” to me, it stopped, and there was nothing there but the Android home screen.   When I opened the task-switcher, there were no applications open.  Weird.

A while later we were stopped at a grocery store and I was alone in the car with my phone charged and ready.  I started to Google the phrases I was pretty sure were from the Old Testament.  And they were.  They were from the 43rd chapter of Isaiah.

18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Ok.  So my spirit received the message, but my brain was still trying to explain it.  I went from application to application to application on my phone trying to find one that either had this passage as “the verse of the day” or even just a Bible application that had been left open in Isaiah.  Of the ones I found that spoke… none of them had the same voice that I heard earlier in the day in the car.

I’m not a hyper-spiritual “spookernatural” kind of person.

But this was real.

Wow.  Just wow.

A Geek’s Thankfulness

I just feel impressed to tell you a story of a geek’s thanks… even though the people to whom the thanks are intended will likely never read it.

I have two computers and a tablet on my desk. One of the computers, a desktop that originally ran Windows XP, was the machine I “inherited” when I came into this office. When I migrated to a laptop the question arose of what we would do with “the old Dell”, and a number of ideas sprang to mind.

I finally decided to turn it into a NAS — which means network-attached storage device. With the multimedia files we were punting up and down the stairs on thumb drives it made sense to have a central repository where we could not only transfer these files so we could stop worrying about where our thumb drives were, but also a place where we could send backups.

I tried leaving the machine “the way it was” with Windows XP initially. To say it was troublesome would be an understatement. It would “disappear” off the local network every three to four days, and if there was ever a serious data collision (two or more people trying to access the same data at the same time) the results — although unpredictable — were usually a full-on lock-up requiring a reset and sometimes resulting in data loss.

Then I got a bright idea.

Linux is free. Linux runs nicely on older hardware. (The machine in question is a Pentium-D with two gigs of RAM.) So I installed Ubuntu Linux as a total Linux “noob” and with the help of Nimesh Patel set it up with SAMBA.

How’s it been you ask?

If I don’t bother to attend to the software updates…. it often runs 30, 40, or 50 days continuously without a reboot, without a problem, and quite often, without me even needing to LOOK at it, let alone login to it. In fact, the second last time I logged into it, it took several minutes for me to remember the password because it had been so long since I used it.

So this Thanksgiving, aside from all the “usual” things I’m thankful for… I’m thankful for Linux. It is helping the technical part of my job run smoothly and with almost-zero effort on my part. To use a phrase the Mac folks like… “It just works.” And it cost me… ZERO.

Thank you Linus Torvald for your contribution to society.

A Worship Leader Is Like A Donkey