Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Christ-centered home defense

Luke 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take [it], and likewise [his] scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

Yesterday we finally made our handgun selection: the Springfield Armory XD9. We got the "service" model with a 4" barrel. It was not the cheapest weapon by any means but it did come with lots of extras, including two 16 rounds clips. Apparently there is a lot to be said for this gun, but as I am no expert I won't say much except that I am excited and apprehensive at the same time.
Our primary reason for getting a gun is home defense. The above verse has always been of interest to me because Jesus actually instructed his disciples to go about packing heat. There is no wrong in that and it does not indicate a lack of faith in God. Moses' story is a classic one because God chose to use the rod that was already in Moses' hand as an instrument of divine manifestation. There was nothing special about that rod but God chose to use it. While the Almighty certainly can do miracles, His style through scripture and through history is often understated, saving the true theatrics for the really big shows like the Exodus and Armageddon. I don't want to put God in box and limit Him, so I got myself a rod, just in case.

For a long time now, I have clung to Psalms 34:7 in times of fear:

The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

And another one sort of related to this:

Psa 20:7 Some [trust] in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

Trust in God will still be the core of our home protection plan. Thanks to Neuf (and others) for the guidance along the way!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wind chill is a factor

We haven't had very much "ice biking" yet this winter, but there's been plenty of opportunity for really-freaking-cold biking. Fortunately today is a rest day for me, because the air temp right now is -1°. Assuming I could even get up to 20mph, like on a good downhill, that would have an wind chill factor of -23.3°! The coldest ride I've taken yet has been at 7°, which at 20mph has a wind chill factor of a mere -12.8°. My top half was fine on that ride, but from the waist down it got pretty cold. Time for some new gear!

Meanwhile, the City has opened a Community Center with an awesome gym right across from my work! I've been heading over there during lunch several times a week now. It's great to have a place so close.

These are my fitness goals/plans for the year:

1. Strength building: now thru March-ish.

2. Cycling base training: 6 weeks in hell. 25 mi / day, 6 days / week for six weeks.

3. Plyometrics training: never done this before. This sounds like new and wonderful forms of masochism. It develops quickness and power and will be good for hills. I will do upper and lower body. The ultimate goal will be to tackle another mountain. Any mountain will do but it has to be a "real" mountain, no fake Ozark mountains! Also, it will hopefully address shoulder issues that made swimming somewhat painful.

4. Endurance training: two to three months of stacking on high mileage rides with the ultimate goal of finishing a "century" ride- a 100 mile ride.

5. Compete in and beat my previous time for a sprint triathlon. All I need to do for this is learn how to swim for real!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Data Anonymity

A couple of months ago, a Facebook friend of mine posted a link to a Youtube video where someone was explaining how every piece of merchandise that is sold could be labeled with a "Carbon Quotient" - that is a numerical representation of the amount of carbon generated in the production and shipping of a product. Then consumers could compare CQ's between products to select the most "green" one. I suppose there is an assumption that manufacturers would then try to create "low carbon" products just as they do "low fat" products.

Over the last year or so the media has popularized the idea of selling "carbon credits". The gist of this, that I can tell, is that we are each allotted so many units of carbon we may produce in a year and must pay extra for consuming more. In my mind, it did not seem a stretch to use the idea of a CQ in order to implement a carbon credit system (which really would just be another form of taxation and do nil to "help" the environment). I explained in my response how product data can be cross referenced with a persons credit card history to build a profile and used for analysis. My friend scoffed at this and replied "or, people could just make an informed choice!". Sure, someone will be informed, but it's probably not you and I! We agreed to disagree... when in Rome...

The other day I had to sit in a software demo for an address validation tool. Now I love clean addresses probably a bit more than the next guy but this was dull, even for me. The sales guy- who utterly failed to bring any kind of offering to appease us- showed us how you input addresses and the program validates them against real USPS data. Ok, whoopie... any numbnumb can interact with their web services to do real-time validation.

So how do these seemingly disparate topics relate? Well in the course of his demo, I noticed that not just addresses were showing up. First, there were a few company names intermingled with the lists of valid addresses. "Oh", I thought to myself, "the USPS must be validating company names as well. Hunh... that is only slightly interesting." Then a few minutes later, I noticed there names- the names of real, honest-to-God, Joe-average people. I enquired as to where this data came from and here was his answer:

A credit card company is the parent company of the software company that made these. Credit card companies buy and sell names and so they used this list to build an ever changing, up-to-date database of who lives where- regardless of registration with the USPS. Additionally, any time you subscribe to a magazine, the data gets sold as well. At this point, alarms were going off in my head; black helicopters were circling about; swarms of locusts enveloped the conference room: how could noone else see this????

To me, the only thing this guy validated was the notion that all of our personal data is indeed being "rolled up" and used to profile us for marketing schemes and very possibly even social control. Color me paranoid, but I think it's a good reason to go-green by using cash only. Stick it to the man!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008 in review

Happy New Year!

On reflection of a solid year of intermittent blogging, I'd have to say the "best" post I put up last year was a review of 2007. Even if no one in cyberspace ever reads it, it was good for me to write. 2007 was definitely a year of blessing for my family and for our church. 2008 was a year of playing roshambo with the devil. But God is good and gave us much grace.


Tragedy struck early in hard in our little church family with the passing of the two year old son of one of our churches best couples. He died from the flu, of all things. This impacted everyone and the whole church rallied around them physically and spiritually, the way a church should. Last night the mother gave a very honest and powerful testimony about her struggles and how Christ is still rebuilding her life- but it is being rebuilt. That was a comfort to hear and a reminder of how important our time in the Word is.


One the heels of that group trial, I began a still continuing struggle with prostate problems. It started with a painful infection spreading throughout the region. It really struck hard while on a three day backpacking trip with my son and some friends which proved to make the trip generally miserable. After some time, the infection went away on it's own but other symptoms persist. The worst is the malaise - a sense of deep physical exhaustion- that comes and goes. It also has reduced interest in certain marriage related activities. On any given day, it's sort of like running on four out of six cylinders, so it takes God's grace every day.

Eyes up here!

Over the whole year, an enormous amount of personal belongings have broken. While things could have been much worse in that regard, it was just enough to be very frustrating. The worst loss was the big screen TV, which will not soon be replaced. But all of those "things" are not important and my wife and I realized the whole time it was nothing but distraction. So long as we have food and clothing we are instructed to be content, and we have so much more than that. We are truly thankful for God's constant provision in our lives.

The Presidential election was another occasion to remember that God is in control. There was a lot of Obama related fear and hysteria floating about the media and the internet. Maybe some of it is true, probably a lot of it is not. But either way it doesn't change our mission as Christians and my perception is that there is more determination to pray for this man on the part of the Church than there ever was with Bush. How can that be a bad thing? Maybe we're in a better political position now.

While you weren't looking...

God likes to be sneaky, but in a good way. While we tend to be focused on where we're at (especially when that place is not fun), a lot of times we miss "the big picture". Then it is only in retrospect that we see the things that the Lord has accomplished. While there was a lot of trials and discouragement for the whole church this year, there was also a lot of blessing.

We got to take several different couples through premarital counseling and really see them take hold to the ideas of a Biblical marriage. The Lord has also put a lot of things on my heart about how we can be much more effective in that ministry.

I had the privilege of taking a man through Directions and seeing God work in his life in some amazing ways early in the year. In the fall, God brought us a couple to take through Directions and the man has a friend who is now joining us. We are starting over in the lessons but these guys have a lot of energy and excitement to serve the Lord so this is going to be really good!

This year discipleship has begun in earnest with our older two kids, who both accepted Christ last year. The shiny-newness of salvation wore off and the gritty reality that knowing Jesus doesn't automatically make one "perfect" has set in. This year we spent a lot of time teaching about walking in the Spirit instead of the flesh and understanding that God has us here for a purpose. To that end, we attended the evangelism class as a family which was a great experience! It is awesome to see them grow in desire to tell others the gospel and refreshing for us as well. We're still praying for our last, little sheep to come into the flock!

The Lord has also opened up a huge door at Westport HS through wrestling and tutoring. Everything is just sort of getting off the ground now so we should see it come to fruition this year. I was glad to be a part of helping get it set up.

Our church was finally able to purchase it's building also! God really came through in providing the funds. When looking at the amount of money that is being offered, it's tempting to elevate that to "miracle" status. I think the reality is the only miracle is that so many people are being obedient. God has yet to prove himself- yet to do something truly miraculous. What has happened is what should have happened and we are only surprised by this because we're used to a lower standard. Praise God for His goodness being manifest through His people.

Good things to come

There were many more blessings along the way, these are just the highlights from my own perspective. 2008 has left some unfinished work that must be tackled in 2009. Among the things God is already in motion on:

-Continuing to pray for the salvation of our youngest daughter.
-Discipling the people the Lord has brought to us.
-Redeveloping the premarital lessons and ministry.

As a family, our vision verse for 2009 is Heb 12:1,2, with emphasis on running with patience while looking to Jesus. I am convinced that my own family has been over doing it and it’s time to scale back. You can’t start sprinting in the middle of a marathon- you won’t even finish the race! We have to pace ourselves slower for a bit to recover and then return to a “normal” pace that we can actually keep up with.