God, the Ultimate Software Developer

523305_463804830325771_458313221_nI’m a software developer by trade.  I write the code that runs on your work computer.  I’ve written web sites that you may browse to each day.  I write the games that some of you may play (well I’m kind of old-school, so perhaps not many people play them).  In other words, I sit behind a computer a good part of the day and work on code.  BTW:  The picture to the left is me early in my career…long hair and all.

Where did I learn the skill?  Well I picked up computers as a young boy, working on an old Commodore 64 and writing my first game and first compiler there.  I dabbled in the inner workings of the system and made that machine do some crazy things back in the day.  Over the years I upgraded my computer and it was a natural fit for me to jump into computer science once I got into college (even though I took a detour into electrical engineering for a few years).

I took a natural shine to it and I think I’m pretty decent at what I do.  But really, where do any of us get our skills and talents?

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If the gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently, if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.  – Romans 12:6-8

Usually, when I’ve read this verse in the past, I think these are talking about gifts specifically dealing with the ministry field.  But, I’ve come to realize that our entire life should be a ministry, whether we work for the church or in a secular environment.  We should remember that whatever we do for a career;

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.  -Psalm 138:8

Rejoice in our labor

Another thing  I’ve recently come to realize comes from a book of the Bible I can say I’ve not read very often.

To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life — that is indeed a gift from God – Ecclesiastes 5:19

The Bible makes it clear that God wants us to enjoy our work.  He wants us to be successful;

That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil — this is the gift of God. – Ecclesiastes 3:13

What better way to enjoy your toil, then to do a good job at it and enjoy the gifts and talents God has given to you.  God has given me the gift of programming.  I should rejoice in that and realize that since God doesn’t make mistakes, He’s taught me all that I know.

So let’s take that a step further.  If God has given me the gift and He wants me to do well…..why not ask Him to help me in my work daily?  When I come across a difficult problem at work and I’m struggling for a solution, I try and remember that nothing is too difficult for God, who gave me the wisdom that I have.  I ask him to join me in my project and ask him to give me the wisdom I need to solve a problem…..it’s amazing that since I’ve been doing that, how much things seems to fall into place.

I love looking back at my day and seeing all the God moments.  I wonder if I hadn’t asked Him to join me and asked for his help, how much longer I would have struggled.  Problems haven’t gone away.  I still sometimes have stressful meetings or projects, but I know that with God, the ultimate programmer, there is no problem I can’t solve.

Whether you’re a programmer or a plumber, whether you do sales for a living or work in management; ask God to come with you to work.  Don’t just save your God time for Sunday’s.  Invite Him to join you each and every day, each and every moment and see what difference that makes in your life and your career.

The power of the Bible

Usually when we talk about the power of the Bible we talk about the power of God’s words and what he reveals about himself throughout the Bible.  Every so often we see a story how the Bible can save in other ways!

This story comes out of Dayton, where a Bible in a man’s pocket actually saves his life.

God is all powerful and can use his Word in many, many ways…..God is good!

God’s Will for Our Lives

I’ve longed to find what God’s will for my life is.  I’ve searched high and low, looked long and hard and it continuously escapes me and I feel no closer to knowing what God’s long term plan is for me.

I’ve been reading through the book Forgotten God by Francis Chan, and I came across a chapter entitled “Forget About His Will for Your Life.”  He pointed out in that chapter that were very few people in the scriptures who received their life plan (or even long-term plan) in advance.  Prime example is Abraham, whom God told to pack up his family and go, not knowing where or how far or how long or if he’d be back.  Just get up and go…..and he went.

The desire to know God’s will comes from fear.  We fear the unknown.  Will God provide for us?  Will I have a long and healthy life?  Will I be prosperous?  Will I do great things for his kingdom?  So many things we could sit and wonder about, yet all this wondering and worry about the future and trying to figure out God’s will often leads to paralysis.  We do nothing.  God never promised us a 20 year plan, but he did promise to never leave us.

What if we listened to God’s spirit daily, throughout the day in the difficult times and the easy times?  What if we asked, “Where is God leading us today?”  God does have a plan for our lives, even if he doesn’t reveal it to us all at once.  But he is revealing it day by day, hour by hour.  But are we listening?  Are we listening as he whispers in our ears what needs done this hour?  Do we feel the promptings as we decide how to react to a difficult question?

Galatians 5:25 tells us;

If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

The Holy Spirit is leading us daily my friends.  Are we following?  Or are we still waiting to figure out what God’s will is for our life, so we can map out the next 20-30 years?  I think that dwelling on God’s plan for the future gives us an excuse for not living for God today.  We can always say, “Well, I would do such and such, if only I knew God’s will”.  Or how about, “I would serve here, but I don’t know what God has planned for me.”

We should be joining God on HIS journey and seeing where it takes us, but instead we are inviting Him to come on OUR journey, going where we want to go.  That seems a little backwards when you read it, but I think it’s what we’re doing.  I know I for a long time have asked God to reveal his plan for me, as long as it was something I wanted to do.  I didn’t want it to be too hard, or make me step out of my comfort zone too much.  If I joined Him on His journey instead, it may lead me to uncomfortable circumstances, but I’d know that God is there and with me.  I know that He lead me there, so I’m there for a reason.  I know that God will see me through and that it is for the betterment of His kingdom.

Even as I write this, it is scary thinking about what God may ask me to do.  But, I know that if I pay attention to his promptings, if I’m in communication with God through prayer and his Word, if I invite the Holy Spirit to move within me daily and lead me where he wants me to be, then I’ll be in a better place in my walk with God.  I’ll be following Him to where he wants me to go, instead of trying to drag Him along with me (which never works too well).

God is walking with you every day…right now he is walking beside you.  He wants you to follow him.  Try to stop worrying what God has planned for your entire life and let him lead you there.

2 Timothy 1:7 – Be a fearless Christian

lion-roar-roaring-teeth-mad-angry-I struggle at times with sharing publicly my beliefs.  Sure I write this blog, but it’s easy to hide behind this computer screen and not have to face anyone directly.  I’ve spoken in front of groups and classes at our church, but despite my discomfort speaking in front of crowds, that wasn’t even that bad because I was surrounded by fellow believers.  No it’s those times when I’m out in the world, with friends, family or strangers that I may not know where they stand with God or some I know outright that they are living without an active relationship with God.  Those are the situations where I often falter and live in timidity.  I fear what others will think.  I fear that perhaps they will have a question I can’t answer.  Or they will make an objection I can’t refute.  I back off at those times when I should be the boldest of all and share my beliefs.  Those are the doors that God has opened to talk and share and perhaps plant that seed that may grow into true faith down the road.

In 2 Timothy 1:7 we read:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

When we accept Christ as our savior, God sends the Holy Spirit to live within us.  We have the very God of the universe living inside of us.  That spirit is not one of fear or shyness.  It is not one that is in us just to make us comfortable and content in our lives.  No, it is a spirit that allows us to boldly live the lives that God has laid out for us and endure the hardships, the distress, the uncomfortableness that is inevitable.  He allows us to face our fears and our doubts.  He allows us to boldly come before God with our prayers and when we don’t know what or how to pray, He does so for us.  Because of that, we can live our lives in power and love and self-discipline.

I like this quote from Tertullian, and early Christian author:

The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him.  He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless.  He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the spirit.  This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit.  A Christian is fearless.

A Christian is fearless.  Oh if we could all live like that, if we could live without fear and boldly proclaim the joy and the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.  We will face hardships, we will face challenges, some may face even death because of our faith in Christ.  We are given the power to face all these and live boldly and fearlessly.  With the fear of God, you need fear nothing else.

Now I know it’s difficult to change overnight.  Some may have a dramatic transformation once they decide to live boldly, others if you’re like me, will still struggle and this will be a work in progress.  But know that God is right there with you, so you can endure through any shyness or fear.  And as with just about anything else, once you face your fears and realize that God has helped you through, the fear is lessened each time. Before long, it’s gone completely.

For my friends, family, coworkers, and other acquaintances out there reading this.  No, I won’t come with Bible in hand and beat you until you believe.  If you ask, I will share.  When you see me live my life, despite still being a sinner and with many struggles in my life, I hope you’ll see someone with hope and joy and I’ll  be happy to share where my joy comes from.

Date night at the grocery store

My wife and I managed to get away by ourselves for a few hours on a Friday evening.  Having four active children, this is something that is not always easy to do.  We told the kids we were going out to pick up some groceries, and that was not a lie.  We just happened to stop to eat first, then to a few other stores and then finally to the grocery store where we did indeed, pick up a small load of groceries.

When did this happen?  When did we start looking forward to our grocery shopping trips to get some quality alone time….time to talk, time to laugh, time just to spend together.  It doesn’t seem that long ago, when Friday night meant going out with friends, or having friends over, or some other exciting activity.  It was a kickoff to the weekend that we tried to really live up.  A day when we could let loose and forget about the cares of the work week.

But no more.  First came children, then came responsibility, then came maturity….and in my case, that was about the order they arrived in.  I don’t begrudge anything about my Friday nights.  In fact, I love my Fridays.  I can’t think of a better way to spend my free time, than spending it with my family.   And those times when my wife and I can get away for a few hours, even if just to pick up some groceries are priceless times that I actually look forward to.  Do I like grocery shopping?  No not really, neither of us do….but the time spent together makes it all worth it.

One thing people have told me over and over is that as a couple, you need to make sure you are still their best friend throughout the marriage.  As the kids grow and leave the nest, soon it’s just the two of you again.  And as you were raising the kids, often you spend so much time focused on them and their needs, that you neglect your partner.  And then, when the nest is empty, you’re living with a stranger, one that you may not even know anymore.  So many marriages end in divorce after the children are all gone and one of the big reasons is the marriage was neglected during those child rearing years.

My wife and I have made it a point….that would not happen to us.  We still have young ones, but our oldest is 18 and the independence of the children is beginning.  So our trips to the grocery story are and have been an important part of our marriage and maintaining the friendship we’ve always had.  We’ve been married for almost 22 years and she is still my best friend.

Grocery shopping or whatever errand or chore you need to do is always better when you can spend the time with someone else…what better way, than to spend it making your marriage stronger.

When the didgeridoo sounds broken, keep playing.

Continuing on with yesterday’s post on how to take your passion and master it, we take a look at what inevitably happens, you hit a wall.  This will happen…almost guaranteed.  You practice and practice, continually making progress and getting better…..then suddenly, you hit it…that road block that keeps you from making any progress.  People who diet always talk about that plateau they hit.  They progressively lose weight, only too find that for weeks perhaps, they lose nothing, even though they’ve changed nothing.  The body builder, who lifts religiously and is gaining strength and muscle, suddenly gains neither, even though they are doing what they are supposed to.

When you reach that point in whatever you are doing, it’s easy to get discouraged and quit.  That’s what happened to me the first time I tried to learn to play the didgeridoo.  I was actually getting better, then suddenly after a few weeks, it sounded as if it was broken.  No good sound was coming of that thing and I quickly got discouraged and soon quit.

I’ve done that with other things, even stuff I’m very passionate about.  As I’ve mentioned before, I like to write.  But if the muse isn’t awake in me and nothing good is getting put down on paper, I’ve quit entirely for months on end.  This blog is a good example of that.  Sporadic posting for a couple years and then nothing until this past October.  I’m glad to say that I’ve been relatively consistent since then and I can sense my writing getting better.  I enjoy it more and want to do more of it.  I’m sure I’ll hit that block again so how can I persevere?

  1. Push through it if you can.  Most roadblocks are really minor speed bumps.  If you keep the motor running and keep moving forward, you’ll get over that speed bump soon enough and then things will run smoothly.
  2. Take a temporary detour.  Sometimes that roadblock is a bit larger and you can just plow through it.  Then perhaps take a detour and change things up a bit.  I normally write these blog posts at my desk in my home.  But if I’m not feeling it and I feel like a need a detour, I’ll take my computer and head to the coffee shop, or perhaps I’ll just take pad and paper and go sit on the porch.  But regardless of the change in scenery, I keep on writing.  The change in surroundings is often enough to get the juices flowing again.
  3. Stop, assess the situation and try a different path before coming back.  Sometimes those roadblocks are more like walls that suddenly appear across the road and you’ve just hit it head on.  These times for me are rare, but they can be the most dangerous in your pursuit of mastery.  These are the times when you’re most likely to just give up and quit.  Your didgeridoo must be broken, so you throw it away never to look back.   At these times, perhaps you do need to take a break from your practice.  You may just be burned out.  Stop, try something new for a while..this could be days or weeks or more.  But often, if you’re truly passionate about it, it won’t take long at all to come back, with a fresh perspective and suddenly the wall is gone.

Don’t assume that just because the didgeridoo sounds awful that it’s broken.  Don’t assume just because your muse is playing hooky for a day, that you writing is done.  If you’re passionate about what you are doing….keep at it, persevere and you’ll get over those humps and onward to mastery.

You have to practice your didgeridoo everyday.

160px-Australia_Aboriginal_Culture_009I once tried to learn how to play the didgeridoo.  Yes I own one.  No I never learned how to play.  Why did I fail?  What went wrong?  Practice, or lack thereof is what went wrong.  I failed to practice it everyday.   Had I practiced everyday, even for just a little while, I would have eventually, perhaps years later, but eventually would have been decent at it.

This attempt at didgeridoo mastery occurred back in around 2003 or maybe even earlier…so imagine if I had only practiced one hour three times a week since then (post date is in 2014, so we will say 11 years)…3 hours / week, 52 weeks/ year, 156 hours a year for 11 years, that would be 1716 hours of practice.  I would think that you could become quite proficient at just about anything after 1700+ hours.

Now I do have one caveat with this little discussion.  Many of you have heard the term “Practice makes perfect.”   Well that is false….incorrect….just flat out wrong.  Practice doesn’t make perfect…..Practice makes PERMANENT.   If you practice perfectly, then practice will make perfect over time….but if you practice incorrectly, bad habits will form and will  be very hard to break.

So why am I writing this post?  Not to impress you with my didgeridoo mastery….but to make a point that has become clear in my mind recently.  If you’ve got a passion, something you wish you were doing, or that dream skill that you always wanted to have…..practice it.

I’ve always wanted to write, always wanted to be a writer….I need to write….write as much as possible, write as often as I can.  I should be able to put down 500-1000 words a day minimum without too much trouble.  While this post is a little short, most of my posts here average between 500-1000 words.  What if I wrote a post every day, or every other day?  How much better at writing would I become?  What if I did that every day and churned out 300,000+ words in a year?  What’s an average novel size? 100,000 words?  Just think, if I wrote every day, I could be putting out 3 novels a year.  Of course there is much more that goes into creating a novel than just writing, however, if I practice it every day….I can’t help but get better at it.

Just think too, if we would spend just a little time in prayer each day?  Or how about be like Daniel and pray 3 times a day, every day.  How much better would we be able to talk to God and to discern his voice when he speaks to us?   What if we read our Bible every day?  Just pick a couple verses to start and read every day.  How much better would we understand God’s word and understand his will?

It only took me about 15 minutes to write about 500 words in this post.  Not much time out of my day.  Time that could have been otherwise wasted.  But those 15 minutes spent each day, whether writing, whether praying, whether reading God’s word…and yes even playing the didgeridoo, add up to mastery when repeated over and over.