Friday, March 27, 2015

Words

“It’s only words.” “Actions speak louder than words.” “How can you tell if a politician is lying? His lips are moving.” We make these statements and many more like them; but there is another reality. Our words are the only true currency of character that we will ever have. Let me say that again, “Our words are the only true currency of character that we will ever have.” If we spend this treasure with empty or false words, we will never be able to recover our reputation and will be poor indeed.

Words may be just words, but they are very important. Words represent a contractual agreement between conversational participants. Sometimes we can rely upon the facts of how this person has acted in the past. Sometimes, words are all we have.

I am challenged to always make my words true and easy to digest. I want people to sense that every one of my words has been carefully chosen for its meaning in the present context. I want people to be able to understand and trust me. Will you join me in a culture changing revolution? The only ones who stand to lose may be the litigation lawyers; but they can find work other than lawsuits against those who tell untruths.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

All I Need

Oh God, my Father, when it comes to the resources I need for this life and the work you have prepared for me, all I need is everything. I just need Your power, Your Spirit, Your grace, and Your will. I like to think that I can contribute something. But, in truth, I cannot. I can only respond with gratitude. All I need is everything. That is all; oh . . . and the ache in my heart that this song causes . . . but that is easy . . . you have already given it to me.

"All I Need Is Everything" written by Bergquist, Karin Michele / Detweiler, Linford Jerome.
(Listen to it here.)

Slow down, hold still
It's not as if it's a matter of will
Someone's circling, someone's moving
A little lower than the angels

And it's got nothing to do with me
The wind blows through the trees
But if I look for it, it won't come
I tense up, my mind goes numb
There's nothing harder

Than learning how to receive
Calm down, be still
We've got plenty of time to kill
No hand writing on the wall
Just the voice that's in us all

And you're whispering to me
Time to get up off my hands and knees

'Cause if I beg for it, it won't come
I find nothing but table crumbs
My hands are empty
God, I've been naïve

All I need is everything
Inside, outside, feel new skin
All I need is everything

Feel the slip and the grip of grace again
Slow down, hold still
It's not as if it's a matter of will
Someone's circling, someone's moving

A little lower than the angels
This voice calling me to you
It's just barely coming through
Still, I clearly hear my name

I've been fingering the flame
Like tomorrow's martyr
It gets harder to believe
All I need is everything
Inside, outside, feel new skin

All I need is everything
Feel the slip and the grip of grace again
So from now till kingdom come

Taste the words on the tip of my tongue
'Cause we can't run truth out of town
Only force it underground
The roots grow deeper
In ways we can't conceive

All I need is everything
Inside, outside feel new skin

All I need is everything
Feel the slip and the grip of grace again
All I need is, all I need

All I need, all I need is
All I need is, all need
All I need, all I need is
All I need

Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Monday, March 23, 2015

Raise Me

As we approach Easter, our church is reading slowly through the Gospel of John. Today’s reading was from John chapter 8 which contains the story of the woman caught in adultery (read it here). This reading reminded me of a song Mike Charko and I wrote a few years ago and so I share it with you here. It tells the story from the perspective of the woman.

Raise Me
(Words and Music by Mike Charko and Keith Shields; copyright 2011 SOCAN)
(Click here to listen while you read.)

My life is now in the hands of those who know my crime
They stare at me with their hungry eyes
Pious words from their lips hide a bitter rage
We share a crime that’s now all mine

Please let me live 
This just isn't fair
You are guilty like me
My life has been laid bare

Who is this one they take me to, a judge, or just a man
He looks at me with sorrow in his eyes
At my feet he kneels to write words I cannot read
He sees right through all of their lies

Please let me live 
This just isn't fair
You are guilty like me
My life has been laid bare

I can't escape, a lifetime of mistakes  
I want to run; I'm so alone 

Please let me live 
This just isn't fair
You are guilty like me
My life has been laid bare

Suddenly, we are alone; are they really gone?
Only one can tell me now my fate
He looks at me with purest love I truly understand
And says to me go, sin no more

Where are my accusers
I have been released
The one who stooped down with me
Has raised me up again

Friday, March 20, 2015

New Theories of Materialism and the Universe

Materialism is a philosophical concept that asserts that everything is, or can be explained, in relation to matter alone.1 Many secular humanists and atheists subscribe to this without reservation. But lately, Materialism is a philosophy in decline. Like many other “sacred cows” of contemporary culture, there are ideas surfacing which will challenge its status in the world. It was once thought that time and space, dualism, determinism, reductionism, locality, causality, realism, and materialism were absolute.2 Today, some quantum theorists and experimental physicists would suggest that these are not as irrefutable as once thought. Let me explain.

As Rachel Wolchover says in Quanta Magazine,
Nature, at the deepest level, may not differentiate between scales. With scale symmetry, physicists start with a basic equation that sets forth a massless collection of particles, each a unique confluence of characteristics such as whether it is matter or antimatter and has positive or negative electric charge. As these particles attract and repel one another and the effects of their interactions cascade like dominoes through the calculations, scale symmetry “breaks,” and masses and lengths spontaneously arise.3
What she is saying is that quantum particles start out as massless, dimensionless, units3 that only develop length, width, height, and mass in relation to one another. Take for example the Higgs Boson: it is theorized that other particles only have mass in relation to the Higgs Boson. It is further theorized, and there is now some evidence to suggest,4 that other elementary particles do not have the three dimensions of length, width, and height except when operated upon by other unknown particles.

What are the philosophical implications of this? If the universe is a massless, dimensionless void except in relation to greater powers, then it seems it would be more accurate to say that we live in a spiritual universe rather than a material universe. Now, if everything starts out dimensionless and ethereal before it solidifies into dimensions and masses, then we are closer to a spirit world than we might have otherwise imagined; and then, truly, everything is holy.

1 “What is Materialism;” Philosophy Now; Michael Philips 2003; https://philosophynow.org/issues/42/What_is_Materialism
2 Huffington Post; "Beyond Reason Blog;" Dave Pruett; March 20, 2015; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-pruett/beyond-reason_1_b_6874664.html
3 “At Multiverse Impasse, a New Theory of Scale;” Natalie Wolchover; Quanta Magazine;
 https://www.quantamagazine.org/20140818-at-multiverse-impasse-a-new-theory-of-scale/
4 "Radical New Theory Could Kill the Multiverse Hypothesis;" Wired magazine; Natalie Wolchover, Quanta Magazine Science; August 25, 2014; http://www.wired.com/2014/08/multiverse/

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Attitude

I went for a run yesterday and as it had been a few days since I had been out on the streets of Calgary, my muscles were complaining and suggesting that I was not going to make the full distance I had set out to achieve. I soon recognized this for what it was, a psychological battle. I did not need to convince my muscles, lungs, or heart that they should go on for the full distance, I had to convince my mind. There were several places where I was tempted to cut the run short by taking a path that would get me home sooner. It was not until I had passed the last such short-cut that I found myself relaxing and enjoying the day. When I arrived back at home, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had achieved my goals for both distance and speed.

Convincing oneself to keep on running the full distance is a relatively easy task, but it is a helpful metaphor for the challenges of life. Thomas Jefferson said, "Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."1 The author of Hebrews wrote, "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us . . ."2 This day, I will run with endurance and in all things I will seek a right attitude.

1 http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/thomasjeff120994.html#k3Ps1Lm6bXMqHqQp.99
2 Hebrews 12:1,2


Friday, March 13, 2015

Silence

“. . . a silence that is overwhelming in its eloquence.”
Somebody should write a book someday about the silences in Scripture. Maybe somebody already has. "For God alone my soul waits in silence," the psalmist says (62:1), which is the silence of waiting. Or "Be not silent, O God of my praise," which is the silence of the God we wait for (109:1). "And when the Lamb opened the seventh seal," says the book of Revelation, "there was silence in heaven" (8: I) - the silence of creation itself coming to an end and of a new creation about to begin. But the silence that has always most haunted me is the silence of Jesus before Pilate. Pilate asks his famous question, "What is truth?" (John 18:38), and Jesus answers him with a silence that is overwhelming in its eloquence. In case there should be any question as to what that silence meant, on another occasion Jesus put it into words for his disciple Thomas. "I," he said, "I am the truth" (14:6). A sermon by Frederick Buechner entitled “The Truth of Stories;” in The Clown in the Belfry and also in Secrets in the Dark.


With thanks to the Jordan Blasetti and Mahogany Church for drawing my attention to this quote.

Monday, March 9, 2015

JPL Computers

Image courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech; JPL photo number P-163.1

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a facility in Los Angeles County, California that can trace its history to the early 1940s. At that time, rocket motors were a new development and the lab was an arm of the American military. A little known fact about the early years of JPL gives insight into both computing power and gender roles in America during that era.

In "the 1940s and 1950s, JPL used the word 'computer' to refer to a person rather than a machine."2 Although the agency was developed exclusively by men, and all of the leadership consisted of men, it was an "all-female computer team . . . that [was] responsible for doing all the math by hand required to plot satellite trajectories and other scientific calculations."3 Many of these women had been recruited right out of high school.4 Slide-rules, pencils, and paper were the tools of this team as digital computers were only in developmental stages at that time.5 A group similar to the one pictured here was the team who made it possible for Explorer 1 to be the first satellite launched by the United States when it was sent into space on January 31, 1958.6

Today, NASA and the JPL uses even larger teams of people to analyze data. At the website http://beamartian.jpl.nasa.gov/, more than 54,000 men and women have signed up to use their personal computers to analyze data sent to earth by the Mars Rover.7


1 http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/explorer/computers.html; Page Last Updated: January 3, 2008; Page Editor: Susan Watanabe; NASA Official: Brian Dunbar
2 http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/explorer/computers.html
3 http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/explorer/computers.html
4 http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/explorer/computers.html
5 http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/?category=cmptr
6 http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/explorer/explorer-overview.html
7 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2010-366