Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Other Thots

Hello again!

Too many months have gone by without blogging.
But I've decided to begin again - but with a fresh start.
I've created another Blogger blog site called My Other Thots.
Maybe this is my Lenten discipline.
Check it out.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Tired of using a mouse for your computer? Thinking there must be a better way?
I just saw this new experimental way of interfacing with your computer called 10/GUI. (GUI = Graphical User Interface. Others have used the acronym WIMP: in human–computer interaction, WIMP stands for "window, icon, menu, pointing device", denoting a style of interaction using these elements. It was coined by Merzouga Wilberts in 1980. Although its usage has fallen out of favor, it is often used as an approximate synonym of "GUI". That's from the WIMP page in Wikipedia)

10/GUI allows you to use ten interface points instead of just one (a mouse cursor) or two (a scroll wheel). This broadens your ability to interact with your computer and allows you to do more at once. Check it out on this video. It really is worth a watch.

10/GUI from C. Miller on Vimeo.

Although the interface concept (using all ten fingers) is really quite revolutionary, there must be more you can do using ten fingers instead of one than the simple actions they suggest. It suggests that this is going in the direction of virtual reality - actually using your hands to manipulate objects on the screen. But we're not there yet. Part of the problem is that most of us are still in the mouse paradigm and can't yet get our heads around thinking in three dimensions or using more than one finger at a time. But then it works with a keyboard. Right now I'm typing reasonably fast with few mistakes on a keyboard and I can type faster than I can write - which is true of most people my age or younger. So the concept of speeding up the interactions between computer and humans is a solid one. We just need to be more creative.

However, I'm not sure that the "software solution" is all that innovative. Unless you need to keep dozens of windows open at all times it's not really all that helpful. As someone else said it's like putting training wheels on a bicycle - it helps stabilize something that is stabilized by forward motion.

Mac has started using some of these motions but it is inconsistent over multiple applications.
Re-wording the 10/GUI passage above to fit the Mac: a single finger points, clicks, and drags objects like a mouse. Two fingers scroll or pinch-zoom inside windows. Three fingers move windows around the desktop, and three-finger pinching resizes windows. Four fingers switch between applications, and four-finger pinching invokes Exposé.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

It's September!

How did time go by so fast? Since my last post I've graduated from my doctoral program and have been trying to write more (obviously not on this blog) and turn my thesis into some kind of readable book. Since March I went to Boston for the grad ceremony, travelled to Atlanta for the Society of Pastoral Theology conference, spent some time in Quebec (driving my daughter to her summer French immersion experience) and did a week of worship leading at a camp. I will post some grad pictures and maybe a few others to get myself back to some blogging again.

Here's a picture of me right after graduation on the steps of Gordon College Chapel (I'm the one with the funny hat and the red collar).

Here are a couple of shots from Quebec City.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Doctor of Ministry Program

Just a quick note that I am at the point of my Doctor of Ministry program of defending my thesis. I have submitted a rough draft and am travelling to Boston to present my defense on Tuesday the 24th of March. Then I will have to make some revisions and then prepare for graduation on May 9th.

Epiphaneia Conference

I'm at the Epiphaneia conference today, The Evolving Church Amidst the Powers. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to blog again as I interact with the people at the conference.

This morning's first speaker was Walter Wink, a person unknown to some of my colleagues, but well known in certain circles for his books about "the powers." I bought his books when I was still working at Yonge Street Mission and tried to read them and work through them - not an easy task by any means. But he does bring out a number of very good things. In particular that every structure and organization has its own spirit. This spirit is what he and scripture calls the powers. These powers are created good, but they are fallen and need to be redeemed. Wink doesn't accept the concept of individual spirit beings. He asserts that it is too much like superstition for him. At the same time he speaks in very personal terms about these powers, in that they have distinguishable characteristics and personality.

The workshop I went to was with David Fitch whose blog I follow fairly consistently. His workshop was called"Evangelicalism and the politics of complicity" and dealt with the idea that we have some sacred cows in the evangelical world that actually prevent us from living in obedience to Christ. Three things in particular we have elevated to the position of idol status - that is ultimately powerless. He calls them Master Signifiers - words or symbols that inspire us but don't really have any power. Three characteristics are:
1. They don’t really refer to anything but we rally around them - like Obama saying “change” or George Bush declaring a “war on terrorism” but justifying just about anything including torture.
2. They play on antagonisms – kick their butts – To make us feel better
3. pacify us for complicity with the powers – we don’t really have to do anything ourselves about war or about change etc. but allows us to rally around these ideas.

The Christian "master signifiers" are
1. Biblical inerrancy - because we say the bible is true in every way but we don't do what it says. We proof text it to prove our denominational position but don't let it speak to our hearts and change our lives.
2. The idea of a Christian nation that somehow the best thing to happen would be to have Christian politicians, and laws so that we would live in a heaven on earth. However this is an elusive pursuit. We don’t know what would happen if we got what we wanted. We really can't really legislate morality but we think that we should. Change happens because hearts are change - not because laws are changed.
3. The deification of the decision for Christ. We have reduced conversion to merely responding to an invitation to raise your hand or sign a card. We have emphasized being born again instead of following Jesus. It has become about after death salvation from hell (fire insurance) instead of repeated returns to the altar. It creates an I'm in and you're out mentality. It bypasses desire and decision becomes only a mental thing – baptism has become a secondary thing instead of the full experience.

The afternoon will feature Stanley Hawerwas and Marva Dawn. Should be good.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Weak Is the New Strong

I've just been reading a piece by Andy Crouch about the emerging movement and he makes a comment about a sermon by Rob Bell entitled "Weak Is the New Strong." I kind of like that. My thoughts went to the concept that God is our strength and that His strength is made perfect in weakness and of course I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Too often in the past we have focused on the strength part of those verses (ie be the strong one in Christ) - perhaps rightly so. However, I think the real hope in those verses is that we really are weak and it is only as we admit our weakness that He can make us strong. A friend of mine likes to pray (in jest) "Lord, we've studied and we've worked hard. We've practiced and we're well prepared. We've have all the necessary technology to do a good job today. Our instruments are tuned and the sermon notes are ready. Besides that we've been told that we're very intelligent and good looking too. We don't think we'll need you much today. Amen"

It is in our weakness that he does amazing things. Under the temple system purity was lost by coming into contact with something unclean. But when Jesus came he made the unclean leper clean, he touched a woman with an issue of blood (unclean) and healed her (made her clean), he ate with sinners (unclean) and brought them salvation. He didn't wash his hands properly (unclean) but blessed the food and fed 5000.

We need to remind ourselves that every turn toward God and every positive work is a work of the Spirit of God. The stuff we build won't last unless the Lord builds the house.
Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. Psalm 127:1

We need to be more like the little children and let the Father do the work. We are too much and too often like adults. We try too hard, we worry too much and we don't have enough fun.

Maybe that's a good New Year's resolution. Become like a little child.

1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven
. Matthew 18:1-4

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to All!
I did want all of you to know that the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. I am still alive and I am actually writing a lot - just not much on the blog. So I'm writing a short hello to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and to update you on my activities this fall.

I am on the home stretch of my Doctor of Ministry program and am trying to finish off my thesis by the deadline - which would be the end of January. I have completed about 80 pages so far (out of a total of around 200 pages or so). I do have my work cut out for me. I plan to continue devoting as much time as necessary to try to complete my thesis on time.

The schedule is roughly as follows. I need to hand in my final draft sometime before the end of the first week of February. Then when it is returned, I will need to make the necessary corrections and get a final good copy ready with proper formatting and printed on acid free paper, etc., etc.

The thesis defense will be scheduled sometime in March and I will need to travel to Boston for that. Then if everything goes well my graduation is scheduled for May 9th amidst many hallelujahs and much rejoicing and "I told you so's" and "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes" type comments.

The working title of the thesis is "The End of the World as we Know It: New Expressions of Church for the 21st Century"

I also want to apologize for missing a number of opportunities for blog entries. I made almost no comments about the American (or Canadian) elections. I also haven't been checking out what others have been saying.

I have put many of my regular activities and connections on hold but hopefully I can make it up and do some significant reconnecting come February and March. Promises promises!

Many Blessings
May Jesus continue to be the reason for the season in your lives.
Merry Christmas and a Christ filled New Year.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Take This Phone and Flush It

Are you on your cell phone right now?

It seems like everyone is. But I don't like it. With the legislation banning cell phone use in cars being introduced in Ontario things may change - at least while you're on the road. Have you ever done your own informal survey and counted the number of people talking on cellphones while in their cars? I've done it a few times and each time the number of people on cell phones while driving their cars always outnumbers the ones who are not on cell phones.

With these unlimited plans some of the usage gets a little creepy. I know someone who was on the phone with someone literally all day - they called and then just left the phone on - talking once in a while as they were vacuuming or preparing their meals. There were some long silences but also lots of little chatter about nothing - they were just together all day. I don't get that.

I also don't like the interruptions so I often ignore calls - especially if I'm with someone else. That's why caller ID is so good. I almost always ignore "Blocked Caller ID" calls - if someone really wants to get in touch with me they can leave a message - almost no one does. And i never answer any 1-866 or 1-800 numbers - that's just somebody trying to sell me something.

I realize it's become a reality of our lives but I will not go easy into that dark night.

I was encouraged today when I read this little article by Lauren Winner (who wrote Girl Meets God). It was fun to read.

Monday, November 03, 2008

You Are What You Watch

I just heard the results of a study done on adolescent and young adult behaviours.
I looked up the study and found that CTV posted something about it on their website.

The report starts like this ...

"Groundbreaking research suggests that pregnancy rates are much higher among teens who watch a lot of TV with sexual dialogue and behavior than among those who have tamer viewing tastes."

So what you fill your mind with and spend your time looking at will influence your behaviour? Say it isn't so! Well actually studies show (like James Potter) that most people (88%) actually believe that what they watch or listen to in the media doesn't affect them. However, most of those same people believe that it does affect other weaker people and that those weaker people ought to avoid certain violent or otherwise offensive programming.

New neuroscience research, however, suggests that what we do in this physical world determines who we become. The model of a spiritual soul that is influenced by one category of our weekly activities – worship, prayer, church attendance, etc. – but not by our more mundane daily activities (like watching tv or playing video games) is becoming more and more ridiculous. This neuroscientific research has shown that:

"By repeatedly performing some behaviors we can change the function of our brain and even reshape it. Furthermore, repeated activities such as observing or reading about the behaviors of other people can change the physical shape of the brain and the strength of the neural impulses that correspond to the observed behaviors. The importation of external knowledge, feelings, morals and attitudes through sensory experience has been shown to change the shape and functioning of the brain."

"As an example, in London England taxicab drivers must spend two years learning every street, boulevard and cul-de-sac before they can begin to drive. When they began their training the hippocampus of these drivers was normal in size and density. This area of the brain is responsible for our sense of direction. After two years of intensive training, the hippocampus of these drivers was larger and denser than it had been, and it was also larger and denser than the hippocampus of comparable non-cabbies (Maguire et al., 2000). Intense memorization and training altered the hippocampus structure of these drivers. Considering this change from a different perspective, we could say that changes in the brain as a result of repetitive behaviors may reshape a person’s soul!"

[Much of this stuff on the function of the brain is from an article written by friends of mine Paul and Cahleen Shrier called Mirror Neurons and Visiting the Sick: A Neuroscientific Exploration of John Wesley’s Means of Grace.]

So we can reshape our brain by learning. The same research shows that our behaviours also reshape our brain. We change our brain by what we habitually do. We used to call that "developing a good habit." Now science proves it.

Actually, almost 300 years ago, John Wesley postulated that we can become sanctified by our repeated practices of spiritual discipline. Wesley’s theology of sanctification, highlights his role for "the means of grace" in sanctification, and his belief that acts of mercy, such as visiting the sick, allow God’s grace to sanctify us.

Some of the outward signs, words or actions that Wesley included in his means of grace were prayer, searching Scriptures, the Lord’s supper, gathering together in worship, and also acts of mercy towards others. Wesley believed that love of God and love of neighbor could not be separated. Therefore, acts of piety such as worship and prayer will increase a person’s love for neighbors, while acts of mercy such as visiting the sick and prisoners, providing others with food and clothing, will increase a person’s love of God.

He wrote that those who neglected acts of mercy “do not receive the grace they otherwise might.” Further, he argued that those who fulfill the acts of piety may still become weak and feeble in their Christian walk, because they have neglected acts of mercy.

Maybe the author of the Book of Hebrews was right when he said in chapter 12:

2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

He started that section off with:

let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Fix our eyes on Jesus - great advice (an imperative really) in this media murky societty, and ...
Run your race with perseverence
Get rid of the stuff that tangles you up.

The truth still echos through our culture.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Behaving Before You Belong or Believe

I've been reading a chapter by Alan Kreider in a book called The Origins of Christendom in the West - fascinating stuff really. He speaks about the erosion of deeply Christian behaviour in the church from the second century or so until the fifth or sixth century. He's really the guy who coined the phrase "Belong, Behave, Believe" (after Grace Davie who wrote a book about the British Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing before Belonging).

He makes a statement on page 3:
"Christendom was the product of millions of conversions. In the early centuries, becoming a Christian entailed a many-faceted change which involved a rupture with conventional values: the converts’ beliefs, belonging and behaviour were all expected to change. To foster this change, the church developed a process of catechesis and ritual which culminated in the cathartic experience of baptism. "

Baptism and entrance into the church during the first couple of centuries did not occur until after behaviour had changed or until there was absolute certainty that conversion had really occurred. This sometimes involved a three to five year adult catechism period. I wonder what that would do to church growth in the 21st Century? Probably slow it down at the beginning but then I think it would really start speeding up.

Another comment:

"Thus conversion was bound to challenge more than a person’s mental ruts or philosophical categories; it was bound to be more than a Glaubenswechsel or a ‘reorientation of the soul of an individual.’ Indeed the change in belief was often quite secondary to the change in behaviour. People were first attracted to the Christians, not by their ideas, but by their distinctive behaviour and/or by the mysterious spiritual powers that seemed to be among them. … Early Christian writers often commented tht people were drawn to inquire about the faith by observing Christian behaviour."

To explain it further:

"Conversion required something deeper [than experience or attraction]. It required the ‘candidates’ – those who had been impressed by the Christians’ exorcisms (i.e. power encounters) or question-posing lives – to submit themselves to a journey of multi-dimensional change. The catechetical programmes that emerged were developed to superintend this change and to ensure that it was genuine. In the fullness of time, this journey would culminate in baptism as the candidates died to their old selves and were reborn. Then and then only, would the process of conversion be complete."

What happened?

"In the early centuries of the church, we have noted, conversion entailed a process of resocialization which taught converts the skills and understanding necessary to live the deviant life (i.e. different from early Mediterranean culture) of an alternative society; and this required of every candidate a change of life. Now, after Constantine, the alternative society was becoming society itself; and conversion was enabling the now deviant pagans to shape up, equipping them to conform to the now normal norms of a Christian society. As this happened, the processes of conversion changed."

"Significantly the subject matter that they were taught was shifting from earlier patterns. The teaching of Jesus which had been central to early catechesis had now in (the Edict of) Milan (i.e. post 313 AD) been supplanted by stories of the Old Testament patriarchs and behavioural guidance from the proverbs, and the stories and examples of Jesus had been supplanted by stories and examples of the saints. Meanwhile the formation of Christian conduct had come to be replaced by a concentration on the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed."

The Results were predictable:

"In Constantine’s baptism, the church had required the Emperor to change his lifestyle; in Volusian’s baptism (a century later), there is no hint that conversion required a respectable aristocrat to change - whether in his attentiveness to the needs of the poor, in his attitude to violence, or apparently in the opulence of colour of his dress (i.e. wearing purple signified a governmental position which Christians and also many in government had felt was incompatible with following Jesus). It is hardly surprising that in Rome the result was a respectable aristocratic Christianity."

We certainly see that in the current presidential race. We actually see it in many of our churches and even in our own lives. I have been asked countless "ethics" questions. Can I still do this (fill in the blank) and be a good Christian. As Rodney Clapp says in Peculiar People:

“The question is no longer ”How can we survive and remain faithful Christians under Caesar?” but now becomes “How can we adjust the church’s expectations so that Caesar can consider himself a faithful Christian?””