A Bodey in Motion

Building momentum, one step at a time

A Merry Christmas Mind Dump: On Reading

[image removed]

I’m just going to free type here for a bit. I’m really feeling the need to write something tonight. About reading. It’ll make sense, really.

I stopped reading when I was younger. It’s not that I couldn’t, but I stopped wanting to. I just got tired of picking up books and flipping through the pages for any serious reason. I didn’t enjoy the overall college experience, and I think that fighting my way through my Bachelor’s degree sucked the joy of reading from me for the better part of a decade.

Funny Story: When I (finally) graduated with my Computer Science degree, I was taken to lunch by my advisor/dean and the people in the school office I worked at. The office secretary asked me, totally deadpan, “So, when are you planning to get your Master’s degree?” I laughed so hard, I almost fell out of my chair. She looked offended, “I wasn’t joking.” “Neither was I,” I replied. It took me almost ten years to get that first degree. I had (and still have) no interest in repeating that experience. Ever.

Back to reading. About three years ago (give or take a few months) I started to once again pick up books here and there and slowly paged through them. A friend lent me Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian, and the two books that followed in that series, and I really enjoyed them. (I still believe that the first book is challenging and worth reading, even if you don’t agree with McLaren in general – and I don’t). After that, the wick was re-lit and I began building up a stack of books I wanted to read. Now I’m always on the lookout for new ones to add to my stack, and I’m reading through more and more of them each year.

So, for the last couple of Christmases, my lists have been composed of pretty much nothing but books. I received five from last year’s list, and I’ve read through all of them and more. This year, I only received three books from my list…and a Kindle.

Confession Time: I’ve been really resistant to the idea of using an eReader. I enjoy the feel of having a book in my hand. Turning the pages and being able to see how quickly I’ve read through the text. Marking the sentences and paragraphs that interest me with sticky tabs. It’s all very warm and tactile and earthy and I truly feared that bringing cold technology into this newly reborn habit would cause some of the joy to trickle away again.

On the other hand, I’m a computer guy. I like gadgets. New toys. The idea of electronic books excited me. I got to play with a Kindle at my in-law’s home over Thanksgiving, and I was instantly seduced by the thing. It is seriously slick.

So, they got me one. Damn nice of them. Got an awesome cover from my brother-in-law, too.

I really want to screw around with it, now, but I’m resisting the urge to go buy a book I want just so I can read it on the thing. It feels too much like an impulse buy and that sets off alarms in my head nowadays. I have a stack of 14 books to read through on the shelf behind me. Buying another book just to page through it on the latest gizmo feels like a waste of money. I’m going to have to go look through the list of free books, I guess.

Am I still afraid of what effect the technology is going to have on my reading? Less so than I was before. Familiarity has eroded much of the fear away, as often happens, but a little still lingers. Not enough to keep me from using it, though.

Anyway, I’m closing the year with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Next year will probably start with Flickering Pixels by Shane Hipps, because I’ve been wanting to read it for several months. After that, we’ll just have to see which one grabs my attention.

So, any suggestions for interesting free books for the Kindle?

December 26, 2010 Posted by | Past and Future, Read and Reviewed | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Links of the Week, Christmas Eve Edition

[image removed]

Welcome to another episode of “What Jonathan has come across on the Interwebs that he finds interesting, entertaining, inspiring, or just plain weird.” I’ve got quite a few things saved up from the last couple of weeks, so this is going to be a bit on the long side. Enjoy!

  • “It’s easy to be homophobic if you don’t know anyone who is openly gay.” Steve Chapman tells the story of how he grew out of his own homophobia. I suspect this is fairly common, I know it’s true of my experiences. See, it’s hard to continue vilifying that broadly labeled group when you meet individual members of the group that don’t fit the evil in your head. Maybe it would just be better if we dealt with each other as individuals to start with?
  • Monet Parham, single mother of two, is suing McDonald’s to stop them from using of toys to market directly to young children. The money quote: “I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat.” They also take control of her vehicle, her pocketbook, and her ability to say ‘no’ to her children, I suppose. Parenting is hard enough without abdicating responsibility to marketers.
  • How secure is your password? If it’s less than 10 characters and doesn’t include capital letters, a few numbers and a special character or two, it probably isn’t that secure. A recent hack at Gawker reveals that people make some stupid decisions when creating their passwords. Try to be more creative with yours.
  • It may seem strange to associate the behaviors and traits of leaders with those used to describe love, but I find Perry Noble’s gut check list compelling. These are good things to be working through in general, but especially if you are in a position of leadership.
  • I believe that one of the results of this Communication Revolution we have been living in, and the Information Age that it has spawned, is the total revamping of education and schooling as we know it. If you’re interested, let me suggest a couple of videos to you. Education scientist Sugata Mitra’s child-driven education talk at TED from July of this year is fascinating. There’s also an animated version of a talk presented by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert, on changing education paradigms. Both are challenging discussions and completely worth watching.
  • A message from last year that I think is very appropriate this Christmas. There are a lot of reasons to not like Christians. Shane Claiborne asks you to please forgive us, because God is not a monster and Jesus is worth getting to know better.
  • Presenting the all new taste sensation, coming to the snack aisle at your local food mega-mart: Haggis Chips! No, really.
  • This is a very long interview with Matt Ridley discussing five books that he believes are well worth reading. Some of these will probably go on my reading list. Ridley is very adept at making the case for an optimistic view of the future, and I am happy to be persuaded by him. I hope you take the time to read what he has to say.
  • This past week, pigs grew wings and began to take flight. Pat Robertson and I can agree, in part, about US drug policy. He stated, on the 700 Club, that “criminalizing marijuana [is] costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people.” I couldn’t agree more. (There has been some understandable back-pedaling from the organization, but let me have my moment of joy, won’t you?)

That’s should be enough for now. Everyone have a Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2010 Posted by | Food and Booze, Marriage and Family, Quick Hits and Links | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Two Ways To Have a Stronger Marriage

[image removed]

My wife and I are going out on a date this evening. We’re going somewhere very nice that we both enjoy. We’ll spend at least couple of hours there enjoying the food and each other’s company.

Taking the person you love out on dates isn’t something that should stop once the wedding is over. I know as a man, I see it as a constant challenge to make my marriage as strong and as problem free as possible. Having time to talk to your spouse about the issues you’re going through, without the distractions of kids or home, can be key to that vision. So, we’ve made it a priority to have a semi-regular date night.

I’ve discovered something else that helps strengthen your marriage, as much if not more than a date night, is having a regular monthly home budget meeting. When just you and your spouse sit down together and nail down where all the money for that month is going to go and what your upcoming expenses are going to be, it’s a great opportunity for the two of you to draw closer together. It builds parts of your marriage that a regular date night doesn’t exercise.

The date night is all about communication. It allows you not only to vent about areas of trouble in your life to your spouse, but also to share your dreams and hopes for the future with each other. Spending that time helps you to get to know one another more deeply. It helps you know how to meet one another’s needs as your marriage continues to mature and you each work through the changes in your lives.

While the budget meeting requires communication, it’s really all about implementation. After the two of you have agreed upon the household necessities, you have the opportunity to act upon those needs that you’ve identified during those dates you’ve taken. You can budget for the vacation that your spouse has longed to take. (Remember, though all you can set aside right now for that dream is $40 per month, that’s still almost $500 a year.)

More importantly, the home budget meeting is a written contract between the two of you. It’s an agreement on where all of your money is going for the coming month. If the budget is followed by both it builds trust in each other. Each comes to know how well they can depend on the other.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

– Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Also, when you both fulfill the budget contract, it sets you both on the same path, working towards a common goal. When both of you are moving together with the same vision, you have a much better chance at achieving your long term dreams. Even if you never reach the biggest dreams, you’ll have been walking together, hand in hand, all of that time. There is no better way to build strong marital bonds that I can think of.

For more advice on how to set up a regular date night, I recommend checking out this blog post by Josh Reich. Building strong marriages and families is a big part of Josh’s leadership at Revolution Church in Tucson.

I wrote previously about working together on a home budget when I posted my five tips for writing a good home budget, and also when I explained about how I mistakenly left the home budget to my wife after we first got married.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Marriage and Family, Past and Future, Work and Money | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Two Ways To Have a Stronger Marriage

From a Puppet to Pieces of Wood

(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for a full sized look at the puppet monstrosity.)

(Alright, so Eric Burns-White I’m not. When he was updating, he was, by far, the best in webcomic commentary. I doubt the following will do more than pale in comparison. However, I felt the need to comment on this strip, and I am a firm believer in stealing learning from those I consider experts.)

If we ignore the last couple of posts, I haven’t blogged seriously in over two weeks. I’m sorry if you’ve felt neglected. The last part of the year at the plant can get kind of hectic, but I’m happy to say that I’m in the throes of my holiday vacation. Which is fortunate, because during those last few days I started to develop a horrible case of job specific rectal glaucoma.

That’s right, I could no longer see my ass at work.

It’s a tragic condition that affects millions of employees every year. Won’t you please help? For only pennies a day…

Sorry. Anyway, I meant to write this shortly after the 30 Day challenge was over, while the comic was still pretty fresh. As I’ve written in a previous post, Randy Milholland’s Something Positive delivers for me pretty much every time that it updates. This comic linked above is a good example of why that is. Between Donna’s comment on the true nature of parenthood, Rory innocently and enthusiastically presenting us with the sheer horror of his creation, and that sharp exchange in the final panel, there is a lot to love.

It’s hard to pick just one of them to comment on here. I could write about how, in my experience, good parents learn quickly to be ready and willing to disappoint their children, because they know that the end goal is transforming that child into a functional, healthy adult. Then again, I could write about that puppet. It reminds me of how over-enthusiastic evangelism (and other, much uglier behavior that those who call themselves Christians engage in) can turn the loving face of Jesus into that of an intolerable monster, which is a huge problem for the Church today. Either would be interesting topics to explore, but that final exchange is what really struck me.

See, I’ve grown up in and attended churches for most of my life, and I’ve found that too many church people have an unhealthy fixation on the symbol of the cross. I’ve witnessed it manifest as a church’s attempt to modernize resulted in complaint after complaint when that particular wall decor was temporarily covered. I’ve encountered more than one giant wooden icon affixed centrally in worship halls, and often shiny little plaques are close at hand with the names of the families to be remembered for them. Heaven forbid if it isn’t well lit during service. In a church, how we treat the cross is a big hairy deal.

And, quite honestly, I’m sick of it.

I need to be clear here. I’m not rejecting the redemptive power of Jesus’ death on the cross. Eventually, anyone finding their way back to God has to deal with Jesus, that act, and what it represents. The presence of a physical cross can at times be used in powerful ways, inspiring us to acknowledge and turn from sin. So, no, the sacrifice isn’t the issue. What I reject is the rampant practice of using it in church architecture and decor, and thereby draining the symbol of it’s value. It’s unnecessary.

Some people say it isn’t really a church if the cross isn’t prominently displayed. I’m sorry, but that’s not true. The first century followers of Christ never used it as an ornamental symbol. It didn’t become accepted until after anyone who had actually seen one used had long been dead.

Today, in places around the world where Christians are being actively persecuted and their churches have been forced underground, using that symbol openly could equal death. Is anyone going to claim that those believers are not really worshiping as a church because they lack a couple pieces of wood tacked together? Who would be that arrogant?

In the strip Donna says, “We decorate our places of worship with the thing he died on and pictures of him bleeding. We love his suffering.” What’s implied is, for far too many Christians, that’s all they love about Jesus. They rejoice in the death, but they forget his life. Worse yet, they forget his commission. That cross hanging on the wall reminds them of their salvation and that provides them with comfort. Eternity is secure.

Following Christ should mean so much more. Our perspective on eternity isn’t the only change a Christian should experience. We’re supposed to go out and be Christ to the world. We should live his life, not just rest easy in his death. Where does our actual comfort come from? The Son of God, or his cross?

In fairness, I don’t go running from church buildings that have a cross prominently on display. I certainly don’t think that having one is a sin. Bad decor, sure, but not a sin. I do, however, think that requiring one might mean that your worship is misplaced, and that could be a sign that you’ve made the cross into an idol. I know that sounds absurd, even harsh, but I encourage you to consider it seriously. Things that become idols don’t often start out bad. (e.g. Work is good. Being a workaholic isn’t.) Nothing should be allowed to get between you and God, not even the cross.

December 20, 2010 Posted by | Christ and Church, Comics on the Web, Marriage and Family | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on From a Puppet to Pieces of Wood