I like crossword puzzles. I like filling them out, as long as they aren’t too hard, and I really like finishing them. I get a feeling of satisfaction about doing something and doing it all the way to the end.

Sometimes, though, I disagree with the guy who created it. Might be the hardness of the overall puzzle, might be a place where I would have picked a different clue, or every once in a while the theme of the puzzle. Sometimes I just get bothered at the guy.

Then I realize it’s his crossword puzzle, not mine. He gets to choose the size, the contents, the clues, everything. It all belongs to the creator.

And then, God, as He often does, draws me to the spiritual application. It does all belong to the Creator. He *is* the guy. He gets to choose everything. If He chooses to write ten laws to show how perfect He is, and what He wants us to live up to, and which we can’t, it’s His choice. And if He wants to send His only begotten son Jesus to die on the cross because I can’t follow ten simple rules, it’s His choice.

And that’s what He did – and that’s what we are celebrating with the wafer and the juice. The body and the blood of a perfect man – the one who did His life’s crossword puzzle all the way to the end. And He didn’t use a pencil. He didn’t even use ink. He wrote out the answers in His own blood, and He did it perfectly.

Let’s pray. Father God, You are the creator of all things. You made us with free will, and every one of us chose wrongly. So, as part of Your perfect plan, You gave us Jesus. Thank You for the answer to everything. It’s in His name I pray, amen.

(communion meditation for 2017-12-03)

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I have a bit of free time today.  I was keeping up on The Register, one of the best (and snarkiest) IT sites.  I came across this security story on the dangers of unsecured container ship loading protocols.

The comments, as usual, expanded greatly on the story.  I read a lot about the MV Rena failure from 2011/12 (and page 2 gets even worser).  And then somebody pointed to a page on parametric rolling

Parametric rolling 0

which I don’t understand, aside from the high-level “badness comes in waves”, but which provided a stunning visual.

Parametric rolling

Reminding me that some 7/10 splits are worse than others.

(pictures from Learn Ship Design, where it is claimed “Images and videos used in the article donot belong to LSD and full credit goes to their respective owners”, without identifying those owners.)

I’ve gotten email recently from a Japanese chap.  Not reading Japanese and not knowing anybody who speaks only Japanese, I have been deleting them.

Tonight, in avoiding the work I need to do, I translated the latest message.

Japanese

According to my friends at Google Translate, this comes out to

Ōburī sensei sei-gai ofisu no Yamamotodesu. Osewa ni natte orimasu. Hyōki ni tsukimashite, sonogo ikagadeshou ka? Chōsei no ue go kaitō itadakimasu yō onegai itashimasu. Nao, satsuei ni tsuite wa, kōho-bi to jikan ni tsuite mo go shitei itadakimasu yō onegai itashimasu. Dōzo, yoroshikuonegaītashimasu.

and in English,

Mr. Aubrey

It is Yamamoto of the office of the government.
We become indebted to.

Regarding the markings, how about after that?
Please adjust after adjustment and thank you for your reply.
For shooting, please also specify candidate date and time.

Thank you very much.

He is indebted to me, and trusts me to make adjustments after someone else makes adjustments. And wants to shoot someone of my choice.

So I’m not sure whether to be honored or scared.  But give it up, Tetsuhisa.  Either way, it’s not worth it.  Trust me on this one.

 

Today marks the 500th anniversary of a Catholic monk rebelling.  I don’t know if the door of the church at Wittenberg was red, black, natural, or “other”.  It was capable of accepting Luther’s 95 Theses, and that’s what kicked off the whole Protestant Reformation.

I don’t have a lot to say about it (the Reformation, not the door).  I’m glad it happened, and I’m pretty sure that Brother Luther wouldn’t recognize what the church has become.

Rather than spend a lot of words saying nothing, I’ll point to Wes King’s commentary.

I enjoy reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. I probably shouldn’t – these things are violent. The hero and the bad guys leave a trail of bodies and bruises from one end of the book to the other. 

I was surprised to find out that the genre is not new. I probably shouldn’t be – there is nothing new under the sun.

I recently finished reading a big book of all Dashiell Hammett’s novels. There are five of them, including The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. (side note: those movies are great. The first Jack Reacher movie was OK. Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher. End of discussion.)

The first of Hammett’s novels is 1929’s Red Harvest. Given the body count of around two dozen, you can guess what makes the harvest that color.

The later books are not as gory as the first, but his short stories are very reminiscent of Reacher – smooth and understated, strongly masculine without being macho, and slyly humorous. In one short story, a policeman comes into money but doesn’t change his habits, including very low end cigars. The unnamed narrator, working for Continental Op, calls it a “cigar-thing”. That’s funny.

I found Lee Child before I found Dashiell Hammett. I’m glad I kept going. 

A week ago, back when it was still summer, Bettie and I stood outside at 2AM and watched the Orionid meteor shower. We didn’t stay long, and it was chilly, but we each saw a couple shooting stars. Fun.

In the week before that, around the middle of October, I was still seeing lightning bugs. Not flying around, but resting on the ground. That’s the same way I saw them back in February, which was extraordinarily warm this year.

The two events aren’t related, not directly. One looking up, one looking down. One fast, one very slow. One cold (a dirty snowball, except for at the very end), one doing much better in the heat of high summer rather than either cooler end.

But they are connected. As James Herriot quoted, “The Lord God made them all“. I’m in that bucket, and so are you. We are all creatures, created beings, and we have a Creator. Rather, He has us. What is He going to do with us? It depends on what we do with Him.

I’ve seen a lot of death recently. A coworker’s husband lost both his mother and his father this year. Another coworker lost his teenage son unexpectedly. A third coworker died from cancer after winning a serious battle against another disease. One of Bettie’s former coworkers, younger than she was, died a week ago. The end of life came for each of them, and it’s coming for me. Not a dire announcement, just a recognition that we’re all going to die eventually.

And after that comes the judgment. We’ll be judged on how we lived our lives and spent the blessings we have been given. I have been very blessed, from my parents being who they are to growing up in a family of faith, from attending a church college to finding a wonderful wife, from losing my way to finding solid ground and a well-grounded church and pastor. And still, though I am not perfect, the blood of Jesus makes me so in the eyes of God the Father.

I don’t know what led you to this site. I encourage you to think about your past, and your future, and eternity. Pick up a Bible and read the book of Romans. Take your time, make the investment, decide what matters.

I did, and it has made all the difference. In the world and the next.

While I was growing up, I wanted to be a race car driver. I’d still like to do that, but the realistic option is gone. It was pretty well gone when I realized that race car driving was dangerous – I could get hurt!

Still, I like racing. Pretty much anything going fast, but focused mainly on NASCAR. My first hero was Richard Petty – the king. He won 200 races, finishing in front of President Ronald Reagan.

After he retired, I moved to supporting Darrell Waltrip, #17. He had a mouth, he had an attitude, and he had the championships to back it up.

When he retired, Tony Stewart moved into my top spot. He had a temper, he would sometimes sometimes cross the line, but he also had the skills to win championships.

Tony Stewart retired a year ago. For me, nobody has taken his place. Some don’t make the list – Logano and Keselowski, I’m looking at you. Jimmy Johnson – nice guy, but no passion from me (maybe because he exercises). The replacement in Tony’s car, Clint Boyer, doesn’t have a spark.

The racing itself has changed, with stages and weird end-of-race rules, not to mention artificial cautions to bunch the field up.

Bottom line, I’m done with NASCAR. it just isn’t worth the investment of my time. I’ll still watch a few races – Daytona to start the season, the World 600 as part of the Memorial Day triple header. The Indy 500 is the only Indy-car race I watch.

The first race in that triple header is the Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco. It’s always been fun to watch, with the long underground chute leading into the blinding sunlight, the tight corners and the water right there!

This year, I watched that race with different eyes. I saw internal struggles, man against machine and man against man. The incredible power and incredible fragility of the cars. The money spent and the technology used.

And I started watching F1 races, enjoying them more than I expected. Even the practices are fun, with David Hobbs mentioning the occasional “argy-bargy” in his understated English way.

So in 2018, I’m dropping NASCAR and switching to F1. It isn’t necessarily permanent, but it will take a lot to turn me back.

I have been thinking lately about how I see things. Not visually, not the optics of my eyes, but how things go together. Where do they fit? What is the framework?

Usually, and unfortunately, my framework is too small. That might be in distance, in money, or in time.

Here’s an example: you’re walking down the street and you see a twenty dollar bill. You go over to it and pick it up. It’s your lucky day! Now expand the framework – that twenty dollar bill is out in the middle of the road. Different factors apply – maybe you wait for traffic to stop – a red light. More to consider, and maybe you don’t get that money.

Different situation: instead of getting something good, you avoid something bad. Nobody likes pain, and none of us would stick our hand in a fire voluntarily. But each and every one of us would rescue a child who had fallen into the fire. The bigger picture of saving a life overcomes the knowledge of imminent pain.

Hebrews 12:2 says about Jesus “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

And Jesus knew the pain, the shame that was waiting. In Luke 22:42, Jesus prays to the Father: “Take this cup from Me”.  It was going to hurt, physically and spiritually, more than we could ever know.

Jesus knew that imminent pain, and He knew the ultimate glory. He saw the biggest framework – eternity.  He paid the price to keep us from the fire of hell. We celebrate his death and resurrection now with the wafer and the juice. Let’s pray.

Father God, I thank You for Jesus, His perfection, His sacrifice, His example. It’s in His name I pray. Amen.

 

Communion meditation October 15, 2017

 

According to family history, I have thrown exactly one temper tantrum in my life.  I was five years old, and I wanted to watch professional wrestling on TV.  Somebody prohibited me from doing what I wanted to do. Now I’m not going to mention any names, but an adult in my family decided she knew better than I did.

I’m sure that in my reasoned discussions with this adult that I used the phrase “It’s not fair!”.  I may have emphasized the point vocally, at volume.

That concept of “It’s not fair” has tended to follow me through life.  When I get a speeding ticket, I start to complain that the trooper picked on me – everybody else in the fast lane was speeding.  That “It’s not fair!” thing comes up, I start thinking about whether I was, in fact, going faster than the speed limit.  When I don’t get a good seat in a movie theater or a restaurant, I have to remind myself of what my money purchased.  I didn’t pay extra for the best seat in the house, and my “It’s not fair!” feeling goes away fast.

Then I take it up into the church level. “It isn’t fair!” that I get to lock up the church so often, that I have responsibilities that take time away from things I would rather do. I think of others in the church who do much more than I do, and that selfish feeling goes away.

And then at the spiritual level – I grew up in the church, went to a church college, I tithe faithfully, read my Bible and pray daily.  It isn’t fair that I’m not being blessed more.

And then God gets my attention, whispers “What about Jesus?” in my ear, and gives me some time to think about what is really fair and what isn’t.  Jesus, that perfect man, who never sinned, was crucified for His perfection.  They tried to stone Him, they did mock Him and beat Him, forced Him to carry the implement of His own death, and I have the utter audacity to say that what is happening to me isn’t fair?

Not only that, but the death of that perfect man, Jesus, actually paid the price for my sin – both the sin nature that is inside of me, and the acts of sin that spring forth from that.  Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross to pay the spiritual price for my temper tantrum.

As we take the wafer and drink the juice, which all Christians are invited to do, let us not forget that no, “It’s not fair!” – and that Jesus bore the burden for that unfairness.  Let’s pray.

Lord God, thank you for being unfair – and overly generous.  Thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus.  Thank you for the way of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It’s in His name that I pray, Amen.

Communion meditation for 9/24/2017

Time for another list of potentially profound sayings, that other people have created and I have harvested.  Here are the previous six entries.

Aug 16: Cows may not be smarter than people, but some cows are smarter than some people

Sep 16: Don’t get bitter, get better

Oct 16: You don’t have a soul.  You *ARE* a soul.  You have a body.

Nov 16: There is some probability that rational decision is not the governing phenomenon here.

Dec 16: Not my circus, not my monkeys.

Jan 17: When you see hoofprints, think horse and not zebra

Feb 17: Eveyone who overgeneralises is always an idiot

Mar 17: Argue for your limitations, and soon they will be yours

Apr 17: You cannot make everybody happy.  You are not pizza.

May 17: The Venn diagram for age, experience and wisdom is not one of concentric circles

Jun 17: You manage what you know

Jul 17: “Carpe diem” is my favorite saying. Fish are ten cents each.

Aug 17: What you expect, you must inspect

Sep 17: Semper Gumby – forever flexible