Archive for January, 2009

in the loop

January 20, 2009

image borrowed from:

when you’re listening to a singer and suddenly you hear a really loud, high-pitched screech from the speakers, either you’re at a screamo concert or you just heard feedback.

feedback (are you listening, aspiring vocalists?) happens when sound coming out of the speakers goes back in to the microphone.  a loop is created.  the sound going back into the microphone is amplified and sent back out the speakers and – again – back into the microphone.  feedback in a live-audio situation is considered a back thing because you quickly learn the maximum volume level the sound system is capable of – at the cost of your ear drums.

there are a lot of situations though, where feedback is a good thing.  our five senses, for example, give us feedback on how our actions are affecting the world around us.  people who lose feeling in their fingers get burns and cuts and abrasions because they can’t tell they’re touching something hot or sharp or rough.

psychologists and behaviorists have found that biofeedback – giving people direct information about their physical condition – can allow them to vary normally-involuntary things like heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.  hyperactive children have even been treated, simply by providing conscious feedback about their level of activity.

i believe that just like god designed us with senses to get feedback from our world, he also built in a mechanism to answer the question “how’m i doing?”  that mechanism is each other.

some of this life-feedback is formalized.  a teacher will fail you in a class if you don’t do the assignments or a judge may put you in prison if you steal things.  feedback is positive too of course;  getting an “a” in the class or a trophy for being the fastest swimmer.

every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the lord weighs the hearts. – proverbs 21:2

but most facets of life require a finer brush.  should i choose this or that career?  am i talking too much?  do i really “get” this, or just think i do?   and for all those questions he has placed each of us in a context of other people.  parents and family members at first then friends and a spouse.  i think most of us who are married would agree that we’re most likely to hear corrective feedback, and hopefully reinforcing words as well, from the one we’re married to.  often the feedback we need the most comes from someone it’s hard to listen to – a brother or sister (maybe that persnickety one that drove you crazy growing up), dad or mom, or someone we’re envious of.  someone who knows us just a little better than we’d like to admit.  it is never pleasant or easy to hear: “i think you’re wrong”.  but sometimes we certainly need to.

he who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom. – proverbs 18:1

the problem with god’s feedback system is that sometimes we’d rather not know.  we turn it off by refusing to listen to good advice from people who know and care about us.  that old foe, pride, says “i know what i’m doing” or “i can handle this myself”.  battles are fought, lives are lost, pain is brought on, when we shut down the communication channels – or refuse to develop them to begin with.

where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory. – proverbs 11:14

none of us, especially in the body of christ, should be making decisions in a vacuum about our family, relationships, career, or finances.  the pride in our flesh says “i’ll share this with someone once i get my life a little more in order”.  but the proposition is backwards.

it’s always easy to find someone who will agree with us – someone who will tell us we are right and the other guy is wrong.  that person is what the bible calls a fool.

the kind of friend most valuable to each of us is one who will spend time with us, listen, pray, and give godly counsel.  a person who will say the things we need to hear, even when they’re not what we want to hear, even when they’re had to say and hard for us to hear.  there isn’t room in a life for dozens of people like that, but each of us needs one or two.

with regrets

January 14, 2009
stolen from

stolen from

i’m kind of a 24/7 person.  i sleep maybe 5 or 6 hours a night, but they’re on a sliding schedule.  sometimes i’m up till dawn.  sometimes i catch a little nap in the evening and i’m up before midnight.  some nights i don’t sleep at all.   i’ve heard that it isn’t healthy to live like this, but i haven’t figured out another way.

so, since i was a teenager, i’ve spent lots of late nights and early mornings at coffee shops.

several years ago i had a friend named Bill who was the night shift cook at the rockwall waffle house.  Bill was single and kind of old and was a friendly sort of lonely.  he smoked a couple packs of marlboros a day and had a system that (he tried hard to convince me) helped him beat the odds and win more than he put in to the pick-3 lotto.  besides being a waffle house cook, bill was an occasional photographer and shot weddings and such.    and, the thing that helped cement our friendship, bill rode motorcycles.

i had a nice honda at the time and we’d go out riding in the morning after he got off work and before he went home to sleep.    then i’d come in a few nights later and he’d tell me all about his lotto system or we’d talk about motorcycles or cameras.

then Bill died.  there was some kind of suspicious circumstance about it.  he had a storage building where he worked on his bike and apparently they found him dead.  i heard about it about a week later.  if Bill had any family or friends, other than the folks he worked with, i hadn’t heard about them.  he might have mentioned a daughter once.

today would have been Bill’s birthday.  what makes me especially said is this.  i talked with him about all the churchy things i was doing and was always very open about my faith.  but i never actually shared that faith with him or invited him in.  he wasn’t anti-god, but i couldn’t tell that he had any relationship with god either.  i thought a lot about it when we hung out and was just waiting for the right time.


January 6, 2009

our predisposition doesn’t
determine our position
it’s where we listen
that shapes our decision

starting the new year right

January 2, 2009
photo by martin godwin

photo by martin godwin

i like to start out january 1st  praying, then reading genesis 1-3 and today it work out perfectly.

well, semi-perfectly.  i still had 1 & 2 peter to finish up last years lap, so i read them first.  but the genesis chapters had their usual effect on me.  they’re like the first few minutes of a suspenseful movie that set up the rest of the plot.  if you miss them you might as well wait until the next showing.

unless someone else has claimed the time, i think i’ll teach on them next wednesday at church on the ranch