After all this is over…

I’m not sure what things will look like on the other side of this, but I am confident that after this season of hidden things being exposed, we will be stronger for it. People who you thought you could trust to the end have been revealed to be two dimensional friends. People who you disagreed with for tertiary reasons have been shown to be trustworthy.

We will get through this though. Not without realignments. Not without painful separations. But we will get through this. Stronger than before. The hysteria will end far later than it should, but it will end. You will rely on people you didn’t know beforehand and you will trust old friends as much as you trust a fart after a trip to Taco Bell.

From a religious standpoint, this era has been painful to say the least. I had my suspicions about certain “Big Eva” pastors before COVID and the Intersectionality riots, but they have certainly been confirmed in these months. Not only have they been confirmed, but names who I held in high regard once are now meaningless to me. Albert Mohler, Tim Keller, Jason Meyer, Andy Stanley, Mark Dever, pretty much anyone in The Gospel Coalition (which is more interested in the coalition than in the gospel) have been revealed to be gospel redefiners, which is to say that they are gospel deniers.

I came to faith in my 30’s and I wanted to make up for lost time. I read my Bible and poured myself into learning everything I could. I looked for faithful pastors who would saturate me with a view of the gospel that was compelling. I read books, listened to sermons, compared my faithlessness from before with the expectations that God has for those whose hearts of stone are replaced by hearts of flesh. I wanted nothing greater than to be faithful to this high calling.

As time has gone on, most of these “celebrity pastors” have shown themselves to be unworthy of following. The most faithful pastors have generally been those without large followings and with nothing to lose. There are exceptions, of course, but I don’t intend to proclaim anyone famous as a faithful teacher until they have been dead long enough for any secrets to come forth.

Meanwhile, we are in a situation where people in the spotlight and people in the local arena are shown for who they are, and many of them are not who we once thought they were. Perhaps this is painful because we didn’t want to be wrong about them. Perhaps we had thought the best of them and found out later that the best just wasn’t the case.

Any way you look at it, people are showing you who they really are. The masks are coming off, no pun intended. You will be surprised. You will be disappointed. If you are wise, you will learn not to place your trust in the flesh of this world, but rather in the eternal faithfulness of the only one worth worshiping. Your only hope is not found in man, but in God. He has defined the terms and He has demonstrated His justice already.

Accept His definitions and His finished work. To quote Heisenberg of Breaking Bad fame, “No Half Measures.” Jesus does not add to your works. He is your works. Adding to them is actually a subtraction. Trusting in your deeds, however many or few, is folly.

Psalm 2:12

CHAZ is the new Tiger King

My fascination with CHAZ is a lot like my previous fascination with Tiger King. Both are train wrecks filled with terrible people doing terrible things to other terrible people, terribly. CHAZ is a six block area in Seattle and the name means “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” According to the signage on the barriers surrounding the zone, they are no longer a part of the United States of America, hence the term “Autonomous.”

I’m not sure what is autonomous about begging others for food because you didn’t think that far ahead. They do have some huge demands against the rest of society, which is odd seeing that they are no longer a part of our country, according to their own statements. More realistic demands they have made include cigarettes, clothing, and tents. Oh, and sunglasses! They have defined their border with a wall. They patrol that border with scary looking guns. They have no police, but they do have “warlords” who apparently don’t see eye to eye with each other.

BLM members have started to complain that the Antifa agenda is pushing out their desired utopian societal demands. The… um… peacekeepers are already accused of many extortion charges and Seattle’s 911 has been called to that area at a much greater rate than previously, but the group declares itself autonomous and won’t allow authorities in.

Unless there’s a dumpster on fire in there. And of course, there was.

You couldn't feed ONE person with this garden

The community garden is a great metaphor of their worldview. It is way too small. It is only an inch deep. The ground underneath hasn’t been prepared so the roots of their plants won’t take hold. And some of their life saving plants include geraniums. Is that flower even edible?

I’m not sure what I would do if I were in charge of a city with a non-autonomous zone like this. They should be shut down. They should not be allowed to leech community resources if they are to be their own country. They should be assisted with the legal steps to renounce their citizenships if that is truly what they desire. They should be allowed to continue for now, if for no other reason than they highlight the idiocy of their worldview. All people are to be respected. Not all ideas share that biblical protection.

This will end. It will not end well. They do not have a center that can hold. The city of Seattle is just fine with it for now, and for the moment, I’m popping a tub o’ corn. But like everything else in 2020, the situation as well as my reaction to this can turn on a dime.

That’s a mic drop.

10,000 Papercuts

Just about any husband says that he would die for his wife. What we have in mind is usually a heroic, quick death. Taking a bullet on her behalf, pushing her out of the way of a train. You know, the kind of deaths that you see as meaningful.

But how many husbands would glamorize a slow death that lasts a lifetime? If we give our lives away to Jesus by loving our wives as Christ loved the Church, and if we are called by Him to die to self daily, then prolonged death is actually what we’re supposed to be doing.

Ask yourself, “How am I denying myself for the sake of my wife?” While you’re at it, how are you denying yourself for the sake of your neighbor? Your church? Your enemy?

Stop Smoking Day

I had my last cigarette five years ago today. Even now, there are times when I have a craving . And when I do, I remind myself that I am no longer a smoker. That isn’t who I am anymore .

Sounds overly simple, doesn’t it? No looking at how much money I’ve saved. No factoring of health improvements. Not even the social changes that come when you are no longer part of the smoking circle. My entire strategy to continue as a non-smoker comes down to a matter of identity.

Identity is a great tool in making any change. Sure, you can try harder. You can reward yourself. You can use any number of behavior modification techniques, but what finally got me to quit smoking after twenty years was a change of identity. I decided that not only was I going to quit smoking, I was no longer going to identify as a smoker.

I chose to remove any version of smoking from the list of my identifiers. In Biblical terms, I repented of my smoking. And I continue to repent regularly of my smoking every time I deny myself by reminding myself that I am no longer that person who smoked.

Smoking is an unwise behavior. Is it sinful for a Christian? It can be a form of idolatry, just as gluttony or sexual behaviors or a host of other things can be an idol that traps a person in failed promises. And just like anything that brings dishonor upon God, the only response we are to have is repentance.

  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20 ESV

a la brava

I recently had my third visit with Mike, the woodworker who has taken me under his wing in a mentoring relationship. The plan of the day was for him to show me how to build cabinets. We planned out what dimensions would make sense in his shop and gathered the wood from his cache. Since this is a shop cabinet, we won’t be too worried about the beauty of it, but Mike’s expectation is to end up with a piece that is sturdy and built to perform its function for years to come.

The cabinet is actually two identical cabinets, each with double doors. The intention is that the two pieces will match each other and be attached together side by side. Mike made the first front piece with my assistance. He let me cut boards to size with his table saw and his miter saw and cut out notches for rabbet joints with his band saw, all with close supervision and instruction. Once that was done, he fit the pieces together, glued them and affixed them with brad nails as well as pegs into the holes we drilled into the wood. Mike uses very little metal in his woodshop.

Then he told me to make the matching front piece. The boards were already cut to length. All I needed to do was make the joining notches, measuring thrice, cutting once, and then put the front together, along with the cross board held in place by a peg into the drilled hole that had to be perfectly placed.

Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.

The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

(Proverbs 15:32-33 ESV)

My cabinet front turned out better than anything I’ve made before, but was… imperfect. To say the least. One of my peg holes was off a little because of the way I was holding the drill. Some of my rabbet notches were a bit askew because I was pushing too hard on the band saw. Those were both easily fixed. I am not all that handy with tools, which is why I reached out to him in the first place. Then I put the front together, glued it and brad nailed it together. Rather than walk around the piece, I reached across it. And after I did that Mike checked that joint and one of the sides was off by about a 16th of an inch. If it’s held together by sticky glue, that’s no big deal. If the glue is dry you can break the bond and reapply. But this was brad nailed together.

“A la brava,” Mike said.

“What’s that?” I responded.

A la brava. It’s Spanish. It means to do something with haste, but not with skill or understanding. Much of what you do you do too quickly. You don’t slow down and make sure everything is perfect before you continue. You don’t think ahead to the next step. You over apply yourself on the tools rather than letting them do the work because you allow yourself to work out of position. That’s a la brava.”

I nodded in my understanding and he continued to tell me a few stories about when he was in some hot situations in Vietnam. These were stories of how American servicemen injured themselves and other servicemen because they didn’t think about their actions. They just reacted according to their fear or their bravado, but not according to their training or the council of those around them. Some of them did not return home.

We vacuumed the shop thoroughly as we do each week, then we agreed to meet next Saturday unless something comes up. With the holiday weekend,  I imagine a veteran like Mike would be fine having the Saturday off over the Independence Day weekend and I’m considering it since we have family coming into town.

It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:5 ESV)

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “a la brava.” Working in an environment of zero defects has been a goal in my career at various companies, but overall efficiency has really been the name of the game. If you can do a task 95% as well as the next guy, but can do it 30% faster you are likely to be praised. Of course you are instructed to improve the quality of your work. But if you do quality work but can’t keep up with the production expectations you may have to find another occupation before too long. It is an example of many companies rewarding a measure of “a la brava.”

When a car company discovers a flaw in their design, they typically don’t issue a recall right away. Before they do, they measure the financial cost of how much it would cost for them to fix the problem and weigh that against any class action lawsuit they might encounter as a result of the flaw. This is a regular occurrence and is an example of companies weighing the pros of “a la brava” against the financial consequences.

A la brava pervades our culture. Rather than understanding something, it is common to just Google the topic and skim through the first few results. If you really want to go in depth on the matter you check to see if there’s a Wikipedia article about it. We seek surface level knowledge, but wisdom seems to take a greater investment than we are willing to make in too many cases. There are exceptions, but everybody has an example of “a la brava” in their life. It is the human condition.

This doesn’t mean that people should aspire to be experts in every topic. It does mean that anything worth doing is worth doing well. It means that if you don’t have time to do something correctly the first time you won’t have time to fix it or redo it later. It means that you need to measure thrice and cut once. It means that you need to take care of your tools and your tools will take care of you. It means that you should be in a proper position when using your tools. It means that you should work over your project, not off to the side of it reaching across it when you can’t see what the result of your actions will be, even if they end up only a fraction of an inch off.

It’s time for this generation (defined as anyone reading this) to recognize areas of “a la brava” in our own lives and to demand better of ourselves. I have heard people not only blame their failures on their laziness, but they also seem proud of the fact. This should not be so! We were not created for “a la brava” and I will go so far as to say that this state of mind is only present in us as a result of the fall.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

Our mandate as Christians is to do all things to the glory of God. And one way to do just that is to seek out aspects of “a la brava” in our own lives and root them out. There is no place for “a la brava” to reside uncontested in lives that are meant to be lived to the glory of God. Working against these tendencies and to the glory of God, is an act of daily worship that anyone can do, whether they are woodworking, stuck in a cubicle somewhere, folding laundry, or faithfully checking the neighbor’s mail while they’re on vacation.

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:22-24 ESV)

Finding a Mentor Nextdoor

Screenshot_20160613-111536No, that post title isn’t misspelled. Or rather it is purposefully misspelled. I have this app called Nextdoor on my phone. You put your address in it and it shows a map of what it says your neighborhood is. Mine is a bit bigger than what I would think of, but that’s fine. Once your neighborhood is designated, you can post post anything there that matters to someone in your proximity. Garage sales, babysitter requests, items for sale, open houses, etc. And these posts will be seen by anyone who has the Nextdoor app and is in that area, and also in surrounding neighborhoods depending on your settings.

Someone in my area was selling a handmade dog bed frame a few weeks ago, and from the posting it was clear that they had built it themselves. It looked awesome, but we have no need for a nice frame like that. Nonetheless, I decided to take a shot in the dark and reply to the post. I commented that we don’t need the piece, but offered to help if they ever need a hand, in exchange for letting me observe and learn.

After a little interaction, I had a “play date” with Mike, a 2-tour Vietnam veteran. He is mostly self taught and has been building furniture and home improvement projects for 50 years. Using some, selling others. And he’s willing to let me informally apprentice. I believe mentor would be the more accurate description of the role. He’s 75 years old, but acts and moves like he’s much younger. And when he runs the sander over a piece of wood, his stance and movement is more like a dancer than as a clumsy knuckle dragger, which is my current style.

Our first meeting lasted four hours in his self-made workshop. The workshop is a shed in his back yard, complete with adequate power, a heater for the winter, windows and shade for the summer, and of course a radio set to the local country music station. The interior is about the size of a one car garage, and he remarked that his last address had a shop much bigger than the current one. The city would only let him build one this big, causing him to leave his planer and a few other tools behind. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

During this initial meeting we worked on a medicine cabinet that will go in his bathroom. We discussed lengths and angles of the wood and he let me make the cuts on the table saw and the miter saw. I learned about some safety tips for both, including the danger of a table saw launching a piece of wood back at you if you don’t push it all the way through. Thankfully the wood didn’t fly back at me, but Mike told me that impalement is a real risk you take if you don’t stand properly behind the wood and to the side, and then if you don’t finish the cut.

I also routered the joints for the door on this cabinet to fit them together. and cut the center piece of the door to size. We fit the pieces together with glue, used putty on all of the seams, clamped it and went inside for some cake. We got to know a little bit about each other and he and his wife showed me several of the previous projects they are using around the house. He has even made his own hinges out of wood, which is time consuming, but if his wife wants this for her recipe box, he will do it for her. “She gets whatever she wants” he said to me.

He has asked me to bring over some projects that I’d like to make and the first order of business is a laundry room insert to replace an unused “mud room” bench and locker combo. I have several other projects in my queue, but this is first. He’s already told me I can use his tools, and we’ll sort out what that looks like in the weeks and months ahead. Best of all, I haven’t had to talk my way into future visits. He speaks of me becoming a competant woodworker through regular visits and anticipates me working with him for the forseeable future.

I’ve already had some thoughts about how the lessons you learn working with your hands coorelate to lessons that will serve you well in life. Expect to hear more about this in the future, along with some pictures of my work.

 

Here’s a link to find out more about Nextdoor, the app that enabled this meetup: nextdoor.com