programming, prayer, doubt & faith

This morning at work, in a rare stroke of genius, I came to realize that setting
   ClientIDMode = System.Web.UI.ClientIDMode.Static; 
would solve all my problems. Okay, well that’s an exaggeration. I guess it won’t solve ALL my problems. I guess in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t solve much. But it did help with the programming project that I’m working on currently. And I guess it wasn’t really a stroke of genius on my part, it was more like a fortuitous Google search that revealed the solution.

Interestingly enough, it’s something that I shared in prayer during small group last night– I shared that I had a programming project deadline coming up and that I was having trouble feeling motivated to finish it. So I guess that little programming revelation was an answer to my prayer request.

My prayer requests in general tend to be small superficial things. I suppose my life is okay as it is– I don’t get sick often and I feel pretty blessed in general, I’m not really lacking for anything (although according to my parents I should probably pray for a wife.)

Tonight I went to a different sort of prayer group. My friend Osmond wanted to go to a healing prayer ministry. His dad wouldn’t drive him to it, so he asked me to drive him. And so I agreed, partly out of curiosity.

If there’s anyone I know that needs prayer, it would be Osmond. Blind from birth, and now suffering from a debilitating joint problem that makes him unable to walk, I could see why he would want to go to a healing prayer meeting. It was the joint problem that he asked the prayer team to pray for. They asked him a few questions about his physical state, and a myriad of questions about his emotional and spritual states. They asked one pointed question, that if he believed he could be healed, to which Osmond responded with “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” which is from Mark 9:24.

“Well said!” They replied, then they proceeded to pray for him. I don’t want to make any judgement, but it was definitely different from the prayers that I’m accustomed to. They repeatedly prayed for various spirits to be “banished to chains of darkness.” Then they anointed his knees with some kind of oil, and then they asked him to try to walk across the room.

I was next to him the whole time, and when they asked him to walk, I could tell that Osmond was skeptical. He slowly and gingerly stepped up out of his wheelchair and then leaned his entire weight on my shoulder while making tiny steps across the room. It was obvious that he was in pain. When he slumped back into his wheelchair, he seemed defeated, so the people praying for him said that there are miracles and healings, and that while miracles are instantaneous, healing takes time.

By that point Osmond seemed defeated and doubtful.

This past Sunday’s sermon at UCC was about faith and doubt. The pastor had two main points– faith does not exist without doubt, and it’s what we do with doubt that matters. So doubt in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. I guess the way we act on that doubt makes it good or bad.

For me, the great inequality that exists in this world is a big source of doubt. A lot of times when we talk about inequality it’s about income inequality, the 1% of the richest vs the 99% of the “normal working stiff.” But there is obvious inequalities even within our circles of friends. How come Osmond’s life is so tough compared to everyone else’s?

Faced with this doubt, and being the introverted and introspective guy that I am, my response to this doubt is to reflect. And sometimes I’ll even write candidly about it on my blog over a cup of tea.

On the one hand this inequality makes me realize how blessed I truly am, on the other hand it makes me realize I have no answers, and it makes me wonder about God– and how this inequality could be loving and just. So maybe in my case this doubt is good and bad.

the foolish life

This morning I had a somewhat foolish thought. For a brief moment I thought about quitting my job, selling my house, and buying one of these bike trailers. Without a job or a house I’d be free to just wander around the country by bike.

I think it’s a really smart and well designed trailer. The top portion folds out into a tent. There are stabilizers underneath the trailer for leveling the tent on uneven ground. Underneath the tent portion is a decent sized storage area. It looks like I could store weeks worth of food and gear in there.

Last year I went on a crazy bike trip. I chalk it up as my last bit of youthful foolishness (I was still in my 20s at the time…) There were some hard days and some rough riding, but in the end it was an incredible experience, and I’m truly glad that I did it. All I had was my bicycle and four panniers full of gear and food, and I rode through a lot of wet and cold weather, but for some reason I was happy.

Quitting my job and selling my house and traveling around on a bike sounds like a foolish life decision. But you know what? I really like biking and I really like camping. I don’t hate my job, but I can’t honestly say that I really like my job either. In the end it’s really just a means for me to have money to go biking, camping, and traveling.

In small group today we finished the book we’ve been studying, Tim Keller’s “King’s Cross.” It finishes with the resurrection of Christ. Christianity pretty much hinges on the resurrection of Christ. Keller quotes Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 15 about the resurrection: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

It implies that the Christians at the time were living in a way that they would be pitied by the rest of the world. Perhaps they were living like the church in Acts 2; “42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Actually now that I think about it, I don’t know if I would pity someone who lived like that. It actually sounds like a joyful life. But it definitely sounds somewhat foolish by today’s standards, selling properties to give to those in need– Who does that nowadays?!

I wonder what my life would like if I truly believed in the resurrection. In some way I do believe. That’s what a life of faith is. But do I really, honestly, truly believe, in such a way that if the resurrection were found to be false, my life would be pitied? Or I guess the question is, do I live that sort of foolish life? If not, what would that sort of foolish life look like for me?

I suppose it doesn’t necessarily mean selling all my possessions and going to serve in Africa (perhaps in my case becoming a bicycle builder there). At least in small group, that’s what the consensus seemed to be, that living foolish doesn’t necessarily mean big things like that. It sounded to me like we were trying to come up with small, practical ways to be “foolish.” Practical, yet foolish– sounds completely oxymoronic to me…

So that leaves me with the question again. What does a foolish life centered on the resurrection look like?

I wonder.

resurrection and road rash reminder

When I was a kid it was easy to remember when Easter was coming. Easter more or less correlated with spring break. Now that I’m an adult I don’t have a spring break, so it’s harder to remember when Easter is near. Well I guess there are all sorts of reminders, I guess I just don’t really pay attention to them. People talk about what they are giving up for Lent. And of course sermons leading up to Easter talk about the significance of Passover and Easter. So I guess it’s just my obliviousness that makes me forget about the most important Christian holiday.

This year I was reminded of Good Friday and Easter in sort of a roundabout way.

Recently I opened a new stock account. The funds got transferred in on Thursday, so on Friday morning I went in to make my trades. Usually I set market orders, which more or less trade immediately. So I confirmed my trade and checked to see if it had been placed. It hadn’t. This broker was new to me, so I figured it was just slower than my old broker. I waited a bit and checked again. Still no. Then I remembered that the markets were closed for Good Friday.

On Saturday I was pretty free so I went on two bike rides– one with Ray along the levees south of Sacramento and one with Jiro towards Winters. (Ordinarily the three of us would ride together, but the scheduling didn’t work out.) During my first ride I was reminded of what road rash felt like. Near the beginning of the ride I took out my cellphone to take a picture of a drawbridge. While taking a picture of the bridge I hit a big pothole and before I knew it I was on the ground. Luckily I wasn’t really hurt (just my pride), I just had some random bits of road rash near my knee, my elbow and on my hands. So we continued on, making it to the old historic Chinese community of Locke before turning back. I had parked my car at a church parking lot. When I got back to my car there were people hiding Easter eggs, so I was reminded again of Easter.

My second ride on Saturday didn’t remind me of much, except how it felt to be fatigued. By the end of the second ride I had ridden about seventy miles, and I was completely drained. I guess that feeling’s a good reminder in and of itself. I’m signed up for a double metric in August, which is almost twice the distance (what was I thinking?!) So it’s a good reminder to train hard.

Sunday was Easter, which in itself is a celebration and reminder of Christ’s resurrection, which is central to the Christian faith. I was reminded of this passage from the bible.

17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. -1 Corinthians 15:17-19

It’s interesting how the bible itself even says, that if Christ was not resurrected, then Christians are basically the stupidest most pitiful people on earth. I am still thinking about what this means, so I guess I’ll just finish with that.

Things I’m thankful for:

  • cycling buddies- (I had forgotten my shoes, Ray even lent me his shoes. If he didn’t lend them to me my toes would’ve been cut up pretty badly from the fall…)
  • cycling gloves and arm and leg warmers (if I wasn’t wearing this stuff I would’ve had much worse road rash)
  • faith that Christ has risen

conventional wisdom

I don’t have any real statistics on who reads this blog. I don’t really know what kind of traffic I get, and I don’t really know how many people are subscribed to this blog’s RSS feed. So I don’t have any clue who reads this blog. But if I were to venture a guess, I’d say maybe half the people who read this blog are Christian and the other half are not.

I used to have (and actually still do have) two separate blogs on this domain, one catered towards Christians (DT.dahhh.com) and this one (MT.dahhh.com). Those two abbreviations DT and MT used to mean something, I suppose DT stood for devotional thoughts and MT was miscellaneous thoughts or Mike’s thoughts. Anyways I try to write about once per week here on MT, but DT rarely gets written to, so I’ve decided to shut it down soon. Because I don’t log into DT that often, it doesn’t receive software updates, which makes it kind of a security liability. And I realized that just because half the people who read this aren’t Christian, it doesn’t mean I should shy away from writing about my faith. It is who I am, whether I appear that way outwardly or not.

So anyways, I would’ve written this on DT, except that I’ve decided to shut that blog down. So here it is on MT. I’ve created a new category of posts called “faith” of which this is the first post. And so it begins with the story of my day which I shared during bible study tonight.

But first, some background information. The small group I’ve been going to in Sacramento has been going through the book of Acts. This week we were studying chapter 23. For many people the book of Acts is the story of Paul’s missionary journey, and it’s the chronicles of the beginnings of the Christian church. But the more I study it, the more it seems to me that it’s a record of God’s providence in leading Paul into becoming the Christian evangelist, and it’s a chronicle of God’s providence in providing the perfect conditions for the spread of the Christian faith in the Roman empire. It sounds like a subtle difference, but it’s significant in a faith filled life, because it means that you believe in God’s providence not only in history but in your own life.

So anyways, back to my stupid little story.

Earlier in the week I agreed to lead bible study this Wednesday night. When I agreed, I didn’t realize that I was going to be at a conference all day. It’s a conference I had been looking forward to for a while, the Government Mobility 2012 conference. I had been excited for this conference because I’d be sitting in labs learning how to develop Android and Windows Phone applications. (Which is weird for me, I don’t think I’ve ever been excited to go to a class before…) But anyways, even though I was excited to go to the conference, I had forgotten about it until the last minute. To prepare for the conference I had to install the Android SDK (software development kit) and review Java programming since the last time I had done any Java programming was in college, which ate up a lot of time this week.

My home internet had been flaky because I had been transitioning it over to a wireless bridge, and I didn’t really get around to fixing it until Tuesday night. And by the time it was fixed, I didn’t really feel like prepping for the bible study. So I didn’t really work on the study until the last minute, until after the conference was over. But in the way my day worked out, I see God’s providence. To the atheist I guess it’s all just chance, to the theist it’s God’s providence, but that is a discussion for another day.

My day was pretty long. I woke up at 6am to get to work by 7am so I could carpool to the conference with my coworkers. I didn’t think I’d have the energy to still lead bible study more than 12 hours later, but thankfully there was free espresso, muffins and cookies available all day. So at the end of the day I was still pretty wired from the caffeine, and hopefully still somewhat coherent during the study. And of course at every conference there’s free pens, which came in handy later during the study.

The labs were interesting to me. Twenty minutes into the Android lab we were already running a simple “Hello World” app on the phone emulator, and by the end of the three hour session the speaker was talking about user interface design. In the afternoon I went to a Windows Phone development lab. That one wasn’t really hands on, but I came away pretty impressed with the Windows Phone platform and development tools.

One thing that caught my attention about the speakers was their titles. They are called “technology evangelists.” In the morning I listened to the Motorola (which is now owned by Google) Android Evangelists. In the afternoon I listened to the Senior Windows Phone Evangelist. Both were super enthusiastic about sharing the merits of their particular platform.

That got me thinking, what kind of evangelist am I? Well, I guess it’s somewhat apparent from this blog. I guess I’m kind of a food evangelist, because I’m always recommending and wanting to try different restaurants. I’m also sort of a biking evangelist, because I’m always trying to get people to ride. I used to be sort of a photography evangelist, I even got friends to buy expensive SLRs and lenses, although nowadays I don’t bring my SLR out as much. I guess I’m also sort of an outdoors and traveling evangelist. But I guess I’m not all that great of a Christian evangelist, so I should probably work on that. (Hence the merging of DT and MT.)

My afternoon labs ended early. The people I carpooled with were in different workshop sessions, but luckily or providently they finished early too. So we carpooled back to work. Everybody else left work immediately after the conference, which meant I had the whole office to myself to prep for bible study in quiet. When I finished prepping I went to the coffee shop where we were planning to meet. Most of the tables were taken, but the couches were empty (with just about the perfect amount of seating for small group), so I plopped myself down and thought about my day.

Then I realized it’s sometimes in the small little things that you see providence. Of course, often times it’s in big life changing things where people see the hand of God. But sometimes it’s in little things like free coffee or free pens or job titles or carpools. I guess that is what I learned from my day at the convention, which I guess defies conventional wisdom.

the garden

When I first moved into my house in Davis, I was happy to find a lemon tree in my backyard. (Well actually it’s more like my side yard.) Despite my complete neglect the tree never fails to provide a ton of lemons every winter (and for some reason this year it started producing some mutant sumo lemons. They’re huge– bigger than grapefruits or pomelos even.) There’s more lemons than I know what to do with, so if you want lemons, just let me know.

When I moved into the house my dad planted this mandarin tree. During the past few years it’s been starting to produce some good fruit too. The mandarins it produces are tasty, but there’s too many seeds, so I’m kinda lazy to eat them.

Since citrus trees seem to grow so well at my house, I decided to plant a few in my front yard this past year. I wanted fruits that were not as common in stores, so I ended up buying a thai lime tree and a mandarinquat tree. The mandarinquat tree in the foreground seems to be doing pretty well– it has some fruit on it already. The lime tree in the far barrel is not doing as well, it will probably be another year or two before it starts producing limes.

In my front yard there’s also a few rose shrubs. Despite my complete and utter neglect, there’s some nice roses on it every year. When I see them sprout up every year, it reminds me of my favorite passage in the bible. It’s been my favorite passage almost since the day I became a believer, but when I became a homeowner with a garden it took on a new meaning.

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. -Matthew 6:28-34

When I see the fruits and flowers in my garden that thrive with the minimal to non existent care I give them it reminds me of this verse, and that I don’t constantly need to worry about the little things in life.