Two weekends ago, I had the privilege of being asked to give my Christian testimony to the high school youth group at our church.  I started hanging out with them last spring, when the youth director said they needed folks to come listen/talk/just basically be there for the kids.  I’ve known some of these kids since they were 4, so it’s really a lot of fun to get to hang out with the now.  Now, I’m the old lady they’re polite to, rather than the Sunday school or Pioneer Girl leader with all of the answers, but, hey, that’s life.  They’re at least polite.  :-)

So, in 10+ years of being a member of our church and of being a Christian, I’d never been asked to give my testimony before.  Our church does require that you speak with a deacon and an elder as part of the membership process and explain your faith, but I consider that a pretty friendly audience.  Giving these young adults something was going to be something entirely different.

I’ll talk more about how it went and how I prepared for it in later posts (yes, that does mean I have the intention of posting more frequently than I’ve done of late), but this is just a post to talk about why I think it was important for me to prepare to give a testimony.  Just to make clear how I’m using the word “testimony”, what I told the kids was how God called me to faith, where I had been, and how I knew that it was Him who called me.  There are other kinds of testimonies, having to do with what God’s doing in your life, and probably other things, as well, but the “come to faith” kind was what I gave.

My path to faith wasn’t the same as most of these kids.  For one, I never was in a Sunday school or youth group.  I became a Christian as an adult.  And mine wasn’t a lightning bolt experience, or a Paul on the road to Emmaus experience.  God used people and circumstances to bring me to Him, but there was nothing I’ve ever recognized as a pivotal moment.  Just a buildup to what became to me a natural acceptance of His plan and His glory.  Sometimes I wish I had had the Emmaus moment.  Instead, I got to wrestle with whether I was just going with the flow, or whether I was going with God’s flow.   I’ve wrestled with that before, but in prepping my testimony, I got to revisit it, and see if the evidence I looked to was sufficient to be convincing to others, and/or if there was something in my path whose description might help one of the kids.

I was very glad to give my testimony, and very glad when the giving it was over.  Turned out conveying it was useful to me, in terms of structuring my own thinking, and bringing to mind some things I hadn’t considered in a while.  One of the layman leaders in our church occasionally gives sessions on how to structure and present your testimony.  I’m planning on catching the next one that I can.  Doing it was a real gift to me; I’m hoping being able to do it again will somehow help someone else.  If NOTHING else, seeing other folks do it might give someone else the idea to think through their own, and have an answer ready if someone asks why they’re a Christian, and how it impacts their life.

As the Washington Post reports that McCain’s chief of vetting only interviewed Sarah Palin the day before she was tapped as vice president, I wonder whether McCain’s maverick nature has bit him too hard.  The disadvantage to being a maverick is you forge your own path – the one that others haven’t seen, or if they’ve seen it, have viewed it as too hard, too dangerous, or just unwise.  I happen to view this choice as just plain unwise, as spur of the moment, as foolhardy.  I’m female, I’m Christian, I’m what some would argue as middle class (hey, we make less than $5 mil a year, anyway), and I was an undecided voter.  Until he picked Palin, that is.  He had multiple women on his advisory team who would have made better picks (Whitman being my preference over Fiorino).  There are multiple women senators, other women governors, current women Cabinet officers: any of which I’d have looked at more seriously than Palin.  A relatively rookie governor from Alaska, which could hardly be described as a state wrestling with most of the same issues as others, whose previous experience was as a mayor of a 9000 person town.  My university has a bigger population than her town did, and as much as I respected Dr. Hrabowski as a leader, my veep choice he wouldn’t be.

McCain’s choice demonstrates his inability to do several things: listen to his vetting team, select people appropriate to accomplish his vision, and convince the rest of us of his choice.  All of those I see as key markers of him, not just of her.   I’ve seen various comments that suggest the Dems put their inexperienced candidate at the top of the ticket, and the Republicans at the bottom.  But what I’m seeing indicates that the Dems seem to have made a wiser pick for veep, which makes me much comfortable with their TOP of the ticket than does the Republican pick.

And by the way, for those in the Christian right who are applauding their issues coming front and center: when the candidate is only there to front those issues, and not any others that the American people cares about, it just yet again separates Christians from the concerns of the rest of America.  I agree that (some of the) Christian right concerns deserve far more discussion and focus;  I just don’t think they are the exclusive issues for the American populace, and I’m concerned to see Christians cast yet again as way outside of the fray.  We are called to do God’s work in the world.  That only works if we’re involved IN the world, as was Paul and the apostles, not trying to stand completely outside of it.

I don’t see McCain recovering from this, in my personal selection process.  I had been undecided: both candidates had their plusses and minuses.  But now I see myself needing to vote against McCain, against what I see as a pandering selection, trying to please both women and the conservative Christian right with one candidate who covers all the check boxes.  Except for the ones that would cause me to see her as viable to fill the role of Vice President, to have some ability to step into the highest office in the land should that become necessary.  And that is a horrible mark against the man who would like me to check his name in the ballot in November.

I just asked Cameron to put his Daddy’s shoes away.  He did – he’s a good little helper.  And then I stopped to think about what he’d just had to understand and figure out, and just how amazing it is that our brains put these pieces together.

First, you need to know that Daddy’s shoes were in amongst several other pairs of shoes in a group near the front door.  Our family tends to do a good job of taking shoes off when we come in; we’re not as good about putting those shoes away, so there were at least four pairs collected there.  So Cameron had to sort out a few things: one, which items in the room were shoes, which were Daddy’s shoes, and then grab just those two.  (He did, and then commented ‘Heavy’.)

Then I realized he had to figure out where to put them.  I hadn’t told him where Daddy’s shoes were to go, just “away”.  He parsed that to mean, take them down the hall, and put them in Daddy’s room.  Taking a quick peek, he not only put them in Daddy’s room, he put them in Daddy’s closet, and even on Daddy’s side of the closet.

I got into computer programming because I wanted to teach computers how to think.  I’ve now spent some 15 or so years in the profession, and no program I’ve ever written intuited nearly as much as my not-yet two year old putting his Daddy’s shoes away for his Mommy.  “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” – Psalm 139:14

We get lots of mail from charities. We have a select few we donate to regularly, which we’ve chosen on the basis of their mission, their effectiveness, and frankly, where we feel specifically called to contribute. I’ve always assumed folks do something similar, based on their own conscience or conviction, and thus have never felt an interest in fundraising for a charity. I’d even put it more strongly that I was averse to fundraising for a charity. Who am I to tell you that you should send your money somewhere?

I’m looking at that a little differently tonight, and figured I’d get this out there before I retreat into my self-righteous conviction (or fear of being thought overbearing/silly/ineffective/yada yada yada…). On June 7, Bello Machre is holding their Every Step Counts walk. Its purpose is to raise money for and awareness of the relatively overlooked community of developmentally disabled individuals. This organization seeks to let these individuals participate as fully in the community as they are able or willing, including such items as providing group homes to let adults live semi-independently, or extra hands to help families dealing with the challenges of day-to-day living. The need for these programs is great, and the waiting lists are long: see the article ‘Judge a Society By How it Treats its Weakest?‘ from the Capital Gazette for a great writeup of what the program does, and what its needs are.

As a parent, I pray for the health of my kids, and celebrate their growth and accomplishments. I also look forward to the day when I can celebrate their accomplishments as adults in our society. The developmentally disabled, and their families, deserve those same opportunities and need a bit of assistance to make those opportunities happen. My faith tells me that each of us is created for a purpose for the days we spend here on earth. On June 7, I’ll be walking in celebration of the purpose and opportunities God has given these people who we tend to overlook, and raising funds to help Bello Machre help those opportunities happen. If you’re interested in sponsoring me, please contact me either in person or via email at coleman—-serious…gmail/com. (Remove the dashes, and punctuate appropriately to make a reasonable email address.)

Reading a book of lectures by Donald Knuth that I let myself be tempted by in my last spin through Borders. (Note to self: when picking up a book you’ve reserved, it’s completely possible to JUST go to the checkout line and buy that book, and only that book.) Donald Knuth is most famous for writing a set of algorithm books. His lecture set is from a set of lectures he gave at MIT on “Interactions Between Faith and Computer Science”.  The book’s entitled ‘Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About’.
Observant readers of this blog will see a category for Christianity among my archives. It’s not something I’ve written about much of late, for a variety of reasons. But you’ll occasionally see in this blog that says something about Christianity and what I’m thinking about at the time.

Anyway, as I’m skimming his first lecture, I’m also taking a quick peek at Dr. Dobb’s Journal. Thinking about Knuth made me think about the made-up language he used for his algorithm examples which made me think about what new languages are out there that I haven’t heard about of late. An article about build systems (The Buzz About Builds) is on the cover of this month’s magazine, and since I’ve been wrestling with an automated build system at work, I take a quick look-see.

Now I’ll caveat that I’m not all that impressed with this article. I’m three sections in and it hasn’t told me anything of great technical value. A little bit of business background as to why build systems are now getting greater focus in the industry’s great, but isn’t going to help me wrestle with CruiseControl tomorrow. What I do find interesting is a quote that’s at the top of section three, ostensibly about distributed development teams and thus the need for better build systems, is this quote:

We Bokonists believe that humanity is organized into teams, teams that do God’s Will without ever discovering what they are doing. —Kurt Vonnegut

Note that I think it’s a lousy quote for distributed development teams. I don’t ever want to be on a team where I can’t “discover[…] what [I’m] doing”. But a very interesting convergence of reading materials. I’ll caveat that I haven’t read the source of Mr. Vonnegut’s quote: couldn’t tell you its context, applicability, etc.  But it does pop out to me tonight and intrigue me to find out more.  (Will admit to you that I would believe that we could often do God’s will without being aware of it.)
Update: a quick spin around the ‘Net points me to Bokonists being in Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, and various serious-minded writers speak on its satire of religion. Now on my list of soon-to-reads…

Sunday workout – now that’s my idea of rest and relaxation.  Sweating, pushing metal…  it’s become my habit to go to the gym on Sunday afternoons.  We’ll come home from the regular service, usually after going out to lunch, and then I’ll head to the gym for an hour or so before Jason heads back to play for the evening service.  I used to feel a bit guilty about working out on the Sabbath until two things happened: (1) I ran into one of our pastors there on Sunday [granted, Sunday’s a work day for him], and (2) I realized that for me, working out is relaxation, both a mental and physical break from the ordinary jobs of software development and motherhood.  It’s me time, all the better when I can convince a friend to join me there and talk as work out on the elipticals.   Even more encouraging, I keep seeing a woman who’s obviously at least 7 or 8 months pregnant there, doing the same stuff as me, which gives me hope that I can keep this going.  It’s nice to think that as I weigh in at the doc on Tuesday, that I can claim some amount of the weight gain as muscle mass.  And if I can hold onto that muscle gain, then the baby weight oughta come off that much more easily.

The one gotcha I ran into today: a baby foot or arm, couldn’t tell which, in the ribs really isn’t conducive to working on the pec machine…

I keep asking my doc each visit, making sure this is all still OK.  Each visit, she expresses surprise that I’m still able to do it, but keeps telling me that as long as I’m up to it, it’s OK for the baby.   I’ll ask again Tuesday, but am sure hoping that I can keep this up for at least a few more months.

We’re in that section of commandments now that first graders are usually safe with. Commandment 5 turns out to be the easiest commandment for them to remember (“Honor your father and mother”), and also one of the easiest to break. After 5, though, 6’s “Thou shalt not kill” is a pretty easy one to write off for a first grader. None of our kids are sitting on death row. (As is the case with most things in Christianity, things are not as simple as they seem. The whole point of those commandments, after all, is to point us to a savior without whom we’d otherwise have no chance of satisfying the law. If one of the laws was truly a write-off, you’d then have the 9 “real” commandments plus that easy one anyone can follow, with savior or no.)

Explaining number 7 to a first grader turns out to be a whole heck of a lot of fun. Number 7, for those of us who weren’t indoctrinated in the law growing up (like me, who’s learned a lot of things through trying to explain it to first graders) is “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. Dangerous waters to be treading in, but you also don’t want to leave the kids completely mystified as to what this command is that we’ve just insisted that they memorize.

OK, I thought – kids understand marriage, two people, only married to each other. That’s how I’ll approach it. “Who here has thought about getting married when they grow up?” One hand, out of 20. Not going to get out it that easily. “We’re going to talk about the seventh commandment today, which is about adultery. We’ve worked very hard to figure out the best way to explain this, since kids your age generally aren’t as familiar with this command”. Connor raises his hand – “I know what the definition of adultery is!”. Instant teacher shutdown – ain’t no way this kid is going to give his definition to the class.

Needless to say, a very difficult lesson to teach. I THINK we made it through, being true to the lesson without being TOO enlightening. I still wish I could have heard the conversations in the kids’ families after church. “What did you learn about in Sunday school today?”

Our Sunday school class (19 or so 1st and second graders show up each Sunday) is examining the 10 commandments over the summer quarter. We’re up to #3 – not taking the Lord’s name in vain. The Israelites took this so seriously as to never say the Lord’s name…. today we typically count ourselves to be “in compliance” if we don’t pronounce any of a variety of curses including the term “God”.

I’m glad I have a lesson plan laid out by a curriculum publisher who’s thought through how to explain this to a group of 1st and 2nd graders, and gotten through the concept of honoring and revering the Lord’s name. Otherwise, my lesson would look something like this: “Here, if you or your parents use this particular term, either out loud or in your mind, you’ve broken the 3rd commandment. This other variation is pushing the limits. Now let’s all practice not saying “!@*!””

I’ve been a Christian for something like 8 years now. (Always interesting to hear how folks came to faith.) And not yet read all of the Bible, to my shame. There are some sections I’ve read and reread, and others I’ve just never made it to. I’ve tried the Bible in a year plans, and end up petering out somewhere in a long genealogy.

I think I’ve finally found my answer: there’s something called a chronological Bible. The readings in the Bible are reordered in the time in which they were written. So, the book of Job (wow!) comes in the middle of Genesis, ’cause Job was around pre Moses. And the genealogies in Chronicles are interleaved with the stories in which you’ve learned about the people in the genealogies. Gives you much greater respect for those long lists of names.

I’m trying to remember the furthest I’ve ever gotten in a year: I think sometime in March would be my record, in terms of consistently reading through the Bible daily. And there’s a lot more to this year. But it’s something new to try… “If at first you don’t succeed…”