Saturday, February 20, 2010

Learning Guitar

My son got a small guitar a while back and finally started to show some slight signs of interest in learning it.  I went ahead and bought a full-size Yamaha 6-string for the two of us to share.  The plan is to eventually spring for my own guitar so we can play together.

In an effort to be able to help him learn, I've been trying to figure it out myself.  Been at it about three weeks now, though I don't practice nearly enough.  The Music & Arts store set me up with a good beginner's book though and I've slowly been working my way through it.  I'm close to having the notes down for the first four strings.  In the process of doing that, I've managed to learn a few songs - Yankee Doodle, Happy Birthday, and Amazing Grace.  I'm not too good on them, but they are recognizable.  I'm starting to learn When the Saints Go Marching In.  One day I hope to be able to play a song for my wife.

The bigger challenge has been learning to strum the chords.  Once I get my fingers positioned, playing the chord is not a problem.  But switching between them is really hard for me.  Especially when switching from one note to the next.  I guess I'll eventually get it with enough practice.  Dang small hands.

The other challenge is my complete inability to read music.  I suppose I'm making a little bit of progress.  Alas, my brain just does not function that way.

Anyway, it is a new challenge I'm working on in my life and figured I would start blogging a bit about it.

A Prepared Christian Creed?

This week's Prepared Christian assignment has to do with creeds.  As we've been studying the chapter on God the Father, the idea/concept of creeds has come up a few times as we attempt to define the doctrine of God the Father.  One of the things we have learned in our class is that for the early church, most people did not have access to books like the Bible (and may not have been able to read it even if they did).  So, the church had to come up with ways to get everyone on the same page, especially when it came to understanding some of the basic concepts of being a Christian.  So creeds became an important tool in this effort.  Webster's online dictionary defines a creed as:
a brief authoritative formula of religious belief

Our assignment was to review the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed; identify some common structural elements; and then write our own creed.  Having attended a Methodist church for many years, the Apostle's Creed was pretty familiar.  That could also be a holdout from attending a Catholic church as a child.  I was also somewhat familiar with the Nicene Creed.  However, I had never run across the Athanasian Creed before (which, btw, fails on "brief").

Pastor Mark sent us copies of the versions of each of the creeds he wanted us to use. This was a good move as a quick Google search will likely overwhelm you with the different versions that are out there. Looks like the Apostle's Creed version is the Traditional English Version and the Nicene Creed is the International Consultation on English Texts translation as found at the creeds.net web site. The Athanasian Creed is close to one I found at affirms.org.

I did a little mindmapping as I worked through the creeds and came up with the following (sorry, been trying to figure out how to embed the Freemind file, but it keeps throwing an error when I preview - complains about Javascript and Flash not activated - so you'll have to put up with PNGs):



Using that, I put together the following outline of some Christian creed attributes:

  • Use the word believe. The Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creed do this more actively.

  • All seem to focus heavily on the concept of the Trinity. The Athanasian Creed is very, very focused on this. Probably half the creed is spent explaining this concept.

  • God the Father

    • present in all the creeds

    • all use the adjective Almighty

    • references to being the creator/maker of Heaven, earth, all things



  • Jesus Christ

    • the only Son of God

    • begotten

    • emphasis on incarnate nature

    • historical perspective of his life on earth

    • he died, was buried, and rose

    • ascended into Heaven

    • will judge us

    • life everlasting is possible



  • Holy Spirit

    • Ghost is also used (I like Spirit myself)

    • giver of life (general and in terms of Jesus's conception)

    • not much else



  • Other stuff

    • catholic church

    • communion of saints

    • forgiveness of sins

    • resurrection of the body

    • everlasting life

    • Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creed set these off; Athanasian Creed seems to incorporate them into the body of the creed




In starting to think about how to draft my own creed, some ideas included:

  • use believe as an active verb

  • touch on each “member” of the Trinity. I tend to feel the Holy Spirit gets the short end of the stick – any way to change that? I like John 14:26 and the reference to the Holy Spirit as the Helper coming to teach us and help us with remembrance, so perhaps use those?

  • As I started writing, I decided the descriptions of the God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit would all start with “who”

  • briefly considered structuring it using who, what, when, where, why, and how. That did not last long

  • instead of the “other” things being included, ala Apostle's and Nicene, I decided to go a little different route. I would use the five soli we studied earlier to structure the final section.


So with that in mind, I put together another mind map, this time of my creed:



Finally, converting all of this to a format of a creed that could be repeated yields:
I believe in Almighty God, who is our Father in Heaven and on earth, who created Heaven and earth, who is above us and with us, now and forever;

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, who became man incarnate that he might suffer for our salvation, who died, was buried, and rose from the dead, who ascended into Heaven, and who will judge us from His throne;

I believe in the Holy Spirit, who gives us life, who helps us by giving us knowledge and remembrance of what Jesus Christ taught;

I believe God grants us his grace that we may be saved;

I believe our faith is the path and the means to access God's grace;

I believe Jesus Christ is our savior that our sins may be forgiven;

I believe in the Holy word of God as revealed through Scripture;

I believe in the Glory of God.

Amen.

A pdf version is available of just the creed.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Final Epiphany Epiphany? Maybe Even Two?

Was reading up some stuff in A Guide to Prayer and came across two passages in some C.S. Lewis materials that seemed to connect with my blog here.

The first is from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer.  In that, Lewis writes,
We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with him.  He walks everywhere incognito.  And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate.  The real labour is to remember, to attend.  In fact, to come awake.  Still more, to remain awake. (emphasis added)

That just kind of touched me since my blog tagline is about my efforts to stay awake spiritually.  Or as Lewis puts it, "to remain awake".  That is one idea that came to me when I really started to get more serious on my path to God.  Being a Christian is about more than being awakened to the existence of God and his saving grace.  Once we stir, we have to work to not fall back asleep, not even to nap.  I know there are many stories and passages in the Bible cautioning us to stay awake, some even told by Jesus.  That was part of what drew me to the concept.  I'm sure I'll write about that some more as I run across these passages (or I could pull out my journal where I made a bunch of notes on it).

Speaking of my journal, I'll briefly note that I am struggling with an organization problem.  I currently have ideas coming in from three different places - Sunday School (mainly the Guide to Prayer), church services, and now The Prepared Christian class.  I'm wondering if I need to somehow come up with a solution that would put all this material in one place.  Of course, that kind of calls for an electronic solution.  I'm somewhat resistant to that as the act of writing by hand is enjoyable and in some ways, forces me to slow down a bit and give a little more attention to my thoughts.  Been thinking about switching to a larger size Moleskin, but still not sure.

OK, back to the C.S. Lewis connections.  The second is from The Joyful Christian.  The passage, if I can summarize, is about an individual struggling with an experience he had with God and how that fits in with "religion" and theology.  The individual felt like he no longer needed those.  Lewis presents an interesting analogy of a person who takes a walk on a beach and then looks at a map of an ocean.  While the personal viewing of the ocean is very powerful, it does not help one get anywhere the way a map does.  Lewis notes that one benefit of the map is that it has had input from many different people who have all had their experiences and that is now combined to produce the map.  As we studied in our class, one consideration regarding the authority of The Bible is the number of people who have helped write it (over many centuries, cultures, languages, etc.).  So in a way, The Bible is similar to the map in helping us understand where to get to and how to get there.  And it has the benefit of all these shared insights as opposed to a single person having written it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Another word is found

A few minutes ago I finished up our nightly devotion with my son.  Tonight's lesson was about integrity - doing the right thing even when no one else knows about it.  My son seemed to really struggle with understanding what moral dilemmas and difficult decisions are.  Not sure whether that is good or not.

Anyway, part of each night's devotion is an activity.  Tonight's was an exercise to unscramble a verse using a key that was provided (I guess it is more breaking a code than unscrambling).  The verse was Psalm 119:11, which in his KJV read:
11Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Or, using my ESV:
11I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Seeing the word, "word" in there immediately brought to mind John 1:1 for me:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Since we've been doing a lot of studying recently about words and THE Word, I found the Psalm passage to be one of those that jumped out at me as contemporaneous.  And, I don't recall running across that particular passage in our lessons, so it was one of those "new" connections.  I'm sure there are many, many more instances of this through The Bible since The Portable Seminary can only hit the primary examples.

One of the things I like about the passage is how it connects with John 1:1.  And if I think about having the word in my heart could also be taken to mean having Christ in my heart.  I also like the idea of having Christ and God's word in our hearts will help us not sin.  I think in my case the more time I spend in the word, and in studying the word, and with the word, the easier I find it to resist temptations.  Even to the point where some temptations aren't really even temptations any longer.  I think it also makes it easier to engage in more wholesome or peaceful or productive activities and pursuits.  It is just an all around good thing!

Some OpenOffice.org deployment info

Just a quick note about a study I ran across regarding deployments of OpenOffice.org. There was a recent article that came out about OpenOffice.org uptake in Germany (sorry, the article is in German), where it has reached a 21% market share. The people doing the study decided to expand it and try to figure out what deployment was like around the world. They released an article explaining their result. Methodology is not the strongest, which they admit. But, still a pretty good indication of the gains it is making. In the U.S., they only found it deployed on 9% of computers.  While low, I think that is actually pretty good.  Probably more than I would have guessed. Of course, I was especially interested in this bit toward the end:
Many of the leading countries have switched to OpenOffice (or the ODF file format) in their public administration, education system or in several municipal governments.

Being in public administration, that is news that warms my heart.  I've actually got one of my new employees using OpenOffice.org now (maybe two?).  Would really like to get it deployed throughout the organization, but that will be a pretty major change.  Funding restrictions may work in favor of that looking forward though.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Five Solas for iPhone

A few weeks ago, Pastor Mark put together some images that could be used as computer wallpaper.  It listed the five solas (soli?) that we studied as the core of evangelical Christianity. [Aside - inerrancy of Bible and personal conversion, the short definition - I still remember!]  I've got it on all my computers at home and work.  Except one - the iPhone.  Finally took the time to sit down and convert it into format that would work on the iPhone.  Thanks to Mark for the original artwork that served as the basis.  Now I'm rockin' with five solas on all computers.