Monday, December 24, 2012

An Interesting time.

I'm sitting here watching the end of "It's a Wonderful Life", a standard at Christmas for our family. George Bailey has just been "unborn" and is seeing the results.  I don't think it's a spoiler to say that he finds out his life has touched many others.

"May you live in interesting times" - Purported Chinese proverb/curse

For me, It's been an interesting year.  It started pretty good, but is ending kinda weird. 

You see, I've lost my job.

I got my first job when I was 14, as a programmer for the local city hall.  Since I'm 44 this year, I've now been working non-stop for 30 years. No breaks. A few weeks off every year, but I've never been without a place to go every day. It's weird.

In a sense, I brought this on myself.  A few weeks ago, I'd been feeling like it was time for a change.  I was unsettled and troubled.  I'd prayed fervently on Sunday night  that I might be able to stop holding so tightly to the things of this earth.  The house, the money, the status, the job. I prayed that I have might have as much faith in God as he has in me.

Wow, did he deliver. The next morning, it was done.

This time of year is about celebrating both endings and beginnings.  We finish out the year, and look forward to a new one.

From a Christian point of view, we see the end of the old covenant, and with the birth of Jesus Christ, the start of a new covenant.

For me, it's the end of a 30 year streak of consecutive starts, without knowing what's ahead. And it's terrifying. Well and truly terrifying.  But something new is coming. Something blessed.

Back to George Bailey. 

George Bailey touched many lives, and it's in those things that he's found his success. He never traveled the world, wasn't hugely successful in the savings and loan, didn't have much professional success in worldly terms.  But George Bailey had a great family, amazing friends, and he did GOOD in this world. He touched many lives. He truly had a wonderful life.

It's easy to forget all of the many blessings he's rained down on me:  Robin, Beth and Josh, the friends I've had, the good I've done. I've had a wonderful life too. 

Unshakable faith often eludes me, as does any lasting peace. But I'm working on it, and in this interesting season, I've been put to the test.  Can I be patient? Can I have faith in Him?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November, the leaves are falling.

We have a giant maple tree in our front yard.  It's maybe a 100 ft tall.  We can tell when fall is coming because it starts dropping seeds.

These things are awesome.  In late September or early October they start falling and remind me of helicopters.  Standing under the tree and looking upward is breathtaking.

Then about this time (early November), it starts dropping it's leaves.  And not just a few.  Seems like overnight, they all come down, and the way I generally know about it is when Beth squeals and threatens to run and jump into them.  Yes, she's 16 years old.

Driving around the neighborhood is amazing.  There are spots where the trees cover the roads, and when they're all turning at the same time, it's like driving through a flame colored tunnel.

I grew up in southern California, and never really encountered such things.

Almost 3 years ago, we were called up to the Pacific Northwest, and as we go through the seasons (leafy, watery, icy, watery, sunny), I'm reminded of the beauty of God's amazing works.

'Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.' - Genesis 1:11

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Misc Updates

So, on my workbench are two things:

My 3D Printer, Skynet, a MendelMax 1.5 variant, and a 1/350 scale USS Nimitz.

The printer has been sitting idle lately, as I've been super busy with work at church.  Here are some pics, though, as I've only posted a few here vs. Facebook.

Here's a link to the pics:

Facebook pics of skyNet
Video of it in action.

The Nimitz is still early, here's a link to the pics:

USS Nimitz

It'll be quite a while before I'm done with this one. A year or more.

Lately, I'm feeling like I need something creative to keep me afloat.  Painting, drawing, can't make up my mind.  One problem I've had is finding christian T-shirts in Tall sizes.  I might design a shirt myself and get it printed in the right size. :)

Any suggestions for a creative project?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's day

Father's day is an odd day for me.  On the one hand, celebrating my fatherhood, spending the day with my family is awesome.

On the other hand, I've sorta had three fathers.  The one I thought was my father and whose last name I was given.  The one who was my biological father, who I never knew. And my step father, who I'd rather I never knew.

James David Brown was the man who I thought was my father for most of my life.  My son's middle name is James as well. My mom told me that he died a few months before I was born.  I'd always imagined that maybe he was still alive somewhere and just waiting to come and find me. Then, when I was 40, I was doing genealogical research and found out that Jim Brown died a year and a half before I was born.

Joseph Mario Ciminissi was a man I found out about 3 years ago.  Turns out he was my biological father.  Not only that, he lived in Anaheim, 40 miles from me and was alive until 1995.  My mom eventually told me that he didn't want me.  In short, he lived a drive away most of my life, but never wanted to meet me and I never knew about him until it was too late.

William Lopez was my step father.  He kept two families for a while, then chose my mother after about 5 years.  Even then, he'd often go stay with his other family.  He was physically abusive, until my mom stood up to him when I was about 10, and then he was just mentally abusive. I moved away from home when I was 16, largely to get away from him. He died a few years later.

So, my experience with my own fathers was less than stellar.

But, I also had another father.

I've written about this before, but even before I knew Him as my father, He was with me during my darkest days.  When I'd walk home, alone, in the rain, He was there.  When I spent my afternoons at home, before my mom or step-father came home at 6, he was with me.   When I was 17, and living alone, with my family having recently, moved to Kentucky, I was horribly depressed, and He saved my life.  When I was 18, He brought my Robin into my life, and saved me again. When my son was born, He was the example I used to become what I think is a good father.

It wasn't the man I thought was my father. It wasn't the man who WAS my father, but who didn't want me and I didn't know.  It wasn't my step father, who was an amazing example of what NOT to do.

It was none of those men who were my father.

It was God who was my father in all of those times I needed Him..

It's clear to me that I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for Him, stepping in to keep me alive.

So, thank you, father. Thank you for being the best example possible.  I only hope that I'm living up to your standards, but I know in my heart that you will always love me.  Even when I make mistakes. Even when I'm not the best child you could have.

Thank you.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

SkyNet is almost here.

I've started building a 3D printer, and I've named him SkyNet.  He will be the first of many of his kind.

So, I've been watching 3D printer technology for a while now, and been dying to build one.  A 3D printer is a device that can take a computer model of something and 'print' it out in plastic.

You can spend 50k+ and buy a professional one, but the DIY ones are pretty slick, and I want a project I can keep making better.  Plus I don't have $50k.

Buying a kit can cost anywhere from $1000 to $4000, with most in the $1500 range.  Note that buying a kit seems to cost more than sourcing the parts yourself (duh, they have to make some money), and as far as I can tell, I saved more than $500 gathering up the parts myself.  Yeah, I've still spent a bunch of money, but it's also been purchases over several months, so it's hasn't been as onerous.

Here's what I'm building.  A MendelMax 1.5  The Bill of Materials (BOM), I'm using is at KitBom.

The 1.5 is fairly new, and there aren't really many good instructions yet.  Techpaladin has a set of instructions, but it seems to be mostly for a MendelMax 1.0.   Here's a pic of most of the parts:

Right now, a 3D printer can print something like 20-40% of itself.  In fact, a friend of mine, Morien Thomas, has an Ordbot and printed some parts out for me, which is super cool of him.

In theory, it could print more, but plastic nuts and bolts are just asking for trouble.  I've used something like 100 M5 stainless steel bolts in putting mine together (so far.)

I've also been playing with Arduinos lately, and the 3D printer hardware is based on an Arduino Mega 2560, and since I've been a coder for 30 years, I'm planning to see what I can do to optimize the firmware.

In any case, I used Misumi extrusions and put together most of the frame today...

more to come.

Monday, April 30, 2012

More Animal Gifs that make me chuckle

Hardcore Parkour!

"Why you make me do this?"

Fool me once...

And he looked so proud

I love puppies

Indifferent Owl.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Don't know why I'm posting about cats lately.  I don't even really like them.

No wait. That's not true.  I LOVE them.  The problem is that it hurts to love them.

Robin bought me a cat once.  I loved that little guy.  The problem was that within a couple of hours, I had hives all over my body and my throat started closing up.  While I might consider accepting those side effects, the not breathing part kinda sucked.

And so,  I'm afraid, I'm just going to have to love them from afar.  And so, more CATS:


Indifferent cat.

That is all.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Joy of Calvinism

The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God's Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love

I've recently finished the book "The Joy of Calvinism" by Forster. Overall, a good book, and I found it a good introduction to Calvinism.

Theologically, I have very few issues with Calvinism. In fact, I certainly agree with almost all of what I read. Yeah, we may quibble about predestination, but overall, my theology is in line with that of Calvinism.  Does that make me a Calvinist? Probably not.

My background is with the Church of Christ, and the Restoration movement, and in my heart of hearts, I hold to a kind of ecumenism. I truly do wish that we could find a way to remove the lines that separate christian traditions and fall back to the ideas and ideals of the 1st century church, though I understand that it's just wishful thinking.

I recently attended a local church, who a good friend of mine called "the most Calvinistic church in the Seattle area". When I attended, we watched a video from the lead Pastor, and for me, taking in a sermon via a video loses that sense immediacy, that sense of intimacy that you get when worshiping with your church family and your pastor in the flesh.  It's hard to get that sense of connection with someone in a video.

I also know a bunch of people who go to that church, and others who come in from out of town and go there because they want to see the lead pastor in person, and are disappointed when they get the video feed.  I can't help but take away a sense that the congregation is engaged in a form of pastor worship.  That there's a (and excuse the term) cult of personality happening in that church, and much of it is about the pastor.

And that's really at odds with my belief that the pastor in the church is a part of the church family like any other, no more and no less.  He holds no particularly lofty standing in the church, and in fact, he's just a disciple, and a journeyman like the rest of us.  He just happens to be the teacher. He's using his talents for the good of the church, like all of us.

But back to the book and Calvinism.  I took two things away from the book that concern me. The divisive attitude that the author portrayed, and casually attributed to Calvinism, and a sense of pastor worship for Calvin himself.

Rather than taking the high road, and only talking about Calvinism itself, the author took time to point out how Calvinism differs from "all other traditions". As a reader, the implication was clear, Calvinism is the only one who got it right.  I don't agree with most of these digressions, and don't believe that Calvinism is the only one with the 'right answer', but the author comes across as particularly arrogant about his theology, and by extension, it's hard not to believe that of other Calvinists. Granted, as one friend pointed out, the book states that Calvinism isn't required for salvation, but as a non-Calvinist, who isn't anti-Calvinist, I was rather offended at the dismissive tone.

Moreover, I got the sense that the author believes that Calvin was more than just another disciple and journeyman.  But rather, that Calvin was a hero, and whenever I see hero worship, I have to take pause. 

It seems to me that there's only one hero that we should be worshiping here, and that's Jesus.  But then, that goes back to my Restoration roots.  It's all about Jesus.

If nothing else, the book got me thinking, and so because I've certainly over-thought most of this, perhaps I'm a Calvinist after all, and just haven't admitted it to myself.   But I'd rather think of myself, not as a Calvinist, but as a disciple of Christ, and that's the only thing that matters. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Destiny and Infinity


Josh and I have been talking about predestination a bit over the last few weeks.  It's stemmed from a couple of things, most notably that we've been talking about Calvinism. According to Wikipedia:  

John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others. 

More generally, predestination,is often defined as so:

The divine foreordaining of all that will happen, esp. with regard to the salvation of some and not others.


This conflicts with the idea of free will pretty clearly.  Do we have NO say in the matter?  Are we predestined to salvation?  Damnation?

As a Christian, my philosophy has always been that God has given us the power to choose.  He seeks us out, but we choose to follow Him.  In fact, I believe that God values that choice tremendously, as without that choice, there is no value to our worship.  Nothing that contributes to His Glory.  If He simply forces us to choose one way or the other, what's the point?  Existential Nihilism anyone?

On the other hand, I believe that God exists out of time (atemporal), and considering his omniscience, he knows the entire past and the entire future.  He knows what choice we'll make. Given that he knows all, including every choice we'll ever make, do we have any free will at all?

Even the Bible is a bit wishy washy on the subject.  Compare:

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."


"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,..." (Eph. 1:3-5, NASB)

Huh, neither is particularly clear.  Are we Predestined? Do we have Free Will?

And so we come to my philosophy on predestination and free will:

I don't know the answer and may never, so why worry?

Yeah, it's a bit of a cop out, but I honestly think it's question which we're not intended to answer, and that ultimately, it has to do with infinity.  My philosophy:

You see, God is Infinite.  We are not.  We are finite beings, and by definition, we cannot possibly fully comprehend the infinite. That would be like saying you could stuff infinity in a 2x2x2 foot box.

As an exercise, while lying in bed last night, I thought about a single line, with infinite length, and then tried to find the end. If it starts right here, in my house, and we follow just one end of it, it will pass out of the solar system, the galaxy, the universe, all universes and continue to.... what?

Imagine that line as a plane, or better yet a sphere, and has no bounds. It would enclose every thing we know. Our planet, solar system, galaxy, universe, and would be bigger than it all. In fact, it would be bigger than EVERYTHING, and then be bigger still.  Where does it end?  We can't possibly know.

Now imagine our God.  He is infinite.  He exists outside of time.  Or maybe He exists inside of time too.  For the infinite, that would be no big feat.  His mind knows no bounds. His power knows no bounds. His sight (past and future) knows no bounds. 

We can't possibly comprehend the extent of His powers, nor of His plans. 

Predestination?  Free will?  Why not both?  Surely allowing the contradiction would also be no big feat for the infinite God.  After all, he has NO BOUNDS.

Luckily, His love has no bounds as well, and He loves us with that love. 

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. - John 4:8

And so, rather than worry about it, I choose to believe in that infinite love.  And trust Him with all of my being, knowing that He has the best in mind for me, and for all of us.

Predestination?  Free Will?    I choose His Infinite and enduring love.  But then, maybe He already knew that. :)

"Our young people are diseased with the theological problems of original sin, origin of evil, predestination, and the like. These never presented a practical difficulty to any man,—never darkened across any man's road, who did not go out of his way to seek them. These are the soul's mumps, and measles, and whooping- coughs, and those who have not caught them cannot describe their health or prescribe a cure. A simple mind will not know these enemies."

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Prayer for a special kid and his family

Father God,

I come to you with thoughts of JohnMark and his family, and the difficulties they're going through right now.  

Father please be with JohnMark, and lay your healing hands upon him.  He is a wonderful, Godly child.  Father, I pray that you gather him up in your arms, and comfort him, and that he feels the healing power of your love.

Father, please be with his family, a family of amazing disciples, who bow to your will in all things. This family has been the light on a hill for many that they've met, including me.  Your light clearly shines through them.  Grant them hope and strength in this difficult time.  

Father be with his doctors, and grant them the light of discernment, and the spark of inspiration, and father I pray they work as Your hands, and that through them, You show that Your hand is in all things. 

Father, I pray that JohnMark and his family know that their church family loves them with the love of Jesus, and that we're fervently praying for them.

Father, I know I'm supposed to ask that your will be done in all things, but in this, I fervently pray that your will in this is healing and hope, for JohnMark and for his family.

It's in the name of your Son, Jesus Chris, the healer and hope for all nations.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Las Vegas design, or how to effectively cut oneself off from the world.

I recently had occasion to attend an industry conference (DICE 2012) in Vegas.  It was held at a resort off the strip and I had a hotel room in the same place.

Entering the resort, I passed through a semi-opaque set of doors, and I was in another world.

A lot has been said about Casino layout, and how it's designed to be as comfortable as possible. Not out of a sense of care for the visitor, but so that they can extract as much money as possible.  A friend recently sent me this link:

To be honest, the resort left me a bit claustrophobic.

For the four days of the conference, I seldom saw the outdoors, and when I did, it wasn't particularly appealing.  The window in my room opened on desert.  Yeah, the mountains were kinda pretty, but it sure gave me a sense of isolation. I did get a chance to see some old friends, and that was a nice change of pace certainly, but coming back to the resort was a little depressing.

Walking anywhere in the resort, I had to pass through the gauntlet of gaming tables, game machines, scantily clad hostesses, cigarette smoke and the fake, piped in sound of one-arm-bandit payoffs.

These things hold no real interest for me, but I could feel the pull of temptation.  Having your entire environment designed to point you at such things could affect the most pious of us.

Clearly, I'm not a saint, and I'm not much of a gambler or a drinker, but I was sorely tempted to both.  I'll admit to spending $20 on video poker, and for a wonder, I ended up with $5 of winnings!  Take that Vegas odds!  I thought about playing more, and felt the pull of temptation...

I think I had a total of 3 drinks there, which is generally my allotment for the year, but with most everyone else drinking, I felt the pull of temptation...

I had several women flirt with me.  Keep in mind that I'm about as obtuse as they come, and have been happily married to Robin for almost 24 years, and I almost never notice such things.  Someone usually has to tell me that it's happened.  But even I noticed.  I had to pull myself away from the situations and call my wife.  Temptation...

Sitting in my room at 11 at night, with nothing to do and money in my pocket, I felt the pull of temptation...

By day three, I felt like the rest of the world was fading away, and my whole world was just in that small resort.  God never felt so far away.

What kept me on my path were a number of things.

I have an amazing God who loves me with an infinite love.

I have an Savior who is always with me, steering me away from temptation.

I have a wonderful, Godly wife, who I could talk to any time, about any thing.

I have an amazing daughter, and every time I saw some scantily clad 20 year old girl, drunk and dressed in very little, I couldn't help but think that she was young enough to be my daughter, and I was sorely tempted to let her know that she should be more modest.

I have a Godly son, who in a very timely way, reminded me that I should remember my testimony.

I had some Gospel music on my iPhone.  I could put on my headphones and worship him, almost wherever I was.

I prayed almost constantly.

I have several versions of the Word on my iPhone, available whenever.

It took a real effort not to fall into the well-designed temptation of Vegas.  If I didn't have the support that I have, I could see falling deep into the abyss.

I have to wonder if Casino designers don't have little horns...

Monday, January 23, 2012

On Works

I was surfing the web tonight, and I found myself confronted by this statement:

"Justification by faith alone through Grace alone in Christ alone" 

I was reading an article on Christianity Today.  In context, they were discussing Jesus vs. Religion, and how Jesus wasn't anti-religion. I don't want to get deep into THAT here, but it led me to look at that statement a little more deeply.

Taken on its own, without any particular context, it seems to imply that works don't necessarily have to enter into the equation.  That we can lead a life that doesn't _require_ good works, and still be saved.

In Romans 3, Paul states "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law."   But in James 2, James says "You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." 

Hopefully you see my conundrum.  Justified by faith alone?  Justified by works AND faith?

Calvin addresses this issue like so:

It appears certain that [James] is speaking of the manifestation, not of the imputation of righteousness, as if he had said, Those who are justified by faith prove their justification by obedience and good works, not by a bare and imaginary semblance of faith. In one word, he is not discussing the mode of justification, but requiring that the justification of all believers shall be operative. And as Paul contends that men are justified without the aid of works, so James will not allow any to be regarded as Justified who are destitute of good works ... Let them twist the words of James as they may, they will never extract out of them more than two propositions: That an empty phantom of faith does not justify, and that the believer, not contented with such an imagination, manifests his justification by good works. [Henry Beveridge, trans., John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 3:17:12 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966 reprint), 2: 115.]

Even after reading that, it still seems a little hinky to me.  Yes, I said hinky.

In my own life, I find myself doing good works out of a sense of love and gratitude.  I love God, I am grateful for His Grace, and I do good works out of a sense of love, and not duty.  

Are my good works necessarily a direct manifestation of my justification? A proof of it?  Yes, I've been changed by my faith, and I certainly have a new outlook on life, but are my good works a result of my justification?  It almost implies that I have no choice in the matter.  

Let's stay away from predestination.

So, do works follow justification? Must they?  Certainly a life that is led by the idea that we are justified by faith, through grace, and in Jesus will likely manifest good works.  But is it possible that someone who has true faith could live a life without good works?

Upon reflection, it seems like James is warning against 'passive' faith leading to 'luke warm' Christians who never do good works.  But does the lack of good works or the measure of one's good works imply a lack of true faith?  Can faith be measured in any way that's not binary? You have it or you don't? 

I admit that I'm a sinner, and broken, and sometimes I have doubts. I hope that doesn't mean that my faith-o-meter is showing that during those moments, my faith is at zero.

I worry that by looking at James 2, people with an active faith may feel like they need to justify their justification by their volume of good works. That seems like a gateway to belief in justification by works alone.

Instead, as I noted before, I'd choose to live in such a way that my good works are done through love and gratitude.  That good works shouldn't be measured to justify justification, and don't necessarily come as a result of faith, but that instead, by aligning myself with God, I do good works because I love him with all my heart.  And yeah, they do come about as a result of my faith.  And so, faith leads to good works.

Upon further reflection, it seems clear that James is arguing for an active faith, one that results in good works, and that shows a clear change in behavior and goals.  

"Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves" (1:22); for "faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself" (2:17).

Without such a change, faith is of no use.