Preparing for Fruitfulness

My 'ministry office' - aka 'the bat cave' Our school's iconic French chateau Our school happily received the news in the spring that a Christian school in Holland was going to donate "around 20" computers to our school to upgrade our computer lab. We had 19 computers that were getting pretty old! So we ended the school year by sending a LOT of stuff to the dump.  This emptied our computer lab and allowed us to restructure its layout and do a few other housekeeping things that as the school’s only IT staff, I’d wanted to do for awhile. BUT, it did leave us with only a firm but non-detailed hope that better stuff was, in fact, coming. Then the computers from Holland arrived and there were exactly 15 of them…and one didn’t work! (What’s a bit funny about this is that in French, there is a word for "around 15", quinzaine and a separate word for "around 20", vingtaine.  Repeatedly, I was told "vingtaine" for the number to expect.  When exactly 15 arrived, I thought that somewhat interesting that 15 was "around 20" and not "around 15!" Winking smile) They arrived with Dutch-language operating systems and no other information (like administrative passwords to facilitate any modifications to make them ready for our environment or information about operating system licenses or which machines had which problems, etc.)  These are all things which can, of course, be overcome, but which do add to the work…multiplied by 15 (or 14 at this point!)

My job this summer was to figure out what to do with these Dutch machines (make them work, make them speak French, make them connect to our internal network, connect them to the internet, decide on operating systems, etc.), prepare some additional systems to make up the lack of machines from Holland and overhaul one of our internal servers as well. Throughout the school this summer however, there were also practical renovation/beautification projects undertaken by teachers and parents (including us) in various parts of the small campus. My wife and I also have a vision for a house of prayer and worship to start in our area and so we simply committed to worshiping twice a week during the summer at church. So, our summer was pretty well laid out…while the majority of others around us scattered on vacation!

Real Alsatian grapes - though no wine production yet! Peaches!
I honestly don't know what these are! Our school grounds has an orchard on it and this summer we began to have production from all the fruit trees like I’ve never seen in our 7 years here. I tried the apples on one of the trees and became addicted! Incredibly good! Those apples became a constant source of physical sustenance for me throughout the summer while working on the computer network (work a couple hours, go out and shake the tree, eat, work some more, etc.) But it didn’t stop there. God really spoke to me through that tree…in two ways especially.
More peaches! First of all, the orchard’s fruitfulness spoke to me as a sign of the fruitfulness that He intends to bring to the school this year (or at least we’re entering into such a season). So many things, like apple trees, peach trees, and significant efforts in God’s Kingdom can take time to germinate, mature and finally bear significant fruit. In the meantime we prune when really needed but can often just become accustomed to the unfruitful presence of something (after all, it’s still pretty and gives shade, etc.)…until suddenly it produces a bumper crop! At that point, we need to start picking or it falls on the ground and rots. So these fruitful trees got me really praying for the fruitfulness at school this year, and that we would be ready to pick what ripens.
Apples!  Though not the ones from the BEST tree, still quite good! Secondly, my efforts this summer were sometimes frustrating and tiring and discouragement would knock routinely on my door. During some of these times, the Lord reminded me of Song of Solomon 2:3 “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. In his shade I took great delight and sat down, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” Just as those apples were incredibly good, I needed to stop my intellectual head-banging and contemplate the goodness of Jesus and let the refreshing nature of His presence invade and drive out the pressure and discouragement I was feeling.
Here are our APPLE (cough) computers in our lab

School started at the end of August and the computer lab is usable, but still much computer work remains. I, however, am excited by how God can and will take the summer pruning and cultivation work that many have done here and use it to enhance the growth, fruitfulness and multiplication that in the end, only He can bring.

Martin Scott: Spiritual Mapping

In May 2011, Martin Scott was the speaker at the YWAM France School of Intercession at the "Gault-la-Forêt" base in the Champagne region of France. The topic centered around the concept of Spiritual Mapping, but the amount of time given to Martin allowed him to synthesize into that topic many of the different themes that he regularly deals with in his prophetic ministry.  This is really a fabulous opportunity to gain a holistic understanding of the dynamics of the Body of Christ actually bringing transformation to a city or region.  Another way of looking at that is the intersection of The Body of Christ with a location and what that is supposed to mean for the manifestation of the Kingdom of God in that place and why it sometimes doesn’t work out as it should.

The teaching is given in English and translated into French.  This is also a good opportunity to brush up on your French if you’re so inclined!  The recording was done with a hand-held digital recorder so the quality is not the best.  I’ve post-processed it some to try and clean it up…listener beware.

01_Spiritual_Mapping_Martin_Scott.mp3 (1h23m 60Mb)

02_Spiritual_Mapping_Martin_Scott.mp3 (1h24m 61Mb)

03_Spiritual_Mapping_Martin_Scott.mp3 (26m 19Mb)

04_Spiritual_Mapping_Martin_Scott.mp3 (1h4m 46Mb)

05_Spiritual_Mapping_Martin_Scott.mp3 (1h11m 51Mb)

06_Spiritual_Mapping_Martin_Scott.mp3 (1h44m 75Mb)

07_Spiritual_Mapping_Martin_Scott.mp3 (57m 41Mb)

08_Spiritual_Mapping_Martin_Scott.mp3 (1h11m 51Mb)

09_Spiritual_Mapping_Martin_Scott.mp3 (59m 43Mb)

10_Spiritual_Mapping_Martin_Scott.mp3 (1h6m 48Mb)

11_Spiritual_Mapping_Martin_Scott.mp3 (53m 38Mb)

12_Spiritual_Mapping_Martin_Scott.mp3 (37m 27Mb)

And the winners are…

In this post I lamented the demise (at least for me) of Zoundry Raven.  Due to the evolutionary spaghetti of our WordPress-powered site, we have, essentially, two themes active at one time.  One theme is the one for my blog and the other is for the rest of the site where we talk about our family and mission and post our newsletters.  Zoundry could (with some gymnastics) handle both themes.  I’ve not found anything else that really could.  I even looked at Blog clients that one pays for and they are no more capable (often less) than the free options.  (don’t waste your money!)

In the end, Windows Live Writer had most of what I needed for my blog and its theme (though the Windows Live plugin situation is pretty lamentable) and I was able to set up BlogDesk to support our newsletter posts with its theme.  Neither is perfect but Zoundry had problems too.  So I think I have a solution that works for our needs and I’m pleased that I can move forward without too much gnashing of teeth!

No, no, no, no! We’ve got to think differently!

I’ve been tracking off and on with Martin Scott since around 2002-ish and find him inspiringly provocative! Winking smile  Those provocations have been one of several key ingredients to my personal growth and the growth of my theology.  As a prophet, Martin frequently has had specific perspective about the times in which we live and often for each new year.  I don’t think he’s posted a specific word about 2011, but in mid-January he and Gayle, his wife, were at Family church near Sacramento where two messages were recorded that I think create a provocative (there’s that word again) context for how to journey with God in His destiny for us and the world during these really extraordinary days in which we find ourselves.

Certainly personally, and I think as an American, destination has been more my focus than journey.  I struggle to appreciate most journeys and usually have my telescope out to scan the horizon for the destination.  Martin is one who repeatedly brings me back to the profound truth of journey in our lives and in the tapestry of redemptive history.  How to move forward with purpose and a deep-seated hope and joy when you’re filled with genuine questions without easy answers is often difficult (at least for me) and yet I am convinced that it is our calling in this season of world history and in being the Church sown into the World.  I think Martin makes a great hands-on tour guide!

Be provoked and enjoy the ride (If you’re like me, you may have to get back on and enjoy the ride a few times!)

Martin Scott – Sacramento – January 14th, 2011

Martin Scott – Sacramento – January 16th, 2011

Goodbye Zoundry Raven…hello ???

It’s with great sadness…ummm…ok, frustration…that I say goodbye to our blogging client of the last few years: Zoundry Raven.  I’ve searched MANY times for free and paid blogging clients for Windows and never found a reason to replace it.  I only searched back then when I found something perhaps missing or not fully developed yet in Raven.  Now, however, I’ve had to resume the search and this time…I think it’s for keeps.

Why?

Well, it stopped working!  I’ve had Windows 7 Pro x64 for almost a year now and Raven was working fine for most of that time.  About 2 months ago, it started having a problem.  I don’t blog that often so I can be sure just what changed.  In recommencing my search for blog clients, I was very disappointed in what I found so I thought I’d take a look at perhaps trying “fix” Raven.  Raven went “open source” a little while ago and unfortunately, it’s not gathered a development community, so development basically stopped at the version that stopped working for me.  I’ve never coded in Python but it looked interesting (still does) and I’d love to learn it.  One must be realistic from time to time however, and diving into a complex piece of software like Raven and trying to find the “bug” when you don’t know the language at all…well, let’s just say that I had my tiny pen knife and I was out to kill the elephant and eat it in one big bite…not gonna happen!

Each month we write newsletters that we post on our site using WordPress and send out as emails using phplist.  So, even if I don’t blog that often, each month comes around and I fire up the blog client and write something.  Well, it’s that time again and I’ve got to figure out how to make something work.  I’ve got an old XP laptop on its last legs where Raven is still working, but for me, I concede defeat.  I’ve got to make a change now.  So, yesterday I went looking again and was both semi-encouraged and frustrated.

First of all, I was, for the first time, open to the idea of buying a piece of software.  For most things, I’m really a freeware/open source (can we say cheap!) kind of guy so this was somewhat of a departure!  Anyway, after having looked over the options out there, I think I can safely say that paid blog clients are NOT any better than free ones!  Freeware can often come with a “price”: you get what you pay for.  Not in this case.  What I think I can say is that each blog client caters to a different type of usage and the paid ones are no different.  That’s why I liked Raven so much…it catered to what I do when I write blog posts and newsletters…at least it did so more than other clients.  I’ll admit that I’m pretty particular and there are features that are important to me that simply are not to others.

I’m also a “feature-hound” in general.  I’d much rather have “too much” functionality than “not enough.”

So, I’m down to three choices now:

I may have to pick more than one depending on what I’m doing.  Obviously Windows Live Writer is getting more and more capable all the time, building a good user base and will probably not be let go any time soon.  Post2Blog is already declared “unsupported” by its creators.  It’s got good potential functionality but definite buggy-ness that, of course, is not going to go away with time.  BlogDesk look really promising, but looking at their forums, I wonder how much more will be put into it.

I’ll try the newsletter today and see how it works for me in these three clients.  I’ll post a follow-up to this to state my choice(s) and why.

Mind the gap! The difficult path to “both and”

Well, it’s the eve of the US mid-term elections and here in France…well…no one cares I think. No, it’s All Saint’s Day (Toussaint) here and they’re mostly at the local cemetery putting chrysanthemum’s on grave stones. Tomorrow is “All Souls Day” where one prays for the deceased in Purgatory. Add to that the US import of Halloween last night and the ever important VE Day celebrations on November 11th where the French gather in every town’s war memorial (they call them “monuments to the dead”) and there’s a whole lotta’ “death” being celebrated over here!

The recent strikes and riots and fuel shortages have not helped either. The sense of “division/divisiveness”, at least for me, has a consonant ring with the “spirit of death”. To surmise that this period of time on the calendar and this period of time with respect to political events in the US and in France, is fraught with activity in the spiritual realm would not take a genius. The stakes are high and the tempers are too…prime territory for enemy seed to be sown in hearts. Kind of scares me that we cast important votes in such a climate!

What seems to be trumpeted around so often in American politics and, I see in French politics too, is that you have two real choices…no more…no less. One must fall on one side or the other and responsible engagement in the political process (aside from the ubiquitous call from all fronts to simply “VOTE!”) requires fighting for one side or against the other. As I’ve mentioned in other posts this sort of default engagement by the Body of Christ does no one any favors as we abdicate our priestly role to steward the land in which God has put us.

How do we get out of these deep ruts? Well, as one for whom concepts are primordial to shape certain kinds of behavior, I think we need to better understand what it looks like when the Kingdom of God is advancing…i.e. when God is King. What it looks like typically flies in the face of “either or” dualistic views of the social and political landscapes. Jesus bridges the gap and takes a path that doesn’t necessarily align with either right or left-winged expectations (no matter how hard we try to put Him in such “one-sided boxes.”

Recently, Duke University Divinity School held their Convocation and Pastor’s School where they had 3 outstanding speakers: NT Wright, Andy Crouch and Rob Bell. Each of these speakers, in different but complementary ways, outlined both concepts and practical application of how we “mind the gap”; how we, as the Body of Christ can and must embrace the tension of the “both and” and reject the easy slipping into left or right-wing ruts. I don’t do their excellent talks justice at all in this short blurb of publicity, but I’m much better at pointing you toward excellent source materiel than I am at summarizing it! So, I highly encourage a listen to these speakers. If you have iTunes and want to use the iTunes U. service, you can simply use the links here. If you, as I do, rather despise iTunes, feel free to take advantage of my efforts to extract these free mp3 resources from Apple’s grip and download them/stream them directly from here:

NT Wright Part 1

NT Wright Part 2

Andy Crouch

Rob Bell

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iTune out!

I really like NT Wright audio teachings. He stimulates and provokes and challenges and bridges many a theological gap. I found on the NT Wright page (https://ntwrightpage.com) recently a link to some lectures he did at Duke University’s 2010 Convocation and Pastor’s School. I happily went to download the free audio teachings and I couldn’t get past a page that said that iTunes was not found on my computer. Well duh! Of course it’s not found on my computer. I wish it could stay that way!

I detest iTunes and I detest Apple’s practice of creating “monopolistic” and “invasive” software. I’m duly convinced that much of what Apple creates in terms of hardware is really good and from a design standpoint is laudable (if stupidly expensive!). However, their handful of offerings that make it to the Windows world are hugely annoying! They’re probably just trying to stick to Microsoft for their clunky Mac offerings. Of course the losers in this war are the end-users, not the big corporations.

Having had experience in getting other streaming protocols to finally cough up a standard URL of a standard media file via circuitous editing of a series of downloaded files, I did various “view sources” and tried playing my results in different capable, non-invasive media players and tried changing the protocol from itms to http, etc. None of this worked. So I started out looking for specific freeware players capable of playing/downloading itms files. I failed…

Apple has started this thing (I hesitate to use the word “service” as it does us only a dis-service!) called iTunes U. iTunes U is a corner of the iTunes Music Store universe dedicated to more educational media files. They must make it pretty attractive to participate in. Personally, I find it reprehensible that Duke University would, in essence, force people to download Apple software to play a free academic mp3 lecture. I can’t imagine that the bandwidth hit or storage space is any kind of real problem for the university that they just couldn’t put their mp3 files up on their own servers somewhere where anyone could easily download them.

Anyway, I didn’t succeed in circumventing iTunes completely, but I did find this tutorial on how to install iTunes in a less invasive way: The unofficial guide to installing iTunes 10 without bloatware on the zdnet site. I highly recommend doing things this way if you simply need iTunes for some unique capability it offers and you don’t want it to be so invasive or huge. I would add however, this final step: Fire up autoruns after doing the install steps and do a search on Apple. Then you can delete autostarted tasks/services that you don’t want.

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Praying while I work

In the latest Online Update Newsletter from Church Production Magazine the question is asked, “Should techs stop and pray during services?” My first reaction to this is along the lines of, “Oh brother! Can we not waste our time on pointless discussions please!?” I know that there are sincere people on the other end, but this rationalistic/dualistic way of “doing church (services)” is so far removed from my reality that I struggle to even wade into the conversation. I read the article however (hoping to find a place where I could fire off my “eye-rolling” comments). Thankfully this article wasn’t up for discussion on their site…and thankfully I have my own (barely visited) site where I can comment away.

My philosophical/theological stance on all this is we need to be praying all the time and our definition of prayer needs to expand as well. Consequently a discussion of whether this circumstance or that circumstance should/should not include “prayer” is difficult for me to engage with (other than my judgmental eye-rolling!).

But, I read the article and I think they treated the sincere question well and with much more grace than I would have. For me, personally, I find that my time at the mixing board during a service is ideal time to intercede for the worship and whatever else is going on in front of me. For example, we have a couple of youth worship teams, and I love to intercede for them while they do their thing. They’re taking risks and learning how to lead people in worship at an age where I was simply goofy…nothing more! It’s stimulating to pick one of them out up on stage and call for more of the anointing to flow through them!

However, this still leaves me with a personal dilemma/question: How do I pray constantly (without ceasing) in other areas? It’s all well and good to think “correctly” that I should…it’s a whole other thing to actually do it .

This is a constant struggle with me because my work (computers) is cerebral in nature. There are times when I can interject worship and prayer and declaration, etc. into what I’m doing and there are times when I need to focus on something simply to understand it. I don’t have a problem with the idea that my focus time is “prayer/worship”; that I’m honoring the Lord in my work. What is difficult is coming out of that deep focus and consciously bringing Jesus into it. I’ve no problem with the idea that Jesus wants to be in it and that He has great solution ideas for me and that we can commune with each other in my technology work…I just have a hard time doing it consistently; a hard time remembering that He’s closer than my skin and desiring that intimacy with me…and not always to the exclusion of my work, but actually in my work!

I like to think back to the Brother Lawrence’s example of Practicing the Presence of God where he does the dishes with God (and for God as an act of worship). I think that’s great and, in fact I love that example because I already do the dishes with God. Literally, that’s where I listen to teachings or pray or ruminate on some scripture. That kind of routine, manual work is such an opportunity for me because of what I can and have gotten out of it. Now, if I could just add that next level of connection in the realm of cerebral work! Help Lord!

The mysteriously constipated ADSL router

Recently I’ve experienced reeeeeeaaaaaallllllyyyyy slow load times for anything at wordpress.com and wordpress.org, including all wordpress.com individual blogs. They would finally load but with no formatting. So obviously something was getting gummed up in the works. I’ve solved the problem finally and so I’ll share my experience in hoping that it will help someone else.

Here’s my process of discovery and solution:

  • It’s only happening on these WordPress-hosted sites. Everything else is loading fine.
  • My Firefox has tons of addons so I load up IE and Google Chrome to see if it’s the browser messing up. Nope. Same results with other browsers.
  • I look at the Net tab of Firebug in Firefox to see what is not loading. I notice that s0.wp.com, s1.wp.com, s2.wp.com and s.wordpress.org are not loading. These all resolved to 93.184.220.20 for me.
  • I lookup “slow loading s0.wp.com” on Google and even in the recent posts there is not unanimous agreement that there is a “general” problem or outage.
  • We have K9 Web filtering on some computers but not others. I try wordpress.com on a non-filtered Windows box and on a headless linux box (a simple wget). Nope. Same results.
  • I do a traceroute/tracert. No problem. Works fine.
  • I can ping both the ip address and the domain
  • We use OpenDNS and its cache check page had no problems
  • I have access to a windows box via VNC that has a different ISP and it worked fine
  • I have access to a linux server at large French hosting service and via Webmin’s HTTP tunnel it worked fine

Process of elimination points to our house and not a specific computer or operating system in our house. What’s left? My Neuf box (SFR) ADSL router. Everything looks fine in its web interface, including its ability to ping and traceroute. It caught my eye that the uptime for my router was 51 days. This problem with WordPress I had noticed, maybe 2 weeks ago. In the past, I’ve had speed issues every once in a while and have discovered that rebooting the router can fix some of them. So, on a whim I thought I’d just reboot the router.

That fixed it. So I’m not sure exactly WHAT was the problem in the router that screwed up HTTP traffic to a single IP but not other traffic, but perhaps this will save you some time if you encounter something similar.

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Eschatology and God’s Beauty – Keep the meat, spit out the bones

I’ve been wanting to express my frustration and excitement for some time now with respect to some of the revelation distributed to different places in the Body of Christ:

  • Excitement – fabulous revelation that will change how we think and usher us into new realms in God and new dimensions of the manifestation of His Kingdom concretely here on earth if we will just get this stuff into us at a heart level.
  • Frustration – people whom I respect, either personally or from afar based on their body of teaching and ministry, who contradict each other in aspects of their teaching. Contradiction is not necessarily a bad thing and is certainly not to be unexpected when groping to discover the Infinite God with finite minds and weak hearts. Where it becomes frustrating for me is the passion with which those “on one side” of a perspective categorize and label others.

Of course we all do it! 🙁 I was just in a church meeting Sunday afternoon where the diversity of perspectives, personalities and communication styles was exhilarating…which at first blush means: “Dang I wish they’d just shut-up!” I was seriously exhilarated and pleased by the diversity, but I was also seriously annoyed as a first reaction! 😉 As another example, just yesterday I was in the parking lot of a local supermarket waiting on Angela and Olivia who were inside shopping. While waiting I observed the stream of people arriving and leaving. One car caught my attention as it maneuvered slowly, directly in front of me, into it’s parking spot with its three occupants. You could see the visible signs of brokenness on what I supposed was a family. You could see where they needed a radical change of perspective and the gracious healing that only Jesus could bring. Unfortunately all of this “hindsight description” that sounds so spiritual manifests itself in my heart initially simply as “Ewww! What a depressing sight!” So, I admit, I put labels on people and I don’t do it with amazingly objective compassion and love.

That being said, when it comes to how we perceive God and His Kingdom I really think it’s important to realize that at the same time that we are being stunned by the depth and breadth of some revelation, our perception, our perspective, is really amazingly limited and small. I’ve attempted to represent it with an image in this mashup of clipart (ugly but I think it gets the idea across):

God and His Kingdom are so vast and multi-faceted that eternity will not be long enough for us to understand and experience everything. What I see/hear when I listen to/read about various revelations of who God is, how He acts, what His Kingdom is all about, etc. is more like this following image:

In this image, there is the logical realization that others do hold different perspectives, but over-simplification distorts reality and there is a tendency to lump all other perspectives into a few clearly defined camps that are then easier to dismiss. What happens then is that group “A” presents arguments as to why perspective “B” doesn’t really work. Group “A” will have some good points about their objections, but will neglect the fact that “B” is not really summed up that easily and that there are groups that they’ve lumped into “B” that hold to certain facets of that perspective but are really based on perspective “C”, etc. The fact of the matter is, that one needs to sink deep into the perspective of the other to see what they see and understand what they understand. I think when walking a mile in another man’s moccasins, we often stop after about 100 yards and are pretty sure our conclusions won’t change…forgetting how many miles we had to walk to gain our perspective.

So with that little soapbox dealt with, I want to present two different series of teachings. One is Martin’s Scott’s fabulous, line-upon-line presentation of a “framework” for developing an eschatological perspective broken down into 40 (that’s right 40! ) 15-minute podcasts. Both the podcasts and their transcripts can be found on his great and lively blog site (worth connecting with): https://3generations.eu/blog/?page_id=2640

The other is one of Mike Bickle’s many teaching series. Mike and the worshiping intercessors at IHOP in Kansas City have focused a LOT on eschatology in the last 10 years. They have come to many different conclusions than has Martin (who is more interested in creating a healthy framework for interpretation than to be rigid in interpretation). There are many other series specifically on the End Times on Mike’s site, but I chose one called “The Beauty Realm of God“, which is 8, 1-hour messages specifically on Revelation 4-5. The reason is that this series lays the foundation for the IHOP “framework” of how they view eschatology. So you kind of have two different “eschatological interpretation frameworks” if not really two different rigid eschatology theologies. I think they are both valuable to explore… deeply …as they both include rich, rich truth not presented in the other. You’ll have to deal with some unresolved tension however as there are definitely conflicting aspects to what they’ve concluded based on their perspectives.

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